Charles Hodge’s Criticism of Jonathan Edwards

“First, the word will itself is one of those ambiguous terms. It is sometimes used in a wide sense, so as to include all the desires, affections, and even emotions. It has this comprehensive sense when all the faculties of the soul are said to be included under the two categories of understanding and will. Everything, therefore, pertaining to the soul, that does not belong to the former, is said to belong to the latter. All liking and disliking, all preferring, all inclination and disinclination, are in this sense acts of the will. At other times, the word is used for the power of self-determination, or for that faculty by which we decide on our acts. In this sense only purposes and imperative volitions are acts of the will. It is obvious that if a writer affirms the liberty of the will in the latter sense, and his reader takes the word in the former, the one can never understand the other. Or if the same writer sometimes uses the word in its wide and sometimes in its narrow sense, he will inevitably mislead himself and others. To say that we have power over our volitions, and to say that we have power over our desires are entirely different things. One of these propositions may be affirmed and the other denied; but if will and desire are confounded the distinction between these propositions is obliterated. It has often been remarked that the confusion of these two meanings of the word will is the great defect of President Edwards’s celebrated work. He starts with a definition of the term, which makes it include all preferring, choosing, being pleased or displeased with, liking and disliking, and advocates a theory which is true, and applicable only to the will in the restricted sense of the word.”

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. II, 288-89.

Why I Would Have Liked to Go to Old Princeton

It remained for one of Alexander’s beloved students, Charles Hodge (1979-1987), to give classic expression to the Princeton Theology. Hodge began his ministry at Princeton when the seminary was still in her infancy. He made his debut as professor of biblical and oriental literature, a position that he held until 1840, when he transferred to the chair of systematic theology. In 1835, he published his Commentary on the Epistle of Romans. Charles H. Spurgeon once advised, “the more we use Hodge, the more we value him. This applies to all his commentaries.” He published a Systematic Theology between 1871 and 1873 in three massive volumes, and, even so, it was not complete since it lacked a secton on the doctrine of Ecclesiology that he had planned. Yet Charles Hodge was hardly a “dry theologian.” Students saw him shed tears in his classes when he talked of the love of Christ. He followed the old Puritan adage, “Beware of a strong head and a cold heart.” A student, W.S.C. Webster, recounts Hodge announcing a hymn one day in the Oratory: “As he read he came to the lines: ‘That blood can make the foulest clean, that blood availed for me.’ But he could not read them, try as he would. ‘That blood availed,’–he could not get beyond that. The strong man bowed before the storm of emotion, and, dropping into his chair he buried his face in his hands. But we students had no difficulty in singing the whole hymn.”

From In Pursuit of Purity, by David O. Beale