Dr. Charles Hodge was born on December 27, 1797 (220 years ago today). He was one of the great leaders of the 19th century American Presbyterian church, and a very prolific writer. We continue to add works by him to Log College Press, among which are his commentaries on Romans, Ephesians and First and Second Corinthians. Less well-known, but very much worth reading still, are the study guides he prepared to go along with his commentaries on Romans and First Corinthians. Be sure to check out these works and more by a remarkable pastor-scholar.
"It is one of the clearest principles of divine revelation, that holiness is the fruit of truth; and it is one of the plainest inferences from that principle, that the exhibition of the truth is the best means of promoting holiness. Christians regard the word of God as the only infallible teacher of those truths which relate to the salvation of men. But are the Scriptures really a revelation from God? If they are, what doctrines do they teach? And what influence should those doctrines exert on our heart and life?"
Thus begins The Way of Life (1841), by Charles Hodge. This book first establishes that the Scriptures are the very word of God, then that all men are sinners. After reflecting on the causes of the indifference of men to the charge of sin, and the way the Spirit convicts men of sin, Hodge covers justification, faith, repentance, the sacraments, and holiness.
May the Lord continue to use Hodge's words to teach truth and promote holiness!
What would it have been like to sit in Archibald Alexander's class on Systematic Theology in the early days of Princeton Theological Seminary? Fortunately, Princeton has scanned in Charles Hodge's notes from that class - just think, if you had been sitting next to Charles Hodge and snuck a peak at his notes, this is what would you have seen. It's a remarkable thing that we have these, but I'm sure there are many other manuscripts of classroom lecture notes (and professors' lectures!) holed away in archives around the country. If you know of any others that are accessible online, please let us know!
Most pastors and seminary students are aware of Charles Hodge's three volume Systematic Theology. It is one of the most recognized works of the 19th century, and can be purchased here. But this set certainly was not the only systematic theology published by Presbyterians in the 19th century. Sometimes remembered are William Greenough Thayer Shedd's Dogmatic Theology (you can purchase the modern edition of this book here) and Robert Lewis Dabney's Systematic Theology (you can purchase the Banner of Truth reprint of this volume here). Very few people know that Robert Jefferson Breckinridge published a two volume systematic theology, entitled The Knowledge of God Objective Considered and The Knowledge of God Subjectively Considered.
Older systematic theologies weren't asking all the same questions we ask today, of course - but that's a big reason why they are so helpful to use. They ask questions we don't even know we need to be asking. So the next time you're wrestling with a theological question, dip into one of these volumes and see what riches you might find.