November 16: Dr. Ashbel Green’s Inaugural Address

The Danger of Education without Christian Orthodoxy & Piety

Chosen to serve as the eighth president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), Dr. Ashbel Green left the Philadelphia church which he had served for twenty-five years and moved in October of 1812 into the president’s house on Nassau Street in Princeton. His inaugural address in November dealt with “The Union of Piety and Science.”

Green had become firmly convinced that education, in itself, could be dangerous if it were not securely rooted in Christian orthodoxy and piety. Like Samuel S. Smith, his immediate predecessor in the office of president, Ashbel Green was loyal to John Witherspoon’s legacy; but, unlike Smith, he believed that the heart of Witherspoon’s commitment was his doctrinal views and his concern for revivals and Christian conduct. Green gathered the three faculty members for a day of prayer on November 16 and wrote down a list of goals for himself. The first three of his resolutions were:

1st … to endeavour to be a father to the institution. . . .

2d. To pray for the institution as I do for my family . . . and especially that [God] may pour out his Spirit upon it, and make it what its pious founders intended it to be.

3d. To watch against the declension of religion in my own soul . . . to which the pursuits of science themselves may prove a temptation.

The Presidents of Princeton University, 1747-1902

Colonial Era:

Jonathan Dickinson, 1747
Aaron Burr, Sr., 1748–57
Jonathan Edwards, 1758
Samuel Davies, 1759–61
Samuel Finley, 1761–66

Revolutionary War Years:

John Witherspoon, 1768–94

Nineteenth Century:

Samuel S. Smith, 1795–1812
Ashbel Green, 1812–22
James Carnahan, 1823–54
John Maclean, Jr., 1854–68
James McCosh, 1868–88
Francis L. Patton, 1888–1902

Words to Live By:
“Watch against the declension of religion in my own soul…” — Dear reader, is this among your daily goals, to guard your precious, eternal soul, that you would not stray from the Lord your Savior, but draw nearer to Him each and every day? From your rising in the morning till you rest your weary head at night, your desire should be to keep the Lord uppermost in your thoughts, seeking to do His will, praying that if by His blessing your words and deeds might point others to Christ. We have much to do in this life, but these things are most important of all.

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