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He Preached His Own Funeral Sermon
by Rev. David T. Myers

Rev. Samuel Davies [3 November 1723 - 4 February 1761]Subscribers to This Day in Presbyterian History, are familiar with our character today, namely, the Rev. Samuel Davies. If we would sum up his life and ministry, the following titles would adequately describe him: Presbyterian pastor, who in the early days of this country, before it was a country, rode a circuit of five hundred miles through forests and fields ministering to the hearts of saved and unsaved alike; church planter, the first non-Anglican minister in Virginia; hymn writer, author of “Great God of Wonders!” on page 82 of the red Trinity Hymnal, evangelist, defender of persons and places, being described at the best recruiter of the “military” in the French and Indian War; and yes, president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University and Seminary) in May 1759.

This last post of ministry, Samuel Davies, was most reluctant to take. It would mean giving up his scattered but effective ministry to the people of Virginia, especially at Polegreen Presbyterian Church in Virginia. Biblical Presbyterianism was just beginning to get a toe-hold in that area. Frankly, Virginia Presbyterians were not of the opinion that he should give up the fields which were white unto harvest. But he was convinced by the board of trustees of this young Presbyterian college to take the position. They saw that God has bestowed, as it was said then by one trustee, “prodigious, uncommon gifts” upon Samuel Davies. And so He had. Samuel Davies took reluctantly the position, though not a well man. Two years later, on February 4, 1761, Samuel Davies would entered heaven’s gates to receive his rewards.

But where does our title enter into the picture, you ask? Well, Samuel Davies did preach his own funeral sermon. It was on January 1, 1761 that Samuel Davies preached a sermon in Princeton, New Jersey on New Year’s day from Jeremiah 28:16, entitled “This Very Year You Are Going to Die!” And thirty-five days later, he did die on this day, February 4, 1761.

A few excerpts from that sermon, which is on-line, are important to recount, for they speak of the fervor of the gospel sermon which for all practical purposes was for himself, though unknown by him at the time. He preached on that Lord’s Day in Princeton, New Jersey,

“While we are entering into the threshold of a new year, it may be proper for us to stand, and pause, and take a serious view of the occurrences that may happen to us this year – that we may be prepared to meet them. Future contingencies are indeed unknown to us; and this ignorance is as agreeable to our present state, and as conducive to our improvement and happiness – as our knowledge of the things which it concerns us to know. But though we cannot predict to ourselves the particular events that may befall us – yet the events of life in general, in a vague indeterminate view, are not so contingent and unknowable as to leave no room for rationale suppositions, and probably expectations”

In the sixth paragraph of his sermon, Samuel Davies goes on to say, “Yes, it is highly probably, that if some prophet, like Jeremiah, should open to us the book of the divine decrees, one or another of us would there see our sentence, and the time of its execution fixed! ‘Thus says the Lord – This very year you are going to die!’”

In thirty-five days, after only two years as president of what later became Princeton University and Seminary, at the age of 37, Samuel Davies died! In a way, he preached his very own funeral sermon on that first day in 1761.

Words to Live By:
None of our readers, nor your two authors, like to think of this solemn and unchangeable event, but it is, as the Lord states, appointed unto us to die at some day at our Lord’s choosing. Far better for us to prepare for this eventuality, by first making sure that we have received by faith alone the Lord Jesus and His accomplished work on the cross for us. And then, in appreciation of that great salvation, seek while we are on this earth to buy up every opportunity for the Lord’s service, whether in the home, church, and/or society, by being the salt of the earth and shining the gospel light upon the spiritually dark world.(Matthew 5:13 – 16)

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The Most Profoundly Christian Politician of the Twentieth Century? —

How would you react if you discovered that an ancestor of yours had been James Stewart the First, the king of Scotland? That is what Woodrow Wilson found out in growing up in the home of Joseph Ruggles Wilson in the late nineteenth century.  And the famous ancestors did not stop there. On his mother’s side, she had descended from Pocahontas of Jamestown fame.  What a family ancestry!

His father was a Presbyterian minister who moved to Staunton, Virginia to take a church there. That was where Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856, the third of four children. Even though Ohio had been their first place of ministry, a Southward trip to Augusta, Georgia, where Woodrow Wilson would spend much of his growing up years,  landed them square in the Confederacy in thought, fervor, and commitment.  They owned slaves and defended their action on that social issue. For a while, the father was a chaplain in the Confederate army. After the War Between the States, he became a founder of the Southern Presbyterians Church, U.S., becoming its stated clerk and eventual moderator in 1879.

Meanwhile, young Woodrow was being trained privately by his father, attending Presbyterian schools, and eventually Princeton University, from which he graduated. In 1885, he married Ellen Axson, from which marriage three daughters were born.  Serving initially as a lawyer in the south, Woodrow eventually became the president of Princeton University between 1902 – 1910.  From the university to the governorship of New Jersey, the rise in politics was rapid. Campaigning on the Democratic ticket, Woodrow Wilson would serve for two terms, the latter of which was enveloped by World War I.

It was during the first term that his wife Ellen died. He became one of three presidents who were widowed while in the White House. Soon afterwards, he was married a second time, to Edith Galt on December 18, 1915.

You can read in any history book the accomplishments of his presidency. We are interested in the fact that not only did he have an upbringing in  Presbyterian convictions, he remained deeply religious all of his presidency and for that matter, his life. The Bible was the guide of his life, as he read and studied it daily. God’s guidance was frequently sought and received. He considered the United States a Christian nation.  His Calvinistic convictions we’re particularly needed when he suffered a paralysis during the latter part of his presidency.  His wife Edith became the de facto president as she guided him in his duties as the chief executive. Three years after he left the office, he died.  His wife survived him, living all the way into the presidency of John Kennedy.

Words to live by:
Too many believers separate their spiritual beliefs from their lives. Woodrow Wilson was different from that common practice. With a solid Calvinistic upbringing, he lived his faith and walked by faith. To him, everything he did was colored by the Christian conviction gleaned from the Word of God which he read and studied every day.  You and I are to be no different in this one aspect of his life.  Read the Word, and then, live the Word. No sphere of life is to be divorced from the application of the Bible.

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Our time is short today, and we find sufficient reason to remind ourselves of a post well worth reviewing:


Birth of a Giant.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was born on this day, November 5th, in 1851.

warfield_1864For God-fearing parents, every birth must bring some small trepidation, along with great hope and promise. We trust the Lord, we seek to live exemplary lives and strive to diligently do our part to raise our children, that they might never know a time when they did not trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation and rely upon Him completely. Child-rearing truly is a humbling thing, casting us upon the Lord, praying for His grace and mercy.

At the same time, some children, even from a young age, show great maturity and promise.  You can see it in their face. Such a child, I think, was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. 

All of the Warfield children were patiently led to memorize both the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, as well as the associated Scripture proof texts. Benjamin’s brother Ethelbert recounted that in their home “the shorter catechism was ordinarily completed in the sixth year, followed at once by the proofs from the Scriptures, and then by the larger catechism, with an appropriate amount of Scripture memorized in regular course each Sabbath afternoon.” In 1867, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian church in Lexington, KY.

In 1868, he began the Sophomore year at Princeton College, graduating in 1871, with a strong interest in the sciences and a desire to pursue further studies in Scotland and Germany. But it was not until he returned home in 1872 that he announced his intention to explore a call to the ministry. That had long been his mother’s prayer for her sons, that they would become ministers of the Gospel. In 1873, he began his preparation for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Years later, Warfield wrote a brief article on the value of the Shorter Catechism. Warfield writes:

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

[B.B. Warfield, “Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?” in The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1 (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), 1970), pp. 381ff.]

[Note: It is tempting to think that Warfield may have come by this anecdote through his own extended family. There were a number of men in the Breckinridge family who were military officers. Of these, Ethelbert Ludlow Dudley Breckinridge, an 1898 graduate of Princeton University and a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1906, seems the most likely candidate to fit the details of the story. Moreover, the San Francisco earthquake would appear to be the most probable setting of the story.]

warfield1867b_75Words to live by: God bless faithful parents! May He equip, encourage, sustain, and support those loving parents who know that they must daily rely completely upon the Lord in the raising of their children. Child-rearing is entirely a matter of trusting prayerfully in the grace of God. Patiently love them, spend sacrificial time with them, live exemplary lives in front of them. But above all, pray daily for them, that God by His grace would save them to the uttermost. You never know when a child will grow up to be greatly used in the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.

Image sources : Original photographs preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Scans prepared by the Center’s staff. Photo 1, Benjamin B. Warfield, 1864, age 13. Photo 2, B.B. Warfield, 1867, age 16.

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Dr. Charles Rosenbury. ErdmanIt was at the momentous Syracuse, N.Y. meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. where Dr. J. Gresham Machen was officially defrocked from the ministry of that denomination. That action in turn then prompted the founding of what was to become the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Also in attendance at that General Assembly in Syracuse was one of Machen’s many adversaries, Dr. Charles R. Erdman, a man who was by all accounts staunchly evangelical. Yet he found himself in opposition to the course taken by Dr. Machen— he found himself siding with those very men who took a decidedly modernist and unbelieving approach to the Scriptures.

The Syracuse Herald gave some coverage of Dr. Erdman’s visit to his birthplace in Fayetteville, NY that year, noting:

“Dr. Erdman was born in Fayetteville, where his father was a Presbyterian minister, but when he was three weeks old, his parents moved to another charge. [Erdman was born on July 20, 1866].

“In spite of the short time Dr. Erdman was a resident of the Onandaga County village, however, he has frequently visited his birthplace and this week, before the adjournment of the General Assembly which he is attending, he will again visit his birthplace, he said Saturday.

“Dr. Erdman’s father, the Rev. William Jacob Erdman, preached in the same church, and lived in the same manse as did the father of Grover Cleveland, former President of the United States. His youngest daughter is the wife of Francis Grover Cleveland, son of the late former President.

“The greater part of Dr. Erdman’s boyhood was passed in Jamestown. He also lived in Chicago where his father was pastor of Dwight L. Moody’s church. He was graduated from Princeton University in 1886 and from Princeton Seminary in 1891. He holds [honorary] doctor’s degrees from Wooster College, Princeton University and Davidson College.

“For six years following his ordination in 1891 he was pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Overbook, Pa. Then he became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, Pa., where he remained until 1906 when he became a Princeton professor.

“He became a member of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in 1906 and in 1926 was elected as president, an office he still holds. He was elected moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1925. In the same year he was moderator of the New Brunswick Presbytery. In 1910 he was a delegate tot he World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh and in 1922 to the National Christian Council in Shanghai.

“He is the author of many books, including The Ruling Elder, Sunday Afternoon with a Railroad Man, Coming to the Communion, Within the Gates of the Far East, The Return of Christ, The Lord We Love, The Spirit of Christ, The Life of D.L. Moody, and expositions of most of the books of the New Testament.

“Dr. Erdman’s wife was Miss Estelle Pardee of Germantown, daugher of a widely-known coal operator. His son, the Rev. Calvin Pardee Erdman, also a Presbyterian minister, has preached in Hawaii and California….

“The Erdmans have a summer home at Saranac Lake.”

Embedded in that newspaper account are a few clues for the observant reader as to why Dr. Erdman found himself an opponent of Machen. Erdman had become attached to the denominational board of foreign missions, and Machen had been critical of that Board for fielding missionaries who held low views of Scripture. Moreover, Erdman’s personal and family connection to D.L. Moody might indicate a faith and a theology that was more generally evangelical and less confessional or Reformed in nature. Politics may also have had a part. By familial connection with Grover Cleveland, Dr. Erdman may have been a Democrat, whereas J. Gresham Machen was decidedly libertarian in his views and more of a political free-thinker.

Long-time Princeton Seminary professor Charles Erdman passed away on May 9, 1960. [Our apologies! The correct death date for Dr. Erdman is May 9, 1960. The confusion arose by way of his son’s death date—Charles R. Erdman, Jr. died on October 15, 1984.]

Words to Live By:
Why some men make the decisions they do is often a puzzle beyond our understanding. In pondering this point, we realize how much we must seek to live humbly in the fear of the Lord, for there are times when it takes a clear head and a resolute faith if we are to stand fast on the sure counsel of God’s Word. Too many of us are shaped by our associations, much more so than we realize. Seek instead to be shaped by the Word of God. Live each day as honestly as possible, confessing your sin, repenting and seeking the Lord’s mercy and grace.

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Birth of a Giant.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was born on this day, November 5th, in 1851.

warfield_1864For God-fearing parents, every birth must bring some small trepidation, along with great hope and promise. We trust the Lord, we seek to live exemplary lives and strive to diligently do our part to raise our children, that they might never know a time when they did not trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation and rely upon Him completely. Child-rearing truly is a humbling thing, casting us upon the Lord, praying for His grace and mercy.

At the same time, some children, even from a young age, show great maturity and promise.  You can see it in their face. Such a child, I think, was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. 

All of the Warfield children were patiently led to memorize both the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, as well as the associated Scripture proof texts. In 1867, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian church in Lexington, KY. It is tempting to think that the photo at the left, from that same year, might have been taken in conjunction with that event.

In 1868, he began the Sophomore year at Princeton College, graduating in 1871, with a strong interest in the sciences and a desire to pursue further studies in Scotland and Germany. But it was not until he returned home in 1872 that he announced his intention to explore a call to the ministry. That had long been his mother’s prayer for her sons, that they would become ministers of the Gospel. In 1873, he began his preparation for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Years later, Warfield wrote a brief article on the value of the Shorter Catechism. Warfield writes:

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

[B.B. Warfield, “Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?” in The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1 (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), 1970), pp. 381ff.]

[Note: It is tempting to think that Warfield may have come by this anecdote through his own extended family. There were a number of men in the Breckinridge family who were military officers. Of these, Ethelbert Ludlow Dudley Breckinridge, an 1898 graduate of Princeton University and a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1906, seems the most likely candidate to fit the details of the story. Moreover, the San Francisco earthquake would appear to be the most probable setting of the story.]

warfield1867b_75Words to live by: God bless faithful parents! May He equip, encourage, sustain, and support those loving parents who know that they must daily rely completely upon the Lord in the raising of their children. Child-rearing is entirely a matter of trusting prayerfully in the grace of God. Patiently love them, spend sacrificial time with them, live exemplary lives in front of them. But above all, pray daily for them, that God by His grace would save them to the uttermost. You never know when a child will grow up to be greatly used in the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.

Image sources : Original photographs preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Scans prepared by the Center’s staff. Photo 1, Benjamin B. Warfield, 1864, age 13. Photo 2, B.B. Warfield, 1867, age 16.

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Dr. Charles Rosenbury. ErdmanIt was at the momentous Syracuse, N.Y. meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. where Dr. J. Gresham Machen was officially defrocked from the ministry of that denomination. That action in turn then prompted the founding of what was to become the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Also in attendance at that General Assembly in Syracuse was one of Machen’s many adversaries, Dr. Charles R. Erdman, a man who was by all accounts staunchly evangelical. Yet he found himself in opposition to the course taken by Dr. Machen— he found himself siding with those very men who took a decidedly modernist and unbelieving approach to the Scriptures.

The Syracuse Herald gave some coverage of Dr. Erdman’s visit to his birthplace in Fayetteville, NY that year, noting:

“Dr. Erdman was born in Fayetteville, where his father was a Presbyterian minister, but when he was three weeks old, his parents moved to another charge.

“In spite of the short time Dr. Erdman was a resident of the Onandaga County village, however, he has frequently visited his birthplace and this week, before the adjournment of the General Assembly which he is attending, he will again visit his birthplace, he said Saturday.

“Dr. Erdman’s father, the Rev. William Jacob Erdman, preached in the same church, and lived in the same manse as did the father of Grover Cleveland, former President of the United States. His youngest daughter is the wife of Francis Grover Cleveland, son of the late former President.

“The greater part of Dr. Erdman’s boyhood was passed in Jamestown. He also lived in Chicago where his father was pastor of Dwight L. Moody’s church. He was graduated from Princeton University in 1886 and from Princeton Seminary in 1891. He holds [honorary] doctor’s degrees from Wooster College, Princeton University and Davidson College.

“For six years following his ordination in 1891 he was pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Overbook, Pa. Then he became pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Germantown, Pa., where he remained until 1906 when he became a Princeton professor.

“He became a member of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in 1906 and in 1926 was elected as president, an office he still holds. He was elected moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1925. In the same year he was moderator of the New Brunswick Presbytery. In 1910 he was a delegate tot he World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh and in 1922 to the National Christian Council in Shanghai.

“He is the author of many books, including The Ruling Elder, Sunday Afternoon with a Railroad Man, Coming to the Communion, Within the Gates of the Far East, The Return of Christ, The Lord We Love, The Spirit of Christ, The Life of D.L. Moody, and expositions of most of the books of the New Testament.

“Dr. Erdman’s wife was Miss Estelle Pardee of Germantown, daugher of a widely-known coal operator. His son, the Rev. Calvin Pardee Erdman, also a Presbyterian minister, has preached in Hawaii and California….

“The Erdmans have a summer home at Saranac Lake.”

Embedded in that newspaper account are a few clues for the observant reader as to why Dr. Erdman found himself an opponent of Machen. Erdman had become attached to the denominational board of foreign missions, and Machen had been critical of that Board for fielding missionaries who held low views of Scripture. Moreover, Erdman’s personal and family connection to D.L. Moody might indicate a faith and a theology that was more generally evangelical and less confessional or Reformed in nature. Politics may also have had a part. By familial connection with Grover Cleveland, Dr. Erdman may have been a Democrat, whereas J. Gresham Machen was decidedly libertarian in his views and more of a political free-thinker.

Words to Live By: Why some men make the decisions they do is often a puzzle beyond our understanding. In pondering this point, we realize how much we must seek to live humbly in the fear of the Lord, for there are times when it takes a clear head and a resolute faith if we are to stand fast on the sure counsel of God’s Word. Too many of us are shaped by our associations, much more so than we realize. Seek instead to be shaped by the Word of God. Live each day as honestly as possible, confessing your sin, repenting and seeking the Lord’s mercy and grace.

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A Life of Christian Conviction

How would you react if you discovered that an ancestor of yours had been James Stewart the First, the king of Scotland? That is what Woodrow Wilson found out in growing up in the home of Joseph Ruggles Wilson in the late nineteenth century. And the famous ancestors did not stop there. On his mother’s side, she had descended from Pocahontas of Jamestown fame. What a family ancestry!

His father was a Presbyterian minister who moved to Staunton, Virginia to take a church there. That was where Woodrow Wilson was born on December 28, 1856, the third of four children. Even though Ohio had been their first place of ministry, a Southward trip to Augusta, Georgia, where Woodrow Wilson would spend much of his growing up years, landed them square in the Confederacy in thought, fervor, and commitment. They owned slaves and defended their action on that social issue. For a while, the father was a chaplain in the Confederate army. After the War Between the States, he became a founder of the Southern Presbyterians Church, U.S., becoming its stated clerk and eventual moderator in 1879.

Meanwhile, young Woodrow was being trained privately by his father, attending Presbyterian schools, and eventually Princeton University, from which he graduated. In 1885, he married Ellen Axson, from which marriage three daughters were born. Serving initially as a lawyer in the south, Woodrow eventually became the president of Princeton University between 1902 – 1910. From the university to the governorship of New Jersey, the rise in politics was rapid. Campaigning on the Democratic ticket, Woodrow Wilson would serve for two terms, the latter of which was enveloped by World War I.

It was during the first term that his wife Ellen died. He became one of three presidents who were widowed while in the White House. Soon afterwards, he was married a second time, to Edith Galt on December 18, 1915.

You can read in any history book the accomplishments of his presidency. We are interested in the fact that not only did he have an upbringing in  Presbyterian convictions, he remained deeply religious all of his presidency and for that matter, his life. The Bible was the guide of his life, as he read and studied it daily. God’s guidance was frequently sought and received. He considered the United States a Christian nation. His Calvinistic convictions we’re particularly needed when he suffered a paralysis during the latter part of his presidency.  His wife Edith became the de facto president as she guided him in his duties as the chief executive. Three years after he left the office, he died. His wife survived him, living all the way into the presidency of John Kennedy.

Words to live by:  Too many believers separate their spiritual beliefs from their lives. Woodrow Wilson was different from that common practice. With a solid Calvinistic upbringing, he lived his faith and walked by faith. To him, everything he did was colored by the Christian conviction gleaned from the Word of God which he read and studied every day. You and I are to be no different in this one aspect of his life.  Read the Word, and then, live the Word. No sphere of life is to be divorced from the application of the Bible.

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Birth of a Giant.

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield was born on this day, November 5th, in 1851.

warfield_1864For God-fearing parents, every birth must bring some small trepidation, along with great hope and promise. We trust the Lord, we seek to live exemplary lives and strive to diligently do our part to raise our children, that they might never know a time when they did not trust in Christ Jesus for their salvation and rely upon Him completely. Child-rearing truly is a humbling thing, casting us upon the Lord, praying for His grace and mercy. 

At the same time, some children, even from a young age, show great maturity and promise.  You can see it in their face. Such a child, I think, was Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. 

All of the Warfield children were patiently led to memorize both the Shorter and Larger Catechisms, as well as the associated Scripture proof texts. In 1867, at the age of 16, he became a member of the Second Presbyterian church in Lexington, KY. It is tempting to think that the photo at the left, from that same year, might have been taken in conjunction with that event.

In 1868, he began the Sophomore year at Princeton College, graduating in 1871, with a strong interest in the sciences and a desire to pursue further studies in Scotland and Germany. But it was not until he returned home in 1872 that he announced his intention to explore a call to the ministry. That had long been his mother’s prayer for her sons, that they would become ministers of the Gospel. In 1873, he began his preparation for the ministry at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

Years later, Warfield wrote a brief article on the value of the Shorter Catechism. Warfield writes:

What is ‘the indelible mark of the Shorter Catechism’? We have the following bit of personal experience from a general officer of the United States army. He was in a great western city at a time of intense excitement and violent rioting. The streets were over-run daily by a dangerous crowd. One day he observed approaching him a man of singularly combined calmness and firmness of mien, whose very demeanor inspired confidence. So impressed was he with his bearing amid the surrounding uproar that when he had passed he turned to look back at him, only to find that the stranger had done the same. On observing his turning the stranger at once came back to him, and touching his chest with his forefinger, demanded without preface: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ On receiving the countersign, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever’ — ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘I knew you were a Shorter Catechism boy by your looks!’ ‘Why, that was just what I was thinking of you,’ was the rejoinder.

It is worth while to be a Shorter Catechism boy. They grow to be men. And better than that, they are exceedingly apt to grow to be men of God. So apt, that we cannot afford to have them miss the chance of it. ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and even when he is old he will not depart from it.’

[B.B. Warfield, “Is the Shorter Catechism Worth While?” in The Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, Vol. 1 (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed), 1970), pp. 381ff.]

[Note: It is tempting to think that Warfield may have come by this anecdote through his own extended family. There were a number of men in the Breckinridge family who were military officers. Of these, Ethelbert Ludlow Dudley Breckinridge, an 1898 graduate of Princeton University and a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1906, seems the most likely candidate to fit the details of the story. Moreover, the San Francisco earthquake would appear to be the most probable setting of the story.]

warfield1867b_75Words to live by: God bless faithful parents! May He equip, encourage, sustain, and support those loving parents who know that they must daily rely completely upon the Lord in the raising of their children. Child-rearing is entirely a matter of trusting prayerfully in the grace of God. Patiently love them, spend sacrificial time with them, live exemplary lives in front of them. But above all, pray daily for them, that God by His grace would save them to the uttermost. You never know when a child will grow up to be greatly used in the advance of the Lord’s kingdom.

Image sources : Original photographs preserved at the PCA Historical Center. Scans prepared by the Center’s staff. Photo 1, Benjamin B. Warfield, 1864, age 13. Photo 2, B.B. Warfield, 1867, age 16.

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Man Knows Not His Time

In The Daily Princetonian (Volume 38, no. 345, 27 January 1916), we read of the Rev. David R. Frazer, D.D., a graduate of the Princeton University, Class of 1861, who for many years was a trustee of Princeton University, that he had died very suddenly on Sunday, January 24, 1915, while visiting at the home of his son H.F. Spaulding Frazer, who was City Counsel for Newark, New Jersey, and a nationally known attorney. Following the funeral, the body of Rev. Frazer was buried in the Short Hills Cemetery.

frazerDavidRRev. David Ruddach Frazer, D.D., was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 10, 1837, the son of William R. and Eliza J. (Armitage) Frazer. He attended the Central High School of Baltimore, Maryland and attended Delaware College before completing his college education at Princeton University in 1861. He then spent three years at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he was graduated in 1864. In the same year he returned to Princeton and received a Master of Arts Degree, and in 1865 was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry. Dr. Frazer was then made pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Clifton, Staten Island, and held that position for two years, leaving it to preach at Hudson, New York. In 1872 he received a call to Buffalo, and was pastor of the Presbyterian Church of that city until 1880. He received a degree as Doctor of Divinity from Princeton in that year, and in 1887 was made a trustee of the University.

Portrait photograph facing page [15] in Centennial Celebration of the Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., 1891.

Portrait photograph facing page [15] in Centennial Celebration of the Dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., 1891.

Dr. Frazer preached in Brooklyn for the next three years and then accepted a permanent position as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Newark, New Jersey, being installed there on February 21, 1883. The First Presbyterian Church was the oldest church in Newark, originally Congregational by affiliation, and changing over to Presbyterian in 1720. Rev. Frazer followed the pastorate of the Rev. Jonathan F. Stearns, and was succeeded, after a vacancy of nearly three years, by the Rev. William J. Dawson. During Rev. Frazer’s tenure at First Presbyterian, the church gave substantially to the cause of  missions and church extension (i.e., church planting). He also served as the president of a home for the aged and infirm. Rev. Frazer served the Newark church until 1909, preaching up until June of that year. Retiring from the active ministry in 1909, Dr. Frazer was very much interested in the Theological Seminary in Bloomfield, New Jersey, and for a time acted as president of that institution.

Three published works by Rev. Frazer were located, the first of which can be found in digital format:
1889
Memorial Jonathan F. Stearns, D.D. : a sermon, delivered in the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, N.J., Dec. 1st., 1889. Newark : Amzi Pierson & Co., 1889.  47 p.; ill.; 22 cm.

1891
“The Building of the Old Church,” Centennial sermon delivered at the dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Newark, New Jersey, on the text of Isaiah 49:16.

1892
George Washington: An Address Delivered, Feb’y 22d, 1892, Before The Washington Association of New Jersey, by Rev. David R. Frazer, D.D. Also Letters Relating to the Execution of Major Andre, Presented by Mrs. Herbert Gray Torrey, at the Same Meeting. s.l.: s.n., 1892. 16 p.; 24 cm.

Something to Ponder:

From Rev. Frazer’s training and first several pastorates, we might have assumed he was of New School sympathies. Perhaps it is inappropriate to raise that question, given that most of his ministerial career occurred after 1869, when reunion of Old School and New School occurred. But given the question, some light may be shed by the memorial sermon that Rev. Frazer delivered on behalf of his predecessor at First Presbyterian, Newark—the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Stearns. Here the speaker, Rev. Frazer, undoubtedly emulates the object of his address:

“Dr. Stearns began his pastorate here at at time when the rival rallying cries of Old and New School were too well known and were too frequently heard in the Church. As the new Pastor was, in some points in sympathy with Old School views while the Church was in New School connection, considerable interest was felt, in some quarters, as to his probable course under these conditions. But both Old School and New soon learned that Dr. Stearns was no ecclesiastical partisan; that he was a peacemaker rather than a polemic; that his work was constructive, not destructive, hence he was peculiarly fitted to be one of the most influential actors in securing the reunion of the two bodies. Long before this topic became a theme of public discussion, he sought to rid the New School of certain ‘entangling alliances’ which brought that body into disrepute with the Old. He was influential in the establishment, and for many years was a member of the Home Mission Committee, helping, by his wise counsels, to shape that policy which saved to Presbyterianism many churches which otherwise would have sought a different ecclesiastical connection. His sermon on ‘Justification by Faith,’ preached before the Synod of New York and New Jersey, at Poughkeepsie, on October 25th, 1852, did much to allay the suspicions of the Old School body as to the theological soundness of the New. He was an influential member of the New School Committee on reunion and when the inner history of that movement shall be given to the world the record will show that no one man did more of the real, telling work which secured the desired result than did Dr. Stearns.

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