January 4: Rev. Aaron Burr, Sr.

Practicing his Preaching
by Rev. David T. Myers

It is a rare combination for a man that he be an effective pastor as well as an effective professor.  And yet, Aaron Burr was such a man.

Born on  January 4, 1715, Aaron Burr graduated from Yale University in 1735. He was then ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Newark, New Jersey on January 25, 1737.  Just four years later, a remarkable revival occurred in the church with the result that the following winter, the entire town was brought under the convicting influences of the Spirit of God.  Four years past the previous work of God’s Spirit in the congregation, another revival of religion occurred among the church members, this time, among the young people.  Both of these religious awakenings tell us that Aaron Burr was an effective instrument of the Spirit, applying the whole counsel of God to the hearts and minds of the people.

On the death of Jonathan Dickinson, first president of the College of New Jersey, that infant educational institution moved to Newark, New Jersey, to be placed under the direct spiritual oversight of Burr in 1747.  For the next seven years, Rev. Burr would serve both as pastor and professor to the people and theological students.  In 1755, the pastoral side of his calling was dissolved and the students preparing for ministry had the full attention of his tireless zeal in their training.

It was Aaron Burr who recognized that Princeton, New Jersey, was a more suitable site for the college than Newark.  So in 1756, he moved the now seventy students to a building which had been built especially for it.  The college, which later on would become Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, would never leave this town.

Burr was certainly an  intellectual in his teaching abilities.  Yet it was when he was preaching that he shone most brilliantly.  His life and example were a constant commentary on his sermons.

Words to Live By:  It is said that our lives preach all day every week.  Question? Are other souls being helped or hindered in the hearing and  reading of those lives?  Are those without Christ being convicted and convinced to become Christians?  Are Christians being encouraged, comforted, edified, and taught Christian truths?  What is our profession—not just of our lips, but of our lives—as we live before others? All these questions are good self-examination questions, especially as we begin this new year.

Through the Scriptures: Genesis 10-11

Through the Standards:  The what, how, and why of the Bible, as found in the catechisms:

WLC 3 “What is the word of God?
A. The holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the word of God, the only rule of faith and obedience.”;

WSC 2 “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.”

For further study:
The finding aid, or index, to the Aaron Burr manuscript collection preserved at the Princeton University, may be viewed here.

Recommended reading on Princeton University:
Noll, Mark A. Princeton and the Republic, 1768-1822: The Search for a Christian Enlightenment in the Era of Samuel Stanhope Smith (1989). 340 pp.

[Images from Scribner’s Monthly, vol. 13, no. 5 (March 1877), pp. 627 & 629.]


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