In Following the Lord, He Followed His Brothers
Francis Blanchard Hodge was the seventh child of Dr. Charles Hodge and his wife Sarah, and was born on October 24, 1838, the year after the schism of the Old and New School Presbyterians and a year before his father published the first volume of his Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church in America. Frank, as he was called by family members, was named in memory of a favorite nephew of Dr. Hodge’s mother—Francis Blanchard, the son of Samuel Blanchard, of Wenham, Massachusetts. Among life’s tragedies, Francis suffered the death of his mother Sarah when he was just eleven years old. His father remarried when Francis was fourteen.
As might be expected, Francis was educated at Princeton, graduating at the college, and later at the theological seminary. His studies were hindered, however, by an inflammation of the eyes, the result of an accident. Not deterred, much of his learning was acquired by oral instruction, and in spite of the setback, he advanced rapidly. Francis had a fine voice and style of presentation, and was accorded the honor of being Junior Orator, and in turn appointed to deliver the Whig Hall anniversary Oration. Upon his graduation from Seminary, he first married, taking Mary, daughter of Professor Stephen Alexander, of Nassau Hall, as his bride in June of 1863. Then he answered a call to serve as the pastor of a congregation in Oxford, Pennsylvania, a position previously occupied by his brother Wistar Hodge. Francis was ordained and installed in this pulpit on January 5, 1864, and his father brought the charge to his newly ordained son. A copy of this charge is preserved among the papers of Dr. Charles Hodge [cf. Box 21, file 32, in the Department of Special Collections at the Princeton Theological Seminary.
Of this first pastorate, his uncle wrote, “Here his intelligence, great amiability and devotion to his parishioners, united with considerable eloquence of voice and manner, obtained for him much popularity and influence. His congregation was augmented in size, and, although chiefly composed of farmers, they were induced to pull down their old building, and to erect a handsome brick structure as a substitute.”
Meanwhile, Archibald Alexander Hodge, eldest of the Hodge children, had married and sought an appointment to India as a missionary. After about three years on that field, his wife’s health was failing and her physician said it was impossible for her to remain in India. Returning to the States, Alexander and his family moved back to the home of Dr. Charles Hodge. Archibald soon accepted a call to a small church in Cecil county, Maryland, near the Pennsylvania border, but here his support was meager and he had to teach to augment his income. Some time later a second call took him to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he became the pastor of a more prosperous church, serving that church from 1855-1861.
When the Civil War broke out, A.A. Hodge surrendered the Fredericksburg pulpit and managed to take his family and travel through West Virginia and Maryland into Pennsylvania, and finally to the home of Charles Hodge in New Jersey. Without much delay, he soon received an appointment to pastor the Presbyterian Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and afterwards, when a vacancy occurred in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, by the resignation of the Rev. William S. Plumer, Alexander was made professor of theology in that institution. He remained in that post until 1877, when he was called to Princeton, to serve as his father’s associate.
When A.A. Hodge left the church at Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the church next called the Rev. Samuel Dod, who served the church for four years, leaving late in 1868. Upon his departure, the church now turned to the Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge with “a call so urgent, and pressed with so much importunity, that, after much hesitation, and with many regrets, he left his friends at Oxford, and settled at Wilkes-Barre.”
There in Wilkes-Barre he found new and admiring friends who were devoted to his ministry, his preaching, and his support. And there he remained as faithful pastor for the next thirty-five years, one of the longest pastorates in the history of that church. Under his leadership, the congregation grew significantly. Two-thirds of the annual church budget was allocated to benevolences. And a new modern building was constructed in the late 1880’s, and dedicated in 1894, free of any debt. Perhaps as an indication of how much he was devoted to the work of being a pastor, it does not appear that he authored any works for publication.
The Rev. Francis Blanchard Hodge, D.D. died in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on May 13, 1905. Representing the Presbytery, Dr. McLeod, Dr. Brooks, and Dr. Logan followed the remains to Princeton, accompanied by a large delegation from the Wilkes-Barre Church. The pall-bearers were members of his Church who were also students at Princeton. With services conducted by Dr. Francis Landey Patton, president of the Seminary, the mortal remains of Rev. Francis B. Hodge were laid to rest in the Princeton Cemetery.
Words to Live By:
“I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.” (2 John 4, KJV)
What a joy, what a great blessing it is to see our children walking in the faith, growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have a commandment to walk in the truth of the Gospel. Let us so live, and serve as an example to our children, trusting the Lord for their salvation.
- The New York Observer, June 8, 1905, p. 758.
- Stoddard, Dwight J., Prominent Men: Scranton and Vicinity, Wilkes-Barre and Vicinity,… Scranton, PA: The Tribune Publishing Co., 1906.
- Memoranda of Family History, dictated by Hugh L. Hodge, M.D., LL.D., upon the earnest solicitation of his daughter, Harriet Woolsey Hodge. pp. 116-117.
Image: Stoddard, Dwight J., Prominent Men: Scranton and Vicinity, Wilkes-Barre and Vicinity,… Scranton, PA: The Tribune Publishing Co., 1906, p. 202.