Interesting quote by Hodge

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AV1611

Puritan Board Senior
In The Covenants Robert Boyt C. Howell quotes Hodge as saying:

"It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one his natural descendants through Isaac, were constituted a commonwealth, an external community; by the other his spiritual descendants were constituted into a church, [invisible of course, since, at that time, the only formal organization was that of the law.] The parties to the former covenant, were God, and the nation; to the other, God, and his true people. The promises of the national covenant, were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e. the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, as reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant [the old] were circumcision, and obedience to the law; the conditions of the other were, and ever have been, faith in the Messiah, as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, [that is, the old covenant with the new] and the commonwealth founded on the one, with the church founded on the other. When Christ came, the commonwealth was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The church [now made visible] remained. There was no external covenant, nor promise of external blessings, on condition of external rites, and subjection. There was a spiritual society, with spiritual promises, on condition of faith in Christ." "The church is, therefore, in its essential nature, a company of believers, and not an external society, requiring merely external profession as the condition of membership." (Princeton Review, October, 1853)
 
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Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
As I read it, I don't find anything truly exceptional or remarkable about Hodge's comments. One should be careful, in reading the excerpt, as it is not a direct quote from Hodge, but a mediated quote, which has been interspersed (note the [bracketed comments]) with "explanatory" glosses. And (!) there are two separate quotations as well, indicating (though without ... elipses) that there is material of Hodge's thought which is not present.

From Charles Hodge for himself, i.e. in his own words:
It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one his natural descendants through Isaac, were constituted a commonwealth, an external community; by the other his spiritual descendants were constituted into a church. The parties to the former covenant, were God, and the nation; to the other, God, and his true people. The promises of the national covenant, were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant (i.e. the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, as reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant were circumcision, and obedience to the law; the conditions of the other were, and ever have been, faith in the Messiah, as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, and the commonwealth founded on the one, with the church founded on the other. When Christ came, the commonwealth was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The church remained. There was no external covenant, nor promise of external blessings, on condition of external rites, and subjection. There was a spiritual society, with spiritual promises, on condition of faith in Christ....

The church is, therefore, in its essential nature, a company of believers, and not an external society, requiring merely external profession as the condition of membership.
(Princeton Review, October, 1853)

What is Hodge saying? That there is an essential covenant of grace that is presented to Abraham: "the conditions of the other [covenant] were, and ever have been, faith in the Messiah, as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world." Ergo, it is possible, even desireable, to distinguish between the spiritual covenant (reality) and an earthly covenant (type and administration), cf. 2 Cor. 4:18.

I would be interested in reading the material that surrounds the Hodge quote, insofar as it would certainly reveal that staunch Presbyterian's explication of the *relationship* between said covenants, something which I'm thinking Mr. Howell might well disagree with, seeing how he has quoted the good Hodge to the effect of making him sound like a Baptist. Pretty nifty, if you can get away with it... (N.B.: The Evils of Infant Baptism, by Robert Boyt C. Howell.)
 

aleksanderpolo

Puritan Board Freshman
Does that mean we can view it as a republication of CoW in the typological sense in the Abrahamic covenant as well? Interesting... this is the question that I've been asking... :cheers:
 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
Does that mean we can view it as a republication of CoW in the typological sense in the Abrahamic covenant as well? Interesting... this is the question that I've been asking... :cheers:


I don't see anything Baptist in the quotation from Hodge. He's not teaching or even presuming a change in the substance of the covenant of grace or a fundamental change in the administration of the covenant of grace. He's recognizing legitimate discontinuity between Moses and Christ, as it were.

Yes, there is a proto- or inchoate sort of typological-national covenant with Abraham and his seed relative to the land and national status that is formalized in the Mosaic-national covenant and that expired with the new covenant.

rsc
 
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