June 2: Archibald Alexander, 1st Professor at Princeton Seminary (1812)

A Teacher of Three Students

The College had been in operation since 1746. And the College of New Jersey, as it was originally known, 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. Even in the day of small things, the Lord has His purpose, and greater things await the faithful servant. 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)

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