as this issue goes to press we are in the midst of the world Bible Conference. The imagination of our workers and members has been stirred to the earth's far ends as they have contemplated this convocation. And now the delegates and visitors are here. It is inspiring to witness this great gathering, especially as one realizes that the sole purpose of it all is to study anew the message of the Book of books. The objective of this conference is not merely to review our doctrines; rather it is to reinspire our teachers, preachers, and workers around the world with the mighty truths of the third angel's message.
When the Lord raised up this movement He laid upon us a dual responsibility. Not only were we to warn the whole world of impending judgment, but we were also to prepare a people to meet their Lord. Only those who possess the faith once delivered unto the saints will have the power to separate from sin and become citizens of God's kingdom. And it is that faith that claims the interest of this great conference. No, we are not meeting to defend our doctrines, but rather to reaffirm the certainty of the precepts and prophecies of the message of God for this hour.
One hundred years ago our pioneers were laying the foundations of what was destined to become a worldwide movement. They were weak numerically, but they were strong spiritually, and confident of their divine call, they moved forward in faith. The results of their work we see today. Truly they built better than they knew. From our vantage point we can look back and see the way we have come. A good auto mobile driver not only watches the road ahead but also keeps a watchful eye on the rearview mirror.
The Beginnings of Our Movement
In recent times some of our leaders have felt moved to uncover in detail the story of those humble beginnings of our movement. And as we see what God has wrought, we truly stand amazed.
The Midnight Cry, by Francis D. Nichol, was the first of a series of books that have lifted the veil, enabling all to see and evaluate what happened a century ago. Ignorance and deliberate invective had blurred and distorted the picture. But not being in possession of the facts, we were unable to refute the baseless and often vitriolic charges leveled by our enemies upon early Advent- ism. How often have we been embarrassed by the charges of religious fanaticism and ascension robes! And although we eagerly hoped that certain things were not as some represented them to be, yet adequate ex planation or refutation was impossible. The foundations of Adventism appeared at best to be very questionable and at worst irrationally fanatical. But today there is a change. With painstaking precision Elder Nichol gathered his facts and then, un sheathing his sword, laid bare the whole case for the world to see. And what has been the result?
Let us pause and ponder. Perhaps the best-known and most widely acclaimed of all American writers in the field of church history is Dr. William Warren Sweet. In his recent book, Religion in the Development of American Culture, 1765 to 1840, he makes this statement in a footnote on page 310:
"Nichol's book is the most thorough piece of research that has been done on the Millerite movement in spite of its avowed purpose to defend his co-religionists against the accusations made against them." And while stating that this "is a Seventh- day Adventist defense of William Miller and the Millerites," yet this authority says that "the author has convincingly shown that many of the stories of the excesses committed by the Millerites had little basis in fact."—Ibid., p. 307, footnote.
"The widespread accusations that Millerism had driven people insane and caused many to commit suicide has been refuted by Nichol in a careful study of asylum records for the years involved. Nichol also has produced indisputable evidence that the numerous stories of the Millerites providing themselves with ascension robes and gathering on hill tops to await the coming had no basis in fact."— Ibid., pp. 310, 311.
Dr. Sweet concludes this forthright analysis of the development of religion in America by this terse statement of present- day Adventism:
"But whatever may be said of the present-day Adventists, the spiritual children of the Millerite movement, no religious body in America possesses a more devoted membership or one that has a higher 'sense of destiny and divine commission.'"—Ibid., p. 311.
Such statements coming from one of Dr. Sweet's caliber mean much to us as a people. They reveal that it is possible for us to de fend our position frankly and avowedly and yet do so in such a way as to command the respect of scholars outside our ranks, causing some writers who have actually been guilty of perpetuating false stories in their historical works to correct their views.
While Elder Nichol has been concentrating on the particular area of the Millerite movement, LeRoy E. Froom has been taking in a wider sweep, tracing the history of prophetic interpretation back to the very beginnings of the Christian church and revealing that our position on prophecy not only is the historical view of the great Protestant Reformers and pre-Reformation leaders, but harmonizes with the outstanding teachers of the centuries from apostolic and postapostolic times until now. Our readers will be glad to know that the last volume of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers is already in the hands of the publishers and will be off the press at an early date.
The exceptional scope and vital content of such books as The Midnight Cry and The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers are recognized by book reviewers of many different Christian groups. These books have really challenged the thinking of scholars, and church leaders and editors alike have beenimpressing upon their readers the importance of possessing these works and of familiarizing themselves with their contents.
Dr. T. T. Shields, of Toronto, Canada, a Baptist leader and the editor of The Gospel Witness and Protestant Advocate, says of the Prophetic Faith volumes:
"We could wish that every reader of The Gospel Witness had a set, and would diligently study it, especially Volume II. ...
"If any one of our readers is disposed to produce another book from the premillennial point of view, we would beg him not to do so until he has read Volume II of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers."
Then to emphasize his point, he says:
"Two or three years ago I sent one of my young men to an Evangelical book shop with instructions to comb their shelves, and bring me every book that had anything to say about The Second Coming. He must have returned with fifty or sixty volumes. At least half of them were like so many parrot cages, in which the authors were parroting the opinions of others who had written on the same subject. Our only criticism of the authors of these books is that they had the presumption even to attempt to write on such a subject. If they would diligently study Volume II of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, it would humble them in the dust; and would lead them to charge themselves as Elihu charged Job, with multiplying words without knowledge. . . . The fact that this work is published by a Seventh Day Adventist Publishing Company does not invalidate the authoritative, historical, and completely documented facts set forth."
This writer is known from coast to coast, and his frankness and ability to analyze a situation are recognized by the religious press. His review is not just a few paragraphs; it occupies some pages. We could quote from scores of other reviewers. A brief reference to Dr. Conrad H. Moehlman, Baptist, professor of history of Christianity, Col gate-Rochester Divinity School, 1928-1944, and now emeritus professor, will illustrate the general trend of those who have written. He says in his review from the Crozer Quarterly, January, 1951, pages 86, 87, that this set—
"will prove an inexhaustible gold mine of data. It will become their classic. If all the preachers of all the varieties of 'prophetic' interpretation presented a dozen times a day over the radio were to take a biennium off to digest these four volumes, the terrible confusion of their contemporary listeners would be considerably reduced. Sixteen years of continuous research, meticulous documentation, calm, clarity, poise, fairness, wide range of knowledge, the latest archaeological information—these are a few characteristics of this huge work. ... As a reference work, it is unexcelled for this area of Christian thought."
Similar reviews are appearing in eight different journals of the British religious press. Two of these in particular are noted for their conservatism. They are scholarly magazines and their favorable reviews are bound to influence readers in Britain and throughout the Empire.
We owe much to our brethren whose diligent work has brought such responses. And even though the reviewers mentioned differ from us in certain beliefs, yet having taken the time to analyze the facts, they no longer classify us with ignorance and fanaticism.
Real Conviction Necessary
But in defending our cause it was necessary for Elders Nichol and Froom to un earth the facts of history. In doing so they entered the field with real conviction, for conviction alone is what makes men audacious. When one pursues investigation under the urge of conviction, he naturally lays himself open to the charge of being subjective rather than objective. But a certain objectivity which requires that all judgment be kept in reserve may be the part of wisdom in some educational circles, yet objectivity which supplants real conviction can aid nothing in the unfolding of the verities of our message and of our movement. G. K. Chesterton has tersely observed that the only justification for an open mind is the same as for an open mouth—that it might close again on something solid.
We must not forget that either we are defenders of a cause that rests on great certainties, or else we are nothing. If we really believe that we have certain truths, then why should we hesitate to admit that they constitute the very premises of our faith? To suspend judgment and to keep certain matters in solution in our minds may sound very learned, but it may in the end prove our own undoing. If we keep everything in solution, our message may well be so sadly watered down that the movement that has been raised up of God for the finishing of His work in the earth may discover itself bogged down in marshy ground at the very time when it ought to be advancing under the power of the loud cry. Dr. George A. Buttrick, stating the case for real research in the area of Bible study, says: "Every book is written in some faith. The cult of 'objectivity' would be empty even if it were possible, for only faith gives content to any study." How true!
One of the distinctive marks of any religious movement that bases its faith on revelation is that there are some things that are established beyond all doubt, things of which we can be so sure that for them we would be willing to die. In such an area of study and reason the question of objectivity or subjectivity has really no relevancy. The foundations of our faith and the facts of our history require that we make them known to the world, and only men with certainty in their souls can measure up to the demands of our day. And it is for these things most surely believed among us that this Bible Conference has convened.
New Books to Come
Speaking of books, here is something to thrill us all. Another valuable set is soon to appear—a Bible commentary, gathered from the richest sources of the centuries, but including nothing that undermines our Adventist faith. This set of seven volumes of about one thousand pages each will be a treasure house of knowledge for our English readers the world around. It is possible that the first volume, covering the Pentateuch, may be off the press in time for inclusion in the 1953 Ministerial Book Club. The publication of the complete commentary, however, will require about three years. This is something we have long needed. A group of more than forty different Adventist writers, including some of the best scholars of the denomination, has been summoned to participate in the making of this commentary, and Francis D. Nichol is the editor in chief. A preliminary announcement of this project was made to the delegates at the Bible Conference, and a real interest was awakened.
The presentations during this conference have been inspiring, and there will be a complete report of the conference. Two volumes of approximately six hundred pages each will carry the full text of this historic meeting. These books will certainly be musts in the library of every worker, and will be included in the selections of the 1953 Ministerial Book Club. These are swift- moving days, and it is imperative that as ministers and workers we keep abreast of the times, and give the trumpet a certain sound.