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Princeton and the Christian Ministry – A Review by David Blunt

Author
Category Book Reviews
Date March 21, 2013

The name of Princeton has an honoured place in the annals of Presbyterian history. Established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and located in the township of the same name in west-central New Jersey, Princeton Theological Seminary began with three students and Archibald Alexander as its first professor. For a century and more it was famous for its doughty defence of orthodox Christian belief until the rise of modernism within the Presbyterian Church led to the departure of conservative members of the faculty and the formation of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1929 under the leadership of J Gresham Machen.

Today Princeton has over five hundred students and a faculty of more than fifty but while it retains a nominal link to Presbyterianism through its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) it is an altogether different institution from the one which was founded two hundred years ago. This may be demonstrated (sadly) by a Scottish link: the current President of Princeton is Iain R Torrance, a former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and a strong supporter of the ordination of homosexuals and inter-faith dialogue.

These well-produced volumes1 take us back to Princeton’s halcyon days. Given that the Banner has already published many works by Princeton worthies, plus a two-volume history of the Seminary by David Calhoun2 and Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton3 and Princeton and Preaching4 by James Garretson, the question might reasonably be asked, What is left to put into print?

The answer is this useful collection of seventy-five addresses, sermons, articles and essays by Princeton men, many of which were previously unavailable. It will be of particular interest to ministers, students for the ministry and those who train them; others might think the price of the work rather high for what they will get out of it. Following a helpful introduction by Garretson and after an address by William Sprague delivered on the occasion of Princeton’s first half-century, Volume 1 is taken up chiefly with items from Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller. Volume 2 continues in a broadly chronological fashion, containing some contributions from lesser-known men such as J. W. Alexander and William Paxton but dominated by items from Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield, until finally we come to the men who were serving when Princeton’s sun was sinking. There are pieces from the stalwart Gresham Machen, from a contemporary who followed him (Maitland Alexander) and from two who did not, although their hearts were doubtless with him (Geerhardus Vos and Caspar Wistar Hodge). Brief biographical details are provided for each contributor.

How may we summarise this material? There are subjects one would expect to find in a title of this sort, such as ‘The Pastoral Office’ (Archibald Alexander), ‘The Teaching Office of the Church’ (Charles Hodge) and ‘The Religious Life of Theological Students’ (Warfield). There are less-obvious subjects, such as ‘The Use and Abuse of Books’ (Archibald Alexander) and ‘The Duty, Benefits, and Proper Method of Religious Fasting’ (Miller). There are also some pieces which will be of general interest to Christians, including ‘Evidences of a New Heart’ (Archibald Alexander), ‘Revivals of Religion’ (Miller), ‘What is Calvinism?’ (Warfield) and ‘Christianity and Culture’ (Machen).

For this reviewer a most challenging (and encouraging) article was Miller’s sermon to Princeton Alumni entitled ‘Christ the Model of Gospel Ministers’, based on our Lord’s words in Matthew 4:19: ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’. Miller humbles us all when he says: ‘I firmly believe that if we were more like Christ, more devoted, spiritual, diligent, and prayerful, we should all of us be more successful in “winning souls” to him; and, consequently, that if we are seldom or never thus honoured, it is chiefly because we so little resemble him’. He concludes with these stirring words: ‘In following [Christ], and only in following him, you will be best qualified to promote the enlargement, the holiness, and the genuine edification of the church of God. May this be your habitual aspiration, this your blessed attainment! And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, may you all be so happy as to receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away! Amen and Amen’.

The times in which these addresses and articles were given or written were clearly very different from our own and many will say that the material which has been collected here has little relevance for our modern age. That is a great mistake. What today’s church needs above all is a ministry which is at the same time sound in the faith and separated from the world – men who are walking habitually in the ‘old paths’ of truth and godliness. The ‘Princetonians’ can help us to recover this spirit. As Garretson says, they were ‘men who knew Christ’s love and who loved him in return’.

Notes

    • Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry Cover Image

      Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry

      2 Volume Set: A Collection of Addresses and Articles by Faculty and Friends of Princeton Theological Seminary

      by  James M. Garretson


      price $59.00 $53.10

      Description

      The name of Princeton has an honoured place in the annals of Presbyterian history. Established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and located in the township of the same name in west-central New Jersey, Princeton Theological Seminary began with three students and Archibald Alexander as […]

    • History of Princeton Theological Seminary

      Princeton Seminary

      Volume 1: Faith & Learning, 1812 - 1868

      by David Calhoun


      price $32.00 $28.80
      Avg. Rating
      Rated 5.00 out of 5

      Description

      The name of Princeton has an honoured place in the annals of Presbyterian history. Established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and located in the township of the same name in west-central New Jersey, Princeton Theological Seminary began with three students and Archibald Alexander as […]

      History of Princeton Theological Seminary

      Princeton Seminary

      Volume 2: The Majestic Testimony, 1869 - 1929

      by David Calhoun


      price $30.00 $27.00

      Description

      The name of Princeton has an honoured place in the annals of Presbyterian history. Established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and located in the township of the same name in west-central New Jersey, Princeton Theological Seminary began with three students and Archibald Alexander as […]

    • Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton

      Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton

      Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary 1812-1921

      by James M. Garretson


      price $32.00 $28.80

      Description

      The name of Princeton has an honoured place in the annals of Presbyterian history. Established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and located in the township of the same name in west-central New Jersey, Princeton Theological Seminary began with three students and Archibald Alexander as […]

    • Princeton and Preaching

      Princeton and Preaching

      Archibald Alexander and the Christian Ministry

      by James M. Garretson


      price $28.00 $25.20
      Avg. Rating
      Rated 5.00 out of 5

      Description

      The name of Princeton has an honoured place in the annals of Presbyterian history. Established in 1812 by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, and located in the township of the same name in west-central New Jersey, Princeton Theological Seminary began with three students and Archibald Alexander as […]

Rev David Blunt is pastor of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) in North Uist & Grimsay. This review appeared in Free Church Witness, March 2013.

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