A Voice From the Past

I was looking through a Methodist booksellers list of old books. I was scanning quickly; then, there it was: Murray, Harold: Dinsdale Young, The Preacher. I ordered the book and watched to see if I might claim the prize. Sure enough, it came.

But, you ask, why should you be interested in a name we never heard of? Let me tell you a true story about one of our Ohio Bible Fellowship founders. My Father, William E. Ashbrook, graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in 1921. I believe it was a school of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, commonly known as the United Presbyterian Church, until it lost its identity by merging with the present denomination of that name. You might think that, in 1921, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary would be soundly Bible-believing. Not so. The school was honeycombed with the seeds of doubt which higher criticism sows.

My father graduated, knowing the gospel he had believed as a young man, and which had led him to give his life to the ministry. However, he was troubled with the doubts with which “modern scholarship” had infected his mind. With a restlessness born of those doubts he and my mother set off on a honeymoon to Europe. Like many students, he thought a few more hours of education would clear his head. With that in mind he enrolled for a semester at New College, Edinburgh. That was a shrine of all things Presbyterian. He followed that semester with one at Cambridge University. He found those institutions to be more filled with skepticism than his own seminary. His doubts grew. He and Mother spent their Sundays hearing the famous preachers of Edinburgh and London, Now that it is too late to ask, I wish I knew what men they heard.

This Clown?
One day their landlady in London said to them, “I wish you would go to hear my preacher, the Rev. Dinsdale T. Young.” Dr. Young was a Methodist and was the preacher at Westminster Central Hall, a large hall across the street from Westminster Abbey. (I believe it was a lecture hall, not a Methodist Church.) The evening service was his main sermon. The landlady warned them that they must “queue up” at least an hour and a half before the appointed time of 6:00 P.M. to get a seat. More to please the landlady than to expect a blessing, they queued up. At the appointed time a white-haired old man, with a beard which reached his waist, took the preacher’s chair. My skeptical father whispered to Mother, “Have we waited all this time to hear this clown?”

But, Dinsdale T. Young was no comedian. My father left the hall that evening with the gospel firmly in his heart, the doubts removed, and ready to return to the States to be a lifetime fundamentalist who hated modernism with a passion. So, now you know why I bought that book and jumped at the chance to learn more about Dinsdale T. Young. As I read the book I was drawn to some principles and statements which I think may be profitable to my readers. The purpose of this article is to share them.

Dr. Young lived from 1861-1937. This means that his years spanned the modernist/fundamentalist controversy. He would have been 60 at the time my father thought him an old man. He was educated at Headingly Theological College in Leeds. As Americans that means little to us. I was interested to learn that he worked in a crowded inquiry room at Leeds in the Moody/Sankey campaign. Moody signed his name in the young man’s autograph book with the exhortation, “Preach the Word.”

That was fitting, for Dinsdale T. Young’s passion was preaching. We live in a day when men talk of drama, dialogue, and dance, in place of preaching. Young spoke to that problem:

“Preaching is the God-decreed agency for making known the crucified Saviour. Preaching as an ordinance is part of ‘God’s good pleasure.’ There has been no revocation of this supreme ordinance. By this weapon evangelical churches have ever conquered in the fight. Nothing gathers the multitude and converts the multitude as evangelical preaching does. Preaching is not merely as between man and man, but it is between God and man. It is the sacrament. Of all acts of worship it is the most help. The churches grieve God’s Spirit when they ignore or depreciate preaching. May not this explain the barrenness of many churches? Let no miscalled ‘priest’ push his ‘altar’ to the front. The pulpit, not the altar, is the Christian symbol…We must keep the preacher in the front.” (56,57)

He also spoke a warning about churches and pastors which become purveyors of entertainment. “When preacher and people combine to have ‘a good time,’ ‘a happy time,’ ‘a jolly time,’ they are found wanting before God.” Both comments are practical in 2003.

The Almighty Death
His biographer states that “He did not into the pulpit to give good advice. He went to tell good news.” (41) His favorite preaching subject was the atonement. I like his title for that doctrine. He called it, “the Almighty Death.” I certainly believe in the correct understanding of doctrines; but I like one of his statements about the atonement. “There is an infinite atonement, and there are twenty theories of it; we are saved by none of them, but by the atonement itself.” (63)

The Bible
In his day the Bible was under the gun of higher criticism. His own conviction, which speaks to both modernism and neo-orthodoxy was:

“I believe in the Bible as the Word of God. Not a word among other words but the Word of God. To me it not only contains the Word; it is the Word. From Genesis to Revelation it is supernatural in its origin.”

He was solidly behind a British movement of his day, The Bible Testimony Fellowship, which organized rallies to speak of the infallibility of the Bible. He was not given to much humor in the pulpit but I like his recall of a country incident:

“I was in a village chapel a few years ago a crowded afternoon service. In the middle of the sermon a huge cat jumped into the pulpit and sat down on the pulpit Bible. When the folk had done laughing I said, ‘Well, this creature sets you all a good example. It plants itself four-square upon the Bible’” (112)!

Many times people are unduly swayed by boasts of “scholarship.” I like two of Dr. Young’s short observations on that:

“Claims to scholarship are made almost always on behalf of any man who departs from the historic faith” (81). Again he says: “Unbelief often poses as scholarship” (101). When we stand on the Word of God faith need not be cowed by supposed “scholarship.”

The Fundamentalist
Most Britishers are afraid of the American word, “fundamentalist.” They fear the term and would never accept the name. I was overjoyed to see his biographer write:

“Dr. Young was well aware that some disliked the term ‘Fundamentalist.’ He thought it would not be easy to find an effective synonym for it. As Spurgeon used to say, the Fundamentalist and the Modernist were as different as chalk from cheese. They plead,’ said Dr. Young, ‘that both are bringing people to Christ. Yes, but to what manner of a Christ? The modernist brings people to a Christ who is not an Atoner, not an Incarnate God, not Infallible. Such a Christ is not a Saviour of sinners. John Wesley was a Fundamentalist. Surely this cannot be denied’” (82).

That statement should be useful in our own ministries. The modernist confuses many people by speaking of Christ but it is not the Christ of the Bible. Dr. Young declared emphatically that John Wesley was a fundamentalist. He defended that claim by citing that Wesley held to the fundamentals—an infallible Bible, Christ’s absolute deity, an objective atonement, justification by faith, the glory of everlasting life and the terror of everlasting hell. On these grounds he declared: “Of course, John Wesley was a Fundamentalist, and the secret of his wonderful work was his uncompromising Fundamentalism” (83). We fundamentalists of today could also wish that Wesley had made a clear separation from the apostasy of his ancestral Church of England.

The Times
In talking about the fact that the Bible can meet man’s need without the social programs of modernism he said:

“Someone may say, ‘It’s just like you dogmatic old preachers to take a position like that. You are old Puritans!’ Well, we are not ashamed of being called dogmatic. We believe we have something worth dogmatising about. Some of us are not ashamed of being called Puritans, for it was the good doctrines of Puritanism that made England the first flower of the earth and the first gem of the sea” (75).

We can do well to recover some of that unashamed spirit in the face of the world of 2003. We frequently seem apologetic to our times. I like Dr. Young’s comment on that:

“There are even some old men who are rather conceited because they like it to be thought they are modern thinkers. As if the modern thinker were any better than the ancient thinker! We like it to be thought we are abreast of the times. Botheration to the times! It is the eternal that we are after” (114).

The Blessed Hope
I rejoiced to learn that the second coming was a vital part of Dinsdale T. Young’s ministry. His biographer says:

“The Second Advent was a doctrine upon which he was glad to dwell for many a year, for he regarded it an essential part of the Christian gospel. He held that our Saviour’s return was to be personal, physical, visible. If you charged him holding to a ‘spectacular’ idea he said he did not mind. He believed that this present evil age is coming swiftly to a close and that the personal and visible return of the Saviour King was very near. His hope for the salvation of the world was not In an evolution but in a cataclysm. His belief in the speedy coming of Christ to perfect what He began when He came in the flesh before, he claimed was securely founded on the infallible Word” (84,45).

That is a position worthy of a good premillennial, pre-tribulational, dispensationalist. It seems to me, as we approach the end of the age, that we hear less preaching about the second coming. Should it not be more as “signs of His coming multiply?” Dr. Young gave the truth its proper emphasis:

“Sure I am that the apathy concerning this theme is a master-achievement of Satan. Of things of which the Scripture says little we say much, and of things of which the oracle of God says much we are all but silent. It is a victory of the evil one in the Church of Christ. Almost above all other truths Satan detests that of the Lord’s Second Coming. Where it is believed and taught there is fervent spirituality, evangelistic zeal and foreign missionary passion. To know that the Lord is at hand will infallibly secure the highest good. Out of this all blessednesses spring. Awake ye to this glorious truth, ye servants of God” (85,86)!

I doubt if many of our readers had ever heard of the subject of this essay. What think ye now of Dr. Dinsdale T. Young? I, for one, praise the Lord that my fundamentalist father met him!

January 2003


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