Almost a century ago—in April, 1866, to be exact—the noted Presbyterian theologian, Charles Hodge, preached a now long-forgotten sermon on “The Unity of the Church.” While voicing an impassioned plea for Protestant unity, the Princeton professor nevertheless escaped two perils that harass the contemporary ecclesiastical scene, namely, uncritical ecumenism and fragmenting independency. That this pertinent sermon remained unpublished (its outline appears in Hodge’s Conference Papers edited by his son) is one of the ironies of the times. (It should be noted, however, that the Princeton Review in 1865 carried Hodge’s article on “Principles of Church Union, and Reunion of Old and New School Presbyterians,” and that the article, incorporating much the same emphasis as the sermon, is abridged in Hodge’s book on The Church and its Polity which appeared in 1879.) The sermon manuscript was rediscovered recently in Princeton Theological Seminary library by Dr. David H. Baker, and Eternity magazine, which prints an abridgment in its June issue, has made the copy available for simultaneous use in CHRISTIANITY TODAY.
Much as Dr. Hodge’s sermon proved timely in his own day, it holds even greater relevance in ours. Its sturdy content of 6500 well-chosen words is a tribute to the congregation of William Kellogg’s church in New York City, its original place of delivery. Since Hodge gave the same message (according to his annotation) in the chapel at Princeton, on whose faculty he served for a half century, this sermon also yields an insight into the high level of seminary addresses in that day. Its primary value, however, lies in its exhibition of “the principles of Christian unity as held by the great body of evangelical Christians.”
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