One of the many thousands who felt indebted to Warfield was Dr J. Gresham Machen. Of all the teachers at Princeton it was he who left the deepest and most lasting impression on Machen. This influence was not felt so much as a student nor in Machen’s early years as an Instructor in the Seminary. Evidence of it can indeed be seen as early as 1909, the year of the 400th anniversary celebration of Calvin’s birth. Machen wrote to his mother of Warfield’s address on ‘The Theology of John Calvin’ as ‘the feature’ of the Celebration at Princeton. In this address Warfield spoke of the vision of God in His Majesty as ‘lying at the foundation of the entirety of Calvinistic thinking’. It was through Warfield that Machen came to see that a broadly based evangelicalism was not enough — it was the full-orbed Reformed faith which alone was consistent Biblical Christianity and consistent evangelicalism.
Warfield saw the drift which had set in at Princeton — the drift which was eventually to destroy the witness of the Seminary which had stood for over a century as a bastion of the faith. Dr Machen tells of an extraordinary conversation which he had with Warfield shortly before the latter’s death: ‘In the course of the conversation I expressed my hope that to end the present intolerable condition there might be a great split in the Church, in order to separate the Christians from the anti-Christian propagandists. “No”, he said, “you can’t split rotten wood”.’ He had small hope for the major denominations of the time. (Stonehouse’s Biography of Machen, p. 310).