John Williamson Nevin

1803-1886. German Reformed theologian. Descendant of wealthy Scotch-Irish farmers, he prepared for the Presbyterian ministry under Princeton's Charles Hodge.* While teaching at Western Theological Seminary, he developed an interest in church history, particularly through the writings of J.A.W. Neander.* In 1840 he was called to teach at the German Reformed Seminary at Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. With Philip Schaff,* another convert to the German Reformed Church, he created the Mercersburg Theology.* His major works were The Anxious Bench (1843), which attacked the superficiality of revivalism, and The Mystical Presence (1846), which presented the Eucharist, the “spiritual real presence,” as central to the church's life. Plagued by illness, he retired in 1853, but later taught at his church college, Franklin and Marshall, where he was president (1866-76). His anti-individualistic thinking had much influence on later American Christianity.