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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pastor Charles Taze Russell (1852 - 1916)


















“The following history is given not merely because I have been urged to give a review of God’s leadings in the path of light, but specially because I believe it to be needful that the truth be modestly told, that misapprehensions and prejudicial misstatements may be disarmed, and that our readers may see how hitherto the Lord has helped and guided.” - The Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, p. 229. Following those words Charles Taze Russell proceeded to outline the developments that led to his publishing Millennial Dawn (later called Studies in the Scriptures) and Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence (now known as The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom). This history is of special interest to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why? Because their present understanding of Bible truths and their activities can be traced back to the 1870’s and the work of C. T. Russell and his associates, and from there to the Bible and early Christianity. - Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom.
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Young Man in Search of God

While still in his late teens, Russell started a weekly Bible study group with other young men. They began to analyze the Bible’s teachings on other subjects, such as immortality of the soul as well as Christ’s ransom sacrifice and his second coming. In 1877, at the age of 25, Russell sold his share in his father’s prospering business and began a full-time preaching career.

In 1878 Russell had a major disagreement with one of his collaborators, who had rejected the teaching that Christ’s death could be an atonement for sinners. In his rebuttal Russell wrote: “Christ accomplished various good things for us in his death and resurrection. He was our substitute in death; he died the just for the unjust—all were unjust. Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man. . . . He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” He continued: “To redeem is to buy back. What did Christ buy back for all men? Life. We lost it by the disobedience of the first Adam. The second Adam [Christ] bought it back with his own life.”—Mark 10:45; Romans 5:7, 8; 1 John 2:2; 4:9, 10.

Always a staunch advocate of the ransom doctrine, Russell severed all ties with this former collaborator. In July 1879, Russell started to publish Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known worldwide today as The Watchtower—Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. In 1881 he, in association with other dedicated Christians, established a nonprofit Bible society. It was called Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, known today as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the legal agency that acts in behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the very beginning, Russell insisted that there would be no collections taken at congregation meetings nor contributions solicited through the Watch Tower publications. The people who joined Russell in deep Bible study became known simply as the Bible Students.

A Return to Bible Truth

As a result of their Bible study, Russell and his associates came to reject Christendom’s teachings of a mysterious “Most Holy Trinity,” an inherently immortal human soul, and eternal torment in hellfire. They also rejected the need for a separate seminary-trained clergy class. They wanted to return to the humble origins of Christianity, with spiritually qualified elders to lead the congregations without thought of a salary or remuneration.—1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9.

In their investigation of God’s Word, those Bible Students were keenly interested in the prophecies of the Christian Greek Scriptures related to “the end of the world” and to Christ’s “coming.” (Matthew 24:3, KJ) By turning to the Greek text, they discovered that Christ’s “coming” was, in fact, a “pa‧rousi′a,” or invisible presence. Therefore, Christ had given his disciples information about the evidence of his invisible presence in the time of the end, not a future visible coming. Along with this study, those Bible students had a keen desire to understand the Bible’s chronology in relation to Christ’s presence. Without understanding all the details, Russell and his associates realized that 1914 would be a crucial date in human history.—Matthew 24:3-22; Luke 21:7-33, Int.

Russell knew that a great preaching work had to be done. He was conscious of the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) There was a sense of urgency to the activity of those Bible Students prior to 1914. They believed that their preaching activity would culminate in that year, and therefore they felt they should expend every effort to help others to know “this good news of the kingdom.” Eventually, C. T. Russell’s Bible sermons were being published in thousands of newspapers around the world.

- Mankind’s Search for God - published by the WTB&TS
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No, dear friends, I claim nothing of superiority, nor supernatural power, dignity or authority; nor do I aspire to exalt myself in the estimation of my brethren of the household of faith, except in the sense that the Master urged it, saying, "Let him who would be great among you be your servant." (Matt. 20:27.) And my position among men of the world and of the nominal church is certainly far from exalted, being "everywhere spoken against." I am fully contented, however, to wait for exaltation until the Lord's due time. (I Pet. 5:6.) In the Apostle's words I therefore answer, "Why look ye upon us, as though by our own power we had done these things? We also are men of like passions with yourselves"--of like infirmities and frailties, earnestly striving, by overcoming many besetments, discouragements, etc., to press along the line toward the mark of the prize of our high calling, and claiming only, as a faithful student of the Word of God, to be an index finger, as I have previously expressed it, to help you to trace for yourselves, on the sacred page, the wonderful plan of God--no less wonderful to me, I assure you, than to you, dearly beloved sharers of my faith and joy. http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/07/pastor-russell.html

Next, he invited J. H. Paton, the other assistant editor of the Herald, to write an article in support of faith in the blood of Christ as the basis for atonement for sin. Paton did write the article, and it was published in the December issue. After repeated unsuccessful efforts to reason on the matter with Barbour from the Scriptures, Russell broke off association with him and withdrew support from his magazine. In July 1879, Russell began to publish a new magazine—Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence—which was from the start a special advocate of the ransom. But that was not the end of it. The principal theological voice in the first issues of Zion’s Watch Tower was that of John H. Paton. His pen produced their first book, Day Dawn, or Gospel in Type and Prophecy, and the bulk of the articles appearing in their magazine. He wrote and published three books which upheld this position (among other topics), Day Dawn, Moses and Christ, and The Perfect Day, and published a magazine called The World’s Hope, which emphasized his views on human destiny. He also traveled as an evangelist and teacher of “The Larger Hope.” http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/04/john-h-paton.html

George Storrs, was publisher of the magazine Bible Examiner, in Brooklyn, New York. Storrs, who was born on December 13, 1796, was initially stimulated to examine what the Bible says about the condition of the dead as a result of reading something published (though at the time anonymously) by a careful student of the Bible, Henry Grew, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Storrs became a zealous advocate of what was called conditional immortality—the teaching that the soul is mortal and that immortality is a gift to be attained by faithful Christians. He also reasoned that since the wicked do not have immortality, there is no eternal torment. Storrs traveled extensively, lecturing on the subject of no immortality for the wicked. Among his published works was the Six Sermons, which eventually attained a distribution of 200,000 copies. Without a doubt, Storrs’ strong Bible-based views on the mortality of the soul as well as the atonement and restitution (restoration of what was lost due to Adamic sin; Acts 3:21) had a strong, positive influence on young Charles T. Russell. http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/11/george-storrs.html

Russell referred quite openly to the assistance in Bible study he had received from others. Not only did he acknowledge his indebtedness to Second Adventist Jonas Wendell but he also spoke with affection about two other individuals who had aided him in Bible study. Russell said of these two men: “The study of the Word of God with these dear brethren led, step by step, into greener pastures.” One, George W. Stetson, was an earnest student of the Bible and pastor of the Advent Christian Church in Edinboro, Pennsylvania. For ten months during 1872 Stetson pastored the church in Pittsburgh where he met a young Charles Taze Russell. Then he led the Edinboro, Pennsylvania, congregation for six years until his death. His dying request was that Pastor ­Russell give his ­funeral sermon (Reprints, p. 46) where over twelve hundred ­attended and heard the good news of the kingdom of God. He was not only a minister, but also a school teacher, and physician. As a member of the Advent Christian Church he and Wendell worked together in several churches throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio in the early 1870s. They also wrote for George Storrs’ magazine The Herald of Life and the Coming Kingdom, and for other magazines such as The World’s Crisis. http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/11/george-stetson.html

Anxious to learn, from any quarter, whatever God had to teach, I at once wrote to Mr. Barbour, informing him of my harmony on other points and desiring to know particularly why, and upon what Scriptural evidences, he held that Christ's presence and the harvesting of the Gospel age dated from the Autumn of 1874. The answer showed that my surmise had been correct, viz.: that the time arguments, chronology, etc., were the same as used by Second Adventists in 1873, and explained how Mr. Barbour and Mr. J. H. Paton, of Michigan, a co-worker with him, had been regular Second Adventists up to that time; and that when the date 1874 had passed without the world being burned, and without their seeing Christ in the flesh, they were for a time dumb-founded. They had examined the time-prophecies that had seemingly passed unfulfilled, and had been unable to find any flaw, and had begun to wonder whether the time was right and their expectations wrong,--whether the views of restitution and blessing to the world, which myself and others were teaching, might not be the things to look for. It seems that not long after their 1874 disappointment, a reader of the Herald of the Morning, who had a copy of the Diaglott, noticed something in it which he thought peculiar,--that in `Matt. 24:27,37,39`, the word which in our common version is rendered coming is translated presence. This was the clue; and, following it, they had been led through prophetic time toward proper views regarding the object and manner of the Lord's return. I, on the contrary, was led first to proper views of the object and manner of our Lord's return and then to the examination of the time for these things, indicated in God's Word. Thus God leads his children often from different starting points of truth; but where the heart is earnest and trustful, the result must be to draw all such together.http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/04/nelson-n-barbour-and-1873.html

The writings of Henry Grew influenced George Storrs, and later, Charles Taze Russell. Henry Grew and George Storrs are both mentioned in the October 15, 2000 issue of the The Watchtower magazine, published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of the Jehovah's Witnesses. About 1835, Grew penned an important pamphlet that exposed the teachings of the immortality of the soul and hellfire as unscriptural. He felt that these doctrines blasphemed God. This pamphlet was to have far-reaching effects. In 1837, 40-year-old George Storrs found a copy on a train. A list of Henry Grew's religious writings includes: Cristian Loyalty: A Sermon on Matthew XXII:21, Designed to Illustrate the Authority of Caesar and Jesus Christ (1810), An Examination of the Divine Testimony Concerning the Character of the Son of God (1824), A Tribute to the Memory of the Apostles, and an Exhibition of the First Christian Churches (1836), The Practices of the Early Christians Considered (1838), A Review of Phelps' Argument for the Perpetuity of the Sabbath (1844), The Intermediate State (1849), The Sabbath (1850), An Examination of the Divine Testimony on the Nature and Character of the Son of God (1855), An Appeal to Pious Trinitarians (1857), The Atonement (1859), Divine Dispensations, Past, Present and Future (1861). http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/11/appeal-to-pious-trinitarians.html


Pastor Charles Taze Russell was not a memeber of the Millerite movement nor was he a Second Adventist, however he did respect the faith and work of others who preceded him.

A religious movement culminated in 1844, the participants in which were then, and since, generally known as “Second Adventists” and “Millerites,” because they expected the second advent of the Lord to occur at that date, and because a Mr. William Miller was the leader and prime mover. The movement, which began about 1829, had before 1844 (when they expected the Lord’s return) attracted the attention of all classes of Christian people, especially in the Eastern and Middle States where it amounted to an excitement. A long while before this, Prof. Bengel, in Tubingen, Germany, began to call attention to the prophecies and the coming Kingdom of Messiah, while the celebrated missionary Wolff did the same in Asia. The center of the work, however, was America, where social, political and religious conditions have favored, more than elsewhere, independence in Bible study as well as in other matters; just as the first advent movement was confined to Judea, though all the devout Israelites, everywhere, heard more or less of it. Acts 2:5

All know something of the failure of Brother Miller’s expectations. The Lord did not come in 1844, and the world was not burned up with fire, as he had expected and taught others to expect; and this was a great disappointment to those “holy people” who had so confidently looked for Christ (“Michael”) then to appear and to exalt them with him in power and glory. But, notwithstanding the disappointment, the movement had its designed effects—of awakening an interest in the subject of the Lord’s coming, and of casting reproach upon the subject by reason of mistaken expectations. We say designed effects because without a doubt the hand of the Lord was in it. It not only did a work corresponding to that of the first advent movement, when our Lord was born, when the wise men came from the East and when “all men were in expectation of him” (Matt. 2:1,2; Luke 3:15), but it corresponded with it in time also, being just thirty years before the anointing of our Lord, at thirty years of age, at the beginning of his work as Messiah. That “Miller movement,” as it is slightingly called, brought also an individual blessing to the “holy people” who participated in it: it led to a careful searching of the Scriptures, and to confidence in God’s Word above the traditions of men; and it warmed and fed and united the hearts of God’s children in unsectarian fellowship; for those interested were of all denominations, though principally Baptists. It is since that movement ended, that some of these have organized and bound themselves as new sects, thus blinding themselves to some of the blessings due in the “harvest.”

While, as the reader will have observed, we disagree with Mr. Miller’s interpretations and deductions, on almost every point—viewing the object, as well as the manner and the time, of our Lord’s coming, in a very different light—yet we recognize that movement as being in God’s order, and as doing a very important work in the separating, purifying, refining, and thus making ready, of a waiting people prepared for the Lord. And not only did it do a purifying and testing work in its own day, but, by casting reproach upon the study of prophecy and upon the doctrine of the Lord’s second advent, it has ever since served to test and prove the consecrated, regardless of any association with Mr. Miller’s views and expectations. The very mention of the subject of prophecy, the Lord’s coming and the Millennial Kingdom, now excites the contempt of the worldly-wise, especially in the nominal church. This was undoubtedly of the Lord’s providence, and for a purpose very similar to the sending of the infant Jesus for a time to Nazareth, “that he might be called a Nazarene,” though really born in the honorable city of Bethlehem. That evidently was in order that the truth might separate the “Israelites indeed” from the chaff of God’s chosen nation. The chaff was driven off by the statement that our Lord was a Nazarene; for they reasoned, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Just so some now contemptuously inquire, “Can any good thing come out of Adventism?” and dismiss unconsidered the testimony of the Lord and the apostles and prophets. But the humble, holy ones, wise in God’s sight though foolish in the world’s estimation, take no such attitude.

But the “Miller movement” was more than this: it was the beginning of the right understanding of Daniel’s visions, and at the right time to fit the prophecy. Mr. Miller’s application of the three and a half times (1260 years) was practically the same as that we have just given, but he made the mistake of not starting the 1290 and 1335 periods at the same point. Had he done so he would have been right. On the contrary, he started them thirty years sooner—about 509 instead of 539, which ended the 1335 days in 1844, instead of 1874.* It was, nevertheless, the beginning of the right understanding of the prophecy; for, after all, the 1260 period, which he saw correctly, was the key; and the preaching of this truth (even though in combination with errors, and misapplications, and false inferences) had the effect of separating and purifying “many,” and at the very time the Lord had foretold. - Published in: STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURE, VOLUME THREE - THY KINGDOM COME

In course of time there came other stirrings among those Christians who professed to be of the “chaste virgin” class, particularly that in connection with a man born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the year 1781. This man was William Miller, who became the founder of the so-called Millerites or Adventists. Says M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 6, page 271: About 1833, when a resident of Low Hampton, N.Y., he began his career as an apostle of the new doctrine, which taught that the world was coming to an end in 1843. The main argument on which his belief rested was that relative to the termination of the 2300 days in Daniel 8:14, which he regarded as years. Then considering the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24, as the key to the date of the 2300 days of the preceding chapter, and dating the periods B.C. 457, when Artaxerxes, king of Persia, sent up Ezra from his captivity, to restore the Jewish polity at Jerusalem (Ezra 7), and ending the seventy weeks, as commentators generally do, in A.D. 33, with the crucifixion of Christ, he found the remainder of the 2300 days, which was 1810, would end in 1843. For ten years he held forth to this purport, and succeeded in gathering a large number of followers, which is said to have reached fifty thousand, who awaited, with credulous expectation, the appointed day. The result, however, turning out contrary to the teaching of their apostle, the Adventists, as they are sometimes termed, gradually forsook Miller. He died at Low Hampton, Washington County, N.Y., December 20, 1849. http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2008/12/william-miller-herald-of-second-advent.html

Other than Miller, the man who likely contributed most to the success of the Millerite movement was Joshua V. Himes. Pastor of the Second Christian Church of Boston when the advent message came to him in 1839, Himes soon threw all of his many talents and energies into the task of propagating the advent message. Himes was a powerful preacher, and a man of deep spirituality and perfect integrity. His personality was attractive and he had a gift for popular, appealing presentation of his message. His ability in the pulpit was outshone only by his unusual gifts as an editor and an organizer. Soon some of the best publishing facilities in the country were enlisted for the publication of the numerous papers, tracts, books, pamphlets, songbooks, charts, broadsides, and handbills issued under his direction. When an evangelistic series was conducted in New York City, Himes started a daily newspaper, the Midnight Cry, to publicize the advent teachings. For a time ten thousand copies a day were sold or given away on the streets. It was Joshua Himes who was responsible for drawing Miller out of the small towns and villages into the large cities, and his promotional ability provided more openings for sermons than could be filled. Tens of thousands of persons attended the camp meetings Himes organized and managed, and more thousands were added as the movement spread beyond his personal supervision. “In approximately 130 camp meetings held in 1843 and 1844 between 500,000 and 1,000,000 were estimated to have attended—and the total population of the States was only 17,0000,000.” http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/11/joshua-vaughan-himes-18051895.html

Among the younger men who supported William Miller in his preaching of the advent of Christ was Charles Fitch. Born in December, 1805, he was only thirty-three years old when he first heard Miller in 1838. After his education at Brown University he had been a pastor much beloved in the several churches of Connecticut and Massachusetts where he had served. It was while he was pastor of the Marlboro Chapel, a Congregational church, that he heard Miller lecture and later sent for copies of his sermon. By 1843 Fitch was one of the most prominent of the Millerite leaders. In January of that year he began to edit a weekly journal called the Second Advent of Christ. In this he printed (July 26, 1843) his sermon (from Rev. 14 and 18) on the mighty angel who cried, “Babylon the great is fallen,” and who was followed by the warning voice, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” In this Fitch contended that the term Babylon was no longer limited to the Roman Catholic Church, but now included also the great body of Protestant Christendom. He maintained that both branches of Christendom had, by their rejection of the light on the Advent, fallen from the high estate of pure Christianity. He contended that Protestantism was either cold to the doctrine of the Second Advent or had spiritualized it away. This address was put into pamphlet form and later reprinted in various Millerite papers. http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2010/07/charles-fitch-1805-1844.html

Thirty years after the Millerite “Great Disappointment” of October 22, 1844, Isaac C. Wellcome published the first general history of the movement that had promoted the belief that the Second Advent of Jesus would take place on that date. By 1874 the Adventists had developed into several separate groups, among them the Evangelical Adventists, the Advent Christians, the Church of God, and the Seventh-day Adventists. Each group claimed to be the legitimate heir of William Miller and his teachings. Wellcome belonged to the Advent Christian branch and wrote his work not only to maintain memory of the Millerite movement, but also to demonstrate that the Advent Christians continued the original Millerite faith while, among competing groups, the Seventh-day Adventists had their origins in fanaticism and existed outside the recognized boundaries of Adventism. Part history and part apologetics, Wellcome’s History of the Second Advent Message nonetheless has become recognized as an important source of information about early Adventism that also gives insight into the movement’s selfunderstanding as it sought to define and preserve itself in the wake of bitter disappointment. http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2009/12/isaac-c-wellcome.html