Profiles of Holiness: Charles Hodge

14 “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

For the next several days, I will be profiling several individuals who not only preached about, but lived a life, of personal holiness before the Lord. While these pastors, evangelists, and hymn writers lived in different centuries and countries, they all shared a common bond which binds them together: holiness. These profiles will provide an introduction to our impending study of holiness. Today’s profile concerns theologian and author Charles Hodge.

Charles Hodge (December 27, 1797 – June 19, 1878) was a scholar, educator, churchman, and distinguished American Presbyterian systematic theologian of the nineteenth century, Charles Hodge was born in Philadelphia in 1797. Following his father’s untimely death a few years after he was born, Charles and his brother were raised by their godly widowed mother. In 1812 Hodge’s mother moved the family to Princeton in hope of matriculating her sons at Princeton College.

Hodge graduated from Princeton College in 1815. During the 1814-15 school year a revival broke out on the college campus: Charles was one of a number of students converted during this time of spiritual refreshing. At the encouragement of Archibald Alexander, he enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating with the class of 1819.

Ordained in 1821, his scholarly gifts led to an appointment by his denomination in 1822 to serve as the seminary’s third faculty member. As Professor of Oriental and Biblical Literature, Hodge’s primary responsibility was instruction in biblical languages, hermeneutics, biblical criticism, and study of Old Testament texts. During 1826-28, he traveled to Europe to study with the leading European biblical and theological scholars. He would continue to serve the Lord at Princeton until his death in 1878.

Regarding the holiness of God, Hodge wrote: “The Holy One of Israel,” is He who is to be feared and adored. Seraphim round about the throne who cry day and night, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, give expression to the feelings of all unfallen rational creatures in view of the infinite purity of God. They are the representatives of the whole universe, in offering this perpetual homage to the divine holiness. It is because of his holiness, that God is a consuming fire. And it was a view of his holiness which led the prophet to exclaim, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the king, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)

“It is in their application to the moral attributes of God, that the two methods of determining his nature come most directly into conflict. If we allow ourselves to be determined in answering the question, What is God? by the teachings of his Word, and the constitution of our own nature; if we refer to Him, in an infinite degree, every good we find in ourselves, then we can have no hesitation in believing that He is holy, just, and good. But if the philosophical notion of the absolute and infinite is to decide every question concerning the divine nature, then we must give up all confidence in our apprehensions of God, as an object of knowledge.”

 In other words, the only confident source to discover the holiness of God is what God has revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, it stands to reason that a diligent study of God’s Word regarding God’s holiness will infinitely benefit the student in seeking for himself to be holy as God is holy.

Soli deo Gloria!  

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