Sabbath Afternoon Conferences

In keeping with the Puritan practice of "godly conference," grounded on 1 Cor. 14.29-31 and 1 Thess. 5.20, there were Sabbath afternoon conferences at Princeton Theological Seminary, "in which [those involved] talk[ed] over together the blessed promises of our God, and seek[ed] to learn better his will for the ordering of our lives" (Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, quoted in David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, Vol. 2, p. 126). 

After Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, the tradition was continued by Charles Hodge. We have his Conference Papers (1879), which, according to Francis Patton, "are simply the theology of the lecture room thrown into homiletic form, with rich and precious application to Christian experience" (Francis Landey Patton, "Charles Hodge," The Princeton Review Vol. 1, No. 6 (1886), quoted in James M. Garrettson, ed., Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton: Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921, p. 303). 

Hodge's "favorite pupil," William Irvin, had this to say about the Sabbath afternoon conferences led by Hodge:

"No triumph of his with tongue or pen ever so thrilled and moved human hearts as did his utterances at the Sabbath afternoon conferences in the Seminary Oratory, which will live in the immortal memory of every Princeton student. A subject would be given out on the Sunday before, generally some one which involved practical, experimental, spiritual religion—such as Christian fidelity, love of God's word, prayer, the Lord's Supper, the great commission. After brief opening services by the students, the Professors spoke in turn; but Dr. Hodge's was the voice which all waited to hear. Sitting quietly in his chair, with a simple ease which seemed born of the moment, but was really the fruit of careful preparation, even with the pen, he would pour out a tide of thought and feeling which moved and melted all—solemn, searching, touching, tender—his eye sometimes kindling and his voice swelling or trembling with the force of sacred emotion, while thought and language at times rose to a grandeur which held us spellbound. Few went away from those consecrated meetings without feeling in their hearts that there was nothing good and pure and noble in Christian character which he who would be a worthy minister of Christ ought not to covet for his own" (A.A. Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge, p. 459).

These conference papers are a spiritual treasure indeed. Download them now for future Sabbath afternoon reading and meditation. 

Lives in Review: Francis Landey Patton

As President of both Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, Francis Landey Patton (1843-1932) served during a time of transition as many notable faculty passed away. It was Patton's place to give funeral sermons, memorial addresses and reviews of biographies for a remarkable number of Princeton luminaries, such as Charles Hodge, A.A. Hodge, Caspar Wistar Hodge, Sr., George Tybout Purves, and B.B. Warfield. They provide a unique insight into the lives of some worthy men as seen by one who knew them all well while memories were fresh. Tour their lives through Patton's heart-felt recollections here