The early history of the conferences on prophecy may go back to the 1860's, to some small meetings for prayer and Bible study. A few men met in 1875 near Chicago, including N.W.West, J.H.Brookes, F.H.Revell, and P.P.Bliss. In the meeting held the next year, A.J.Gordon, H.M.Parsons and W.J.Erdman were added when this group met at Swampscott, Massachusetts, under the name of the Believers' Meeting. In 1877 it met at Watkins Cover, NY, and then for three years at Clifton Springs, NY, moving to Old Orchard, Maine, and Mackinac Island, before settling permanently at Niagara-on-the-Lake, a few miles from the world-famous falls; there it was known as the Niagara Bible Conference. In a fourteen-year span at Niagara, great speakers graced the platforms, including Gordon, Brookes, A.C.Dixon, L.W.Munhall, Hudson Taylor, A.T.Pierson, H.M.Parsons, and Robert Cameron. In the 1880's the Niagara Conference was hailed as "the greatest gathering of the saints of God on the continent." These were great gatherings because of the quality of the teachers and the motives behind them.

In 1885 they issued a Statement of Belief to spread essential truths. These have been commonly listed as the Five Fundamentals of Niagara: the inspiration of the Bible, the depravity of man, redemption through Christ's blood, the truth church made up of all believers, and the coming of the Lord to set up His reign. Much has been made of these Articles or Statements of Niagara, but a serious injustice has been done to the Conference and its speakers and to Fundamentalism in general. Writers and teachers have repeated the Famous Five, in some form, and held them to be the Magna Charta of Fundamentalism. Actually, the Statement of Belief listed fourteen articles; in addition to those there were the Trinity, the fall of Adam, the need of the new birth, full deliverance from guilt at salvation, the assurance of salvation, the centrality of Christ in the Bible, the walk after the Spirit, the resurrection of both believers and unbelievers, and the ripening of the present age for judgment. On the matter of eschatology, two things about Niagara bear mention. One was the fixed position as to the conditions at the end of the present age, for a fearful apostasy was foreseen within the professing Christian body. The second conviction was that the premillennial coming of the Lord is the only hope of man. The imminent return of the Lord was omitted from the Statement of Belief. By this time this truth had become the subject of debate, with Gordon and Brookes holding to the "any-moment" or imminent coming, and others such as Cameron holding to a post-tribulation rapture. While this debate mounted, A.C.Gaebelein moved into the scene and started the conference at Sandy Cove with openly avowed pretribulational teaching. By 1900, Niagara was a thing of the past.

Another voice for Fundamentalism was the widely known and beloved Northfield Conferences, begun in 1880 by D.L.Moody. The Conferences were well attended and they continued until 1902 as among the largest of gatherings because of the stature and name of Moody. From the first there was an emphasis on the need for the full power of the Holy Spirit. Powerful heart-searching messages were heard and whole conferences seemed bathed with the keen sense of the Spirit's presence and blessing. Great men wept as they spoke; many hearts were "melted" and "broken." In 1881 Bonar of Scotland was the main speaker and was at his peak in spiritual power. One conference saw over one hundred volunteers come forward for foreign missionary service. Gordon's sermons at the 1894 Conference were unusually blessed; and they were his last, for he had gone to his eternal rest before the summer of 1895.

Moody was very close to A.J.Gordon and his group of Fundamentalists and upheld their meetings and convictions. These men did not knowingly sympathize with, nor support, Liberals in what they were teaching or doing to the Christian faith. Often it has been stated that Moody invited Henry Drummond of Scotland, an evolutionist, to speak at Bible conferences at Northfield. In the earlier days he did have him, but later he refused to have him back. Although Moody was not a theologian, he respected those who were and was not ashamed to take a stand for theological truth. Drummon was one of the most effective public speakers of the era, and to cancel him from the Northfield program took genuine courage.

--A History of Fundamentalism in America, George Dollar, Chapter 5.

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