WILLIAM. MILLER P^XTON, D.D.
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Presented byTC 0H5 . J ^rv. XT k . V^AXA-O Y^
BX 9225 .P39 15 1905
In memoriam, William Miller
WILLIAM MILLER PAXTON, D.D., LL.D.
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WILLIAM MILLER PAXTON, D.D., LLD.
FUNERAL AND MEMORIAL DISCOURSES
WITH APPENDIXES AND NOTES
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Address at the Funeral Services by the Eev. John
De Witt, D.D., LL.D 7
Memorial Discourse by the Eev. Benjamin B. Warfield,
D.D., LL.D 17
i From the Eev. Dr. Thomas K. Davis, Wooster, Ohio ... 53
ii From the Eev. Dr. S. F. Scovel, Wooster, Ohio 56
hi From the Eev. Dr. Oscar A. Hills, Wooster, Ohio .... 66
iv From the Eev. Dr. W. W. McKinney, Philadelphia ... 70
v From the Eev. Dr. W. B. Noble, Los Angeles, California . 73
vi From the Eev. Dr. Thomas A. McCurdt, Wilmington,
vii From the Eev. Dr. John W. Dinsmore, San Josfi, California 78
viii From the Eev. Dr. Egbert E. Booth, New York 81
ix From the Eev. Dr. F. F. Ellinwood, New York 83
x From the Eev. Dr. Chauncey T. Edwards, Portville, New
xi From the Eev. Dr. Benjamin L. Hobson, Chicago .... 87
i Dr. Paxton's Ancestry 91
ii Chief Facts in Dr. Paxton 's Life 91
in Dr. Paxton's Churches 92
iv Dr. Paxton's Publications 93
v Dr. Paxton in the Presbytery of Carlisle 97
vi Dr. Paxton at Pittsburgh 100
vii Dr. Paxton at the Western Theological Seminary . . . 104
viii Dr. Paxton at the First Church, New York 105
ix Dr. Paxton and Union Theological Seminary 108
x Dr. Paxton 's Eesignation from Princeton Theological
xi Dr. Paxton's Eightieth Birthday 110
xn Dr. Paxton and the Board of Foreign Missions 112
xiii A Memorial Minute adopted by the New York Presbytery . 113
xiv Necrological Eeport presented to the Alumni Association
of the Princeton Theological Seminary, May 9, 1905 . . 115
DISCOURSE AT THE FUNERAL SERVICE, IN THE
FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, PRINCETON,
NEW JERSEY, NOVEMBER THE THIRTIETH,
1904, BY THE REV. JOHN DE WITT, D.D., LL.D.
DISCOURSE AT FUNERAL SERVICE
I shake with you, Christian friends, the great regret you
will feel as I announce that Dr. Warfield, who longer than
any other of his colleagues has been associated with Dr.
Paxton as a professor in the Theological Seminary, is un-
able to be present to-day and to give expression to our
deep and common sorrow in view of the death of this emi-
nent minister of the Church of God. At a later day Dr.
Warfield will deliver a discourse commemorating his
character and life. At this service, however, it is fitting
that we refresh our memory of him by a brief recital of
the main facts of his public life and by noting some of the
salient features of the man.
William Miller Paxton was born in Adams County, in
the beautiful southcentral district of Pennsylvania, not
far from the southeastern slope of the first range of the
Appalachian Mountains, and not far from the county-
seat which has given its name to the fiercest and longest
battle of the Civil War. He was born among a people
partly British and partly German in their blood, whose
social life derived its charm from the fact that the College
and the Theological Seminary of the Lutheran Church
were in Gettysburg, and also from that Gemuthlichkeit,
which, if the word cannot be translated into English, is
easily recognized by any one who has had the happiness
of living in a town created by a union of British and Ger-
man settlers. Here Dr. Paxton 's family had lived and
been prominent for two generations when he was born on
June the seventh, 1824. His father, Colonel James Dun-
lop Paxton, was an iron manufacturer, smelting the hema-
tite ore, of which there were rich deposits in the South
Mountain, and refining and forging the iron it yielded.
Colonel Paxton was a devout Christian. He was also a
public-spirited citizen of the Commonwealth, and was hon-
ored with high and responsible office in connection with
the great system of waterways which were constructed by
the State just about the time our Dr. Paxton was born.
An important part of Dr. Paxton 's preparation for active
life he received in his father's counting-room and at his
father's mines and furnace and forge.
An equally important part of his preparation was due
to the fact that his grandfather lived until young Paxton
reached manhood. This grandfather, William Paxton,
was a notable man and minister. It was for him as well
as for his maternal grandfather, William Miller, that Wil-
liam Miller Paxton was named. In his youth William
Paxton left his father's farm in Lancaster County, en-
listed as a soldier of the Revolutionary army, served in
two campaigns of the war, and was one of the American
force in the battle of Trenton. After the close of the war
he studied for the ministry. He became the pastor of the
Lower Marsh Creek Church in the county of Adams and
in the presbytery of Carlisle, and continued in that posi-
tion until ill health compelled his resignation about four
years before his death. This Dr. William Paxton— for
Dickinson College conferred on him that degree in Theol-
ogy—was not only beloved and revered by his own con-
gregation but was a man of large influence both in the
community and in the councils of the church. We can
almost see him in his grandson as we read the descrip-
tions of him written by contemporaries. ' ' He was six feet
in height. His features were regular. His expression
was open, calm, dignified and benevolent. His disposition
was affectionate. His intellect was strong, active and
Enjoying the life of his father's home, and the almost
unbroken companionship of his grandfather after the lat-
ter 's retirement from the pastorate, Dr. Paxton passed
from the preparatory school to Pennsylvania College at
Gettysburg, where he was graduated Bachelor of Arts in
1843. For two years he studied law with a view to the
practice of that profession. But in 1845, believing him-
self called to the ministry of the Church, he entered
Princeton Theological Seminary and was graduated in
1848. He was the last member of the Seminary Faculty
who enjoyed the personal acquaintance and the instruc-
tion of the Seminary's first two professors— Dr. Archi-
bald Alexander and Dr. Samuel Miller.
Ordained in 1848, he was pastor of the Church in Green-
castle, Pennsylvania, for two years. He was pastor of the
First Church of Pittsburgh for fourteen years, and of the
First Church of New York for eighteen years. While
pastor in Pittsburgh, he was called to the chair of Sacred
Rhetoric in Western Theological Seminary. He filled it
for twelve years. While pastor in New York, he was for
two years lecturer on Sacred Rhetoric in Union Theo-
logical Seminary. In 1883 he became professor of Eccle-
siastical, Homiletical and Pastoral Theology in Princeton
Theological Seminary. He discharged the duties of this
chair until 1902, when on the advice of his physician he
retired and became Professor Emeritus. He continued,
however, to render to the Seminary services of great
value by lecturing from time to time and by his wise coun-
sel at the meetings of the Faculty.
Dr. Paxton during his active career filled an exception-
ally large number of important and influential positions
of public trust and honor in the Church. He was a director
of Western Theological Seminary when he lived in Pitts-
burgh. After the reunion of the Presbyterian Churches,
when he was living in New York, he became a director
of Union Theological Seminary. He was a director of
Princeton Theological Seminary from 1866 to 1883. He
was a trustee of Princeton University for thirty-eight
years. For a time lie was president of the Board of Home
Missions, and for a time president of the Board of For-
eign Missions ; and he continued, a member of the latter
board until his death. In 1880 he was elected by a unani-
mous vote Moderator of the General Assembly.
A ministerial career covering fifty-six years, so con-
tinuously and variously active, so large in its scope, so
distinguished and influential, can be explained only by ex-
traordinary gifts and attainments. Some of these we,
who have gathered at his burial, may in gratitude to God
most fittingly recall.
Dr. Paxton was a man of large, vigorous, and well-dis-
ciplined intellect, whose powers were healthfully and
symmetrically developed. Whatever subjects he studied
he grasped firmly. His memory held facts and principles
with remarkable tenacity. These he related to each other
with clear intelligence and by conscientious labor. He
brought to this work a judgment which, while always ad-
mirable, ripened into wisdom as the years passed on. So
that oftenest he reached conclusions in which he could
rest, and which seldom needed amendment. He was not
a man of impulse. He was not a man who mistook his
impressions for convictions. He was a man for counsel ;
whose counsel on a wide range of subjects was widely
sought. Indeed, it is an interesting question whether by
his active life he has done more for the high interests with
which he was associated than by his eminent services as a
He was a man of deep and strong intellectual convic-
tions upon the subject of the truth of Christianity. His
study, after his college course, of the principles of the
Common Law, in the Commentaries of Sir William Black-
stone and in the elementary treatises on Pleading and
Process and the Law of Evidence, gave a character to his
mental habit which was only deepened and fixed by his
course in the Theological Seminary. You will not be
surprised to hear that he saw Christianity primarily as
truth ; and as truth embodied in a strong and self-consist-
ent system. With such a training under such teachers, it
was almost inevitable that he should become a theologian
of large information and settled opinion; and that his
homiletical product should reveal this character and
habit. Those of us who have had the pleasure of hearing
him often know well that the strong foundation, which
gave support and outline and unity to his discourse, was
Christianity as a system of truth ; a system which he held
firmly, and which, indeed, was valued by him as, next to
his own religious life, his most precious possession.
He had a remarkable gift of clear, precise and strong
as well as graceful statement. I think it may well be
doubted whether, in the pulpit or in the lecture-room of
the Theological Seminary, he ever uttered a sentence on a
subject with which its members were at all familiar, which
was not at once understood by his audience. And what
was true of his single statements was true of his whole
discourse. There was always lucidity because there was
always thorough organization. That feature in the
speeches of Daniel Webster which the late Mr. Whipple
seized upon for special eulogy — I mean their thorough
organization — was a characteristic trait of Dr. Paxton's
public and academic speech. However complicated the
subject he was treating appeared to those he was address-
ing, it always unfolded itself in his sermon or lecture into
clear and appropriate lines of thought.
What the friends of his grandfather were apt to dwell
on as a notable trait— his affectionate disposition— was,
I am sure, a native trait of the man we mourn to-day. Of
course, as we knew it, it had been deepened and, indeed,
transfigured by the grace of God. But grace, in Dr. Pax-
ton's case, wrought upon a natural gift congruous to the
Christian love. In this way it came about, that Dr. Pax-
ton's discourses, primarily discussions of systematic truth
as they were, were suffused with a tenderness of feeling
and reached their climax in an earnestness of pleading
which reminded us of the emotion of the Master when he
lamented the doomed Jerusalem. And so blended were
the discussion and the feeling that the discourse as
preached by the preacher became a unit of great spir-
itual power. To employ the metaphor of Dr. Shedd when
describing such discourse, "The light was heat and the
heat was light."
This Christian affection, thus united with a native trait,
revealed itself with great charm in Dr. Paxton's social
life. And since he was by eminence a gentleman, it be-
came in his intercourse with others courtesy and urbanity
of the finest quality. On which, only a day or two since,
a lady of this village pronounced this just eulogy : " To
meet Dr. Paxton casually in the morning and talk with
him was a benediction which blessed the entire day." So
we all felt. So when he was a pastor his parishioners felt.
He was always a faithful, courteous, affectionate, sympa-
thetic pastor. I have often thought of the strong likeness,
in this respect, between him and an older man whose
friendship and companionship he highly esteemed and
greatly enjoyed while living in New York, and whose
portrait was always in clear view in Dr. Paxton's Prince-
ton study. I am referring to that noble, saintly, Christian
pastor and gentleman— whose memory may God keep
fresh in the Church— the late Dr. William Adams.
Dr. Paxton's religious life was sincere and profound.
In its expression in the public offices of religion — in
prayer, in conversation on the great truths and facts of
religion, in preaching the word of God— it blessed how
many as a means of grace. His most earnest thinking,
his most permanent and influential emotions, his funda-
mental activities were all in the spiritual universe. No
one who knew him doubted that he walked with God.
With these gifts and traits and attainments he did a
great work in the Church ; and he did it with fidelity ; and
he had in a measure exceptionally large the favor of God
and of men. His students throughout the world, when
they learn that he has been called to his reward, will renew
their gratitude that he was their teacher. The people to
whom he taught the truths and ministered the consolations
of religion will remember with thanksgiving not only the
truth he taught them so well but his affection and sympa-
thy in all the crises of their lives. His friends will cherish
his memory as a benediction. The Church will honor his
name as that of one of her distinguished sons.
Death is the inevitable experience of every man. We
call death the universal conqueror. But one thing death
cannot do. It cannot read its riddle ; it cannot reveal its
meaning. But its meaning has been revealed. In the
presence of all that remains here of this finished life, our
hearts, if not our voices, sing the Church 's triumphant an-
them : ' ' When Thou, Christ, hadst overcome the sharp-
ness of death, Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven
to all believers." In the highest sense, he has been re-
ceived into that kingdom. And there, to his talents and
graces noblest occupation has been given by Him who
has promised to make his faithful servants rulers over
many things. Only his hope and faith are gone. For his
hope has become fruition and his faith has been changed
into the open and beatific vision of God.
MEMORIAL DISCOURSE, DELIVERED BY AP-
POINTMENT OF THE FACULTY OF PRINCETON
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, IN MILLER CHAPEL,
ON THE TWENTY-FOURTH OF FEBRUARY, 1905,
BY THE REV. BENJAMIN B. WARFIELD, D.D., LL.D.
We are here to-day gratefully to remember before God
the life of one of his saints. Up to a good old age he abode
among us, imitating his Master's example, going about
doing good. Our eyes see him no more: he no longer
passes in and out, showing us daily what it is to walk with
God. But our hearts are glad for him yet : and we wish
to give expression to our gratitude to God for his gift,
and to recount the chief services he has been permitted
to render to the Church of God on earth.
William Miller Paxton was descended from a godly an-
cestry of thoroughly Presbyterian traditions. As the
name indicates, the family was of Berwickshire origin.
In the branch of it from which Dr. Paxton sprang it was
Scotch-Irish. The earliest of his paternal ancestors who
has been certainly traced— the fourth in ascent from him
— is found a little before the middle of the eighteenth cen-
tury living in Bart township, Lancaster County, Pennsyl-
vania, in a Scotch-Irish community which worshipped at
Middle Octorara Church. The only son of this founder of
the family served as an elder in that church ; and out of it
came his son, Dr. Paxton 's grandfather, the Rev. Dr. Wil-
liam Paxton, who, after having like his father before him
fought in the Revolutionary War for the liberties of his
country, enlisted as a soldier of Christ in the never-ceas-
ing conflict for righteousness. Crossing the Susquehanna,
he was settled in 1792 as pastor of Lower Marsh Creek
Church, in what is now Adams County, Pennsylvania, and
there fulfilled a notable ministry of half a century 's dura-
tion. Thus a new home was given to the family in a region
of remarkable beauty and in a community of similar ori-
gin and congenial temperament.
Dr. Paxton always cherished a wholesome pride in his
ancestral home and his lineage. When he reckoned
among the felicities of Dr. Francis Herron's career that
he was born ''beneath the shadow of Pennsylvania's lofty
mountains, and reared amid the patriots of the Revolu-
tion" ; and that he was a scion "of that illustrious historic
race, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians— memorable in all
their generations for their devotion to liberty and re-
ligion, and ever ready to die upon the battle-field in the
defense of the one or to burn at the stake as a testimony
for the other"— he spoke out of his own consciousness of
a noble heritage. And it was a source of constant delight
to him that, having himself begun to study theology within
three months of the death of his grandfather, their com-
bined ministries fulfilled an almost continuous service in
the gospel of more than one hundred years. Nor was this
continuity merely a matter of years. When we read the
account of the Rev. Dr. William Paxton which his friend,
Dr. McConaugh} T , has left us, we seem almost to be read-
ing of our own Dr. Paxton. The "benignant and intelli-
gent countenance," the "strong, vigorous and balanced
intellect, ' ' the ' ' symmetrically developed faculties, " " the
warmth of affection, " " delicate sensibility, " " chaste im-
agination," which Dr. McConaughy signalizes as charac-
teristic of his Dr. Paxton— his care and exactness in the
mental preparation of his sermons, the naturalness and
lucidity of their arrangement, the thoroughness of their
discussion, the freedom, solemnity, dignity, authority,
grace of their delivery: have we not seen all these things
repeated in our Dr. Paxton? We are told that Dr. Paxton
was particularly fond of his grandfather and loved to visit
him and be much with him. We all remember the affec-
tionate reverence with which he always referred to him.
We can scarcely be wrong in supposing that, in addition to
his natural inheritance from him, he consciously modeled
himself upon his example.
Dr. Paxton 's father, Colonel James Dunlop Paxton,
was a man of intelligence and enterprise, of fine presence
and large influence in the community, engaged in the
manufacture of iron, first at Maria Furnace, which was
situated at the foot of South Mountain, some ten or twelve
miles from Gettysburg, and afterward, in partnership
with the Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, at Caledonia Iron
Works, on the pike between Gettysburg and Chambers-
burg. It was at Maria Furnace that William Miller Pax-
ton was born, on the seventh day of June, 1824. His youth
was passed chiefly at Gettysburg, whither the family had
removed that Mrs. Paxton, a daughter of the Hon. Wil-
liam Miller, might be among her people during a long and
trying period of weak health. Here he spent a sunny and
gay-tempered boyhood, winning affection on all sides by
the brightness of his disposition and his happy, fun-loving
humor. Here also he received both his primary school-
ing and his collegiate training, the latter at Pennsylvania
College— recently founded, it is true, but already occupy-
ing an enviable position among colleges under the efficient
presidency of the Eev. Dr. Charles Philip Krauth. In
college he enjoyed the fellowship of a choice company of
young men who, like himself, were to give a good account
of themselves in the future as ministers of Christ— Lu-
therans like B. M. Schmucker and J. P. Benjamin Sadt-
ler, President of Muhlenberg College ; Episcopalians like
Robert Harper Clarkson, Bishop of Nebraska; Presby-
terians like G. W. McMillan, missionary to India, and J.
B. Bittinger, teacher and preacher. Among his fellow-
students were also at least two who were to serve the
church efficiently as professors of theology, Henry Zieg-
ler, of Selins Grove, and James A. Brown, who taught
theology for nearly twenty years at Gettysburg. Gradu-
ated in 1843, he carried away from college a reputation
for rare social qualities and great gifts in oratory.
Residing now at Caledonia Iron Works, he began the
study of law in the office of Judge George Chambers at
Chambersburg. He had not yet given himself to Christ.
During his last year in college the institution was visited
by a most blessed revival ; and during his period of law
study the community was moved to its centre by another,
in which his chief, Judge Chambers, for example, was con-
verted. He seems to have passed through both without
reaching a decision. How the great change came to him
at last we do not know in any detail. We only know that
the grace of God was in part mediated to him through the
offices of his devout sister, and that after prosecuting the
study of law for almost two years, he united on profession
of faith with the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church at
Chambersburg, in March, 1845. Dr. Daniel McKinley
was pastor of the church; and we hear from Dr. Paxton's
associates of those days much about his affectionate in-
timacy with his pastor. Not more than a month after
uniting with the church, on April the ninth, 1845, he was
received under the care of the Presbytery of Carlisle as a
candidate for the gospel ministry, and in the ensuing
autumn he repaired to Princeton for his theological train-
ing. It would appear from this that when he gave him-
self to his Lord he gave himself completely, holding
We are not unprepared, therefore, to learn that he took
his seminary course seriously; and sought to utilize to
the full the opportunities it brought him to prepare for the
great work to which he had devoted himself. Although
so young a Christian, he appears to have stood out among
his comrades from the first for the depth and fervor of his
religious life. Those were, indeed, days of searching of
heart for him. "I well remember," he has told us him-
self, "that when I was a student, no young man could pass
through his first year without being constrained to re-
examine his personal hope and motives for seeking the
sacred office." No doubt this is primarily an encomium
upon the pungency of the religious teaching of those four
great men under whose instruction he sat— Drs. Archi-
bald Alexander and Samuel Miller, Drs. Charles Hodge
and Addison Alexander. But it is a leaf, also, out of his
spiritual autobiography. His fellow-students bear con-
sentient witness to the singleness of his purpose, the seri-
ousness of his character, the dignity of his bearing, and
the attractiveness of his personality. "He was a hard
student," writes one, "industrious and painstaking; as
a man, solid and judicious, and hence wielding much in-
fluence over men. ' ' Another touches the heart of the mat-
ter when he remarks that he had obviously said to himself,
"This one thing I do." "He did not fritter away his
time," continues this informant; "he made theology, the
grandest of the sciences, his study, and how to deliver the
gospel message most effectively. " " The memory of what
Paxton was," he adds, "and of his devotion to theology
and to his Lord and Master, has remained with me, and
has been a distinct and decided help to me in my weakness
and in my times of doubt and difficulty. ' '
One of the things Dr. Paxton always congratulated him-
self upon was that he had had a double training in the-
ology. "The class to which I belonged," he tells us,
"heard" Dr. Archibald Alexander's "lectures upon
Didactic Theology as well as those of Dr. Hodge. Dr.
Hodge gave us a subject with massive learning, in its
logical development, in its beautiful balance and connec-
tion with the whole system. Dr. Alexander would take
the same subject and smite it with a javelin, and let the
light through it. His aim was to make one point and nail
it fast. I always came from a lecture with these words
ringing through my mind, 'A nail driven in a sure
place.' " But his devotion to the study of theology was
more than matched by his zeal in cultivating the art of
presenting its truths in strong, clear and winning public
address. A doctrinal preacher he wished to be, because
he felt to the core of his being that it is useless to preach
at all unless you preach the truth. But the real end of his
study of doctrine was that he might become a doctrinal
preacher. He had no sympathy with that kind of doc-
trinal preacher which he called, not without a touch of
contempt, "a theological grinder"; and whose procedure
he described as ' ' crushing and pulverizing truth between
logical millstones, and then doling it out, grain by grain,
particle by particle, as if the bread of heaven were scarce,
and the minister restricted to a slow and frugal distribu-
tion." He longed to become himself a preacher who
could preach doctrine— as he put it— "all ablaze," who
could ' ' put the light of his own living experience inside ' '
the doctrine, and "make it a spiritual transparency"
which would ' ' interest and attract. " "A heart that is full
of Christ," he said, "will gild every doctrine with the halo
of His glory. ' '
With this ideal held steadily before him, he spared no
labor in perfecting himself in the art of orally presenting
truth. Already in college, we will remember, he had ex-
hibited marked oratorical gifts: and during the interval
between college and seminary he had exercised these gifts
in political speaking. Now, however, he set himself de-
finitively to develop them to their utmost capacity. His
sister remembered all her life his diligence on his visits
home in the training of his voice : there was a jutting rock
on the mountain-side to which he would resort for this pur-
pose, and which lived in her memory as her "brother's
pulpit." His fellow-students noted not only the diligence
but the success of his efforts. ' ' When he was to preach
or to conduct a prayer service, ' ' one of them writes, * ' we
students were always present, and we all expected he
would make a great and popular preacher. ' ' There was
one special occasion for the exercise of his gifts arising
in the course of his senior year, to which he looked back
as to a kind of epoch in his life. It was in the month of
February, 1848. A precious work of grace was going on
in the Tennent Church, and Dr. Alexander was applied to
for aid. He sent three students, of whom Dr. Paxton was
one ; and unexpectedly to themselves they were thrust into
the thick of the work. "The blessing that rested upon
the people," said Dr. Paxton in relating it, "seemed to
fall on us. ' ' The way one of his fellow- students puts it is,
' ' They conducted the services with marked success. ' '
As his seminary life drew to its close, it became evident
enough that such a young man would not go begging for
a pulpit. Calls came to him unsought and even somewhat
embarrassingly. But the people of his own region who
knew him well had been wise enough to forestall all others.
Already, on the sixteenth of February, 1848, ' ' the congre-
gation of East Conococheague, commonly known as Green-
castle," had sent him a hearty call and had received as-
surances of his acceptance. He was on the field as soon
as the seminary closed, and was formally ordained and in-
stalled on the fourth day of the ensuing October. He was
only twenty-four years of age, but was far from a callow
and unformed youth. One who knew him well describes
him as at the time ' ' a remarkably handsome young man
of a commanding presence, a superb figure, with beautiful
eyes and a splendid voice." He was already a "great
sermonizer," to whom large congregations listened "with
almost breathless attention." It is interesting to learn
that he had already worked out that peculiar method of
preparing his sermons which he employed throughout
life-—" walking them out," as he expressed it, that is,
mentally composing them while he paced back and forth in
his study, thereby wearing a pathway in the carpet which
observant visitors used to amuse themselves tracing out.
"In 18-49-1850," writes my informant, "I was teaching
in the Chambersburg Academy, and, as a licentiate, was
supplying the church at Fayetteville, five miles out. Mr.
Paxton's kindness of heart and friendliness were exhib-
ited in this, that he was willing to come and preach for me.
. . . After dinner Paxton said to me, 'I must be alone
this afternoon, to make my preparation to preach this
evening.' He told me he had selected Romans 3:19 for
his text. He spent a couple of hours, perhaps more, walk-
ing to and fro in the little parlor, arranging his heads of
discourse, gathering his illustrations, and going over the
words and sentences that he would use— without a book,
save the Bible, without a scrap of paper, without pen or
pencil. That a man could do such a thing and then preach
such a grand and thrilling sermon as we heard that even-
ing filled me with astonishment."
The church of Greencastle was one of those good old
churches characteristic of the region, with a membership
at the time of about two hundred and paying a salary of
six hundred dollars. The reportable results of the young
minister's labors during his two years of work there were
twenty-one additions on confession of faith, the first fruits
of the great number of six hundred and ten of whom it
was his privilege to become thus the spiritual father be-
fore the ministry thus inaugurated reached its close, yield-
ing an average of about eighteen for each year of his
active work. From Greencastle he was transferred to
Pittsburgh at the end of the year 1850, and was formally
installed pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of
Pittsburgh on the twenty-eighth of the following January.
This new church was but little larger in mere number of
communicants than the one he had left, but it was of in-
definitely more importance, possessing, indeed, a truly
metropolitan influence and burdened with thronging met-
ropolitan responsibilities. We cannot stay to tell the
story of the young pastor's reception. Suffice it to say
that the new pastorate was most auspiciously begun, and
its very first months were marked by a work of grace
which had scarcely died away before it was followed by
another and stronger wave of interest which not only
added largely to the membership of the church, but
greatly increased the fervor of its religious life and the
energy of its Christian activity. The membership grew
steadily throughout the pastorate from two hundred and
thirty-seven at its beginning to four hundred and forty-six
at its close. And membership in Mr. Paxton's church—
or now, since Jefferson College had honored itself by con-
ferring upon him in 1860 the degree of D.D., we must say
Dr. Paxton's— meant something. In reaction against the
abounding wickedness of a great city, the ideal of Chris-
tian living was cast very high in the First Church of Pitts-
burgh, and very strict obligations were laid upon its mem-
bers. From 1860 its protest against the prevalent laxity
was embodied in a distinct understanding that communing
members should abstain from such worldly amusements
as the opera, theatre, circus, cards. The measure had at
least the effect of compacting the membership into an effi-
cient body of serious men and women who were in earnest
in the development of their own spiritual lives, and effec-
tive in the campaign against vice. An outward sign of the
prosperity of the church was the building of a handsome
new edifice in the opening years of the pastorate. But
this was only one landmark of a constant growth in
strength and influence through these eventful years.
To appreciate how eventful these years were we need
only to remind ourselves that within their compass fell the
great Civil War, and to recall what that war, quite apart
from the upheaval it wrought in the whole land, meant es-
pecially for the expansion of Pittsburgh. The anxieties,
the responsibilities, the labors that were cast at such a
time upon such a church and upon such a pastor, it is diffi-
cult for us in these quieter times adequately to estimate.
It is enough to say that the strain was borne by congrega-
tion and pastor with unfailing dignity and success. Dr.
Paxton's personal attitude during this great struggle was
that of a convinced and enthusiastic loyalist. In the me-
morial sermon preached upon his predecessor in the pas-
torate of the church, Dr. Herron, who died on the eighth of
December, 1860, he already passionately asserts the "sa-
credness of the compact which bound these States to-
gether." He was not a member of the Assembly of 1861,
and I do not know what he thought of the famous ' ' Spring
Resolutions" passed there. Possibly, like Dr. Charles
Hodge and Dr. Robert J. Breckinridge, that they were
ultra vires. But if so, this did not in his case, any more
than in theirs, affect his profound conviction of the right-
eousness, nay, the sacredness, of the principles asserted
in those resolutions. In the Assembly of 1862, accord-
ingly—now, alas! no longer the Assembly of the whole
land— he cast his vote for Dr. Breckinridge's paper on
' ' The State of the Church and of the Country, ' ' in which
much the same ground was taken.
On the succeeding Thanksgiving Day— November the
twenty-eighth, 1862— he preached a striking sermon, in
which sounds the note not only of courageous but of opti-
mistic loyalty, that appears to have rung through his
whole life in those dark days. I refer to this sermon here
that I may take from it a clause which suggests an in-
teresting incident in Dr. Paxton's life, in which some of
the primary traits of his character are revealed. I do not
quote this clause, you will observe, as a characteristic one :
it is quite possible that in calmer days Dr. Paxton might
have modified its phraseology. He is speaking of the last
months of Mr. Buchanan's administration, and he char-
acterizes them, shortly, as a period when " imbecility filled
the Presidential chair." Now in the closing chapter of
Mr. George Ticknor Curtis' "Life of James Buchanan"
you will find a beautiful letter from Dr. Paxton, describ-
ing how, in August, 1860, when events were already has-
tening to the dreadful gulf which was opening before the
nation— after the division of the Democratic party had
been hopelessly accomplished and the election of the Be-
publican candidate was practically assured, and after the
speech of July the ninth, in which Mr. Buchanan cast in
his lot with the Southern wing of the Democracy— Dr.
Paxton held repeated earnest conferences with Mr. Bu-
chanan on the nature of experimental religion and the
significance of a profession of faith in Christ, and re-
ceived from him assurances of his trust in the Saviour
and of his purpose of soon uniting with the church. It
is like an oasis in a thirsty land to fall upon this record
of faithful pastoral work in the midst of those tumultuous
years. What a light it throws upon the intensity of Dr.
Paxton 's political convictions, that fresh from these in-
timate interviews, in which his own heart had been aglow
with Christian love, his judgment of his interlocutor's
political policy remained absolutely unaffected! But,
above all, what a sense we obtain of his absorption in his
pastoral functions ! It is a beautiful sight to see him, in
the midst of that violent campaign, when men's passions
were stirred to their depths with political rancor, sitting
quietly in conference with a political opponent whose dis-
praise was not only on the lips of all his companions but
embedded deeply in his own heart, conversing with him
day by day on the serious concerns of the soul, and never,
apparently, even tempted to permit the feelings engen-
defed by the political strife to mar the perfection of his
pastoral attitude, or to distort his judgment of the purity
of heart of his distinguished disciple. "I have never en-
tertained a doubt of the entire honesty of Mr. Buchanan's
religious impressions," he testifies years afterward, "or
of the reality of his religious convictions."
No doubt the pastoral instinct and skill revealed in such
an incident had much to do with the fruitfulness of his
Pittsburgh pastorate. But above everything else Dr. Pax-
ton was, in those Pittsburgh days, the preacher. Coming
to them in his youthful vigor, he yet brought with him a
perfected homiletical art. From the beginning he easily
took rank among the first preachers of the two cities, al-
though there were numbered among them men like Drs.
Swift and Howard, Drs. Plumer and Kendall, Drs. Ja-
cobus and Wilson, every one of them, as one of their
constant hearers phrases it, "a prince unrivaled in his
own style and manner." Dr. Paxton's special "style and
manner" involved the most elaborate preparation, and
particularly the most exact attention to the structure of
his sermons. Some felt that, as a result, they were apt to
be even "faultily faultless," and to sacrifice something
of fervor to methodical development and grace of expres-
sion. This was not, however, the general opinion: his
audience-room was ever crowded with eager hearers, and
he was sought after on every hand for those occasional
addresses for which chaste speech is essential. The
themes he chose were ordinarily "those that lie at the
heart of the Gospel." "He always gave himself plenty
of time, and as a rule took the full hour." "He set his
sermon squarely on his text as a tree stands on its tap-
root: sent out smaller roots all through the context: the
trunk was short and stocky ; then he threw out the great
branches, following each to its smaller limbs and even
twigs, until his sermon stood complete and symmetrical
and stately like one of the great live-oaks of California."
''His literary style," continues my informant, "was
clear, methodical and elevated. His appearance, address
and action in the pulpit were those of an Apollo. A more
graceful man I have never seen in pulpit or on platform.
Tall, slender, erect, faultlessly attired, every motion was
easy, natural, dignified and all in perfect taste." Such
was Dr. Paxton in his prime, as he appeared in the pulpit
—a model preacher, worthy of all imitation in matter and
manner alike, while in the art of "dividing a text" he was
looked upon as beyond the possibility of imitation.
Is it any wonder that he was greedily coveted by the
seminary over in Allegheny? Surely he had been des-
tined and trained just that he might teach young men
how to preach ! The opportunity to secure his services
for this great work opened at last, we may well believe,
somewhat unexpectedly. The authorities of Princeton
Seminary appeared at the Assembly of 1860 with a re-
quest that a fifth professor be granted them— a Profes-
sor of Sacred Rhetoric. As they came with the endow-
ment of the chair in their hands, the request could
scarcely be denied. The authorities of the Western Semi-
nary at Allegheny, however, felt they must not be outdone
by Princeton ; and they succeeded in persuading Dr. Pax-
ton to undertake the teaching of sacred rhetoric in that
institution as its fifth professor. But as they had no
funds provided for his support, with characteristic gen-
erosity he gave his services to the seminary for the whole
period of his occupancy of the chair (1860-1872) entirely
Precisely what the directors of the Western Theo-
logical Seminary desired of Dr. Paxton, and precisely
what he undertook at their importunity, was to come and
teach the students to preach as he preached. They saw
in him a model preacher, into the likeness of whom they
earnestly desired that their students might be moulded.
He saw in the task that had come to him unsought an
opportunity, not to philosophize upon the principles that
underlie the homiletical art, nor to discuss the nature
of preaching as a literary form, but simply to show the
young men gathered in the seminary how to do it. If
there ever was a preacher in the chair of preaching, it was
Dr. Paxton. At the first, indeed, it may well have seemed
to the Allegheny students that there was little essential
difference between his lectures and the sermons they were
flocking to hear from him Sabbath by Sabbath over in
Pittsburgh. He opened his course with a series of what
may very well be called sermons on the preachers of the
Bible, beginning with Enoch and running regularly down
to our Lord and his apostles — sermons marked by all
that closeness of scrutiny of the text, faithful eliciting of
its substance and powerful application of its lessons which
characterized all his preaching. Only, as he was now ad-
dressing not a general audience but a body of prospective
preachers, the lessons which he pressed upon their con-
sciences were lessons for preachers. In reading over the
notes of these lectures, I have been deeply impressed by
their value as a preparation for entering upon a formal
study of homiletics. Account for it as we may, the study
of the formal arts is apt to be approached by students in
a somewhat light spirit; and even what we call "sacred
rhetoric" has not always escaped this fate. I cannot con-
ceive, however, a serious-minded student approaching the
temple through the propylaenm which these opening ser-
mons of Dr. Paxton 's built for it without putting the
sandals once for all off his feet. And I am disposed to
think that a large part of the power exerted by Dr. Paxton
as a teacher of homiletics was due to the success with
which he induced and maintained in his pupils a sense of
the holiness and responsibility of a preacher's function.
With all the attention he gave to their form, sermons after
all were to him interesting chiefly because of their sub-
stance and of their purpose : and he kept his students con-
stantly aware of the sacredness of their substance and
the holiness of their purpose. When he tells them in these
opening lectures that "the true idea of preaching is the
explanation of the Word of God"— that "the object of
preaching is nothing else but to make clear what the Lord
has taught"— he sounds the key-note of his entire homi-
When, these introductory lectures being over, Dr. Pax-
ton passes to the direct inculcation of the art of sacred
rhetoric, his main characteristic as a teacher of homilet-
ics springs at once into its fullest manifestation. I mean
his intense practicality. The lectures are analytical and
precise : the entire subject of sacred rhetoric is developed
in them with formal completeness : but the whole tone and
effect are those of a master-workman training his appren-
tices in the practice of an art. It is perfectly clear that
Dr. Paxton is simply showing his pupils how to do what
he has himself been accustomed to do with so great suc-
cess; taking them into his confidence, so to speak, and
making them free of the secrets of the trade. And this
effect is powerfully reinforced by another striking ele-
ment in his teaching — what we may call its empirical
basis. Discarding all a priori theorizing as to what a
sermon ought to be, he had set himself to make a survey
of the existing sermonic literature with a view to ascer-
taining what, as an actual fact, good sermons are. His
enunciations of the principles of sermon-building had in
them, therefore, the vitality that comes from touch with
The results of his exhaustive study of English sermonic
literature he incorporated especially in lectures on the
various methods of unfolding themes and later on the
several classes of sermons. These lectures may justly
be regarded as the heart of his instruction in homiletics.
He placed a very high value upon this elaborate piece of
inductive work ; and if he can be said to have had a hobby
it must be discovered in his untiring zeal for sermonic
analysis. His own skill in "dividing a theme" was re-
markable ; and he held it to be the highest accomplishment
of a preacher to possess the power to distribute a text
into its natural divisions, so that its entire message might
be developed in an easy and effective presentation. He
therefore begrudged no time or labor spent in cultivating
this talent in his pupils ; he not only presented the subject
elaborately in his lectures, accompanied with abundant
illustration, but diligently trained his pupils in the prac-
tice of the art, and himself set them an example which
they might emulate but could scarcely hope to equal.
What now it is particularly interesting to observe is
that all this was just as true of Dr. Paxton the first year
of his teaching at Allegheny as it was the last year of his
teaching at Princeton. One of the surprises which were
brought to me by reading over the notes of his first year's
lectures at Allegheny was the discovery that his elaborate
scheme of sermonic division lay already complete in them.
Certain minor adjustments were subsequently made, and
the illustrative examples were multiplied and modified;
but the scheme is there in its entirety. All this wide-reach-
ing study of sermonic literature, all this elaborate induc-
tion of the proper structure of a sermon,— it had all been
carried through by the young pastor for his own personal
benefit, and the results were ready for presentation to his
pupils from the first. This young pastor, you will see, was
certainly diligent in business, and notably illustrated in
his own person the prescription for success in sermoniz-
ing he was accustomed to give in these words: "Work!
work ! work ! ' '
The teaching in the seminary at Allegheny, it will be
understood, was not instead of, but in addition to the pas-
torate in Pittsburgh. The seminary teaching, indeed, con-
tinued for some years after the close of the Pittsburgh
pastorate. The latter came to an end in the midsum-
mer of 1865. The circumstances which brought it to a
close recall us to Dr. Paxton's private life. Here, too,
he filled out the measure of a normal human experience
and was not left without the chastening of sorrow.
Shortly after coming to Pittsburgh he married : but soon
lost both wife and child. It was not until late in 1855
(Nov. 8) that his household was established by a marriage
with one who might well be called a daughter of the church
indeed,— Miss Caroline Sophia Denny, whose distin-
guished father, the Hon. Harmar Denny, had served the
church with rare devotion as an elder for a generation,
and whose grandfather, Major Ebenezer Denny, had been
identified with its fortunes almost from its origin. In her
Dr. Paxton found a modern example of that ideal wife de-
scribed in the closing chapter of Proverbs, and of her the
declaration was preeminently true that ' ' the heart of her
husband trusted in her. ' ' It would be impossible to sepa-
rate her part from his in the achievements of their joint
life. The oldest son of this marriage— in 1865 a boy ap-
proaching his fifth birthday— was subject to an asthmatic
affection to which the thick air of Pittsburgh was fatal.
There was nothing for it but to seek a more salubrious
atmosphere. Feeling the need of rest also for himself, Dr.
Paxton proposed to retire for a season to the prairie lands
of Minnesota, whither he had been accustomed to resort
for recreation with his gun during his summer vacations.
But he did not find it easy to escape. So soon as it was
known that he was severing his relations with the Pitts-
burgh church he was besieged with applications for his
services. Among other applicants the Board of Educa-
tion sought him for its Secretaryship. He put them all
resolutely aside for the meanwhile ; but found them just
as clamant on his return from his vacation. In the end
he accepted a call to the First Presbyterian Church in
New York, into the pastorate of which he was formally
installed on February the first, 1866.
In removing from Pittsburgh to New York, the centre
of gravity of his work, so to speak, somewhat changed.
In Pittsburgh everything ran up to the pulpit as its head :
in New York it was rather the work of administration
which took the central place. At no other period of his
life was his preaching more admired : but the relative im-
portance of preaching in the impact of his church on the
world was less in New York than in Pittsburgh. The
First Church of New York was the centre of the most
ramified charities. It was veritably the mother church
of the city, from which flowed forth nourishment for
every religious and benevolent enterprise. ' ' No one can
study the history of this church, ' ' Dr. Paxton has himself
remarked, "without being impressed and amazed at the
streams of beneficent influence that have gone out from
this source, and at the manner in which this church has
been intimately connected with all those great moral, re-
ligious, benevolent, philanthropic and patriotic agencies
which, from the very earliest times, controlled the forma-
tive influences in the growth and development of this
great city." Not content with lavishing its fostering
care upon charitable organizations— churches, schools,
colleges, seminaries, hospitals, asylums— at home, and
becoming ' ' literally a ' fountain of living waters ' "to the
Boards of the Church, it had gone as far afield for objects
of its beneficence as worthy needs could be discovered.
"Dr. Chalmers' great schemes for the Church of Scotland
received their first encouragement here," and through
many years continued support. Much of the work of the
Waldensian Church in Italy was made possible only by
aid from this church, and the theological seminary at
Florence was built from this source. Into the midst of
this abundant stream of wisely directed beneficence Dr.
Paxton came in 1866, when it was running so full that,
like Jordan in the time of harvest, it was overflowing all
its banks. The contributions of the church to the Board of
Foreign Missions alone during his pastorate averaged
nearly thirty thousand dollars annually and aggregated
more than half a million. Other things were in propor-
tion. To name but a single item, the Presbyterian Hos-
pital was rendered possible only by a gift from Mr. James
Lenox. He, of course, was the greatest giver, but not the
only great giver. Mrs. Winthrop, for example, whose
splendid bequest this seminary hopes soon to enter into
the enjoyment of, placed a large sum annually in Dr. Pax-
ton's hands to be distributed at his discretion.
As pastor of this church Dr. Paxton became, therefore,
very much a man of affairs, an almoner to the Church uni-
versal. "His labors during this period," as one who
knew him well and watched his work with sympathetic eye
remarks, "were enormous, and yet they were transacted
with a kind of calmness and equipoise which never failed
to impress one with the sense of a great deal of reserve
power. ' ' As pastor of the First Church, he was ex officio
a member of the Boards of three noble charities : the Pres-
byterian Hospital, the Leake and Watts Orphan House
and the Sailors ' Snug Harbor. The Boards of the Church
claimed his services : he was elected a member of both the
Home and Foreign Mission Boards; and served the
former until 1880, as President from 1876 to 1878; and
the latter until his death, as President from 1881 to
1884. While at Pittsburgh he had, of course, been a di-
rector of the Western Theological Seminary (from 1852) ;
and he was also a trustee of Jefferson College (from
1853). Coming to New York, he substituted for these the
directorship of the seminary (from 1866) and the trus-
teeship of the college (from 1867) at Princeton— in the
former of which he served until his election as professor
in the institution (1883), and in the latter until his death.
In addition he was chosen director of Union Theological
Seminary in 1873, and served until his removal to Prince-
ton (1884). His appointment as trustee of the General
Assembly (1892) came later, but may be mentioned here
for the sake of completeness. All these positions of trust
he filled not only with dignity, but with a careful attention
to their duties and with a wisdom of counsel which earned
the unaffected admiration of his coadjutors. In addition
to the cares they brought him, he acted as lecturer on
Homiletics and Sacred Rhetoric in the Union Theologi-
cal Seminary, New York, during the years from 1871 to
1873— repeating there his Allegheny lectures to the satis-
faction of both the governors and pupils of the institution.
The greatest ecclesiastical event which occurred during
Dr. Paxton's New York ministry was, of course, the re-
union of the Old and New School branches of the Church.
He was of the number of those who did not look witli sat-
isfaction on the movement for union. Oddly enough,
however, as a member of the Assembly of 1862, when cor-
responding delegates to the New School body were for the
first time appointed, and of that of 1870, when the consum-
mated union was set upon its feet, he was an active factor
in both the beginning and end of the movement. Except
so far as was involved in becoming a signatory of the
Pittsburgh Circular of 1868-9, 1 do not know that he took
any large part in the debates of the time. When once the
union was accomplished, however, he became one of the
chief agents in adjusting the relations of the two long-
separated bodies. No one, for example, was more influen
tial than he at the Assembly of 1870 in determining the
formal adjustments. And in general it is not too much to
say that his attitude of ' ' loyal and affectionate adherence
to the interests of the united Church, ' ' and his cordial and
appreciative intercourse with the formerly New School
men, were among the most powerful influences which were
working toward the healing of old wounds. When he
came to New York, very little active fellowship existed
between ministers serving in the two Churches: he was
scarcely more than on the footing of speaking acquain-
tance with his nearest ministerial neighbors of the other
communion. Immediately after the union, however, all
this was changed. He rapidly formed close friendships
with his New School colleagues — with Dr. William
Adams, first of all, for whom he cherished a boundless
reverence; with Drs. Henry B. Smith, Thomas H. Skin-
ner, Robert R. Booth, Howard Crosby, Charles H. Rob-
inson. He was, of course, elected at once to the famous
Ministerial Club, Chi Alpha, where his social intercourse
with his brethren found a centre; and even, as we have
seen, was shortly lecturing in Union Seminary and hold-
ing a permanent position on its Board of government.
When, at the unveiling of the tablet to Dr. Archibald Al-
exander's memory, at Princeton Seminary, he declared in
his half-humorous way, "It is wicked now for any one to
have memory enough to recollect that there was ever any-
thing but one happy, undivided Presbyterian Church, ' ' he
preached nothing but what he practiced.
With the origin of the General Presbyterian Alliance
also he had a somewhat close connection. He was a dele-
gate to the first meeting of its council, at Edinburgh (July,
1877), and delivered there an address on Home Missions
in America. It fell to him to preach the opening sermon
at the second council, which met in Philadelphia, Septem-
ber, 1880. Meanwhile he had been sent to the General As-
sembly of 1880, and had been elevated to its moderator-
ship by acclamation— an honor which has been accorded
to very few in the history of the Church. At the opening
of the ensuing Assembly (1881) he preached what seems
to me at least an even more notable sermon than the much-
admired discourse which he delivered at the opening of
the Alliance. These two meetings of the Alliance and the
five Assemblies which have been adverted to— those of
1860, 1862, 1870, 1880, 1881— seem to be all those to which
he was accredited as a commissioner. He never shirked
any duty that was laid upon him, but he did not seek the
supreme court of the Church as his chosen field of labor.
He had been twelve years in the ministry before he was
sent to the Assembly : he remained twenty-three years in
the ministry after his last service as a member of the As-
sembly. They were a curiously notable series of Assem-
blies, however, in which he served : 1860, when the great
debate on the organization of the Boards was held, run-
ning out in its ramifications into the whole theory of Pres-
byterianism, and Drs. Hodge and Thornwell met in ti-
tanic conflict; 1862, in the midst of the excitement of the
war, when the air was palpitant with internecine strife ;
1870, when the union between the two Churches was given
effect in an infinite variety of adjustments; 1880 and
1881, when the debates on the Revised Book of Discipline
took place and the reorganization of the Synods was ef-
And now we approach the last stadium of Dr. Paxton's
active service. In 1883 he came to Princeton to take up
the work of the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and
Pastoral Theology, made vacant by the resignation of Dr.
McGill. His church, which had grown steadily under his
hands from the two hundred and fifty-seven members it
reported in 1866 to the four hundred and nine it reported
in 1883, and whose affection for its pastor had grown
with the years, was loath to give him up. He himself,
to whom preaching was as his vital breath, was loath
to give it up. The professor's chair was no novelty to
him; but the professor's chair alone— it was difficult for
him to reconcile himself to that. One of his early pupils
at Princeton recalls a scene on the occasion of a visit of
Mr. Moody to Princeton, when Dr. Paxton was with that
great revivalist in the inquiry room. ' i I see him now, ' ' he
writes, "his face working with emotion, too much over-
come at one time by his feelings to be able to lead in
prayer. The next day in the classroom he told us he was
homesick for the pastorate." But God's work must be
done ; and Dr. Paxton was accustomed to do it : and he felt
at least that next to preaching itself the training of
preachers was the most blessed of services.
The chair to which he consecrated the remainder of his
life, it will be observed, was a much more comprehensive
one than that which he had occupied at Allegheny and
New York. It included, as he was accustomed to point
out, three separate branches of instruction. During the
first years of his occupancy of it, he naturally fell back
upon his Allegheny lectures in Homiletics and directed his
energies to the creation of a course of lectures in Church
Government, using meanwhile in Pastoral Theology a
text-book, which he supplemented from his own experi-
ence. In 1888 and 1889 he turned back to the lectures on
Homiletics and largely remodeled them, retaining, how-
ever, permanently the core of his Allegheny lectures. I
suppose we all recognize that it was in these Homiletical
lectures, supplemented by his practical drilling of the stu-
dents in preaching and text-dividing, that Dr. Paxton 's
work of instruction culminated.
As at Allegheny so at Princeton it was his practical
genius which informed all his teaching. No note is struck
more persistently by his pupils in their reminiscences of
his classroom than this. Says one : " I found his course
exceedingly helpful. I can hardly conceive of a more
thorough and suggestive series of lectures on Homiletics
than that which he gave us. ... I found them practi-
cally of the greatest value in my own work as a preacher ;
so much so that when I went to India I delivered in Hin-
dustani the substance of his course, in a brief series to the
students in the training-school for preachers with which
I was connected." Says another: "He was eminently a
pastor in the pastoral chair. The teaching was concrete.
. . . He taught not so much the philosophy as the art,
. . . but with devotional spirituality, on a high level and
with just balance. . . . His teaching of ecclesiastical law
was especially pleasant. He was a stout Presbyterian,
and bated no jot of constitution or deliverance, but he was
not dry nor deadly technical. He evidently knew the law
and had seen its practical workings, but he never forgot
that the great thing was the life and progress of the
Church, and that ecclesiasticism was not an end in itself. ' '
Says yet another : ' ' The most valuable part of Dr. Pax-
ton 's work, as far as I was concerned, was his Pastoral
Theology. Many of the suggestions he gave me I found
to be workable and helpful. I was especially helped by
his cautions what not to do. I may say that in practical
work outside the pulpit, Dr. Paxton gave me more help
than any one I have ever known."
With all this, however, it was not after all his practical
genius which was the chief note of Dr. Paxton 's work in the
seminary. That was rather what one of his pupils whom
we have just quoted calls his "devotional spirituality."
Above everything else his heart was set on quickening in
his students' minds a sense of the sacredness of their
calling and on fanning the fires of their spiritual life into
a blaze. A fervent and devoted heart he held to be the
best preparation for preaching the gospel. His sermons,
his conference talks— both of which were greatly enjoyed
by his pupils,— his prayers, in which he was mighty before
God, and indeed his whole intercourse with the student
body wrought together powerfully to this result. He had
a happy habit of addressing a few words to each class at
the opening of the scholastic year, with a view to awaken-
ing thern to a sense of their opportunities and responsi-
bilities as soldiers of Christ. Some of the memoranda of
these little addresses have got caught between the leaves
of his lecture-notes, and so have come to our hands. Here
is a sample of them, addressed to the senior class :
Have known you well as Juniors and Middlers.
Congratulate you on your advancement as Seniors.
Influence of Senior Class.
Think of your position.
Good use of this year.
1. Try to grow in piety.
2. Don't trifle away time upon
Too much preaching,
Seeking a call.
It is particularly needful to attend to these traits in Dr.
Paxton's work in the seminary, because there lay behind
them a definitely formed and tenaciously held theory of
the functions of theological seminaries which he never
lost an opportunity to enunciate and enforce. To him
theological seminaries were specifically training-schools
for the ministry, and he earnestly desired that they should
be administered strictly on this principle and to this end.
There was nothing he feared more than "scholasticism"
in our seminaries. The liveliness of this fear, I cannot
but think, betrayed him now and again into judgments
and expressions which were somewhat extreme. He was
perfectly clear that the minister should be soundly edu-
cated, and, indeed, when that is possible without loss
of spiritual power or spiritual opportunity, profoundly
learned: and he was ready to grant that, therefore, rich
provision for communicating knowledge must be made in
our seminaries. But he was perhaps overapt to see the
spectre of " scholasticism' ' lurking behind measures the
practical value of which for the average ministerial
preparation was not immediately apparent. After all
said, however, what he took his real stand upon was the
perfectly sound position that our theological seminaries
are primarily training-schools for ministers, and must be
kept fundamentally true to this their proper work.
From this point of view he was never weary of warn-
ing those who were charged with the administration of
these institutions against permitting them to degenerate
into mere schools of dry-as-dust and, from the spiritual
standpoint, useless learning. A very fair example of his
habitual modes of thought and speech on this subject
may be read in the charge which he delivered to his life-
long friend, Dr. A. A. Hodge— whom he loved as a bro-
ther and admired as a saint of God — when Dr. Hodge
was inaugurated as professor in this seminary. Permit-
ting himself greater freedom, doubtless, because he knew
he was addressing one sympathetic to his contentions, he
becomes in this address almost fierce in his denunciations
of a scholastic conception of theological training, and in-
sistent to the point of menace in his assertion of the higher
duty of the theological instructor. Pointing to the semi-
nary buildings— he was speaking in the First Church— he
exclaimed: "There stands that venerable institution.
What does it mean! What is the idea it expresses? . . .
Is it a place where young men get a profession by which
they are to make their living? Is it a school in which a
company of educated young men are gathered to grind
out theology, to dig Hebrew roots, to read patristic lit-
erature, to become proficients in ecclesiastical dialectics.
to master the mystic technics of the schoolmen, and to de-
bate about fate, free-will, and the divine decrees ! If this
be its purpose, or its chief purpose, then bring the torch
and burn it! . . . "We do not in any way depreciate a
learned ministry. We must have learning. . . . But
whenever in a theological seminary learning takes the
precedence, it covers as with an icicle the very truths
which God designed to warm and melt the hearts of men.
. . . No, no, this is not the meaning of a theological
seminary. ... It is a school of learning, but it is also
a cradle of piety." Accordingly he exhorts in almost
flaming speech the individual professor to look well to his
personal responsibility. Let no one dare say, he cries,
that his business is to teach only a certain section of theo-
logical science. His duty is not merely the impartation
of " a certain quantum of information on a given subject, "
but to take his part in the training and inspiring of men to
save souls. ' ' I stand here to-day, ' ' he solemnly declares,
' ' to say to you and to every member of this faculty, ' This
is your department!' " "The professor's study must be
a Bethel in direct communication with heaven ; and a theo-
logical seminary must be a Bochim from which strong
cries for help are constantly going up." Such was Dr.
Paxton 's ideal of a seminary. He preached it without ces-
sation. And he lived up to it. His own study was a
Bethel : his own classroom was a Bochim.
I have said nothing about Dr. Paxton 's literary output.
It is a subject which does not suggest itself with reference
to him. The cacoethes scribendi is a disease from which
he was immune. He had no literary ambitions. His chosen
method of expression was oral: with this I will not say
merely he was content ; he seemed to have even a distaste
for the pen and a positive dislike for print. He did not
write even his sermons ; and we may be sure that he wrote
his lectures only as a concession to a hard necessity. To
write for the sake of writing, to print for the sake of
printing, would have seemed to him almost a superfluity
of naughtiness. I believe the only review article he ever
printed was one on "The Call to the Ministry," which he
gave me for the first number of "The Presbyterian Re-
view" of which I was an editor; and even that had not
been written in the first instance for publication. He also
gave me for that and the next number a couple of short
book notices; and later— for "The Presbyterian and Re-
formed Review"— a loving obituary tribute to his old
friend, Mr. A. D. F. Randolph. I am very proud of these
tokens of his regard, knowing well that nothing but affec-
tion can account for them. It could not be, however, but
that some of the sermons of a man so justly famous for
his sermons should find their way into print: and natu-
rally a number of the occasional addresses of one so
sought after for occasional addresses failed to evade pub-
lication. Thus it happens that, after all, a considerable
body of printed material remains to preserve to us some
suggestion of this winning speaker's manner. Some
thirty separate items have come under my eye. Among
them perhaps special mention should be made of his elabo-
rate scheme of Divisions of Sermons, which he permitted
late in life to be printed, not published, for the use of his
classes. Those who are fortunate enough to possess
copies of it will feel that they have in it a part of Dr. Pax-
Dr. Paxton was permitted to labor among us here in
Princeton for a period of twenty years. He had already
entered his sixtieth year when he came to us (1883) : he
was approaching his seventy-eighth birthday when he was
impelled to seek relief from his responsibilities ; and he
had reached his eightieth year and had completed the full
tale of twenty years of service before he ceased to deliver
lectures in the seminary. The burden of years as they
gathered upon his shoulders never dimmed his eye, or
bowed his form, or halted his step. But yielding to the
requisitions of his physicians, he asked to be released
from the cares of office at the close of the academic year of
1901-1902. During the protracted illness of Dr. William
Henry Green, he had, in addition to the conduct of his
chair of instruction, discharged also many of the duties of
head of the seminary ; and from February the tenth, 1900,
when Dr. Green died, he had been formally, as well as
really, its head. What it meant to him to unbuckle the
harness he had so long worn no one will ever fully know.
He has himself, in his encomium on his predecessor in the
pastorate of the First Church of Pittsburgh, eloquently
portrayed the trials which accompany such an experience.
If he passed through such a testing time it was concealed
from the observer. It impressed no frown upon his brow :
it wrung from his heart no repining cry.
Nor, in any true sense of the word, can it be said that
his work was over when he turned away for the last time
from his classroom door, and descended forever the pul-
pit steps— that pulpit which had, through all these years,
been his throne from which he ruled as king. Changed,
not completed, his work : perhaps we should not even say
changed. For Dr. Paxton's power always lay more in
what he was than in what he did, and the best of all his
sermons was the sermon he preached by his life— by the
benignity of his bearing, the thoughtful charity of his in-
tercourse with men, the very glow of his serene counte-
Affectionate in look
And tender in address, as well becomes
A messenger of grace to guilty men,
he was the living embodiment of Cowper's ideal of the
faithful pastor. Students have declared that it was a
benediction simply to sit in the oratory of Stuart Hall
and look upon his devout countenance as he sat on the
platform. Ladies have remarked that to encounter him
casually in the street of a morning brought a blessing
upon the day. ' ' No one could fail to see the reflection of
the Lord upon his face," or "to feel faith revived and
courage strengthened and love deepened as they listened
to his cheery voice and perceived whence the springs of
his life flowed. ' ' And so, as he went back and forth to the
devotional exercises of the seminary, of which he was a
faithful and devout attendant to the end, and as he walked
daily through the streets, though his voice was no longer
heard in classroom or pulpit he was still our teacher and
' ' There will be work for you at the last, ' ' says Dr. Rob-
ertson Nicoll, in one of his searching addresses— "not
the old work. . . . The misery in which Christian lives
often close is largely due to the attempt to continue work
for which the toiler has ceased to be fit. Leave that, and
there is other work. The cities of Israel are not gone
over. . . . The orator may have to content himself with the
pen. The preacher may have to step from prominence to
obscurity. But whosoever has passed over the enchanted
ground to Beulah is a mighty influence. His force is not
to be measured by the old tests, but it radiates from him
continually. It keeps silently conquering new fields and
is unspent at death. ' ' We have seen these words fulfilled
before our eyes. During these last years Dr. Paxton
abode in the land of Beulah, and there radiated from him
The splendour of a spirit without blame.
At the last the end came with a certain suddenness, but
with no shock. There was nothing in its circumstances to
mar the impression of the peaceful days which preceded
it. Even while on earth he had flung his heart before him
—like the Bruce 's— into heaven. It had been observed
that he had talked much of the heavenly rest during the
last months. It seemed in no wise strange that he should
go whither his heart had preceded him. He came to his
grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn comes in its
season ; and as we laid the body away in the profound con-
viction that— as the beautiful words in our Larger Cate-
chism express it— it shall "even in death continue united
to Christ and rest in its grave as in its bed, till at the last
day it be again united with its soul," what could our
hearts say, except
weary champion of the cross, lie still :
Sleep thou at length the all-embracing sleep :
Long was thy sowing day, rest now and reap :
Thy fast was long, feast now thy spirit's fill.
A very large number of those who have been associated
with Dr. Paxton at one or another period of his life have
been good enough to write out some account of Dr. Pax-
ton as they knew him. From these accounts there have
been selected a few which seemed to contain reminiscences
or estimates which the friends of Dr. Paxton ought not to
From the Rev. Dr. Thomas E. Davis, Wooster, Ohio
DR. PAXTON AT THE SEMINARY AND AT GREENCASTLE
I will jot down whatever I can recall of the years 1846-
1850, in connection with Dr. Paxton. I first became acquainted
with him when I entered the seminary at Princeton in the fall
of 1846. Being from the bounds of the same presbytery, I saw
the more of him, and was often in his room. I seldom went
there that I did not find Blain and Riheldaffer with Paxton.
They seemed to be great friends.
Dr. Paxton had the great advantage of a fine heredity. It
was to his grandfather, the Rev. Dr. William Paxton, who
spent more than half a century with the Lower Marsh Creek
Church, in Adams County, Pennsylvania, that the church and
the world were, as I believe, indebted for William Miller Pax-
ton. The elder Dr. Paxton was a tall and handsome man; his
figure full, but not corpulent; a man of fine attainments, es-
pecially in theology and philosophy; a most attractive and im-
pressive preacher, one who drew people in strong attachment
to himself and to his teachings.
Paxton was kind enough to invite me to visit him in vacation ;
and I remember spending a delightful day or two at Millers-
town with a charming family. The father, Colonel James D.
Paxton, was a very fine-looking and agreeable gentleman. Mrs.
Paxton, I thought, was a very superior woman. An only
brother, Dunlop Paxton, was then at home, at work ; and an only
sister was a lovely young woman. She afterwards became Mrs.
Stevenson, the mother of the Rev. Dr. A. Russell Stevenson of
Schenectady, New York. Some time after this, in company with
Thad. Culbertson, a fellow-townsman of mine and a Princeton
student, a younger brother of the Rev. Dr. Culbertson of our
China Mission, I visited the family when Colonel Paxton had
charge of the Caledonia Iron Works, on the pike between Cham-
bersburg and Gettysburg. There we spent a couple of days very
delightfully with this excellent and interesting family.
When Paxton was to preach, or conduct a prayer-service in
the Oratory, we students were always present, and we all ex-
pected that he would make a great and popular preacher. After
his settlement at Greencastle, I heard him several times in the
Falling Spring Church, in Chambersburg, and I found that
our expectations were well founded and more than realized. He
was a remarkably handsome young man, of a commanding
presence, a superb figure, with beautiful eyes and a splendid
voice. He had been a close student at Princeton, and had not
frittered away his precious time in multifarious studies. He
made theology, the grandest of the sciences, his study, and how
to deliver the gospel message most effectively. So whenever
it was announced in Chambersburg that he was to preach, every-
body wanted to hear him, and large congregations listened
with almost breathless attention to his impassioned and mov-
ing appeals. He was a great sermonizer. His mental grasp
of whatever subject he selected was always firm and masterly.
He selected no themes but such as lie at the heart of the gos-
pel and always reach the hearts of the people. His analysis
was clear and discriminating; his proofs strong and convincing;
his illustrations appropriate and telling ; his applications search-
ing, eloquent, and impressive.
In 1849-50 I was teaching in the Chambersburg Academy,
and, as a licentiate, was supplying the church at Fayetteville,
five miles out. Mr. Paxton's kindness of heart and friendliness
were exhibited in this, that he was willing to come and preach
for me for a couple of days. We were entertained at the hos-
pitable home of Elder Darby. After dinner, on Friday, Pax-
ton said to me, "I must be alone this afternoon, to make my
preparation for preaching this evening." He told me that he
had selected Romans 3 : 19 for his text. He spent a couple of
hours, perhaps more, walking to and fro in the little parlor,
arranging his heads of discourse, gathering his illustrations,
and going over the very words and sentences that he would
use, without a book save the Bible, without a scrap of paper,
without pen or pencil. That a man could do such a thing, and
then preach such a grand and thrilling sermon as we heard that
evening, filled me with astonishment. Of course the people
who heard him, wherever he preached, were the more interested
and delighted because he was so free, being unencumbered by
notes, and so at liberty to display his natural and acquired
gifts and graces to such fine advantage.
The prayers of Paxton at the seminary, at the family altar,
or in public services, always impressed me greatly. Their sin-
cerity, deep feeling, great fervor, and earnestness were cal-
culated to enkindle feeling in the hearts of all who heard him.
When I knew him, and to the end of his life, Dr. Paxton,
as I believe, devoted himself to his Lord and Master, Jesus
Christ, and to the study of one thing— how to preach to his
fellow-men, in the most effective way, the unsearchable riches
of Christ. In his famous sermon before the Presbyterian Alli-
ance in Philadelphia, in 1880, he announced as the first and
leading characteristic of the Presbyterian family of churches,
loyalty to the person of Jesus Christ. He was a typical Pres-
byterian himself, and the Lord Jesus Christ was all in all to
him. Well would it be if all our young men who are preparing
for the ministry, or who are now in the ministry, were as
truly and wholly devoted to the person and cause of Christ as
was Dr. Paxton, and if they would bend the energies of their
being to the one business of preaching most effectively the
pure and simple truth as it is in Jesus.
I had intended saying that at the seminary and afterwards
Dr. Paxton was dignified and grave. Some thought there was a
reserve and stiffness about him, which prevented him from being
a "popular fellow." But to those who knew him, his dignity
was relieved by a very pleasant affability ; and his serious grav-
ity, by a gentle courtesy of manner and an agreeable sense of
humor. The memory of what Paxton was, and of his devotion
to theology and to his Lord and Master, has ever remained with
me, and has been a distinct and decided help to me, in my
weakness, and in my times of doubt and difficulty.
Oh, that every candidate for the ministry would take for his
motto, as did William M. Paxton, and as did the great apostle of
the Gentiles, "This one thing I do." And did not one greater
than the apostle Paul say, "Wist ye not that I must be about my
From the Rev. Dr. S. F. Scovel, Wooster, Ohio
DR. PAXTON 's MINISTRY AT PITTSBURGH
I. It was a remarkably successful ministry throughout the whole
period of nearly fifteen years. During all this time the unity
of feeling between pastor and people was never for a moment
impaired. They were enviable years of prosperity in external
things, and the church life deepened as it extended. One must
go far to find a record in which there is so much cause for re-
joicing and so little left to desire as in the history of the First
Church from 1851 to 1865. And the closer this record is
scanned the more evident do the causes of this rarely equaled
1. There was a singular adaptation of the young pastor to
the existing conditions. With only two years of ministerial
experience, he was unusually mature in character and judgment.
His training from boyhood had been in the direction of prac-
tical and effective speech. His original destination was the
law, and his methods gave evidence of the directness which is
indispensable in preparation for and practice of that profes-
sion. There was needed just such an alternation of gifts (com-
pared with those of the retiring pastor) as was found in the
new pastor. The circumstances of his entrance upon the work
of the parish were all propitious.
2. To these was added the most affectionate welcome ac-
corded by the venerable Dr. Herron. The new pastor was re-
ceived—to use his own words— "with open arms." The rela-
tions between the two, founded on mutual respect and esteem,
were ideal throughout the ten years in which the life of the
man whom the whole church loved and the whole city admired
was spared for counsel and encouragement. It was little to
be wondered at when the Elisha of this succession delivered the
model memorial sermon from the text, "My father, my father,
the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof !"
3. Moreover, the rapidly increasing congregations, the con-
dition of city prosperity, and the recognized pecuniary ability
of the congregation, together with the decrepitude of the old
building, pointed imperatively and persuasively to a new edifice.
Begun in 1852 and finished in 1853, it was one of the handsomest
of its time and stimulated the erection of other buildings of its
own type. There was no need for such appeals as were neces-
sary in 1787, when first-pastor Barr stirred the apathetic com-
munity with words of reproach as well as of exhortation. Nor
was there any hint of resorting again to a lottery, despite the
use of which a large debt had accrued at the building of 1806,
to which debt property ultimately of great value was sacrificed.
With united effort the great edifice rose with its impressive
front (a reminiscence of Notre Dame in Paris) and its admi-
rable audience-room. It became a power for good and an effi-
cient aid in the new pastor's work.
4. Not only did the congregations grow, but the membership
grew. There was a constant migration from the surrounding
counties to the city, and these counties (especially Washington)
had been the scenes of great revivals and were sending some
of their best Scotch-Irish character and conviction into the
centre which so sadly needed them. Within the city the fight
for a truly evangelical type of Christian faith and service had
been won by the determined faithfulness of Dr. Herron. The
higher type of Christian character had come to be accepted as
the only one admissible for a member of the church. The resi-
dence sections, especially in Allegheny, were increasingly at-
tractive, and the inaccessible suburbs were not as yet distractive.
Class differences and separations were not much in the way.
Some of all conditions and circumstances found a warm wel-
come from Christians as well as from Christ. There was widely
extended mission-school work, and there were multiplying or-
ganizations for different forms of church activity. There fol-
lowed large development of the church in benevolence and in
the vitality which enabled it to bear (somewhat later in the
century) a heavy draught upon its energies in aiding by mem-
bers and money the planting and nourishing of the suburban
It is much to say that the growth of the church kept pace
for a long time with the growth of the city. The mid-century
assurance of western prosperity was felt in the increasing value
of property and volume of trade and productive activity. This
gave opportunity, and imposed responsibility, and both were
admirably met. It was a friendly atmosphere for all forms of
Presbyterian faith. The elements which combined to consti-
tute the United Presbyterian denomination were helpful in
fixing the general tone of morality. There were no Sunday
newspapers or theatres. Intemperance and the coarser vices
were known, but they did not rule either in political or social
5. The house-to-house ministry of Dr. Paxton was never neg-
lected. He was attentive but not indulgent. Constant and im-
partial and sympathetic in pastoral duty and opportunity, he
was never willing to neglect the study for the street or the
parlor. He was willing to rely much upon certain beloved mem-
bers of the session who gave themselves in special consecration
to this work for a long series of years and with the greatest
acceptance. And this was all the more regarded as satisfac-
tory because he had given so much time and strength to the
theological seminary (after 1860) and because he maintained
such peculiarly close relations with the whole body of elders.
They came to be men after his own heart. As he trusted them
and put them forward in the work, the people trusted and
accepted them as leaders. Much of the church's best record
is due to this wise pastoral habit of the pastor.
Together Dr. Paxton and the session withstood the tendency
to a relaxation of discipline which even then had begun to
manifest itself in our churches. It was a kindly discipline
they exercised, but firm. From 1860 so strong a protest against
worldly amusements was maintained that a pledge to abstain
from them was made a term of communion for all who made
profession of their faith.
Dr. Paxton 's pastoral supervision was extended to the Sun-
day-school work, which was brought, at his suggestion, under
the care of the session. In relation to moral reforms and mat-
ters of civic righteousness, he was as decided in essentials as
he was prudent concerning occasions and methods. When the
hot breath of the war was felt in the air, the duties and anxieties
of that period came alike upon pastor and people. The pulpit
gave no uncertain sound, and its prayers were incessant; while
the whole church was ever ready, with moral influence, with
money, with men at the front, and with faithful women not a
few, in all the varied labors by which they sustained and com-
forted the armies in the field and ministered personally to the
wearied regiments as they passed through the city by thousands.
Pittsburgh was patriotic to the core, and the First Church was
very near that core's centre. In one great mass-meeting in that
church, in behalf of the Sanitary Commission, the sum of nearly
$50,000 was raised.
6. But that which most fully explains Dr. Paxton 's success
(and without which the things already mentioned would have
been vain) was the deeply earnest and evangelical character
of his ministry. Herein he was certainly in the apostolical suc-
cession. Dr. Herron had gone before in a bold pioneer work
some conditions of which are yet astonishing. The substantial
victory had been gained, and it was the joy of his successor
to continue the good fight and guard and cultivate the territory
•won. The last public utterance of the veteran leader was made
as the closing sermon before the old house of worship was for-
saken to prepare for the new. "I wish it to be recorded and
remembered," said he, "that after fifty years of ministry I am
not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. And would to God that it
was 'written as with a pen of iron and with the point of a
diamond' on every heart, both saint and sinner, that this gos-
pel is the only remedy for the ruined creature, man." Just such
a testimony might have been borne when Dr. Paxton left the
pulpit at Pittsburgh. The whole of the shorter period was a
twice-marked subscription to the declaration of the patriarch-
preacher. The spiritual character of the church gained (1811-
1851) was maintained and developed (1851-65).
The fruits of such a ministry were certain. The aim was a
manifestation of the truth to men's consciences. Nothing was
kept back of all the counsel of God. The law-work was ever
carried on as a method of bringing men to Christ. There was
little dependence placed upon the aid of special evangelists (and
through some not wholly favorable experience in that matter
the church had already passed) ; but there was no lack of gen-
uine interest in revivals. The blessing came almost immediately,
indeed, in that form. There was a great work of grace in the
winter of 1851-52. Like that of 1827, which was the crisis
of the third pastorate, this revival was of essential importance
to the whole of the pastorate it introduced. There were many
(effective through the remaining half-century) who could date
the beginning of their spiritual life from that Sunday after-
noon inquiry-meeting out of which most of the seventy-five per-
sons present went savingly impressed. The most signal of the
subsequent revivals was that of 1857. A somewhat detailed
account of the remarkable conference in which it began was
given by Dr. Paxton at the centennial celebration in 1884. The
brethren came together in deep anxiety, not without a feeling
of discouragement. But the word of Dr. Plumer concerning
the risen and glorified Christ, and the awakening letter to the
churches (Dr. Jacobus spent the night in prayer and in its
composition) , gave heart and voice to the prayerful and deeply
moved assembly. There is little doubt that the "Week of
Prayer" was an echo of this conference and revival through
our missionaries in India. Philadelphia was mightily wrought
upon next to Pittsburgh, ' ' and before long the land was ablaze. ' '
Into all such occasions of special interest Dr. Paxton entered
heart and soul. Such ministrations as his kept them from being
tempestuous or merely emotional, and aided powerfully to make
the results deeply spiritual and permanently constructive.
It was only to be expected that the people who had enjoyed
such fellowship in the gospel from the first day until the last
would continue to cling in close friendship to the pastor who
could give the full measure of devotion to a new work without
losing the tenderest interest in the old. Every visit was warmly
welcomed. Every sermon drew again to the old centre many
who had entered other church relations. Dr. Paxton 's advice
was followed, notably in the call of Dr. Purves, whose ministry
was filled with blessing to the church and the community. He
was the son of consolation at more than one funeral service.
II. It is not too much to say (at least it does not seem so to the
present writer) that Dr. Paxton came nearer being a faultless
model in preaching than any man of that time in church or
country. He was at once clear and profound, original but with
no disposition to be startling, scriptural but much more than
a master of the letter. He was not doctrinal formally, but ever
so essentially. Not controversial, he was occasionally convinc-
ingly apologetic. An early sermon on the inspiration of the
Bible was quoted many years after its delivery. He was deeply
spiritual and experimental. He became well known at an early
period and was widely appreciated, even as far westward as
St. Paul, where some summers were passed. He never denied
sin's frightful scars, yet he taught the most hopeful inter-
pretation (for example) in a noble sermon on the innumerable
company of the finally saved.
Never seeking special occasions, he was equal to their de-
mands when they claimed attention. Such were the model
memorial sermons at the death of Dr. Herron, the opening ser-
mon at the 1880 meeting of the Presbyterian Alliance, and the
centennial discourse at Pittsburgh (1884). There was no striv-
ing for effect, and yet the most studious avoidance of everything
which might hinder the effectiveness of the message. There was
impressiveness without assumption of undue solemnity of man-
ner. He had always an attentive people. It became a marked
characteristic of the church even when hearing other ministers.
The first sentences — which were always (according to his own
instruction to students) "a centre shot at a target"— attracted
an attention which was never lost. The subsequent onflow of
interpretation and illustration allowed no flagging of interest.
Its marshaled order was logical, but the logical framework was
hidden in a wealth of true, deep feeling. He had the "eloquence
of order" to an unrivaled degree. For sermons of such con-
tinued elevation of thought, his were the easiest listened to.
The style was not labored. The labor had all been done in the
laboratory of his fixed mind and awakened heart. Both were
held in most direct, intense, continued, and fruitful contact with
the truth, in his matchless method of mental composition, with
never a line of pencil or pen to give the inward vision a hint
of distracting externality. The current, when the pulpit was
reached, ran so smoothly that its vastness and volume were not
at first appreciated. Divisions there were, but they were not
staring, but just such hints as rendered more certain the hearer's
grasp of the succession of thought. Without any unusual mani-
festation of emotion, he excited the deepest (because the most
rational) emotion in his fellow-worshippers. He was ever
practising the presence of God, and no one ever heard a real
"lightness" fall from his lips while in the pulpit. His sermons
w r ere frequently of more than the usual length, but no hearers
ever found them wearisome. There were no faults of undue ex-
pansion at this point or that, but constant progress with never
a sign of haste. Energetic thought, sound exposition, evi-
dent faith and deep feeling, the awe of reverence, the charm
of a visible interest in every auditor, drew men to him always.
There was no needless repetition, yet often a carefully stated
proposition, or series of propositions, of w 7 hich the verbiage (in
the interest of intelligent remembrance and restatement) was
never changed. It was the best conceivable method for win-
ning, holding, and rewarding attention. There was no useless
ornament, yet there was repeated illumination of the theme
by apt illustration. As he taught so he practised the art of
illustration, so that not one of those he used ever gleamed afar
like the stitched-on purple patches of Horace, outshining the
glory of the truth with tinsel. He had never a less noble view
in this matter than that painter's who dashed out the cups
which had attracted the spectator's gaze to the exclusion of
the Saviour's face, on which the artist would have fixed it.
He was most sedulously careful, however, concerning the selec-
tion, the verbal clothing, the introduction, and the application of
every illustration. Just because all were held subordinate to
the truth, they were glorified as ministrants to its clearer com-
prehension and stronger impression.
There was always, in Dr. Paxton's preaching, an extraor-
dinary combination of simplicity and strength, clearness and
depth. And to these characteristics of matter his manner in
the pulpit was exactly adapted. His action was free, but never
violent. The pulpit in the church building of 1852 was con-
structed as he desired, and along its outer line— a distance of
twelve or fifteen feet— he would pass and repass, addressing eye
to eye every part of the great congregation. His enunciation
was distinct, his vocal utterance always audible, without effort
to the hearer and with no perceptible strain upon the speaker.
"What can I more say, unless it be to repeat my conviction that
in that noble audience-room, so capacious and furnished in such
perfect harmony with the grave yet not gloomy spirit of devout
worship ; to that congregation of thoughtful and godly people,
with such evident inspiration from above and such humble and
hearty reliance upon the limitless grace of God, there were fif-
teen years of such preaching and hearing as are but rarely wit-
nessed. Other instrumentalities there were, which proved their
value in many ways, and many favorable circumstances envi-
roned these years ; but the main thing about which other things
crystallized and which went farthest to secure the results of that
church life was the preaching of Dr. Paxton.
III. One cannot give a full account of Dr. Paxton's work
in Pittsburgh and omit mention of his service as professor in
the Western Theological Seminary. He was chosen professor
of homiletics by the General Assembly of 1860, in session at
Rochester, New York. It is probable that the student attendance
upon his ministry had much to do with the request that he would
undertake to teach. That attendance was a source of strength
to the church. Many devoted workers gave their consecration
expression in its various enterprises for the good of the com-
munity. I have always understood that Dr. Paxton's entire
services as professor from 1860 to 1865 and for several years
thereafter, in which he returned from New York to deliver his
lectures to the students gathered for the occasion into one body,
were without expense to the seminary. His system was the
fruit of his experience, and for that reason most valuable. The
course gave evidence from the beginning of wide reading and
accurate analysis of the methods of many of the world's most
useful and famous ministers of the Word. Dr. Paxton was quite
willing to have others know the story of his own induction
into the habit of mental composition (upon a suggestion of a
gentleman at Bedford Springs, afterw r ard President Buchanan)
and of his first week's and first Sabbath's experience under the
new idea. The students were charmed with the teaching, and
I have never heard one who knew the elements of this professor 's
system who did not pronounce it ideal, even though he might
confess in the same breath that its demands of him who would
practise it fully were greater than most men had either grace
or grit to meet. His first effort was to settle it for every stu-
dent that his first duty was to seek the truth. Then he might
expect the truth to hold him as he grasped it. And then must
come close and accurate thinking and thereby true feeling, and
the consequent "eloquence of order," freedom in utterance,
consecutiveness in thought, and directness in communication with
the hearer. The naturalness of the method is the vindication
of its philosophy. The self-command and supreme earnestness
of soul which it required, and the intelligent comprehension
by the minister of what he meant to accomplish, made it, per-
haps, in its entirety accessible to only a few select spirits.
"Topico-textual" sermons, those which found both content and
structure in the selected Scripture, were, I think, his own dis-
covery; that is, he first defined them as a class and showed the
way to their best use. And surely no one who ever heard one
of them could ever forget those Scripture clauses in their illu-
minated relationship. Thus genius did its best work in linking
its finest perceptions to the actual substance of some divine
revelation, and thenceforward the weight of the truth and the
brilliancy of the illumination became inseparable. How intensely
and reverently he loved the ministry of reconciliation need
scarcely be noted. Whoever heard his address on preaching —
the inaugural, I think, at Princeton and largely repeated soon
after to the students at the University of Wooster, Ohio — could
not but feel that such an attitude toward the sacred office and
such large conception of its privilege and opportunity must
have gone far (even without such marked gifts and graces) to
have constituted Dr. Paxton a model professor.
IV. If we turn to Dr. Paxton 's Pittsburgh ministry among
his fellow-ministers, we find the same faithfulness and compe-
tence. The First Church was kept fully aware of the denomina-
tional work and of its place of responsibility therein. It would
have been almost inconceivable neglect for the pastor of that
church to have been forgetful of foreign missions, when the
work originated there in its first organized form for the Pres-
byterian Church as a whole; or of home missions, when the
spot was consecrated by the great meeting of the Synod of 1828 ;
or of the theological seminary, the very location of which at
Allegheny was secured by the influence of its venerable third
pastor. Helpfulness toward the surrounding churches was never
withheld. Dr. Paxton never claimed leadership because of his
position, but never denied responsibility because of varied labors.
His relations with fellow-servants in the ministry t (even outside
of denominational lines) were of the kindliest sort. He was
always appreciative and therefore appreciated; and especially
was this true of the younger ministers.
V. Dr. Paxton was a manly man. He was graceful and at-
tractive in person and carriage. During the Pittsburgh years
he was not always in robust health, but with care and prudence
his work was continuous. He was dignified without hauteur, and
was accessible without ever being effusive or ( (by any possibility)
intrusive. His poise was so remarkable that he was never known
to be taken unawares, to be hurried or flustered. With more
intimate acquaintances he was most companionable and kindly,
though even then (so far as the present writer knows) he never
descended into gossip. He was invariably considerate of those
whose conduct or opinions he could not approve. His loyalty
to friends who came under adverse criticism was self-forgetful
and brave; and he grappled them to him with hooks of steel.
He loved spiritual conversation. His character as a Christian
appeared everywhere (apart from all professional necessities)
most amiable and sincere. He thought of nothing as equal in
its interest to the life of God in the soul of man. Few men
with all his environment would have continued so unpreten-
tious and unassuming. In conversation he was gifted, having
the rare ability to be a contented listener as well as a facile
raconteur. He had enjoyed from early life the acquaintance
of the noblest and best society our country could afford; he
never forgot anything; he had an excellent sense of kindly
humor ; he possessed a rich store of anecdote and incident ; yet
he was never found monopolizing conversation or seeking for
himself the applause of a company. Never claiming the training
of a specialist, so broad were his views and so generous his esti-
mate of fellow-workers that finer appreciation of honest merit
or profound scholarship or high character could nowhere be
I have sometimes thought that I never could say, "I have seen
an end of perfection," while Dr. Paxton lived. Perhaps there
may be others, but in the shadow of this bereavement of the
church he loved I may be allowed some uncertainty.
From the Rev. Dr. Oscar A. Hills, Wooster, Ohio
DR. PAXTON 'S FIRST YEAR AT ALLEGHENY SEMINARY
On Wednesday morning, October 17, 1860, the seniors and mod-
ellers of the Western Theological Seminary gathered with high
expectations in the old Seminary Hall. The room where they
were assembled, then known as "Dr. Plumer's recitation-room,"
was on the second floor, immediately over the chapel, and of the
same size ; two rooms having been thrown into one for occasions
when a professor could conveniently lecture to two classes at
the same time, as was the case at this hour. There were about
one hundred men in the two classes, and every man of them
seemed to be present with pencil and note-book in hand. Some
unusual event was evidently impending.
It was the opening lecture of the new professor of sacred
rhetoric, already known as the Rev. Dr. William M. Paxton. The
middlers, of whom I was one, had often heard him preach during
the preceding session. We greatly admired the way he did it.
Now, in the closer fellowship of the class-room, we were to learn
from him how to do it, too. Inasmuch as he was preeminent as
a pulpit orator, and the popular pastor of one of the largest
churches in the city of Pittsburgh, it is not to be wondered
at that great expectations were cherished in the minds of those
one hundred and seven theologues (for so many were enrolled
in the catalogue of that session) gathered to participate in the
opening of a new department of seminary instruction, so in-
teresting, practical, and immediately useful as the composition
and delivery of sermons.
We had thought ourselves especially happy in being permitted
to sit under the preaching, and study the methods, of seven men
like Paxton, Howard, Kendall, Jacobus, Wilson, Plumer, and
Swift the elder, — every one as different from every other one as
day from night, but every one of them a prince unrivaled in his
own style and manner. But now we were to have another one of
the immortal seven (we had three of them already) as our teacher,
and he probably best fitted of them all to tell us the secret of pul-
pit power, so far as it lay in the preacher and his furniture and
methods. Forty years ago the literature of homiletics accessible
to impecunious students was not very extensive. Indeed, about
all we had to depend on was the suggestive, yet in many ways un-
satisfactory, Vinet. It was a great addition to our comfort that
now we were to have the opportunity of hearing everything
available in the department recompounded in the alembic of a
master in the science and art of sacred eloquence.
At the time of which I speak, Dr. Paxton was in the fulness
of a vigorous manhood. Only four months before he had en-
tered his thirty-seventh year. As he came into the class-room
that morning, he was a noble specimen of Christian manhood—
a handsome, courtly, and distinguished minister of Jesus Christ.
Responding to the cordial greeting of his younger brethren, he
led us in reverent prayer to the feet of the Master; and then,
casting a kindly glance from those luminous eyes over the room,
he at once began his work with a lecture upon "The History
of Preaching." The broad foundation he proposed to lay, and
the wide sweep of his forecast of the new department, soon
became evident to us in that he spent the first five lectures of his
course on this history, and even then had had no occasion to
travel outside the Scripture record for illustrations of the great
preachers of the Church of God. Enoch, Noah, Moses, Aaron,
Joshua, Samuel, and Ezra of the Old Testament, and, with
John the Baptist between the gates, Jesus Christ and his apos-
tles Paul, Peter, John, and James of the New Testament, were
made to stand out before us clothed with majestic power as
teachers of divine truth. His lecture on the preaching of Jesus
was wonderfully discriminating, eloquent, and elevating.
Leaving the history of preaching during the Christian cen-
turies for future development, he began in January, 1861, his
course of lectures on Sacred Rhetoric, narrowing the theme at
once to the single thought of "the construction of a sermon."
When I say he carried us on in this work, with great exactness
of method, amplitude of analysis, and wealth of illustration
from his own sermons, and especially those of the masters of
homiletical composition, through seven great stages,— viz..
Choosing a Text, Invention and Gathering of Matter, Drawing
the Theme, Division of Material, Introductions, The Treatment
of Divisions, and Perorations, — it will surprise no one to learn
that he did not finish the course till the 24th of February, 1862.
To some of his pupils, indeed, it sometimes seemed as if his
lectures were marked by an excess of analysis, and methods far
too mechanical. But then he was dealing with the anatomy of
a sermon, and in setting up a skeleton it is rather important that
all the bones should be there, and that every bone should be in
its place. He wisely left to us the work of putting flesh on the
Dr. Paxton's preaching in those days partook somewhat of
the character of his lectures in homiletics— to the extent, at
least, of careful analysis, logical arrangement, and amplitude
of illustration. This, indeed, seemed to be rendered necessary
by his method of preparing a sermon. He has told me he would
spend the week gathering and formulating his material, and then
spend the night, to the "wee sma' hours" of the Sabbath, walk-
ing the floor and laboriously composing his sermons, sentence
by sentence, while yet he did not pen a word.
Some of us, I think, at first thought his sermons, while they
were polished ad ungiiem and clear as a sunbeam, were wanting
in warmth, and that as a preacher he was cold and distant,
sacrificing a certain degree of fervency and unction of spirit
to exactness of chaste and methodical expression. This impres-
sion was very soon dissipated in the familiar intercourse of the
class-room, where we had abundant opportunity to mark his
sympathetic spirit and solicitude for our success, and his readi-
ness to help us in our blundering efforts to get a start in the
great and blessed work of preaching the gospel. I have been
told by those who attended the First Church prayer-meetings of
those days that all impressions of hauteur and coldness would
be speedily melted in the warmth of the extemporaneous outpour-
ings of his tender spiritual nature.
In a review of my seminary course, after nearly half a century,
I have no hesitation in saying that the two things that did me
more good than all others combined were Dr. Plumer 's lectures on
Experimental Religion and Dr. Paxton's on Homiletics. One sec-
tion in his lecture on Expository Preaching, explaining and
enforcing the treatment of paragraphs, or somewhat extended
passages of Scripture, as the ordinary sermon treats a single
verse, has been of incalculable service to me. He well says what
I have found to be true: "This is the highest kind of pulpit
address. Few can do it well. The difficulty lies in the want
of analytical culture and deep and extensive acquaintance with
Scripture. ' '
From the Rev. Dr. W. W. McKinney, Philadelphia
REMINISCENT NOTES ABOUT DR. PAXTON AT PITTSBURGH
Dr. William M. Paxton came to the First Presbyterian Church
of Pittsburgh in 1851. He was young, tall, commanding. He
soon made himself a name and a place as an orator, sermonizer,
and worker, and grew steadily in power and influence. His dis-
courses upon the life and services of Dr. Herron were published,
and are a fine production, and an eloquent tribute to a noble,
forceful character and a useful and memorable career. Dr. Pax-
ton was noted for his special efforts. He did not neglect or slight
his ordinary pulpit preparations, but utilized Thanksgiving and
other days of public or local interest to discuss themes which
aroused his powers to their utmost and redounded greatly to his
reputation and influence. During the Civil War his patriotic
heart was deeply stirred, and on several occasions he spoke with
a vividness, fire, zeal, vigor, and appositeness that told for his
country and the cause then at stake.
Dr. Paxton was more the preacher than the pastor. His peo-
ple recognized his superior qualities in the pulpit and gave him
the fullest liberty and time for their exercise. He had a re-
markable session, two members of whom, being wealthy and hav-
ing largely retired from business, devoted themselves to reliev-
ing him as much as possible from pastoral visitation and care.
They were men of much spirituality, consecration, and accep-
tability, and found delight in their work, and had the fullest
and freest access to the homes of the people. They were a bless-
ing to the families visited, kept the pastor posted as to their
needs and conditions, and offered him happy suggestions and
valuable aid as circumstances required. They were a power in
the session as well as among the people. Dr. Paxton leaned on
them. They were proud of him, and he of them, and through
their combined efforts the church grew in numbers, piety, and
Dr. Paxton proved a wise, faithful, and influential factor in
the Pittsburgh Presbytery and Synod. He was prominent in
counsel. He took special interest in the younger members and
gave them the benefit of his counsel and the inspiration of his
example. He paid more than ordinary attention to the candi-
dates for the ministry, especially to their examinations and ser-
mons before presbytery. He was ready with kindly criticism,
which was always of a practical and suggestive character. He
was generally more disposed to encourage and approve than to
dishearten and disapprove. His aim seemed to be to stimulate
and to direct in the way of improvement.
Homiletics was the doctor's forte. He treated it as a science.
He studied its principles. He sought to put them into practice.
Early in his ministry he displayed his knowledge, aptitude, and
proficiency in this line of study. He had been preaching only
about ten years when the friends of the Western Theological
Seminary recognized his attainments, natural and acquired, in
this respect, and called him into service as homiletical lecturer
in this institution. During my day (1858-61) no professor's
room was more sought after or more interesting and helpful.
Both the character of the lectures and the manner of their deliv-
ery proved attractive. It was in the days of Professors Elliott,
Plumer, Jacobus, and Wilson, when the institution was enjoying
an era of unusual prosperity, and when it had the largest classes
in its history, and the addition of Dr. Paxton to the faculty was
counted as of especial value and interest. The note-book was in
much demand. The students were full of enthusiasm, and eager
to listen and improve. Dr. Paxton retained his popularity as
homiletical instructor until some years after his removal to the
First Presbyterian Church of New York City. Much regret was
felt upon his departure by those who had learned to appreciate his
worth as a teacher, as well as by the people of his charge, who loved
him greatly and honored him highly as pastor and preacher.
Dr. Paxton during his pastorate at Pittsburgh was faithful
and fearless. I have heard him preach some of the most pointed,
direct, and practical sermons to his wealthy and intellectual con-
gregation I ever heard in my life. He spoke to saint and sin-
ner with the utmost freedom, fidelity, and plainness. He sought
to edify and save. He preached doctrinally as well as prac-
tically. As an instance of his power to bring home truth so as
to produce immediate effects, I remember attending his church
one Sabbath evening with a companion who \v;is not a profess-
ing Christian. His audience was large and attentive. He was
at his best. He took as his theme "Every Christian a Mission-
ary, ' ' drawn from the text James 5 : 20, " Let him know, that he
which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save
a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." He
developed and applied the truth with such force, pungency, and
directness, and brought home the duty of speaking to sinners and
working for their salvation in such a way, that I could not
leave my young friend that night without urging him to be a
Dr. Paxton in those days preached with the fire and unction
of the great revival of 1857-58, and his large mid-week atten-
dance attested the spiritual fervor he awakened, as did the
frequent and numerous accessions to his church.
Dr. Paxton served the First Church of Pittsburgh at a period
when that city and Allegheny had their pulpits manned by some
of the greatest lights of western Pennsylvania and of the Pres-
byterian Church; but he stood foremost among them all. Dr.
Jacobus was preaching in the Central Church, Dr. Howard in
the Second, Dr. David Riddle in the Third, and Dr. Fulton in
the Fourth. Across the Allegheny were Dr. Plumer in the Cen-
tral, and Dr. Swift in the First Church. The United Presby-
terian pulpit had such men as Dr. Black and the Presleys. But
none of them had larger congregations or more winning power
as a preacher of the gospel than Dr. Paxton.
From the Rev. Dr. W. B. Noble, Los Angeles, California
DR. PAXTON AT PITTSBURGH AND ALLEGHENY
During most of my student life at the Western Theological Sem-
inary Dr. Paxton was pastor of the First Church of Pittsburgh,
and professor of homiletics in the seminary. His removal to
New York deprived my class of a portion of his lectures, greatly
to our regret.
He was then at the zenith of his manhood and power; the
First Church was filled on Sabbaths to its utmost capacity, his
fame was widespread, and his services were sought for special
occasions where the highest oratorical ability was required. But
among his numerous and varied labors there was none which
seemed more congenial and delightful to him than the training
of his students in the principles and practice of the great art
of which he was so eminent a master. Preaching was, in his
estimation, the one thing which above all others was worth
doing. And he spared no pains that we might be fitted to do it,
and do it well. Many of the Allegheny students of his day have
in later years confessed their indebtedness to him for their
success in the pulpit. And personally I may truthfully say that
I owe more to his lectures and example than to all the books
on homiletics I have read during the years of my ministry,
though I have always followed Dr. Dale's advice and read all
the books on the subject I could buy or borrow.
The great variety of his modes of treating texts of Scripture,
and his wonderful skill in their analysis, are remembered by all
his students. He sought to make us adepts in "rightly divid-
ing the word of truth." He charged us "never to break the
bones of a text," but to search for its joints. And these he
himself could find with the deftness and precision of an expert
carver. Yet his analysis of texts was not a mere sleight-of-hand
performance designed to excite wonder, but seemed to be guided
by an unerring homiletic instinct, or a genius for bringing
to light the hidden and unexpected riches of the text. And his
own sermons, while containing flights of eloquence which were
lofty and sustained, were characterized by a simplicity of lan-
guage and a logical order of treatment that fastened them in
the memory of the hearer. It was always easy to give a satisfac-
tory account to another of a sermon one had heard Dr. Paxton
preach. And it was just as hard, when one tried to preach
upon a text of his, to forget his analysis of it and strike out
upon an original line. His treatment of the text seemed to be
the only right and possible one.
An incident in my own experience will illustrate this. Dr.
Paxton encouraged us to come to him for suggestions on the texts
assigned to us for trial sermons by our presbyteries in case we
had any perplexity about their proper treatment. My presby-
tery had given me as a text Mark 3:35, "For whosoever shall
do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and
mother." I tried hard, but could not find the "joints." So
I went to Dr. Paxton 's study one evening, and submitted the
text to him. He opened his study Bible at the place, and said,
"I have nothing on that text." He rose and paced the floor for
two or three minutes, and then standing before me said: "The
theme of this text is Spiritual Relationship to Christ. I. Its
Superiority to Earthly Relationship ('brother, sister, mother').
It is (1) more intimate, (2) more blessed, (3) more enduring.
II. Its Condition, Obedience ('doing the will of God'). This
obedience should be (1) entire, (2) cordial, (3) persevering."
I went out of the study wondering why / could not have thought
of that, it seemed so natural and easy; but querying whether
I had a right to use it, full of rich sermonic material as it was.
And yet how could one forget it and follow a different line?
And what other line was there to follow?
Dr. Paxton usually composed his sermons and committed
them to memory without writing them. If they were written
at all it was after their delivery. In this method of preparation
he has few followers, I think, among his students. His bearing
in the pulpit was dignified, his action graceful, his voice sym-
pathetic, his articulation distinct. Physically, intellectually, and
spiritually, he was a great preacher and a noble man.
From the Rev. Dr. Thomas A. McCurdy,
DR. PAXTON AT ALLEGHENY
I cherish the memory of the late Rev. "William M. Paxton,
D.D., LL.D., as one of the choicest treasures of my life. I have
always considered myself fortunate in having been one of his
students when he was in the chair of homiletics in the Western
Theological Seminary, and one of his frequent auditors when he
was in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Pitts-
burgh, Pennsylvania. He was then in his prime— a tower of
strength, and a bulwark of the faith. He was a model as an
orator, a preacher, a teacher, and a friend. To listen to him
was a delight; and to know him was to admire and to love him.
Being of fine presence, of genial courtliness of manner, and of
gracefulness of speech and action, he attracted and held the at-
tention of his hearers from start to finish of sermon in the
pulpit, and of lecture in the class-room. His sermons and lec-
tures had the symmetry of balanced productions well wrought
out in clearness of analysis and expression, gracefully delivered
from a warm and sincere heart.
He was so unique in the charm of gracefulness that some sup-
posed him to be mechanical, cold, and difficult of approach ; but
they soon found him to be of large and warm heart, and the most
accessible of men. He had, in an unusual degree, three qualities
which, most of all, left their indelible impress upon his students:
the radiant clearness of his sermons and lectures ; the compre-
hensive and exhaustive analysis of his subjects; and the magni-
fieent eloquence of his language and action in argument and in
appeal when preaching and lecturing. I still hear his splendid
voice ringing to the full extent of its register when unfolding
the doctrines of the cross, the triumphs of faith, the certainty
of the glory beyond; and in his appeals to the sinner to believe
;md be saved. And I still hear his sweet persuasiveness in his
efforts to have his students realize the solemnity and the re-
sponsibility of "rightly dividing the word."
In the class-room he was the Christian gentleman finely pol-
ished. He was kind, tender, sympathetic and laborious in ef-
forts to have his students learn how to grasp their prayerfully
chosen texts; and "then to toss them as balls before their minds;
and then to grasp them with an unfaltering faith in God; and
then to hold on to them until, with the help of the good Spirit,
they were clad in plain and simple language for their hearers."
"My dear young brethren," he said, "go to the heart of your
texts as quickly as possible. Never build a huge portico at the
threshold of your sermon. Let your introduction be brief; let
your sermon be the target, and your introduction be the rifle-ball
which hits it in the centre. ' '
He was so clear in his analysis and treatment of a subject,
and so sweet and charming in his diction, that it was possible
to reproduce, substantially, from memory his entire sermon and
lecture. On one occasion he was asked in the class-room, "Pro-
fessor, what shall I do with the texts I hear you preach from?
I must discard them altogether, or use what I remember of your
divisions and treatment of them. ' ' His answer was characteristic
of his sympathetic helpfulness: "My dear young brethren,
should you so remember any sermon I preach, I shall be very
glad. Take all you may remember and use it prayerfully : it is
yours for the Master ; and if I can in any sense perpetuate the
truth through you, let God have the praise. ' '
His reverence for the memory of the sainted Rev. Archibald
Alexander, D.D., was beautiful and intense. On one occasion
I entered the study of that prince of theologians, the Rev. A. A.
Hodge, D.D., LL.D., and found Dr. Paxtou present. The friend-
ship of Drs. Paxton and Hodge was ardent and of long standing.
These giants were in easy ami graphic colloquy. It was full of
wit and repartee. I felt that I was with boys, and was wel-
comed as a boy is welcomed by boys. Dr. Hodge, addressing
me, said: "What do you think that Dr. Paxton was telling me?
He told me that prophecy ceased with John the Baptist; and I
have known that for a long while." "Yes," replied Dr. Paxton,
"but you did not know that inspiration ceased with Dr. Alex-
ander. He was the greatest man with whom God ever adorned
the Church. " " Very true : I was called for him, ' ' said Dr.
Hodge. "Yes, but if you ever reach his acme, you will find
that you have no time to lose, ' ' was Dr. Paxton 's reply ; and we
all indulged in a hearty laugh.
Soon afterwards I was greatly perplexed. My presbytery had
assigned me a passage of Scripture for a "popular lecture"
as a part of trial for licensure ; and I could make nothing of it.
I had searched every commentary in the library and returned
to my room disgusted by the absence of any exposition of it by
these masters of the Word. This and that professor had referred
me to correlative passages, but I found these as dark and ab-
struse as was the passage assigned me. I spoke to Dr. Paxton.
' ' Come and take tea with me this evening, and we will talk about
the passage." Turning to the passage, he exclaimed: "Well,
I am surprised that this passage should be assigned to any one
for a 'popular lecture.' I have studied it for more than two
years and have examined every available expositor, and have
never found even a satisfactory suggestion. The best that I can
make out of it is, The Future Glory of the Redeemer's Kingdom
stated in antithetical clauses; but that is not clear. If you
should take that view of it, I don't think that your presbytery
will object." My presbytery did not object.
It was a sad hour to the students and friends of the seminary
and to the noble people of the First Church when he felt con-
strained to surrender his professorship and pulpit. His hold
on the hearts of all was strong; and in their esteem he stood
like a tower great and symmetrical from base to apex. His name
and fame as a man of God and as an orator and preacher were
in Pittsburgh and in all the region round about. In the home
and foreign fields, and wherever there is a minister who was
his pupil, there is in his heart a monument sacred to the memory
of the late William M. Paxton. Every one of his surviving stu-
dents knows that he was a lifter of gloom and a dispeller of
doubt and sadness. Love beamed in his eye, generosity leaped
from his hand, and sympathetic fire blazed in his heart. Noble
man of God! He lived not unto himself, but unto Him who
died for him and rose again.
"My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horse-
From the Rev. Dr. John W. Dinsmore, San Jose, California
DR. PAXTON AT PITTSBURGH AND ALLEGHENY
... I entered the seminary at Allegheny in the fall of 1859,
and there continued till the spring of 1862. On entering the
seminary, I immediately began attending services in the First
Church of Pittsburgh, of which Dr. Paxton was pastor. During
my course in Allegheny I attended there regularly on Sabbath
morning, and very often in the evening, but as the distance from
my rooms was long, I did not attend constantly in the evening.
I think it was at the beginning of my second year that he began
giving lectures in the seminary on Homiletics, or, as it was called,
Sacred Rhetoric. It was understood that his service was rendered
During the time I am speaking of, he was thirty-five to thirty-
eight years of age, in the exuberant strength of his young and
splendid manhood ; and while as yet, no doubt, he had not reached
the full maturity of his powers, he was at that age when, in the
estimation of young men and in his ability to command their in-
terest and admiration, he was in his very prime. In common
with most of my fellow-students, I soon came to hold him in
very high respect; and not only so, but to cherish for him a
sincere affection. This respect and affection continued while
he lived, and the feeling is still cherished for his memory now
that he is gone. As a preacher (I speak of him as he was in those
days) he was closely textual, and usually very analytical and elab-
orate in his treatment of his theme, perhaps rather too much so
for popular effect. He always gave himself plenty of time, and, as
a rule, took the full hour. He set his sermon squarely on his text
as a tree stands on its tap-root ; sent out smaller roots all through
the context ; the trunk was short and stocky ; then he threw out
the great branches, following each to its smaller limbs and even
twigs, until his sermon stood complete, symmetrical and stately,
like one of the great live-oaks of California. His sermons were
exceedingly full of instruction in rich and precious biblical truth,
but perhaps not so kindling and moving as they would have been
if framed more on the synthetic method, and so made to focalize
in a point, and thus bore and burn into the mind of the hearer.
His literary style was clear, methodical, and elevated, but want-
ing somewhat in the warmth and glow which come of a lively
imagination and strong emotionalism. His appearance, address,
and action in the pulpit were those of an Apollo. A more grace-
ful man I have never seen in pulpit or on platform. Tall, slen-
der, erect, faultlessly attired, every motion was easy, natural,
dignified, and all in perfect taste. He wore no gown in the pulpit
in those days, but always the conventional dress-coat, which
would look very odd in our time, but which was the custom then.
He was not a preacher after whom the town would run, but he
had a strong hold on the admiration and affectionate interest of
the large, strong, solid, and rather old-fashioned congregation
His lectures in the seminary were very popular with the stu-
dents and were largely attended. They were the only lectures
given in the seminary in my time of which I took full notes.
The notes of his lectures I still have packed away somewhere.
These lectures were written out in full and read from the desk.
In the pulpit, however, I cannot recall ever having seen him use
a scrap of paper. Whatever may have been his method later,
his way of preparing his sermons then, as he told me himself,
was to write absolutely nothing, but simply, walking up and
down in his study, to elaborate his sermon and articulate it down
to the smallest particular, and thus write it on his mind. He
once told me that when he was a young licentiate he preached
in a church where Hon. James Buchanan, afterwards President
of the United States, w;is among his hearers. Mr. Buchanan was
an old friend of young Paxton 's family, and so much interested
in him. After the service, Mr. Buchanan took him aside, and
said to him : ' ' William, as one who has had much experience in
public speaking, and who has heard a great deal of the best of
it, and as your friend, I wish to give you a little advice. Now,
that sermon you gave us to-day was written out in full and com-
mitted to memory, was n 't it ? I knew it because I could see that
you were looking into the back of your head for your sermon,
instead of putting yourself out upon your congregation. Now
that is mere drudgery and will weaken you. Either write out
in full and read your manuscript freely, or study your sub-
ject thoroughly and then speak directly to the people out of a
full mind and mastery of your subject." Dr. Paxton said he
determined to act on this advice, and had so acted ever since.
But the question might be raised whether there is much dif-
ference between writing out on paper and committing to memory,
and writing out to the last word on the mind, and then repro-
ducing it from that tablet.
Dr. Paxton took great interest in his pupils, at least in such
as he came to know at all well. I remember that, on my leaving
the seminary, without the least suggestion from me, he handed
me a strong letter of commendation, a much stronger one than
I deserved; and that later he took much interest in my getting
on. Two or three years after my graduation, his health be-
came somewhat impaired, and he was from home a good deal.
He made several trips to Minnesota, and there spent considerable
time. He became deeply interested in the opening missionary
work in the Northwest, and especially in such of his "own boys"
as were missionaries in that region. Once he came to the town of
Portage, Wisconsin, where a friend and classmate of mine was
at work, picked him up, and in an open wagon, on a hot summer
day, rode twenty-eight miles over bad roads to visit me for two
or three days in the little village where I was then at work.
That visit cost him no little weariness, but it did me no little good.
No wonder we loved him. In truth, he was a very high-minded
and noble-hearted man ; a princely man ; a man to believe in
and rely upon ; one whom it was a pleasure to serve as a senior,
and an honor to have as a friend. I am glad to have the op-
portunity of laying this little tribute on his honored grave.
From the Rev. Dr. Robert R. Booth, New York
DR. PAXTON IN NEW YORK
I think it was about the year 1866 that Dr. Paxton came to
New York and settled in the First Presbyterian Church. I was
then in the Mercer Street Church, near at hand ; but there was
very little fellowship in those days between the ministers of the
two branches— indeed, we scarcely ever met, and for a time it
seemed as if Dr. Paxton was rather indisposed to have fellow-
ship with those of the other branch. He came at a time when
such men as Dr. Spring, Dr. Krebs, and Dr. Potts had passed
away, and entered the front rank by reason of his splendid
talents and his prominent pastoral position. He was somewhat
strongly opposed to the reunion of 1870, but accepted it grace-
fully when the Church had so determined. His attitude, from
that time on, was one of the most loyal and affectionate adherence
to the interests of the united Church, especially as represented
in the Presbytery of New York. His influence was commanding,
and the confidence and affection of his brethren toward him
The benevolence of his church was a marked feature of his
ministry. Year by year, at that period, streams of benevolence
were poured forth in every direction. The Presbyterian Hospi-
tal was originated in connection with the benevolences of Mr.
Lenox, largely under Dr. Paxton 's supervision. The work of
the Church Extension Committee was also very prominent in
this regard, and much was done by him and his people to es-
tablish new enterprises or to relieve the old churches of
He speedily became a member of the Chi Alpha Society and
entered with great regularity of attendance upon its weekly re-
unions. He was also an acting professor in Union Theological
Seminary. His labors during this period of his New York min-
istry were immense, and yet they were transacted with a calm-
ness and equipoise which never failed to impress one with the
sense of a reserve power. The affectionateness of his dispo-
sition in his churchly relation endeared him to all. and where
in the old times of separation there had been alienation or strife,
his influence was at once graciously felt, and inspired full con-
fidence between brethren who had been united in the reunion
of 1870. After departing from New York for his Princeton field,
he continued to retain his relations to the Presbytery of New
York, and his position as a member of the Board of Foreign
Missions. It is altogether fitting to say that his whole life, as
it comes now under review, has been stainless in its integrity,
most gracious in its benevolence, and powerful for good in every
relation of life into which he entered.
Let me add an allusion to the singular harmony which charac-
terized Dr. Paxton's relations to the ministry of the late New
School, as soon as the union had been accomplished. With such
men as Dr. Adams, Dr. Crosby, Dr. Robinson, and myself, he
became extremely intimate, and was happy to engage in the
interchange of ministerial services.
Another thing I would mention is the doctrinal harmony which
existed at that time in the Presbytery of New York among the
ministers with whom he was associated. We were all loyally
true to the Confession of Faith, and felt no difficulty in working
under that honored symbol. There was no doctrinal friction
in our intercourse, and during his twenty years of life in New
York absolute harmony of feeling and effectiveness of action
reigned in the presbytery. It was a great loss to us when his
departure to Princeton removed his influence from us.
From the Rev. Dr. F. F. Ellinwood, New York
DR. PAXTON AND THE BOARD OF FOREIGN MISSIONS
. . . The first time I ever saw Dr. Paxton was at the Old School
General Assembly which was held in Rochester in 1860. Dur-
ing the sessions of that Assembly, he preached in my pulpit
(the Central Presbyterian) a sermon not easy to be forgotten.
He took for his text the words, "Being confident of this very
thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform
it until the day of Jesus Christ."
He must have been about thirty-six years of age, and was un-
derstood at that time to be the leading Presbyterian preacher in
Pittsburgh. He was a young man of remarkably fine appearance,
straight and manly in stature, courtly and yet easy in manner ;
and as he stood upon the platform, without a note before him,
and delivered his discourse to a large audience which filled
every part of the church, aisles included, he made an impression
which was most deeply felt by every hearer. His elegance of
diction, beauty and aptness of illustration, were quite in keep-
ing with his attractive personality. From the standpoint of a
young preacher, I was specially interested in the discourse as a
model of sermonizing and delivery, and was not surprised to
learn later that he occupied the chair of homiletics in the sem-
inary at Allegheny.
I think his attendance at the Assembly at Rochester made a
deep impression upon that body and upon the whole Church.
Not more than two or three years ago he informed me that in-
fluences springing from that Assembly led to very important
changes in the direction of his life.
I saw little if anything of Dr. Paxton from that time till
we met in the sessions of the Foreign Board, he as a member and
I as a secretary. It was understood that he sympathized with
those who were not without serious apprehension at the reunion
of the Church, and that in any questions which might arise he
might be expected to stand on the conservative side; but his
conservatism was always based chiefly, if not wholly, upon doc-
trinal grounds. To the very last he stood firmly for orthodoxy,
while, on the other hand, on all questions which involved ways
and means and the aggressive development of missionary policy,
he was on the side of progress. His face was always turned
forward and not backward. His opinions in the discussions of
the Board were always stated with great clearness and frankness,
and carried unusual weight. He was honored, revered, and be-
loved by his fellow-members and by the executive officers.
If a heavy debt was to be raised, whether for the current work
or for clearing the Mission House of heavy liabilities, Dr. Pax-
ton was among the first and the largest subscribers ; and many
are the instances in which he showed deep sympathy for mis-
sionaries who were suffering peculiar hardships or infirmity.
Though strong and even stern in his principles, he was pecu-
A few years ago he occupied a camp or cottage near my own
in the Adirondacks, where I had opportunity to see something
of his family life. There and in his home in Princeton, I al-
ways received the impression of a model husband and father,
as well as a most hospitable and genial host.
His fidelity and deep sense of duty were shown especially in
the last five years of his life, when, with increasing bodily in-
firmity, he maintained an exemplary regularity in his attendance
upon the meetings of the Board, coming even in inclement
weather, wrapped in his ulster, and careful to conserve his
strength by taking a short nap on my lounge before the meet-
ing, in order that he might stand in his lot and discharge his
duties to the great Head of the Church. When at the last few
meetings we marked his absence, we were confident that the end
was probably near. When his eightieth birthday came, the
Board were anxious to greet him with an informal celebration
of the event; but he felt it his duty to decline the honor, evi-
dently fearing that the journey and the occasion would be too
much for his strength. I may properly say that he was not
only honored but deeply beloved by every member of the Board,
and that his loss will continue to be greatly felt.
From the Rev. Dr. Chauncey T. Edwards, Portville, New York
DR. PAXTON AT PRINCETON
The first sermon I remember hearing from Dr. Paxton was in
the old First Church of Pittsburgh. He was visiting his old
parish, the audience was large and the service more than usu-
ally impressive, and the sermon was fully equal to the occa-
sion. He spoke from the words ''Christ died for us," discuss-
ing, not the doctrine, but three practical inferences from it;
he spoke without notes, went right at his audience, and held
them to the end of the sermon. He had passages of simple,
unforced pathos, enthusiastic rhetoric, homely commonplace, and
kindly monitory appeal. It was good to hear, and even more
to remember pleasantly and helpfully.
The plain and attractive practicality of that sermon seemed
to me characteristic of his teaching in Princeton. He was just
beginning his professorship when I entered the seminary. I
do not know how later years may have changed him (though
I never saw any change in his manner or spirit when I met
him), but at that time he was fresh from his two long pastor-
ates, and he was eminently a pastor in the pastoral chair. The
teaching was concrete, and was apt to be illustrated by stories
of Christian experience and personal work. He taught not so
much the philosophy but the art; without claptrap or gush,
but with devotional spirituality, on a high level and with just
balance. He did not make, for instance, a hobby of eschatology,
missions, science, temperance, or revivals, but I can recall that
he worked them all in. He showed a wide and tender acquain-
tance with human need and the Christian remedy, and uncon-
sciously gave the impression that so rich a heart would leave the
world better for having lived.
This made his teaching of ecclesiastical law especially pleas-
ant. He was a stout Presbyterian, and bated no jot of constitu-
tion or deliverance, but he was not dry nor deadly technical.
He evidently knew the law and had seen its practical workings,
but he never forgot that the great thing was the life and prog-
ress of the Church, and that ecclesiasticism was not an end in
But above all to our comfort and help was his exaltation of
preaching. He was a scholar in sermon literature, and illustra-
ted abundantly from the masters of the pulpit. His criticism
of the student's analysis, emphasis, and illustration was sym-
pathetic. I remember especially his story of how Mr. Buchanan
once gave him his idea, as a stump-speaker, of the way to make
a sermon — one of the best things I ever heard of Mr. Buchanan.
It was in a long walk at Bedford, after a sermon by Dr. Paxton,
who was then a young man in his first pastorate. "First," said
Mr. Buchanan, "must be steady concentration on the central
idea of the text, the absorbing of its aim and spirit; then the
correlating and viewing it on all sides ; then rolling it over,
bandying it about, tossing it up, throwing it this way and that ;
and finally aiming it at the people for whom it was prepared ;
till the preacher was full of the sense of a message to deliver,
and the method of delivery became of secondary importance.''
It was a long story, humorous and vigorously told, and inspiring
in a class-room. I do not know how Dr. Paxton felt about the
recent methods of multiplying organizations and new schemes,—
though I do not doubt that he recognized the good in many of
them,— but I am sure he must to the end have agreed with
Dr. Patton (in his lecture on the Sermon) that "the best method
of sustaining an interest from year to year is that of the
careful preparation of sermons," and that "the production of
sermons should be the great effort of the minister."
Professor Austin Phelps's writing seems to me to show much
of the spirit and elevation of Dr. Paxton 's work. I believe he
aimed to make the homiletical class-room the "assembling-room/'
gathering together the work of all the class-rooms; the fusing
of the rays of scholarship and workaday life into the white light
of the ministry. That was a fine aim, and he illustrated what he
taught. I give thanks upon every remembrance of him.
From the Rev. Professor Benjamin L. Hobson, D.D., Chicago
DR. PAXTON AT PRINCETON
Dr. Paxton came to Princeton as a professor at the beginning
of my middle year. Dr. McGill was still living, but had given
up entirely the conduct of the chair, so that Dr. Paxton entered
at once upon full work with all the classes. When we first met
him, we noted his erect figure, strong yet kindly face, and courtly
manners. He took a great deal of personal interest in the stu-
dents from the start, and used to invite them to his house fre-
quently, — sometimes by twos and threes, and sometimes in larger
numbers. As we grew to know him better, both in and outside
the class-room, we learned to appreciate his simple, fervent, yet
unostentatious piety. The quality of his nature which impressed
us most, perhaps, was the sympathetic one. Probably the great
majority of his old students would name this as the predominant
note in his character. It beamed from his entire face, and we
felt that we had before us not the traditional dry-as-dust theo-
logian, but a man of big heart; a man who was not merely our
professor, but who, if the need should arise, would prove him-
self a personal friend. I recall once a scene when Moody came
to the old First Church and held a short revival service. After
the regular meeting another one was held in the inquiry-room.
Dr. Paxton was present, and I see him now, his face working with
emotion, too much overcome at one time by his feelings to be
able to lead in prayer. The next day, in the class-room, he told
us he was homesick for the pastorate.
As a teacher, Dr. Paxton was comprehensive and systematic
in his treatment of his subject, simple and direct in his style
of presenting it, and earnest and faithful in requiring of the
students a mastery of the lectures. As a critic of our sermon-
outlines read in the class-room and of our full-blown sermons
preached in what is now called Miller Chapel, he was just and
judicious, candid yet considerate. He could be severe sometimes
when he thought that a student exhibited inordinate conceit or
downright frivolity in a sermon. But in general his criticisms
were kind and always helpful. He had a happy knack of point-
ing out a man's strong points and commending them, while at the
same time he called attention to the weak ones and cautioned
Dr. Paxton was popular as a preacher with the students and
in the town. His themes were taken from a wide field, ranging
from the strictly theological to the intensely practical. The dis-
courses themselves were always carefully prepared and full of
thought. They were analytical in their structure and always
clear in the line of thought pursued. They were delivered with-
out notes, yet the language was chaste, the sentences well rounded,
and the utterance fluent. Dr. Paxton was an admirable public
speaker. His voice was clear and penetrating, his articulation
distinct, his gestures and, in fact, all his movements graceful.
Calm, deliberate, self-contained, he had always complete com-
mand of himself, and made the impression of great reserve-
power. All of us felt that it was no wonder he had been able
to sustain himself so long and successfully in the pulpit of the
First Church, New York.
The last time I saw him was about a year before his death.
Although he seemed somewhat feeble physically, he was mentally
alert, and as deeply interested as ever in the affairs of the sem-
inary, which had ever been the special object of his pride and
affection. As I took leave of him in his study, I knew it was
probably our last meeting in this world, and I felt that it had
been a benediction to pass a few minutes in the presence of this
man of God before his translation.
6. 7 June, 1824
d. 28 November, 1904
Dun lop Paxton
b. June 11, 1796
in Adams Co., Pa.
tn. March 18, 1*1!)
by Rev. Wll. Paxton,
d. February 10. 1864
Partner of Thaddeus
Firm J. D. Paxton
b. April 1. 1760
m. January 20, iT'.tt
./. April 16, 184. - .
Capt. John Paxton .
h. Inland, i74n
d. August 8, 1828
Capt. Pa, Militia
1776 and 1777
Kl.br in Middle
Private in his father's
company in Penna.
militia in 1770
b. February 13, 1772
d. November 14, 1862
Col. James Dinlop
d. December 15, 1821
Major 6th Pa., 1776
Lieut. -Col. 10th Pa.
Ireland about 1744
Ireland about 1730
Said to have lived
to be 115 vears old
Was a ruling elder
in Presbvtery of
of Lancaster Co., Pa.
I- Jane Maria Miller ,
b. January 18, 1707
in Adams Co., Pa.
d. April 29, 1870
m. March 16, 1784
d. June 3, 1831
bought a large tract of
land in Adams Co.,
Pa., and lived there .
prior to Revolution >■
1st Lieutenant, 1777
7th Reg. Penna. Line
In Legislature of
b. March 16, L766
./ February 11, 1844
< lorn, of Purchases
for Butler Oo., L780
The following notes and documents will supply some of the
salient facts in Dr. Paxton's life in more detail than was pos-
sible in an address, and thus give body to the outline of his career
which was there sketched.
I Dr. Paxton's Ancestry.— An account of the Paxton family is given
in a volume entitled The Paxtons-By W. M. Paxton, of Platte City, Mo.
(Platte City, Mo., 1903. 8vo, pp. 420+68). The immediate family connec-
tion of Dr. Paxton will be found on pp. 390 seq.
A very interesting biographical sketch of the Eev. Dr. William Paxton,
of Lower Marsh Creek Church, from the pen of the Kev. Dr. David McCon-
aughy, is printed in Dr. William B. Sprague's Annals of the American
Pulpit, Vol. Ill, pp. 554-558; cf. also the sketch by the Eev. Dr. E.
Erskine, in the Centennial Memorial of the Presbytery of Carlisle (Har-
risburg,' 1889), Vol. II, pp. 82-89. For the Lower Marsh Creek Church,
see the' same work, Vol. I, pp. 216-217, and also a pamphlet, entitled The
Centennial Exercises of Lower Marsh Creelc Presbyterian Church, Adams
County, Pennsylvania, September 25, 1890.
The table facing this page will give a condensed view of Dr. Paxton's
II. Chief Facts in Dr. Paxton's Life. -The chief facts in Dr. Pax-
ton 's life are the following :
Born at Maria Furnace, Adams County, Pennsylvania, June 7, 1824;
attended school at Gettysburg; graduated from Pennsylvania College, 1843;
studied law two years at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with Hon. George
Chambers; united with Falling Spring Church, Chambersburg, March,
1845; received as candidate for the ministry under the care of the Presby-
tery of Carlisle, April 9, 1845; entered Princeton Theological Seminary,
autumn, 1845; licensed by Presbytery of Carlisle at Shippensburg, June
1, 1847; called to the church of Greencastle, Pennsylvania, February 14,
1848; graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary, spring, 1848;
ordained and installed pastor of the church at Greencastle, October 4,
1848; called to First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
November 4, 1850; installed pastor of First Presbyterian Church of
Pittsburgh, January 28, 1851; married, August 11, 1852, Miss Hester V.
B. Wickes of Chestertown, Maryland, who died August 13, 1854, and her
child, September 7, 1854; married Miss Caroline Sophia Denny, November
8, 1855; elected Professor of Sacred Khetoric at the "Western Theological
Seminary, Allegheny, May, 1860, and served in this office until April,
1872; called to the First Presbyterian Church, New York, December 11,
1865; installed pastor of First Presbyterian Church, New York, Feb-
ruary 1, 1866; appointed Lecturer in Homiletics and Sacred Ehetoric in
the Union Theological Seminary, 1871, and served in this office until 1873;
elected Professor of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical, and Pastoral Theology
in Princeton Theological Seminary, spring, 1883, and served until spring,
1902; became President of the Faculty at Princeton Theological Seminary,
February 10, 1900; Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Princeton Theo-
logical Seminary, from spring, 1902; died at Princeton, New Jersey, Novem-
ber 28, 1904.
Member of the Board of Foreign Missions from 1866 to death, and its
president 1881-1884; member of the Board of Home Missions from 1866
to 1880, and its president 1876-1878; director of Western Theological
Seminary, 1852-1860; director of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1866-
1883; trustee of Union Theological Seminary, 1873-1884; trustee of Jeffer-
son College, 1853-1865; trustee of Princeton College and University, 1867-
1904; trustee of the General Assembly, 1892-1904; ex officio member of
Board of Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum, of the Sailors' Snug Harbor,
and of the Presbyterian Hospital, New York, 1866-1883.
Member of the General Assemblies of 1860, 1862, 1880, 1881, and Mod-
erator in 1880; member of the Council of the Presbyterian Alliance in
1877, and opened the Council of 1880 with a sermon.
Made Doctor of Divinity by Jefferson College in 1860, and Doctor of
Laws by Washington and Jefferson College in 1883.
III. Dr. Paxton's Churches.— The growth in the churches served by
Dr. Paxton will appear from the following lists:
First Church, Pittsburgh
First Church, Pittsburgh.
First Church, New York.
. . 1866
During the three pastorates 610 members were received on confession—
at Greencastle 21, at Pittsburgh 339, and at New York 250; 518 were re-
ceived on certificate— at Greencastle 15, at Pittsburgh 320, and at New
York 183. Dr. Paxton 's first act both at Pittsburgh and at New York
was to "purge the roll" very carefully. The result was to lower the
apparent membership in both cases very markedly. The First Church
of Pittsburgh had reported in 1850, the last year of Dr. Herron's pastorate,
396 members; in 1851, the first year of Dr. Paxton 's pastorate, it re-
ported only 237. The First Church of New York had reported in 1864,
the last year of Dr. Phillips's pastorate, 496 members, and in 1865, the
intermediate year, it reported 494; in 1866, the first year of Dr. Paxton 's
pastorate, it reported only 207.
IV. Dr. Paxton 's Publications.— The following list contains all the
publications of Dr. Paxton copies of which have been found. It is not
to be supposed that it includes all that were printed (compare below, p. 116) ;
but doubtless it includes the majority of them.
1. "Christian Beneficence: A Discourse delivered before the Colpor-
teur Convention, held at Pittsburgh, Pa., October 27, 28, 29, 1857, by
Bev. William M. Paxton, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. ' '
(In Colporteur CoiiK utioii at Pittsburgh, Sermon, Topics Discussed, Sketch
of Convention and Personal Narratives. New York: American Tract So-
ciety, 1857. 8vo, pp. 36.)
2. "The Nation: Its Relation and Duties to God. A Sermon Preached
in the First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pa., on Thanksgiving Day,
Nov. 24, 1859, by William M. Paxton, Pastor. Pittsburgh, 1859." 8vo,
3. ' ' Two Discourses upon the Life and Character of the Rev. Francis
Herron, D.D., by the Rev. William M. Paxton, D.D., Pastor of the First
Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh. Preached and Published at the request
of the Board of Trustees and Session of the Church. Pittsburgh, 1861. ' '
8vo, pp. 141. (With portrait of Dr. Herron.)
4. "The Nation's Gratitude and Hope. A Sermon Preached in the First
Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pa., on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1862.
By Rev. William M. Paxton, D.D., Pastor. Pittsburgh, 1862. " 8vo, pp. 38.
5. Address at the Funeral Services of Brigadier-General Alexander Hays,
Saturday, May 14, 1864, in the First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh.
(In The Pittsburgh Commercial for May 16, 1864.)
6. "A Letter to the Members of the First Presbyterian Church, Pitts-
burgh, Pa." Pittsburgh, 1864. 12mo, pp. 5.
(On Parental Responsibilities and Spiritual Nurture of Children, with
the importance of Sabbath Schools; signed by the session of the church.)
7. "In Memoriam. Address delivered at the Funeral of the Hon.
Walter Lowrie, in the First Presbyterian Church, New York, Dec. 16,
1868, by the Rev. William M. Paxton, D.D., Pastor of the First Church.
Published by request of the Executive Committee of the Board of For-
eign Missions. New York Mission House, 23 Centre Street, 1869. ' ' 8vo,
pp. 18. (Pamphlet.)
Reprinted in Memoirs of the Hon. Walter Lowrie, edited by his Son.
\'.'\v York: The Baker and Taylor Co., 1896. 8vo, pp. 173-189.
8. "Remarks of Rev. Dr. Paxton," at the "Funeral Services of Rev.
Gardiner Spring, D.D., at the Brick (Presbyterian) Church, corner of
Fifth Avenue and 37th Street. August 22, 1873."
(In A Discourse Commemorating the Ministerial Character and Services
of Gardiner Spring, D.D., LL.D., late Senior Pastor of the Brick Church.
By James 0. Murray, Pastor of the Brick Church. With an Appendix con-
taining the Addresses made at the Funeral, August 22, 1873. New York.
1873. Small quarto, pp. 34-39.)
9. " How We Spend Our Years. By William M. Paxton, Pastor of the
First Presbyterian Church, New York. New York: A. D. F. Randolph
and Co." [1875.1 3 - m <>, PP- 35 -
Reprinted in Princeton Sermons. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co.
[1893.] pp. 298-315.
10. "Address by the Rev. W. M. Paxton, D.D.," in the Third Presby-
terian Church, Newark, N. J., [at the funeral services of Melancthon W.
Jacobus, D.D., LL.D.]
(Id In Memoriam. Melancthon W. Jacobus, D.D., LL.B. Born Septem-
ber 19, 1816, died October 28, 1876. pp. 43-51.)
11. "Home Missions in America." Address in Report of Proceedings
of the First General Presbyterian Council. Edinburgh, 1877. pp. 123-125.
12. "The Charge by Eev. William M. Paxton, D.D., of New York City:
The Ministry for the Age."
(In Addresses at the Inauguration of Rev. Archibald Alexander Hodge,
D.D., LL.B., as Associate Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology in
the Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J., November 8, 1877. Phila-
delphia, 1877. pp. 5-16.)
13. "Address by William M. Paxton, D.D., of New York, at the Ob-
sequies of the Kev. Dr. Hodge, in the First Presbyterian Church of Prince-
ton, N. J., June 22, 1878."
(In Discourses Commemorative of the Life and Work of Charles Hodge,
D.D., LL.D. Published by order of the Directors and Trustees of the
Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J. Philadelphia, 1879. pp. 5-18.)
14. "Address by William M. Paxton, D.D." [On Archibald Alexander,
D.D., at the unveiling of the Alexander tablet erected by the Alumni in
the Chapel of the Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J., on the 29th
of April, 1879.]
(In The Alexander Memorial, 1879. pp. 7-16.)
15. "Dr. [C] Hodge as a Teacher of Didactic Theology and as a
Preacher, by Dr. William M. Paxton of New York."
(In The Life of Charles Hodge, D.D., LL.D., by his Son, A. A. Hodge.
New York, 1880. pp. 591-602.)
16. "The Mission of the Presbyterian Church." (Opening Sermon of
the Second Council of the Presbyterian Alliance, September 23, 1880.)
(In Report of the Proceedings of the Second General Council of the
Presbyterian Alliance, convened at Philadelphia, September, 1880. pp.
Also: "The Mission of the Presbyterian Church. By William M. Pax-
ton, D.D. Council Paper, No. 1. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Pub-
lication, 1334 Chestnut St." 1880. 16mo, pp. 30. (Pamphlet.)
Also: "The Mission of the Presbyterian Church. A sermon, delivered
at the opening of the Second Council of the Presbyterian Alliance, at Phil-
adelphia, Sept. 23, 1880. By William M. Paxton, D.D., Pastor of the
First Presbyterian Church, New York. New York. ' ' 32mo, pp. 36.
17. "The Church: Its Strength and Its Weakness. By the Kev. William
M. Paxton, D.D. A Sermon Preached by the Moderator at the Opening
Session of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United
States, at Buffalo, N. Y., May 19, 1881. Philadelphia: Presbyterian
Board of Publication, 1334 Chestnut St." 32mo, pp. 35. [Tract No. 207.]
18. Letter to George Ticknor Curtis, on Keligious Conversation with Mr.
(In Life of James Buchanan. By George Ticknor Curtis. New York,
1883. Vol. II, pp. 670-671.)
19. "Dr. Paxton 's Sermon" [at the Centennial Celebration of the First
Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh].
(In Centennial Volume of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh,
Pa., 1784-1884. Pittsburgh, 1884. pp. 119-128.)
L'O. "Dr. Paxton 's Address" [at the Centennial Celebration of the First
Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh].
(In Centennial Volume, etc. Pittsburgh, 1884. pp. 187-188.)
21. "Discourses at the Inauguration of the Rev. William M. Paxton,
D.D., LL.D., as Professor of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical and Pastoral
Theology in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J., May 13, 1884.
Philadelphia, 1884." 8vo, pp. 30. (Dr. Paxton 's Discourse, pp. 15-30.)
Also reprinted in The Pulpit Treasury for December, 1887, Vol. VIII,
22. "Charge to the Pastor. By Rev. W. M. Paxton, D.D."
(In Installation of the Rev. Richard Harlan, First Presbyterian Church,
New York, April 1, 1886.)
23. ' ' Address delivered at the Funeral of Archibald Alexander Hodge,
D.D., LL.D., Professor in the Theological Seminary at Princeton, N. J.,
Nov. 15, 1886. By William M. Paxton, D.D. New York: Anson D. F.
Randolph and Co. " [1886.] 8vo, pp. 22. (Pamphlet.)
A second edition was printed in January, 1887. 12mo, pp. 27.
24. "The Call to the Ministry."
(In The Presbyterian Beview for January, 1889, X, 37, pp. 1-16. Also
circulated in separata.)
25. Review of " Samuel Irenseus Prime: Autobiography and Memorials.
Edited by his son, Wendell Prime. New York: A. D. F. Randolph & Co.
(In The Presbyterian Review, January, 1889, X, 37, pp. 165-166.)
26. Review of " The Presbytery and the Log College, by Rev. Thomas
Murphy, D.D. Philadelphia, 1889."
(In The Presbyterian and Reformed Review for 1890, I, i, pp. 145-146.)
27. "Dr. Paxton 's Address" [on the Value and Blessedness of a Pious
(In Centennial Exercises of Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian Church.
Adams County, Pennsylvania, September 25, 1890. 8vo, pp. 6-13.)
28. "Salvation as a Work, by Professor William M. Paxton, D.D.,
LL.D." (Sermon on Philippians 1:6.)
(In Princeton Sermons chiefly by the Professors in Princeton Theo-
logical Seminary. New York, 1893. pp. 75-93.)
(This sermon had also previously been printed in pamphlet form; but
no copy of the pamphlet has been recovered.)
29. "Dr. Green as the Head of the Faculty." (After-Dinner Speech.)
(In Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Appointment of
Professor William Henry Green as an Instructor in Princeton Theological
Seminary, May 5, 1896. New York, 1896. pp. 84-86.)
30. "Obituary Note on Anson Davies Fitz Randolph."
(In The Presbyterian and Reformed Review for October, 1896, VII, 28,
31. " Homiletics. Classifications and Divisions." (Printed, not pub-
lished.) Pamphlet. 8vo. pp. 40. (About 1889.)
Eeissue in better form: Pamphlet. 8vo, pp. 49. 1904.
V. Dr. Paxton in the Presbytery op Carlisle.— The Rev. Ray H.
Carter, pastor of the Falling Spring Church, Chambersburg, having exam-
ined the Minutes of the Session of that church, writes as follows:
"Dr. Paxton united, on confession of faith and examination, with the
Falling Spring Church at Chambersburg, under the pastorate of Rev.
Daniel McKinley, in March, 1845. The day of the month is not given.
At that time he was living at Caledonia Iron Works, near Chambersburg. ' '
Mr. Carter has also kindly made the following extracts from the Min-
utes of the Presbytery of Carlisle:
"Newville, April 9, 1845.
"Mr. William Paxton, a member of the church in Chambersburg, and a
graduate of Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, was introduced to Presby-
tery as a candidate for the gospel ministry, to be taken under its care;
and was examined in experimental piety, and his views in seeking the
gospel ministry; which examinations were sustained and he taken under
"Carlisle, July 7, 1846.
"Mr. Paxton read a critical exercise on Galatians 4: 21-26, by previous
appointment of Presbytery, which was sustained."
' ' Messrs. Kennedy, Paxton, Agnew, and Graham were examined in He-
brew, which examinations were sustained. The following assignments were
made to Mr. Paxton as parts of trial: Lecture, Isaiah 35: 8, 9, 10; Sermon,
Philippians 2: latter clause of v. 12 and v. 13."
" Shippensburg, June 1, 1847.
"Messrs. Graham and Paxton were examined on Theology, Ecclesiastical
History, Church Government, and the Sacraments, all of which were sus-
tained. ' '
At this meeting ' ' the committees appointed to examine the pieces assigned
them reported as follows, viz. : that they had examined Mr. Paxton 's Latin
exegesis, on the theme, An creationis historia (Genesis 1: 2) literalis sit?
And his lecture, on Isaiah 35: 8-10. The committees recommended their
approval. Accepted and Adopted."
' ' Mr. Paxton 's trial sermon was then heard ; text, Philippians 2 : 12, 13 :
' Work out your own salvation, ' etc. Resolved that his sermon be sus-
tained as part of trial. Resolved that all his trials be sustained. Resolved
that we now proceed to license Mr. Paxton.
"At Shippensburg, the first day of June, a.d. 1847, the Presbytery of
Carlisle, having received testimonials in favor of Mr. William M. Paxton,
of his having gone through a regular course of literature, of his good
moral character, and of his being in the communion of the church, pro-
ceeded to take the usual parts of trial for his licensure; and he having
given satisfaction as to his accomplishments in literature, as to his experi-
mental acquaintance with religion, and as to his proficiency in Divinity
and other studies, the Presbytery did, and hereby do, express their ap-
probation of all these parts of trial, and he having adopted the Confes-
sion of Faith of this Church, and satisfactorily answered the questions
appointed to be put to candidates to be Licensed, the Presbytery did, and
hereby do, license the said William M. Paxton to preach the Gospel
of Christ, as a probationer for the holy ministry, within the bounds of
this Presbytery, or wherever else he shall be orderly called."
"Petersburg, April 11, 1848.
"A call from the congregation of East Conococheague, commonly known
by the name of Greencastle, for the pastoral services of Mr. William M.
Paxton, promising him the sum of six hundred dollars in regular quarterly
payments, with the express understanding that whatever the pews will
bring over that sum in future shall be given to him, was presented to
Presbytery; which was read and found to be in order; and it was ordered
that the said call be retained in the hands of the Presbytery until Mr.
Paxton appears before them, and answers whether he accepts the same
or no. Eomans 8: 3 was assigned to Mr. Paxton as a subject for a trial
sermon for ordination. ' '
" Shippensburg, June IS, 1848.
"The call from the congregation of Greencastle, in the hands of the
Presbytery, was put into the hands of Mr. Paxton, who signified his ac-
ceptance of the same. Mr. Paxton preached his trial sermon from Eomans
' ' The sermon of Mr. Paxton was considered and sustained. Eesolved
that all the trials of Mr. Paxton be sustained and the way be considered
clear for his ordination, and that the Presbytery proceed at the next
stated meeting to his ordination and installation. Mr. Harper was ap-
pointed to preach the ordination sermon; Mr. McGinley to preside, pro-
pose the constitutional questions, offer the ordaining prayer, and give
the right hand of fellowship; Mr. McKinley to give the charge to the
pastor; and Mr. Morris the charge to the congregation."
"Greencastle, October 4, 1848.
"At ten o'clock Presbytery proceeded to the ordination of Mr. William
M. Paxton to the office of the gospel ministry, and installed him as the
Pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Greencastle. In this service Mr.
Harper preached from 2 Corinthians 2: 15, 16. Mr. McGinley presided
and proposed the constitutional questions to the candidate, offered the or-
claiming prayer, and gave the right hand of fellowship. Mr. McKinley
delivered the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Morris the charge to the con-
gregation. ' '
' ' On the roll of Presbytery at that time, ' ' writes Mr. Carter further,
"I find these names: Eev. James Harper, D.D., Shippensburg Church; Eev.
Amos A. McGinley, D.D., Upper and Lower Path Valley Churches; Eev.
Daniel McKinley, D.D., Falling Spring Church, Chambersburg, Dr. Paxton 's
pastor (Mrs. James Kennedy, Dr. McKinley 's daughter and my neighbor,
says that it was largely due to her father's influence that Dr. Paxton en-
tered the ministry) ; Eev. George Morris, Silver Spring Church. These
must be the gentlemen intended above. ' '
"Paxton Church, April 9, 1850.
' ' Presbytery elected . . . William M. Paxton clerk. ' '
"April 10, 1850.
' ' Presbytery appointed William M. Paxton to open next stated meeting
with a sermon. ' '
"Big Spring, October 1, 1850 (Newville, Pennsylvania).
1 ' Presbytery . . . was opened according to appointment with a sermon
by the Eev. William M. Paxton from Luke 12: 16-21."
"Chambersburg, December 5, 1850.
' ' Pursuant to a call addressed by the moderator to the members of the
Presbytery of Carlisle, citing them to attend a meeting of that body,
to be held in Chambersburg, Thursday, December 5, to take into con-
sideration a call for the ministerial services of the Eev. William M. Pax-
ton from the First Church in the city of Pittsburgh, and, if the way be
clear, for dissolving the pastoral relation now subsisting between him and
the church of Greencastle, and for dismissing him to connect with the
Presbytery of Ohio, the Presbytery . . . convened and was constituted with
prayer by the Eev. William M. Paxton. ' '
' ' Mr. Paxton resigned his office of temporary clerk. ' '
' ' The commissioners from the First Church of Pittsburgh appeared
before Presbytery and made a statement of the action of that church
in reference to the Eev. William M. Paxton, and presented the following
papers: first, a call from the First Church of Pittsburgh for the minis-
terial services of the Eev. William M. Paxton, in which they obligate them-
selves to pay him the sum of fifteen hundred dollars in regular half-
yearly payments, during the time of his being and continuing the regular
pastor of that church; second, an account of the proceedings of a meet-
ing of that church appointing commissioners to prosecute the call; third,
a certificate from the Presbytery of Ohio, signed by its moderator and
clerk, that the call was laid before them, that it was in order, and that
the congregation of the First Church of Pittsburgh have liberty to prose-
cute their call before the Presbytery of Carlisle.
' ' The commissioners from the church of Greencastle read a letter from
the Rev. William M. Paxton to the session of that church, asking the
church to unite with him in petitioning the Presbytery of Carlisle to
dissolve the pastoral relation between them, and presented a paper con-
taining a record of the proceedings of a meeting of the congregation in
reference to that subject.
"Mr. Paxton then made a statement of his views respecting the dis-
solution of the pastoral relation, and was followed by the commissioners,
who made some remarks expressive of the feelings of the congregation.
"The call was put into the hands of Mr. Paxton, who signified his
acceptance of it; whereupon Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relation.
"Mr. Paxton at his own request dismissed from the Presbytery to unite
with the Presbytery of Ohio, and the clerk directed to furnish the usual
The following extracts from the sessional records of the church at
Greencastle have been kindly furnished by the Eev. L. Carman Bell, pas-
tor of that church:
' ' 1848, February 14th. Agreeably to a previous notice a Congregational
Meeting was held this day in the church, at which a unanimous call was
moderated to the Rev. William M. Paxton. Rev. John R. Agnew presided
as Moderator. ' '
"At a meeting of the Presbytery of Carlisle held in Greencastle on the
fourth day of October, a.d. 1848, the Rev. William M. Paxton, a licen-
tiate thereof, was ordained and installed pastor of the East Conococheague,
alias the Presbyterian Congregation in Greencastle. ' '
' ' The Rev. William M. Paxton, having received and accepted a call
from the First Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, was, at a pro re nata
meeting of the Carlisle Presbytery held at Chambersburg for that purpose
on the fifth day of December, a.d. 1850, released from his relation as
pastor of the church at Greencastle, and the said church was declared
vacant. ' '
VI. Dr. Paxton at Pittsburgh. — 1. The following extracts from the
Minutes of the Session of the First Presbyterian Church at Pittsburgh
have been kindly furnished by Mr. William Craig Lilley, Clerk of the
"First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, July 29, 1850.
"A communication was received from a number of persons, which was
read and is as follows, viz. :
'Pittsburgh, July 27th, 1850.— Having heard of the talents and piety
of the Rev. William M. Paxton, of Greencastle, Franklin County, Pennsyl-
vania, from various sources, and being desirous of hearing him, we respect-
fully request the Session to invite him to visit us at as early a period as
convenient. Signed by the following persons: William E. Murphy, John
D. McCord, Eobert Dalzell, Samuel Eea, James Dalzell, and Eobert Beer.'
Therefore resolved that we authorize and appoint our old Pastor to
open a correspondence with the Eev. William M. Paxton, of Greencastle,
of whom we have heard a favorable account from different quarters, and
request him to visit us, and preach for us as a candidate for the pastorate.
Agreeably to the second resolution and this arrangement of the Session,
Dr. Herron opened a correspondence with the Eev. William M. Paxton,
and after an interchange of several letters, and urgency, on the part of
Dr. Herron, Mr. Paxton was induced to visit us, still, however, protesting
against being viewed as a candidate, and after spending and preaching
for us one Sabbath, much to the satisfaction of the congregation, immediate
measures were taken to prepare a call for him as their future Pastor.
In pursuance of the foregoing action the following measures were taken,
"Pittsburgh, November 4, 1850.
"Pursuant to public notice by the Session, read from the Pulpit last
Sabbath morning and evening after Sermons, the congregation convened
at three o'clock p.m. this day.
The Eev. Dr. Herron was invited by the Session to act as Moderator,
and L. E. Johnston was chosen Secretary. After prayer by the Moderator,
the object of the meeting was stated by him to be for the purpose of
electing a Pastor for this church, and having put the question to the
congregation as to their willingness to proceed, it was carried without a
On motion of John D. McCord, seconded by Samuel Bailey, the Eev.
William M. Paxton, of the Presbytery of Carlisle, was put in nomination,
and was duly elected by a unanimous vote.
On motion of Jesse Carothers, the Trustees were instructed to pay to
the Eev. William M. Paxton the sum of fifteen hundred dollars per annum
as his salary, which was unanimously adopted.
On motion of William Eobinson, Jr., the Session, the Trustees, and
five other members of the congregation were appointed a committee to
prepare, sign, and prosecute the call.
On motion of J. D. McCord, Messrs. N. B. Craig, William Eobinson, Jr.,
P. McCormick, Jesse Carothers, and William McCandless were appointed
from the congregation to act with the Session and Trustees. On motion,
adjourned with prayer by Eev. Dr. Elliott.
L. E. Johnston,
Secretary. ' '
"Pittsburgh, November 29, 1850.
"Presbytery met in accordance with a call from the Moderator. A call
from the First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, for the pastoral labor
of the Eev. William M. Paxton, of the Presbytery of Carlisle, was read
and found in order. On motion they obtained leave to prosecute their call
before the Presbytery of Carlisle.
In pursuance of the above-mentioned action of the congregation and
grant of the Presbytery, the aforesaid call was duly prosecuted before
the Presbytery of Carlisle during its Session at Chambersburg on the fifth
day of December, 1850, by Francis G. Bailey and John D. McCord as
Commissioners on the part of the congregation.
Rev. William M. Paxton having signified his acceptance of the call, the
Presbytery dissolved the pastoral relation subsisting between him and
the Presbyterian Church at Greencastle, and dismissed him to connect with
the Presbytery of Ohio.
At a meeting of the Presbytery of Ohio held at Canonsburg the fourteenth
day of January, 1851, Mr. Paxton was duly received upon certificate of
dismission from the Presbytery of Carlisle, and a committee of the Pres-
bytery was appointed to install him as Pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church of Pittsburgh on the twenty-eighth day of same month. Pur-
suant to this action Mr. Paxton was duly installed on the aforesaid day.
Mr. Allison preached the Sermon, and Dr. Herron delivered the charges
to the Pastor and people.
F. G. Bailey.
2. The following extracts from the Minutes of the Presbytery of Ohio
have been kindly furnished by the Eev. Dr. Charles S. McClelland, Stated
Clerk of the Presbytery of Pittsburgh, the legal successor to the Presbytery
"Presbytery of Ohio, pro re nata meeting.
"The First Church, Pittsburgh, November 29, 1850. A call from the
First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, for the pastoral labors of the
Eev. "William M. Paxton of the Presbytery of Carlisle, was read and found
in order. On motion they obtained leave to prosecute their call before
the Presbytery of Carlisle. ' '
"Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, January 14, 15, 1851.
Second day, January 15.
"A letter of dismission from the Presbytery of Carlisle to connect himself
with this Presbytery was presented by the Eev. William M. Paxton. Pres-
bytery then examined Mr. Paxton on experimental religion, Didactic and
Polemic Theology, Church Government, and the Sacraments. These ex-
aminations were sustained, and Mr. Paxton received as a member of this
Presbytery and entered on the roll. Mr. Paxton declared his acceptance
of the call from the First Church of Pittsburgh, which had been presented
at a previous meeting. The following arrangements were made for the
installation of Mr. Paxton: Dr. Herron to preside, Mr. Allison to preach
the sermon, Mr. Wilson to give the charge to the Pastor, and Mr. Max-
shall to give the charge to the people, the installation to take place on
Friday two weeks, at six and a half o 'clock, p.m. ' '
The roll of this meeting shows Mr. Allison to be Jas. Allison, Mr. Wilson
to be J. B. Wilson, Mr. Marshall to be George Marshall.
' ' Presbytery of Ohio, Lecture Boom of the First Church,
Pittsburgh, June 28, 1865.
' ' Met at call of the Moderator.
The Kev. William M. Paxton asked leave to resign the pastoral charge
of the First Church, Pittsburgh, on account of his own impaired health,
and the severe illness of his child requiring a change of residence. The
commissioners of the congregation were heard, declaring the acquiescence
of the congregation, from what they considered a necessity, after which
Eesolved, That the request of Dr. Paxton be granted and that Dr. Mc-
Kinney be appointed to preach in the First Church on the next Sabbath
and declare the pulpit vacant."
' ' December 26, 1865.
' ' Presbytery met at Temperanceville.
The Eev. William M. Paxton, D.D., was, at his own request, dismissed
to join the Presbytery of New York. ' '
Attested: Charles S. McClelland, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Pitts-
burgh, legal successor of the Presbytery of Ohio.
3. Copy of Preamble and Eesolutions adopted at a meeting of the Con-
gregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh held January
' ' Whereas our Pastor, Eev. William M. Paxton, D.D., has felt himself
constrained in the Providence of God to seek a dissolution of the relation
so long and so happily existing between him and this congregation;
And whereas the grounds upon which he bases his application — the ne-
cessity of a change of climate for the health and it may be the life of
a dear son, and also his own impaired health — constrain us to acquiesce
in his determination; therefore:
Eesolved, first, That we take this opportunity to place on record our
testimony to the fideUty, zeal, and success with which our beloved Pastor
has employed the high and peculiar talents given him for the good of the
church and the glory of God.
The prosperity of the congregation in things spiritual and temporal; the
harmony and brotherly love, unbroken during his ministry of nearly fifteen
years; the good report, also, which he enjoys with those that are without;
and the influence of this church upon the community, testify as to how
wisely and prudently he has walked before us, as an under-shepherd in
the name of the great Shepherd of Israel.
Resolved, second, That with tender affection, remembering bow he lias
sympathized with us in our sorrows and has led us to the throne of grace
for our consolation, we deeply sympathize with him also in this his day
of trial ; and assure him of a constant interest in our prayers, that our
God and Saviour may keep him, and his family, holding them precious in
His sight and crowning them with the richest blessings of His grace.
Eesolved, third, That wherever he may go, our Pastor will still be dear
to us, a treasured memory of this church, with his sainted predecessor the
beloved Dr. Herron ; his joys shall be our joys, his griefs our griefs, and
when with renewed health he shall again be enabled to enter upon his much
loved labors, that success which the Lord of the harvest shall bestow upon
him will be our rejoicing also.
Eesolved, fourth, That while our hearts are heavy with sadness at the
thought that this solemn and tender relation must be broken, a relation
which we had fondly hoped would continue until the voice of the Master
called him from all earthly labor to his eternal rest, yet we are constrained
to be directed by the Providence of God in this matter and to acquiesce in
his request, if the necessity still exists that will compel him in duty
to press his application.
Resolved, fifth, That to represent this congregation at the next meeting
of the Ohio Presbytery we do hereby appoint two commissioners to said
meeting. (Signed) Jno. A. Renshaw,
Secretary. ' '
VII. Dr. Paxton at the Western Theological Seminary.— The fol-
lowing is from the Eev. Dr. E. P. Cowan, Clerk of the Board of Directors
of the Western Theological Seminary:
"... The General Assembly in 1860 elected Dr. Paxton to the Chair
of Sacred Rhetoric.
In 1861 the Western Theological Seminary reported to the General As-
sembly 'the acceptance of the Professorship by Rev. William M. Paxton,
D.D., to which he was elected by the last General Assembly; that he en-
tered on the duties of his Chair early in the term and was regularly in-
augurated at the late meeting of the Board.'
In accordance with the action of the General Assembly in 1864, the pro-
fessorship held by Dr. Paxton was changed from 'Sacred Rhetoric' to
' Homiletical Theology. '
Dr. Paxton 's Chair after this is reported annually as that of 'Homilet-
ical Theology. '
At the meeting of the Board of Directors, April 16, 1872, the following
entry was made on the Minute Book of the Board:
'A letter was read from Rev. W. M. Paxton, D.D., resigning his place
as Professor of Sacred Rhetoric. The resignation was accepted and or-
dered to be reported to the Assembly; and it was,
'Resolved, That whilst the Board feels constrained to comply with the
wishes of Dr. Paxton, it accepts his resignation with regret and reluctance.
It desires to express its high appreciation of Dr. Paxton as an able and
faithful Professor of Homiletieal Theology, and to return thanks for his
valuable labors, which were wholly gratuitous. '
You will note that Dr. James Allison, who was then Secretary of the
Board of Directors, refers to Dr. Paxton 's Chair in one place as that of
' Sacred Rhetoric, ' but in the wording of the resolution that immediately
follows he is referred to as ' Professor of Homiletieal Theology. ' ' '
VIII. Dr. Paxton at the First Church, New York.— The following
letters explain themselves:
"New York, 57 West 17th Street,
January 25, 1905.
"... Our Minutes show that Dr. Paxton was elected to the Pastorate of
the First Presbyterian Church at a meeting of the Pewholders and Congre-
gation, held on Monday, December 11, 1865, Eev. John C. Lowrie, D.D.,
presiding. The nomination was made by recommendation of Session;
there was no other name presented, and the election was unanimous. Salary
fixed at $5000. Mr. A. B. Belknap was appointed Commissioner to prosecute
the call, and at a meeting of Presbytery, January 22, 1866, it was placed
in Dr. Paxton 's hands and accepted by him, Presbytery assenting.
The installation was on Thursday evening, February 1, 1866. Sermon
by Rev. A. M. Kellogg, from 1 Corinthians 2:2; charge to pastor by Rev.
John C. Lowrie, D.D.; charge to people by Rev. James O. Murray, of the
On June 7, 1883, Dr. Paxton addressed a letter to Session and Congrega-
tion, expressing his desire to accept a professorship at Princeton. At a
meeting of the church on June 19, assent was given, with much regret,
to the severance of the pastoral relation, and three commissioners were
appointed to report the same to Presbytery at its meeting of July 9, 1883,
when the change was consummated. . . .
I find that, at the first meeting of Session at which Dr. Paxton pre-
sided, a committee was appointed to revise the church roll. On June 8,
1866, this Committee reported as follows:
' ' That the total Church Membership returned to Presbytery in the an-
nual report of Session of April 17, 1865, was 494, to which were added
during the year ending April 17, 1866, 23, making the whole number at
this later date 517. The deductions for deaths and dismissals are as
follows: Prior to April 17, 1865, extending through several years and not
before deducted, 85; since that date and to April 17, 1866, 24— in all, 109,
and reducing the nominal Church Membership to 408.
' ' Of this number, your Committee, as authorized by the General As-
sembly (Minutes of 1865, page 591), in part from personal knowledge and
partly from information derived from other sources, with as much ac-
curacy as within their power, have marked 'Absent' 201 members 'who have
been absent two years and whose place of business and Christian life are
unknown' to Session, leaving as constituting the present membership ac-
tually attending church ordinances, at this date, 207." . . .
Very truly yours,
Charles H. Olmstead,
Clerk of Session,
First Presbyterian Church, New York."
"January 14, 1905.
"Alexander's History errs in giving date of installation of Dr. Paxton
over First Church as March 20, 1866. Presbytery met and installed him
February 1, 1866. 'After prayer by the Moderator, Mr. Kellogg delivered
the sermon, Dr. Lowrie gave the charge to the pastor, and Mr. Murray
gave the charge to the people.'
F. E. Shearek,
Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of New York.
"At the Lecture Boom of the First Presbyterian Church.
New York, May 21, 1883.
' ' Having heard that the Trustees of the Theological Seminary, in Prince-
ton, have recently elected our pastor, Eev. Dr. William M. Paxton, to a
professorship in said Seminary, acceptance of which would involve his
resignation as our minister, the members of his congregation have here
assembled to take counsel as to the best interests of the church.
After united prayer for divine guidance, and after full deliberation,
we request the officers of this meeting to report the result to our pastor
as follows: It is with great pain we even consider the subject of a sep-
aration from him. It has startled us to hear it announced as possible. We
assure him of our warm personal affection for him, as well as for his t'am
ily. His ministry, from its beginning, has continued to be acceptable to
us. We have recognized his fidelity as a pastor and as a preacher of the
Word of the living God, the truth as it is in Jesus Christ, at all times.
He has maintained fully the standard of Presbyterian faith, to the fellow-
ship of which wo are devoted. In his administration of all the affairs of
the church, Ms action has been wise ami kind, so that peace and order
obtain among our people. In all respects the relation, as it exists, be-
tween pastor and people, is, and it has been, a happy one. without a break.
We also respectfully submit to our pastor that it has been a part of the
established order of this church, during its existence of more than a century
and a half, to maintain, if practicable, lifelong relations with its pastor.
To this fact, under God's blessing, we have been accustomed to attribute,
in a great degree, its steadfastness in doctrine ami in the faith. It is
well worth consideration whether this wholesome tradition should be sur-
rendered. The solemn fixedness of a single church, for the truth as it was
delivered to the saints, is a strengthening of the entire church, in these
days of variableness and turning.
There is nothing, then, in the matter of personal feeling, which does
not present inducements to our pastor to remain with us. His ministry-
has been edifying to the church and eminently blessed to the saving of
We beg him to consider this memorial from his affectionate congrega-
tion, and to let it weigh with him in his decision, whether he shall with-
draw from his pastoral work, as an expression of our earnest desire that
he will remain with us.
Chairman of the meeting.
Eobert Fergus son,
Secretary. ' '
"Lecture Boom of the First Presbyterian Church,
New York, June 19, 1883.
' ' Eev. William M. Paxton, D.D.
Having assembled to discharge certain duties in relation to Presbytery
incident to your resignation as Minister over this church, we find ourselves,
as a congregation, turning our thoughts constantly to you. The occasion
reminds us of the pleasant communion which for seventeen years has
characterized the relations between this people and their pastor. When
you entered our pulpit you had quite recently laid aside congenial labors
in the Seminary at Allegheny City. You were welcomed to this pastorate
by the Session and by the body of the Church without a dissenting voice.
We look around to-night for some one of the Elders who gathered about
you on your installation here, only to be reminded that they have all de-
parted out of this world and have come to the everlasting feast in
heaven. Perhaps, too, a majority of the enrolled members of our church,
as they were on your arrival, are no longer living. They have fallen asleep,
full of faith and in hope of a glorious resurrection.
But the Church of Christ dies not. The candlestick has not been removed
out of its place. The lifting up of hands has been accepted as incense
in this temple. The ordinances proper to God's house have been con-
tinually observed, and your ministry has been abundantly owned and
blessed of your and our Master. Such steady accessions to the church
membership have been made that the roll of active members in our church
is now more than fifty per cent, larger than it was when you entered the
field. And this in the face of the removal to other neighborhoods of very
many of our church families. We all feel that you have been a faithful
and earnest preacher to us, seeking to bring the people to the very Saviour 's
We are grateful to you, giving thanks to God the Father and to our
Lord Jesus Christ for the work of this ministry.
Be pleased, our Pastor, to accept expressions of heartfelt love from us
all, parents and children. We permit you to leave us only because you feel
the call of duty for another field, and it is only in compliance with your
express desire that we yield to this necessity.
The benediction which, Sabbath after Sabbath, these many years, you
pronounced upon us, from the pulpit, we now invoke in precious abun-
dance upon you, as becomes
Your grateful and loving Flock."
IX. Dr. Paxton and Union Theological Seminary.— The following
extracts from the records of the Board of Directors of Union Theological
Seminary have been kindly furnished by the Kev. Dr. Marvin E. Vincent:
"May 5, 1873.
"Resolved that, in addition to the compensation already voted, the grate-
ful thanks of this Board be presented to the Reverend William M. Paxton,
D.D., for the highly satisfactory manner in which he has provisionally per-
formed the work of instruction in Homiletics and Sacred Rhetoric. ' '
' ' October 20, 1873.
"The Reverend William M. Paxton, D.D., was put in nomination to fill
the next ministerial vacancy in the Board."
' ' November 12, 1873.
"The Board proceeded to the annual election, and the Reverend William
M. Paxton, D.D., was elected in place of the Reverend Herrick Johnson,
D.D. (resigned), of the second class of Directors."
"November 17, 1873.
"The Reverend William M. Paxton, D.D., elected at the last meeting,
appeared, and was duly qualified as a Director."
X. Dr. Paxton 's Resignation from Princeton Theological Seminary.
—The following papers will explain themselves:
Paper Adopted by the Faculty of Princeton
Theological Seminary, May 1, 1902.
"The Committee appointed by the Faculty on April 5, 1902, to recom-
mend what action should be taken in view of the just expressed in-
tention of our senior professor, Dr. William M. Paxton, to resign his pro-
fessorship at the approaching meeting of the Board of Directors, would
report as follows:
1. In view of the length, diversity, and efficiency of Dr. Paxton 's services
to our Seminary; in view of the honor in which he is held throughout the
whole church, and of the consequent loss in reputation that we should in-
cur were he no longer to be associated with us; and especially in view of
the degree to which he has endeared himself to us all, we recommend that
the Faculty, while feeling that it would be improper to question the wisdom
of a decision so deliberate, should deprecate any resignation contemplating
his entire separation from the Seminary.
2. We recommend that the Faculty request the Board of Directors to
appoint Dr. Paxton Professor Emeritus of Practical Theology; to keep
his name in the Catalogue and at the head of the list of the Faculty; to
ask him to give such instruction, whether in the curriculum or in extra-
curriculum courses, as the Faculty, in conference with the professors in
this department, shall from time to time arrange; and, in partial recog-
nition of the great services which he has rendered and will yet render
to this institution, to request him to continue to occupy, and for life, the
house which was built especially for him by a friend of his and of the
3. We recommend that the Faculty express to Dr. Paxton our earnest
hope that he will make every effort to continue to us and to our students
the priceless benefit of his example, his experience, and his sympathy;
and, in particular, that we invite and individually urge him always to give
us the blessing of his presence and the wisdom of his counsel at our Faculty
meetings, both formal and informal.
4. We recommend that as a Faculty we do hereby congratulate Dr.
Paxton on the long and splendid service which he has been privileged to
render to the church and especially to this Seminary, and that we express
the hope that he will be spared for many years to illustrate the inspired
words, "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more
and more unto the perfect day. ' '
B. B. Warfield,
John D. Davis,
W. Brenton Greene, Jr.
Princeton, N. J., May 1, 1902."
Extract from the Minutes of the Board of Directors of Princeton
Theological Seminary, May 5, 1902.
"A communication was read from the Eev. William M. Paxton, D.D., as
'To the Board of Directors of Princeton Theological Seminary.
' Dear Brethren :
■ Under the constraints of advancing age, and the advice of my phy-
sicians, I am compelled — much against my own wishes — to send to the
Board my resignation of the Professorship which through the kindness
of my brethren I have held for nearly twenty years.
I need not tell you of the sorrow which I feel in sundering the ties
which bind me to an Institution which has been the joy of my heart,
and in parting from many brethren whom 1 sincerely love. I am, however,
deeply convinced that this step has become a duty which I owe to myself
and to my family; and I bow to a necessity which seems to be an in-
dication of the divine will. I have been connected with this Institution.
more or less, for fifty-six years, aud to break this connection is one of the
saddest experiences of my life. But the Lord's will be done.
With the assurance of my continued interest in the prosperity of this
I am yours in the bonds of a warm affection,
William M. Paxtox.
April 29, 1902.'
It was resolved that the resignation of Dr. William M. Paxton, D.D.,
LL.D., be reluctantly accepted, and the following minute was ordered in
connection with this resolution:
1. In view of the length, diversity, and efficiency of Dr. Paxton 's ser-
vices to our Seminary; in view of the honor in which he is held throughout
the whole church, and of the consequent loss in reputation that we should
incur were he no longer to be associated with us; and especially in view
of the degree to which he has endeared himself to us all, we recommend
that the Directors, while feeling that it would be improper to question
the wisdom of a decision so deliberate, should deprecate any resignation
contemplating his entire separation from the Seminary.
2. We, therefore, appoint Dr. Paxton Professor Emeritus of Practical
Theology; we place his name on the catalogue and at the head of the list
of the Faculty. We ask him to give such instruction, whether in the cur-
riculum or extra-curriculum courses, as the Faculty shall from time to time
arrange; and, in partial recognition of the great service which he has
rendered and will yet render to this Institution, we request him to continue
to occupy, and for life, a house which was built especially for him by a
friend of his and of the Seminary.
3. We desire to express to Dr. Paxton our earnest hope that he will
make every effort to continue to us and to our students and professors
the benefit of his example, his experience, and his sympathy. We hereby
congratulate him on the long and splendid service which he has been privi-
leged to render to the church and especially to this Seminary, and we
express to him the hope that he will be spared as our example and coun-
sellor for many years. ' '
XI. Dr. Paxton 's Eightieth Birthday.— The following letters were
sent to Dr. Paxton on his eightieth birthday:
"Princeton Theological Seminary,
June 7, 1904.
' ' Dear Dr. Paxton :
Your colleagues in the faculty would offer you their heartfelt congratu-
lations on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of your birth. The
year marks also the attainment of your majority as a member of the teach-
ing staff of the Seminary, the completion of twenty-one years of unin-
termitted labor as professor of Practical Theology at Princeton.
With the church at large we rejoice in your long service as a minister of
Jesus Christ, and in the large work which you have been able to do in the
administration of the affairs of the kingdom; but with a joy all our own
we recall the goodly fellowship of these latter years and the unbroken har-
mony and love which have characterized our labors together. You have
reached age and distinction in health and strength, and at fourscore years
you still stand among us with the harness on. Your kindly face, your
courteous manner, your helpful Christian life, together with the gentle
presence of the quiet, efficient, godly lady at your side, have been a
blessed influence at Princeton; and we are grateful to our Father in heaven
that He gave both of you to us. For two years, dear Dr. Paxton, you
were officially our leader and representative, as president of the faculty.
We loved you then; but we reverence and love you even more now as you
grace us with the beauty of the serene age of a Christian man. May God
continue His rich blessing unto you.
Francis L. Patton,
John D. Davis,
Wm. Brenton Greene, Jr.,
Wm. P. Armstrong,
Benjamin B. Warfield,
John De Witt,
Kobert D. Wilson."
' ' University Place Church, cor. Tenth Street.
1 ' My dear Dr. Paxton :
The members of the Board of Foreign Missions at their meeting yes-
terday learned with great interest that to-day marks the close of your
eightieth year. They directed me to convey to you their Christian saluta-
tions and best wishes. With grateful hearts they recognize the kind Provi-
dence which has preserved you in health and strength of body and mind
through such a long period of Christian service, and they rejoice in the
hope that the Church, which we all love, may have the inspiration of your
wisdom and example for years to come.
Your varied and fruitful ministry has been unique in eminence as well
as in usefulness. I do not know any one in the long history of our Church
who has taught in two of our largest Seminaries, presided over the delibera-
tions of both of the great Missionary Boards of the Church, filled a pas-
torate in many respects the most conspicuous in the land, and served as
Moderator of the General Assembly. Such a history implies possession
of gifts and qualities not usually combined in one personality.
Please accept from your colleagues in the Board the assurance of their
affectionate regard and their earnest prayer that the evening of your life
may be cloudless and serene, blessed with the confident expectation of a
brighter morrow. Fraternally yours,
New York City, June 7, 1904. George Alexander. ' '
XII. Dr. Paxton and the Board of Foreign Missions.— The following
is from the records of the meeting of the Board on December 5, 1904:
"The Board learned with deep regret of the death of its honored senior
member, the Bev. William M. Paxton, D.D., LL.D., which occurred at
Princeton, New Jersey, November 28th. Only a few months had elapsed
since the Board sent special congratulations to Dr. Paxton upon the event
of his eightieth birthday.
He had been a member of the Board since 1861, when he was appointed
a member of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church,
O. S., of whose Executive Committee he became a member in 1868. In
the Reunion of the Presbyterian Church in 1870 his membership was con-
tinued, and in 1880 he was elected President of the Board, to succeed the
Rev. William Adams, D.D., then recently deceased.
Dr. Paxton held the office of President till June, 1884, when, in con-
sequence of his removal to Princeton, New Jersey, he was succeeded in
the Presidency by the late Dr. John D. Wells.
Dr. Paxton was born in Adams County, Pennsylvania, June 7, 1824.
He first studied for the legal profession, but, under a deep sense of duty,
he turned his attention to the ministry, was ordained by the Presbytery
of Carlisle, and became pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Greencastle,
Pennsylvania, and later of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh,
during which latter pastorate he occupied for several years the Chair of
Sacred Rhetoric in the Western Seminary at Allegheny.
He was installed pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New York
City in 1866, which relation he held till 1883. During his New York pas-
torate he delivered, for a period of two years, lectures on Sacred Rhetoric
at Union Theological Seminary, New York.
In 1883 he was elected Professor of Homiletics and Rhetoric at the
Theological Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey.
He was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly in 1880.
It will thus be seen that, in addition to his long-continued and valu-
able service as a member and President of the Board of Foreign Missions
(he was a member also for a time in the Board of Home Missions), Dr.
Paxton had held some of the very highest positions in the Presbyterian
Church as a pastor and teacher. His general influence throughout the
denomination was widespread, inspiring as he did universal confidence by
his foresight and the soundness of his judgment. He was conservative by-
temperament and by training, and that not only in his theological views,
but in the general counsels of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Paxton
was characterized in an unusual degree by a commanding presence, rare
dignity of manner, great refinement of feeling, and untiring courtesy.
Though a man of strong convictions which he never hesitated to express,
he excelled in friendliness of spirit and consideration for the views and
feelings of others.
The Board desires to place on its records the following Minute:
Besolved, That in the death of Eev. William M. Paxton, D.D., L.L.D.,
the oldest and one of the most honored of its members, the Board has
suffered an irreparable loss. At the same time it would express its grate-
ful sense of the valuable counsel and services which have been rendered
ungrudgingly for more than forty years to the great missionary work
of the church.
Besolved, That the Board reviews with much satisfaction the helpful
influence of that strong and unflinching faith in the power of the Gospel
which Dr. Paxton always manifested while urging forward the aggressive
plans of the Board, and the judicial fairness with which he discussed all
difficult questions as they arose for consideration; and would also note
the fidelity with which, though living at a distance and suffering with the in-
creasing infirmities of age, he conscientiously filled his place at the regular
meetings of the Board.
Resolved, That the Board would express its profound and prayerful
sympathy with the family of the deceased, to whom a copy of this action
shall be sent.
Besolved, That a copy also be published in the Assembly Herald."
XIII. A Memorial Minute adopted by the New York Presbytery. —
"Seldom does any man impose upon the church so large an obligation of
gratitude as that which is created by the life-work of William Miller Pax-
ton. His eighty years were fruitful with a peculiarly wide-command-
ing and beneficent influence. The energy of his personality discharged
itself along three distinct lines of achievement. In the pulpit, in the
administration of ecclesiastical affairs, and in the chair of theological in-
struction, he rose to marked and equal distinction.
Among the mountains of southern Pennsylvania lies hidden the remote
place of his birth. From his ancestry he received a rich inheritance of
character. Both his father and grandfather were men of public spirit
and civic leadership— his father being at the head of vast and important
manufacturing interests and holding responsible trusts; his grandfather,
in youth, being a patriotic soldier in the army of the Revolution, and in
later life an able preacher beloved by his own community and honored by
the whole church.
In l>4.'i lie was graduated from Pennsylvania College at Gettysburg, a town
to-day of world-wide fame as one of the pivotal points in human history;
then B tiny hamlet, the centre of life for a farming community. At first he
addressed himself to the study of the law. But shortly the conviction
awakened within him and took possession of him, that, whatever his own
choice might have been, the call of God was to the work of the ministry.
Characteristically obedient to the heavenly vision, he abandoned the Com-
mentaries of Blackstone for the professional mastery of the Holy Scrip-
tures, and he entered Princeton Theological Seminary in 1845. Here
he sat at the feet of Archibald Alexander and his distinguished colleague,
Samuel Miller, who had, coming to the seminary from the First Church
of New York City, marked a shining path along which his pupil in the
after years should follow him. Graduated from the seminary in 1848.
he was ordained by the Presbytery of Carlisle, upon October the 4th of
that same year. During the years following he served the church at Green-
castle, Pennsylvania, and albeit his opening pastorate was so brief, the
traditions of its winsomeness and power still linger in that quiet town.
For fourteen years he occupied the notable pulpit of the First Church of
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a continual unfolding and maturing of the
splendid potencies with which his nature was so generously stored.
Coming to the First Church of New York City in the very zenith of
his ability, he lavished the wealthiest possibilities of his life in its pastoral
oversight, and having wrought and taught with masterful success, closed
his career as a pastor in 1883, in order that he might assume the honors
and discharge the responsibibties of professional duty in the seminary at
Princeton. This post was the third professorship which he had occupied,
having been lecturer on Sacred Ehetoric in Allegheny from 1860 to 1872,
and in the Union Theological Seminary of this city from 1871 to 1873.
He was director in three seminaries — the Western Theological Seminary, the
Union Theological Seminary, and the Theological Seminary at Princeton.
In accordance with a precedent, unbroken from the time of its foundation,
when the pastor of the First Church of New York was one of its charter
members, he was a trustee of Princeton University, an office which he held
for thirty-eight years. He was president of two great benevolent Boards —
the Board of Home Missions and the Board of Foreign Missions. He was
Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in May.
1880, and preached the opening sermon of the Second General Council of the
Pan-Presbyterian Alliance at Philadelphia in September of the same year.
In virtue of his pastorate he was a member of throe historic and illus-
trious charities— the Sailors' Snug Harbor, the Leake and Watts Orphan
Asylum, and the Presbyterian Hospital.
In bearing he was dignified and courtly. In habit of thought he was
analytic and searching; in expression of thought, forceful and elegant.
In conviction of truth he was clear-cut and outspoken; none doubted as
to where he stood, or why. In counsel he was judicious and sympathetic—
a ready and resourceful friend. In religious experience he was deep and
genuine; all who knew him knew that he walked with God.
By medical advice, in 1902, he retired from active service. Life's Cape
of Storms being rounded, he sailed across a Pacific sea until he quietly
entered port and dropped anchor. On Monday, November 28, 1904, his
long and eventful life-voyage was ended— the goal of all his prayer and
thought and work and aspiration was attained. The reward for which
he had spent his years was won. He saw his ' Pilot face to face. '
kobert eussell booth,
John J. McCook. "
XIV. Necrological Eeport presented to the Alumni Association of
the Princeton Theological Seminary, May 9, 1905. (By the Eev.
Joseph H. Dulles, M.A.) —
William Miller Paxton, D.D., L.L.D.,
son of James Dunlop and Jane Maria (Miller) Paxton, was born June 7,
1824, at Maria Furnace, Adams County, Pennsylvania. He made a pub-
lic confession of his faith in the Falling Spring Presbyterian Church of
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, when nearly twenty-one years of age. His
preparatory studies were pursued in the preparatory department of Penn-
sylvania College, Gettysburg, and he was graduated from its collegiate
department in 1843. He then studied law for two years in Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania. Entering the Seminary at Princeton in the fall of 1845, he
took the full three years' course there, graduating in 1848. He was
licensed by the Presbytery of Carlisle, June 1, 1847, and ordained by
the same Presbytery, October 4, 1848, being at the same time in-
stalled pastor of the Presbyterian church at Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
This relation was dissolved December 5, 1850, that he might accept a call
to the First Church of Pittsburgh, over which he was installed January
28, 1851, and from which he was released June 28, 1865. In 1860 he
became professor of Sacred Ehetoric in the Western Theological Seminary
at Allegheny, adding the duties of this chair to those of his pastorate
during the last five years of his stay in Pittsburgh and continuing them
until 1872, some years after his removal to New York City. He was pas-
tor of the First Church of New York City from February 1, 1866, until
July 9, 1883, and for two years of this time, 1871-1873, instructor of Sacred
Ehetoric in Union Theological Seminary, New York. He gave up his New
York charge on being called to the chair of Ecclesiastical, Homiletical, and
Pastoral Theology in Princeton Seminary, and took up his work there in
the fall of 1883. He was obliged to lay down its burdens, on account of
the growing infirmities of age, in the spring of 1902, when he was made
professor emeritus. He died November 28, 1904, in Princeton, as the
result of a stroke of paralysis which he had two weeks previously, in the
eighty-first year of his age. He was buried in the Princeton cemetery.
He received the honorary degree of D.D. from Jefferson College in 1860, and
that of LL.D. from Washington and Jefferson College in 1883. Dr. Pax-
ton held many positions of trust and responsibility in the Church. He was
a director of the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, 1852-1860;
a trustee of Washington and Jefferson College, 1853-1865; a director of
Princeton Seminary, 1866-1883; a trustee of Union Seminary, New York,
1873-1884; a trustee of Princeton University from 1867 until his death;
a trustee of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church from 1892
until his death; Moderator of the General Assembly at Madison, Wiscon-
sin, in 18S0; a member of the Board of Home Missions, 1866-1880, and its
president 1876-1878; a member of the Board of Foreign Missions from 1866
until his death, and its president, 1881-1884. He was also a trustee of the
Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum and of the Sailors' Snug Harbor, both
of New York. He was a commissioner to the General Assembly at Roch-
ester in 1860, at Columbus in 1862, at Philadelphia in 1870, at Madison,
Wisconsin, in 1880, and at Buffalo, New York, in 1881. Dr. Paxton was
frequently called upon for addresses on special occasions. Many of his
sermons and addresses were published. The following may be mentioned:
Two Discourses upon the Life and Character of the Eev. Francis Herron,
D.D., 1860; Discourse on the Panic of 1857'.*^ The Nation: Its Relation and
Duties to God; The Nation's Gratitude and Hope, 1862; Christian Benefi-
cence, 1857; funeral Discourses: Life and Character of Dr. Bryan': of
the Hon. Walter Lowrie, 1869; of Dr. Spring, 1873; of Dr. Charles Hodge,
1878; of Dr. M. W. Jacobus, 1876; of Dr. A. A. Hodge, 1886; inaugural
address when made a professor in Princeton Seminary, 1884; charge at the
inauguration of Dr. A. A. Hodge as professor in Princeton Seminary; The
Church: Its Strength and Its Weakness, 1881; How We Spend Our Years,
1875; Home Missions in America, an address at the First General Presby-
terian Council at Edinburgh, 1877; address on Archibald Alexander in
the Alexander Memorial, 1879; Dr. Charles Hodge as Teacher and Preacher,
in The Life of Charles Hodge by A. A. Hodge, 1880; The Mission of the
Presbyterian Church, a sermon, 1880; The Call to the Ministry, Presby-
terian Eeview, January, 1889; a sermon on Salvation as a Work, in the
Princeton Sermons, 1893. Also a syllabus of his course in Homiletics was
printed, although not published.
Dr. Paxton was twice married: (1) August 11, 1852, in Chestertown,
Maryland, to Hester V. B. Wickes, who died August 13, 1854; (2) No-
vember 8, 1855, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Caroline Sophia Denny,
who, with three sons and four daughters, survives him. One of the sons
is the Rev. James D. Paxton, D.D., an alumnus of the Seminary.
[* No copies of the two Discourses marked by an asterisk have been recovered, and
they are therefore not inserted in the list on pp. 93 ff., although they are known on
Dr. Paxtou's own authority to have been published.l
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