Robert Dick Wilson: Torchbearer
by the Rev. Harold J. Ockenga
[excerpted from Christianity Today [original series], January 1931, pages 8 - 9]

A statement by the Rev. Harold J. Ockenga, Assistant in the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pa., on the occasion of an offering in that Church for Westminster Theological Seminary.

On October 12th, as we were gathered here at the Lord's table, laying aside every weight and the sins which so easily beset us, the news reached us that one more hero had had his name inscribed on God's honor roll of faith and had joined that great cloud of witnesses which encompass us. That hero was Robert Dick Wilson. On May 6th I last saw Dr. Wilson when with twelve young men graduating from Westminster Theological Seminary I sat at his feet in Witherspoon Hall while he gave his farewell address. There are few words of that speech which I can accurately remember, but the thought was stamped indelibly upon my mind. He quoted:

In Flanders' field the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders' fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders' fields.

"So we now give you the torch of the Word and the Gospel for which we have contended. I look back over my life; you look forward. May you be able to say with Paul and with me (and here he drew his withered frame up to its former height), 'I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me that day.' "

Tears dimmed the eyes of most people present because they realized what that man had meant to and sacrificed for the Truth of God. The question arises as to why that attitude, which is representative of all of the faculty of Westminster, is needful. I do not care to state anything just now about the Princeton situation, but I do about the condition of the Church as a whole. That the majority of our denomination and of other churches have turned away from historical and Biblical Christianity is no longer debatable. It is an acknowledged fact. The reason for this lies in the fact that our schools, especially seminaries, have been taken over by these religious pacifists and dwellers-on-the-fence. The negative mind has pervaded our Church; many of our young preachers know not what to believe; the note of authority has been lost from their message, each constructs his own theology, and everyone can believe what he will. The nerve of evangelism has been cut and the Church is going backward. In evidence, last year we lost over 20,000 members.

Now God says, "when the enemy shall come in like a flood I will raise up a standard against him." Such a standard has been raised in Westminster Theological Seminary. Men trained in firm scholarship and unquestioned loyalty to the Word of God can alone be fitted to stand in the gap. These men Westminster faculty is attempting to equip. It is a challenge flung out by men of God to the Church of today to cling to the old paths. And it is now time to face this issue. If those now in authority in the Church fail to do so, never think that the rising generation shall fail. The issue is clear, the lines are drawn, the banners are up, and the fight is on. May God vindicate His Word by raising up people in this congregation who will align themselves to this cause.

One of the great preachers of another denomination said, "This is the first movement in open rebellion against modernism in the Church and I count it the greatest thing in this generation." That man was influential in sending a dozen students to Westminster. And I count a year's fellowship with that group of doctrinally conscious and consecrated youth the greatest privilege that God ever allowed me to enjoy.