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

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

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

(If the author links in this post are broken, please visit our Free PDF Library and click on the author’s page directly.)

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

"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).