HISTORY and TIMES of THE KINGDOM
By Way of PrefaceMANY TIMES we are asked by new acquaintances, "Have you no literature descriptive of your work?" Or, "Can you give us a condensed statement of your particular beliefs? While we always try to satisfy any honest inquiry and give "a reason for the hope that lieth in" us, we can no more provide a concise statement of creed than could the Apostles stop what they were doing to make a "press release" for the court of Caesar.
The best we can say is what the Master said to Andrew's question, "Come and see." For the Kingdom of God, now as then, is a living, evolving, growing organism. What would describe it one year is far out of date two years later. As one of its early members wrote on a missionary cruise across the Atlantic:
"Sailor, to know us you must come along;
There is no time to explain our glad song:
One thing you see - we're a triumphant throng!"
But as with all living things, God's Kingdom grows according to His laws and by a definite plan. Mr. J. B. Harriman's article on the Restoration, like most of his other writings through the years, goes far to set the work of this movement in Scripture perspective. We thank God for his articulate spirituality.
Frank S. Murray, Editor
"The Times of Restoration of All Things"
Joseph B. Harriman
Looking back over the three score years of the history of this restoration movement (in fifty-nine of which I myself have taken part), I wonder how much the eager young people who surround us today realize what life was like back when I was their age. For while there were at that time many believers who clung to the Bible teaching that times would get "worse and worse" as the Gospel Age drew near its close, no where was there hope of any kind that God would, before the Second Coming, manifest preparations for a new Age.
It was as if the promises in the New Testament of a time of "Restitution" or "Restoration" before Jesus' return were supernaturally hidden from view. I was brought up in a home where the backsliding of the Church was thoroughly deplored, and I was well acquainted with the fact that "Modernists" were more and more driving the "Fundamentalists" into a small minority. But not a hint do I remember in all the teaching of the faithful that God would soon raise up a movement to prepare the way for the second coming of His Son.
To the home of my father, a devout and able minister who had withdrawn from denominations because of their apostasy, came representatives from just about every Fundamentalist group in America, so I was in a unique position during my teens to observe a cross section of those movements loyal to the Bible. I saw that sects abounded, with all sorts of claims; but orthodox believers held out little if any hope for better things, and the prevailing standard was to keep as true as possible in a worsening world, and to look hopefully for the appearance in the clouds of the longed-for King.
What I am writing is in a way a bit of reminiscence. I feel an urge to stir up among those who have enjoyed God's best things all their lives a sense of gratitude for their privilege. True, this Restoration movement is still small-plainly kept so by God Himself, for reasons best understood by Him. But I can assure the devoted young people who have grown up in the protection of a movement which satisfies their inmost hearts that the future would look very different if they faced a life as somber as their counterparts of my generation faced. We all need to remember, moreover, that true hearts all over the world today face an outlook fully as somber, for they know nothing more encouraging now than we did then.
How hollow is the doctrine that is preached from time to time that the world will gradually grow better and better until all the world is Christian! Instead, how wonderful is God's actual plan as we can see it unfolding! Events in my own lifetime have been enough to disillusion anyone who expected the world to know better. And yet, thank God, that same lifetime has revealed s bright and encouraging prospect right in the midst of the awful out, look of today.
God often hides from "the wise and prudent" the richest of His purposes. It was so at the time Jesus came. The Jewish nation was fully alive to the wondrous picture that prophets had been painting for centuries -- of the triumph of good and the overthrow of evil. The Jews, proud and untouchable, could readily understand that the hated Roman oppressors were to bite the dust when Messiah came, and that they themselves were to inherit the earth. Even the followers of the Lamb of God were all ready to parcel out among themselves the places of influence when He should take His throne and straighten out the ~ world. It took the miracle of the ages--the resurrection of Christ from the dead -- to make it plain that His plan was far different from what they had anticipated. The purpose of this article is to stress, especially for the young people's sake, that there is a somewhat parallel situation today. It is just this: that from of old--God planned, and declared in somewhat hidden prophecy -- there has been promised a restoration of the Bible standard of living on earth, right in these times of wickedness and bewilderment that precedes the return of Jesus. In other words, the Fundamentalists today, like the Jews then, have not taken all the prophecies into account.
Such an expectation was entirely lacking in my youthful training, which was typical of what orthodox believers gave their children then and are still giving. I was taught that we live in the time of the Great Apostasy (2 Thess. 2: 3) and that Jesus will soon be here to straighten things out. So do the best you can, stick to your denomination as long as you can, get out if it gets too bad -- and some glad day, when the world reaches its peak of evil- Jesus will come in the clouds, Armageddon will be a fact, and then all will be well! Allowing for small variations, I never heard any other prospect taught. After fifty years of seeing God's actual workings, what an empty and dreary picture that presented! But let us see how wonderfully He has worked.
It is a story as grand as any of the records that have changed the history of the world; but it is not within the scope of this article to go into the details. But for an outline: A young Free Baptist preacher, dedicated to world-wide evangelism, was led to take a trip around the world to visit the missionary stations. He was appalled when he discovered how the heathen were multiplying far faster than they were being reached with the Gospel, and came home convinced that nothing short of apostolic power would ever meet the need. He withdrew his savings from the bank and gave it to foreign missions, then started out penniless to preach in the back corners of the State of Maine as the early apostles preached, and with no denominational backing. He took the Bible as literally true and understood that its commands were to be obeyed. The results of his lone country evangelism were startling. With but one student and no buildings he started a Bible School, which soon grew to be one of the largest in the world. And as he hewed straight to the Bible line, he one day heard words from heaven spoken to his inmost soul: "Remove the covering cast over the face of all the earth." He found himself a commissioned man; and this beginning was followed by other events which it would take a book to record.
One truth among others was most necessary to start the new movement aright--the realization that Israel was to be used in the workings of God as His chosen agent. The Anglo-Israel doctrine had been held for some time by certain Christians, but was generally in disrepute. This Bible School had scarcely been started when providentially some of Professor C.A.L. Totten's writings on the subject came into Mr. Sandford's hands. He recognized truth immediately. This was in 1898. The great majority of Fundamentalists look on this teaching as false, and fight it as they would the rankest heresy. But if the Israel of latter-day prophecy refers only to the Jews, a tiny and comparatively feeble people, then who, pray, is going to meet the hosts of "Gog and Magog" in the forth coming conflict? Prophecy says Israel will do so. "Thou [Israel] art My battleaxe and weapons of war for with thee will I break in pieces the nations..." And when we see how Britain and America are the ones who even now are blocking the way of Gog and Magog (Russia), this promise gives us the most cheering prospect of any on the world scene. For over half a century the very atmosphere of this movement has been Israelitish. The young people who have been brought up to take this fact for granted can but dimly sense how very, very different would be their lives without such a foundation. The Bible would be what it is to most Christians--a more or less alien Book, written for another nation. How clumsily do well-meaning believers try to adjust themselves to God's workings and still fight this underlying truth! And on the other hand, it is a sad fact that most of those who stand for "British-Israel" are themselves only groping in the half light.
Coming back to the restoration movement, how fast matters began to develop in the first years of this century! Aside from the depth of personal righteousness which God was emphasizing, the debris of centuries began to be removed from many parts of His ancient plan. It had been prophesied, "I will take away her [Israel's] Sabbaths," pending the time of restoration; and the Ten Tribes had accordingly gone without them for two and one half millenniums. Would the holy day be restored? Never was a leader more set against changing the rest day from Sunday back to Saturday than Mr. Sandford. He had seen and had his fill of the rudeness and carnality of certain seventh day keepers, and it had determined him not to get ahead of God in the matter, even though the Bible was plain in saying that the seventh day would be the only one kept finally.
I still recall clearly the day in the spring of 1901 when we were gathered in the Bible School chapel following a Saturday morning service. "Sunday is no day of rest for us; it is our hardest day of work for God. I wonder how you would like to make Saturday a sort of rest day so we will be ready for a full day Sunday." We talked it out, pro and con. When the discussion was through, and a vote was taken, showing a Iarge majority in favor of making Saturday a day of rest, a most unmistakable, almost audible thrill of heaven's approval swept the chapel. As simply as that was the restoration of God's Sabbath accomplished, although it was several years before all the accompanying decisions were made. One would never guess, to read whatever Sandford later wrote about the sanctity of the seventh day, how slowly and carefully he acted at the beginning.
I write in detail of these two: major acts -- the discovery of modern Israel and the restoration of the Sabbath -- because of their fundamental character. They immersed the movement, one might say, in the atmosphere of God's Word. Through the many other restorations that followed by His clear leadings was true religion brought back to earth.
It could never have been done in a denominational atmosphere. After long labors Mr. Sandford began to realize that God was more interested in "setting a standard" than in merely establishing a great world-wide movement. How comforting are the memories of those times in his last years when he would say to the little band that happened to be with him: "Children, we've got the religion. The biggest message which this movement has to proclaim to a bewildered world at present is just this: the true religion is here on earth - a "going concern," as it were. God Himself will take care of its spread in His own time and way.
Of the other acts of restoration which came along, one by one, I will mention only that which to me seems the most important in many ways: the restoration of the Holy Land, or "Beulah." Every Christian has a deep heart interest in the Land where Jesus lived and died and rose again, but to how many is that interest a living thing? How many regard that land and its City as the future Capital of a redeemed earth? I do not mean in a mere theoretical or spiritual way, but in actuality Earth's Capital City for the next ten centuries. This movement had a center there for years -- not for missionary work, but for prayer over the Land's future. Why? Because God had said to Mr. Sandford very soon after his work started, "Jerusalem next." Personally, I spent seven years there, and I know that the whole region has been fairly soaked with prayer.
They were happy years indeed. I was permitted to cover, largely on foot, the several hundred miles of the Land's borders, north, east, and south. The sacred yacht Coronet sailed its length several times along the west coast with fervent prayer for the Land's restoration.
These things could not, of course, be done today; but half a century ago, when the Land was largely waste and peace covered the earth -- the present generation can scarcely imagine such a thing -- it was a thrilling experience. When the bloodshed of Armageddon is all past history, and the world sits quietly at His dear feet, then the rest of you who are worthy will walk there, and none will make you afraid.
But I am not writing to list all the leadings this movement has had through these three score years, but rather to stress one salient fact. That is this: instead of the dreary, shepherd-less gropings that so many earnest Christians today are experiencing-and as some of us experienced years ago - God planned of old and in these last days has brought to pass something better. It is no less than a commissioned movement to prepare the way for Christ's second coming.
Below is the follow on article by the editor in the same issue of The Standard in an attempt to more clearly and completely define "restoration". [Ed.]
RESTORATION SCRIPTURES Frank S. Murray, Managing Editor
For the benefit of new readers we shall add a postscript to Mr. Harriman's article, setting forth the Scripture basis for the Restoration of which he writes. We realize that whereas Mr. Harriman and others of his generation have been aware of these truths for fifty years or more, there are hosts of younger people who honor the Bible yet know nothing of the "somewhat hidden prophecy" to which he refers.
The apostle Peter stated, soon after being filled at Pentecost with God's Spirit, that "the heavens must receive" or "retain" Jesus "until the times of restoration of all things whereof God spake by the mouth of His holy prophets that have been from of old" --Acts 5:20,21. This is the American Standard rendering; the King James has "restitution" for "restoration," and the Revised Standard has "establishment"; but the Greek word is usually rendered "restoration."
Jesus Himself used similar language when the disciples asked Him, "Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come plainly meaning that this Elijah was expected by all the Jews to appear on the scene before the Messiah. The Lord's reply was emphatic: "Elijah indeed cometh; and shall restore all things"--Matthew 17: 10, 11. The fact that Jesus went on to say that in a sense Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist is confusing to the superficial reader; but in no way does it annul the first statement, that the coming of Elijah the Restorer is still future, whereas John the Baptist was already in the grave.
What are the "all things" which this future prophet is to "restore? Well, since Peter marks them as "things ... spoken by the ... prophets that have been from of old," we can only conclude that it means it those prophecies about Israel, the Holy Land, and the Kingdom of God on earth which yet remained unfulfilled. Most particularly it refers to personal and national righteousness on the part of Israel, and then the world-wide missionary sweep that results in "all" men knowing the Lord. (See Jeremiah 30 and 31, and Ezekiel 36 and 37.)
With these two statements in the New Testament, one by the Lord and the other by His leading Apostle, must be joined the prophecy with which Malachi concludes the Old Testament canon. "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the lord come. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers; lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."
Here, plainly, is the basis for the scribes' expectation that "Elijah must first come" before the Messiah. And here, just as plainly, is God's warning that were it not for the family righteousness effected through Elijah's ministry, the coming of Messiah would prove a "curse" instead of a blessing.
Any careful searcher of Scripture is bound to conclude that in the last days of the Gospel Age some Scriptural character must appear and prepare the way for the Lord's second coming, even as John the Baptist prepared for His first.
That Mr. Frank W. Sandford was that prophet we hold without the slightest question. His personal life was that of blamelessness, and the quality of scriptural living that he taught has made his work the standard of the Christian world. So when he said that God spoke to him, saying "Elijah is here. Testify," we know he told the truth. Would you know a true prophet from a false one? Jesus told you how: "By their fruits ye shall know them." This man's "fruits" are above reproach. No man who followed his teachings has ever failed God; on the contrary, every one of them has earned the respect of his neighbors and the gratitude of the poor and suffering.
The evil days. are closing in fast. Gog and Magog are girding for the decisive conquest. The Lord's coming moves steadily nearer. If you would be ready for the King, identify yourself ahead of time with the King's forerunner.Go to Top of Page