Religion & Morality (or: Dead While They Live) (Hodge)

Systematic Theology, 3 Volumes   -     By: Charles Hodge

Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37 NET). This commandment is echoed in the OT and in the NT. When discussing this great commandment, Charles Hodge related it to religion, morality, and Romans 1:18ff. I’ve put his comments on this below, although it’s longer than my usual post. However, it’s pretty easy to read and very insightful. I’ve edited the layout slightly:

The preëminence of this commandment is further evident from the fact that religion, or the duty we owe to God, is the foundation of morality. Without the former, the latter cannot exist.

This is plain,
(1.) From the nature of the case. Morality is the conformity of an agent’s character and conduct to the moral law. But the moral law is the revealed will of God. If there be no God, there is no moral law; and if a man does not acknowledge or recognize God, there is no higher law than his own reason to which he can feel any obligation to be conformed.
(2.) It is a principle of our nature that if a man disregard a higher obligation, he will not be controlled by a lower. This principle was recognized by our Lord when He said, “He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much.” (Luke 16:10.) This involves the converse: He that is unfaithful in much, is unfaithful in that which is least.
(3.) It is the testimony of experience that where religion has lost its hold on the minds of the people, there the moral law is trampled under foot. The criminal and dangerous class in every community consists of those who have no fear of God before their eyes.
(4.) It is the secret conviction of every man that his duty to God is his highest duty, as is evinced by the fact that the charge of atheism is one from which the human soul instinctively recoils. It is felt to be a charge of the utter degradation, or of the deadness of all that is highest and noblest in the nature of man.
(5.) The most decisive and solemn evidence of this truth, however, is to be found in the revealed purpose of God to forsake those who forsake Him; to give up to the unconstrained control of their evil passions, those who cast off their allegiance to Him. The Apostle says of the heathen world that it was “Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, … God gave them up unto vile affections.” (Rom. 1:21, 26.) And again in ver. 28, “As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.” Such are the natural, the actual, the inevitable, and the judicially ordained effects of men’s refusing to retain God in their knowledge.

Notwithstanding all this we see multitudes of men of whom it may be said that God is not in all their thoughts. They never think of Him. They do not recognize his providence. They do not refer to his will as a rule of conduct. They do not feel their responsibility to Him for what they think or do. They do not worship Him; nor thank Him for their mercies. They are without God in the world. Yet they think well of themselves. They are not aware of the dreadful guilt involved in thus forgetting God, in habitually failing to discharge the first and highest duty that rests on rational creatures. Self-respect or regard to public opinion often renders such men decorous in their lives. But they are really dead while they live; and they have no security against the powers of darkness.

It is painful also to see that scientific men and philosophers so often endeavour to invalidate the arguments for the existence of God, and advance opinions inconsistent with Theism; arguing, as they in many cases do, to prove either that there is no evidence of the existence of any power in the universe other than of physical force, or that no knowledge, consciousness, or voluntary action can be predicated of an infinite Being. This is done in apparent unconsciousness that they are undermining the foundations of all religion and morality; or that they are exhibiting a state of mind which the Scriptures pronounce worthy of reprobation.

 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 279–281.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Law, Justification, and the Gospel (Hodge)

In chapter five of his book, The Way of Life, Charles Hodge discussed the great topic of justification. This chapter is split into three sections: 1) Importance of the doctrine / Explanation of the Scriptural terms relating to it / Justification is not by works; 2) The demands of the Law are satisfied by what Christ has done; 3) The righteousness of Christ the true ground of our Justification / the practical effects of this doctrine. It’s a good book and the fifth chapter is an excellent chapter! Below is an excerpt from the second section of the fifth chapter:

It is then clearly the doctrine of the Bible that believers are freed from the law as prescribing the conditions of their acceptance with God; it is no longer incumbent upon them, in order to justification, to fulfil its demand of perfect obedience, or to satisfy its penal exactions. But how is this deliverance effected? How is it that rational and accountable beings are exempted from the obligations of that holy and just law, which was originally imposed upon their race as the rule of justification?

The answer to this question includes the fourth great truth respecting the way of salvation taught in the Scriptures. It is not by the abrogation of the law, either as to its precepts or penalty; it is not by lowering its demands, and accommodating them to the altered capacities or inclinations of men. We have seen how constantly the apostle teaches that the law still demands perfect obedience, and that they are debtors to do the whole law who seek justification at its hands. He no less clearly teaches that death is as much the wages of sin in our case, as it was in that of Adam.

If it is neither by abrogation nor relaxation that we are freed from the demands of the law, how has this deliverance been effected? By the mystery of vicarious obedience and suffering. This is the gospel of the grace of God. This is what was a scandal to the Jews, and foolishness to the Greeks, but, to those that are called, the power of God and the wisdom of God….

Charles Hodge, The Way of Life (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1841), 155–156.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Plan of Salvation (Hodge)

Hodge ST

I always appreciate Charles Hodge’s clear explanation of Christian doctrine and teaching.  I was recently reading volume two of his Systematic Theology – specifically his discussion of God’s sovereign plan of salvation.  After talking about other views, Hodge mentions the Augustinian view.  This is, of course, the view Hodge takes.  After he mentions this view he spends some time explaining it based on the sovereignty of God and the various Scriptures that talk about God’s great plan of salvation.  Here’s Hodge:

The Augustinian scheme includes the following points:
(1.) That the glory of God, or the manifestation of his perfections, is the highest and ultimate end of all things.
(2.) For that end God purposed the creation of the universe, and the whole plan of providence and redemption.
(3.) That He placed man in a state of probation, making Adam, their first parent, their head and representative.
(4.) That the fall of Adam brought all his posterity into a state of condemnation, sin, and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves.
(5.) From the mass of fallen men God elected a number innumerable to eternal life, and left the rest of mankind to the just recompense of their sins.
(6.) That the ground of this election is not the foresight of anything in the one class to distinguish them favourably from the members of the other class, but the good pleasure of God.
(7.) That for the salvation of those thus chosen to eternal life, God gave his own Son, to become man, and to obey and suffer for his people, thus making a full satisfaction for sin and bringing in everlasting righteousness, rendering the ultimate salvation of the elect absolutely certain.
(8.) That while the Holy Spirit, in his common operations, is present with every man, so long as he lives, restraining evil and exciting good, his certainly efficacious and saving power is exercised only in behalf of the elect.
(9.) That all those whom God has thus chosen to life, and for whom Christ specially gave Himself in the covenant of redemption, shall certainly… be brought to the knowledge of the truth, to the exercise of faith, and to perseverance in holy living unto the end.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2, p. 333.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

Salvation by Grace: Everywhere in Scripture (Hodge)

Systematic Theology “Salvation by grace alone” is a sweet sounding phrase in the ear of the Christian.  Here’s a nice explanation of this truth by Charles Hodge:

Another decisive fact is that salvation is of grace. The two ideas of grace and works; of gift and debt; of undeserved favour and what is merited; of what is to be referred to the good pleasure of the giver, and what to the character or state of the receiver, are antithetical. The one excludes the other. “If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Rom. 11:6.

Nothing concerning the plan of salvation is more plainly revealed, or more strenuously insisted upon than its gratuitousness, from beginning to end. “Ye are saved by grace,” is engraved upon almost every page of the Bible, and in the hearts of all believers.

(1.) It was a matter of grace that a plan of salvation was devised for fallen man and not for fallen angels. (2.) It was a matter of grace that that plan was revealed to some portions of our race and not to others. (3.) The acceptance, or justification of every individual heir of salvation is a matter of grace. (4.) The work of sanctification is a work of grace, i.e., a work carried on by the unmerited, supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. (5.) It is a matter of grace that of those who hear the gospel some accept the offered mercy, while others reject it. All these points are so clearly taught in the Bible that they are practically acknowledged by all Christians. Although denied to satisfy the understanding, they are conceded by the heart, as is evident from the prayers and praises of the Church in all ages and in all its divisions.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 342–343.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Regeneration: Spiritual Resurrection (Hodge)

Systematic Theology As Christians, we’re familiar with the Bible’s teaching about the new life God has given us in and through Christ.  In his mercy, God has caused us to be born again to a living hope through Christ’s resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3).  We can’t give ourselves credit for this new life – it’s “of God” (John 1:13).  “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth” (James 1:18 NASB).  Here’s how Charles Hodge described regeneration:

[In Scripture, regeneration] is called a new birth, a resurrection, a new life, a new creature, a renewing of the mind, a dying to sin and living to righteousness, a translation from darkness to light, etc. …

By a consent almost universal the word regeneration is now used to designate, not the whole work of sanctification, nor the first stages of that work comprehended in conversion, much less justification or any mere external change of state, but the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection; the beginning of a new life. Sometimes the word expresses the act of God. God regenerates. Sometimes it designates the subjective effect of his act. The sinner is regenerated. He becomes a new creature. He is born again. And this is his regeneration. These two applications of the word are so allied as not to produce confusion. The nature of regeneration is not explained in the Bible further than the account therein given of its author, God, in the exercise of the exceeding greatness of his power; its subject, the whole soul; and its effects, spiritual life, and all consequent holy acts and states. Its metaphysical nature is left a mystery. 

…Regeneration is an act of God. It is not simply referred to Him as its giver, and, in that sense, its author, as He is the giver of faith and of repentance. It is not an act which, by argument and persuasion, or by moral power, He induces the sinner to perform. But it is an act of which He is the agent. It is God who regenerates. The soul is regenerated. In this sense the soul is passive in regeneration, which (subjectively considered) is a change wrought in us, and not an act performed by us.

 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 3, 5, 31.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015