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Pastor – Teachers of Old Princeton

By Various
February 2013 | Review by David Cooke

Synopsis

For those who with C. H. Spurgeon ‘value every morsel about the Princeton worthies’, this book will be a source of inspiration as well as information. For the first time a number of important primary source documents relating to ‘old Princeton’ have been brought together to form what is a remarkable story of devoted service to Christ and his church. Funeral sermons, memorial addresses, and magazine articles, honouring the labours of the leading faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary during the years 1812-1921, provide fascinating insights into the lives of such worthies as the Alexanders, the Hodges, Samuel Miller, Henry A. Boardman, Alexander T. McGill, James C. Moffat, William Henry Green, William M. Paxton, and B. B. Warfield. Established in 1812 by the Presbyterian Church in the USA, Princeton Theological Seminary grew from humble beginnings – just three students meeting in the home of Dr Archibald Alexander – to become the premier ministerial academy in the English-speaking world. This was due in no small part to a succession of godly and gifted pastor-teachers whose piety and faithfulness to the Bible as the Word of God bore an abundant spiritual harvest in the lives and ministries of the seminary’s many graduates. The record of their lives demonstrates afresh the vital truth so memorably put by Robert Murray M‘Cheyne: ‘In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.’

  • Publisher: Banner of Truth Trust
  • ISBN: 978-1-84871-161-7
  • Pages: 574
  • Price: 17.00
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Book Review

Pastor – Teachers of Old Princeton

Banner of Truth Trust
574, £17.00
ISBN: 978-1-84871-161-7
Star Rating: 3

This book contains an interesting collection of articles (mostly funeral addresses) recounting the lives of the leading teachers at Princeton Theological Seminary in the 19th and early 20th Century, beginning with Archibald Alexander and ending with B B Warfield. It provides an insight into the piety of the Seminary throughout that period as evidenced in the lives of its leaders, and shows that their often profound learning was combined with child-like faith. In the course of these cameos, the reader is provided with good devotional material (for example, the opening paragraphs of Charles Hodge’s sermon “He preached Christ”, preached on the occasion of the death of J W Alexander).

 

As is perhaps inevitable in a work of this sort, with many authors, the quality is somewhat variable, and the 19th century style makes for heavy going in some places. Also, for most of the men more than one address or article is provided, with the result that there is some overlap and also some imbalance in the amount of space given to each man (from 16 pages in the case of Alexander M’Gill to over 90 pages on Charles Hodge).

 

Perhaps the occasion for most of the addresses explains their biggest weakness. Notwithstanding James Garretson’s defence in his introduction, many of the articles’ authors fall into the trap of religious hagiography. For example, it does not seem appropriate to say that Archibald Alexander “came nearer to being infallibly right than any Pope” (p.24) – even if that is not saying very much! There is also the repeated breach, particularly in the earlier pieces, of our Lord’s instructions to call no man our father (Matt.23.9). The constant eulogising does grate somewhat.

 

Nevertheless, subject to this caveat, this volume contains much that is heart-warming and edifying, and is a telling demonstration of the truth of Proverbs 10.7, “The memory of the just is blessed”.

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