Hodge, Hymns, and Christ’s Satisfaction

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes In Charles Hodge’s discussion of Christ’s satisfaction he takes some time to refute the false teaching that Jesus’ life and death simply gave us a moral example.  Some have indeed taught that Jesus’ death was an example of love for us to follow, but not a substitutionary atonement.  In other words, some teach that Christ’s work was not objective (satisfying God’s justice) but subjective (something that moves our hearts).  Here’s Hodge (I underlined the words of the hymns to make it easier to read) (sorry, one more thing – don’t miss the last sentence!):

There are two hymns which, perhaps, beyond all others, are dear to the hearts of all Christians who speak the English language. The one written by Charles Wesley, an Arminian; the other by Toplady, a Calvinist. It is hard to see what meaning can be attached to these hymns by those who hold that Christ died simply to teach us something, or to make a moral impression on us or others. How can they say, ‘Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly?’ Why should they fly to Him if He be only a teacher or moral reformer?

What do they mean when they say, ‘Hide me, O my Savior hide?’  Hide from what? Not from the vindicatory justice of God, for they admit no such attribute.

Other refuge have I none; refuge from what?

All my trust on Thee is laid.  For what do we trust Him? According to their theory He is not the ground of our confidence. It is not for his righteousness, but for our own that we are to be accepted by God.

It would seem that those only who hold the common Church doctrine can say, Thou, O Christ, art all I need.  All I need as a creature, as a sinner, as guilty, as polluted, as miserable and helpless; all I need for time or for eternity. So of Toplady’s precious hymn, Rock of ages, cleft for me; for me personally and individually; as Paul said he lived “by faith of the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side that flowed;
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

How can such language be used by those who deny the necessity of expiation; who hold that guilt need not be washed away, that all that is necessary is that we should be made morally good? No one can say, Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling, who does not believe that Christ “bore our sins in his own body on the tree.”

It is a historical fact that where false theories of the atonement prevail, Christ and his work are put in the background. We hear from the pulpits much about God as a moral governor; much about the law and obligation, and of the duty of submission; but little about Christ, of the duty of fleeing to Him, of receiving Him, of trusting in Him, of renouncing our own righteousness that we may put on the righteousness of God; and little of our union with Him, of his living in us, and of our duty to live by faith in Him. Thus new theories introduce a new religion.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology II.II.VII.6 (or simply volume 3 pages 526-7).

shane lems