Charles Hodge: Nothing but truth can really do good

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Charles Hodge, in his commentary on Romans 14, makes a point that Christians do well to consider in apologetics and other forms of conversation and discussion, especially in the age of social media.

It is, therefore, of great importance to keep the conscience free; under no subjection but to truth and God. This is necessary, not only on account of its influence on our own moral feelings, but also because nothing but truth can really do good. To advocate even a good cause with bad arguments does great harm, by exciting unnecessary opposition; by making good men, who oppose the arguments, appear to oppose the truth; by introducing a false standard of duty; by failing to enlist the support of an enlightened conscience, and by the necessary forfeiture of the confidence of the intelligent and well informed. The cause of benevolence, therefore, instead of being promoted, is injured by all exaggerations, erroneous statements, and false principles, on the part of its advocates.

According to Hodge, therefore, it matters not just what we say, but how we say it. The Lord, of course, can bring good out of evil, but as the Scripture teaches elsewhere, we are not just called to “speak the truth,” but to do so “in love” (Eph. 4:15). Hodge makes note of this in his commentary on Ephesians:

…the apostle, while condemning all instability with regard to faith, and while denouncing the craft of false teachers, immediately adds the injunction to adhere to the truth in love. It is not mere stability in sound doctrine, but faith as combined with love that he requires.

To truth, then, must be added that which is good. The presentation of truth must be done in love. In this way, Christians glorify God after the most excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31). Love “rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). Love, therefore, is the motive for “speaking the truth,” and as such, we must remember not only how to declare to others that which is true, but also to do in a manner consistent with the gospel of God’s grace. As Hodge also notes (again, in his commentary on Ephesians):

It is possible "to hold the truth in unrighteousness;" to have speculative faith without love. The character most offensive to God and man is that of a malignant zealot for the truth.

Hodge, then, emphasizes in these commentaries the unity of purpose in speaking truth in the right manner, and so glorifying God both in what we say, and in how we say it. May such a unity of purpose be the aim of all Christians who desire to exemplify that “more excellent way.”