Charles Hodge's Warning to Celebrity (and Rich) Pastors

I am (all about me) in the home stretch of a paper for the upcoming Bicentennial Conference at Princeton Seminary on the Princeton faculty’s coverage and estimate of the 1843 Disruption in the Church of Scotland. So far, the Princetonians were impressive in their knowledge of Scottish developments and their sympathies for the Free Church leaders. One of the articles upon which I draw was a review by Charles Hodge of Thomas Chalmers’ An Earnest Appeal to the Free Church of Scotland, on the Subject of Economics (1847). In the course of his agreement with Chalmers, Hodge writes the following which is a further wrinkle in the slovenly attire of an ecclesiastical system that rewards fame and entrepreneurialism:

Our present system is unjust, first, to the people. Here are a handful of Christians surrounded by an increasing mass of the ignorant, the erroneous and the wicked. No one will deny that it is of the last importance that the gospel should be regularly administered among them. This is demanded not only for the benefit of those few Christians, but for the instruction and conversion of the surround population. Now is it just, that the burden of supporting the ministry under these circumstances, should be thrown exclusively on that small and feeble company of believers? Are they alone interested in the support and extension of the kingdom of Christ among them and those around them? It is obvious that on all scriptural principle, and all principles of justice this is a burden to be borne by the whole church, by all on whom the duty rests to uphold and propagate the gospel of Christ. Our present system is unjust, in the second place, towards our ministers. It is not just that one man should be supported in affluence, and another equally devoted to the service of the church, left to struggle for the necessaries of life. As before stated we do not contend for anything so chimerical as equal salaries to all ministers. Even if all received from the church as a whole the same sum, the people would claim and exercise the right to give in addition what they pleased to their own pastor. We can no more make salaries equal, than we can make church edifices of the same size and cost. But while this equality is neither desirable nor practicable, it is obviously unjust that the present inordinate inequality should be allowed to continue. (Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review, July 1847, 370)


19 thoughts on “Charles Hodge's Warning to Celebrity (and Rich) Pastors

  1. Darryl,

    That is downright mean to start telling a story and not finish it. Would you please finish the story and tell us how it ended? Did they find charity and help the smaller churches?


  2. Well, phooey. I was hoping there were some who heeded Hodge, just as I hope there are some who will heed Hart.


  3. Apologies for going off in the wrong direction, Darryl. No apologies for my biases and love for historical story telling. πŸ˜‰ Can you be pressed upon to provide a link to the lecture after you present your work?


  4. Cath, I believe so but Hodge barely mentions Chalmers in the review. So close is their view apparently that Hodge feels no need to agree or disagree.


  5. Thanks, Darryl. I’ve watched and listened online to a number of your lectures – are you more Presby TMI than normal in this one? I’m not sure why a “good Lutheran” would object? I think a lot of Lutherans appreciate your work and for better or worse, some of us enjoy learning about Reformed history. Anywho, your post hooked me on the story and now I want to hear it from beginning to end. πŸ˜‰


  6. Having the Princeton Theological Review in Logos would make it easily searchable of course you can access most of it via the library’s digital collection.

    Logos also recently recently announced the development of a Machen collection but I am uncertain how comprehensive it will be. It only has seven volumes. Is that all the books he published? I does not look like it would include articles he published. Maybe Dr. Hart can look and tell us how much of Machen’s material is actually in this collection.


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