Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton – A Review by Maurice Grant
Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton1 has been published to mark the 200th anniversary of Princeton Theological Seminary. It spans the years from the appointment of Archibald Alexander as the Seminary’s first Professor in 1812 to the death of B. B. Warfield in 1921. The book comprises a series of memorial addresses and articles in honour of thirteen leading members of the Faculty of the Seminary over this period. These are derived from contemporary sources and were written in the main by former students whose respect and affection for their teachers shines through at every point. Full-length lives of these men have been published over the years, but these brief biographical sketches have a freshness and intimacy about them that give them a particular appeal. We learn much not only about the massive accomplishments of the men of Princeton but are given some fascinating glimpses into their personal lives and into their varied spiritual experiences. Over the period covered by the book, Princeton was blessed with a succession of teachers who achieved a prominence second to none as exponents of Reformed theology and masters of Reformed exegesis. Many of their theological works have become standard texts in colleges around the world and their Bible commentaries have been prized by generations of Christians. The story of old Princeton is largely a story of the Alexanders and the Hodges. The subjects of the book include Archibald Alexander (1772-1851); his sons James Waddell Alexander (1804-59) and Joseph Addison Alexander (1809-60); Charles Hodge (1797-1878); and his sons Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-86) and Caspar Wistar Hodge (1830-91).The sons sadly did not share the longevity of the fathers, but in their teaching and literary abilities they were fully their equals.
The founders of Princeton – the Presbyterian Church in America – laid down two basic requirements for those who were to train their future ministers: unswerving loyalty to Scripture and to the standards of the Church, and the cultivation of personal holiness. The book reveals how these values were worked out in the lives of the original Faculty and their immediate successors. The effects were to be seen, in turn, in the lives of the students. We are told that
thousands of graduates made their way through the Seminary’s hallowed halls, many of whom distinguished themselves as faithful pastors, teachers, and missionaries. The devotion that characterised their Christian service was fanned into a flame by the godly and learned example of the Faculty from whom they were taught the responsibilities of the preacher’s calling.
The founders wanted belief and behaviour to go together; knowledge of the truth was to lead to godliness. While the acquisition of intellectual knowledge about the truths of the Christian faith was encouraged, the appropriation of those truths to one’s life was considered essential for fruitful Christian life and service. The founders were insistent that intellectual knowledge of the truth was never to become a substitute for the experience of the truth in one’s soul.
From a collection of this kind it is almost invidious to select any one of the Princeton men as pre-eminent among the others. However, a prime candidate for such an honour must surely be Joseph Addison Alexander, whom Charles Hodge himself described as ‘certainly the most gifted man with whom I have ever been acquainted’. Says a contemporary: ‘His fame was in all the churches as a brilliant writer, an accurate, varied, and profound scholar, a luminous and sagacious commentator, and a preacher of marvellous power’. Alexander died at the early age of 50. We learn with amazement that
at the age of ten he was pursuing the systematic study of Hebrew and other Oriental languages; before he was twenty he read easily and for the sake of their literature Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian and German; and in the prime of his life he was a thorough master of all languages worth knowing.
But along with this vast erudition we are told: ‘His crowning gift as an exegetical instructor was a devout and reverent love for the Bible, that influenced his whole life as a Christian and as a teacher’. Unqualified loyalty to Scripture was the hallmark of all the men of old Princeton.
Sadly, by the early 20th century the testimony of Princeton was falling into decline, and the doctrinal liberalism that had prompted its formation in 1812 was eventually to overtake Princeton itself. It was left to J. Gresham Machen and a few others with him to continue the testimony in the newly-formed Westminster Seminary. But the legacy of old Princeton lives on in the written word. C. H. Spurgeon professed: ‘I value every morsel about the Princeton worthies’. For those who share Spurgeon’s tastes, this book is a feast to be enjoyed.
Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary 1812-1921
Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton1 has been published to mark the 200th anniversary of Princeton Theological Seminary. It spans the years from the appointment of Archibald Alexander as the Seminary’s first Professor in 1812 to the death of B. B. Warfield in 1921. The book comprises a series of memorial addresses and articles in honour of […]
Taken with permission from Free Church Witness, December 2012 issue.
The Life of R. B. Kuiper: a Brief Summary 21 November 2023
The following first appeared in the February 1991 issue of the Banner of Truth Magazine (Issue 329). Over the years, the Trust has published several books by Dr R. B. Kuiper. However, there are many readers throughout the world who are more familiar with the titles of Kuiper’s books than with the man himself. It […]
Was Jesus a Great Teacher or God Incarnate? 17 November 2023
Many think that Jesus was a “great teacher,” but often such people do not know what He taught about Himself: Jesus Christ said that He was the Messiah the Jews had awaited for over 700 years. John 4:25–26: ‘The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When […]