Happy Birthday to A.A. Hodge!

In the village of Princeton, New Jersey, a child was born on July 18, 1823 to parents Charles and Sarah Hodge by the name of Archibald Alexander Hodge. This child would grow up to become a missionary in India, a pastor who ministered in three states, a professor at two seminaries, and a vice-president of the National Reform Association. He authored many books and articles, and his "table talk" is recorded for us by a student of his as well. 

A.A. Hodge wrote a full-length biography of his father, Charles, but no such full-length story of his life has been written for him. Nevertheless, the biographical sketches we have of him from the hands of Charles Adamson Salmond, Francis Landey Patton and William Miller Paxton (see James M. Garretson, Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton) speak to his greatness in deed and thought. Paxton wrote "that six things constituted the man: He was a Christian, a philosopher, a theologian, an orator, a poet, and a child." Such was the genius of the man, such was his child-like faith and prayers, such was his poetic skill with words, such was his Christ-centered existence. "The centre of all his religious experience was Christ. He worshipped Christ, he believed in Jesus Christ the Son of the living God. He loved Christ, he served Christ, the fixed purpose of his life was to glorify Christ, and all his hope for the future was to be with Christ and to be like him. Christ was 'formed in him the hope of glory.'" 

Among his valuable writings, we have Outlines in Theology, developed during his pastorate at Fredericksburg, Virginia; a commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith, inspired by a class taught by ruling elder E.P. Durant; a commentary on the first half of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, completed by J. Aspinwall Hodge; Popular Lectures on Evangelical Themes, later republished under the title Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine, with an introduction by C.A. Salmond and including the biographical sketch of F.L. Patton; a biography of his father, along with a study of his father's Systematic Theology; a precious tract on the Lord's Day (take note of his remarks on the Lord's Day in his "table talk" too); and so much more. 

Recently, this writer had occasion to stand at the grave of A.A. Hodge at the Princeton Cemetery. He wrote and spoke often about death and heaven and eternal life. Though he is gone, he lives, by the work and power of his Redeemer, and we thus remember a great man today. 

Charles Hodge Entered Glory

It was on June 19, 1878, at the age of 80, that Charles Hodge, the great principal and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, entered into glory. This writer was privileged to stand at his grave today (June 19, 2018), 140 years later, on the anniversary of his passing. 

His son, A.A. Hodge, closed the biography he wrote of his father's life with a poem by Anson Davies Fitz Randolph, which comes to mind now: 


A Prince, wise, valiant, just, and yet benign;
His own will free, and still by law controlled:
No King, with armaments and fleets untold,
Such mastery had with purpose so divine,
O'er unseen forces active and malign.
He fought th' invisible spirits of the air,
Nor for himself alone, but for his race,
And men grew wiser, better, unaware
That he in silence, by his faith and prayer
Saved their beleaguered souls. Spirit of Grace
Who in him wrought, and held him in the strife.
We give Thee thanks that Thou didst him ordain
Unto a work wherein no act is vain.
And death but longer makes the service and the life.

A. D. F. R

Sabbath Afternoon Conferences

In keeping with the Puritan practice of "godly conference," grounded on 1 Cor. 14.29-31 and 1 Thess. 5.20, there were Sabbath afternoon conferences at Princeton Theological Seminary, "in which [those involved] talk[ed] over together the blessed promises of our God, and seek[ed] to learn better his will for the ordering of our lives" (Robert Jefferson Breckinridge, quoted in David B. Calhoun, Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, Vol. 2, p. 126). 

After Archibald Alexander and Samuel Miller, the tradition was continued by Charles Hodge. We have his Conference Papers (1879), which, according to Francis Patton, "are simply the theology of the lecture room thrown into homiletic form, with rich and precious application to Christian experience" (Francis Landey Patton, "Charles Hodge," The Princeton Review Vol. 1, No. 6 (1886), quoted in James M. Garrettson, ed., Pastor-Teachers of Old Princeton: Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921, p. 303). 

Hodge's "favorite pupil," William Irvin, had this to say about the Sabbath afternoon conferences led by Hodge:

"No triumph of his with tongue or pen ever so thrilled and moved human hearts as did his utterances at the Sabbath afternoon conferences in the Seminary Oratory, which will live in the immortal memory of every Princeton student. A subject would be given out on the Sunday before, generally some one which involved practical, experimental, spiritual religion—such as Christian fidelity, love of God's word, prayer, the Lord's Supper, the great commission. After brief opening services by the students, the Professors spoke in turn; but Dr. Hodge's was the voice which all waited to hear. Sitting quietly in his chair, with a simple ease which seemed born of the moment, but was really the fruit of careful preparation, even with the pen, he would pour out a tide of thought and feeling which moved and melted all—solemn, searching, touching, tender—his eye sometimes kindling and his voice swelling or trembling with the force of sacred emotion, while thought and language at times rose to a grandeur which held us spellbound. Few went away from those consecrated meetings without feeling in their hearts that there was nothing good and pure and noble in Christian character which he who would be a worthy minister of Christ ought not to covet for his own" (A.A. Hodge, The Life of Charles Hodge, p. 459).

These conference papers are a spiritual treasure indeed. Download them now for future Sabbath afternoon reading and meditation. 

A. A. Hodge's "The Day Changed and the Sabbath Preserved"

Archibald Alexander Hodge's pamphlet, "The Day Changed and the Sabbath Preserved," is a brief yet powerful argument for the permanence of the Sabbath commandment in both old and new covenant administrations of the covenant of grace. If you've never seen a copy of the original pamphlet, you can find it on the Log College Press website

In the space of 22 small pages, Hodge states the grounds on which the church has held that the fourth commandment is a part of the unending moral law, and that the first day of the week has been substituted for the seventh day by the authority of Christ's apostles (and therefore of Jesus Himself). Here are his points, which he unpacks in sufficient detail given the scope of his work:

1. The particular day of the week on which the Sabbath was to be kept never was, or could be, of the essence of the institution itself.

2. The introduction of a new dispensation, in which a preparatory and particularistic national system is to be replaced by a permanent and universal one, embracing all nations to the end of time, is a suitable occasion to switch the day.

3. The amazing fact of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the first day of the week constitutes an evidently adequate reason for appointing that in the stead of the seventh day to be the Christian Sabbath.

4. During his life Jesus had affirmed that he was "Lord also of the Sabbath day."

5. From the time of John, who first gave the institution its best and most sacred title, "Lord's day," there is an unbroken and unexceptional chain of testimonies that the "first day of the week" was observed as the Christian's day of worship and rest. 

6. With this view the testimony of all the great Reformers and all historical branches of the modern Christian Church agree.

7. The change of the day by the apostolic church has thus been proved by historical testimony, to which much might be added if space permitted, but against which no counter-evidence exists. 

The strength of Hodge's pamphlet lies in that inclusion of historical testimony, both from the early church fathers and the Reformers. Hodge is aware that the Reformers made statements contradicting the view he is arguing for, but he contends that these statements, unguarded and unadvised as they were, were uttered in the context of the Romanists reasoning from the early church's altering a command of the decalogue to the power of Rome to impose obligations on Christians, even to the altering of divine laws. Hodge draws from the writings of the Reformers themselves to show that the Reformers spoke in accord with a right view of the Lord's Day as the Christian Sabbath in several places. 

In an age in which Sabbath keeping is ignored or anathema even amongst Christians, Hodge's pamphlet is an important piece of writing we are glad to made accessible again to the church.

Archibald Alexander Hodge on the Westminster Shorter Catechism

If you are teaching through the Westminster Shorter Catechism, make sure to check out this commentary by A. A. Hodge and J. Aspinwall Hodge - The System of Theology Contained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Opened and Explained (1888). A. A. Hodge had written the first part of the book, and upon his death J. Aspinwall Hodge (his cousin) finished it. This relatively unknown volume is a great companion to Hodge's Commentary on the Westminster Confession.

What do Presbyterians believe? Read this short pamphlet by Archibald Alexander Hodge.

In 1869, the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work published a pamphlet by Archibald Alexander Hodge (the son of Charles Hodge), entitled "Presbyterian Doctrine Briefly Stated." Thanks to Barry Waugh, and his website Presbyterians of the Past, we have a copy of this succinct summary of Presbyterian doctrine. Hodge covers the following topics briefly: 1. The source and standard of religious knowledge. 2. The being and attributes of God. 3. The person and office of Christ. 4. The original and present condition of man. 5. The motive, nature, application and effects of re­demption. 6. The Church - its nature and principles of organization.

Share this with your friends who wonder what in the world a Presbyterian is!


Don't overlook these two 19th century commentaries on the Westminster Standards!

In a previous post, we highlighted Ashbel Green's Commentary on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Today we point out two important commentaries on the Westminster Confession of Faith, one by a Northern Presbyterian (Archibald Alexander Hodge's Commentary on the Confession of Faith) and one by a Southern Presbyterian (Francis Beattie's The Presbyterian Standards). Hodge's book is familiar to most Presbyterian students of theology and church history, but fewer are aware of Beattie's volume - which is a shame, because he interacts with all three of the Westminster Standards together, and thus his work is particularly helpful. 

As an example of Beattie's theological sensibilities, I have appreciated his comment on the relationship between the covenant of grace and the covenant of redemption in light of WLC #31:

"Sometimes the distinction is made by theologians between what is called the covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace. According to the former, God enters into covenant with his Son, giving him a people whom he redeems and assuredly saves. According to the latter, God enters into covenant with his people to redeem and save them by his Son, as the Mediator whom he has appointed. In the first case, God and the Son are the parties to the covenant, and the Son is the surety for his people; and in the latter case, God and the elect are the parties, and the Son is the Mediator between them. The Standards do not distinctly recognize this twofold aspect of the covenant. They speak of a second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace, according to which God has been pleased to provide for and secure the salvation of the elect. This distinction may be regarded as a valid one, so long as the idea of two covenants is not entertained. Strictly speaking, there can be only one covenant, but that covenant may be viewed in the twofold aspect, which this distinction implies. The Scripture terms mediator and surety, as applied to Christ, quite justify this twofold view of the covenant of grace, though the covenant itself is always one and the same." 

Though not all will agree with this formulation, I believe all will agree that Beattie is a man who has wrestled with the Scriptures and the text of the Standards. Tolle lege!