Van Vranken, Samuel A, Dd
Van Vranken, Samuel A., D.D.
an eminent Reformed (Dutch) minister, son of the foregoing, was born at Fishkill, N.Y., Feb. 20, 1792. At the age of twelve he was sent to New York as a merchant's clerk, but, having become pious, he decided to prepare for the ministry. Graduating from Union College in 1815, he then studied theology at the Seminary in New Brunswick under Dr. Livingston, and was licensed to preach in 1817. He first settled in Monmouth County, N. J., at Middletown and Freehold, 1818-26; and in Freehold alone from 1826 to 1834. His ministry of seventeen years in that county was eminently successful, and resulted in friendships and blessings that have long survived his pastorate. In 1834 he accepted a call to the Reformed Church in Poughkeepsie, and labored with great usefulness until 1837, when he succeeded: Dr. Jacob Brodhead as pastor of the Church in Broome Street, New York. After four years of service in that important: metropolitan charge, he was elected in 1841, by the General Synod, to the chair of didactic and polemic theology in the Theological Seminary at New Brunswick. He' was also chosen by the trustees of Rutgers College professor of the evidences of the Christian religion and of logic in that institution. Both of these offices he held until his decease, in 1861 a period of nearly twenty years. He published, during his ministry in New York, two valuable discussions. One is a sermon entitled Socinianism Subversive of Christianity; a compact, learned, eloquent, and popular presentation of the scriptural argument for the deity of Jesus Christ (1841). The other is entitled Whose Children are Entitled to Baptism? In it he gives an exhaustive view of the different sides of this vexed question, and advocates with great ingenuity and power his own doctrine that all the children of parents who are themselves baptized are born in covenant relations, and are therefore, ipso falcto, entitled to baptism. This work occasioned a prolonged and able discussion between the Rev. Dr. Jacob Van Vechten and the author, which was published in the Christian Intelligencer. He was not fond of appearing in print, although his occasional newspaper articles. and the little works above referred to gave good proofs of an ability which might have been profitably cultivated. His general scholarship was good. He possessed a great fund of information upon almost all subjects of the day, and especially in their religious and theological aspects. Of the classics he knew less than of other branches of learning. He was familiar with the philosophical works of the best metaphysicians. In theology he was "a master in Israel." His lectures for the seminary classes were written and rewritten three times with the utmost care. Of these he read two each week, the students taking copious notes and reciting from them at a third lecture. Definitions and proof-texts from Scripture and the classis argumentorum were required to be given with rigid accuracy. Failure here was total failure. Some few pupils, not the most industrious and able, complained of this exacting demand; but the results were seen at the annual examinations before the board of superintendents, and for licensure and ordination, in the clear, precise, systematic, analytical knowledge, and in the ready scriptural proofs and theological training of the twenty or more classes that were educated by him in this department. His drill was thorough in its processes and admirable in its results. As a preacher he was pre-eminent. His majestic body, his animated features, his deep and large bass voice, his solemnity of manner, his power of argument, his knowledge of the Bible and of human nature, his close dealings with conscience; his pathetic, tearful and awe-inspiring appeals; his Christian experience, chastened and enlarged by heavy afflictions; and, above all, his manifest conviction of the truth that he spake with all the earnestness of his nature and the "unction of the Holy One" all these, combined with fullness of matter, terseness of expression, richness of style, and an individuality that marked the whole man, made him a prince of preachers, and, in many respects, a model to his students. As a pastor, also, he was as truly a son of consolation as in the pulpit he was a Boanerges. His exuberant flow of spirits, his genuine native wit his powers of amusement and of playful mirth never lowered his dignity, but made his lecture-room a frequent scene of pleasure, and irradiated his home with uncommon attractions. There was no professor so accessible, so genial and at home with his students. Yet no one ever dared to step over the bounds of strict propriety in his presence. His rebukes were often tremendous, but uttered in few words and seldom needed. In. private life he was fill of sunshine; generous, unsuspicious, frank, never a croaker, always hopeful, a most entertaining talker, and an example of the Christian gentleman. His piety was Unaffected, simple, childlike, trustful, sympathetic, and practical. He never boasted of his religion, but was modest and often reticent on the subject in private intercourse. He was a good representative of Bunyan's Great-heart. Among the afflicted, in the prayer-meeting, at the sacramental table, and in his pulpit, his heart was ever full of Christ. He was no partisan in ecclesiastical affairs, yet necessarily took a. leading part in most of the great questions of his public ministry in the Reformed Church. He was an effective advocate, a formidable antagonist, and yet so fair and free of mere cliquish prejudices that his opinions carried great weight, and his action was generally approved by its consequences. He died, Jan. 1, 1861, after an illness of only one week, from congestion of the lungs. His faith triumphed in death. See Corwin, Manual of the Ref. Church in America,. s.v; Wilson, Presb. Hist. Almanac, 1862, p. 299; Christian Intelligencer, Jan. 24, 1861. (W.J.R. T.)