Moses D. Hoge on "The Cotter's Saturday Night"

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One of Robert Burns’ most beloved poems is the word picture of family worship that constitutes his 1785 “The Cotter’s Saturday Night” (the full text can be read here). The scene was portrayed as a painting by William Kidd (c. 1850). This portrayal also served as inspiration for Moses Dury Hoge in an “unpremeditated address delivered before the Conference of the Evangelical Alliance” in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1884. Philip Schaff asked Hoge to deliver this address (which is also reproduced in the appendix to Peyton Harrison Hoge’s Moses Dury Hoge: Life and Letters) at the very last possible minute, but it proved to be a memorable and profitable deliverance on the subject of “Family Religion.”

After quoting lines from William Cowper, Hoge moved on to discuss Burns’ memorable poem:

And as one quotation suggests another, you, my friends from another land, will allow me to remind you of the hallowed scene depicted by one of the greatest bards, not only of Scotland but of the world — the picture of "The Cotter's Saturday Night," when the family, gathered for the evening worship, formed a circle around the fireside, and when the old patriarch, having read a portion from "the big ha' Bible," and all together having sung a psalm, borne upward by "Dundee's wild warbling notes," or "plaintive Martyrs" or "noble Elgin" —

"Then kneeling down to Heaven's eternal King,
The saint, the husband and the father prays.
Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing.
That thus they all shall meet in future days,
No more to sigh or shed the bitter tear.
Together hymning their Creator's praise,
In such society, yet still more dear,
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere."

There is a picture of family worship whose outlines will never grow dim, and whose colors will not fade.

Well was it said, "From scenes like these old Scotia's grandeur springs," and as long as piety in the household continues to be the characteristic of the life of the people of any land, it will never be with out the patriot soldier to defend its rights, or the patriot bard to sing its glories. Then let family worship open the gates of the morning with praise, and close the portals of the day with peace; let the children grow up under the hallowing influences of household piety, and these salutary impressions will never be effaced.

Words to consider on a weekend over a century later. “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

"A nation is but a congeries of families" - Moses D. Hoge

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It was at the Sixth General Council of the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, meeting in Glasgow, Scotland in 1896, that the Rev. Moses Drury Hoge delivered an address on “The Educative Influence of Presbyterianism on National Life.” He spoke of the importance of the family in relation to the health of the commonwealth, and took note especially of the role of mothers for the good that they do on behalf of their families which in turn is a service to the nation at large.

A nation is but a congeries of families, and what the family is, the nation will be….Under the great dome of the sky I do not believe there are any surpassing our Presbyterian mothers in the faithful training of their children to walk in the right ways of the Lord, nor do I believe that there are any who have influences transcending those of Presbyterian households in preparing children to become good citizens of the country and of the kingdom of Christ.

The death of our old Calvinistic mother has been frequently announced, and her funeral oration pronounced. Well, the death of a mother is a great event in the lives of her children. A minister in my own country says, “When we came to lay our mother in the grave, one of us said to a friend at his side, ‘We will remember the works that will follow her.’ ‘What works?’ asked the friend to whom he spoke. He replied, ‘She bore ten sons and trained them all for Christ. We are all standing around her grave to bless God that she ever lived.’”

Mr. President, fathers and brethren, we, too, bless God for our dear old Presbyterian mother, who has borne ten thousand times ten thousand children and trained them all for Christ; but we are not standing around her grave! We rejoice that she is still a living mother — her eye not dim, nor her spiritual force abated, and when our descendants are as near the close of the twentieth century as we are to the end of the nineteenth, another council will meet to celebrate her virtues and her works in strains of adoring gratitude compared with which our utterances tonight are cold and poor. — Source: Peyton Harrison Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters, pp. 370-371

Moses Drury Hoge on the Cause and Cure of Despondency

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On October 2, 1898, Moses Drury Hoge stood to preach to the congregation of Second Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, a church he had planted in 1845 and pastored from that point. He had just turned eighty years of age two weeks earlier, and due to a “severe and serious illness,” it was the first time in many weeks that he had been in the pulpit. His sermon text was Psalm 42:11, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God,” and its title was “Cause and Cure of Despondency.” The sermon is now available on Hoge’s page on the Log College Press website (Andrew Myers was able to photograph this volume thanks to the courtesy of the staff of the rare book room at the William Morton Smith Library, Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Virginia).

What words would this octogenarian give to his people to comfort and cheer them in their distresses? Hoge began by noting that David confronted his deep despondency with “searching inquiries as to the cause of his disquietude.” But his examination was aimed within, for “the soul has a strange power of going out of itself and conversing with itself as with another.” And Hoge saw this self-examination as a vital part of the Christian’s response to suffering:

Well would it be for us if we would cultivate this habit of going out of ourselves to counsel, to examine, to rebuke, or to cheer our own hearts. God has given us memory, and reason, and imagination for this very purpose. We exercise our memory and our reason more frequently than our imagination, and fail to make a proper use of it, because we confound imagination with fancy or fiction, overlooking the fact that imagination is a conception - a realization of the unseen. It pictures to us an unseen Savior, an unseen heaven; and, like faith, it enables us to apprehend the things hoped for as a present possession. We do not make enough of this imagination…Since God has given us these faculties, let us employ them for the purpose for which they were bestowed. We live in an executive, rather than a contemplative, age. As an antidote to this, let us spend more time in self-communion…It is greatly wise to catechize ourselves, to exhort, to scrutinize, to chide, to sit in judgment on our characters and lives.

Hoge declared that all of our despondency may be reduced to one cause: sin. Sometimes that sin lies within our own heart, and must be “searched out, confessed and repented of.” The hiding of a Father’s face due to indwelling corruption leads to “self-scrutiny and self-examination [which are] sad work at the time, but its fruits are precious, and the chastened child never forgets the lessons he has learned in these hours of anguish.” On other occasions our troubles are the result of the sins of others against us, or of the sicknesses that are the result of sin’s entrance into the world, or to “insoluble mysteries…which seem to baffle all investigation and to elude all explanation.” Oftentimes our distress and despair are due to the slow development of our spiritual lives, or to the fact that we see no fruit for our labor, though we have strained to edify our neighbors and glorify God.

What is the cure to all these various forms of despondency? In a word, hope. Whether our own sin or the sin of others against us; whether perplexing providence or crushing bereavement or a seemingly vain attempt at doing good; we must put our hope in a sovereign and forgiving God, who is “our God by covenant, by oath, by indwelling presence.” This hope flows naturally into praise, and Hoge ends his sermon with a expression of desire: “How it would rejoice my heart if this, my first sermon on my return, should be the means of leading some soul to Christ, or of strengthening and comforting one of God’s dear children.” May the Lord do the same for you as you read this sermon.

"Where the Sparrow May Find a House" -- Moses D. Hoge

“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.” (Ps. 84:3)

The Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia is a remarkable architectural achievement that is largely the product of a vision by Moses Drury Hoge, its first pastor.

His nephew and biographer, Peyton Harrson Hoge, references a letter written by Moses to Mrs. Mary Parson Greenleaf in 1846, in which he laid out his dream of a new church building:

Source: Peyton H. Hoge,  Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters , p. 90.

Source: Peyton H. Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters, p. 90.

“I go in for a stone Gothic, rubble walls, crevices for moss and ivy; holes where old Time may stick in his memorials; cozy loop-holes of retreat, where the sparrow may find a house for herself … and the swallow a nest for her young.”

The reader will note Peyton’s historical reference to the arrival of English (House) Sparrows to America from Europe in the 1850’s, which became perhaps the first introduction of an invasive species in the United States. Construction of the Second Presbyterian Church was completed in 1848.

Source: Peyton H. Hoge,  Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters , pp. 98-99.

Source: Peyton H. Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters, pp. 98-99.

Julius Melton, citing Wyndham B. Blanton, The Making of a Downtown Church, p. 79, adds to our understanding of Moses as a romantic visionary:

Even after getting such a building in 1848, Hoge’s romanticism was not abated. Some years later, after preaching before Queen Victoria, he declined her gift of a handsome Bible, requesting instead a slip of ivy from Westminster Abbey, which he carried home and planted at the base of his Gothic church (Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns Since 1787, p. 68).

Lady of the Covenant: Katherine Heath Hawes

When Moses Drury Hoge was seeking the right person to lead a Sunday school program at his pastorate, the Second Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Virginia, he called upon Miss Katherine Heath Hawes (1875-1956), then about 20 years old.

Miss Katherine Heath Hawes of Richmond, Virginia, is credited with beginning Presbyterian youth ministry in the Southern Presbyterian Church. After Hawes returned from boarding school in 1895, the pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, Dr. Moses Drury Hoge, asked Miss Hawes to teach either a boys or girls Sunday school class. She chose the boys class (they were ages eight to ten!). Seeing how few boys attended Sunday school, Miss Hawes opened her home to them on Friday evenings for games and music, to provide them a place for fellowship with their peers. The following March, Company No. 1 of the Covenanters was born. Officers were elected, and a badge, watchward, and flag provided symbols of the Covenanters. Reports from and offerings for missionaries proved to be the focal point of the group. They eventually developed a choir and orchestra, then a fife and drum corps, followed by an emphasis on service projects.

As the boys grew older, their enthusiasm for the Covenanters brought about a desire in other Presbyterian churches to have such a ministry. By 1900, Presbyterian churches in nine other states and the District of Columbia registered as Companies of Covenanters. Soon Miriams, a companion group for girls, was added. (Mark H. Senter, When God Shows Up: A History of Protestant Youth Ministry in America, pp. 180-181)

Katherine Heath Hawes pictured in 1895.

Katherine Heath Hawes pictured in 1895.

The daughter of Samuel Horace Hawes, a member of the Confederate “Immortal 600,” Miss Hawes was also known, among other things, for her concern for the plight of blacks (particularly, black women) in her day. A student from her Social Service class in the 1920s wrote in 1986: “Miss Katherine was the first to awaken my conscious [sic] regarding the sorry plight of the negroes - especially the black woman sending off her children to school not knowing what insult, injury, or slight they might meet with during the day . . . .Their courage!" Compassion for the needs of the young and disadvantaged was a hallmark of Miss Hawes’ labors of love. She never married but she gave a life of service to the youth of the Presbyterian church, and the community around her. After her passing, her body was laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Robert Pollok Kerr wrote a book-length history and tribute to the Scottish Covenanters. Published in 1905, The Blue Flag, or, The Covenanters Who Contended for 'Christ's Crown and Covenant', this volume was

Miss Katherine Heath Hawes,

Who conceived and carried out the idea of
organizing the Presbyterian boys of the
United States in companies of “Covenanters”
to work for Christ and his Church, infusing
into them the spirit of those splendid heroes,
of whose toils and sufferings for liberty and
truth this book is a history:

And to the

Covenanter Companies:

May they keep the Old Flag flying, and be
faithful soldiers of Christ and his Church.

The Author

The Gift of Men

"Among the great gifts that God has given to men is the gift of men; and among all the gifts with which God has enriched His church, one of the greatest has been the gift of consecrated men, for they are the instrumentalities by which the church has been moulded and prospered in all the generations of the world." -- Moses Drury Hoge, Memorial Sermon for John Albert Broadus

With this thought in mind, be sure to check out the Biographies and Autobiographies and Funeral Discourses pages at Log College Press to read the stories of some godly, amazing and inspiring men, women and children.