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Unlike immediately prior years, the General Assembly of 1837 was controlled by the Old School wing of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Taking advantage of their numbers, they took the action of removing from the denomination the Synods of Utica, Geneva, and Genesee, in New York, and the Western Reserve Synod in Ohio. The primary complaint of the Old School Presbyterians was the teaching of a modified Calvinism, labeled “Taylorism.” And with the excision of these four Synods, they hoped to remove the Taylor doctrine from the Church. Old School Presbyterians had also come to oppose the 1801 Plan of Union, a cooperative arrangement with Congregationalists. Here too, the removal of New School votes from the Assembly made it that much easier to repeal the Plan of Union.

Sixteen charges of theological error were leveled at the New School men by the Assembly of 1837. And no sooner were those charges laid on the table, than the New School responded in prompt reply with the document initially known as Errors and True Doctrines. Later that same summer, in subsequent conference, the New School men issued a revised version of this text under the name of the Auburn Declaration. With this document, the New School men sought to affirm their orthodoxy. Or as one historian summarized it,

The Declaration thus adopted became, not indeed a creed, but an authoritative explanation of the interpretation given to the Westminster Symbols by the leading minds in the New School Church, as organized in 1838. It was in 1868 indorsed by the General Assembly (O. S.) as containing ‘all the fundamentals of the Calvinistic Creed,’ and this indorsement was one among the most effectual steps in bringing about the reunion of the two Churches in 1870. The document is rather a disavowal of imputed error than an exposition of revealed truth, and must be understood from the anthropological and soteriological controversies of that period of division now happily gone by.”

ERRORS AND TRUE DOCTRINE.
[
submitted as a protest to the General Assembly, June 8, 1837]

First Error.“That God would have prevented the existence of sin in our world, but was not able, without destroying the moral agency of man; or, that for aught that appears in the Bible to the contrary, sin is incidental to any wise moral system.”

True Doctrine.God permitted the introduction of sin, not because he was unable to prevent it, consistently with the moral freedom of his creatures, but for wise and benevolent reasons which he has not revealed.

Second Error.“That election to eternal life is founded on a foresight of faith and obedience.”

True Doctrine.Election to eternal life is not founded on a foresight of faith and obedience, but is a sovereign act of God’s mercy, whereby, according to the counsel of his own will, He has chosen some to salvation; “yet so as thereby neither is violence offered to the will of the Creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established;” nor does this gracious purpose ever take effect independently of faith and a holy life.

Third Error.“That we have no more to do with the first sin of Adam than with the sins of any other parent.”

True Doctrine.By a divine constitution, Adam was so the head and representative of the race, that, as a consequence of his transgression, all mankind become morally corrupt, and liable to death, temporal and eternal.

Fourth Error.“That infants come into the world as free from moral defilement as was Adam when he was created.”

True Doctrine.Adam was created in the image of God, endowed with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Infants come into the world, not only destitute of these, but with a nature inclined to evil and only evil.

Fifth Error.“That infants sustain the same relation to the moral government of God, in this world, as brute animals, and that their sufferings and death are to be accounted for on the some principles as those of brutes, and not by any means to be considered as penal.”

True Doctrine.Brute animals sustain no such relation to the moral government of God as does the human family. Infants are a part of the human family,and their sufferings and death are to be accounted for, on the ground of their being involved in the general moral ruin of the race induced by the apostacy.

Sixth Error.“That there is no other original sin than the fact, that all the posterity of Adam, though by nature innocent, will always begin to sin when they begin to exercise moral agency; that original sin does not include a sinful bias of the human mind, and a just exposure to penal suffering; and that there is no evidence in Scripture, that infants in order to salvation, do need redemption by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost.”

True Doctrine.Original sin is a natural bias to evil, resulting from the first apostacy, leading invariably and certainly to actual transgression. And all infants, as well as adults, in order to be saved, need redemption by the blood of Christ, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost.

Seventh Error.“That the doctrine of imputation, whether of the guilt of Adam’s sin, or of the righteousness of Christ, has no foundation in the Word of God, and is both unjust and absurd.”

True Doctrine.The sin of Adam is not imputed to his posterity in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities, acts, and demerit; but by reason of the sin of Adam, in his peculiar relation, the race are treated as if they had sinned. Nor is the righteousness of Christ imputed to his people in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities, acts, and merit; but by reason of his righteousness, in his peculiar relation, they are treated as if they were righteous.

Eighth Error.“That the sufferings and death of Christ were not truly vicarious and penal, but symbolical, governmental, and instructive only.”

True Doctrine.The sufferings and death of Christ were not symbolical, governmental, and instructive only, but were truly vicarious, i.e., a substitute for the punishment due to transgressors. And while Christ did not suffer the literal penalty of the law, involving remorse of conscience and the pains of hell, he did offer a sacrifice which infinite wisdom saw to be a full equivalent. And by virtue of this atonement, overtures of mercy are sincerely made to the race, and salvation secured to all who believe.

Ninth Error.“That the impenitent sinner is by nature, and independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, in full possession of all the ability necessary to a full compliance with all the commandments of God.”

True Doctrine.While sinners have all the faculties necessary to a perfect moral agency and a just accountability, such is their love of sin and opposition to God and his law, that, independently of the renewing influence or almighty energy of the Holy Spirit, they never will comply with the commands of God.

Tenth Error.“That Christ does not intercede for the elect until after their regeneration.”

True Doctrine.The intercession of Christ for the elect is previous as well as subsequent to their regeneration, as appears from the following Scripture, viz. “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me, for they are thine. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.”

Eleventh Error.“That saving faith is not an effect of the operations of the Holy Spirit, but a mere rational belief of the truth or assent to the word of God.”

True Doctrine.Saving faith is an intelligent and cordial assent to the testimony of God concerning his Son, implying reliance on Christ alone for pardon and eternal life; and in all cases it is an effect of the special operations of the Holy Spirit.

Twelfth Error.“That regeneration is the act of the sinner himself, and that it consists in change of his governing purpose, which he himself must produce, and which is the result, not of any direct influence of the Holy Spirit on the heart, but chiefly of a persuasive exhibition of the truth, analogous to the influence which one man exerts over the mind of another; or that regeneration is not an instantaneous act, but a progressive work.”

True Doctrine.Regeneration is a radical change of heart, produced by the special operations of the Holy Spirit, determining the sinner to that which is good, and is in all cases instantaneous.

Thirteenth Error.“That God has done all that he can do for the salvation of all men, and that man himself must do the rest.”

True Doctrine.While repentance for sin and faith in Christ are indispensable to salvation, all who are saved are indebted from first to last to the grace and Spirit of God. And the reason that God does not save all, is not that he wants the power to do it, but that in his wisdom he does not see fit to exert that power further than he actually does.

Fourteenth Error.“That God cannot exert such influence on the minds of men, as shall make it certain that they will choose and act in a particular manner, without impairing their moral agency.”

True Doctrine.While the liberty of the will is not impaired, nor the established connexion betwixt means and end broken by any action of God on the mind, he can influence it according to his pleasure, and does effectually determine it to good in all cases of true conversion.

Fifteenth Error.“That the righteousness of Christ is not the sole ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God; and that in no sense does the righteousness of Christ become ours.”

True Doctrine.All believers are justified, not on the ground of personal merit, but solely on the ground of the obedience and death, or, in other words, the righteousness of Christ. And while that righteousness does not become theirs, in the sense of a literal transfer of personal qualities and merit; yet, from respect to it, God can and does treat them as if they were righteous.

Sixteenth Error.“That the reason why some differ from others in regard to their reception of the Gospel is, that they make themselves to differ

True Doctrine.While all such as reject the Gospel of Christ do it, not by coercion but freely—and all who embrace it do it, not by coercion but freely—the reason why some differ from others is, that God has made them to differ.

Philadelphia, June 8th, 1837.

[signed by]:
George Duftield, E. W, Gilbert, Thomas Brown, Bliss lbirnan, N. S. S. Beman, E. Cheever, E. Seymour, George Painter, F. W. Graves, Obadiah Woodruff, N. G. Clark, Robert Stuart, Nahum Gould, Absalom Peters, Alexander Campbell.

The New School protest having been lodged, the official reply was brief and dismissive:

ANSWER

Mr. Plumer offered the following resolutions, which were adopted, viz.

1, Resolved, That the paper just offered, purporting to be a protest, though it contains several important mis-statements of facts, and much extraneous matter, be admitted to record without answer; the lateness of the period at which it is offered rendering it inconvenient to answer it, and the character of the paper rendering another disposition of it proper and necessary.’

2„ Resolved, That duly certified copies of this paper be sent to the respective Presbyteries to which the signers of the protest belong, calling their attention to the developments of theological views contained in it, and enjoining on them to inquire into the soundness of the faith of those who have ventured to make so strange avowals as some of these are.

Dr. Beman moved, that the attention of all the Presbyteries be directed to this protest.

The motion was lost.

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Charles Hodge enters into eternity

hodgeCharles_grayEarly in July of 1878, on the pages of The Christian Observer, this brief note appeared under the title, “Calvinism and Piety,” :

The Christian Union, which has no friendship for Calvinism, closes its article on the death of Dr. Hodge, as follows:

Dr. Hodge, who was the foremost of the old Calvinists in this country, was, in character, one of the sweetest, gentlest and most lovable of men. His face was itself a benediction. We doubt whether he had any other than a theological enemy in the world. Curiously too, the peculiar tenets of his theology were reserved for the class-room and for philosophical writings. In the pulpit he preached a simple and un-sectarian gospel; his favorite texts were such as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved;” and his sermons were such as the most successful missionaries delight to preach in foreign lands. In Princeton he is regarded as without peer in the conduct of the prayer meeting. His piety was as deep and as genuine as his learning was varied and profound. The system of theology of which he was the ablest American representative seems to us, in some points, foreign to the teaching of the New Testament, but the life and personality of the man were luminous with the spirit of an indwelling Christ.

Words to Live By: May we all—those of us who name the name of Christ and who also claim that same biblical faith commonly called Calvinism—so find our maturity in Christ as to live in a similar way, luminous with the spirit of the indwelling Christ, pointing all men and women to the only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Image source: Frontispiece photograph of Charles Hodge, D.D., from The Right of Presbyteries Not to Be Annulled by Any Assumed Authority of the General Assembly: Their Relations to Each Other Defined by Dr. Hodge in the Princeton Review. New York: Anson D.F. Randolph & Co., 1896. The caption beneath the photograph, “That good gray head that all men knew.” is a line taken from a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, written originally in memory of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington (nicknamed “the Iron Duke”), and the poem subsequently is found used on behalf of a number of statesmen and others. Presumably as it was here used of Dr. Hodge, the point was to stress Hodge’s fidelity.

Pamphlet War: The Rights of General Assembly versus the Rights of Presbyteries

The PCA Historical Center has another pamphlet, which, except for the title, appears identical. It even has the same photograph, though the caption beneath the photo is taken from the next line of the poem, “That tower of strength Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew!” The title of this second pamphlet is The Rights of General Assembly Not to be Annulled by Any Assumed Authority of the Presbyteries: Their Relations to Each Other Defined by Dr. Hodge in the Princeton Review, published in New York by E. B. Treat, 5 Cooper Union. Office of the Treasury Magazine, and also published in the same year, 1896.

There is mention of a third pamphlet that was part of this pamphlet war, but we have not been able to locate a copy of that third item yet. We plan to post the text of both of these pamphlets, in essence, Hodge against Hodge, later this summer on the PCA Historical Center’s web site.

Tennyson’s poem, used in part to caption those two pamphlets:

“The statesman-warrior, moderate, resolute,
Whole in himself, a common good;
Mourn for the man of amplest influence,
Yet clearest of ambition’s crime,
Our greatest, yet with least pretence,
Great in council and great in war,
Foremost captain of his time,
Rich in saving common-sense,
And, as the greatest only are,
In his simplicity sublime.
Oh, good gray head which all men knew!
Oh, fallen at length that tower of strength
Which stood foursquare to all the winds that blew!”

 

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Dr. Charles Hodge appointed the third professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary, May 24, 1822.

Of Charles Hodge, the eminent Scottish theologian William Cunningham often said “that he had greater confidence in the theological opinions of Charles Hodge than in those of any other living theologian.”

Charles HodgeBorn in 1797, Charles was raised in Philadelphia by his widowed mother and later graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1815, and then Princeton Seminary in 1819. Ordained by the Presbytery of New Brunswick in 1821, Hodge was appointed as stated supply over the church in Georgetown (now Lambertville). Though he saw the Lord’s blessing in his ministry, Rev. Hodge soon discovered an even stronger pull to academic studies, and it was not long before Dr. Archibald Alexander invited him to teach the biblical languages at the Seminary. Entering upon that work, he taught at Princeton for just a very few years before sensing a need to continue his studies, this time in Germany. After two years abroad, he returned to Princeton, New Jersey in 1828 to take up again his duties as Professor at the Seminary, returning as well to serve as the editor of the Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review. In the course of his long career, Charles Hodge taught literally thousands of students, authored a monumental three-volume systematic theology, and wrote over 140 articles, many of which were 100 pages or more in length.

Charles Hodge's StudyAt left, “Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836 when he suffered from lameness.”

I could not locate the text of his inaugural address at Princeton, but his son, A.A. Hodge provides us with these important words from that address, in the biography that he wrote of his father’s life and ministry. In that inaugural address, Hodge made this declaration before faculty and students, setting the standard for the rest of his long ministry, :

The moral qualifications of an Interpreter of Scripture may all be included in Piety; which embraces humility, candor, and those views and feelings which can only result from the inward operation of the Holy Spirit.

It is the object of this discourse to illustrate the importance of Piety in the Interpretation of Scripture.

Could there be a more important message for both students and teachers to take to heart?

Words to Live By : The eminent scholar, John Owen struck a similar note when he wrote :

“I have demonstrated before that all spiritual truth which God has revealed is contained in the Scriptures, and that our true wisdom is based upon spiritual understanding of these Biblical truths. It will, therefore, be granted on all hands that diligent reading of the Scriptures and holy meditation upon them, is of absolute necessity for all aspirants to theology. Sadly, although a good deal of lip-service is paid to this principle, daily experience will show how few there are who really apply themselves to it with due application and a correct frame of mind. For the rest, a neglect of this is not a drawback to their studies but rather a death-blow…
…Perhaps the excuse is that they have immersed themselves in the works of ancient and modern theologians, and so learn from these guides as they painstakingly explain the Scriptures? I do not despise such means. I applaud their diligence. But still this is not to study the Scriptures! It is one matter to listen to these authorities and a very different matter to read the Bible itself after begging the illuminating aid of the Spirit, through faith in Christ, and to so meditate upon it as to be filled with that Spirit which indicted it and lives in it. What a difference this is to merely looking out through the eyes of other men, however learned and truthful they may be.

[John Owen,
Biblical Theology, Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1996, p. 694-695.]

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