The Founding Of Princeton Seminary -- By: Mark Noll

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 42:1 (Fall 1979)
Article: The Founding Of Princeton Seminary
Author: Mark Noll


The Founding Of Princeton Seminary*

Mark Noll

When Dr. Samuel Miller died in 1850, it was only natural that his long-time colleague at Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Archibald Alexander, should deliver the funeral sermon.1 In the course of his address Alexander noted “that no man in the church had been more zealous and active in founding this Institution, than Dr. Miller. He and Dr. [Ashbel] Green may more properly be considered its founders than any other person.”2 Alexander spoke truly, but much too modestly, for he also was a founding father of Princeton Seminary.

No one who has studied the early years of the seminary even casually has ever doubted that it owed its existence to Samuel Miller, Ashbel Green, and Archibald Alexander.3 Green (17621848), the eldest of the trio, was a dominant force in the Presbyterian Church for over half a century.4 Son of a New Jersey

* Some of the research for this article was undertaken while the author was a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ program for college teachers in residence, 1978–1979.

Presbyterian minister, Green studied at Princeton College under John Witherspoon, whose person and whose teaching made a life-long impression. He served Philadelphia’s Second Presbyterian Church, founded by revivalist Gilbert Tennent, from 1787 to 1812, at which time he became president of Princeton College. In that same year he was elected president of the seminary’s board of directors, a position he held until his death. When Green stepped down as president of Princeton College in 1822, he only increased his already substantial involvement in the agencies and programs of the church. He was very active in the division of 1837, taking his stand resolutely with the Old School.

Samuel Miller (1769–1850) was born in Delaware, also into a Presbyterian manse.5 He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1789, in which year he witnessed both the Constitutional Convention and the first meeting of the Presbyterian General Assembly. In 1793 he was ordained one of the ministers of New York City’s united Presbyterian churches, where he served until called to Princeton Seminary as its second professor (of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government) in 1813. Here he served the rest of his days. Miller cut a brilliant figure through his early years in New York City, associating with the city’s literary and cultural elite, laboring successfully for the...

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