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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Elements of Down-Grade in Sydney Episcopalian Church (Part 2)

I think it necessary to provide a little more on the correspondence emanating from the camp of Charles Haddon Spurgeon on the issue known as the "Down-Grade Controversy" of the late 19th Century before I apply it to the Episcopalian Diocese of Sydney. In the March 1887 there appeared the first of two articles written by Robert Shindler, close associate of Charles Spurgeon and fellow Baptist Pastor, in the Sword and Trowel under the heading of the "The Down Grade". I provide extracts herewith: "The Presbyterians were the first to get on the down line," said Shindler. "They paid more attention to classical attainments and other branches of learning. . . . It [became] an easy step in the wrong direction to pay increased attention to academical attainments in their ministers, and less to spiritual qualifications; and to set a higher value on scholarship and oratory, than on evangelical zeal and ability to rightly divide the word of truth." Shindler took aim at the leadership of the Nonconformist church because of the degree of secrecy in which they gave over to doubt about Reformation principles and belief, saying: "These men deepened their own condemnation, and promoted the everlasting ruin of many of their followers by their hypocrisy and deceit; professing to be the ambassadors of Christ, and the heralds of his glorious gospel, their aim was to ignore his claims, deny him his rights, lower his character, rend the glorious vesture of his salvation, and trample his crown in the dust." He concluded the article with: "These facts furnish a lesson for the present times, when, as in some cases, it is all too plainly apparent men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true." The April, 1887 edition of Sword and Trowel provided the second instalment and reemphasized the failure of the Nonconformist church to deal with those in the pulpit espousing doctrine contrary to that of the Reformation. I provide herewith some quotes: [The] "tadpole of Darwinism was hatched. . . [in a pew] of the old chapel in High Street, Shrewsbury," where Charles Darwin had first been exposed to scepticism by a pastor who was full on with Socinianism. "In the case of every errant course there is always a first wrong step. If we can trace that wrong step, we may be able to avoid it and its results. Where, then, is the point of divergence from the "King's highway of truth"? What is the first step astray? Is it doubting this doctrine, or questioning that sentiment, or being sceptical as to the other article of orthodox belief? We think not. These doubts and this scepticism are the outcome of something going before. The first step astray is a want of adequate faith in the divine inspiration of the sacred Scriptures. All the while a man bows to the authority of God's Word, he will not entertain any sentiment contrary to its teaching. 'To the law and to the testimony,' is his appeal concerning every doctrine. He esteems that holy Book, concerning all things, to be right, and therefore he hates every false way. But let a man question, or entertain low views of the inspiration and authority of the Bible, and he is without chart to guide him, and without anchor to hold him." and "In looking carefully over the history of the times, and the movement of the times, of which we have written briefly, this fact is apparent: that where ministers and Christian churches have held fast to the truth that the Holy Scriptures have been given by God as an authoritative and infallible rule of faith and practice, they have never wandered very seriously out of the right way. But when, on the other hand, reason has been exalted above revelation, and made the exponent of revelation, all kinds of errors and mischiefs have been the result." I will conclude with the final instalment in a few days. Sam Drucker

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