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Albert Barnes was born in Rome, New York on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, NY, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary, in 1823.
Barnes was ordained pastor of the Presbyterian church in Morristown, NJ, in 1825. He was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, 1830-67, where he resigned and was made pastor emeritus. He was an advocate of total abstinence from alcohol, was a staunch proponent of the abolition of slavery, and worked actively to promote Sunday-school.
In 1835 he was brought to trial for heresy by the Second Presbytery of Philadelphia, and was acquitted, but his accusers succeeded in having him suspended from the ministry, but he was again acquitted of heresy in 1836. The charges of heresy primarily related to his comments on Romans and the fact that Barnes broke from strict Calvinism and taught that man had free will to accept or deny the Gospel. He was a leader in the "New School" branch of the Presbyterian church.
His commentary on the entire New Testament and on portions of the Old (Notes: Explanatory and Practical, 1832-72), designed originally for his congregation in Philadelphia, were well-suited for popular use and more than one million copies were sold before his death.
He died in West Philadelphia on December 24, 1870.