Austin Phelps

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Austin Phelps
Austin Phelps c. 1870
Austin Phelps c. 1870
Born (1820-01-07)January 7, 1820
West Brookfield, Massachusetts
Died October 13, 1890(1890-10-13) (aged 70)
Bar Harbor, Maine
Nationality United States
Occupation Minister
Known for President of Andover Theological Seminary; author of Christian books still in print
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Stuart, Mary Stuart, Mary Ann Johnson
Children Mary Gray, Moses Stuart, Amos Lawrence, Francis Johnson, Edward Johnson

Austin Phelps (January 7, 1820 – October 13, 1890), was an American Congregational minister and educator. He was for 10 years President of the Andover Theological Seminary and his writings became standard textbooks for Christian theological education and remain in print today.


Austin Phelps was born in West Brookfield, Massachusetts. His father, Eliakim Phelps was a clergyman and the principal of a girls’ school in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Eliakim Phelps was later pastor of a Presbyterian church in Geneva, New York, where he was installed as in 1830, and in 1835 he was elected Secretary of the American Educational Society of Philadelphia.[1]

After preparing for college at the age of twelve Austin studied at Hobart College from 1833 to 1835, then at Amherst for six months. He was by far the youngest boy in his class and was intensely unhappy. In 1835 he rejoined his family in Philadelphia where he finally obtained a degree in 1837 from the University of Pennsylvania.[1]

He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary (including six months of Hebrew studies under Isaac Nordheimer), at the Yale Divinity School, and later at Andover. In 1840, he was licensed to preach by the Third Presbytery of Philadelphia.[2][1] In 1842, he was pastor of the Pine Street (Congregational) Church in Boston when he met and married in the autumn of that year Elizabeth Stuart (August 13, 1815 – November 30, 1852). She was the eldest daughter of Moses Stuart, president of Andover Theological Seminary. His wife Elizabeth Stuart, aside from Jacob Abbott, was one of the earliest writers of books for girls, publishing the four volume Kitty Brown series of books for girls under the pen name H. Trusta and other books.[3] They had three children, Mary Gray (b. 1844), Moses Stuart (b. 1849) and Amos Lawrence (b. 1852).[4]

In the spring of 1848 he moved his family to Andover, Massachusetts where he became professor of sacred rhetoric and homiletics at Andover Theological Seminary.[1] In 1869 he was selected as president of Andover, a role he served in until 1879 when failing health forced him to resign.[2]

For seven months in 1850, his father Eliakim's home in Stratford, CT was the site of bizarre spiritualist rappings and phenomena which were widely reported in the press. These events were an influence on Austin's daughter Mary Gray Phelps (1844-1911), a feminist who later wrote three popular spiritualist novels under the name Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward.

After his wife Elizabeth died of brain fever on November 20, 1852,[1] their 8-year-old daughter Mary Gray asked to be renamed in honor of her mother.[5] He married Elizabeth's sister, Mary Stuart (b. 1822), in 1854, but she died only eighteen months later. He married for a third time Mary Ann Johnson (1829–1918) of Boston, with whom he had two more children, Edward and Francis. Austin died on October 13, 1890 at Bar Harbor, Maine.[4]


His Theory of Preaching (1881) and English Style in Public Discourse (1883) became standard textbooks. With Professors E. A. Park and D. L. Furber he edited Hymns and Choirs (1860), and with Professor Park and Lowell Mason The Sabbath Hymn Book (1859). His book The Still Hour[6] (1859), a summary of a series of sermons on prayer, is a devotional classic and remains in publication.[2][7]

His other works are:

  • The New Birth (1867), portraying conversion (in some instances) as a gradual change
  • Sabbath Hours (1874)
  • Studies of the Old Testament (1878)
  • Men and Books (1882)
  • My Portfolio (1882)
  • My Study (1885)
  • The Still Hour: or, Communion with God (1885)
  • The Certainty of Success in Preaching (1889)
  • My Note Book (1890)


"Wear the old coat and buy the new book."

"We are never more like Christ than in prayers of intercession."


  1. ^ a b c d e "Austin Phelps, American Congregational Minister and Educator". Notable Phelps Family Members. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Phelps, Austin". Encyclopædia Britannica. 21 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 362–363. 
  3. ^ "Elizabeth Stuart Phelps". Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Kessler, Carol (1995). The Story of Avis (4th, paperback print ed.). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers Univ. Press. ISBN 0-8135-1099-6. 
  5. ^ "Female author, Elizabeth Wooster Stuart Phelps, was one of the earliest writers to create a series of books for girls". Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Phelps, Austin (1861). The Still Hour: Communion with God in Prayer (PDF). Boston, MA.: Gould and Lincoln. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Phelps, Austin (2005). The Still Hour: Communion with God in Prayer. Birmingham, Ala.: Solid Ground Christian Books. ISBN 978-1-932474-75-6. 

Additional reading[edit]

  • Phelps, Austin & H. Trusta. (1853) The Last Leaf from Sunny Side, Phillips, Sampson, and company. 342 pp.
  • Phelps-Ward, Elizabeth Stuart. (1891) Austin Phelps: A Memoir, New York.
  • Austin Phelps quotes

External links[edit]