The Down Grade Controversy
From the May 1891 Sword and Trowel
Numbers of friends now write to say how true
our words upon the "Down-grade" were years ago. It is our deep regret that it
should be so. We spoke not without knowing what we were about. It was not possible for us
to give up all our authorities, nor would it have served any useful purpose to have
published names; but we spoke truth which we could not help believing, and spoke it
without exaggerating. Matters were even worse than we knew of. We have not only to do with
the lion of open unbelief, but with the foxes of craft, who profess to love the gospel
which they labor hard to undermine. If we had to bear our witness over again, we should
not soften a syllable, but add emphasis to it.
Indignant correspondents continually send us notices of amusements held by various churches; certainly, they can hardly become more childish and inane. But we cannot be perpetually recording and talking about these absurdities. Cannot Christian people make their own protests more emphatic in their several districts? It is all very well to send this wretched rubbish to us; but why not sweep it away yourselves? If we had a gracious revival, good people would find better things to do than to get up nigger entertainments, and theatricals.
Our old-fashioned Wesleyan friends must be greatly surprised by the utterances of certain of their leading men; they have great need to look after the professors who train their rising ministry; for if they cannot give a better account of Holy Writ than the divine from Richmond, tutorship is in a poor way. The record given of the meeting, in the newspapers, was more alarming than the actual facts; for the seamy side of the talk was made more prominent than it really was; but the very best we can make of Professor Davison's paper, and the comments upon it, causes us great apprehension. With the delicate tread which reminds us of Agag, error enters as though it were a well-known and familiar friend. Certain books of the Bible are dealt with in reference to modern criticism with the air of one who has settled the business, an placed the matter beyond dispute. Very modestly as to language, but very dogmatically as to statement, the Professor lay down the law. We do not accept a syllable of that unquestionable result of scholarship which he so coolly propounds.
Although upon the doctrines of grace our views differ from those avowed by Arminian Methodists, we have usually found that on the great evangelical truths we are in full agreement, and we have been comforted by the belief that Wesleyans were solid upon the central doctrines. We are truly sorry that we are now placed in doubt. Surely there are voices which will yet be heard. We know that there are hearts that are aching because of this last movement of leading religionists in the downward way but will anyone be bold enough to speak out? Ostracism seems to be dreaded so much, that good men and true hold their tongues. Nevertheless, we know the Holy Spirit did not use words at random, and we shall never consent to that liberalism which, in destroying the shell of the language, really kills the life-germ of the meaning.
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