June 2 : Archibald Alexander, First Professor at Princeton Seminary

 A Professor to Three Students

It has been in operation since 1746.  And the College of New Jersey had provided the church, and especially the Presbyterian Church in the United States many of its pastors and missionaries.  But with the advent of the eighteen hundreds, many of its graduates were preparing for different careers, like law, politics, and education.  Something had to be done to remedy this critical need of 400 empty pulpits in the denomination.

The proverbial ball began rolling when the Rev. Ashbel Green, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, gave a challenging speech before the assembled elders gathered at the May 1805 General Assembly.  In 1808, the Presbyterian of Philadelphia overtured that General Assembly  begin  a theological school.  Four years later, the Assembly voted to establish such a school and to locate it in Princeton, New Jersey. Later in that same Assembly, the elders in a spirit of prayer voted the Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander to be the first professor of Princeton Theological Seminary. The date was June 2, 1812.

Archibald Alexander had been prepared by the Holy Spirit for this important ministry. Blessed with an heritage of Scotch-Irish forefathers, and a father who was a Presbyterian elder, his family first settled in Pennsylvania before relocating to Virginia. Archibald was born in 1772 and by the age of seven, had learned the Shorter Catechism and was moving on to the Larger Catechism. He sat under the celebrated William Graham at Liberty Hall Academy, forerunner of Washington and Lee College. And yet with all of this training, Archibald was still unsaved. It wasn’t until he was sixteen that he was brought to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. More theological training took place which culminated in his ordination by Hanover Presbytery in Virginia in 1794 as a Presbyterian minister.

From there his ministry activities went from the rural pastorate, to Hampden-Sydney College as president, to a revival preacher in New England, delegate to the General Assembly, minister of a congregation in the large city of Philadelphia, and finally to the first professor of Princeton Seminary, at the age of forty.  At the beginning of this new and challenging ministry, he had three students in 1812.  But the number wouldn’t stay there very long.  Princeton Seminary had begun.

Words to Live By: Everything which occurs in your life is for a purpose, a purpose overseen by a loving Father. When you are enabled to see that biblical truth, your life, and how you view it, takes on a sacred calling. There is a good reason why the Apostle Paul commands us “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (ESV – 1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Through the Scriptures: Proverbs 4 – 7

Through the Standards: The sad possibility of falling but not out of saving grace

W.C.F. 17:3
“Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalency of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God’s displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.”

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  1. Vaughn Edward Hathaway Jr’s avatar

    Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30)

    Doesn’t the profession of Alexander bring to the surface the tension that all of us in covenant theology face; that is, what is the juxtaposition between Acts 16:31 and experience? Is salvation elective or experiential? How many parents have prayed that their children will grow up never knowing a time that they have not believed in Jesus Christ? What does that mean? What is the connection between believing in Christ and confessing him? (Romans 10:9 and 10)

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