John William Burgon-a Memorial -- By: Alfred Martin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 123:490 (Apr 1966)
Article: John William Burgon-a Memorial
Author: Alfred Martin

John William Burgon-a Memorial

Alfred Martin

[Alfred Martin, Dean of Faculty, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago.]

Who was John William Burgon and why should he be remembered? This is no doubt the question of some who read these pages.1 Even many of those who well know who he was may question the necessity or the desirability of memorializing him.

The present writer first came upon The Revision Revised a quarter of a century ago while browsing in the stacks of the Dallas Theological Seminary library, and thus began an acquaintance with the life and work of this remarkable man. Subsequent years of study have deepened the impression that Dean Burgon, unknown to most theological students today, deserves to be recognized and listed among the great and honored upholders of the Word of God.

Standing at Burgon’s tomb in the cathedral at Chichester in the south of England some years ago, the writer recalled anew the sarcastic epithet applied to him by some of his opponents: “The champion of lost causes at Oxford.”

This title arouses mixed emotions in one who has studied Burgon’s life and works in the context of developments in nineteenth-century theology and textual criticism and who has become somewhat aware of the controversies that swirled

about the man and in which he took an active part.

One emotion is sorrow, because some of the causes (not all, by any means) for which Burgon fought were God’s causes. The intellectual climate in which Burgon lived was the Oxford a century ago, an Oxford that was fast losing its old character and objectives. Its ancient colleges, founded to prepare men for the Christian ministry in the Church of England, were succumbing to the attack of secularism and destructive higher criticism which already had seemingly won the day in the continental universities.

The cause dearest to Burgon’s heart was the proclamation and defense of the Bible as the Word of God written. His unwavering stand for the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture was considered a “lost cause” by those who eagerly welcomed the rising tide of rationalistic liberalism and even by some who regretted the changes in church and university.

Along with sorrow for the spread of apostasy in that day, which has continued relentlessly down to our own time, there should be joy and thanksgiving to God for a man who was willing to take the unpopular side in the firm conviction that the truth of God would ultimately prevail.

Burgon, more clearly than most, saw the crucial nature of the issues pre...

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