A.A. Hodge: A Friend of the Heathen

If you know anything about A.A. Hodge, it’s probably that he was a Princeton theologian like his father, Charles Hodge. Being the son of such a notable Christian scholar, A.A. had a sharp yet Christ-centered mind, even at a young age. When he was just a boy, he wrote a touching letter with his sister addressing people of the great mission field of India. The letter was titled “Friends of the Heathen,” and was featured in the July 1887 edition of The Homiletic Review. The article is as follows:

The following is a most touching reminiscence of the late Dr. Hodge and his sister, when they were children: “A letter, yellow with age, lies on the table. It bears date June 23, 1833, and was sent to India in the care of Rev. Dr. James R. Eckard, then a missionary in that far-away land. It was written by a boy ten years old. That boy became a missionary himself—was a pastor in this country—and was esteemed the most eminent theologian of his day. Recently he heard the summons to a higher service; and “was not, for God took him.” Subjoined is the child’s note—suggestive of the impressions which youthful minds are capable of receiving:

“DEAR HEATHEN: The Lord Jesus Christ hath promised that the time shall come when all the ends of the earth shall be His Kingdom. And God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. And if this was promised by a Being who cannot lie, why do you not help it to come sooner, by reading the Bible, and attending to the words of your teachers; and loving God, and, renouncing your idols, take Christianity into your temples? And soon there will not be a nation, no, not a space of ground as large as a footstep, that will want a missionary. My sister and myself have, by small self-denials, procured 2 dollars, which are enclosed in this letter to buy tracts and Bibles to teach you.



“Friends of the Heathen.”

The most noteworthy aspect of this letter is that such young children wrote it. While The Homiletic Review noted that A.A. Hodge was ten years old when he wrote this letter with his sister Mary, this is actually incorrect. Assuming that the letter was written on the 23rd day of June in 1833 (or the days prior), Hodge was actually still nine years old and would have turned ten on the 18th of the following month. In addition, Hodge’s sister Mary was a mere eight years old at this point.

It is also worth considering the generosity seen in this message. The duo was able to secure two dollars for buying literature by “small self-denials.” One can only guess what this process entailed, but we can be sure that it was a deliberate attempt to save money for others, rather than treating themselves to whatever they desired.

The amount of money that was sent might not seem like much to us, but two U.S. dollars in 1833 is worth roughly $60 to $70 USD in 2022 (or about $94 to $109 AUD). When adjusted for inflation, we can see that this is quite a lot of money for two children to save and then donate. The most generous aspect of the correspondence, however, was that the Hodge siblings took the time to write to strangers about the importance of becoming Christians.

Finally, note the theological clarity on display in this letter. In one short paragraph, we see a great portrayal of Christ’s kingship. The Hodges’ main idea points to Christ’s rule over all the world. Since God cannot lie (quoting Numbers 23:19) and the reign of Jesus is promised, the children reason that the people should not be working against Christ. Instead, they should work to establish the Lord’s Kingdom in India by throwing out their idols and loving the true God. This depth of theological understanding is not only remarkable for a child to have but also foreshadows the theological prowess that the Princeton theologian would later exhibit. Let us pray that our young people will be blessed with this level of spiritual-mindedness, self-denial, and love. Truly, Mary and A.A. Hodge were “Friends of the Heathen.”

– R. A. Miller