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Archibald Alexander – The Shakespeare of The Christian Heart

Category Articles
Date January 6, 2003

‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.’ Remember it is an old man that tells you so.’

At the Westminster Conference in Westminster Chapel Wednesday 11 December 2002 Rev. Stephen Clark of Bridgend spoke on Archibald Alexander beginning by quoting these words of his given near the end of his life as he addressed the children in a Sunday School:

"In a hundred years, every one who hears me now will be in heaven or in hell This is the last time I expect to address you. You will probably never see me again. But you will remember what I tell you long after I am dead and gone. You will remember that an old man addressed you on this occasion. When a little boy, only five or six years old, I remember hearing an old man preach the Gospel, just as you hear me now. I remember how grey his hair was, and how old he looked, and how he was dressed. And I never can forget the text that he preached from. It was these words: ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.’ I did not then know the meaning of these hard words, but the minister went on to explain them, and said that if we did not love the Lord Jesus Christ, we should all be accursed of God and devoted to destruction. And this I repeat in your hearing this day, my young friends. If you do not love the Saviour you will be destroyed. You can never enjoy his favour and blessing unless you love him with all your hearts, and do whatsoever he has commanded you. Remember it is an old man that tells you so – on the authority of the Word of God. When you go home, write it down that on this, July 27, A. D. 1851, Dr. Alexander, an old man, addressed the Sunday School, and said, ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.’ Remember it is an old man that tells you so.’

Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) was the first professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the founder of the Princeton. He was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and Alexander grew up in a frontier environment and was converted at the age of seventeen. Having little formal education, he studied with William Graham at Liberty Hall Academy (Washington and Lee University). Prior to assuming his duties at Princeton in 1812, Alexander pastored churches, experienced something of God’s work in revival and served as president of Hampden-Sydney College (1796-1807) in his native Virginia and ministered in the Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia (1807-1812).

Recognizing the need for institutions providing formal training for Presbyterian ministers, Alexander issued a call for schools in 1808, and in 1812 Princeton Theological Seminary emerged as the first Presbyterian seminary in America, with Alexander as its first professor. By his academic diligence Alexander established Princeton’s main themes and set a standard of excellence that his successors at Princeton, Charles and Archibald Alexander, and Benjamin B. Warfield, vigorously maintained. Alexander implemented the General Assembly’s plan that Presbyterian pastors not only experience a call to the ministry but also receive rigorous intellectual training. They should obtain a thorough knowledge of the Bible (including the original languages of Scripture) and be skilled defenders of its content and authority. He was a champion of Reformed theology as outlined in the Westminster Confession and expounded in the work of Swiss theologian Francois Turretin (1623-1687).

Undergirding his teaching, preaching, and writing was a fervent piety, and vital interest in religious experience, which had its roots in his awakening ministry and continued to be a characteristic feature of the Princeton Theology.

To learn about Alexander Calhoun’s two volumes on the history of Princeton Seminary (Banner of Truth) are essential and delightful reading. His most helpful book is his "Thoughts on Religious Experience" (Banner of Truth) where his approach to depression and illness was ahead of his time.

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