In 1926, J. Gresham Machen received nomination to the chair of apologetics and ethics from the Board of Directors at the Princeton Theological Seminary. In the normal course of things, this nomination would have been routinely approved by the General Assembly as it met later that same year. Machen, however, had previously opposed in 1920 the Philadelphia Plan for merging nineteen Presbyterian denominations into a single federated body. He had published two books, The Origin of Paul’s Religion (1920) and Christianity and Liberalism (1923), both of which presented strong arguments against modernism and unbelief. Machen had become a very public voice raised against modernism, and so he had enemies. A campaign of opposition was raised against his nomination and the matter remained unresolved up until the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the departure of Dr. Machen and other faithful professors.
In this brief series, we are presenting a few of the articles which appeared in defense of Dr. Machen during this troubling time.
Princeton Students and Dr. Machen
[excerpted from THE PRESBYTERIAN 96.48 (2 December 1926): 13]
What the student body of Princeton Seminary thinks of Dr. Machen is indicated by the fact that on November 16, it adopted, without a dissenting vote, the following resolution:
The Students’ Association of Princeton Theological Seminary feels that some notice should be given to the attacks appearing in the current press against one of our most distinguished members. Therefore be it resolved, that the members of the Students’ Association hereby express their unbounded confidence in Dr. J. Gresham Machen, as a scholar, as a teacher, as a gentleman, and as a Christian.
“Be it further resolved, that the secretary be instructed to give a copy of this resolution to Dr. Machen, and that it be spread upon the minutes of this Association.”
To this resolution, Dr. Machen made the following reply:
November 20, 1926
“Mr. Edwin H. Rian,
“Secretary of the Students’ Association
“Princeton Theological Seminary
“Princeton, New Jersey.
“My dear Mr. Rian : Will you please convey to the Students’ Association an expression of my heartfelt gratitude for the resolution passed at the meeting on Tuesday evening, November 16, of which you have been good enough to hand me a copy.
“I do not indeed feel worthy of the high terms in which the resolution speaks of me ; on the contrary, this generous action of the Students’ Association had led me only to pray with renewed earnestness that God may make me less unworthy. But you have given me profound encouragement in the trying days through which I am passing, and have strengthened yet more the ties of affection with which already I felt myself united to the students of the Seminary. I trust that God may bless us ever more richly in our association with one another and may lead us into an ever better and true service of Him.
“J. Gresham Machen.”