February 15: Rev. Moses Hoge [1752-1820]

“Ministerial Piety”

hogeMosesWe first visited the life of the Rev. Moses Hoge a few years back on December 13. Our intent today is to quickly glance in review over Rev. Hoge’s life, but then to sample from one of his sermons, in hopes that you might want to read more.

Moses Hoge was born on February 15, 1752. He studied at the famous Liberty Hall Academy during the time that William Graham was headmaster and later studied theology under the tutelage of Dr. James Waddel. Hoge was licensed to preach in 1781 and ordained a year later, being installed as the pastor of a congregation in Hardy, Kentucky.

Health concerns for both he and his wife prompted several moves over the years, with his wife succumbing to illness in 1802. From 1807 until his death in 1820, Rev. Hoge was president of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.

A year after his death, a volume presenting thirty-two of his sermons was published, edited from his manuscripts. The Rev. W. S. Reid wrote of Hoge, that “As a preacher, his manner was ungraceful, even uncouth; but there was so much depth and originality of thought, such richness and force of illustration, and such clear and cogent reasoning, that the awkwardness of his manner was very soon quite overlooked or forgotten.

For considerations of space, we will draw from just one sermon, “Ministerial Piety,” drawn from the above mentioned book, Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of the late Moses Hoge, D.D. (1821):—

(p. 23) : “A minister of the Gospel must not withhold from his people, any doctrine, or truth, which he shall judge necessary for their edification, because it may be unpopular, nor may he connive at any sinful custom, because it may be fashionable, where Providence has cast his lot. It is, indeed, far from being my wish to recommend any unnecessary strictness, in opposition to the customs and manners of the age in which we live. The attempt, however, which has so often been made, and always without success, to reconcile religion with the predominant manners and customs of the world, must ever be found impracticable. Equally far am I from recommending an attention to the unessential peculiarities of a party in the pulpit. For a preacher to put off his people, who are either hungering, or famishing, for the bread of life, with the dry husks of controversy, and that about matters confessedly not essential to their edification, is in my opinion a miserable prostitution of his sacred office.”

(p. 24) : “A minister of the Gospel must deny himself the pleasure and advantage of literary pursuits and theological researches, when the ignorant among his people are to be instructed, when the sick are to be visited, when the dying are to be assisted in their last conflict; or when in any other way he can render more essential service to the great cause in which he is engaged than by the studies of the closet. Nor is he permitted to consider any service too humiliating, or any toil or suffering, too great for him to undergo, for the honour of his Lord, and the best interests of his fellow-men.—Not that he should, without evident necessity, wear out his constitution and shorten his days, by oppressive labours or services of any kind. Quite the reverse. But when duty calls, let him never count the cost, never shrink from any toil or any sufferings. No, not even though his life were to be spent in the service of his Lord and Master. For he who thus loseth his life shall find it.”

(p. 33) : “And now, my brethren, before I take my leave of you, permit me to request you to turn your attention to the people committed to your care. See what a large proportion of them are perishing in sin. And are we sure that we have done every thing in our power to prevent their destruction?—that no more effectual measures can be adopted than those already employed, for their salvation? Let us not be too hasty in concluding that we have exhausted all the treasures of Divine mercy, either with respecdt to ourselves, or our people,—that no superior assistance for ourselves in the discharage of ministerial duty, or more effectual grace for them, is within our reach. The hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. I will venture to affirm there is one thing which we might do for them more than we have yet done. We might pay greater attention to ourselves—to the state of our own souls. Ah! did we feel for ourselves as we ought, we should soon see a glorious change in the state of our people. We should then feel for them, preach to them, pray for them, and live for them, in a way that would scarcely fail to be attended with the happiest effects.”

And for our Word to Live By, Rev. Hoge concludes:
(p. 36) : “Look around you, my Christian brethren, and behold the ignorance, the impiety, the profligacy of the world still lying in wickedness—behold the multitudes everywhere perishing in sin, and say, Is it not time to awake from your guilty slumbers? is it not time to seek the Lord until he come and rain righteousness upon us, upon our churches, and our country? Ah! would only all the friends of Zion of every name, laying aside their most unnatural animosities, and disputes of little importance, thus unite with one heart and one soul in the great cause of our Common Christianity, we might soon expect to see better times—times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Yes, we might then, confidently expect that our heaven would shower down righteousness and our earth bring forth salvation.”

Sermons Selected from the Manuscripts of Moses Hoge, D.D. was published in 1821, and to my thinking should be reprinted. But in the meantime, thankfully, it is available here.

  1. Steve Dickey’s avatar

    How do I subscribe to this day in Preabyterian history.

    Thanks.

  2. archivist’s avatar

    You should be able to enter your email address in the Subscribe form, which you will find in the upper right hand side of the blog page. The system will then send an email to your inbox, which you must reply to, in order to complete the process.
    If that doesn’t work, let me know!

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