James Alexander

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A Model Preacher and a Faithful Pastor

How does one live in the shadow of a man, albeit your father, who was the leading theologian of the day?  The answer is simple enough really.  You engage in your calling faithfully and fully.  Such a man was James Waddell Alexander.

Born the eldest son of Archibald Alexander near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, James was in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of the Presbyterian  Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But when schooling began for the son, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  In 1812, the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, and the family of the Alexanders moved there, so Archibald  Alexander could become the first professor of that new divinity school.

Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820.  And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822 – 1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. (This seems to have been a common practice in the 19th-century, where men would first serve as a tutor for several years before seeking ordination.). He began his pastoral ministry as stated supply of the Presbyterian church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia for a year, and was then pastor of that church for another year. The rest of his life and ministry had him in the college and seminary field of teaching at Princeton Seminary, interspersed with pastoral ministry in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City Presbyterian churches.

He was involved in some of the biggest seasons of revival and reformation during those middle decades of the eighteen hundreds.  The New York City prayer revival took place in his church in 1857, which then spread through the noon prayer meetings among many denominations and around the country.  In the midst of his ministry, the Old School New School division took place in the denomination. Through it all, James Alexander proclaimed Christ to the masses.

One of the highlights of his ministry was his hymn writing and translations. The most famous translation was the familiar words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” His translation from 1830 from Bernard of Clairvaux in the eleventh century, is the version most used by our churches today.

James in 1859 went with his wife back to his home state of Virginia to recover from a serious illness. On July 31, 1859, he went to Red Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he succumbed from his illness.  Before his death, he made the following comment:

“If the curtain should drop at his moment and I were ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings?  They would be these. First, I would prostrate myself in the dust in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt.  Secondly, I would look up to my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love.  There is a passage of Scripture which best expresses my present feeling: I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Words to Live By:
As we contemplate that last comment of James Alexander on his death-bed, who among believers could not echo these words and thoughts?  We have no right from ourselves to gain heaven.  It is only through Christ’s love and forgiveness that we have been given the key to heaven’s door.  Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only object.  Let that be your assurance both here, and hereafter.

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A member church of the Presbyterian Church in America since 1974, Fairview Presbyterian Church in Fountain Inn,South Carolina, was established in 1786 and ranks as one of the oldest churches in the PCA (fifteen are older).

History of Fairview Presbyterian Church
Greenville County
1786-1886

The Fairview Presbyterian Church is located in Greenville County, South Carolina, Fairview Township, five miles west of Fountain Inn.

The above church was organized in the late fall of 1786, the following families composing the organization: John Peden’s, Samuel Peden’s, David Peden’s, James Alexander’s, and James Nesbitt’s.

This church was received under the care of South Carolina Presbytery on April 10, 1787.

There have been four church buildings. The first was built of logs and located, not far from the church spring, on the east side. The second was also a log structure and situated near the spot on which the brick church afterwards stood. The third was the brick building. It was finished in 1818 and dedicated by the Rev. R.B. Cater in August of that year. Its site was just in front of the graveyard, where remains of it may still be found. The fourth is the one now in use. It was completed in March, 1858, and dedicated by Rev. David Humphrey and Dr. E.T. Buist on May 15 of the same year. The occasion was also a season of great spiritual blessing to the church. There were many conversions and the membership much revived.

The Rev. Samuel Edmonson of Virginia, preached the first sermon and organized the church with the following ruling elders: John Peden, Samuel Peden, James Alexander, Sr., and his son, John Alexander. The first minister to serve the church was Rev. John McCosh, for one year. Second, Rev. J. Foster Simpson and Rev. William Montgomery, each preached occasionally until 1794, when Rev. James Templeton was called as stated supply for half of his time and continued for six years.

From 1800 to 1802, the pulpit was vacant, but in 1802, this church, with Nazareth, Spartanburg County, called the Rev. James Gilliland, Jr., as pastor, and continued for ten years.

From 1812 to 1814, Rev. James Hillhouse, Rev. Thomas Archibald, Rev. Joseph Hillhouse, and Rev. Alexander Kirkpatrick were occasional supplies, as appointed by Presbytery.

From 1814 to 1816, Rev. Hugh Dickson served the church for one-fourth his time. Again the Rev. James Hillhouse served for six months, followed by Rev. Thomas Archibald for one year, and Rev. Alexander Kirkpatrick for two years. Rev. Thomas Baird served for two years, 1818-1820. Rev. Michael Dickson served Fairview and Nazareth from 1820-1827. Vacant from 1827 to 1832, Messrs. Watson and Craig holding occasional services as appointed by Presbytery, with Rev. Arthur Mooney.

In 1832, Rev. John Boggs took charge as supply, later, as pastor. He was followed by Rev. David Humphrys for three years. He was succeeded by Rev. William Carlisle in 1838, who was stated supply for six years. He was followed by Rev. John McKittrick for two years, then Rev. E.T. Buist as stated supply for six years.

This brings us to the ministry of Rev. C.B. Stewart, which extended over a period of thirty years, eighteen, as stated supply, and twelve years, as pastor. His worthy successor was Rev. Marion C. Britt, as pastor for three-fourths of his time.

The list of those who have served as ruling elders in the church from 1786 to 1886 is as follows: John Peden, Samuel Peden, James Alexander, Sr., John Alexander, Alexander Peden, William Peden, Robert Morrow, Anthony Savage, Thomas W. Alexander, Lindsay A. Baker, James Peden, James Alexander, David Morton, Alexander Thompson, James Dunbar, Adam Stenhouse, Austin Williams, J.E. Savage, John M. Harrison, A.W. Peden, T.H. Stall, Dr. W.A. Harrison, Thomas L. Woodside, Dr. D.R. Anderson, W.L. Hopkins, Robert Wham, David Stoddard, J.W. Kennedy, and Dr. H.B. Stewart.

The office of deacon was established in 1858, and the following men have served in that capacity up to the year 1886: John T. Stenhouse, T.C. Harrison, William Nesbitt, D.R. Anderson, Thomas L. Woodside, Thomas H. Stall, W.L. Hopkins, C.D. Nesbitt, D.M. Peden, T.C. Peden, E.W. Nash, A.S. Peden, J.T. Peden, M.P. Nash and S.T. McKittrick.

An imperfect roll of communicants from the beginning to 1886, contains about twelve hundred names. The neighboring churches of New Harmony and Lickville are her daughters, and many colonies in other states, who have carried with them her faith and spirit. Two of her sons are in the ministry, the Rev. A.G. Peden of Griffin, Georgia, and the Rev. C.L. Stewart of our own Presbytery. The first hundred years of her existence have been rich in blessings, and we can raise our Ebenezer with thanksgiving and praise for “hitherto the Lord has helped us.”

The church bears no marks of decay, and if her children are only faithful to their heritage, it can be said of her that she has but entered upon her divine mission of “gathering and perfecting the saints.”

By (Mrs.) Cannie H. Woodside. [written circa 1936]

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A Model Preacher and a Faithful Pastor

How does one live in the shadow of a man, albeit your father, who was the leading theologian of the day?  The answer is simple enough really.  You engage in your calling faithfully and fully.  Such a man was James Waddell Alexander.

alexanderjwBorn near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, the eldest son of Archibald Alexander, James was raised in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But by the time that schooling had begun for James, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  Then in 1812, the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, and the Alexander family moved there, as Archibald Alexander became the first professor of that new divinity school.

Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820.  And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822–1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. (This seems to have been a common practice in the 19th-century, where men would first serve as a tutor for several years before seeking ordination.). He began his pastoral ministry as stated supply of the Presbyterian church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia for a year, and was then pastor of that church for another year. The rest of his life and ministry  had him  variously teaching at both college and seminary in Princeton, interspersed with pastoral ministry in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City Presbyterian churches.

He was involved in some of the biggest seasons of revival and reformation during those middle decades of the eighteen hundreds. The New York City prayer revival took place in his church in 1857, which then spread through the noon prayer meetings among many denominations and around the country.  In the midst of his ministry, the Old School / New School division took place in the denomination. Through it all, James Alexander proclaimed Christ to the masses.

One of the highlights of his ministry was his hymn writing and related translation work. Perhaps his most famous translation was  that of the familiar words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” His 1830 translation of the eleventh-century poem by Bernard of Clairvaux is the version most used by our churches today.

In 1859 James returned with his wife to his home state of Virginia to recover from a serious illness. On July 31, 1859, he went to Red Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he succumbed from his illness.  Before his death, he made the following comment:

“If the curtain should drop at this moment and I were ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings?  They would be these. First, I would prostrate myself in the dust in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt.  Secondly, I would look up to my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love.  There is a passage of Scripture which best expresses my present feeling: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Words to Live By: As we contemplate that last comment of James Alexander on his death-bed, who among believers could not echo these same words and thoughts?  We have no right from ourselves to gain heaven.  It is only through Christ’s love and forgiveness that we have been given the key to heaven’s door.  Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only object.  Let that be your assurance both here, and hereafter.

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, KJV)

Tags: , , ,

A Model Preacher and a Faithful Pastor

How does one live in the shadow of a man, albeit your father, who was the leading theologian of the day?  The answer is simple enough really.  You engage in your calling faithfully and fully.  Such a man was James Waddell Alexander.

Born the eldest son of Archibald Alexander near Gordonsville, Virginia, in 1804, James was in a household filled with theological giants of the faith.  His father was the president of the Presbyterian  Hampden-Sydney College at that time.  But when schooling began for the son, his father had taken the pulpit of the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1807.  In 1812, the new seminary called Princeton began in New Jersey, and the family of the Alexanders moved there, so Archibald  Alexander could become the first professor of that new divinity school.

Young James graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1820.  And while he studied theology at Princeton Seminary from 1822 – 1824, he would not be ordained by the historic Hanover Presbytery until 1827, having first served about three years as a tutor. (This seems to have been a common practice in the 19th-century, where men would first serve as a tutor for several years before seeking ordination.). He began his pastoral ministry as stated supply of the Presbyterian church in Charlotte Court House, Virginia for a year, and was then pastor of that church for another year. The rest of his life and ministry had him in the college and seminary field of teaching at Princeton Seminary, interspersed with pastoral ministry in Trenton, New Jersey and New York City Presbyterian churches.

He was involved in some of the biggest seasons of revival and reformation during those middle decades of the eighteen hundreds.  The New York City prayer revival took place in his church in 1857, which then spread through the noon prayer meetings among many denominations and around the country.  In the midst of his ministry, the Old School New School division took place in the denomination. Through it all, James Alexander proclaimed Christ to the masses.

One of the highlights of his ministry was his hymn writing and translations. The most famous translation was the familiar words to “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded.” His translation from 1830 from Bernard of Clairvaux in the eleventh century, is the version most used by our churches today.

James in 1859 went with his wife back to his home state of Virginia to recover from a serious illness. On July 31, 1859, he went to Red Sweet Springs, Virginia, where he succumbed from his illness.  Before his death, he made the following comment:

“If the curtain should drop at his moment and I were ushered into the presence of my Maker, what would be my feelings?  They would be these. First, I would prostrate myself in the dust in an unutterable sense of my nothingness and guilt.  Secondly, I would look up to my Redeemer with an inexpressible assurance of faith and love.  There is a passage of Scripture which best expresses my present feeling: I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Words to Live By: As we contemplate that last comment of James Alexander on his death-bed, who among believers could not echo these words and thoughts?  We have no right from ourselves to gain heaven.  It is only through Christ’s love and forgiveness that we have been given the key to heaven’s door.  Christ Jesus is the object of our faith, and the only object.  Let that be your assurance both here, and hereafter.

Through the Scriptures: Nahum 1 – 3

Through the Standards:  The Sixth commandment: Sins forbidden

WLC 136 — “What are the sins forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A.  The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life; sinful anger, hatred, envy, desire of revenge; all excessive passions, distracting cares; immoderate use of meat, drink, labor, and recreations; provoking words, oppression, quarreling, striking, wounding, and whatsoever else tends to the destruction of the life of any.”

WSC 69 — “What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
A.  The sixth commandment forbids the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbor unjustly, or whatsoever tends thereunto.”

Image source : Frontispiece portrait in Forty Years’ Familiar Letters of James W. Alexander, D.D. New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1870.

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