In the late nineteenth century there was no-one quite like Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. A great scholar based at the prestigious Princeton Theological Seminary he was such a staunch defender of traditional, orthodox Christianity that he was given the nickname “Lion of Princeton”. Such was his precision and reputation that many of his works remain in print to this day. In fact there are nineteen volumes of his sitting behind me as I type.
It is easy to think of him as a cold, forbidding figure but if you were to look at his portrait (on my wall, next to the front window) you would find a kindly crinkle around his eye, and his relationship with his wife, Annie, was an everyday feature of life at Princeton. Not long after they had married, they were walking in the Harz mountains in Germany when they were caught up in a tremendous thunderstorm. Such was the shock to her nerves, Annie Warfield did not recover and eventually ended up house-bound. A pupil, J Gresham Machen, wrote:
“I have faint recollections of her walking up and down in front of the house in the early years of my Princeton life but even that diversion has long been denied her. I never spoke to her. Her trouble has been partly nervous, and she has seen hardly anyone except Dr. Warfield, but she remained, they say, until the end a very brilliant woman. Dr. Warfield used to read to her during certain definite hours every day. For many, many years he has never been away from her more than two hours at a time. It has been some ten years since he left Princeton.”
B B Warfield spent many decades tenderly caring for his wife, and when she died almost forty years after the shock the wife of one of his fellow lecturers was heard to comment: “He has only two interests in his life—his work, and Mrs. Warfield, and now that she is gone there may be danger of his using himself up rather quickly”. Such was the love of the “Lion of Princeton”.