Archibald Alexander

Leading others through the labyrinth of the heart...
Archibald AlexanderArchibald Alexander was one of the great theologian-leaders of "old" Princeton and the Presbyterian movement in the United States. He served as president at Princeton Theological Seminary 1812 - 1840.

Alexander was a great preacher, with a strong theology and a warm piety. Here is what one of his students, Charles Hodge (one of the truly great Calvinist theologians in America) said about Alexander.

As with a lighted torch he would lead a man through the labyrinth of his heart, in places where his intelligent consciousness had never entered.

Another theologian at Princeton described Alexander's preaching:

Drawing the large Bible down before him, he seemed to lose at once all sense of human audience, and to pass alone into the presence of God... A solemn hush fell over us, and we felt not as those who listen to a teacher, but as those who are admitted to approach, with the shoes from off their feet, to gaze in and listen through an open window to the mysterious workings of a sanctified soul under the immediate revelations of the Holy Ghost.

W. Andew Hoffecker, author of Piety and the Princeton Theologians says that in preaching, Alexander had the ability to call forth the religious emotions, to search a person's heart and to aid the listeners in introspection (self awareness) about their heart.

As I thought about these descriptions of a theologian-leader-preacher (all a part of my vocation as well) I found myself thinking this is a great gift that is needed today. In all our teaching, preaching, counseling, and spiritual direction conversations, we want to:

  • lead others through the labyrinth of their hearts
  • usher them into the presence of God
  • call forth the religious affections (stir up a delight, relish, wonder, enjoyment, and love of God)
  • and aid others in the meditation/contemplative work of introspection and prayer.

Now to do this requires at least three things:

1.  A deep personal encounter with the sovereign, holy, loving, gracious God (a long, slow, deep, difficult and particular devotional-spiritual journey).

2.  A wise biblically framed knowledge of Father, Son and Spirit (an equally long, slow, deep study of the Christian faith (biblical, theological, historical).

3.  The acquired gifts of communication and conversation to lead others to the places we have gone (again, the long, slow, deep gaining of the gifts of pastoral ministry).

A lot of work and a long commitment . . . but the fruitfulness of such work and commitment will be a capacity to bless, inspire, empower, teach and guide others. If you have any such calling along these lines - may God sustain you in your preparation and development.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International

The quotes are found in Piety and the Princeton Theologians, pages 30-31.

LCI - here to help you in the long preparation and deep journey of growing in this grace.