Princeton Seminary: Faith & Learning 1812-1868, vol.1

By David B. Calhoun
Carlisle, PA : Banner of Truth (1995). xvii + 495 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. Dennis Swanson
6.2 (Fall 1995) : 241-242

For over 100 years (1812—1929) Princeton Theological Seminary was perhaps the most significant voice in America for orthodox Christianity and also served as a model for seminary education. The author, a professor of Church History at Covenant Seminary, has written a history of "Old Princeton" in two volumes.

This first volume chronicles the initial fifty-six years of Princeton, from the origins of the school to just after the Civil War. Though this work is painstaking in its detail, the author writes in a clear and refreshing style that is all too uncommon in historical works. The lives of the key personalities, Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, Ashbel Green, and Charles Hodge, are given thorough treatment. Of particular value is the section dealing with the relation of Princeton and the Princeton men to the "Old School-New School" controversies of the 1830s, which resulted in the split of the Presbyterian Church and the demise of the Plan of Union with the Congregational Church.

The author has researched well and skillfully intersperses quotations from personal correspondence and published writings of key figures with his careful presentation. One is immediately struck by the qualities which made the instructors at Princeton so effective in the hand of God: (1) their commitment to the truth of Scripture and sound doctrine, (2) their love for the students, (3) their commitment to sound preaching of the Scripture, (4) their commitment to evangelism, and (5) their commitment to excellence in the classroom.

The work has two excellent appendices, the most interesting being the "Plan for a Theological Seminary" written by Ashbel Green, which became the charter for the seminary and serves to remind the modern reader that "strategic planning" existed before the last twenty years. The other appendix is the author's excellent narrative discussing various bibliographic sources available for the study of Princeton.

This reviewer recommends the volume very highly and eagerly awaits publication of the second volume (scheduled for Spring 1996).