A Discourse in Memory of A. A. Hodge - Francis L. Patton - ebook

This Discourse was delivered in the Chambers Presbyterian Church, 21st December, 1886, in Compliance with an Invitation from the Philadelphia Presbyterian Ministerial Association, and is now published at their Request.

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Professor in Princeton Theological Seminary.


Copyrighted 1887



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This Discourse was delivered in the Chambers Presbyterian Church, 21st December, 1886, in Compliance with an Invitation from the Philadelphia Presbyterian Ministerial Association, and is now published at their Request.

Memorial Discourse


I FEAR that I have little fitness for the service I have been so kindly invited to perform, beyond the fact that I had a share in Dr. Hodge’s confidence, that I loved him dearly, and that during the short period of my acquaintance with him I had come to know him well. It has occurred to me more than once since the preparation of this Discourse was undertaken, that some one who had known him longer and whose record of memories reaches back to the years of a common boyhood would have done ampler justice to this occasion. For, when a great man dies, there is a natural, and surely a pardonable, curiosity on the part of all to know something of his early life. We love to study his history in the light of the facts that made up the totality of his career, and to read in stories of his childhood the promise of a greatness attained in later years. In the case of one like Dr. Hodge, whose personality was so unique, so manifold, and so manifestly marked by genius, we naturally suppose that those who have been his companions for a lifetime are in possession of reminiscences that would abundantly gratify this very natural desire. It may yet fall to the lot of one specially qualified, to do what obviously I cannot do. I must content myself with describing what I saw, and representing Dr. Hodge to you as he appeared to me. That we were engaged in kindred pursuits, that we had both taught from the same text-book, and had traversed in frequent conversations the leading topics embraced in Dr. Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, may qualify me in a measure for forming a just estimate of his position in the theological world. This estimate I shall at least try to make, not in the form of fulsome eulogy—for a simple statement of the truth will be eulogy enough—but in tender regard for his precious memory and under the restrictions of sober fact.

The death of Dr. Hodge is such a sore bereavement to our entire Church, that a memorial service held in the midst of a larger community than that embraced in the University-town where the last years of his life were spent, seems eminently proper; and I know of no place where that service could be more appropriately held than in this city of his forefathers, the city that he loved above all others, and for which his last and ripest work was done. On this day of the week and at this hour of the day, many of you had hoped to hear his voice not many days hence as you heard it last winter, when he exhibited so clearly, with such aptness of illustration and characteristic affluence of expression, the great doctrines of our faith. How little any one dreamed that death would give such significance to his closing words when for the last time he addressed the large audience that had gathered week by week to hear him! How little did any one suppose that these closing words were to be treasured afterwards as the swan-song of the dying theologian!—“We shall meet together here no more. Let us pledge one another to reassemble in heaven. We part as pilgrims part upon the road. Let us take our way heavenward, for if we do we shall soon, some of us very soon, be at home with the Lord.” His removal is God’s strange work. We can only say: “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth because thou didst it.” We bow submissively to our Father’s will, and are here to-day to thank God for the life of Archibald Alexander Hodge, to read afresh the record of that life, and in its lessons find new inspiration.

Philadelphia, as I have said, was the city of Dr. Hodge’s ancestors. His great-grandfather, his grandfather, and his eminent uncle, lived and died here. His mother’s ancestry, in several lines of descent, is still numerously represented here. His father was born here in 1797, and married here in 1822. Archibald Alexander was born in Princeton on the 18th day of July, 1823. An old frame-house on the corner of Witherspoon Street is still pointed out as the place where he first saw the light. He grew up in an intellectual atmosphere. During his boyhood his father’s study was the meeting-place for all the great lights of Princeton. The Old and New School controversies, and the New Haven Divinity were discussed in his hearing by men like Dod, the Alexanders, John Maclean, and Charles Hodge. The Princeton Review began its career in his boyhood, and he was familiar with all the men who were active in its organization. If there is any advantage in breathing “the atmosphere of floating knowledge,” which Dugald Stewart says is “around every seminary of learning,” Archibald Hodge must have enjoyed it to the full. Yet he does not seem to have been a very studious boy or over-fond of books. I am inclined to think that boys, as a rule, do not care much for intellectual atmospheres, and that they do not profit so much by their environments as we might suppose. Books are too numerous to be counted luxuries by the sons of literary men, and literary men themselves come into too close contact with their sons to be their heroes. It is the boy who gets knowledge under difficulties, who buys his Virgil only by saving pennies, who has felt the pangs of book-hunger without the means of gratifying his appetite, that is more likely to develop a love of reading and to devour libraries. Thirst for knowledge young Archibald’s environment did not give him. But it gave him the air of one who is to the manner born. It saved him from priggishness and conceit. It kept him from displays of vanity and egotism that are so apt to mar the greatness of men who have transcended the intellectual conditions of their childhood. In College he was one of Professor Henry’s most distinguished pupils. It was through the influence of this eminent man that he developed the taste for physical science that he retained through life; and it is probable, that, next to his own father, Professor Henry exerted a more formative influence upon his mind than any other teacher he ever had. He was graduated in 1841; he taught awhile at the Lawrenceville School, and was for a year or two after that a tutor in the College. In the Seminary he was one of a group of students, consisting, besides himself, of Messrs. Lacy, McPheeters, Phillips and Scott, who were specially interested in the study of Systematic Theology. Dr. Charles Hodge was then beginning to write his lectures. The members of this group distributed among themselves the work of taking a verbatim report of these lectures, which they were in the habit of putting together in connected form after the lecture was over. Besides this, they were required to read Turrettin and present written answers to questions which Dr. Hodge himself prepared every week. In these days of a crowded curriculum