Happy Birthday to Ashbel Green!

It was on July 6, 1762, that a "prince in Israel" was born. Ashbel Green lived a remarkable life (and wrote a fascinating autobiography) which is too much to sum up in blog post. But among the highlights: 

  • He served as a sergeant in the New Jersey Militia during the American War of Independence;
  • studied under John Witherspoon, and graduated valedictorian (1783) at the College of New Jersey; 
  • served as Tutor (1783-1785) and Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy (1785-1787) at the College of New Jersey;
  • served as associate pastor (1786-1793) and head pastor (1793-1812) of the Second Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia;
  • served as Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives (1792-1800);
  • advocated for the establishment of what became Princeton Theological Seminary, and served as President of its Board;
  • served as President of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) (1812-1822);
  • served as President of the Bible Society of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania Bible Society);
  • was President of the PCUSA Board of Missions; and
  • was the editor of The Christian Advocate.

When he preparing to assume the office of President of the College of New Jersey, he took time to pray and wrote down a set of personal resolutions that are worthy to consider as we remember his life (these are extracted from his autobiography, pp. 342-344). 

"November 16th, 1812. Having set apart this day for special prayer to God, in view of the duties on which I am entering as President of the College, I have thought it might be useful to me to commit some of my thoughts and resolutions to writing, that I may the more fully recollect and review them hereafter. I have entered on the station which I now occupy, with a deep sense of my insufficiency and unpreparedness for it. I have accepted of it (if I know myself) because I thought the call in providence was such that I should resist my duty if I refused it; and on the other hand, that if I accepted, I might hope that with all my incompetency, God might please to use me for some good. If he shall, all the glory will of course belong to himself; and I am at all times to guard my treacherous heart against taking any of it to myself: and if he shall not, I am resigned to his sovereign and holy appointment, knowing that his ways are sometimes inscrutable, but always right. The following resolutions appear to me proper at present, but I make them not as immutable, but only as my guide till I shall be deliberately convinced in regard to any of them that they are improper. The most of them I am perfectly satisfied that I never ought to change; and these may the God of all grace enable me to fulfil. 

Resolved, 1st. To consider myself as devoted to the service of the College for the remainder of my days, or till I shall leave the station which I now occupy. I am not to seek ease, or wealth, or fame, as my chief object. I am to endeavour to be a father to the institution. I am to endeavour to the utmost to promote all its interests as a father does, in what relates to his children and property. 

2d. To pray for the institution as I do for my family, that God may enable me to do my duty in it, prosper all its concerns, and especially that he may pour out his Spirit upon it, and make it what its pious founders intended it to be. 

3d. To watch against the declension of religion in my own soul, to which I may be more exposed than when I was the pastor of a congregation, and to which the pursuits of science themselves may prove a temptation. 

4th. To endeavour to acquire the true spirit of my station - a spirit of humble fortitude and firmness, of dignity and meekness, of decision and caution, of prudence and promptness, of courtesy and reserve, of piety unfeigned, with a suitable regard to the manners and opinions of the world. 

5th. To avoid anger and irritation. 

6th. To avoid the extremes of talkativeness and silence in company. 

7th. To endeavour to avoid all hurry, and to be always self-possessed. 

8th. Not to speak hastily on any subject - not on a subject of science before my pupils, lest a mistake should injure me or them. 

9th. To endeavour that my own family be exemplary in all things. 

10th. To view every officer of the College as a younger brother, and every pupil as a child. 

11th. To treat the officers of the College with great attention and respect. 

12th. To treat the students with tenderness and freedom, but yet as never to permit them to treat me with familiarity, or to lose their respect for me. 

13th. To be much employed in devising something for the improvement of the institution, or the advancement of its interests; but to avoid hasty and fanciful innovations of every kind. 

14th. In all cases of discipline to act with great coolness, caution, and deliberation; and having done this, to fear no consequences, nor to trouble myself much about them. 

15th. Having done my duty, to indulge no anxiety in regard to what may follow from it, at any time or in any way. This is to be left to God."