Skip to content

Charles Hodge and “Old Princeton” (W. Andrew Hoffecker)

In the most recent issue of Credo Magazine, “Old Princeton,” W. Andrew Hoffecker has contributed an excellent article introducing us to Charles Hodge. Hoffecker’s article is entitled, “Charles Hodge and ‘Old Princeton.'”

But first, a little about Dr. Hoffecker. W. Andrew Hoffecker is Professor of Church History Emeritus at Reformed Theological Seminary. Previously he was a Professor of Religion at Grove City College for 25 years, where he taught a wide variety of classes: Church History, Apologetics, Systematic Theology, Missions, Medieval Philosophy, C. S. Lewis’ Apologetics, and Christianity and Culture, to name a few. He received his B.A. from Dickinson College, his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell and his Ph.D. from Brown University. He also served as a Captain in the United States Army. His doctoral work in the theology of Old Princeton resulted in Piety and the Princeton Theologians (1981) and is further explored in his most recent biography, Charles Hodge: The Pride of Princeton (American Reformed Biography).

Here is the introduction to Hoffecker’s article:

Charles Hodge was born on December 28, 1797 in Philadelphia, PA – just over ninety years after the founding of the first presbytery in colonial America. For over fifty years, as professor, theologian, churchman, controversialist and editor Hodge would profoundly influence not only his denomination but also theological education, religious journalism and the nation’s broader cultural milieu.

Piety and Confessionalism

From sound Presbyterian stock he traced the family heritage to the twin streams that formed his denomination – New Side piety of the First Great Awakening, and the resolute confessionalism characteristic of his Scots-Irish forbearers. Hodge’s father, a doctor, died while ministering to yellow fever patients when Charles was six months old. That left the daunting task of raising the family to his mother, Mary. Charles credited his mother for his receiving “everything” of genuine value. She “drilled” Hodge and his brother Hugh in the Westminster Catechism, shepherded them to weekly worship, took in boarders to make ends meet while ensuring her sons received a strong education. Under the leadership of family pastor Ashbel Green, Hodge was nurtured in a Presbyterianism that established the intellectual and spiritual framework that would sustain him for eighty-one years.

In 1812 Mary took her family to Princeton, NJ, a move that coincided with the founding of Princeton Theological Seminary. Charles attended the inauguration of the first professor, Archibald Alexander from whom Hodge imbibed the Reformed theology of Francis Turretine as well as Scottish Common Sense philosophy. Alexander became not only Hodge’s mentor but also his surrogate father. Because of Hodge’s excellent performance in seminary, Alexander pressed him to join the faculty. Both men were fondly remembered for fulfilling the Plan of the Seminary (1811) which established a demanding curriculum which included biblical languages, theology, church history and apologetics. The Plan also set high expectations for Christian piety requiring corporate worship, daily devotions and service to the church. The primary means of encouraging piety were Sunday Afternoon “conferences” in the seminary oratory when professors spoke movingly on topics of the Christian life.

Read the rest of the article today!

To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

Each of us are indebted to those theologians of ages past who have gone before us, heralding the gospel, and even fighting to their last breath to keep the God of that gospel high and lifted up. It is hard to think of a group of men more worthy of this praise than those of the Old Princeton heritage. Men like Archibald Alexander, Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, and many others, stand in this rich heritage, men who defended the faith once for all delivered to the saints against the ever-growing threat of liberalism around them.

Since this year marks the 200th anniversary of Old Princeton (1812-2012), it is fitting that we devote ourselves to remembering and imitating these great theologians of yesterday, not because they are great in and of themselves, but because their example points us to the great and mighty God we worship. And who better to introduce us to these Old Princetonians than James M. Garretson writing on Archibald Alexander, W. Andrew Hoffecker making our acquaintance with Charles Hodge, Fred Zaspel reminding us of B. B. Warfield, and D. G. Hart increasing our love for J. Gresham Machen? Not to mention a very in-depth interview with Paul Helseth on Old Princton and the debate over “right reason.”  May these articles and interviews inspire us so that in our own day we might experience a revival of this rich orthodoxy that has stood the test of time.

Back to Top