In Thoughts on Preaching and Pastoral Ministry, James M. Garretson provides a detailed narrative of James W. Alexander’s life in order to better understand his approach to gospel labors. Garretson draws deeply from Alexander’s correspondence, tracking the spiritual development of his life as it shaped his practice of pastoral ministry. In addition, assessments of Alexander’s sermons, books, and especially reviews provide valuable personal statements that shed light on his character and convictions. Throughout, Alexander is allowed to speak for himself so that the reader may enter into the spiritual pulse that animated his life and actions. Bracing, heartening, and at times frustrating, Alexander’s growth as a Christian and development as a minister is the story of a man subdued by God’s grace and a life marked by a growing conformity to the likeness of Christ. For those whose privilege it is to serve as ministers of the gospel, Alexander’s life and instruction provide inspiration and wisdom for how to do pastoral ministry well and with all of one’s heart.
About the Author
James M. Garretson serves as ministry director for the Christian Union at Harvard Law School and is the author of several books, including An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office.
“Jim Garretson—aficionado of all things Old Princeton—has done it again! A most welcome accomplishment of historical distinction that also challenges, inspires, and encourages to new levels of faithful service to our Lord. Thoroughly enjoyable and spiritually invigorating." — Fred G. Zaspel, pastor of Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, Pennsylvania, and executive editor of Books at a Glance
“We owe an incalculable debt to Dr. Garretson for once again leading us into that rich vein of biblical and practical insights concerning the Christian ministry, on this occasion embedded in the life and labors of J. W. Alexander, one of the ‘three mighty men’ of the early years of Princeton Seminary. In its pages we find a masterful blend of historical facts and spiritual diagnosis which enable us to sense that we have in great measure come to truly know who Alexander was, both as a Christ-obsessed man and a Christ-obsessed preacher and seminary teacher.” — Albert N. Martin, author of Preaching in the Holy Spirit
“Building on his initial research on the preaching of Archibald Alexander, Dr. Garretson has immersed himself in the experimental, practical theology of the early Princeton men. I have thoroughly enjoyed and profited from this work on the life and ministry of J. W. Alexander, a son of Archibald Alexander. As I read the book, I was entertained, challenged, convicted, encouraged, and motivated. You will be as well. One of the beauties of the book is that Dr. Garretson allows Alexander to speak for himself by voluminous quotations from his correspondence. Although the book is written in a popular style, there is also a treasure trove in the footnotes for the perusal of those who desire to delve more deeply into the various themes of the book.” — Joseph A. Pipa Jr., president and professor of historical and systematic theology, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
“James W. Alexander occupies the uppermost tier of inspiring pastor-theologians connected to Princeton Seminary in the nineteenth century. Those whose lives have been greatly enriched by his many scattered writings have long waited for a biography of him that draws readers into these writings and highlights the many passions of his life, including his passion for preaching and pastoral ministry. James Garretson has done an incalculable work in compiling this spiritually edifying book. Those who read it will discover a godly mentor and a model for life and ministry and will be richly blessed.” — Gary Steward, assistant professor of history, Colorado Christian University; and author of Princeton Seminary (1812–1920): Its Leaders' Lives and Works
“On one level, James Garretson’s Thoughts on Preaching and Pastoral Ministry is an inspiring analysis of the life of J. W. Alexander, a man who was shaped by God’s providence into one of the greatest American preachers of the nineteenth century. At a deeper and much more profound level, it is an insightful primer on the basics of effective pastoral ministry that demands a thoughtful reading from prospective ministers of the gospel in this and every age. At the heart of Garretson’s wise and compelling analysis is his contention that the key to Alexander’s effectiveness as a minister was not his wide-ranging and celebrated brilliance, but the ‘Christ-centered focus’ that characterized his ‘personal devotion, pulpit proclamation, and pastoral practice.’ Garretson’s volume is an important and much-needed reminder that the ‘best preparation’ for faithful pastoral ministry is not found in the pursuit of academic acclaim, but in the cultivation of that ‘disposition of devotion’ that is essential to ‘a life of self-sacrificing service on behalf of others.’ Highly recommended.” — Paul Kjoss Helseth, professor of Christian thought, University of Northwestern, St. Paul, and author of “Right Reason” and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal