Machen’s Personal Response to Poverty

J. Gresham Machen might be (erroneously) thought of as merely an upper-crust ivory-tower academic who spent his life developing intellectual arguments, lecturing to students, and contending with his opponents in highbrow ecclesiastical circles. While his scholarly pursuits and his family money did permit a comfortable life removed from the hardships of many urban Americans, Machen worked to alleviate poverty in his own personal way. Machen and another Princetonian, Sylvester Beach, befriended and cared for a local man named Richard Hodges. As Stephen Nichols relates the story,

Machen… played out his public ethic in a way that… reflected his distrust of government agencies to solve social problems. This is evidenced in his longtime care of and ministry to Richard Hodges, whom Ned Stonehouse simply names as R.H. in his biography of Machen. Machen corresponded with Hodges, an alcoholic who lived in Princeton and came to Christ. And he did more than simply write to him. After Hodges became a Christian, he fell prey to his alcoholism, and on more than one occasion Machen found himself searching the streets of Princeton in the middle of the night to rescue his friend. Eventually, Machen found him a new place to stay away from the friends and temptation of his old life. He paid his rent, virtually funding the elderly and unemployed Hodges for nearly twenty years, and even paid his funeral expenses at his death. And all the while, only a few knew of his efforts on Hodges’s behalf.

Nichols, J. Gresham Machen: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought, p. 148.

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