Prophetic Witness

by Bernard R. DeRemer

Prophetic Witness

When a great classic, The Fundamentals, appeared in 1912, it became an opening salvo for the controversy with modernism which would rage for many years. The historic 12 volumes contained 90 articles in defense of Bible doctrine and inspiration, as well as an attack on higher criticism, already making such destructive inroads in many quarters.

The 64 authors constituted a veritable Who's Who of leading conservative scholarship, including Moody Bible Institute's James M. Gray; Henry W. Frost, of the China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship); as well as such renowned Bible teachers and authors as G. Campbell Morgan, A. T. Pierson, C. I. Scofield, and many others.

The effort produced hundreds of thousands of letters, including many enthusiastic testimonies. It was destined to become a major witness for years to come.

William J. Erdman, who contributed "The Holy Spirit and the Sons of God" to this work, was a distinguished pastor who had been associated with D. L. Moody and other leaders for years. He participated in prophetic conferences as well as various movements, and served as a consulting editor of the famous Scofield Reference Bible.

Born at Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1834, Erdman was educated at Hamilton College and Union Theological Seminary. Ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1860, he pastored churches in various parts of the country, with time out for service in the Army of the Potomac during the last year of the Civil War.

His early association with D. L. Moody led to his call to become the first pastor of the Chicago Avenue (now Moody) Church. This organization grew out of Moody's early mission Sunday school work. Its predecessor, the Illinois Street Church, was destroyed in the great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Serving from 1876-78, he was "highly esteemed as a harmonizer" in the diverse group, which included Baptists, Congreg-ationalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Plymouth Brethren.

For whatever reason, he never stayed long in one place. His next move was to New England area pastorates, then to North Carolina, and finally to Germantown, Philadelphia. There he spent the remainder of his career, as evangelist and Bible teacher.

Erdman also spoke frequently at the great summer conferences which Moody conducted at his Northfield, Mass., home town (then said to be the most widely known village in the world, except for Bethlehem).

He also played a significant role in establishing the Chicago Evangelization Society (now Moody Bible Institute). He and W. Moorehead worked with Emma Dryer "to initiate some pilot sessions" of this new school, which had no model of any kind as a guide. After years of short-term informal "institutes," the school finally opened officially, in its own buildings, during 1889. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Erdman was also active in prophetic and other ministries, serving as secretary of the Niagara Bible Conference from 1880-1900, named for the usual meeting place (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario). These services which drew many "eager hearers of the Word" emphasized prophetic themes and the growing premillennial movement. They "served as the progenitor of Bible and prophetic conferences in the U.S. and Canada."

Erdman was considered among the best in his knowledge of theology and the Bible of all who ministered there.

He wrote several books as well as many pamphlets and articles for Our Hope and other leading periodicals of the era.

Erdman married Henrietta Jane Rosenbury and they had seven children.

In 1923, having served God and his generation well, Erdman went to be with the Lord, to await rich rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.