Hodge, A. A. The Confession of Faith. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1869 [reprint 1958].
A. A. Hodge’s genius is in organization, much like that of his father, Charles. There is some overlap with his Outlines of Theology, but there is also new material relating to the law of God, the civil magistrate, and church courts. Of particular interest are the study questions at the end of each chapter.
Hodge distinguishes between “an event conditioned on other events, and the decree of God with reference to that event being conditioned” (65). “The decree determines the nature of the events” (66). In other words, an event is not always reduced to God’s efficient cause only.
The system of events is absolutely certain. That in no way impedes the free actions of free agents.
Another evidence of the harmony between God’s decree and our free actions is our own self-consciousness. So Hodge: “We are conscious of acting freely according to the law of our own constitution as free agents” (96). Hodge is only noting that even given the truth of the divine decree, we have no evidence that we are automatons, quite the opposite.
Christ the Mediator
Christ’s mediation is indexed to his being Savior and Head of the Church. We prove this by noting what he specifically received when he discharged the terms of the covenant: upbuilding of the redeemed church (137).
When Hodge explains the unity of the two natures, he is on very dangerous ground. He writes, “It is impossible for us to explain philosophically how two self-conscious intelligences, how two self-determined free agents, can constitute one person” (141). At first glance it seems that this is Nestorianism, since he places two self-conscious intelligences within the God-man. I don’t think he is saying that, though. Intelligences are minds, not persons. This is very thin ice, but Hodge is able to run across it quickly.
We have free actions because “we are conscious, in every deliberate action of choice, that we might have chosen otherwise.” Moreover, we act from a “purpose or desire,” with “the internal state or heart, which prompted the act” (160).
Men are “entirely passive with respect to the special act of the Spirit whereby they are regenerated; nevertheless, in consequence of the change wrought in them by regeneration, they obey the call….” and are active (169). Regeneration and conversion are not identical. After regeneration, “the soul itself, in conversion, immediately acts under the guidance of this new principle in turning from sin unto God through Christ” (171). “Making a man willing is different from his acting willingly” (172).
If one holds to the moral influence of the atonement, it’s hard to see how justification is any different from sanctification (180).
Faith = “assent of the mind to the truth of that of which we have not an immediate cognition” (202).
Knowledge = “perception of the truth of that of which we have an immediate cognition” (202).
Faith doesn’t mean there is no evidence. It simply notes that the evidence is not immediately apparent to cognition.
Hodge has a good section refuting “works of supererogation.” Such a work, in theory, goes beyond what the law demands. This is false because God’s law is perfect and one cannot go beyond it. Moreover, even the best saint in this life is unable to perfectly meet God’s law (225).
Following this, Hodge refutes the distinction between “commands” and “counsels.” He notes “that which is right under any relation is intrinsically obligatory upon the moral agent standing in that relation. If it is not obligatory, it is not moral. If it is not moral, it is, of course, of no moral value or merit. If it is obligatory, it is not supererogatory” (226).
Every covenant God made with mankind included children (346). The Old Testament church is the same as the New Testament church. “Infants were members of the Old Testament church” (347). Christ and his disciples speak and act on the assumption that the children are in the same relation as they have always been.
The Lord’s Supper
The church must use “the common bread of daily life” (358). (No stale chiclets.)
Transubstantiation contradicts our senses and reason, for “reason teaches that qualities cannot exist except they inhere in some substance” (360).
The true, Reformed position, rather, teaches “the body and blood are present, therefore, only virtually” (362). We receive Christ by faith, not by the mouth. The reader can decide for himself how close to Calvin’s view this is.
This is a handy volume on the Westminster Confession for study groups.