Изображения страниц




[ocr errors]

It was but the other day that it was our sad duty to chronicle the death of one of the brightest ornaments in the ministry of the Transatlantic Church; and again, ere the grass has had time to grow green over the grave of Dr. James W. Alexander, the neighbouring sod has been lifted to receive the mortal remains of his gifted brother, Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander. Within a few short months, three of those who were instructors in Princeton have passed away. Dr. James Alexander was not connected with the Seminary at the date of his death, but he had long been an able instructor in it. Professor Hope, of the College, followed, with little interval. Hope,—we met him once, and noted him; “ tall and thin, thin face, long, narrow, fleshless almost ; very thoughtful-looking, grave, but very kindly. Now Dr. Joseph Addison Alexander has joined the departed. “The treasures of that Princeton graveyard are increasing very rapidly. Drs. James and Addison Alexander and Professor Hope have joined the company of illustrious sleepers within little more than half a year. What a glorious group shall rise from that dust in that morning when the graves shall give up their tenants at the sound of the resurrection trumpet !”

Dr. Addison Alexander died on the afternoon of Saturday, the 28th of January last, at his own house, and in his study, Princeton, New Jersey. Born in Philadelphia, April 24, 1809, he was in his fifty-first year. He was the third son of Dr. Archibald Alexander, the founder and first Professor of the Seminary of Princeton; and it is rarely, indeed, that one family, in two generations, gives to the Church of Christ three such eminent men as this father and his two departed sons. Our pages have already faintly traced the story of the first and second of the trio; a brief record of the third is all We have material for.

His career was this:--He graduated at Princeton College, old “ Nassau Hall," in 1820, in his nineteenth year, with honours which marked him, at that early age, as endowed with no ordinary powers. He might then have received a tutorship in his college, but he declined it, and joined Professor Patton in a Seminary at Princeton. In 1830, however, he rejoined his college in the capacity of Assistant-Professor of Ancient Languages, no mean honour for a youth of twenty-one. Three years afterwards, he resigned this post to obtain leisure for a visit to Europe, when he devoted some time to study at the universities of Halle and Berlin. He returned to America to accept the Professorship of Oriental Literature in the Theological Seminary of Princeton. In 1838 his chair was changed to that of Biblical Criticism No. 147.-New Series.


and Ecclesiastical History, and in 1852 to that of Biblical and Ecclesiastical History. His versatility of talent and amazing erudition fitted him for each and all the varied walks in literature and theology he pursued. His fame will rest, however, on his expositions of Scripture. these, several have been published. Such are his “Commentary on the Psalms;" his “Critical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah;” his “Notes on the Gospel of Mark,” and his latest published work,“ Commentary on the Acts." He also published a treatise “On Primitive Church Government,” and he was a frequent and valued contributor to the Princeton Review. It is hoped also that he has left much of his rich material in such a shape that it can be rendered available by some other hand.

“Very early in life,” says a writer in the Christian Observer, “his thirst for knowledge manifested itself. At the age of ten or twelve years he took from the shelves of his father's library an Arabic grammar, became interested in its study, and, before he was fourteen had mastered the language, and read through the Koran in Arabic. Then he turned his attention to the Persian, and, without any assistance from teachers, mastered that language. Greek and Latin came in his regular course of study. Hebrew he learned for his own amusement before he entered the Seminary. Then he took up the Syriac and Chaldee, and afterwards the modern languages, which were mere play to him. He became thoroughly familiar with every modern European language which contained any attractions, either in the peculiarity of its structure, its literature, or its bearing on other languages. His researches in philology led him to study the Sanscrit also. To retain so many languages required, of course, an extraordinary memory. This Dr. Alexander possessed. His was a memory that grasped equally well arguments, facts, ideas, theories, dates, names. He seldom forgot anything he read. As an illustration of the quickness and tenacity of his memory, it is related that after hearing the names of a class of forty or fifty who had just been matriculated, read over once, on the next day, when unexpectedly called on for a list, he took a pen, and arranging them alphabetically as he wrote, made a correct list, embracing them all, and giving the first, middle and last name in full, without mistake. His mastery of language was wonderful. In logic and argument, he was equally distinguished. His imagination was rich and fertile. His sermons are models in their beauty, richness, and magnificence. His piety was undoubted. Though necessarily conversant with all the most insidious forms of scepticism, which are, of course, attractive to such minds, his was an unquestionable, child-like faith in the Divine oracle; a deep rererence for the word of God. He lived and died a spiritually-minded man, a humble, devoted Christian.

To those who have heard this lamented and extraordinary man in the pulpit, says a writer in the Presbyterian, we need scarcely say that his efforts as a preacher were of no ordinary character. Those who listened to him as he occasionally appeared in some vacant pulpit can have but a very faint idea of his power in proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ. It was whilst supplying Dr. Boardman's church in Philadelphia during his absence in Europe that the public were afforded a proper opportunity for appreciating him. Here he drew crowds, filling not only the church, but the vestibule, with the most intelligent class of hearers, who were accustomed to drink in with delight the rapidly-flowing current of scriptural instruction and devout piety which fell from his lips. He made no pretensions to the graces of oratory: indeed, he seemed almost improperly to spurn these us akin to pulpit trickery and claptrap. But the richness of thought and illustration, the simplicity and yet felicity of diction ; his unassuming air, his


humility and sincerity, gave him great attractiveness and power with his bearers. All felt that they were sitting at the feet of a great man in Israel, and yet at the feet of one who was himself sitting at the feet of Jesus. Persons who had only a casual acquaintance with Dr. Alexander, or whom circumstances did not throw into his society in private, were wont to regard him not only as a recluse, but as deficient in social qualities.

This was a great mistake. Diffidence, and his devotion to study, may have given him a distaste for general society, but those who were privileged to meet him in his unreserve know that he was full of ready and genial conversation. It was a remarkable circumstance, too, that in these unbendings he showed as much familiarity with the men and things of the day as if he himself were a busy actor in the stirring scenes of life. He seemed always fully abreast with the current of public affairs, whether in Church or State. He knew men, their character, position, and achievements, apparently as familiarly as if he were constantly mingling among them. But his dislike to publicity, or to anything having the slightest approximation to display or ostentation, was intense. Indeed, in this particular, he rather went into the opposite extreme. There probably never lived a man in whose eyes conceit found less favour. As for himself, he steadfastly refused that sort of conspicuity which multitudes would have been happy to thrust upon him.

As an illustration of his quiet study of men, we may mention a trait which was told us by a brother. Dr. Addison was in the habit of escaping from the busy solitude of Princeton, every now and then, to the idle bustle of New York. It was a favourite occupation, when there, to obtain the permission of his brothers' firm, who are lawyers, to go to their office and peruse their letter-book. This he would do, hour after hour, with the greatest intensity; and he used to say there was no relaxation he enjoyed more than the being thus plunged into a current so different in its character from that in which his own studies usually ran ; whilst the phases of character opened up to him in a lawyer's business correspondence afforded him subjects of reflection of a most interesting and instructive nature. It was, indeed, a contrast from the scholastic quiet of Princeton to the matter-of-fact routine of a law office, and from the contemplation of the pure moralities of the Bible to the study of all the strange revelations of life in the aspects in which law has usually to deal with it.

Dr. Alexander died in his study. It adjoins the room where the venerable father studied, and which is still retained as when he left it. The same roof thus covered two remarkable libraries, and sheltered two remarkable men. It was our privilege to visit both these rooms. The father's lay to the rear of the house, towards the Seminary. We entered it with reverence. There it is, as it was tenanted by the great and good departed. To the right, the wall is covered with books—his books. In front is the fireplace, a wide, old-fashioned hearth, with dogs for holding up the logs. There burned in it that day a wood-fire, for he always had a wood-fire here. Nearly in front of the fireplace stood a rough wooden chair, by the side of a plain deal tablean arm-chair with a low back, and a leather cushion laid on the wooden seat. This was his chair. Here, on this spot, he sat ; and here, portfolio in hand (for he wrote on a portfolio, leant upon his knee) he wrote. By the side of the fireplace is the glass door leading to the paved walk that stretches across to the Seminary.door, the path that, for so many years, was the only walk the occupant of that room ever took. Here he sat; here he thought. Here he counselled those who applied for advice. Here, for many years,

before the Seminary building was erected, he lectured to the students. Here, in later years, he wrote his many and influential publications.

you not ?"

We passed from the father's study to the son's. Round and round it is lined with books. From the door in one corner, round to the fire opposite, and from floor to roof, books, books. A long table, covered with black cloth, stands between the fireplace and window, from the wall outwards. Here he wrote. Like his father, he took little exercise. Of late (December, 1857) he was seen to walk more than his wont. Dr. Hope met him walking one day, and said to him, “ Dr. Alexander, you walk more than usual, do

They tell me,” he replied, "it does me good. I know no difference," he added, " whether I walk or not."

The writer in the Christian Observer already quoted, tells us that, during the last week in November, Dr. Alexander told his classes that, for the first time in his history as a professor, all three classes had reached at the same time a convenient resting-place. All of them had simultaneously arrived at the great dividing landmarks in their courses for the year. As his labours were heavy (he was engaged in preparing new courses of lectures in his department) he recommended the classes to pause there a little, and, for the next recitation, to take a review of the ground they had gone over. Little did he think, and little did the students think, that the pause suggested was a final pause ; that he would never again meet with them in the class-room, and that most of them would never again see the teacher for whom they cherished deep feelings of reverential love. On the following Sabbath, he preached in Philadelphia, and on his way home had a hemorrhage, which, though not regarded as immediately dangerous, rendered it necessary for him to remain perfectly quiet. His health seemed to be gradually but steadily improving. As late as the Thursday before his death, he was looking forward to the resumption of his duties at an early day. He said that he had never felt better in his life than at that time, with the exception of a feeling of lassitude, which he attributed to the weather.

“On the morning of Friday," writes his colleague, Dr. M'Gill, "he was occupied with his usual course of polyglot reading in the Bible, being accustomed to read the Scriptures in some six different languages as part of his daily devotions. He seems, also, to have entertained himself during some part of the day with one of the Greek classics, Herodotus, as a pencilmark on the margin, 'January 27, 1860,' is said to show. In the afternoon of that day he rode out in the open air, for the first time since his attack of hemorrhage. During that ride, however, which was not continued more than forty-five minutes, a sudden sinking of life caine on him, so much so that he was borne almost entirely by the help thers from the carriage to his chamber. This sinking continued all Friday night, and on Saturday he was hardly conscious of anything until he died, which was about half-past three o'clock in the afternoon. His death was perfectly calm, without a struggle, without one heaving breath.”

W. F.

[ocr errors][merged small]

A great deal, sometimes. “Give a dog a bad name, and hang him." Though no doubt the original intention of a name-viz., as an indication of character, or something else--has, in many cases, been altogether forgotten, yet the original idea exists still, and a correspondence between the name and the thing is instinctively supposed. Whatever, at any rate, be our

* "Manual of the Presbyterian Church in England," by Dr. M'Crie.

theoretical routine on the subject, none of us like a bad or an equivocal name. It might be a compliment to say that if Lord Brougham only knew a little of law, he would know a little of everything; but if he had been a struggling barrister, he would rather have lacked the praise accorded him than otherwise. A clergyman might be famous for his dining-out propensities, but it might be a question whether this reputation would contribute to his usefulness. You might consider you were doing honour to a medical man by asserting that he had no faith in his own nostrums; but such a character he assuredly would repudiate, seeing that it might cause bis knocker to grow rusty, and his compounds to evaporate for want of patients. And so, with all due respect to venerable theorists, we must be permitted to say that it is a question of no little importance to a person, or a community, what the name they shall be known by; and, when good sense and a readiness to embrace the path of usefulness which Divine Providence opens up are to be found, there will be, also, a legitimate anxiety to be known by a name which will truly indicate character or purpose.

In this direction the English Presbyterian Church has made many praiseworthy efforts. Her task has been encompassed with unusual difficulties. She had a bad name to begin with. English Presbyterianism, for reasons which are too well known to be here detailed, was synonymous with Unitarianism; and Scotch Church, another common designation, was synonymous with “ moderate" preaching, lengthy sermons, and bad singing. While no body of Christians had such strong antipathies to Socinianism, nevertheless the name raised up a barrier of prejudice which was, in some cases, sufficient to swamp the struggling cause before it had the time or the opportunity to prove that it gloried in a purer creed. The other designation presented almost as serious difficulties. A Scotch church must, of course, be a church for Scotchmen. An Englishman would no more think of going to a Scotch church than a Scotchman, in Edinburgh, would think of going to a Welsh one. Besides, even all Scotchmen do not belong to the Scotch Church. A great majority of the people of Scotland belong to Nonconformist communities, and thus the name which it was supposed would prove an attraction to those who crossed the border even shut out the largest portion of those meant to be invited. If, then, the Church has made little progress --and we do not say that it has—there is nothing in this to be wondered at. When we take into account all the difficulties of the task, especially at the beginning, the wonder is that so much has been, in fact, accomplished.

The time, however, has again come, in the estimation of the representative wisdom of the Church, when another effort of this kind ought to be made. Much remains yet to be done. Both in our own congregations and outside of our pale, we are often oddly enough designated. If any one will take the trouble of looking into the “ London Directory,” he will be astonished at the different bodies to which our churches are represented as belonging. One is a “National Scotch Church ”—that, of course, must mean the Scottish Establishment. Another is an Irish Presbyterian Church -that, of course, means that the congregation is attached to the Irish Assembly. Another, still, is a Free Scotch Church-- and that must mean that the congregation belongs to the Free Church of Scotland. And yet another may be simply Free Church-which may mean that the congregation so named belongs to the Free Baptists, the Free Wesleyans, the Free Episcopalians, the “ Free Christians,” or any other of the many sects which prefix the vague designation “free.” Such is the confusion there. So again, if we look into newspaper reports of meetings, at which our ministers are

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »