Monday, February 25, 2008

I have downloaded and read a number of really good books from Google Book Search. These downloadable books are all in public domain and are free on the web for anyone interested in getting them. One book that I've downloaded is an 1857 publication of a number of Charles Hodge's articles that had been previously published in the Princeton Review. The book is titled Essays and Reviews, it contains 18 articles and is 683 pages in length.

Dr. Hodge has been long admired as one of the great Reformed Theologians of the 19th Century. It was certainly a brilliant Christian theologian. The articles that I wish to mention here are not theological in nature, however since theology touches all of life, Hodge's theology does play an important part in how he sees the issues discussed.

Article XIV is titled "Slavery" and it is a reply William E. Channing’s 1836 book of the same name. I have read a good deal on slavery as it existed in the American South. I have read the ideas of rabid Abolitionists in the North and fanatical Southern Fire Eaters. Hodges article is, in my opinion, the best thing I've ever read on the subject from a truly biblical vantage point. Hodge stands on the biblically defendable middle ground between these two extreme positions.

In our day, the Abolitionists view is mostly taken for granted as an undeniable truth. But if the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are correct than the Abolitionists must be wrong. Does this mean Southern Slavery was biblical are justified? NO.

The one fact (Abolitionists arguments are anti-biblical) does not lead to the conclusion that Southern slavery was just or biblically defensible and that is why Hodge’s is article is so good. He makes that point very clear and is a clear and strong supporter of the emancipation and freedom of slaves, but he does so on biblical grounds.

In Article XV Hodge’s essay is titled “Emancipation.” In this article he is responding to an essay by Robert J. Breckinridge, which appeared in the October, 1849 issue of the Princeton Review. This too is a very good and well thought out set of ideas. It is clear that Hodge, even at this point, still holds to the views that he had written in the earlier article on slavery.

In this essay he is arguing that, while slavery in and of itself is not necessarily sinful, if slaves are dealt with biblically as Christians should treat slavery, then such treatment must lead to the improvement on the slaves to the point where he/she must be emancipated out of slavery.

Dr. Breckinridge, a Presbyterian theologian of Kentucky, was a strong supporter of a change to the Kentucky Constitution that would lead to the freedom of Negro slaves in that state. Even though only 20% of Kentucky voters were slaveholders, the measure went down to overwhelming defeat.

Hodge wrote to explain how such a thing could happen and also to argue that emancipation for the slaves was inevitable, the only question was how it would come. Would it be by godly means as Breckinridge and others were trying to accomplish or would it be by other means.

He spends some time near the end of the essay discussing some of the more sinful laws that had been passed in the slaveholding states in the attempt to suppress and undermine the family structure of black slaves and other laws passed so as to keep the slaves in a state of ignorance.

Hodge speaks with the voice of a prophet at the end of this essay when he, “It is a national sin, as it must be committed by the people in their capacity as a commonwealth, and, therefore, will inevitably lead to national calamity. The history of the world is one continued proof that God visits the iniquities of the fathers on the children of the third and fourth generation of those who hate him… So sure, therefore, as a righteous God rules among the nations so certainly must the attempt to perpetuate slavery by keeping the slaves ignorant and degraded, work out a fearful retribution for those the descendents of those by whom such an attempt is made.”

In the article, despite his warning, it is clear that Hodge did not foresee the coming war between North and South. He believed that emancipation could still be accomplished by godly means, because there were many reasonable Christians in both North and South.

He was correct about there being reasonable Christians in both sections, but in North and South the hot heads carried the day we reaped the whirlwind and it affects as re still felt even to this day.

Coram Deo,

Monday, February 04, 2008

A Hero of Mine

I love history, but it’s not just because I like to know trivia. I love history because it is a valuable thing to know. I enjoy all history and find that there are nuggets of value in most any time in history.

American history is one of my favourites. I especially enjoy era just before, during and after the War for Independence. I find our history of the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution fascinating as well. The Constitution, its history and the growth development of the United States under the Constitution also intrigue me.

I have many heroes from the past. I have biblical heroes, I have heroes in Church history and I have secular heroes as well. Some of my greatest heroes are Americans. I hold Patrick Henry, George Washington, Sam Adams, etc… all in high regard and count them as American’s worthy of hero status, but the American I hold in the highest regard is not among the giants of America’s founding Fathers.

The American that I regard as the greatest American is Robert E. Lee. Lee was the son of Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who was one of George Washington’s best cavalry officers during the War for Independence. Henry was also served as governor of Virginia and was a strong proponent of the Constitution during ratification. He also served as a U.S. Congressman. It was Congressman Lee, who had known George Washington since childhood, who gave the Eulogy at Washington’s funeral. It was Henry Lee who said that George Washington was “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

Robert E. Lee’s father was a hero of the Revolution and loomed large in many respects, but he was barely known by Robert. Robert was born when his father was old and Harry did when the boy was only 11, but even then Harry had been away for many years before than. He had gone to the Caribbean for health reasons four years earlier and was on his way home to Virginia but died in Georgia and never made it back home.

Robert did not grow up with great wealth. The family’s wealth had been lost in land speculation by his father, so Robert knew want as a child. He did have a famous father and important family connections and these did benefit.

At WestPoint he was the first cadet to graduate without ever receiving a single demerit and finished second in his class. Lee spent from then until Virginia seceded from the Union as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Before the commencement of hostilities between North and South, the head of the Army, Winfield Scott, said that Lee had the greatest military mind in the Army and Lincoln offered him the job as Commander of U.S. forces. Lee declined the job, resigned his commission in the Army and returned to Arlington, his home just across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

Lee knew the score when he decided to defend Virginia and the South against the United States. The North had overwhelming superiority in manufacturing and man power. He was not deluded as so many braggarts and hot heads tend to be. Lee knew the odds for victory against the North were slim, but he did what he believed was his duty to the Constitution, his “country” Virginia and for his family.

Lee through his lot in with the Confederacy, which he knew to be greatly inferior to the North. Because it was, in his mind, the only right and honourable thing for him to do. The War cost him his home and the lives of many dear friends.

After the War he had nothing, but he was very famous. An Insurance company approached with an offer. They offered him a pile of money that would make him a very rich man. He told them that he could not do anything for them that was worth so much. They told him that he would not have to do anything. The money was his if he would allow them to use his name to promote their product.

Lee gave them a flat NO. He was willing to live in poverty and work hard but his good name was all that he had left and it was not for sale or lease. Lee did get a job as president of Washington College. Today that college is known as Washington and Lee University.

Lee was a great general and even more importantly he was a humble Christian.

Coram Deo,