A scene from the Leben der heiligen Altväter (1482)

“Inaugural Address” at Didsbury, 1867delivered in the College Chapel, Didsbury, on Friday, September 20th, 1867

(London, 1867)

Stevenson (Methodist Worthies) reports on the dramatic circumstances in which Pope delivered this address:

The Rev. Dr. John Hannah, who had for many years been the Theological Tutor at the Didsbury Wesleyan College, died before the Conference of 1867; to supply his place was not very difficult, with such a master of theology at command as William Burt Pope. He had for twenty-five years served the Connexion in circuit work ; he was therefore well acquainted with all the requirements of the people as regards ministers, and his transfer to the Theological Professor’s Chair at Didsbury, in 1867, was a wise decision of the Conference. His Inaugural Address, delivered on the occasion of commencing his duties there, forms a printed pamphlet of thirty pages, which was read with eager interest when printed, and only served to confirm the Conference in the wisdom of their choice. (“Pope,” in (Methodist Worthies) p. 439)

One striking example of the “eager interest” with which the address was read can be found in the “Select Literary Notices” feature of the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine for January 1868 (pp 67-69), which includes the lecture in a review of recent books on theological education.

Many Methodists will turn with mingled curiosity and hope to this apologia pro labore suo issued by the present occupant of the Theological Chair at Didsbury. If anywhere a latent and unacknowledged suspicion has lodged in men’s minds that “the long and blessed labours” of Dr. Hannah were to be succeeded by any line of teaching less Methodistic, or less purely evangelical, this Address will utterly dispel such baseless illusions.

Though Pope would “wear his own garment, and use his own voice,” nevertheless “the impress of his Tutor is still on him.” The (unsigned) editorial praised Pope for his submission to the word of God in Scripture, and noted

the corrective supplied in this Address to the minute criticism of Scripture. We are not deprecating careful study of words and phrases –the jots and the tittles of the Law and of the Gospel; but we do protest against a microscopic study of details, in which the grand view of the whole Christian verity is entirely put out of sight. We have the separate and, in some cases, fragmentary portions of Scripture so incessantly brought before us, and such an outcry is sometimes raised against the modulation of our utterances on separate texts, so as to accord with the harmony of the whole faith, that we sometimes fear lest the very existence of systematic theology should be scouted as one of the “legal fictions of the orthodox.”