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Bitesize Biography – Joseph Addison Alexander

By Allan Harman
November 2014 | Review by Geoff Cox
  • Publisher: EP Books
  • ISBN: 978-0-85234-960-1
  • Pages: 120
  • Price: 6.99
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Book Review

Joseph Addison Alexander is not so well known as his contemporaries Charles Hodge and Robert L. Dabney, but this book provides a basic introduction to his life and ministry.

The introductory chapters to this Bitesize Biography give useful background to the development of Presbyterian seminaries in the United States, focusing particularly on Princeton College. After the decline of the college, the founding of Princeton Seminary is covered.

Addison (as he was known) was born to a godly stock and his family background is sketched out briefly but helpfully. He was a studious and precocious child, excelling in languages.

He was converted when he was 20 but, sadly for us and the author, entries in his spiritual diary no longer exist for the period after his 21st birthday.

He kept a record of his studies and, following his conversion, a significant change is seen. His love for the Word of God developed and his reading of spiritual books added to his already deep academic studies. The book also covers his educational career as he progressed through academia.

He was an interesting character, a workaholic, it would seem, going for entire days without food while he studied. His character had its flaws, one of which was a love of change, which caused difficulties in the classroom as some of his students found him fickle. He was frequently moving house and travelling, making two extended European tours to meet with continental theologians.

He could be unsympathetic to weaker students and, despite his learning, not all found him to be a good teacher. Some found him unapproachable, but this changed in later life. He was loved by children and engaged with them. Despite his habit of secluding himself, he was esteemed to be good company. He never married.

The last three chapters contain analyses of his written works, including commentaries that were highly valued by Spurgeon. Development of his preaching gift is also addressed, along with a general overview of his life.

The book is an interesting biography of one of the lesser known, nineteenth century American theologians.

Geoff Cox



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