When gathered all together, not much is really known about Annie Pearce Kinkead Warfield, wife of Dr. Benjamin B. Warfield. In addition, we’ve not been able to locate a photograph or portrait of her. Our post today is drawn from a longer biographical article written for the PCA Historical Center by Barry Waugh.
Beloved Wife of a Scholar.
Benjamin pursued his theological education in preparation for the ministry by entering Princeton Theological Seminary in September of 1873. He was licensed to preach the gospel by Ebenezer Presbytery on May 8, 1875. Following licensure, he tested his ministerial abilities by supplying the Concord Presbyterian Church in Kentucky from June through August of 1875. After he received his divinity degree in 1876, he supplied the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, Ohio, and while he was in Dayton, he married Annie Pearce Kinkead, the daughter of a prominent attorney, on August 3, 1876. Soon after he married Annie, the couple set sail on an extended study trip in Europe for the winter of 1876-1877. It was sometime during this voyage that the newly weds went through a great storm and Annie suffered an injury that debilitated her for the rest of her life; the biographers differ as to whether the injury was emotional, physical, or a combination of the two. Sometime during 1877, according to Ethelbert Warfield, Benjamin was offered the opportunity to teach Old Testament at Western Seminary, but he turned the position down because he had turned his study emphasis to the New Testament despite his early aversion to Greek (vii). In November 1877, he began his supply ministry at the First Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, where he continued until the following March. He returned to Kentucky and was ordained as an evangelist by Ebenezer Presbytery on April 26, 1879.
In September of 1878, Benjamin began his career as a theological educator when he became an instructor in New Testament Literature and Exegesis at Western Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh. Western Seminary had been formed by the merger of existing seminaries including Danville Seminary, which R. J. Breckinridge, Benjamin’s grandfather, had been involved in founding. The following year he was made professor of the same subject and he continued in that position until 1887. In his inaugural address for Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Literature, April 20, 1880, he set the theme for many of his writing efforts in the succeeding years by defending historic Christianity. The purpose of his lecture was to answer the question, “Is the Church Doctrine of the Plenary Inspiration of the New Testament Endangered by the Assured Results of Modern Biblical Criticism.” Professor Warfield affirmed the inspiration, authority and reliability of God’s Word in opposition to the critics of his era. He quickly established his academic reputation for thoroughness and defense of the Bible. Many heard of his academic acumen and his scholarship was awarded by eastern academia when his alma mater, the College of New Jersey, awarded him an honorary D. D. in 1880.
According to Samuel Craig, Dr. Warfield was offered the Chair of Theology at the Theological Seminary of the Northwest in Chicago in 1881, but he did not end his service at Western until he went to teach at Princeton Theological Seminary beginning the fall semester of 1887. He succeeded Archibald Alexander Hodge as the Charles Hodge Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology. His inaugural address, delivered May 8, 1888, was titled “The Idea of Systematic Theology Considered as a Science.” As he taught theology, he did so using Hodge’s Systematic Theology and continued the Hodge tradition. The constant care Annie required and the duties associated with teaching at Princeton, resulted in a limited involvement in presbytery, synod, and general assembly. Annie lived a homebound life limiting herself primarily to the Princeton campus where Benjamin was never-too-far from home. The Warfields lived in the same campus home where Charles and Archibald Alexander Hodge lived during their years at Princeton.
Benjamin enjoyed a busy schedule at Princeton. One of his duties at Princeton included editing the Presbyterian Review, succeeding Francis L. Patton. When the Presbyterian Review was discontinued, he planned and produced the Presbyterian and Reformed Review until the Faculty of Princeton renamed it the Princeton Theological Review in 1902. During his Princeton years he was awarded several times with honorary degrees in addition to his D.D. including: the LL.D. by the College of New Jersey in 1892, the LL.D. by Davidson College in 1892, the Litt.D. by Lafayette College in 1911, and the S.T.D. by the University of Utrecht in 1913.
After thirty-nine years of marriage, Annie died November 19, 1915. She was buried in the Princeton cemetery of what is now the Nassau Street Presbyterian Church with a bronze, vault sized ground plate marking her location. Benjamin continued to teach at Princeton until he was taken ill suddenly on Christmas Eve of 1920. Until this illness, Dr. Warfield had followed an active and busy teaching schedule into his seventieth year of life. His condition was serious for a time, but he improved enough that he resumed partial teaching responsibilities on February 16, 1921. Despite not feeling ill effects from the class he taught that day, he died of coronary problems later that evening. He was buried next to his beloved Annie with a similar marker for his grave. The Warfields did not have any children.
Words To Live By:
Does the reality of your life live up to the words of your Christian testimony? The life-long love expressed by Dr. Warfield for his wife, no doubt sacrificial at times, stands as a vibrant witness to his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ calls us to live not for our own sake, or for our own comfort or advancement in this world. Rather, He calls us to live for His glory, and living that life in keeping with His Word may well mean great sacrifice of one sort or another. Through it all, God calls us to remain faithful, relying upon Him at every turn, and by His Spirit overcoming every adversity, all to His glory.