In its early years, the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton, had a number of Presidents whose tenure in office was relatively brief. One thinks, of course, of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the theologian of the eighteenth century, who was there less than three months. Samuel Davies (1723-1761), who succeeded Edwards, was President for about nineteen months before he died. He was succeeded by Samuel Finley (d.1766), who was president from 1761 to 1766. And the very first president of the school, Jonathan Dickinson (1688-1747), was in office for but five months. The longest serving of these early Presidents was Aaron Burr, Sr. (1716-1757), the son-in-law of Jonathan Edwards. He was in office for nine years. It was Burr who led the school from Newark to the village of Princeton in 1756, only to die the following year. Only with the coming of John Witherspoon (1723-1794) in 1768 was this line of brief presidencies broken.
But linking together these short presidencies was a shared worldview that esteemed the Scriptures as the supreme source of wisdom and knowledge. It was a worldview that was in hearty agreement with Dickinson’s declaration about the educational ideal of the fledgling school when it first met in the parlour of his home: “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
Toronto Baptist Seminary, where I serve as principal, was founded 180 years after the College of New Jersey in very different circumstances. But I hope we, as a school, share Dickinson’s passion for a Christ-centred education.
PS I am thankful to Pastor Ron Shinkle of Lemoyne Baptist Church, Toledo, Ohio, for drawing my attention to Dickinson’s statement.