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“Holding forth the Word of Life” Philippians 2:16
“Holding fast the Faithful Word” Titus 1:9
Text: Numbers 30:1–2
According to Chambers Dictionary (original edition, 1901), an oath is “a solemn statement with an appeal to God as witness, and a calling for punishment from Him in case of falsehood or of failure.” Taking an oath is thus a very serious matter. According to the definition as found in Chambers Dictionary, it involves (1) a solemn statement, (2) an appeal to God as witness, and (3) a punishment from God in case of falsehood or failure.
John William Burgon lived from 1813 to 1888. He was born in Smyrna (cf Rev 2:8), a city of Asia Minor which is today Asiatic Turkey. He was a graduate of Oxford University where he earned three degrees (BA, MA and MDiv). Burgon was such an outstanding scholar that he was later appointed Oxford professor of divinity in 1867. In 1876 he became the Dean of Chichester, and was henceforth known as Dean Burgon.
Just as David was raised up to fight Goliath, Burgon was raised by the Lord to challenge Westcott and Hort—two liberal Anglicans who attacked the inspiration and preservation of the Holy Scriptures. Filled with holy indignation that God’s Word—the very foundation of the Christian Faith had been undermined, he devoted the last 30 years of his life to the defence of the Traditional and Preserved Text and the King James Bible over against the corrupt Westcott-Hort Text and their Revised Version which is the father of all the modern versions of the English Bible today.
Burgon had a high regard for the King James Bible. Consider what he said, “Our Authorised Version is the one religious link which at present binds together … millions of English speaking men scattered over the earth’s surface. … It may be confidently assumed that no ‘Revision’ of our Authorised Version, however judiciously executed, will ever occupy the place of public esteem which is actually enjoyed by the work of the Translators of 1611—the noblest literary work in the Anglo-Saxon language. We shall in fact never have another ‘Authorised Version.’ … As something intended to supercede our present English Bible, we are thoroughly convinced that the project of a rival Translation is not to be entertained for a moment. For ourselves, we deprecate it entirely.” Concerning the King James translators, Burgon wrote, “Verily, those men understood their craft! ‘There were GIANTS in those days.’ … because the SPIRIT of their GOD was mightily upon them.”
Like Burgon, True Life upholds “the Authorised (King James) Version to be the Word of God—the best, most faithful, most accurate, most beautiful translation of the Bible in the English language, and do employ it alone as our primary scriptural text in the public reading, preaching, and teaching of the English Bible” (Constitution, 184.108.40.206).
In his defence of the Word of God against Westcott and Hort, Dean Burgon produced a most sublime statement of faith on the perfection and purity of the Holy Scriptures. He said, “The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the Throne! Every Book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High! The Bible is none other than the Word of God: not some part of it more, some part of it less; but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the Throne; faultless, unerring, supreme!” At the FEBC 11th graduation service in 1979, our beloved pastor who is also principal of FEBC turned this statement into an oath, and required every member of the teaching faculty to take it.
Is the Dean Burgon Oath according to the Scriptures? It most certainly is. “The Bible is none other than the voice of Him that sitteth upon the throne.” The phrase “Thus saith the LORD” appears 415 times in the Bible to tell us that it is the direct utterance of the Most High God. God speaks to us today directly through the Holy Scriptures. Each time we read the Bible it has the authority of “Thus saith the LORD.” And this Bible is none other than the God-breathed words of the Hebrew OT and the Greek NT that form the basis of our Authorised King James Bible which Dean Burgon promoted and defended in his battle against the corrupt text and translation of Westcott and Hort.
To what extent is the Word of God pure and perfect? It is pure and perfect to the last iota. The psalmist in Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” Psalm 119:140 says, “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.” Proverbs 30:5 says, “Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.” 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” Note that “All Scripture” is inspired of God, not “Some Scripture” or “Most Scripture” but “All Scripture.” Every word of God is important and significant. Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” That was why Dean Burgon wrote, “The Bible is none other than the Word of God: not some part of it more, some part of it less; but all alike, the utterance of Him who sitteth upon the Throne; faultless, unerring, supreme!” The Bible is faultless and unerring not only on matters of salvation, but also of science, history, and geography. We reject the view that the Bible contains “insignificant” mistakes like spelling mistakes, chronological mistakes, numbering mistakes, or so-called scribal mistakes.
Do we have the pure and perfect Word of God today? The answer is again a resounding yes. God not only inspired His words 100%, He also promised to preserve His inspired words 100%, to the last jot and tittle. Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33 say, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Psalm 12:6–7, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever.” The Westminster Confession of Faith (chap I, para VIII) states, “The Old Testament in Hebrew … and the New Testament in Greek, … being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.” That is why we affirm with Burgon, “Every Book of it, every chapter of it, every verse of it, every word of it, every syllable of it, every letter of it, is the direct utterance of the Most High!”
Please note that Dean Burgon wrote these words in the present tense: “Every book, chapter, verse, word, syllable and letter IS (not WAS) direct utterance of the Most High.” The Greek word gegraptai (perfect tense of grapho, “to write”) translated “it is written,” or “it stands written,” is used 67 times in the Bible to teach us in no uncertain terms that the Bible was, is, and will always be the perfect Word of God—forever infallible and inerrant. This is a statement, a position, an oath of faith. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The FEBC board and faculty took this oath last week at her 30th convocation on May 8, 2005. May the session of True Life BPC follow after this good tradition of FEBC as put in place by our beloved and founding pastor to take the Dean Burgon Oath and to take it sincerely without reservations. As Numbers 30:1–2 says, “This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded. If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” When we take an oath that is in accordance to the Holy Scriptures and say what God says in His Sacred Word, we are safe and secure, and shall receive His blessing to serve Him who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. To Him be all glory and honour. Amen.
Dr Jeffrey Khoo is academic dean of the Far Eastern Bible College.
The above message was delivered by him at the True Life Church 10.30 am Service, May 15, 05.