September 27: Exhortation to Humility

Our post today consists of an excerpt from an address delivered on this day, September 27, in 1874, by the Rev. Dr. Charles Hodge, on the occasion of the re-opening of the chapel at the Princeton Theological Seminary. This discourse was delivered in the same year that saw the publication of Dr. Hodge’s brief work, What is Darwinism?, and just two years after the appearance of his monumental three-volume Systematic Theology. The occasion was also less than four years before his death in June of 1878. We note too that almost certainly among the gathered students that day in the chapel was the young Benjamin B. Warfield, who had entered the Seminary the year before. In his wonderful history of the Princeton Theological Seminary, my dear friend and esteemed professor Dr. David Calhoun sets the scene:

hodgeCharles_grayIn 1874 the seminary chapel was remodeled—”Victorianized” with stained glass windows, carpeting, and upholstered pews—through the gift of trustee John C. Green, a generous benefactor of the seminary who died the following year. At the seminary’s opening in September Charles Hodge gave the sermon. Hodge noted that over 3,000 ministers of the gospel had been trained at Princeton. “With rare exceptions,” he said, “they have been faithful men. They have labored in every part of our own land and in almost every missionary field.” He told the present students that they had assumed “grave responsibilities in coming to this place,” “Your first duty,” he said, “is to make your calling and election sure.” It is important that you seek the ministry, he told them, with pure and honest motives—”love to Christ, zeal for his glory, and a desire to save your fellow men.” “Your second duty,” Hodge said, “is to throw your whole heart into the work and, while here, into the work of preparation and into the life of the Seminary, whether in the classroom, the chapel, the conference, or prayer meeting.” Finally, in the name of his colleagues Hodge made a request of everyone.

“It is a small matter to you, but a great matter to us. We beg that each of you, as long as he lives, would daily pray that the officers and students of this Seminary may be full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. Let others believe and say what they please, we believe and know that God is the hearer of prayer. If each of the two thousand surviving alumni of this Institution would daily offer that prayer, what a place Princeton would be!”
[Princeton Seminary: The Majestic Testimony, 1869-1929. Banner of Truth, 1996, p. 42.]

What a place any seminary would be, if so invested before the throne of Glory with such prayer! Let this be your exhortation to so pray!

The full text of Hodge’s discourse can be viewed by clicking here, but for our purposes today, we will limit our excerpt to his opening words which form at once a brilliant summary of the core of Christian theology and a beautiful presentation of the Gospel of saving grace. 

Princeton Theological Seminary. A Discourse delivered at the re-opening of the chapel, September 27, 1874, by Charles Hodge, the Senior Professor.

It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.—I Cor. 1:21.

The Bible assumes all primary truths—whether principles of reason or facts of consciousness—and by assuming, authenticates them.

It assumes
1. That man has a soul capable of conscious existence and activity without the body; and that the soul is the man—that in which his personality and identity reside. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive, and are now the same persons as when they dwelt on earth.

2. It assumes that man is a free moral agent; dependent, responsible and immortal.

3. It assumes that the well-being of all creatures depends on their preserving their normal relation to God.

4. It assumes that man has by sin lost his normal relation to God, and that by no effort of his own, and by no aid from any creature, can he be restored to the divine fellowship and favor.

These are among the assumptions of the Bible; and they are all self-evident truths. They enter into the convictions of all men in all ages of the world.

The Bible teaches concerning fallen men :
1. That it pleased God, out of His mere good mercy, to determine not to leave them in their estate of sin and misery but to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

2. That the only Redeemer of men is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the eternal Son of God became man, and so was, and continues to be both God and man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.

3. That Christ effects our redemption by exercising in our behalf the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. He is Prophet or teacher, not only as He is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer, the effulgent image of God, but specially as He reveals to us the will of God for our salvation. He is our Priest in that He offered Himself unto God as a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and in that He ever lives to make intercession for us. He is our King because He subdues us unto Himself, rules in, and reigns over us, and conquers all His and our enemies.

4. The Bible further teaches that the divinely appointed means for applying to men the benefits of Christ’s redemption is “the foolishness of preaching.” It is so called because, so far as the method of salvation is concerned, the wisdom of men is foolishness with God; and the wisdom of God is foolishness with man. In the beginning the gospel was a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greek. We ought not, therefore, to be either surprised or concerned when, in our day, we hear the hierarchs of science proclaiming from their high places, that the supernatural is impossible, and that all faith is superstition. It has always been so and always will be so. Nevertheless in spite of the opposition of the Jews and of the contempt of the Greek, the gospel was, is, and will continue to be the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.

To read the entire discourse, click here, It is well worth your time.

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