Editorial Keynotes

Advent Source Research Project—No. 3

L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry. 

5. Relationship to the Witness of the Ages

Under this heading, I would first of all mention the relationship of the ad­vent source findings to the declarations of the Spirit of prophecy. These findings con­stitute an amazing historical parallel, or coun­terpart, to "The Great Controversy," that matchless, inspired panorama of the course of history in both the church and the nations. I freely confess that I received my initial con­ception of this larger research project, my inspiration and determination to carry it through, my clues and faith, my guidance and restraints, and the assurance of the correct­ness of the conclusions reached, from Spirit of prophecy leads.

Mark this: He who has the instruction which has been given through the Spirit of prophecy know that neither Ellen G. White nor her asso­not have to waste valuable time over false clues and fruitless quests. Secondly, he is able to recognize the facts when he has found them, and so is not left in doubt as to their identity, soundness, and validity. This entire research experience has deepened my conviction re­garding the divine origin of the gift of proph­ecy, and its key statements in this field. I know that neither Ellen G. White nor her asso­ciates ever saw certain of those materials to which she clearly alludes, some of which great library and university authorities said did not exist, but which persistent search fully recov­ered.

I therefore believe that this advent source research project vindicates the Spirit of proph­ecy expressions as verily as the archeologist's spade vindicates the historical allusions of the Bible. It was statements from the writings of the Spirit of prophecy that drove me on when I was beset with obstacles and perplex­ities. They held me on my course when I was in a quandary, or at a fork in the road. And the results have vindicated the trust placed in these writings. I feel bound to make the state­ment that I have never found one declaration in the Spirit of prophecy that led me astray or proved contrary to the facts—when all the facts were assembled, and I had gone to the bottom of the problem.

The trouble with most of our critics and some of our friends is that they give up the historical search when results are not immedi­ately forthcoming. The full evidence is not lying about on the surface, waiting to be picked up. It is recovered only by digging deeply. Hasty, inadequate, erroneous conclu­sions are too often drawn and expressed upon the available results of shallow digging. But results such as I have described come not save by long toil and prayer, and a determination that will not let go until the materials men­tioned are found. This often requires years. And may I drop the remark that there is much more in the history of the Sabbath and other doctrinal fields that would be found if we sought them with enough persistence.

The divine restraints imposed by the Spirit of prophecy are fundamental in reverent re­search, for often the omissions and silences are as remarkable and significant as are its utter­ances. Moreover, the Spirit of prophecy con­stitutes a guide on how to treat and evaluate the witnesses of the ages. Such men as Miller, Wolfe, Luther, Wycliffe, Claude of Turin, etc., serve as criteria. Enabled through these examples to see how God evaluates His chosen witness, we learn how rightly to relate our­selves to those misconceptions and errors min­gled with the truths enunciated by these and hosts of unnamed witnesses.

There is sharp contrast between this in­spired guidance and merely human counsels and clues. Some of our own keenest-minded men have said that these materials indicated by the Spirit of prophecy could not be found, because they had tried, and could not find them. Yet these very items were found. Such in­vestigators had given up too quickly. They did not persist in seeking until they found what had been pointed out by the inspired Indicator.

Similarly some of the most brilliant scholars of the world told me that certain materials I sought in their libraries did not exist ; yet they were found. The trouble with worldly scholars is that they are not acquainted with history as God sees it. Without the infallible out­line of Bible prophecy, they often fail to sense or grasp the great issues of church and secu­lar history. And without that special Spirit of prophecy guidance, vouchsafed to us, they know not what and where to seek, and ofttimes do not recognize vital evidence when it is found. Frequently they neither perceive nor emphasize the things that God stresses. That is why I have not followed mere university leads, though I have sought to be thoroughly sound and scientific in treatment, and the re­sults have amply justified the trust placed in the Spirit of prophecy leads.

I fully believe that these source materials were found at this time because the hour had come for these "gems of truth" to be gathered out of the "rubbish" of earth's error to occupy the unique place they are destined to fill amid the final scenes of the church and the world. I believe that this source collection is designed of God, first of all, to exalt the second advent movement to its rightful place and relation­ship to God's sevenfold church of the past, and to show to the world that we are not un­warranted innovators or upstarts.

Second, it is designed to lift the second advent movement to its rightful place as the inheritor and custodian of the prophetic truths of past centuries, and as the restorer and con­summator in fullness and completion of all those partial prophetic truths of the past.

Third, to provide a supreme appeal (1) to the Jew, (2) to the Catholic, and (3) to the Protestant, as nothing else could do.

Fourth, to reach the intelligentsia—trained minds, professional people, teachers, preachers —many of whom will yet be led to accept the witness of the message through this compul­sive evidence.

Fifth, to expose the fallacies of false pro­phetic interpretations by exposing their origin and purpose, and their fatal results and conclu­sions.

Sixth, to safeguard us against distortion, constriction, or fanciful interpretation on our own part.

Seventh, to enable us to change our position from defense and isolation to championship and aggression, and to present the true pro­gression of this movement as the climax of in­terpretation through the centuries.

And, last, it is designed to bring to our hands the supreme appeal to a distraught world, commensurate with the final issues before mankind. For these eight reasons you can understand why I cannot look upon this as merely an interesting assemblage, or even as a remarkable collection, but as vital, indis­pensable equipment for the Seventh-day Ad­ventist worker in the final crisis. It is destined to affect profoundly our fundamental concep­tion of this movement and its relationships, and to strengthen our method of approach in presenting God's truth for today before man­kind.

6. Deeper Significance of the Findings

The question has been asked, "Why have you changed the field of study and emphasis from a simple history of the advent movement of the nineteenth century, as originally purposed, to the more complex history of prophetic inter­pretation and eschatology which has even­tuated ?" In answer, I would say—

It is not a change, but merely an enlarge­ment, a logical and necessary expansion, which embraces and climaxes in the nineteenth-century awakening. It retains all former fac­tors, simply extending and enhancing them, and making them more comprehensive, con­crete, and living. Prophetic interpretation includes the advent hope, and centers in it, only with greatly increased interest, practi­cality, value, and strength. It makes it of more vital worth to us who are preeminently a people of prophecy.

Our very destiny is tied to the prophecies which terminate at the second advent. There­fore we need to know our ancestry thoroughly. Simply to trace the advent hope through the centuries as merely an objective or factual recital, without the antecedent causes and re­lationships—and especially the fundamental philosophy that lies back of it and controls its vicissitudes and assures ultimate triumph—is to divorce it from the throbbing heart that gives it life and motivation.

The history of the advent hope, apart from these contingent factors, is too intangible. In­terest could not be sustained through nineteen centuries of survey. Development must follow development, as disclosed in prophecy, on through to the climax. We must never forget that the advent hope is a result, not a cause. It is a climax, the focal point of all prophecy. And it should ever be studied and held in that light. It is based, not upon mere declara­tion, but upon prophetic promise and provi­sion, and is unfolded and established through fulfillment.

It will be found, upon analysis, that the advent hope is inseparably tied to the proph­ecies by a fivefold cord of events that have a definite relation to the advent: (I) the resur­rection, (2) the millennium, (3) the outline prophecies, (4) the antichrist, and (5) the kingdom of God. In fact, these factors sim­ply constitute a fivefold expansion of proph­ecy as it affects the advent. These five factors are (a) always present and are recognized when the advent hope is dominant; (b) al­ways distorted, misapplied, and forgotten when the advent hope is eclipsed; and (c) they al­ways reappear when the advent hope is revived and restored. Here, then, is something tan­gible, an operative law that can and must be grasped in the vast development of the ages. The history of prophetic interpretation is the record of man's understanding of these five factors. Therein we find the cause of fluc­tuations and vicissitudes in the history of the centuries.

Whether or not we incline to believe it, the operation of true and false interpretation of prophecy has controlled the destinies of em­pires. It has profoundly affected the plans of kings, statesmen, and warriors, and has shaped the conceptions and policies of nations more than we have dreamed. It has definitely con­trolled the policies and purposes not only of the true church, but of the false church, to a superlative degree, though it has reacted upon them in opposite ways. Consciously or uncon­sciously, it has molded all their major move­ments.

Whether or not we are aware of it, this cluster of concepts constitutes the master key that unlocks the otherwise baffling mysteries of history—the departures, recoveries, apos­tasies, and digressions of the churches ; the strivings, thwartings, and achievings of the nations. It has ever shaped the course of the battle of truth. The underlying controversies of the ages have all been molded by these five determining factors.

Prophecy has molded the concepts of the great characters of history, such as Alexander the Great, in his understanding of the notable horn of the he-goat; Constantine, with his coins picturing the emperor's feet upon the head of the pagan dragon; Charlemagne, who recognized in Rome the fourth world power of prophecy; James I of Britain, who wrote a commentary setting forth the beast of Reve­lation 13 as the Papacy. Even Columbus be­lieved that he was a messenger of the Almighty to open the way to the Indies for the preach­ing of the gospel before the end of the world should come.

Such are some of the major facts and factors that lie back of the great advent source collection that now forms the founda­tion of the regular Theological Seminary class in the history of prophetic interpretation, which is the basis of the lecture series given in our colleges and worker meetings, and which con­stitutes the basis of the comprehensive his­tory of prophetic interpretation now being pre­pared for release to the field. I trust that this presentation, here given by request, will aid in creating a clearer understanding of this vital project.

L. E. F.


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L.E.F. is editor of the Ministry. 

March 1941

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