When Charles handed me this book to review I wanted to give it back as I was just not interested in reading how one man trained pastors 200 years ago. Instead, I decided to at least read the introduction. That was all it took. This was an enjoyable, interesting and a helpful read. It takes us beyond the history of Princeton’s founding father and gives us a glimpse into the thinking, methods and issues of the day, especially with all the events that were taking place, like the second Great Awakening, the beginnings of the major cults, and the early years of liberalism.
The book is more than Princeton Seminary and more than Alexander’s view of preaching–it is a summary and cataloging of Alexander’s teaching on practical theology. Garretson shows us Alexander’s heart as he pours his life into the men he trained. We are given to see Alexander’s background to understand why he said all that he did to his students regarding their call, qualifications, passion, piety, practices and gifts.
Garretson gives us five reasons for this study: 1. to see God’s hand at work at this point in history through this man 2. for us not to forget about, but to learn from our spiritual ancestry 3. to deepen our appreciation of our Presbyterian confessional identity 4. to show us God’s gospel of grace in His use and development of a person’s character rather than methods, as he says, is stressed today, and 5. to demonstrate that the study of these times “will make us more effective ministers in our own time.”
Dr. Garretson shows us who Alexander was and why his influence is still important. Al Martin says that he would have used this as a textbook supplement in pastoral theology had it been available.
I believe that this work would be all the more valuable if Dr. Garretson would now take all he has gleaned from his study of Archibald Alexander’s published and unpublished works and rewrite them for today’s audience, with his own interjections.
Perhaps my only criticism is the comment that Alexander was Post-millennial. I say this only because the only justification for this came from a statement that I also make. However, this was made in passing, and in no wise distracts from the book.
This book was a great read and one I recommend to not only historians, but to pastors and pastors-in-training.