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Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge (born Dec. 27, 1797, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S. died June 19, 1878, Princeton, N.J.) was the principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878. He is considered to be one of the greatest exponents and defenders of historical Calvinism in America during the 19th century.



He matriculated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1812, and after graduation entered in 1816 Princeton Theological Seminary, having among his classmates his two lifelong friends, John Johns, afterward Episcopal bishop of Virginia, and Charles P. Mollvaine, afterward Episcopal bishop of Ohio. In 1819 Hodge was licensed as a minister by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, and he preached regularly at the Falls of Schuylkill, the Philadelphia Arsenal, and Woodbury, New Jersey over the subsequent months. In 1822 he was appointed by the General Assembly professor of Biblical and Oriental literature. In 1822 he married Sarah Bache, great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin. Soon after he went abroad (1826–1828) to prosecute special studies, and in Paris, Halle, and Berlin attended the lectures of Silvestre de Sacy, Friedrich Tholuck, Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, and August Neander. There he also became personally acquainted with Friedrich Schleiermacher.

In 1824, he helped to found the Chi Phi Society along with Robert Baird and Archibald Alexander. In 1825 he founded the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, and during forty years was its editor and the principal contributor to its pages. In 1840 he was transferred to the chair of didactic theology, retaining, however, the department of New Testament exegesis, the duties of which he continued to discharge until his death. He was moderator of the New Jersey General Assembly in 1846.

Fifty years of his professorate were completed in 1872, and the event was most impressively celebrated on April 23 of that year. A large concourse, including 400 of his own pupils, assembled to do him honor. Representatives from various theological institutes, at home and abroad, mingled their congratulations with those of his colleagues; and letters expressing deepest sympathy with the occasion came from distinguished men from all quarters of the land and from across the sea.

Hodge enjoyed what President Woolsey, at the jubilee just referred to, hoped he might enjoy, "a sweet old age." He lived in the midst of his children and grandchildren; and, when the last moment came, they gathered round him. "Dearest," he said to a beloved daughter, "don't weep. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. To be with the Lord is to see him. To see the Lord is to be like him." Of the children who survived him, three were ministers; and two of these succeeded him in the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, C. W. Hodge, in the department of exegetical theology, and A. A. Hodge, in that of dogmatics. A grandson, C.W. Hodge, Jr., also taught for many years at Princeton Seminary.

Literary and teaching activities

Portrait of Charles Hodge by the studio of Mathew Brady, Washington, D.C., 1865-1878.

Hodge wrote many biblical and theological works. He began writing early in his theological career and continued publishing until his death. In 1835 he published his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, which is considered to be his greatest exegetical work. Other works followed at intervals of longer or shorter duration - Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1840); Way of Life (1841, republished in England, translated into other languages, and circulated to the extent of 35,000 copies in America); Commentary on Ephesians (1856); on First Corinthians (1857); on Second Corinthians (1859). His magnum opus is the Systematic Theology (1871–1873), of 3 volumes and extending to 2,260 pages. His last book, What is Darwinism? appeared in 1874. In addition to all this it must be remembered that he contributed upward of 130 articles to the Princeton Review, many of which, besides exerting a powerful influence at the time of their publication, have since been gathered into volumes, and as Selection of Essays and Reviews from the Princeton Review (1857) and Discussions in Church Polity (ed. W. Durant, 1878) have taken a permanent place in theological literature.

This record of Hodge's literary life is suggestive of the great influence that he exerted. But properly to estimate that influence, it must be remembered that 3,000 ministers of the Gospel passed under his instruction, and that to him was accorded the rare privilege, during the course of a long life, of achieving distinction as a teacher, exegete, preacher, controversialist, ecclesiastic, and systematic theologian. As a teacher he had few equals; and if he did not display popular gifts in the pulpit, he revealed homiletical powers of a high order in the "conferences" on Sabbath afternoons, where he spoke with his accustomed clearness and logical precision, but with great spontaneity and amazing tenderness and unction.

Hodge's literary powers were seen at their best in his contributions to the Princeton Review, many of which are acknowledged masterpieces of controversial writing. They cover a wide range of topics, from apologetic questions that concern common Christianity to questions of ecclesiastical administration, in which only Presbyterians have been supposed to take interest. But the questions in debate among American theologians during the period covered by Hodge's life belonged, for the most part, to the departments of anthropology and soteriology; and it was upon these, accordingly, that his polemic powers were mainly applied.

All of the books that he authored have remained in print over a century after his death.

Character and significance

Though always honorable in debate, one would not gain a correct idea of Hodge's character through judging him only by the polemic relations in which his writings reveal him. Controversy does not emphasize the amiable side of a man's nature.

Hodge was a man of warm affection, of generous impulses, and of John-like piety. Devotion to Christ was the salient characteristic of his experience, and it was the test by which he judged the experience of others. Hence, though a Presbyterian and a Calvinist, his sympathies went far beyond the boundaries of sect. He refused to entertain the narrow views of church polity which some of his brethren advocated. He repudiated the unhistorical position of those who denied the validity of Roman Catholic baptism. He gave his sympathy to all good agencies.

He was conservative by nature, and his life was spent in defending the Reformed theology as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Larger and Westminster Shorter Catechisms. He was fond of saying that Princeton had never originated a new idea; but this meant no more than that Princeton was the advocate of historical Calvinism in opposition to the modified and provincial Calvinism of a later day. And it is true that Hodge must be classed among the great defenders of the faith, rather than among the great constructive minds of the Church. He had no ambition to be epoch-making by marking the era of a new departure. But he earned a higher title to fame in that he was the champion of his Church's faith during a long and active life, her trusted leader in time of trial, and for more than half a century the most conspicuous teacher of her ministry. Hodges' understanding of the Christian faith and of historical Protestantism is given in his Systematic Theology.

Views on controversial topics


Hodge supported slavery in the 1830s, and while he condemned the mistreatment of slaves he did not condemn the institution of slavery itself.

The Presbyterian church was divided along the same lines that would later split it during the American Civil War. Hodge himself was torn between the abolitionists in the North and the democrats in the South, and he used his considerable influence in an attempt to restore order and find a middle ground between the two factions.


In 1874, Hodge published What is Darwinism?, claiming that Darwinism, was, in essence, atheism. He found it hard to believe that natural laws alone could create complex organisms that fit into their niches almost perfectly and that evolution never explained origins but, rather, the evolution of species which were already formed. While he didn't consider all evolutionary ideas to be in conflict with religion, he was concerned with its teaching in America, especially in colleges.[1]


  • Systematic Theology. Hendrickson Publishers (1999). ISBN 1-56563-459-4 (also available abridged by Edward N. Gross, ISBN 0-87552-224-6)
  • Romans (The Crossway Classic Commentaries). Crossway Books (1994). ISBN 0-89107-724-3
  • 1 Corinthians (Crossway Classic Commentaries). Crossway Books (1995). ISBN 0-89107-867-3
  • 2 Corinthians (Crossway Classic Commentaries). Crossway Books (1995). ISBN 0-89107-868-1
  • Ephesians (The Crossway Classic Commentaries). Crossway Books (1994). ISBN 0-89107-784-7
  • The Way of Life (Sources of American Spirituality). Mark A. Noll, ed. Paulist Press (1987). ISBN 0-8091-0392-3
  • What is Darwinism? (1874)


Further reading

  • Adams, John H. (April 21, 2003). Charles Hodge: A voice for today’s PCUSA? The Layman.
  • Hicks, Peter (1997). The Philosophy of Charles Hodge: A 19th Century Evangelical Approach to Reason, Knowledge and Truth Edwin Mellen Pr. ISBN 0-7734-8657-7
  • Hodge, A. A. (1880). The life of Charles Hodge: Professor in the Theological seminary, Princeton, N.J.. C. Scribner's sons. Reissued 1979 by Ayer Co. Pub. ISBN 0-405-00250-5
  • Hoffecker, W. A. (1981). Piety and the Princeton Theologians: Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, and Benjamin Warfield P&R Publishing. ISBN 0-87552-280-7
  • Noll, Mark A., ed. (2001). Princeton Theology, 1812-1921: Scripture, Science, and Theological Method from Archibald Alexander to Benjamin Warfield. Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8010-6737-5
  • Stewart, J. W. and J. H. Moorhead, eds. (2002). Charles Hodge Revisited: A Critical Appraisal of His Life and Work. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-4750-1

External links

This article includes content derived from the public domain Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1914.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHARLES HODGE (1797-1878), American theologian, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the 28th of December 1797. He graduated at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1815, and in 1819 at the Princeton Theological seminary, where he became an instructor in 1820, and the first professor of Oriental and Biblical literature in 1822. Meanwhile, in 1821, he had been ordained as a Presbyterian minister. From .1826 to 1828 he studied under de Sacy in Paris, under Gesenius and Tholuck in Halle, and under Hengstenberg, Neander and Humboldt in Berlin. In 1840 he was transferred to the chair of exegetical and didactic theology, to which subjects that of polemic theology was added in 1854, and this office he held until his death. In 1825 he established the quarterly Biblical Repertory, the title of which was changed to Biblical Repertory and Theological Review in 1830 and to Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review in 1837. With it, in 1840, was merged the Literary and Theological Review of New York, and in 1872 the American Presbyterian Review of New York, the title becoming Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review in 1872 and Princeton Review in 1.877. He secured for it the position of theological organ of the Old School division of the Presbyterian church, and continued its principal editor and contributor until 1868, when the Rev. Lyman H. Atwater became his colleague. His more important essays were republished under the titles Essays and Reviews (1857), Princeton Theological Essays, and Discussions in Church Polity (1878). He was moderator of the General Assembly (O.S.) in 1846, a member of the committee to revise the Book of Discipline of the Presbyterian church in 1858, and president of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions in 1868-1870. The 24th of April 1872, the fiftieth anniversary of his election to his professorship, was observed in Princeton as his jubilee by between 400 and 500 representatives of his 2700 pupils, and $50,000 was raised for the endowment of his chair. He died at Princeton on the 19th of June 1878. Hodge was one of the greatest of American theologians.

Besides his articles in the Princeton Review, he published a Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (1835, abridged 1836, rewritten and enlarged 1864, new ed. 1886), Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church the United States (2 vols., 1839-1840); The Way of Life (1841); Commentaries on Ephesians (1856); 1 Corinthians (1857); 2 Corinthians (1859); Systematic Theology (3 vols., 2200 pp., 1871-1873), probably the best of all modern expositions of Calvinistic dogmatic; and What is Darwinism? (1874), in which he opposed "Atheistic Evolutionism." After his death a volume of Conference Papers (1879) was published. His life, by his son, was published in 1880.

His SOn, Archibald Alexander Hodge (1823-1886), also famous as a Presbyterian theologian, was born at Princeton on the 18th of July 1823. He graduated at the College of New Jersey in 1841, and at the Princeton Theological seminary in 1846, and was ordained in 1847. From 1847 to 1850 he was a missionary at Allahabad, India, and was then pastor of churches successively at Lower West Nottingham, Maryland (1851-1855) at Fredericksburg, Virginia (1855-1861), and at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (1861-1864). From 1864 to 1877 he was professor of didactic and polemical theology in the Allegheny Theological seminary at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, where he was also from 1866 to 1877 pastor of the North Church (Presbyterian). In 1878 he succeeded his father as professor of didactic theology at the Princeton seminary. He died on the nth of November 1886. Besides writing the biography of his father, he was the author of Outlines of Theology (1860, new ed. 1875; enlarged, 1879); The Atonement (1867); Exposition of the Confession of Faith (1869); and Popular Lectures on Theological Themes (1887).

See C. A. Salmond's Charles and A. A. Hodge (New York, 1888).

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