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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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God Reigns

A. A. Hodge was the son of Charles Hodge, named after the first principal of Princeton Seminary, Archibald Alexander. In the following lecture he explains:

We are this afternoon to consider the general doctrine taught in the inspired Scriptures of the providence which God exercises over the world and its inhabitants. . . .

We can know only those parts of [God’s] nature, of his relations or of his ways which he has chosen to reveal to us. And at the best the creature can know even that which he is permitted to know only in part. At the same time, God is essentially omnipresent and active at the same time and in unbroken continuity in all his creatures. Our dependent being exists in him, and our dependent energies are ceaselessly recreated from the inexhaustible fountain of his life. All nature and all human history evolve in unbroken continuity through his guiding, cooperating will present in and working through the created dependent things themselves. None the less is God separate from the world, existing alike extensively and intensively infinitely above and beyond it. . . .

He presides over the physical universe and over communities of men as a person exterior and superior to all. He controls all events by his interior confluent energies according to a plan, one and universal, formed before the beginning of the world. He has formed a great moral government over his intelligent creatures as men and angels, and governs them by commands and motives objectively presented, and by his providences and by his word. He at times, and for purposes evidently subsidiary to his general plan and to his ordinary methods, acts upon the system of second causes from without, working miracles, or signals to his intelligent children, thus arousing their attention, instructing their faith and determining their action. He has revealed the great end of his whole system of works, to which all things, in all eras and in all spheres, work together, to be the giving of objective expression to the perfections of his own nature, or, as we usually phrase, it the manifestation of his own glory.

In all our religious experience, when we work and when we study and when we pray, God is always at once beyond us and above us and before us and within us at once the source of all life and movement, the authority binding all consciences, and the sublime object of all personal love and worship. (“The Scripture Doctrine of Divine Providence” – These excerpts are taken from Popular Lectures on Theological Themes)

Life in Christ

Charles Hodge (1823-1886) originally published the following excerpt in an article for the Princeton Review, April 1876 (Vol. 5, Issue 18, pp. 352-362). Enjoy the wisdom that follows:

It does not need to be proved that Jehovah was the God of the Hebrews; the object of their worship, of their love, gratitude, and trust. They recognized him as their absolute and rightful sovereign, whose authority extended over their inward as well as their outward life. On him they were dependent and to him they were responsible. His favor was their life, and they could say, “Whom have we in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth we desire beside thee.”

As little does it require proof that Christ is the God of Christians. In the New Testament all divine titles are given to him. He is called God, the true God, the great God, God over all, Jehovah. He is declared to be almighty, omnipresent, immutable, and eternal. He created heaven and earth; all things visible and invisible were made by him and for him, and by him all things consist. He upholds all things by the word of his power. This divine person became flesh; he was found in fashion as a man, and in the form of a servant. Having been born of a woman, he was made under the law, and fulfilled all righteousness. He redeemed us from the come of the law by .being made a come for us. He bore our sins in his own body, on the tree. He died the just for the unjust, to bring us unto God, and having died for our offenses, and risen again for our .justification, has ascended to heaven, where lie is seated on the right hand of God, all power in heaven and earth being committed to his hands, and where he ever lives to make intercession for his people. This Christ, God and man, in two distinct natures and one person forever, was to the writers of the New Testament all and in all. He was; their wisdom; from him they derived all their knowledge of divine things, and to his teaching they implicitly submitted. He was their righteousness; renouncing all dependence on their own righteousness, they trusted exclusively on the merit of his obedience and death for their acceptance with God. He was their sanctification. Their spiritual life was derived from him and sustained by him. They were in him as the branch is in the vine, or the members in the body, so that it was not they who lived, but Christ who lived in them. Without him they could do nothing; they could no more bring forth the fruits of holy living separated from him than a branch can bear fruit when separated from the vine, nor than the body can live when separated from the head. They felt themselves to be in him in such a sense, that what he did, they did. They died with him. They rose with him. What he is, they become. What he has, they receive, all in their measure — that is, as much as they can hold. They are filled with the fullness of God in Him.

This being so, it follows, of course, that Christ was to them the object of divine worship and of all the religious affections, of adoration, of supreme love, of trust, of submission, of devotion He was their absolute sovereign and proprietor by the double right of creation and redemption. Love to him was the motive, his Will the rule, his glory the end of their obedience. It was Christ for them to live. Living or dying, they were the Lord’s. They enforced all moral duties out of regard to him; wives were to obey their husbands, children their parents, servants their masters, for Christ’s sake. Christians were commanded not to utter a contaminating word in a brother’s ear because he belonged to Christ; they endeavored to preserve their personal purity, because their bodies were the members of Christ. The blessedness of heaven in their view consisted in being with Christ, in beholding his glory, enjoying his love, in being like him, and in being devoted to his services. It is a simple fact, that such was the Christianity of the writers of the New Testament Their religious life terminated on Christ, and was determined by their relation to him. He was their God, their Savior, their prophet, priest, and king; they depended on his righteousness for their justification; they looked to him for sanctification. He was their life, their way, their end. If they lived, it was for him; if they died, it was that they might be with him. (“Christianity without Christ”)

In Christ We Have God

The worship of the Trinity and the position of Christ as related to God the Father are often a conundrum for the Christian. Charles Hodge (1823-1886) helps us to understand:

In one sense of the word, Christianity is the system of truth taught by Christ and his apostles. In this sense the question, what is Christianity? is simply a historical one. It may be answered intelligently and correctly by a man who does not profess to be a Christian, just as he may answer the question, what is Brahmanism? or, what is Buddhism?

In another sense, Christianity is that state of one’s mind produced by faith in the truths revealed concerning Christ. In this sense, Christianity without Christ is an impossibility. It would be an effect without its proximate cause. Nevertheless, there is a form of religion, widespread and influential, which is called Christianity, in which Christ fails to occupy the position assigned to him in the Bible. . . .

[T]he Christian, in worshiping Christ, does not cease to worship the Father and the Spirit. He does not fail to recognize and appreciate his relation to the Father, who loved the world and gave his Son for its redemption; nor does he fail to recognize his relation to the Holy Spirit, on whom he is absolutely dependent, and whose gracious office it is to apply to men the redemption purchased by Christ. In worshiping Christ, we worship the Father and the Spirit; for these three are one — one only living and true God, the same in substance and equal in power and glory. Christ says, I am in the Father and the Father in me. I and the Father are one. He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and therefore, he that worships the Son, worships the Father. Hence, it is written, “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father,” but, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.” “He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” It is to be remembered, however, that in the mysterious constitution of the Godhead, the second person of the Trinity is the Logos, the Word, the Revealer. It is through him that God is known. He is the brightness of his glory, revealing what God is. We should not know that there is a sun in the firmament, if it were not for his apaugasma [radiance]. So we should not know that God is, or what he is, were it not for his Son. “No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son shall reveal him.” In having Christ, therefore, we have God; for in him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead. (The Princeton Review, April, 1876, Vol. 5, Issue 18, pp. 352-362)

Do You Understand The Doctrine Of Original Sin?

Theologian Charles Hodge, a critic of Darwin's...

Charles Hodge

Charles Hodge, D.D. was the principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878. A Presbyterian theologian, he was a leading exponent of historical Calvinism in America during the 19th century. In the excerpt below, Hodge helps us to understand original sin:

[O]ur Confession [Westminster Confession of Faith] teaches the doctrine of original sin. That doctrine is essential to the Reformed or Calvinistic system. Any man who denies that doctrine thereby rejects the system taught in our Confession, and cannot with a good conscience say that he adopts it. Original sin, however, is one thing; the way in which it is accounted for, is another. The doctrine is that such is the relation between Adam and his posterity that all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, are born in a state of sin and condemnation. Any man, who admits this, holds the doctrine. But there are at least three ways of accounting for this fact. The scriptural explanation as given in our Standards is, that “the covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.” The fact that mankind fell into that estate of sin and misery in which they are born, is accounted for on the principle of representation. Adam was constituted our head and representative, so that his sin is the judicial ground of our condemnation and of the consequent loss of the divine image, and of the state of spiritual death in which all men come into the world. This, as it is the scriptural, so it is the Church view of the subject. It is the view held in the Latin and the Lutheran, as well as in the Reformed Church, and therefore belongs to the Church catholic. Still it is not essential to the doctrine. Realists admit the doctrine, but, unsatisfied with the principle of representative responsibility, assume that humanity as a generic life acted and sinned in Adam; and, therefore, that his sin is the act, with its demerit and consequences, of every man in whom that generic life is individualized. Others, accepting neither of these solutions, assert that the fact of original sin (i.e., the sinfulness and condemnation of man at birth) is to be accounted for in the general law of propagation. Like begets like. Adam became sinful, and hence all his posterity are born in the state of sin, or with a sinful nature. Although these views are not equally scriptural, or equally in harmony with our Confession, nevertheless they leave the doctrine intact, and do not work a rejection of the system of which it is an essential part. (From: “What is Meant by Adopting the Westminster Confession?”)

Are There Three Types Of Spiritual Men?

One of the several errors of the Schofield Reference Bible is its teaching on the “carnal Christian”. The Scofield Reference Bible has had widespread influence in popularizing this error for many years in its notes. Ernest C. Reisinger writes an excellent rebuttal of this false teaching which we shall share over several weeks:

Many who regularly occupy church pews, fill church rolls, and are intellectually acquainted with the facts of the gospel never strike one blow for Christ. They seem to be at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin and, apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ; there is no biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the gospel in their lives. Yet in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be just what their teachers teach them — that they are ‘Carnal Christians’. And as carnal Christians they believe they will go to heaven, though perhaps not first-class, and with few rewards.

That something is seriously wrong in lives which reveal such features will readily be admitted by most readers of these pages; no argument is needed to prove it. But the most serious aspect of this situation is too often not recognized at all. The chief mistake is not the carelessness of these church-goers, it is the error of their teachers who, by preaching the theory of ‘the carnal Christian’, have led them to believe that there are three groups of men, — the unconverted man, the ‘carnal Christian’ and the ‘spiritual Christian’. . . .

In matters of controversy it must ever be kept in mind that a Christian’s experience may be genuine even though his understanding of divine truth is tainted with error or ignorance. The opposite is also possible — a man’s intellectual understanding may be good and his experience poor. . . .

Are we sanctified passively, that is, ‘by faith’ only, without obedience to the law of God and Christ? If sanctification is passive — a view represented by the slogan ‘Let go and let God’ — then how do we understand such apostolic statements as ‘I fight’, ‘I run’, ‘I keep under my body’, ‘let us cleanse ourselves’, ‘let us labor’, ‘let us lay aside every weight’? Surely these statements do not express a passive condition. . . .

Does an appeal to the so-called ‘carnal Christian’ to become a ‘spiritual Christian’ minimize the real conversion experience by magnifying a supposed second experience, by whatever name it may be called — ‘higher life’, ‘deeper life’, ‘Spirit-filled life’, ‘triumphant living’, ‘receiving Christ as Lord, and not merely as Savior’, and so on? The words we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17, ‘Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new’, do not refer to a second experience but rather to what happens when any real conversion occurs.

The interpretation that I will seek to establish is a result of studying the proven and respected commentators of former days, such as, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, John Gill, and John Calvin; and theologians such as Charles Hodge (of the old Princeton Seminary), James P. Boyce (founder of the first Southern Baptist Seminary), Robert L. Dabney (the great theologian of old Union Seminary, Virginia) and James H. Thornwell (distinguished Southern theologian who was Professor of Theology at Columbia, South Carolina). I have also examined the writings of John Bunyan and searched the old Confessions and Catechisms, such as The Heidelberg Catechism, and Westminster Confession (that mother of all Confessions), the Baptist Confession of 1689 (The London Confession, later known as the Philadelphia Confession), and the Declaration of Faith of the Southern Baptist Church. In all these sources there is not one trace of the belief that there are three classes of men. All of them have much to say about carnality in Christians, and about the biblical doctrine of sanctification and its relationship to justification, but there is no hint of the possibility of dividing men into ‘unregenerate’, ‘carnal’ and ‘spiritual’ categories. If the sources I have named had come across the ‘carnal Christian’ theory, I believe that with one voice they would have warned their readers, ‘Be not carried away with divers and strange doctrines’ (Heb. 13: 9). . . .

We live in a day when there are so many books and such a variety of teaching on the subject of the Christian life that Christians are ‘tossed to and fro’, and liable to be ‘carried about by every wind of doctrine’ (Eph. 4:14). There is also the Athenian love of novelty and a distaste for the old, well-tested, and beaten paths of our forefathers. This excessive love of the new leads to an insatiable craving after any teaching which is sensational and exciting, especially to the feelings. But the old paths lead to a ‘meek and quiet spirit’ which the apostle Peter commends: ‘But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price’ (I Peter 3: 4). (“The Carnal Christian”)

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