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Saturday, August 19, 2017
Date Posted:

Ask For The Old Paths! Protestantism In Church Life

An Address by the famous Methodist Preacher Dr. Dinsdale T. Young Minister Westminster Hall Delivered to the United Protestant Congress London 1922
Dr. Dinsdale T. Young

Benjamin Jowett, of Balliol, used to say it was one of his axioms that we should never apologise, and I think he was exceedingly wise; but I want to break through that injunction to‑night.  It has been a matter of very real regret to me that I have been unable to be present at any of the previous meetings of the Congress. I assure you that I have not been idling at home.  Since Sunday I have conducted five public services in Lancashire, and am back to‑day with very great joy to attend this session to‑night.  Do not set my previous absence down, please, to any lack of interest in the Protestant cause.

It is a very great delight to have the report we have had to‑night of the splendid success that has attended these meetings up to this point, and my dear friend the chairman has done royally for us, has he not?  We have been greatly delighted and greatly inspired, sir, and we are deeply indebted to you for the speech you have delivered.


I have to speak to you for a few minutes from one point only, and that is the Church point of view.  It will seem somewhat of a murmur, and I would not throw a shadow over the brightness of this meeting, but I want you to consider for the moment what a sign of the times it is in relation to the Church that, excellent as this meeting is, it is not vastly larger. I preached here last Sunday night. I am guilty of inflicting myself twice on Sunday in this hall.  We had them sitting on the steps of the gallery, chairs placed at every point, people piled up behind the orchestra; and I pleaded with the friends to come to these meetings, and I am glad to see so many of my honoured office‑bearers and other of my friends up in the gallery.  Yes, this is a large meeting, but what is it to what it ought to have been?  That is the point. “Oh,” you say, “you are a chronic grumbler. You are a bilious old Puritan, or, to use the popular word, you are a pessimist.”  I repudiate the suggestions; but I believe in looking at facts. A Protestant meeting?  Why, this place ought not to have been half large enough.

Where are the clergy of the Church of England?  There are some here, and we rejoice that they are here.  Where are the ministers of the Free Churches?  If it had been a meeting on social questions, I will answer for it there would have been a rally!  How is it there is not a great rally on the Protestant question?  I raise that at the beginning, not out of any crochety grumbling, but that we may try to see how the land lies. He is a foolish man who does not realise actualities.

Now, look at this question of the Bible.  Is a Church to-day bearing the grand, positive, historical witness to the Bible it ought to bear?  I am going to say frankly, I do not think it is.  If it is not, I tell you what the Protestant Church is doing - it is opening the door to the Pope.  Now, again, you will think, perhaps, that I am in a murmuring mood, but I assure you I am not, and I speak very deliberately and under strong conviction, too.  It is the Protestants of England that are largely causing the prosperity of the Papacy in this country, and I tell you why I believe it.  Look at this question of the Bible. “The Bible and the Bible only is the religion of Protestants,” is the splendid aphorism of Chillingworth that Evangelical Protestants still utter.  I thank God I can utter it with all my heart to‑night; but is that the prevailing note in most of the Protestant Churches to‑day?

“Well, but,” people say, “you know our attitude to the Bible has altered through reasons of scholarship.”  I deny it, and that is flat!  It is that altered attitude under the hypothesis of scholarship that explains very largely the decadent enthusiasm for Protestantism among many Protestant Churches.  You may depend upon it ‑ it may as well be bluntly said ‑ there is going to be a cleavage, and there will have to be a cleavage.


Look at the matter a moment in another way.   Principal Selbie - I will mention his name, and mention it with great respect ‑ the head of a ministerial college, r emember, has, if he has been correctly reported, been pleading within the last few days that what he calls the accepted results of the Higher Criticism, as it is named, shall be preached in our pulpits and taught frankly, in the Churches.  He says,  “the accepted results,” but who accepts them? And I am exceedingly sorry to find that, he has been having much support from popular ministers whose names are on the tip of my tongue, but I will keep them back. They have publicly expressed themselves heartily agreeing with          the Principal of that college in this matter.  Some men who are very outstanding Evangelicals, and who are looked upon as great hopes of the Evangelical cause in this country,  have within recent days written in the newspapers that they heartily agree with, the proposal of Dr  Selbie.  I disagree with it from top to bottom.   I wish to involve nobody but myself in the words I am now speaking, but I believe that the scholastic claims that are made on behalf of these veiws are misleading.  I believe that the reasons in scholarship are false reasons.  I believe that the great historical positions about the Bible have scholarship to sustain them to‑day as much as they ever had in the days that are gone.  I will protest, and with some heat, if necessary, though I do not want to get excited, against the invidiousness, not to say the conceit and the arrogancy of men who speak as though you must accept these views of theirs if you would be abreast of true scholarship. I repudiate the scholarship and reject their views. I think that one of the great works that Protestants have to do to‑day is to say very plainly, and to give good reasons for saying it, and good reasons can be given, and especially to say it to the young men and women in our churches, that it is an entire delusion that we are driven by scholastic necessity to the acceptance of what are called modern views of the Bible.  Personally,  I believe the old scholars were more accurate , more to be trusted, and I accept their positions, and I do not believe they have been overthrown.


If we accept what some are calling “the accepted results” (but again I say in parenthesis, by whom accepted?), what sort of a Bible have we? We have a Bible saturated with error; we have a Bible full of myths; we have a Bible concerning very much of which it transpires that the atheists of fifty years ago were right, for the position the atheists took fifty years ago ministers of the Gospel are taking to‑day. Nobody can deny that fact, however they may deny the explanation.

Very well, if you have a Bible that is invalid, where is your Protestantism? You may talk Protestantism, but I will tell you what you have done if you have accepted these views - and I think some men who accept them hardly realise the awful tendency of the views - you have cut away the very roots of the Protestant faith. If you have not an infallible Bible, you must have some infallibility. I notice that someone said the other day, in triumphant accents, according to the report, that as to modern religion, the infallibilities had gone, and he was glad they were gone.  But the infallibilities are not gone, and if they were it would be a much more serious thing than that gentleman seemed to realise, because you may say what you like, the mind and heart of man want an infallible ground on which to rely. I will again wax blunt and say this: if you have not an infallible Bible, people will turn to an infallible Church.    


This question of the infallibility, the supreme and final authority of the Bible, is the fundamental question of Protestantism. What is letting Pro­testantism down more than anything else in this country is the rationalistic criticism of the Word of God.   It is all very well to say, “Oh, you can have a Bible that is far from infallible, and yet be Protestants.”  I do not believe you can logically, and I am sure you cannot theologically.  It is a very serious matter. I am not crying “Wolf” needlessly. Our Lord put His absolute imprimatur on the Old Testament. If I may say it reverently, prophetically He seemed to go out of His way to anticipate the moderm rationalistic ideas of the Bible, and the very things they confront us on historically He sustained, and sustained as history. Is He wrong? There are those who tell us - I quote now almost the exact words of a certain writer who shall be nameless - “You cannot invoke the authority of our Lord in order to invalidate the position of the Higher Critics” ‑ but I believe you can.  It is the Bible as our Lord endorsed it, and as centuries of Christian scholarship have endorsed it, that Protestants ought to stand up for, and at all cost. I know very well you will have to pay the price if you antagonise these modern views, and I could say some very plain things about the price you have to pay, for there is good deal of intrigue, Romanistic intrigue, in Protestant circles, there are professing Protetants who will keep a man out of certain things, if they can, if he differs from their views. Oh, yes, you will have to pay the price, but the price is nothing compared with standing by the Truth.

You may depend upon it, it is no use silencing this matter. I think the greatest thing the Protestants of England have to face to‑day is this question of the Bible. You will never revive the grand old Protestantism of past days until people perceive that for reasons of scholarship as well as for reasons of religion you are pledged to the old Book.


I will leave this point with one other remark. I confess if you have a sense of humour it is very difficult to avoid being sarcastic on this point - and God pity the man or woman who has not a sense of humour!  Yes, and if you have any heart it is difficult to suppress high indignation. Were the past generation of Christian scholars all wrong, and has it been reserved for a group of men to‑day to prove that these men's scholarship was wrong?  I cannot believe it, especially when I read the records of these men and compare them with their modern rivals: they are not the men, many of them; they are not the personalities. To me it is a thing incredible that it should have been given to a number of scholars to‑day to disprove the scholarship, the profound scholarship of past ages. I would plead with you Protestants, stand fast to the old Protestant position about the Bible.  There are professing Protestant who say you cannot do it to‑day.  I resent the statement: I say you can do it on grounds of learning, and you most certainly must do it on religious grounds.


One word only on the other point. What about the relation of the Church to the way of salvation?  Let me put it from this standpoint. Frankly, not in any caustic spirit, but as one who would know the facts, I ask, is the way of salvation preached in the average Protestant church?  I am afraid from all I hear that it is not.  In many churches that are supposed to be unequivocally Evangelical the way of salvation is not preached.  No doubt Evangelicalism is preached, but it is Evangelical generalities. Is it plainly, clearly and consistently and ardently set forth that the one way of acceptance with God is for a man to come as a guilty sinner and cast himself in an act of faith on the atoning work of Jesus Christ?  The good old expression was  “the finished work of Christ,” and it is a magnificent expression, an incomparable expression. Evangelical Protestantism has always said there is only one way of salvation, and that is by faith in the atoning work of Christ, and by faith alone.  It is in that alone that the genius of Protestantism lies.


I wonder how many of you have read John Wesley's sermon on “Salvation by Faith.”  “Oh,” you say, “you are a Methodist.”  Well, if I know my own heart at all I do not mention that preacher or that sermon for any sectarian reason, for I am less of a sectarian than ever I was; but that sermon by Wesley on “Salvation by Faith” I will say deliberately is one of the most important contributions in literature to Evangelical Protestantism. In the course of that sermon, pleading that salvation is by faith alone ‑ the great Protestant axiom ‑ Mr Wesley says something like this, that only the preaching of this message can prevent the increase of the Romish delusion in this Kingdom. That is what Wesley called it, “the Romish delusion,” and he says that only that preaching can prevent its increase. Now is that preaching general in Protestant pulpits?  I am afraid not.  Oh, I am afraid of a moral, ethical Protestantism.  I am desperately afraid of an unevangelical Protestantism.  Honestly, there is no hope for the Protestant cause if the Protestant Churches are not making the message clear and plain that salvation is by faith alone, not by faith and Churchism, not by faith and orthodoxy, valuable as Churchism and orthodoxy may be: not by faith and morality, but by faith alone.

“Nothing in my hands I bring,

Simply to Thy Cross I cling”

That is Protestantism, and if the increase of the Romish delusion, as Wesley called it, is to be averted, I am sure it can only be averted on these lines. We must give prayerful consideration to this in all our Sunday schools. Are we teaching the children the way of salvation?  Well, if you are not, you are opening the door to the Pope.  Are our pulpits ringing with it?  If they are not, you are opening the door to the Pope.  You may depend upon it that valuable as politics may be, and valuable as all sorts of endeavours may be that I could name, the great method is Wesley’s, preaching salvation by faith.  The man who does that is striking yeoman blows at the Papacy, and is doing magnificent work for the upbuilding of Protestantism in our midst

Now, sir, I hope I have not seemed too gloomy, but I have delivered my soul, and I tell you that on those two points, the relation of the Church to the Bible and the relation of the Church to the way of salvation, the prosperity of Protestantism depends; and the worst enemy of Protestantism is perverted Protestantism, from which, Good Lord, deliver England.

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