7. Nurtured To Maturity In America
"The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows whither he is going."
David Starr Jordan
John Nelson Darby, during the period 1862 to 1877, spent nearly seven years residing in and traveling through the United States and Canada.1 In the United States most of his work was confined to the cities of Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and Boston, although on one occasion he traveled from Chicago to San Francisco and back on his way to and from New Zealand.2 His earlier work in the United States consisted of attempts to win converts to his Brethren group from the membership of existing Protestant denominations, but this effort met with only limited success. By the early 1870's he seems to have shifted tactics, concentrating on promoting his ideas among leading clergymen and layman in these churches without insisting that they leave their respective denominations. His success along these lines was greatest in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Boston.3
Two of Darby's most influential converts were James Hall Brookes, pastor of the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church in St. Louis,4 and Adoniram Judson Gordon, pastor of the Clarendon Street Baptist Church in Boston.5 These two men, while remaining in their established pastorates, became the leaders of the movement which was successful in spreading Darby's doctrines throughout the northeast and midwest during the last quarter of the century.6 Darby's doctrines also had an impact on Dwight L. Moody, the famous Chicago evangelist, although Moody appears to have accepted the doctrines slowly, and perhaps only partially.
The promotion of Darby's doctrines in America, by Americans, got underway effectively in 1875 with the establishment of a series of annual summer conferences. Beginning in a small way, the conferences expanded their membership and reach under the leadership of Dr. James H. Brookes and became semi-institutionalized as the Niagara Bible Conferences, meeting each summer from 1883 to 1897 at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The conferences became highly successful in spreading Darby's doctrines to many influential American church leaders, especially those conservative leaders who were upset and concerned about the spread of the "higher criticism" movement in their churches.
It should be noted that the period we are covering here, the latter half of the nineteenth century, was also the period during which the "higher criticism" movement began to make itself felt among the Protestant churches of America. Beginning with the training of young ministers in the seminaries, the movement spread inexorably like a cancer through the body of American Protestantism, which became more and more polarized into "liberals", those who accepted the "higher criticism" of the Bible, and "conservatives", those who did not accept it but held to the traditional tenets of their faith. In this context Darby and his disciples made their appeal, which was always to the conservatives, since the Darbyites insisted, as did the conservatives, upon the inerrancy of the Bible as God's Word.
Although the Niagara Bible Conferences were initiated and dominated by those advocating Darby's pre-tribulation "rapture" theory, eventually many were brought into the conferences who would not accept the theory. It was disagreement over this doctrine that led to the discontinuance of the conferences after 1897, and to a split of the conference participants into two groups, a pro-Darby faction led by Arno C. Gaebelein and Cyrus I. Scofield, and an anti-Darby faction led by Robert Cameron. The controversy, reminiscent of the earlier one in Britain between the followers of Darby and those of Newton (Chapter 6), raged for about five years and took on the nature of what Sandeen calls a "paper war." Each side controlled a periodical addressed to conservative Christians, and the "war" consisted largely of articles blasting each other in the pages of these publications.7 When the "war" came to an end, it had become quite clear that the pro-Darby forces, led by Gaebelein and Scofield, had been victorious. As Sandeen explains, the anti-Darby forces lost control of the movement and, as their leadership died out with the passing years, few new recruits replaced them. The Gaebelein-Scofield forces, on the other hand, moved ahead aggressively, organizing new conferences promoting their point of view, and working toward the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible. Sandeen attributes the pro-Darby victory partially to superior organizational and editorial skills, but remarks, "Some other factor seems necessary to explain the relative success of the Darbyite dispensationalists at the beginning of the twentieth century." He finds a partial answer in the fact that many in the anti-Darby forces, deploring the controversy and disunity, simply retired from the field. He also points out that the pro-Darby doctrine is more appealing to the wishful-thinking aspect of human nature.8 Perhaps other forces also were at work.
Whatever the causes of their victory, the pro-Darby faction, headed by Arno C. Gaebelein and Cyrus I. Scofield, emerged from the "war" of 1897-1902 with an aggressive program aimed at widening their influence among conservative Christians. Since the conservatives were disorganized and lacked any dynamic leader, the pro-Darby faction, in succeeding years, became the "spokesmen" for "Protestant conservatism" and the "defenders" against the further encroachments of "liberalism."9 As might have been expected, their defense was largely ineffective since the very foundation of the Darbyite philosophy was a belief that all manifestations of the decay or degeneration of civilization were but further signs of the imminent return of Christ to "rapture" His saints. Those who whole-heartedly accepted the Darby doctrine were cheered rather than appalled by such manifestations. In succeeding decades the leadership of the Darbyites further consolidated their hold on the conservative wing of Protestantism, with the Scofield Bible serving as their primary source book. They have succeeded so well that, today, the truly conservative point of view has been nearly forced down George Orwell's memory hole10 so far as public recognition of its existence is concerned. The term "fundamentalist" has replaced the term "conservative" in common usage, and the prime division within Protestant Christendom is now held in the public mind to be one between "liberals" and "fundamentalists", all the latter being Darbyite in doctrine. The "conservatives", those who accept neither the "higher criticism" of the Bible nor the Darbyite doctrine, are ignored completely.
By 1918 the Darbyite doctrine had spread in the United States to an extent that some Americans had become concerned about its possible effect upon the American war effort. Shirley Jackson Case, writing in the publication "Biblical World" in July, 1918, complained that "Premillenarianism is a serious menace to our democracy'", it "throws up the sponge .... raises the white flag", is a "spiritual virus", and the "most helpless of all gospels." He observed that the Darbyites "lent themselves to the same purposes as the IWW"11 (International Workers of the World).
An early example of religious neutralism stemming from the Darbyite doctrine is documented by Robert L. Spann in his unpublished manuscript entitled "The Achilles Heel of Conservatism." Referring to the controversy in 1933 about whether or not the United States should recognize the atheistic Communist regime of Soviet Russia, he indicates how the "liberal Christian" leadership promoted the pro-Communist line favoring recognition, while the "fundamentalist" leadership offered only weak token opposition: "The Christian Century and the World Tomorrow were among the most forthright church publications that urged diplomatic ties with the USSR. Most of the major Protestant religious leaders agreed. In February of 1933, 430 ministers signed a petition favoring recognition. The fundamentalist Moody Monthly thought the 'Second Coming' would solve the prickly problems of diplomacy: 'It may be, however, that our Lord shall come before such problems enter upon their serious solution, and thus many if not all of the readers will be spared the trouble of grappling with them.'12 This was an approach that was to be exploited by the Communists, and multitudes would be deceived by this conspiracy."13 Informed patriots are aware, of course, of the crucial importance to the Conspiracy of American recognition in 1933 of the Communist government, which otherwise would have collapsed.14 It was a significant turning point for the worse in world history, and religious neutralism appears to have played a part in determining the outcome.
Let us examine further the two men who emerged as "fundamentalist" leaders at the turn of the century. Arno C. Gaebelein (1861-1945) arrived in the United States as an immigrant from Germany in 1879 and became a minister in the German conference of the Methodist Church.15 He attended some of the Niagara conferences and became well acquainted with James H. Brookes, who commended Gaebelein and his work in Brookes' publication "Truth."16 During the 1890's Gaebelein was engaged in evangelizing the Jews on the East Side of New York City.* As a result of his conversion to the Darbyite philosophy, Gaebelein decided in 1899 to leave the Methodist Church; later he gave up his Jewish mission work as well, to allow him to spend full time as leader of the Darbyite faction. Beginning in 1900 and continuing for more than thirty years, Gaebelein conducted a nation-wide campaign, traveling to nearly every state in the union as well as to most parts of Canada to hold meetings and conferences, generally of one-week duration. He had no formal ties, during all this time, with any organized church, but conducted his work in each locality with the aid of any local church that would provide him facilities and an audience.17 His impact in spreading the Darbyite doctrine across North America was tremendous. Gaebelein and Scofield apparently became close friends and colleagues sometime during the fifteen-year duration of the conferences at Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843-1921) was born in Michigan but was reared in Wilson County, Tennessee. Serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, he received the Confederate Cross of Honor for bravery at the Battle of. Antietam. At the end of the war, Scofield went to live in St. Louis with his older sister, who had married into one of the prominent pioneer French families of that city. In 1866, Scofield married Helene Lebeau Cerre, a Roman Catholic and a member of another prominent old French family.
After studying law in St. Louis, Scofield in 1869 was dispatched by the Cerre family to Atchison, Kansas to look after some Cerre financial interests there. Having been directed by the Cerre's to hire the best legal counsel available in Kansas, Scofield engaged John J. Ingalls, a prominent lawyer and politician.18
In succeeding years Scofield and Ingalls became law partners as well as political allies. Both became members of the Kansas State Legislature, where Scofield was instrumental in electing Ingalls to the United States Senate in 1872. Ingalls in turn succeeded, in 1873, in having Scofield appointed at age 30 as United States Attorney for the district of Kansas and the Indian Territory.19 This rather remarkable appointment was made at a time when Federal officials were still punishing the South and white Southerners under "Reconstruction."
It is interesting to note the oath of office to which the decorated Confederate soldier "did solemnly swear" as he entered upon his duties as U.S. Attorney on June 9, 1873. He swore that he had never voluntarily borne arms against the United States since I have been a citizen thereof; that I have voluntarily given no aid, countenance, counsel, or encouragement to persons engaged in armed hostility thereto . . . that I have not yielded a voluntary support to any pretended government, authority, power or constitution, within the United States, hostile or inimical thereto."20
Scofield was not long in office. By December, 1873 he was being accused by Kansas newspapers of corruption in office, and on December 20 he submitted his resignation without stating the reason.21 So far as we know, no public investigation or legal action resulting from the affair is recorded.**
In 1879, at the age of 36, Scofield became a Christian and soon thereafter began studying in St. Louis under the previously mentioned Dr. James H. Brookes, one of the chief leaders of the Niagara Conferences. Arno C. Gaebelein, in his book about the writing of the Scofield Bible, relates that Scofield was able to learn from Brookes things that he could not have learned in any of the theological seminaries in America at that time.23
Scofield's record in Kansas was not easily forgotten. When, in 1881, the word reached Topeka that Scofield had become a Congregational minister, an article appeared in the Topeka "Daily Capital" of August 27 which began as follows: "Cyrus I. Scofield, formerly of Kansas, late lawyer, politician and shyster generally, has come to the surface again. The last personal knowledge that Kansans have had of this peer among scalawags, was when about four years ago, after a series of forgeries and confidence games he left the state and a destitute family and took refuge in Canada . . . nothing being heard of him until within the past two years when he turned up in St. Louis, where he had a wealthy widowed sister living who had generally come to the front and squared up Cyrus' little follies and foibles by paying good round sums of money."24
In 1882 Scofield became the pastor of the First Congregational Church in Dallas, Texas, where he remained until he transferred his work to Northfield, Mass. in 1895.
Scofield began work on his Reference Bible in 1903, after he and his friend Gaebelein had secured financial backing to enable Scofield to drop most of his pastoral duties and spend almost full time on the project. Some of his financial backers were: Lyman Stewart, president of the Union Oil Co. of California;25 Francis E. Fitch, a member of the Plymouth Brethren and the head of a printing company which printed the New York Stock Exchange lists;26 Alwyn Ball, Jr., a real estate broker and member of the large New York real estate firm of Southack and Ball;27 John B. Buss, a St. Louis businessman;28 and John T. Pirie, owner and New York representative of Carson, Pirie, Scott & Co., the large Chicago department store.29 Pirie owned a large estate at Sea Cliff on the north shore of Long Island, and it was there, in the summer of 1902, that the decision was made to proceed with the Reference Bible.
During the years he spent writing the Reference Bible, Scofield resided in a number of places. He first moved from East Northfield, Mass. back to Dallas, the scene of his first ministry, but in 1904 he decided to visit England and Montreux, Switzerland, where he remained for nine months. He returned to Dallas in 1905, but in 1906 we find him first in New York City and then in Ashuelot, New Hampshire, continuing the work. In the fall of 1906 he again left for Europe, remaining until the following summer. During his two trips abroad he lectured throughout the British Isles, as well as before English speaking audiences in Rome, Paris, and Berlin. He visited Palestine and studied in libraries at Oxford and in Geneva; Switzerland. In the summer of 1907 he was writing in Orion, Michigan. By the fall of 1908 he was living at 21 Fort Washington Ave., New York City.30
The Scofield Reference Bible was completed in 1908 and was published early in 1909 by none other than the Oxford University Press, one of the most prestigious publishers in the English-speaking world. Gaebelein relates how Scofield had met a Mr. Scott of the London publishing house of Morgan and Scott, and how, while the Reference Bible was being written, Scofield visited with Scott in England. To quote Gaebelein, "Mr. Scott said that his own firm would gladly undertake the publication, but he feared Morgan and Scott could not give to the Reference Bible the world-wide introduction it must have. He added, 'There is only one publishing house which can handle your Reference Bible and that is the Oxford University Press.' A few days later, Mr. Scott took Dr. Scofield to the office of Mr. Henry Frowde, the chief of the great Oxford University Press, which is so widely and favorably known throughout the English-speaking world. He became at once interested."31
The Scofield Bible is essentially a King James Version which has been interpreted and augmented by the addition of footnote commentaries written primarily by Cyrus Scofield, with advice and collaboration from seven consulting editors. One of these was Arno C. Gaebelein, whose field of expertise was prophecy. While the commentaries support orthodox Christian tenets in many respects, they promote, in every passage relevant to the question, the pre-tribulation "rapture" and related doctrines first espoused by Irving and Darby around the year 1830. Ernest R. Sandeen says of the Bible that it "combined an attractive format of typography, paragraphing, notes, and cross references with the theology of Darbyite dispensationalism. The book has thus been subtly but powerfully influential in spreading those views among hundreds of thousands who have regularly read that Bible and who often have been unaware of the distinction between the ancient text and the Scofield interpretation."32
In the nearly seven decades since its first publication, the Scofield Bible has been promoted to the extent that today, in many fundamentalist churches, it is nearly the only Bible accepted. It has had a profound influence upon the religious thinking of millions of American Christians, bringing the doctrines of Irving and Darby into nearly every crossroads hamlet in America.
It is interesting that another religious movement similar in many ways to the Darbyite movement has developed over approximately the same period of time, on a strikingly parallel path. This movement, known as "British Israel", is also having a strong neutralizing influence today. The doctrine of the British Israelites is that the British people are the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel, whose "destiny", as "God's chosen people", is to rule the world during the fast-approaching "millennium." This cult appears to have had its origin with an Englishman named Richard Brothers, who published in 1822 a book entitled "Correct Account of the Invasion of England by the Saxons, Showing the English Nation to be Descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes." During the year 1845 and the closely ensuing years, four additional books were published in England, detailing and enlarging the doctrine. These were "Our Israelitish Origin", "Israelites Found", "England, the Remnant of Judah", and "Our Inheritance In The Great Pyramid." In 1871 an additional book was published which sold 250,000 copies, and two magazines were started. By 1880 the movement had spread to the United States and Canada.
The British Israelites claim at least two million adherents and have a number of congregations in the United States and Canada, seldom if ever identified by the name "British Israel", but going under a variety of names. Their influence appears to be much more widespread than their numbers would indicate, since they make a concerted effort to insinuate their beliefs, in whole or in part, into the religious thinking of multitudes outside their immediate religious household. Today their primary means of disseminating their ideas is their radio program "The World Tomorrow", heard five days a week over hundreds of stations. Listeners who write in receive free copies of their attractively printed slick paper magazine, "Plain Truth."
The neutralizing effect of the British Israel message comes from its insistence that the evils of our day are inevitable developments, that nothing can or should be done to oppose them, but that those of Anglo-Saxon descent have no need to worry, since they will emerge as rulers of the world during the imminent "millennium." Anti-Semitism also is involved, since the British Israelites insist that today's Jews are not true Israelites, but only imposters. The British Israelites advocate the "Rule of Equity" which turns out, upon examination, to be a euphemism for socialism. They also advocate a world monetary system, world disarmament, and support of the United Nations. In spite of their advocacy of such left-wing causes, the tone of their propaganda is such that its main appeal is to the moral, conservative, patriotic individual with fundamental religious beliefs. British Israel propaganda is seldom identified with British Israel, but usually can be recognized by its frequent employment of such key words as "Kingdom", "David", and "destiny", and by its continual emphasis on "prophecy."33
Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether the influences we have discussed in this chapter have spread in America beyond the confines of fundamentalist Protestantism. Let's take a look.
REFERENCES, CHAPTER 7
*During the 1890's, waves of Jews were emigrating from Russia and settling on the Lower East Side of New York, as noted in a later chapter.
** The biography of Scofield written by his ardent admirer, Charles G. Trumbull, approved by Scofield and published by the Oxford University Press, says that Scofield served as U.S. District Attorney for two years, although the records show clearly that he served only six months. Trumbull says that Scofield resigned his position because law was his chosen life work, and his political work was interfering with it.22
1 Sandeen, Ernest R. "The Roots of Fundamentalism" The University of Chicago Press, 1970 p. 71.
2 Ibid., pp. 71 & 72.
3 Ibid., pp. 73 & 74.
4 Ibid., pp. 74 & 75.
5 Ibid., pp. 77 & 78.
6 Ibid., pp. 74 & 78.
7 "Our Hope", published by Gaebelein, and "Watchword and Truth", published by Cameron.
8 Sandeen, Op. Cit., p. 220.
9 Ibid., Chapter 10.
10 Orwell, George "Nineteen Eighty Four" Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York, 1949.
11 Sandeen, Op. Cit., p. 236.
12 "The Moody Monthly", Dec. 1933, p. 208, quoted by Spann (Ref. 13).
13 Spann, Robert L. "The Achilles Heel of Conservatism", unpublished manuscript, Smithville, Tenn., 1973, p. 31.
14 Welch, Robert "The Truth In Time" "American Opinion" Magazine, Belmont, Mass. 02178, Nov., 1966, p. 10.
15 Sandeen, Op. Cit., pp. 214 & 215.
16 Ibid., p. 215.
17 Gaebelein, Arno Clemens "Half a Century The Autobiography of a Servant" Our Hope Publications, 456 Fourth Ave., New York, N.Y., 1930.
18 BeVier, William A. "A Biographical Sketch of C. I. Scofield" A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Southern Methodist University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Arts with a Major in History 1960 pp. 10 & 11.
19 Ibid., p. 15.
20 Ibid., p. 15.
21 Ibid., p. 20.
22 Trumbull, Charles G., "The Life Story of C. I. Scofield," Oxford University Press, American Branch, 35 West 32nd Street, N.Y. 1920, p. 25.
23 Gaebelein, Arno C. "The History of the Scofield Reference Bible" Our Hope Publications, 456 Fourth Ave., New York, 1943 p. 22.
24 BeVier, Op. Cit., p. 28.
25 Sandeen, Op. Cit., p. 191.
26 Gaebelein, Op. Cit., p. 37.
27 Ibid., p. 49.
28 Ibid., p. 49.
29 Ibid., p. 49.
30 BeVier, Op. Cit., pp. 72-81.
31 Gaebelein, Op. Cit., p. 62.
32 Sandeen, Op. Cit., p. 222.
33 The Information on British Israel is excerpted from: (a) Toro, Carl "British Israel" unpublished manuscript Downey, Calif. 90242 and (b) Welch, Robert "The Neutralizers" The John Birch Society, Belmont, Mass. 02178, 1963.
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