Mar 18, 2012

Beauty and the Princeton Piety

27 Min Read

The Princeton Theology was an attempt to maintain Reformed theology and experience in America during the nineteenth and the opening decades of the twentieth centuries. The men at Princeton staunchly defended the objective elements in the Christian faith against the increasing number and intensity of attacks upon Calvinism from both within and without the Church. But they also advocated a clearly definable Princeton piety. The subject of religious experience was as integral to the content of the Princeton Theology as was any discussion of strictly doctrinal issues. Critics have largely neglected this aspect of the writings of men such as Archibald Alexander, Charles and A.A. Hodge, and Benjamin B. Warfield. Passing reference is occasionally made to the fact that personal piety was important, but these critics have charged that their piety was of little consequence in mitigating an essentially intellectualistic approach to the Christian faith. The resulting impression is that religious experience was eclipsed by an emphasis on doctrine and that the Princeton theologians effected an artificial compartmentalization of their experience and beliefs.

In the light of these criticisms I would like to refer to the life and writings of the central figure of the Princeton School, Charles Hodge. Through his Systematic Theology, his editorship of the Princeton Review from 1825 to 1871, his preaching, and his personal piety, Hodge’s influence was spread literally around the world. Approximately three thousand students sat under his tutelage at Princeton Theological Seminary. In assessing Hodge’s views on religious experience I will examine his personal life, his systematic writings, and his devotional writings.

Hodge’s piety was shaped during his childhood days by his mother. She raised five children on her own, since her husband died a year after Charles was born. Charles’s admiration for his mother was profound: “To us she devoted her life. For us she prayed, labored, and suffered.”1 Mary Hodge took the children to church regularly and “drilled” them in the Westminster Catechism. In an autobiographical sketch included in The Life of Charles Hodge written by his son, Hodge described his religious experiences as a child:

There has never been anything remarkable in my religious experience, unless it be that it began very early. I think that in my childhood I came nearer to conforming to the apostle’s injunction: “Pray without ceasing,” than in any other period of my life. As far back as I can remember” I had the habit of thanking God for everything I received, and asking him for everything I wanted. If I lost a book, or any of my playthings, I prayed that I might find it. I prayed walking along the streets, in school and out of school, whether playing or studying. I did not do this in obedience to any prescribed rule. It seemed natural. I thought of God as an everywhere-present Being, full of kindness and love, who would not be offended if children talked to him.2

He compared these prayers to the worship which the birds offered to God. To such faith Hodge attributed his having used profanity but once in his life.

While attending Princeton Hodge had a conversion experience in 1815. It was not accompanied by a very dramatic change in his life, since the conversion had as a foundation not only the memorized Westminster Catechism but a religious disposition against which he never seemed to have rebelled at all. Even though Hodge tended to play down the revivalistic excitement which swept the campus, he was not against such conversion experiences and the revival itself.

During the latter part of his seminary preparation he was engaged in missionary work by preaching on Sundays. At this time he kept the only religious diary he ever wrote. Several entries indicate the intensity of his concern regarding his own religious experience or lack thereof.

On Wednesday evening, October 20th, 1819, I preached my trial sermon at Pittsgrove. . . . Though the Lord had kindly afforded me solemn feelings in view of my entrance on the ministry, yet I found my heart but little engaged during the time of the service.

Nov. 28th, 1819. . . . During this sacred day I have experienced very little spiritual enjoyment; my heart has been too far from God. . . . Let not, my soul, the end of the week you have now entered find you still at such a distance from God. Oh, Holy Spirit, return unto thy rest! Deign to make my bosom Thine abode.

Feb. 13th, 1820. . . . May I be taught of God that I may be able to teach others also. It is only the heart that has been deeply exercised in divine things which can enable us to preach experimentally to others. Piety is the life of a minister.3

These passages illustrate that piety for Hodge included an experience of feeling on a continuing basis. It necessitated a cultivation of one’s devotional life as a prerequisite for preaching.

Hodge’s capacity for feeling is also evident in letters which he sent to his wife while he was abroad, studying under continental biblical scholars from February 1827 to April 1828. In one letter he expresses the depth of feeling which he experienced at first seeing the Alps as well as the sincere affection he had for his wife.

I have seen the Alps! If now I never see anything great or beautiful in nature, I am content. I felt that as soon as I saw you, I could fall at your feet and beg you to forgive my beholding such a spectacle without you, my love. You were dearer to me in that moment than ever. . . . One of the Swiss gentlemen said with infinite indifference–“Voila (sic) les Alpes.” I raised my eyes and around me in a grand amphitheatre, high up against the heavens, were the Alps! It was some moments before the false and indefinite conceptions of my life were overcome by the glorious reality. . . . This was the first moment of my life in which I felt overwhelmed. The natural bridge in Virginia had surprised me—the Rhine had delighted me-but the first sudden view of the Alps was overwhelming. This was a moment that can never return; the Alps can never be seen again by surprise, and in the ignorance of their real appearance.4

Hodge kept a journal while he was in Europe in which he recorded almost daily notes of his visit. Of particular interest are comments on his own religious life and his reactions to various worship services which he attended. He was especially moved by a sermon preached by a pastor Kurtz in Halle. He notes: “My heart overflowed with joy to hear the praise of Christ. . . . It has been very long since I have enjoyed so much the pleasure in hearing a sermon. For here, there are few who appear to feel the spirit of the gospel or whose hearts are warmed with the love of the blessed Saviour. God bless Kurtz.”5 After attending a communion service in a correctional institution for boys in Berlin Hodge wrote introspectively:

I have recently been more than ever, I think, affected by a sense of the indescribable excellence of our adorable Saviour, his character has appeared to me in a purity and beauty which my blind eyes have been long in discovering. Oh that I should see more of his loveliness everyday that I live and be more transformed into his image.6

Thus the entries from his year abroad while he was increasing his competency in the biblical languages reflect the same concern for religious experience that one finds in his religious diary written during his seminary life. His predominant concern in his spiritual life is the presence or absence of feeling.

Further evidence of Hodge’s capacity for and expression of feeling is found in references to his family life. The deep affection which he expressed for his mother and his wife he also communicated to other members of his family. Hodge’s son noted in the biography of his father that the study in the Hodge home had two doors, one opening toward the seminary for students to use and the other opening into the main hall of the house. Thus the whole family had easy access to the father. Hodge removed the latches from the door and put springs on them so that even the smallest member of the family could enter at will. The younger Hodge said of the family worship that his father prayed for the members gathered about his knees “with such soul-felt tenderness, that however bad we were our hearts all melted to his touch.” In fact, it was the private family life that the children most remembered:

That which makes those days sacred in the retrospect of his children is the person and character of the father himself . . . all radiant as that was with love, with unwavering faith, and with unclouded hope.7

The depth of Hodge’s emotional nature is most easily seen in his reaction to his wife’s death in 1845. In his “Memoranda,” a daily record of weather conditions along with other miscellaneous notes, sayings, and records, Hodge recorded her death. He asked her, “Do you love the Lord Jesus? . . . Do you trust him?” to which she answered “I hope so” and “Entirely.” When he asked, “Is he precious to you?” she replied, “Very. . . . Inexpressibly. . . . He is my all in all.” Following the report of her death on Christmas day, Hodge penned a deeply affectionate note in his record book.

Blesst saint; companion of my boyhood – my first and only love – my most devoted wife – mother of my children – all sacred memories cluster around you; and all who knew you pronounce you blessed. May the God of infinite mercy send the Holy Spirit to take in this family your place, and be the instructor, guide and comforter of your household and bring all your children to a life of devotion to the Lord Jesus.8

His memory of her was such that after each Sunday following her death he numbered the day–i.e., “first Sunday after,” “second Sunday after,” etc. He noted the first time he preached after her death. The practice of numbering Sundays continues for 132 weeks. After September 16, 1857, he recorded it was the anniversary of the last time she heard him preach. He placed a thick black line beside each December 25th from the time of her death until 1854.9

When these glimpses of Hodge’s family life, his deeply emotional nature, and his private devotional practices come to light, a different aspect of his character emerges from that which is usually associated with the Princeton professor. These traits should not be dismissed as incidental or peripheral to his character as a whole. Indeed, for those who knew him best these were the qualities for which they remembered him most. They were more important in the minds of his family and closest acquaintances than his intellectual talents.

What we have noticed so far in Hodge’s personal life and writings is confirmed by what he wrote in his Systematic Theology. The study that has dealt in some measure with the subject of religious experience in Hodge’s thought is the unpublished Ph.D. thesis of James L. McAllister: “The Nature of Religious Knowledge in the Theology of Charles Hodge.” He examines the thought of the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid and shows the significant influence that Reid’s philosophy had in Hodge’s theology. What one finds in the Systematic Theology owing to his dependence on the Scottish philosopher, according to McAllister, is an empiricism; rationalism, dualism, and implicit authoritarianism. In the duality between subject and object, both of which are created by God, the perceiving subject is so constituted that the reason begins with external senses and in an inductive manner gathers facts. Certain intuitive principles are assumed, one of the most important being that the mind is so constituted that whether it perceives the material world, cause and effect, or truth and error, it correctly perceives what is. Reason judges between evidences that are presented to it. Both natural knowledge and the knowledge of faith are based on evidence that is presented to the mind. The implicit authoritarianism is evident as Hodge often appeals to the assumed first principles of Common Sense Realism, which he substantiates not by rational arguments but by appeal to the universal acceptance of them by people of all nations and ages.10

McAllister’s thesis is valuable as an exposition of Hodge’s dependence on the Scottish philosophy. But McAllister has not brought all of the elements of Hodge’s methodology into view. Hodge assigned a very important role to the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit. It is no substitute for the external revelation found in the Scriptures, but it does play a significant role. Following Augustine, the Fathers, Calvin, and the Genevan theologians, Hodge taught that the Holy Spirit has a place in determining a theology. The question becomes not “What is true to the understanding but what is true to the renewed heart?”11 In speaking of the role of the testimony of the Holy Spirit Hodge states that the goal of the believer is to subject his thoughts to the truth of God as it is mediated by the Spirit to the heart. Hodge’s comprehensive statement indicates dialectic between the head and the heart:

The true method in theology requires that the facts of religious experience should be accepted as facts, and when duly authenticated by Scripture, be allowed to interpret the doctrinal statements of the word of God. So legitimate and powerful is this inward teaching of the Spirit, that it is no uncommon thing to find men having two theologies, – one of the intellect, and another of the heart. The one may find expression in creeds and systems of divinity: the other in their prayers and hymns. It would be safe for a man to resolve and admit into his theology nothing which is not sustained by the devotional writings of true Christians of every denomination.12

Two important points deserve emphasis: the two theologies do not differ and the theology of the heart is more reliable.

In a controversy with E.A. Park of Andover Theological Seminary Hodge contended that the two theologies are necessarily compatible while Park insisted that they are not. In Hodge’s opinion figurative statements such as “God is a shepherd” present just as definite an idea to the mind as do other more literal statements about God. Such language never expresses what is false to the intellect. The feelings demand truth in their object; and no utterance is as natural or effective as the language of the emotion, which does not satisfy the understanding.13

Scriptural assertions that God repents or is jealous or even that he has wings under which his people find comfort are true to the feelings but that they are just as true in a different sense to the understanding. If they were not true in some sense to the understanding they could not be true to the feelings.

It is because calling God our shepherd presents the idea of a person exercising a kind of care over us, that it has power to move the affections. If it presented any conceptions inconsistent with the truth it would grate on the feelings as much as it would offend the intellect.14

It is not my purpose to analyze Hodge’s argument regarding the use of language. These passages, however, illustrate his contention that both a theology of the intellect and a theology of the feeling must be true, otherwise one would not believe them. He even goes on to say that because Christians more often agree regarding their inward experience of doctrine they find more agreement in hymns, liturgies, and devotions than they do in their creedal statements. One’s theology of the intellect may be in need of correction from one’s theology of the feelings because the former is more likely to be faulty than the latter. This does not mean that differences in doctrinal professions are matters of small importance. But it does mean that one can ascertain the real faith of people more clearly and uniformly from their hymns and expressions of devotion than from their creeds and theologies.15 If this is true, it could not be assumed that the theology of the feelings is false. The religious feelings are the result of the Spirit’s working in the heart along with the objective truth found in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit so works that one’s Christian experience always mirrors what is depicted in the Scriptures as true Christian experience.

This principle is amply illustrated in the Systematic Theology, where Hodge appeals to the religious experience of believers as an evidence for the doctrines he explains. In the section on original sin he points to the universal consent of the church as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s working through the Word and in the hearts of believers. In doing so he appeals not so much to the church councils as might be expected. Rather he cites the “formulas of devotion” which come from the people.

It is, as often remarked, in the prayers, in the hymnology; in the devotional writings which true believers make the channel of their communion with God, and the medium through which they express their most intimate religious convictions that we must look for the universal faith. The doctrine of original sin pervades the prayers, the worship, and the institutions of the Church.16

Hodge uses the same argument from religious experience when discussing the work of Christ. He appeals to the way in which Christians have expressed their relation to Christ. Biblical terms such as sacrifice, ransom, propitiation are adduced. The feelings expressed in liturgies, prayers, hymns, and devotional diaries reveal an acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary atonement. He quotes several verses from hymns, such as:

Jesus, my God, Thy blood alone hath power sufficient to atone and My soul looks to see the burdens Thou didst bear, When hanging on the cursed tree, and hopes her sins were there.

Hodge then asks,

Does any Christian refuse to sing such hymns? Do they not express his inmost religious convictions? If they do not agree with the speculations of his understanding, do they not express the feelings of his heart and the necessities of his fallen nature?17

He contends that other theories which teach the atonement as merely didactic or exemplary fail at two points. They fail to provide for expiation of sin, provide an answer for man’s guilty conscience; and secondly they “do not account for the intimate personal relation between Christ and the believer which is everywhere recognized in the Scripture, and which is so precious in the view of all true Christians.”18

It is clear that Hodge carried out his thesis on the theology of the intellect and theology of the feelings. The Scriptures are the ultimate court of appeal and not only prescribe the doctrines of the Christian faith but also explicitly outline what the Christian experiences when he believes them. However, when one attempts to explicate the meaning of the Scriptures, the fact that his understanding is still fallible may prevent his interpreting them correctly. Therefore, it may be necessary to turn to expressions of Christian experience in the history of the Church which display a remarkable unanimity.

A final aspect of Hodge’s work at the seminary which reflects his views of religious experience is the Sunday afternoon addresses which he delivered to the student body in the oratory. These conference addresses were devoted to matters of a more practical nature. In many sessions Hodge dealt specifically with the Christian life. Francis L. Patton in a memorial address in The Princeton Review noted the contrast between classroom and the oratory:

The clear crisp statements of dogmatic truth . . . are exchanged for soft and tender words of childlike faith and grateful love. The theology of the intellect has become the theology of the feelings. The voice grows tremulous; the beautiful face is suffused with a heavenly radiance; the tide of emotion overflows, and bourne along the speaker then portrays the love of God.19

While Patton’s comments seem somewhat overstated, especially those which state that systematic theology was completely forgotten, the whole mood of the conference addresses was different.

Beauty is exhibited to both the head and the heart, and neither is complete without the other.

Those messages which are most significant are those dealing with faith and the nature of contemplative experience. Hodge stressed trust as well as assent as the constituitive elements of faith. On some occasions assent ‘was strongly emphasized as he enumerated the facts about Christ which Christians believe. But Hodge cautioned against merely assenting to truths.

Assent does not make it an object of affection or give it its influence over us. It is true there is a God, that the soul is immortal, that there is a heaven ... but alas! How few of those who assent to these propositions as true, either know or feel the power of truth which they contain.20

In a sermon on Philippians 3:8, “The excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” Hodge expounds on the nature and importance of trust as a part of Christian experience. Trust is of prime significance in religion because it so exemplifies the emotions sinful men should feel, such as dependence on God, helplessness and unworthiness. Indeed one is to trust in God, not merely as creator and preserver, nor is his faith a kind of general reliance in his mercy. Rather trust is directed specifically to Christ alone for justification. Both inward and outward aspects of the Christian life have Christ as their object. “All our inward exercises of piety take the form of inward reverence for him, and all our outward acts of obedience are determined by a regard for him.”21 The quality of the religious feelings and their frequency of occurrence indicate whether one’s faith is a living or a dead faith.22 This calls to mind the religious diary which Hodge wrote containing a self-evaluation based wholly on the quality and quantity of his religious affections.

In several sermons Hodge refers to Schleiermacher’s theology and the philosophical principles which determined its contents. In two of his sermons he acknowledges that the German theologian’s motive was to save Christianity as a life. While Hodge regarded this motive as salutary, it unfortunately was compromised by a corresponding emphasis on relinquishing Christianity as a doctrine. What saved him was his loyalty to Christ which he retained from his Moravian background. A deep personal reverence for Christ and not the Christian culture around him determined his feelings and prevented his faith from being the merely speculative Christianity found in his Glaubenslehre.23

Hodge’s sermons on meditation and contemplation on the Scriptures were numerous. The practice which he advocated was congruent with his placing primary importance on the internal evidences for the divinity of the Scriptures. The Bible bears the impress of the creator which the believer intuitively recognizes when he reads it. When a Christian reads the Word of God he is not merely reading religious or moral statements. Reading the Scriptures is a spiritual experience by which one perceives the divine perfection revealed therein. The mind is engaged, the will is stimulated, and the heart is moved.

Hodge in exhorting his hearers to read the Word never merely encouraged them to accumulate intellectual knowledge. In a conference, “Meditation as a Means of Grace,” he made the distinction between meditation and mere intellectual consideration of an idea. The object of the latter is to understand cognitively while the object of meditation is to experience the power of God’s Word. He suggests that one must purpose to do this faithfully. It should be done concomitantly with prayer “not only in the formal sense of the word, but also as meaning converse with God.”24 In still other sermons on meditation Hodge makes more practical suggestions. Drawing on the analogy of appreciating beauty in nature by means of prolonged aesthetic appreciation he states that the same method is useful in reading the Scriptures: “If God should give us grace, we might sit down before it [the Scripture] and gaze on its ever expanding wonders and glories until we were transformed and translated. Such is not now our duty.”25 Although the full impact of this passage is weakened by the concluding sentence, the first part is very significant. The suggestion of mystical experience is undeniably present. Thus Hodge may have added the last sentence lest one accuse him of advocating mystical retreat from the world. For Hodge to suggest a “steady and protracted gaze” leading one to be “transformed and translated” is indeed unexpected language. Contemplation as a spiritual exercise was no mere intellectual experience. In this instance Hodge intimated that were this now our duty it would result in experiences analogous to life after death.

On several occasions in his preaching Hodge spoke on prayer and contemplation in terms reminiscent of the mystical writers in the history of the church. Prayer can be on the highest level “the unuttered aspirations and longings of the soul after, like the constant ascent of the flame towards heaven.”26 To the believer Christ is everywhere, and contemplation of him leads to experiences that are virtually impossible to describe.

The more the soul contemplates his excellence the more does it gather of his brightness and when lost in the discoveries of the grandeurs of his deity . . . [it] sinks into nothing before the blaze of his glory. The thought that he “loved me and gave himself for me” gives rise to feelings which know no utterance.27

Do this and see if the conviction does not overwhelm you with wonder and humility. See if you do not desire to be lost in the effulgence of the divine glory, so that he only might be praised.28

The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is made so clear that we are ravished by it, delivered thereby from the love of sin and of the world.29

Just as in the passage on the protracted gaze, these references are befitting mystical experience. An ineffableness is communicated. It is almost as if Hodge had penned these words directly from his feelings.

One final charge against Hodge requires our attention. Did a hiatus exist between Hodge’s systematic and devotional writings? Had he so compartmentalized his doctrine and his piety that we are forced to acquiesce to the charge that a kind of schizophrenia characterized his work as a whole? This study has already raised issues which challenge this contention. While even his friends such as Patton recognized a difference between Hodge’s systematic and devotional writings, Hodge himself would probably have been nonplussed at the idea. Not that he did not recognize the difference between the classroom and the oratory, but he saw both as part of a larger context, that of beauty. This is the beauty characterizing all that God has made or revealed, whether it be the majestic Alps, or the beauty of a carefully reasoned and explicated theology, or the beauty of a soul regenerated and enthralled by the glory of God. His theological vision was founded on the assumption that one can find evidences of God’s work in every area of life-from the natural world to the realms of intellectual, moral, and spiritual experience.

Several evidences of this Platonic motif are found in Hodge’s writings. The first reference is an indirect one since it is in the form of a quote from Joseph Bellamy, the disciple of Jonathan Edwards.

In regeneration, there is a new, divine and holy task begotten in the heart, by the immediate influences of the Holy Spirit. . . . The idea of a natural beauty supposes an internal sense, implanted by our creator, by which the mind is capacitated to discern such kind of beauty.30

Hodge elaborates his conception of beauty more fully in a conference sermon, “Beauty of Holiness.” He notes that although theories of κalon have existed for centuries, the real meaning of beauty escapes complete definition. Beauty awakens a certain pleasure in the mind which is not sensual or moral but aesthetical. “This pleasure is a complacent delight in the object itself apart from its relation to us.”31

Then Hodge enumerates the many different kinds of beauty from that of natural objects and works of art to that of “the human countenance,” and the beauty of “that woman a sister or mother [which] excites a pleasure altogether peculiar to itself.” But there is also an intellectual beauty.

There is a beauty which addresses itself to the understanding. That is, excite the objects of the intellect when perceived, excite a pleasure analogous to that produced by a beautiful sensible object; e.g., beauty of style, which is not mere rhythm, but fitness, perspicuity, attributes which address themselves to the intelligence. So there is a beauty in a demonstration, in a logical argument; there is the eloquence of logic.32

Hodge goes on to elaborate moral beauty as well. But the highest beauty does not address itself to the eye, ear, intellect, or moral nature, but to the spiritual life which one has implanted by regeneration. This is the beauty of holiness. Among its attributes are purity, opposition to evil, and “all positive moral excellence.” What characterizes its perception by a person is not merely one’s approval, respect, fear, or reverence, but “complacent delight.”

It gives a peculiar pleasure, and that of the highest kind. . . . This beauty is revealed most clearly in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is represented as most beautiful. . . . The Church is represented as ravished with his beauty.33

He goes on to identify the beauty of holiness also with the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer: “The beauty of holiness in us is the manifestation of God in us. The Spirit of God in us is the Spirit of glory.”34

One final example in which Hodge alluded to this concept of beauty is in a lecture delivered in the seminary upon his arrival home from his studies in Europe in 1828. Part of the talk deals with the subject of religious affections, and it is in this lecture that he make a direct connection between one’s piety and doctrine. But he also touches on the subject of beauty by drawing an analogy between that which destroys one’s aesthetic appreciation of natural beauty and what destroys one’s feelings toward theological truth. Alluding undoubtedly to his own awe-struck experience at the foot of the Alps, he supposes a person who is overcome by the grandeur and beauty of an alpine scene. However, he asks rhetorically, what happens when the same man, rather than contemplating the beautiful by aesthetic appreciation, begins instead to consider the geological aspects of the rock formations? By simply analyzing rock structure and the geological aspects of the mountains one loses the sense of beauty. The grandeur is gone.

The analogy can be drawn between this experience and one’s appreciation of religious truth. When theological truth is contemplated and appreciated as the reflection of divine revelation, it gives rise to devotion and the deepest of the religious affections. But when such truth is merely analyzed and metaphysically examined, this appreciation of the affections is destroyed as well. He asks:

Where is our reverence and awe of God, when prying into his essence or scrutinizing’ his attributes? Where is our feeling of penitence, when disputing on the origin of evil? Our sense of responsibility when discussing free-will and dependence?35

From the rest of Hodge’s theology it is clear that these subjects must be broached, but never at the expense of losing one’s religious affections which entails an appreciation of the beauty of holiness which such truths reflect.

At least one of Hodge’s intimate friends alluded to this appreciation of beauty on the part of the Princeton professor. The commemorative discourse of Lyman H. Atwater praised him for his “intensely logical” mind. However, Atwater cautioned against considering this theologian as only a “dry reasoner ... without any imagination.” Were it not for this faculty in Dr. Hodge “which ‘mediates truth to the mind through beauty,’ no man, however mighty as a reasoner, can put his reasonings in such a costume as to sway the minds of his fellowmen.”36 Whether one considers the intellectual presentation of the Christian faith or the intensely emotional nature of his personal piety, one can perceive reflections of divine beauty therein.

Thus, for Hodge everything which God has made reflects beauty. The world lies under sin, but it is a world which still reflects the beauty that resides in the being of God. One perceives the impress of the divine perfection in the works of nature, in the Scriptures, in doctrine, in the fine points of a theological discourse, in a carefully exposited sermon, in the religious affections, and ultimately in the holiness of Jesus Christ. Beauty is perceived because God not only has made it, but because he had implanted the sense of perception in the heart of the believer. While Hodge admitted that a kind of graded scale exists from the works of nature to the beauty of holiness, one does not begin with the natural and ascend by con- templation of the pure form of beauty. Only the person illuminated by the Holy Spirit perceives the whole scale. The Christian alone has a view which encompasses all that is, and all that is reflects the beauty of holiness.

Just as no hiatus exists between the created order and the eternal order, insofar as both are attributed to God, Hodge would have denied any essential dichotomy between his theology and his devotional life. He would have denied it not only because provision for the religious affections is made in his systematic writings, but ultimately because both one’s theology and one’s devotional life, one’s head and one’s heart, are really united. Beauty is exhibited to both the head and the heart, and neither is complete without the other. The perception of both the believer attributes to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of the Essays in Reformed Theology collection and was originally published in Soli Deo Gloria: Essays in Reformed Theology: Festschrift for John H Gerstner, ed. R.C. Sproul (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 1976).

  1. A.A. Hodge, Life of Charles Hodge, 9.
  2. Ibid., 13. Hodge viewed his religious experience in his childhood as fulfilling the criteria of Christian nurture which he outlined to correct the naturalistic tendency he found in Horace Bushnell’s Christian Nurture. Of the ideal Christian home he writes: From its earliest infancy . . . (the child) is the object of tender solicitude, and the subject of many prayers. The spirit which reigns around it is the spirit, not of the world, but of true religion. . . . The child is sedulously guarded as far as possible from all corrupting influence, and subject to those which tend to lead him to God. . . . The child thus trained grows up in the fear of God; his earliest experiences are more or less religious.” “Discourses on Christian Nurture,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review XIX, 4 (1847), 533.
  3. Ibid., 72-4.
  4. Ibid., 197.
  5. “Journal of European Travels February 1827–April 1828,” 22.
  6. Ibid.,* p. 93.
  7. Op. cit., Life of Charles Hodge, 227.
  8. “Memoranda,” vol. 2, entry for December 25, 1845.
  9. Ibid.,* vols. 2, 3.
  10. James L. McAllister, “The Nature of Religious Knowledge in the Theology of Charles Hodge,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Duke University, 1957.
  11. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, I, 16.
  12. Ibid., 16, 17.
  13. “Theology of the Intellect and that of the Feelings,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review XXII, 4 (1850), 652.
  14. Ibid., loco cit.
  15. This aspect of Hodge’s thought prompted him to have ambivalent thoughts regarding Friedrich Schleiermacher, the well-known German theologian. Hodge had nothing but criticism for his theology, calling it “pantheistic.” Nevertheless, through a mutual friend Hodge heard of Schleiermacher’s home life. In his “Journal” Hodge wrote: “Schleiermacher was originally a Moravian and considered very pious and he retains much of the devout spirit which distinguishes that devoted class of men. He often preaches with the greatest fervour and will break out in his family in the hymns written by a pious companion of his earlier years, thus using the language of Christians to give expressions to feelings excited by his own peculiar views” (13). In his Systematic Theology Hodge commented on the German theologian’s obvious reverence for Christ as evidenced by his use of the hymns: “They were always evangelical and spiritual in an eminent degree, filled with praise and gratitude to our Redeemer. Tholuck [Hodge’s and Schleiermacher’s mutual friend] said that Schleiermacher, when sitting in the evening with his family, would often say, ‘Hush, children; let us sing a hymn of praise to Christ’ Can we doubt that he is singing those praises now?” To whomsoever Christ is God, St. John assures, Christ is Saviour” (II, p. 440).
  16. Op. cit., Systematic Theology,* II, 250.
  17. Ibid.,* p. 525.
  18. Ibid.,* pp. 525, 526. Hodge appeals to the experience of believers in several instances as proof for doctrines: inability, II, p. 271; free agency, II, p. 303; sovereignty of the Spirit, II, p. 344; work of the Spirit and the Word, II, p. 664; efficacious grace, II, p. 706.
  19. “Charles Hodge,” The Presbyterian Review II (1881), p. 358.
  20. “Sermons, New Series, 1-47, Preached and Repreached between 1842 – 1876,” “I John 5:5,” n.p.
  21. “Unnumbered Sermons,” Preached and Repreached between 1836 – 1876,” “Phil. 3: 8,” n.p.
  22. “Sermons,” “Religious Declension,” October 9, 1853, n.p.
  23. “Sermons Preached and Repreached (1825 – 1874),” “II Peter 1:21,” n.p., and “unnumbered Sermons, Preached and Repreached between 1823 – 1876,” “Inspiration,” n. p.
  24. Cf. Charles Hodge, The Way of Life, in which Hodge distinguishes between external and internal evidences for the divinity of the Scriptures. Of the two the internal evidences are the more important. E.g., “There is in the Word of God, and especially in the person and character of Jesus Christ, a clear and wonderful manifestation of the divine glory” (p. 29).
  25. Conference Papers,* p. 299.
  26. Ibid., p. 244, my emphasis.
  27. Ibid., p. 291.
  28. “Unnumbered Sermons, Preached and Repreached between 18231876,” “I Peter 2:7,” n.p.
  29. “Sermons Preached and Repreached between 1825-1874,” “Eph. 1: 19,” n.p.
  30. Conference Papers, p. 197.
  31. “Regeneration,” Biblical Repertory and Theological Review 2, 2 (1830), pp. 269-70.
  32. Conference Papers,* p. 212.
  33. Ibid., loc, cit.*
  34. Ibid., loc cit.*
  35. “Lecture Addressed to the Students of the Theological Seminary, Nov. 7, 1828,” p. 96.
  36. “A Discourse Commemorative of Dr. Charles Hodge,” p. 15.