Pastor-teachers of old Princeton
Men without warts?
PASTOR-TEACHERS OF OLD PRINCETON
Memorial addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary 1812-1921
Selected by James M. Garretson
Banner of Truth. 565 pages. £17.00
ISBN 978 1 848 711 617
This smartly-produced book consists of selected memorial addresses of some of the most prominent teachers of Princeton Theological Seminary, typically given by a fellow faculty member.
That is, Old Princeton, the Princeton which came to an end with the departure of J.G. Machen, Cornelius Van Til, John Murray and others, which stressed strict fidelity to the doctrines and experimental religion of the Westminster Confession.
Those here celebrated by their surviving colleagues are: Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, John Waddell Alexander, Joseph Addison Alexander, Charles Hodge, Henry Augustus, Boardman, Archibald Alexander Hodge, Alexander Taggart M’Gill, Casper Wistar Hodge, William Henry Green, William Miller Paxton, and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. Some are represented by as many as five or six items. So, besides being memorial addresses for individuals, the book as a whole may be said to be a memorial for old Princeton itself, which was founded 200 years ago, in 1812.
Currently among students of old Princeton there is a stress on the ‘spiritual life’ that permeated the Seminary, partly in an effort to counter the frequent charge that its theologians were ‘purely cerebral’. This volume does a good job in that regard, stressing how the doctrinal and the experimental outlooks were intertwined in those whose lives were celebrated. Though there is a danger, with a diet of unrelieved memorial addresses which invariably tend to eulogise their subjects, of coming away with the impression that these were gods and not men, or at least were men without warts. Readers will have to judge for themselves how far these addresses go in that regard. It is worth remembering that what brought down old Princeton was not an excess of ‘spiritual theology’ but a deficiency in exact doctrinal conviction and its teaching.
While Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton seems fairly to represent the outlook of old Princeton, reading it is rather like wandering through a graveyard. If you are a fan of the names remembered here, you will certainly enjoy it. Nevertheless, a book to pick up and put down, I’d say.
Teaching Fellow, Regent College, Vancouver, Canada