Though today James Waddel Alexander is somewhat lesser known among the many ornaments that adorned Old Princeton, he was recognized in his own day as a model of that Old Princeton ideal of combined learning and piety. And thanks to Jim Garretson his story – long overdue – is being retold.
J.W. Alexander was the son of the famed Archibald Alexander, founding professor of Princeton Seminary, and brother of J.A. Alexander, also a professor at Princeton and also better known today. Yet J.W. Alexander’s breadth of learning also is nearly staggering. But his passion was in ministering Christ. He taught such things as mathematics and the classics at the university level, but his heart kept returning him to pastoral ministry and the service of people on all levels of society – from the affluent to the slaves (which institution he abhorred). And in his relatively brief life of just fifty-five years of pastoring, writing, and teaching in both the university and the seminary, and through much suffering throughout, he left an impact for the gospel and a model of Christian zeal that will challenge and inspire pastors still today.
Garretson captures the life and labors of J.W. Alexander very well in his new book. Drawing primarily from Alexander’s own private correspondence Garretson traces the major events, turning points, and the thinking that led Alexander through his varied career. I found his endless zeal for learning both challenging and inspiring, but even more so his faithful pursuit of ministry through endless struggles with health, bereavement, severe depression, as well as the stresses of ministry and work.
Christian biography is an invaluable “means of grace” to every Christian, and this book will doubtless prove especially effective for pastors who take the time to read. Garretson’s new book is a wonderful accomplishment just for its historical value – this is a lacuna that needed filling, and he leaves all lovers of Old Princeton in his debt. But its chief value, I think, lies in the inspiring model it provides for pastors still today.
Here is the endorsement I gave for the book:
Jim Garretson – aficionado of all things Old Princeton – has done it again! A most welcome accomplishment of historical distinction that also challenges, inspires, and encourages to new levels of faithful service to our Lord. Thoroughly enjoyable and spiritually invigorating.
Garretson’s Previous Works on Old Princeton
In case you’re not familiar with his previous work, here is a list of Garretson’s previous titles related to Old Princeton:
Fred G. Zaspel
Buy the books
Thoughts On Preaching And Pastoral Ministry: