Happy Birthday to J.W. Alexander!

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James Waddel Alexander, the son of Archibald Alexander, was born on March 13, 1804 in Louisa County, Virginia. After graduating from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) and studying at the Theological Seminary, he was licensed to preach in 1825 by the Presbytery of New Brunswick. After a period of time under the care of his uncle and mentor Dr. John Holt Rice, he was soon sent to take up a pastorate at Charlotte County, Virginia, beginning in May 1826. He was finally ordained on March 3, 1827 and installed as the pastor of Charlotte Court-House Church. It was during this period of his life that a brief notice appears in his letters to his friend John Hall that stood out to this writer.

On July 3, 1827, in response to a query from Hall, Alexander had this to say:

Ques. 2. What have you written?

  1. Letters.

  2. A few pieces for Rice’s Magazine, signed Atlanticus, Quis, M. R—n, and one anonymous intituled “The Minister of Christ.”

The magazine in question is The Virginia Evangelical and Literary Magazine, which was edited by John Holt Rice. It is a magazine for which many of the contributors assumed pseudonyms, including Rice himself (“Rusticus”). Also, because of his youth and relative inexperience in the ministry, it is not surprising that the contributions Alexander alludes to were published without his name attached. In any case, they are not referenced in Samuel Davies Alexander’s Catalogue of the Writings of the Alexander Family, nor are they mentioned in the more recent study of Alexander’s life and ministry by James M. Garretson (although Garretson mentions J.W. Alexander’s later use of the pseudonym “Charles Quill”).

Some of these anonymous contributions were identified by this writer recently after review of the 1827 volume of the magazine, and they have now been added to Log College Press here.

  • “Importance of Hebrew Literature” - “Atlanticus”

  • “Plan for Collecting Historical Records” - “Quis?”

  • “The Minister of Christ Addressed to a Young Preacher of the Gospel” - Anonymous (in three parts)

Each of these writings reveals interesting insights into the man who would later become the experienced minister whose posthumously-published Thoughts on Preaching (edited by S.D. Alexander) would mark a major contribution to the study of homiletics. They are short reads, but represent perhaps the earliest published writings by J.W. Alexander. Take time to look them over (pardoning the less-than ideal quality of the photos) today as we remember Alexander on his birthday.

Samuel Davies Alexander

Bearing the name of the Princeton’s fourth President, and being a son of her first Seminary Professor and alumni of the University and Seminary, Samuel Davies Alexander was in a unique position to write about the institution’s history. He produced two books on the subject Princeton College Illustrated and Princeton College during the Eighteenth Century. Alexander also catalogued all the writings of his father and brothers (so if you love Archibald Alexander and J.W. Alexander check out the Catalogue).

Another interesting and helpful work by this lesser known but most erudite historian is his History of the Presbytery of New York which includes a list of ministers in the Presbytery as well a wonderful account of Presbyterianism in the City and State of New York. Though perhaps one of the lesser known of the Alexander family, yet Samuel Davies Alexander still made valuable contributions.