This initial report is written in the midst of the epochal 1952 Bible Conference, held in the spacious Sligo church in Takoma Park, Maryland. Authorized and called by General Conference Committee action for September 1-13, just before the important biennial Autumn Council, it is already exerting a stabilizing, unifying, and energizing influence that is highly gratifying, even by the close of this first week. And that it is destined to be strongly cumulative in its influence I firmly believe; it will spread its blessings as the participants return to the classrooms of our colleges and other training schools, or to their administrative, pastoral, evangelistic, editorial, and other endeavors. Time, I am confident, will confirm this evaluation and forecast.
Some four hundred are registered as dele gates from North America and overseas, with hundreds of other workers of various categories in attendance for part or all of the time. This Bible Conference will un questionably go down in our history as a conspicuous landmark, a turning point in the onward sweep of the message, the ear nest of better and greater things to come. It should prove to be an augmenting force preparatory to the final, loud-cry phase of our mission to mankind. For this we are praying.
A little over a century has passed since the initial Bible Conferences of the movement were held in 1848 a connected series of gatherings called for the purpose of clarifying and unifying the foundational beliefs of the third angel's message. There our basic truths were wrought out by our founding fathers upon their knees, with importunate prayers and tears, with open hearts and the open Bible before them. And God honored their faith and fidelity, and gave help from heaven. These godly men built more wisely and solidly than they realized at the time, as the years have abundantly testified. They were few in number, and without wealth, influence, or conspicuous scholarship. But they had faith in God and were possessed by deep convictions. They were seeking the truth, the whole truth, and only the truth. And they found what they sought.
The importance and lasting effect of these initial conferences cannot be overestimated. The rugged outlines of our faith were there determined. The structural footings and foundation stones were shaped, and carefully and skillfully put into place, where they have remained intact to this day. An edifice that was sound and symmetrical, as well as beautiful in outline, resulted. The positions there taken have stood the test of time. No fundamental teaching has had to be either abandoned or materially revised. We still stand firmly on that basic plat form. And the passage of a century has seen the solid and steady growth of a mighty movement that now encircles the earth.
And now, during this first week of the Bible Conference of '52, we have been led by eleven speakers in our "walk about Zion." We have been led to "mark . . . well her bulwarks," and to "consider her palaces," that we "may tell it" to all men. "For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death." Ps. 48:12-14. This Bible Conference is destined to exert a profound influence upon the climax of our witness to the world. Its fundamental objective is being realized, as the certainties of the Advent faith are reviewed and the centralities of that faith are clarified, amplified, and strengthened through rethinking and restatement. We are discovering supplemental sustaining evidence and augmenting power. It was never the purpose of this conference to debate minor, moot questions or to spend time upon speculative inconsequential that have little or nothing to do with salvation, and often become divisive in their effects.
To this end consecrated scholarship has been invoked for the further development of our cardinal teachings, and to bring new evidences before us to confirm our faith. Genuine new light always confirms, strengthens, and stabilizes all genuine old light. There has been a review of the great certainties and a survey of backgrounds that we have not always understood. Christ, the magnetic center of all true Adventist teaching, and righteousness by faith, as the throbbing heart of the third angel's message, have been the keynotes.
As to the personnel of the leading participants, a large planning committee of twenty-three, with W. H. Branson as chairman —in whose mind and heart this conference was conceived—arranged the program, chose the subjects, and selected the speakers. A subcommittee of ten serves as a body of counselors on the addresses in their writ ten form, and their publication. There are five chairmen—W. H. Branson, L. K. Dick- son, H. L. Rudy, A. V. Olson, and R. R. Figuhr. Associated with them are four secretaries—D. E. Rebok, F. H. Yost, R. A. Anderson, and the writer. Although the ad dresses were not to be read, but given from notes, all presentations were committed to writing in advance. These are to be issued in book form through the Ministerial Book Club, in two volumes of approximately six hundred pages each. They will be released in the first and second quarters of 1953. The subjects and speakers are:
1. Objectives of the Bible Conference— W. H. Branson
2. Recent Discoveries Confirm the Bible —S. H. Horn
3. Christ the Center of All True Preaching—M. K. Eckenroth
4. The Spirit of Prophecy in the Remnant Church—D. E. Rebok
5. The Gospel in Type and Antitype— W. G. C. Murdoch
6. The Cross and the Atonement—T. G. Bunch
7. The Mediatorial Ministry of Jesus Christ—H. L. Rudy
8. The Covenants, the Law, and the Gospel—E. Heppenstall
9. Life Only Through Christ—W. L. Emmerson
10. The Increasing Timeliness of the Threefold Message—F. D. Nichol
11. Antichrist in History and Prophecy— F. H. Yost
12. The Advent Message Built Upon the Foundations of Many Generations— L. E. Froom
13. Evidences of Christ's Imminent Return —A. S. Maxwell
14. The Closing Events of the Great Controversy—W. E. Read
15. Our Bodies a Living Sacrifice—T. R Flaiz, J. W. McFarland
16. The Companions of the Lamb—T. H. Jemison
17. The Gospel Commission and the Remnant Church—W. R. Beach
18. World Evangelism Our Basic Task— R. A. Anderson
19. The Place of Prophecy in Our Preaching—A. V. Olson
20. The Lord Our Righteousness—W. H. Branson
21. Evangelization of Catholics—W. Schubert
22. The Holy Spirit and the Latter Rain— L. K. Dickson
23. The New Standard Revised Version— John C. Trever
24. Question Hours
a. Dealing With Unfulfilled Prophecy—R. R. Figuhr
b. Meaning of "This Generation"— W. H. Branson
A high level of scholarship, blended with a deep spiritual tone, such as would be expected of a serious Bible Conference, characterizes the presentations. The plat form committee and chairmen handle the speaking program with clocklike precision, beginning and closing all periods on time. The music is under the guidance of Charles Keymer, C. H. Lauda, and Bradford Braley, with the Faith for Today quartet. The moving strains of the Consonata organ under the skilled fingers of organist Braley lift the soul heavenward. Asked concerning his understanding of the part and place of music in the conference, organist Braley said:
"It is the prime mission of gospel music to soften the defenses of human hearts and render them receptive to the spoken truths of the message. And in this work we must rely entirely on the power of the Holy Spirit. We, as musicians, may go forth from this great Bible Conference with complete confidence in our tenets of faith and a deeper longing for a complete infilling of the Holy Spirit. We have yet to see the full measure of the appeal of music in soul- winning effort when surrendered entirely to the Spirit of our God."
The consecrated voices of the Faith for Today quartet, together with vocal and instrumental solos or duets for each meeting, form a beautiful setting for the informative, inspirational, and deeply moving messages to follow. This is a close-up of what is going on. For many months the appointed speakers—men of training and consecration—have been earnestly studying to compass the subjects assigned, and God graciously rewarded with a rich blessing to all. There is a beautiful blending of presentations, as one speaker presents one facet of the multisided jewel of truth, and others bring out different facets of the one unified truth we hold. The essence of each series of studies now follows:
1. ARCHAEOLOGY CONFIRMS THE BIBLE.—The reliability of the historical parts of the Bible, as well as the faithfulness with which the Bible text has been transmitted to us, was discussed by S. H. Horn in his studies on "Recent Discoveries Confirm the Bible." He showed that the archaeological discoveries of the recent decades have not only thrown light on numerous texts of the Bible, and greatly enriched our knowledge concerning the history of Israel and its surrounding neighbors, but have also given added support to positions fundamental to Seventh-day Adventists. For instance, the historical reliability of the book of Daniel, on whose prophecies we rely so heavily, has been vindicated by some remarkable findings, recently discovered but not yet published —documents providing new evidence for the correct ness of dating the events described in Ezra 7 as 457 B.C. Since this is a key date for the highly important prophetic period of Daniel 8:14, such a discovery is of tremendous value.
The unexpected finding of the now famous Dead Sea scrolls and other texts is having a tremendous influence on the minds of Biblical scholars, who are now beginning to respect the ancient text of the Word of God more than they have ever done. It was emphasized that Providence in recent years has put into our hands material which if rightly used can lend great force and conviction to our presentation of a message that is based solely on the Scripture.
2. THE CENTER OF An TRUE PREACHING.—The presentation of the Seventh-day Adventist message is never to be characterized by ordinariness, declared M. K. Eckenroth in his studies. The preachers of the third angel's message are to be men of power who excel above all others in the preaching of Jesus Christ. The cross is to be the heart and center of their message, around which all other truths cluster. They are to have an exalted, distinctive concept of the love of Christ, recognizing that love to be the only power that is able to melt the stub born, sinful will of man. Legalisrn cannot do this. Bloodless, loveless, cold, formal argumentation can never do it. But by cleansing the fountain the stream becomes pure.
This same revelation of the Saviour gives immediate assurance of sins forgiven and of His keeping power through all of the vicissitudes of life's experience. The entire message of His grace concentrates upon this central truth. Thus, when Christ is seen in the Sabbath, life after death, and other kindred truths, a dynamic power attends such preaching before which, God promises, many hearts will surrender to His will. And this is the great hope of our ministry, that the world may know that we are the great champions of the everlasting gospel, as we faithfully give our distinctive message to the world.
3. SPIRIT OF PROPHECY IN REMNANT CHURCH.—In common with other true and honest Christians, D. E. Rebok told us, Seventh-day Adventists have staked their hopes for the present life and the future eternal life upon five great facts of faith: (1) by faith we recognize the existence of God; (2) by faith we accept the whole Bible as God's message to man; (3) by faith we acknowledge that all men everywhere have sinned and fallen short of their own ideals and of God's ideals for them; (4) by faith we are convinced that Jesus Christ is man's Deliverer and Saviour; and (5) by faith we recognize that God has spoken to man by His prophets. Real Christians will, therefore, ask for no more proof for one of the great facts of faith than for another or all. They form the basis for all Christian thinking and living.
Since God has used prophets in ages past, it is but logical and reasonable that He might choose to do so in modern times. If so, it then becomes the business of each true Christian to "quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." When Ellen G. White (nee Ellen Gould Harmon) came forth claiming to be "God's messenger for the remnant church," it was not for us to deny or defy, but rather to apply the Bible tests to her and her work. Each of us, then, must accept or reject depending upon the results of those tests. She is either true or false. She cannot be both true and false. Judging her and her work over a period of seventy years on the basis of these tests—fulfilled predictions, divine guidance in times of crisis, harmony with "the law and the testimonies," and by the "fruits" of her life and labor—we are compelled to recognize and accept her as one through whom God chose to communicate His will to man.
To present added cumulative evidence in order to convince those weaker in the faith, and perhaps a bit more skeptical, we need but to look at that evidence under six heads: (1) the timeliness of the messages given, (2) the practical nature of the messages, (3) the absolute certainty of the messages, (4) the relation to outside influences, (5) the recognition accorded by contemporaries, and (6) the physical phenomena attending the "messenger." In the light of the tests and this evidence there can be but one conclusion. This drives each one of us to accept or reject the "messages" found in the writings of Ellen G. White.
4. GOSPEL IN TYPE AND ANTITYPE.—Like brilliant rays of light coming from every angle and focusing upon one supreme point, so are the types of the gospel brought to view in the Old Testament, said W. G. C. Murdoch. A-Study of these types throws a brilliant light upon the antitypes of the New. From the earliest glimpses of radiance given to our first parents after their fall, to the last Passover lamb about to be slain at Christ's crucifixion, all of the types are given to irradiate and illuminate the sinner's life, through the substitution of Christ's death, the resurrection and mediatorial work, and the coming again of our blessed Redeemer.
These types, however, are not confined to the sanctuary and its services. It is well to remember that long before Moses was commanded to build the tabernacle after the pattern shown him in the mount, the Lord had given to sinful men many lessons portraying the sacrifice of our Redeemer And for many centuries after the wilderness wanderings of Israel, God continued to work through His servants the prophets to present to His people the gospel in type. However, in the sanctuary is set forth the more complete and comprehensive outline of how God deals with sin and the work of Christ in saving men. Only he who sees Christ and His atoning sacrifice in type in the Old Testament and the fulfillment of these in the antitype of the New can really understand the Bible.
5. THE ATONEMENT AND THE CROSS.—The purpose of the studies on "The Atonement and the Cross," stated T. G. Bunch, is to emphasize the importance of that which in all ages has been the very center of the plan of redemption. This was emphasized in the old dispensation by the divinely provided covering for Adam and Eve at the cost of the life of the animal that was typical of Christ; by the offering of Abel by which he obtained righteousness and suffered martyrdom; by the test of Abraham's faith on Mount Moriah, by which he was given a vision of Christ and Calvary; and by the typical sanctuary and its services, which centered in Christ and His atoning death.
The cross was so important in the gospel proclamation of the early Christian church that the apostle Paul declared that he was determined not to know anything in his ministry of the Word "save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." That theme would occupy the pre-eminent place in his preaching, and even though it would seem foolishness "to them that perish," to them "which are saved" it would be "the power of God." It is evident from a study of the Scriptures, and the instruction through the Spirit of prophecy, that the cross should occupy a prominent place in the proclamation of the everlasting gospel as it applies to the last days, and that its re-emphasis will play an important part in bringing the latter rain and loud cry.
6. MEDIATORIAL MINISTRY or CHRIST.—The mediatorial ministry of Christ constitutes the heart of the everlasting gospel, declared H. L. Rudy. It is primarily concerned with sin, and covers the whole period of its existence. It takes in the full and complete redemption of a lost world. It embraces the vindication of God's character and His eternal purpose in the creation of the world. By His life, atoning sacrifice, and ministry as our high priest in heaven, Christ is accomplishing His redeeming work. God's message concerning the mediatorial ministry of His Son is Heaven's answer to the apostasy of the last days. Since Christ's death and resurrection, Satan has endeavored by every conceivable deception to shift faith from Christ to Antichrist. Satan has set up a counterfeit mediatorial system upon earth with the purpose of drawing men's eyes away from Christ in the heavenly sanctuary to the man of sin in Satan's temple here upon earth.
At the close of the 2300 years God raised up a people to whom He committed the proclamation of the everlasting gospel. Special light streamed forth from the heavenly sanctuary, revealing Christ as man's only intercessor before the throne of God in heaven. There at the right hand of God Christ is seen as our great high priest, pleading the merits of His atoning sacrifice on behalf of repentant sinners. There, in the holy of holies, He now carries forward the work of special atonement during the investigative judgment. As heaven's saving light continues to stream from the presence of God, we are to discover the blessedness of Christ's ministry for a lost world and to sound a message of warning against the worship of the beast and his image, which is profaning the atoning blood of Christ and seeking to make His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary of none effect.
7. COVENANTS, LAW, AND GOSPEL.—The Word of God exists as gospel and as law, stated Edward Heppenstall. It is the great responsibility of the church to teach and preach the Word of God both as gospel and as law, in order that men may be brought into full harmony with God and reveal the beauty of holiness. The unity of the law and the gospel is set forth in the new-covenant experience, in which God writes His law upon the mind and heart. This is the covenant relationship that God has with His people. What actually happens in this covenant relationship makes up the content of the Bible.
Through the ages the great question has been one of righteousness—how can a man become righteous before God? The righteousness of God is disclosed when the law and the gospel are united in the life through the Holy Spirit. The law of God becomes a requirement within faith and love. The law of God is not to be externalized in formal rigid codes and legalistic obedience. This has been God's plan of salvation through all ages. God has had and still has only one peculiar people. They are made up of Old Testament saints and New Testament saints. Thus "we are all children of Abraham in Christ Jesus." There is but "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," one covenant, one law, one gospel, one Sabbath, "one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Eph. 4:4-6.
The work of the everlasting gospel reaches its culmination in the last days as set forth in the three angels' messages, in which the angel is seen flying in the midst of heaven with the everlasting gospel. The law is magnified and made honorable, according to Isaiah's prophecy. (Isa. 42:21.) The law is established forever. It is exalted to a place of honor. As God once honored the two tables of stone by writing upon them with His finger His eternal law, He now honors our hearts and minds by inscribing the same law upon them. The law receives its greatest honor in the work o£ the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of Christian men and women. With the psalmist, "his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night." Ps. 1:2. This new covenant becomes the clearest test of how genuine is a man's Christian experience—what he truly delights to do. The experience is actually a love experience, an experience in the love of God and all the things which God loves, for "love is the fulfilling of the law."
8. LIFE ONLY THROUGH CHRIST.—Next to the question of the true Sabbath of God, according to W. L. Emmerson, the subject that has probably been most overlaid and submerged by erroneous teaching is that of immortality. In the Advent message, the truth of the nature of man, the phenomenon of death, and the glorious hope of resurrection to eternal life through Christ is recovered in all its beauty. Life was given to man in the beginning as the gift of God. Through sin this life was forfeited. Apart from the redemption of God man must perish utterly and irrevocably.
He then traced the development of the Satanic lie, "Thou shalt not surely die," through the pagan ism of Egypt and the East, to the platonic philosophy of Greece, and showed how it first succeeded in permeating Jewish thought, and then the early Christian church through the "baptized paganism" of Rome. After exposing the fallacies of natural immortality, he set forth the true "way everlasting" that is assured to believing souls through union with Christ and resurrection from the dead. Glorious indeed is the picture of the resurrection life, which will be the portion of those who here and now prepare by grace for the reception of the promised "house from heaven" when Jesus comes.
9. INCREASING TIMELINESS OF THREEFOLD MESSAGE. —From the very beginning of this Advent Movement the three angels' messages have been central to our preaching, stated F. D. Nichol. James White described them as "links in the golden chain of truth, that connect the past with the present and future, and show a beautiful harmony in the great whole." We cannot see the full significance of the threefold message unless we see it in the perspective of history. God launched this Advent Movement at a most important moment in history, when new, skeptical ideas were beginning to clamor for attention by men, but before the evolution theory had yet been launched. Adventism and evolution both were launched about the same time, the first seek ing to point men to the Creator and His judgment hour, the second turning men away from the Creator to an endless future of evolutionary progress.
By its emphasis on Creation, through the Sab bath command, which the third angel directs us to, the Advent Movement stands as a great bulwark against the apostasy that is sweeping the whole world. Thus today the third angel's message stands forth as the most timely message that could be proclaimed. As we see events developing we can only conclude that if no threefold message had been specifically penned on the pages of Bible prophecy, something like unto it would need to be sounded today to meet the last great apostasy.
10. ANTICHRIST IN HISTORY AND PROPHECY.— Seventh-day Adventists agree, declared F. H. Yost, with their spiritual forebears in identifying the Papacy as Antichrist, the power that has led out in systematizing and vitalizing the worst apostasy the world has ever seen. There was general apostasy in the Christian church as early as the second century, affecting baptism and the Lord's supper and bringing in veneration of saints, elevation of the bishops, and a complete change of attitude toward the law of God. In all of these apostasies the Papacy participated; but as its own peculiar product, it invented Sunday observance and made it a Christian practice in Rome as early as the second century.
Because the Papacy was seated at Rome and claimed Peter as its founder, it was able to seize authority in the Christian church—an authority which was legalized by Constantine's recognition of the Christian church in general and by imperial decrees of Valentinian III and Justinian I. With the uprooting of the Arian Herulians, Vandals, and Ostrogoths, by A.D. 538, the way was cleared for the Papacy to build up its enormous ecclesio-political power with enforcement of its false doctrines, which through many ups and downs was maintained until the deadly wound of 1798.
From this deadly wound the Papacy recovered and has lived to place upon a harvest of blasphemous claims the cap sheaf of blasphemies—the claim to infallibility. Since 1929 the Papacy has had restored to it the patrimony which it had lost, and is now ruling as a monarch from Vatican City. It will be superseded in its position of supremacy by Satan himself, when he, as the supreme Antichrist, appears at the end of time, claiming to be Christ. Then Christ Himself will come and put all rule and authority under His feet and rule as King of kings and Lord of lords.
11. EVIDENCES or IMMINENT ADVENT.—The great Second Advent Movement, A. S. Maxwell stated, was founded upon the conviction, resolutely and uncompromisingly held by our pioneers, that the return of Christ was near at hand. Without this conviction there would have been no Seventh-day Adventists nor any Seventh-day Adventist organization. Belief in the imminent second coming of our Lord was the spark that fired the engine of this worldwide missionary enterprise. All we have and are is an outgrowth of the Advent faith. We dare not deny it now.
The hour has come for a mighty reaffirmation of the glorious truth that the return of Jesus is near, even at the doors. All about us are unmistakable signs that the end is upon us. There is the wild, swift pace of modern life, the confusion and fear among the nations, the corruption and decay of humanity, the wrath of the dragon, the growth of the papal power in America, the reunion of Protestantism, the spread of Spiritualism, the worldwide proclamation of the gospel, the closing doors of the Church's opportunity, the universal expectation of His coming.
Furthermore, we have arrived at the final frontiers of prophecy. Of all that was predicted by the seers of old but little remains to be fulfilled. The high ways of prophecy, which have crossed the mountains and valleys of history for more than two millenniums, are about to plunge from time into eternity. The last things are about to happen. The last days are upon us. God grant the Advent people may believe and preach the Advent hope with a new certainty, a new conviction, declaring not only with their lips but by their lives that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.