Bible Students History

Posted by on Aug 20, 2010 in Doctrine | 2 comments

Bible Students History

 

 

 

In the Beginning

 

In the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets.—Revelation 10:7

Who are the Bible Students? Where do they come from? These are questions frequently asked by those who seek to identify this movement and its origins. This special issue of The Herald is meant to answer these queries.

Seeking to place the Bible Student movement in a historical context, these articles trace developments in the Christian world from the Reformation to the events of the nineteenth century which led to the formation of a small group of sincere Christians who are pleased to associate under the generic term of “Bible Students.”

The opening article, The Reformation and Martin Luther, traces the development of Protestantism from 1517 to 1799. The Midnight Cry picks up the theme in the formation of the second Adventist movement, focusing primarily on the growth of interest in the return of Jesus Christ aroused by William Miller.

Heroes of Our Faith outlines the rebirth of doctrinal viewpoints largely lost since the days of the Early Church. Those elements of belief that formed an integral part of the framework of the Bible Student movement are emphasized.

The direct origin of the Bible Students is an outgrowth of the ministry of Pastor Charles Taze Russell. His ministry forms the subject for A New Wine Bottle. Turmoil and confusion reigned within the movement after the death of its founder. This difficult transition is chronicled in The Troubled Years covering the period from 1916 to 1918.

Since that time there have been many developments in the movement, resulting in the formation of a number of groups that trace their lineage to the works of Pastor Russell. A brief summary of most of these efforts is found in the treatise on Recent Bible Student History.

Finally His Pulpit Was the World shows the world-wide outreach of the man who was called “the world’s most ubiquitous preacher” by his contemporaries and gives a sketch of the Bible Student movement throughout the world.

History, at best, is incomplete and subjective, but the editors of The Herald hope this sincere attempt to record the origin and development of the Bible Student movement will be helpful to our readers.

Church History 1517-1799

The Reformation and Martin Luther

Richard Doctor

The intoxicating excesses of the Italian Renaissance were totally alien to the conservative national culture emerging in northern Europe. In Germany, Wittenberg’s nobility still took medieval pride in their collection of relics of the saints. Fittingly, the relics were set off in gold and silver artwork and—to maintain the mystery—were only brought out for the great feast day of “All Saints.” Within the castle church, carvings of the Virgin Mary and the saints looked down from their perches approvingly. It was said that they stood ever ready as heavenly intercessors if entreated in prayer and remembered by burning a candle in their honor.

Midday on October 31, 1517, the day preceding “All Saints,” an Augustinian monk who served as the theology professor at the local university made his way to the church door of Wittenberg castle. There he hammered up a handwritten document in Latin entitled a “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” The “disputation” set forth in the ninety-five theses challenging the theology of selling deliverance from sin. Martin Luther was certain this was bad Catholic theology. If a person was literate, as many of the town people were, he was literate in Latin, so Luther’s challenge was read and devoured with great interest. The literate then translated it for the benefit of bystanders.

Soon the wheels of ecclesiastical discipline began their slow inexorable movement to grind up this most recent challenger. But the world was changing. Seventy years earlier Johannes Guttenberg had built the first printing press using movable type, and the era of mass communication had begun. For the Papacy, the time-tested methods for dealing with dissent were to prove unworkable. Within two weeks, printed copies of the ninety-five theses were posted all over Germany; within five weeks they arrived at the Vatican. An emerging literate middle class could no longer be controlled by superstition and ignorance.

Soon the wheels of ecclesiastical discipline began their slow inexorable movement to grind up this most recent challenger. But the world was changing. Seventy years earlier Johannes Guttenberg had built the first printing press using movable type, and the era of mass communication had begun. For the Papacy, the time-tested methods for dealing with dissent were to prove unworkable. Within two weeks, printed copies of the ninety-five theses were posted all over Germany; within five weeks they arrived at the Vatican. An emerging literate middle class could no longer be controlled by superstition and ignorance.

As events would unfold, compromise with Rome would prove to be impossible. The Scriptural testimony that “the just shall live by faith” was to make a deeper and deeper impact on Luther’s belief. Luther was remarkable for his morally courageous, articulate, energet­ic, and unwavering stand for principle in opposition to Rome. At his trial in Worms on April 17, 1521, Luther, speaking in German, rather than Latin, stunned the audience by his closing statement:

“Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. God help me. Amen.”

Noblemen, risking their titles, lands, and lives would soon protect, hide, and actively aid Luther in advancing the cause of “Protestantism.” What began with an obscure professor’s challenge to indulgences ended with the changing of the face of Europe.

The Anabaptists

Soon blood was everywhere. Warfare, pestilence, and poverty became the rule of life. Fearsome executions awaited any—Catholic, Protestant, Anabaptist, and frequently Jew—who would not conform to the convictions of the local majority. Starting from that fateful day in Wittenberg, 131 years of unrelieved misery reigned in Europe. At long last the Peace of Westphalia (1648) set the modern map of Europe with Catholics and Protestants agreeing to an uneasy truce. But with the ending of broader warfare, a full generation of fighting continued within national borders to establish conformity to state worship, be it Protestant or Catholic.

The Reformation led to church ransacking and the burning of images and reliquaries. Church lands were confiscated. Monasteries and convents were emptied. Like Luther himself, many of the former celibate inmates were now married and raising families. In Luther’s case, his marriage to a former nun left ­pious adherents of Catholicism completely mortified.

Though Protestant churches now stood with stark interiors, they were more alive than ever. Christ was now considered the one mediator between God and man. The sermon, rather than the mass, now served as the focal point for the church service. Luther believed that “the Devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the word of God.” In unison, it was the congregation that now sang the modern and soul-inspiring hymns including Luther’s chorale, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

The presses continued their labors. Soon tracts and Bible texts were placed directly into the hands of a thoughtful and increasingly literate citizenry. Wherever Protestantism went, groups emerged, earnest to learn only from Scripture, without appealing to church authority. This “grass roots” religious movement soon proved unwilling to stop the reforming where Luther did. Anabaptists were wide-ranging in doctrine, but three issues characterized them. They took strong exception to any church-state union, maintaining that this was whoredom. They took exception with Luther and the leading Swiss reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, on the propriety of baptizing infants. Because they baptized adults, they were called “Anabaptists” or “those baptizing again.” They be­lieved that baptism was only for those who had “received Jesus Christ and wished to have him for Lord, King, and Bridegroom, and bind themselves also publicly to him, and in truth submit themselves to him and betroth themselves to him through the covenant of baptism and also give themselves over to him dead and crucified and hence to be at all times subject, in utter zeal, to his will and pleasure.”—The Ordinance of God, Melchior Hofmann (1530).

A third point of contention was Luther’s support for the mass (embracing consubstantiation rather than the Catholic transubstantiation). Here the Anabaptists, Zwingli, and other reformers argued that Christ intended the bread and the wine at the last supper as a remembrance, or memorial, not as a sacrifice. Meeting with Zwingli to discuss the mass, Luther moved to the chalkboard writing only, “This is my body.” In his passionate and irascible manner the force of this effort broke the chalk he was holding. For Luther the discussion was ended.

The Anabaptists focused on Bible study and prophecy, and studied the tabernacle recognizing that its ordinances foreshadowed Christ. Some Anabaptist fellowships in northern Italy, Poland, and Romania also denied that God is triune. Nearly one hundred years later, writing on the eve of the thirty years war, one of their highest tributes comes from an implacable enemy:

“Among all the heretical sects which have their origin from Luther … not a one has a better appearance and greater external holiness than the Anabaptists. Other sects are for the most part riotous, bloodthirsty and given over to carnal lusts; not so the Anabaptists. They call each other brothers and sisters; they use neither profanity nor unkind language; they use no weapons of defense … they own nothing in private but have everything in common. They do not go to law before judicial courts but bear everything patiently, as they say, in the Holy Spirit. Who should suppose that under this sheep’s clothing only ravening wolves are hidden?”—Of the Cursed Beginnings of the Anabaptists, Christoph Fischer, Roman Catholic, (1615).

 

Quaker and Huguenot Testimony

“Bear the cross, and stand faithful to God, then he will give thee an everlasting crown of glory, that shall not be taken from thee. There is no other way that shall prosper than that which holy men of old have walked.”—Thomas Loe, Quaker, (1662).

William Penn

Loe’s preaching in Oxford moved young William Penn to openly criticize the Church of England, leading to Penn’s expulsion from Oxford University. Penn, the son of a British Admiral, left for France and soon found his way to L’Academie Protestante de Saumur, then a flourishing center for Huguenot Protestant learning. It may be surprising to know that such a center briefly prospered in France. This was a consequence of the liberal policies in 1598 instituted by the Protestant-born and raised Henry IV. Henry desired to make amends for the horrors his predecessor Charles IX had perpetrated in the St. Bar­tholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572. Conditions in the world were changing, and while horrors were yet to come, a new consciousness was slowly emerging. Although the Huguenots later would be expelled from France (1685), the tearing out of heretic’s tongues, nailing them to carts, burning them, or drowning them, and the horrors of massacres similar to that occurring on St. Bartholomew’s Day, were losing favor as accepted instruments of statecraft.

The air at Saumur was filled with discussion of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation. Collective opinion held that the churches of Revelation were progressive and that the church was in the sixth, or Philadelphia stage. This point was not lost on Penn later in his life. Huguenot scholar Pierre de Launay (1573-1661) sought to determine when, during the Gothic and Vandal ravages of Rome, it was proper to begin counting the 1,260 days of Daniel using the day-for-a-year formula. By far, the most significant scholar of this period was Pierre Jurieu (1637-1713), then a young man himself. Writing after the Huguenot expulsion from France in 1686, Jurieu would extend de Launay’s methods concluding that the Lord’s special judgment would fall on France —the tenth part of the city—in the decade of 1780-90, and certainly by 1796.

Returning to England, Penn found himself among the Quakers and soon he was arrested for running afoul of the religious laws. The ­seriousness of the charges kept escalating, and eventually his treatise The Sandy Foundation Shaken put him in the Tower of London with the bishop charging blasphemy. Penn had criticized Trinitarian belief as unscriptural and ­illogical: “[For] what can any man of sense conclude but that here be three distinct infinites” and, “It is manifest then, though I deny the Trinity of Separate Persons in one Godhead, yet consequentially, I do not deny the deity of Jesus Christ.”

Cross and Crown

Penn’s seven months in the tower were spent writing No Cross—No Crown, a widely disseminated treatise that fixed the image of the Cross and Crown in the hearts and minds of the Lord’s people from that time forward. Penn’s words are simple, sincere, and Scriptural: “What is our cup and cross that we should drink and suffer? They are the denial and offering up of ourselves, by the same spirit, to do or suffer the will of God for his service and glory, which is the true obedience of the cross of Jesus.”

Penn reexamined Scriptural promises passed over since St. Augustine. Theologians had minimized the importance of the church’s life experiences with Augustine, considering these but memories “dissipated like clouds.” Penn recognized that these life experiences acquired under unfavorable conditions would be an eternal benefit; the consciousness of the church’s suffering with Christ was slowly emerging.

The death of Sir William Penn in 1670 left young Penn in control of the family fortune, ­including a massive debt owed to Sir William Penn by the crown. With this financial support, Penn now had the means to pursue his pilgrim ministry nearly full time, and he traveled throughout England, Ireland, and along the Rhine River preaching the Quaker doctrine. Recognizing that the crown could never remit the growing debt to his late father, he fixed upon asking the king for a colony in America in payment. His focus on this “holy experiment” of founding Pennsylvania, and planning and building its principle city of Philadelphia, would become his best-remembered legacy. Echoes of Saumur ring in the name Philadelphia.

In practical politics William Penn proved highly capable as a lawgiver, mediator, and practical pacifist. His bold unarmed approach to the Indian chiefs at the great elm of Shaka­maxon had caused them to set down their bows and arrows. Penn’s governance was becoming legendary. Long after his passing there still was talk of the Indians deep mourning over the death of their dear brother to whom they had bound themselves “to live in love.” Voltaire, who usually could manage only derisive comments about religion, praised Penn as the greatest lawgiver since antiquity. Although the revolution to follow was not to be accomplished by pacifist means, Penn’s hopes were that God would make his colony “the seed of the nation.” And so it would prove.

With the religious wars of Europe ended, the following century was one of explosive growth on every front of human inquiry. Modern medicine and science began. The earth was known to revolve around the sun, the orbit of the moon was explained, light was understood, and mechanical engines were developed to replace the muscle-power of draught animals. Math problems unsolved for thousands of years were solved. New musical forms opened unexplored realms of experience for the human spirit. The social well-being of common people became the focus of interest for new sciences seeking to understand social, political, and economic theory. All of this fed the minds of those who thought about a revolution in the social and political order. Most importantly, this all impacted religion. With an eye to the recent past, there was a suspicion of all things religious among the elite. Agnosticism, deism, and Unitarianism became the preferred expressions of spirituality among society’s leaders.

France and Philadelphia—1776-1799

While France was the focal point for much of this effort, it would be pamphlets in English and distributed overseas that were to fan the embers of revolution in the American colonies. Following a declaration of independence originating from Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, the American colonies successfully broke from England after five years of fighting. Seizing on this example, the revolution came home to France. Heeding cries of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity,” it was the common citizens who led an exceptionally bloody revolution, serving notice to monarchs everywhere that their days were numbered. The French revolution also led to the rise of Napoleon.

Napoleon represents a decisive watershed in world history, for the world had never seen anyone quite like him before nor has it since. Like Alexander the Great, Napoleon had a vision not only for conquest but for remaking the culture of Europe. The pope’s co-operation with the Allies against the French Republic, and the murder of the French attaché, Basseville, at Rome, led to Napoleon’s attack on the Papal States, concluding in the Truce of Bologna (June 25, 1796). But in an attempt to revolutionize Rome, the French General Duphot was shot and killed; whereupon the French took Rome on February 10, 1798, and proclaimed the Roman Republic on February 15. Because the pope refused to submit, he was forcibly taken from Rome on the night of February 20 and brought first to Siena and then to Florence. At the end of March 1799 though seriously ill, he was hurried to Parma, Piacenza, Turin, then over the Alps to Briançon and Grenoble, and finally to Valence where he succumbed to his sufferings before he could be brought further.

Entering into a concordant with Pius VII, the successor of Pius VI crowned on March 1800, Napoleon tersely laid out his terms. The refusal of Pius VII to acquiesce ­sufficiently resulted in fourteen years of house arrest and his removal from Italy to Fontainebleau. Although Pius would return in triumph to Rome in 1814 after Napoleon’s fall, for the rest of the century the Papacy would see only an unremitting loss of prestige, power, and property.

None of these epoch-defining events was lost on John Lathrop (1731-1820), a Yale-educated divinity scholar. Lathrop was particularly active in drawing attention to the prophetic studies of Jurieu, who had predicted the French revolution nearly one hundred years earlier. Lathrop’s work recognized the critical importance of biblical chronology. Soon William Miller (1782-1849) and others would bring out additional pearls long hidden.

Freedom of Religion

At the same time, U.S. president John Adams’ prudence alone prevented a war in 1799 that would have placed the young republic into combat against Napoleon. From Adams’ office in Philadelphia, the first seat of government, it was possible to look out on the streets and witness the great changes wrought by acting on religious vision. He knew that the power of religion could be exercised for good or ill. In general, Adams’ belief was that it had been exercised for ill and he strongly supported the separation of church and state. In this he played a critical role. As soon as the constitution for the new nation was ratified, he immediately criticized it as incomplete because it had failed to define the protection of human rights. Jefferson and Madison agreed to draft a “Bill of Rights” to correct this oversight. The opening phrase of the first of ten amendments to the constitution ratified December 15, 1791, marks a turning point for church and state. For the first time in any nation’s history freedom of worship was official state policy: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

It had been 265 years since Felix Manz, the first Anabaptist martyr, perished in the “third baptism” under the freezing waters of the Limmat River near Wellenberg, Switzerland. At last the Anabaptist entreaty for the separation of church and state was law. As the nineteenth century dawned, a culture in Europe and North America holding religious, social, political, and scientific world-views unimagined by Luther held world stage. This fulfils Christ’s promise to the church of Philadelphia, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Revelation 3:8). In the next century, economic upheaval from a movement soon to be called the “industrial revolution,” and scientific advances, would provide Christianity with its greatest challenges, and its greatest triumphs.

The Adventist Movement

The Midnight Cry

At midnight there was a cry, Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.
—Matthew 25:6, ASV

Charles Ryba

Christian history can be a profitable study. The views and experiences of those preceding us provide lessons for our profit. Two significant examples are the advent ­movement (1830-1870) and the early Bible Student movement (1870-1890). Many of today’s questions have their roots in these times. How long before the kingdom comes is foremost among them. Time is the issue; the kingdom of God is the goal.

Intense Scriptural searching and examination were the mark of many individuals within this time frame. Second advent speculations generated new Christian fellowships crossing old denominational lines. This precipitated new movements not dominated by trained theologians, though many came from the ranks of mainline Protestant ministers. “Laymen” became capable of intelligent inquiry as biblical scholarship became more accessible through Bible societies and missionary efforts. Circumstances in that era shaped theological currents and millennial expectations. The signs of the times were being noticed.1

William Miller Feb. 15, 1872-1849

 William Miller became one of the lightning rods for much intense prophetic interest in America during the 1830s. His message was simple. The return of Christ was very near. He even assigned a date, 1843, as the time when it would happen. Then current events brought new focus to biblical prophecies. Items of interest included Daniel’s time of the end, the Antichrist, Palestine (Ottoman rule would fail, Jewish restoration was imminent), but specially the personal, visible coming of Christ to establish an earthly Millennial kingdom. The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were distinctly favored.

William Miller was a Baptist preacher, but his message went well beyond that. He utilized Daniel and Revelation as keys to the Bible’s prophetic outline. His arguments for Christ’s return focused largely on the time of his return; the manner and object were to be visible and awesome. Time elements that Miller considered biblical encompass the days of Daniel (1,260, 1,290, 1,335, and 2,300), the Times of the Gentiles, the Jubilee cycles, and the six thousand years of human history. He reckoned them (­except the 1,260 ending at 1793-98) to a terminus of 1843.

Historic Prophetic Interpretations

The historic interpretive school of Daniel and Revelation was widespread among European and American scholars of that era. Building upon the earlier works of Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Newton, persons like J. A. Brown, William Cunningham, T. R. Birks, John Cumming, and E. B. Elliott were prominent exponents of an historically fulfilled Apocalypse. In spite of impressive biblical arguments, most Christian leadership at the time believed the second coming to be post-Millennial, that is, after a gospel age of world conversion. Many agreed with the historical general time interpretation; they differed only on when and what the Millennium or the second advent would be like.

The Futurist view originated by a Jesuit priest, F. Ribera [circa 1590], was hardly mentioned by serious prophetic students of the time. This view placed most of the book of Revelation (after 6:11) into a future seven-year tribulation period; many insurmountable problems were recognized. These anticipated the present day quarrels among Futurists, pre-, mid-, and post-tribulationists. Birk’s volumes titled First Elements of Prophecy and Visions of Daniel are pointed essays in defense of the historical school. These writings, among many others, provided vital resources for the early advent believers of the 1840s as well as renewed growth among later Advent Christian believers in time prophecy. Nelson H. Barbour described examining these in ­European libraries during the 1860s.

Unfortunately, historic pre-Millennial positions were often abandoned during the mid-1800s. Competing theories swept most Christians into conflicting winds of futurism and preterism (fully past views, also of Jesuit origin).

Wide-ranging discussions about prophecy in general, and the second coming in particular, took place within Millerite camps and with contemporaries. It encompassed journals, conferences, camp meetings, books, pamphlets, speaking tours, and debates. Miller himself devoted years to public speaking on the advent to whomever would listen. Many others joined in. Of note are Joshua V. Himes, Charles Fitch, Josiah Litch, Joseph Bates, and George Storrs. Advent journals included The Signs of the Times, The Bible Examiner, and The Midnight Cry among many others. Use of charts to ­illustrate God’s prophetic plan was common. Based on Habakkuk 2:2, they endeavored to make the vision plain. Tabernacle and temple symbolism was prominent, especially in connection with the vision of the 2,300 days in Daniel 8. Christ as antitypical high priest would return soon to cleanse and restore his spiritual temple. Much of later Seventh Day Adventist revisions was based on this imagery.

Henry Grew wrote booklets concerning the nature of man. That, in turn, spurred George Storrs to spread the view more widely. Grew also wrote The Divine Testimony Concerning The Son of God, delineating a Christology later adopted by Pastor Charles Taze Russell and others. Of special interest are thoughts concerning the ­nature of God, the nature of man, and eternal torment. George Storrs was one of Miller’s able supporters. Through his book, journal The Bible Examiner, a compilation of essays known as Six Sermons on the Inquiry: Is There Immortality in Sin and Suffering?, and numerous other booklets and tracts, he injected among Adventists a strong argument for conditional immortality. Miller himself did not accept these ideas but tolerated them for the greater good of awakening the people to the near advent and judgment.

Second Advent Focus

The greatest focus of the advent movement was the nearness of Christ’s return. All else in life was to be left behind in preparation for the bridegroom’s return. In the period of about 1840 to 1844 the advent interest greatly increased throughout the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and mid-western states. It never took root in Europe. But the original 1843 date provided a first shock to the hopeful because nothing significant happened in that year.

Re-examination twice led to six-month adjustments, culminating in the Seventh Month Movement of 1844, spearheaded by Samuel S. Snow. His conviction was based on the high priest (Christ) in the day of atonement picture. He interpreted the leaving of the temple to bless the people as corresponding to Christ’s second coming. This was to be on the tenth day of the seventh month, October 22, 1844. Correspondence to the “proper” figuring of the Jewish year justified altering the earlier 1843 view. He revived the faint-hearted advent movement in the spirit of the wise virgins of Matthew 25. Miller himself was reticent to accept this after the earlier disappointment, but joined in as the time approached.

Disappointments

Again there was great puzzlement and disappointment. Explanations based on the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins sought to rationalize the mistakes. The time of delay of the parable was compressed into the first (1843) and repeated (1844) experience of the watchers. Search for fulfillment led to spiritualiza­tion or collective prophetic tests. Was the door shut? The controversy would flare at every date since. In 1844 and 1878-81, 1914, and beyond. Several times many would regard themselves as true heirs to the dates: 1844 (Seventh Day Adventists and the “cleansed sanctuary”), 1873-1874 (Nelson Barbour and Pastor Russell, with the view of Christ’s invisible presence), and 1914 (Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses differ as to what really happened in that year). After each date, prophecy had to be reconciled with reality.

The Aftermath of Disappointment

Following the 1843-1844 disappointments, Storrs continued to preach the advent without dates. He drifted into an extreme position during the 1860s with the group known as Life and Advent Union. It was analogous to the unsaved non-resurrection position of Christa­delphians. In later autobiographical sketches he recounts his encounter with books of the English writer Henry Dunn about the ransom doctrine and the restitution of all things. One book was titled The Destiny of the Human Race. He then reactivated The Bible Examiner in 1871 (after a lapse of about eight years) and reworked it to incorporate the thoughts of the ransom for all and restitution of all things. The masthead verse was 1 Timothy 2:5,6. His conclusion: the plan of God extended beyond the few faithful to the entire human race. The Abrahamic promise applied to all men during a soon-to-come earthly kingdom. The general concept of God having a plan was popular among contemporary Advent Christian writers like I. C. Wellcome and Clarkson Gould in their The Plan of Redemption of 1867. But Storrs incorporated much more of the “wider hope” than they would allow. On the other hand he avoided the modernism and speculation rampant among Universalists in their great social tolerances. God provided reasonable provision for mankind’s recovery unlike Universalism’s belief in unconditional salvation.

Parallel Movements

Parallel movements also arose during this ­period. Relatively mainstream Protestant dis­pen­sationalists were inspired by men like John Darby and Edward Irving. They restructured prophetic timetables into futurist patterns. In the long run they would become more influential than the Adventists in the minds of most Protestants. More diverse movements like the Christadelphians and Church of God (Abra­hamic Faith) sprung out of a common pool with those of Alexander Campbell’s Disciples of Christ. Their earthly millennial hope was more distinct than that of many Adventists. They placed less emphasis on date setting (although 1866 was of significance to some), tended to have “closed” fellowships, believed in water baptism for salvation, believed in conditional immortality, and developed non-trinitarian theologies (the last two concepts traceable to F. Socinus of the sixteenth-seventeenth century Polish Brethren). They shared with Campbell a prophetic remnant assumption for the recovery of lost early church teachings. Benjamin Wilson, author of The Emphatic Diaglott, was a member of the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith). The remnant concept was shared by Pastor Russell and Nelson Barbour, who may have been influenced in their perspectives by their thoughts concerning the Gospel age harvest.

Seventh Day Adventists

The Seventh Day Adventists became the largest prophetically-based movement. Having a common derivative in Miller, they had solidified their thinking along much more exclusive lines than other advent groups. A novel doctrine of an 1844 heavenly cleansing of the sanctuary was fostered by reliance on the prophetic “gift of prophecy” claimed for Ellen G. White. Sabbath keeping became an outward distinction which shaped much of their views on prophetic events. Their prophetic point, however, was a novel concept of the millennial reign of Christ. It was to be in heaven while the earth lay desolate, earth being restored after a thou­sand years. No hope was held out for the unsaved of this or previous ages, so their view of restitution matched that of prophetic Babylon from which they had separated. Only Christians would be saved. The same can be said for their trinitarian position, after some debate within their ranks.

The general historic prophetic interpretation was bolstered in several important areas during the interim of 1840 through the 1870s. The Ottoman empire was in decline, fueling expectations about a Jewish restoration. The Papacy was also losing ground in its temporal power, reinforcing the view that Daniel’s time of the end had indeed been entered. The American Civil War of the 1860s also focused people’s attention on the fragility of earthly governments as well as on the need for true, but unattainable, justice for all peoples. These were the signs of the times that influenced the interpretations of Adventists such as Nelson Barbour.

 

Pastor Charles Taze Russell 1852-1916

Pastor Russell was not alone at the beginning. He had the able help of several seasoned elder Christian brothers to shape the nascent Bible Student movement. They were reaping the fruits of those before them.

 George Storrs’ Bible Examiner would soon cease publication at his death in 1879. The pastor contributed a few short items as early as 1877 to those pages. The mature Nelson Barbour and John H. Paton were early collaborators in sort­ing through the prophetic charts. Barbour’s Herald of the Morning (John Paton and Pastor Russell were assistant editors) reawakened hopes in many advent believers that the return of Christ was here (though originally set at 1873). It also presented similar thoughts to those of Storrs about restitution. Thoughts about a harvest separation also renewed an earlier Millerite call to separate from that Christianity which was merely nominal and sinful. In the early period they faced ­opposition from their parent movement, the Second Advent Church, publishers of The World’s Crisis. Later, many early collaborators in turn would set off in their own directions, including Nelson Barbour, John Paton, A. P. Adams, and A. D. Jones. By then young Pastor Russell was well under way in his publishing efforts of Zion’s Watch Tower and the Millennial Dawn studies.

Pastor Russell built on the Miller movement as a prophetic prelude, but also as a test and lesson learned by faithful Christians. Nelson Barbour had constructed an ingenious concept of first- and second-advent parallels, as can be seen on each cover of his journal. It included the delays and missed opportunities for the true and false wheat of each age. The tarrying bridegroom was so near in time as to be actually present. Since he was a divine spirit being, Christ had no need to be seen physically. The coming was real and personal, in the same sense as it was with Miller, but invisible in the same sense as those holding to a secret rapture. Pastor Russell’s first publication, The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return [Herald of the Morning, 1877], was in line with this theme. Also of note is the cooperative publication of The Three Worlds, also in 1877.

 

 

Israel Regathered

 

Peta Tikva – First JEWISH Settlement 1878  (1912 and now)

The opening prophetic steps in Palestine were coming to pass in 1878 with the Berlin Congress of Nations. The first Jewish immigrants were returning to Israel because of the Russian pogroms in the early 1880s. The kingdom to come was beginning to affect the world. Optimistic missionary activities and post-Millennial expectations were fading in the face of bloody nineteenth century wars, social revolutions, and economic and political instabilities. The time for harvest had come and the call to come out of Babylon was renewed. The saints were to be gathered to be with the Lord in 1878, later by 1914, and then at an indefinite future point. Pastor Russell always maintained his belief and conviction that the kingdom of God must continue to be preached until the Lord said it was time to stop during the gathering troubles of earth.

Restitution for All

Realistic interpretations of Scripture concerning the state of the dead, the place of common sense beliefs, and a strong moral call for justice that all might receive salvation were crucial in the early Millennial Dawn movement. The age to come was accompanied by a unique concept, known as the permission of evil, which was illustrated by charts. Restitution was to be for all who have ever lived. Christ had an object to his return beyond the confines of ­orthodox theology. Distinguishing the work of the Christian age from the Millennial age was pivotal in rightly dividing a host of Scriptures. The tabernacle was brought to a valued place in God’s plan illustrating salvation.

The environment of exploration and exchange between various leaders, journals, and local groups began to fade. Adventist remnants, Christadelphians, Conditionalists, and Universalists built walls to stifle their controversies. Sadly many of these separated sincere Christians into specialized, often mutually antagonistic, groups.

Heirs of William Miller

Looking at the Miller movement after 1844 suggests that the true heirs of that movement are Bible Students, founded by Pastor Charles Taze Russell and his associates. One of the few leaders of the original movement to retain and build on the original advent faith was George Storrs. He anticipated (founded) central points of Bible Student thinking. Most of the other Adventist leaders mentioned earlier had no part of the innovations introduced by Hiram Edson’s visions which were promulgated by James and Ellen White in the late 1840s founding the Seventh Day Adventists.

The advent doctrine was augmented by explaining the manner and object of Christ’s return in new terms. It extended the horizons of that imminent, but somehow remote, second coming. Bible Students determined a progressive series of events which fit into a prolonged invisible parousia, or presence. The real innovation was for devoted Christians to live on a continuing basis at the threshold of the millennium. Hope and watchfulness were awakened in those who heard the spirit speaking to the churches. The “bride” was making herself ready (Revelation 19:7,8).


See Redeemer Nation , E. L. Tuveson [1968]; When Time Shall Be No More, Paul Boyer [1992]; and The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vols. 3 and 4 [1946,1954].

Background of Bible Student Beliefs

Heroes of Our Faith

The happy era must come when the sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty shall rise in the majesty of truth, and, with holy indignation, burst the debasing shackles of human dogmas and traditions, which have so long fettered the noble mind, and walk in the holy liberty wherewith the Son of God makes his disciples free.—Henry Grew (1832)

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is THE WORD which ye have heard from the beginning.—1 John 2:7, ASV

Jeff Mezera

After the apostles died, there arose a weakness of Scriptural precept and precedent for church order. Soon thereafter human interference in the order of the church of God carried the once spiritual church onto the stepping stones into mystical Babylon. The Sanctuary of God was polluted.

In this spiritual Babylon were many years of superstition, human-based philosophy, and dogma based upon the traditions of men. It was a crime punishable by death not only to have a copy of the Scriptures, but especially to have it translated into one’s own language. It was in these centuries that the light from the word of God grew dim.

All of this was foretold in Scripture. Although such a lack of faith is disturbing, there have been faithful saints throughout the centuries who have stood the test, strong in faith, strong in doctrine, and strong in practice.

When the French Revolution came upon the world, Charles Dickens called the era “the best of times and the worst of times.” It was the beginning of the time of the end for the papal system.

“Napoleon’s work, together with the French Revolution, broke the spell of religious ­superstition, humbled the pride of self-exalted religious lords, awakened the world … and broke the Papal dominion against which the religious Reformation had previously struck a death-blow … this … also clearly mark[ed] the beginning of a new era of liberty of thought, and the realization of individual rights and privileges  … notice the rise and work of the various Bible Societies … the sacred volume which once she confined in chains, kept covered in dead languages, and forbade her deluded subjects to read, is now scattered by the million in every nation and language.”—Thy Kingdom Come, p. 50.

After the American and French Revolutions, life continued as it had for centuries in the past. It was still very much an agricultural society, but there was a new enlightenment in the thinking of everyone. As a result of this change in thinking, people began to free themselves from the chains of oppression, and superstitions that had prevailed so long over science, philosophy, and religious thought.

It was in the breaking of these chains in America in the early nineteenth century that a new spirit of liberty entered into the Christian Church.

The Christian Connexion

A different denomination sprang up in the United States at the dawn of the nineteenth century. It was referred to as the “Christian Connexion.” These “Christians” as they preferred to be called, had been dissatisfied with the creeds of the churches and were determined to return to the simple faith of the apostles and the Scriptures.

They assembled wherever they could, and because of their dissatisfaction with the traditions of men, they threw out the former creeds they had believed. They determined that the only way to find the true doctrine of the Scriptures was to study the Scriptures alone.

They wrote that “the name Christian is the only name of distinction which we take, and by which we, as a denomination, desire to be known, and the Bible our only rule of faith and practice” (McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia).

The “Christians” believed that each congregation should be independent; they took the Bible as their only standard of doctrine. They believed that:

  1. The Scriptures are inspired and are of divine authority.
  2. Every one has a right to interpret the ­Bible for himself, and therefore differences of theological views are no bar to Church fellowship.
  3. There is one God; the doctrine of the Trinity was not generally received.
  4. Christ is a divine being, existed as a spirit being before coming at his first advent, and is the mediator between God and mankind.
  5. Christ’s death atones for the sins of all who, by repentance and faith, may be saved.
  6. Immersion is the only proper form of baptism, and believers the only proper subjects (rejecting infant baptism).
  7. Communion at the Lord’s table is open to believers of all denominations.

Through simple faith and study of the Scriptures alone as the only basis of doctrine, “Christians” at this time had corrected several errors of the dark ages. One of these was the doctrine that all who would not accept Jesus would burn in hell for eternity.

One of the associates of this “Christian Connexion” was Henry Grew 1781-1862. He was born in Birmingham, England, in 1781 and came to the United States at the age of fourteen with his Congregationalist family.

His father was a merchant and although he wanted his son to pursue a similar career, he allowed him to choose the ministry instead.

While he was studying for the ministry, he was led to an understanding that the Scriptures teach baptism by immersion. This prompted him to join the Baptist denomination. Soon ­afterward, in 1807, he was licensed to preach and became Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Hartford, Connecticut.

“He was an earnest and consecrated Bible student, and a marked revival developed early in his pastorate there, many converts being added to the church.”—Froom, Leroy, The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers.

After studying the question of the nature and destiny of man from the Bible alone, Grew came to the conclusion that the true Bible hell was the grave.

He served as pastor of the Baptist Church in Hartford, Connecticut, for fourteen years; it was dissolved because of his adoption of views the Baptists deemed heretical. His piety was never questioned though, and a portion of the church that sympathized with his views went with him.

 

“In my researches after truth some years ago, my faith in the common doctrine of the Trinity was shaken. Deeply impressed with a sense of the importance of obtaining, so far as is revealed, a correct knowledge of ‘the only true God,’ and of Jesus Christ whom he hath sent; I have humbly endeavored to ‘search the Scriptures,’ look­ing unto Jesus for the guidance of his holy spirit which he promised his disciples to lead them into all truth.”—Henry Grew, The Examination of the Son of God (1824).

George Storrs 1796-1879-wrote:

“The penalty of the divine law is literal death, or cessation of conscious being … if the impenitent and unbelieving are raised to life at all, it must be a mortal and not an immortal life. … Numerous divine testimonies … teach a universal judgment both of a ­judicial and executive character: passages which declare facts relative to the judgment of the wicked, which necessarily imply life and its functions, … many who will be made alive by ‘a resurrection [to] condemnation,’ will be still mortal and ­liable to a second death. … The sacred Scriptures distinctly teach that some will be made alive by a resurrection, in a ‘mortal’ state.”—George Storrs, Bible Examiner, February, 1856.

“It is indeed true that ruling also is included in Christ’s judging the world, yet it will be perfected by reward and punishment.”—George Storrs, Bible Examiner, December, 1855.

Grew began to write more booklets and tracts advocating his new views and in the early 1840s many of the members of the “Christian Connexion” found themselves advocating these same views.

They also found themselves accepting the views of another Baptist, William Miller, who believed that the Lord was soon to come.

 

One of these Millerites named George Storrs found one of Henry Grew’s tracts on the floor of a train. He was so intrigued by what he read that for the next three and a half years he researched the Scriptures himself, and decided that the Scriptures really taught that the true Bible hell was the grave. Though George Storrs no longer believed in hell fire, his views differed from that of Henry Grew in that he did not believe that the wicked would be resurrected. The two men debated this issue for ­decades until the death of Grew in 1862.

Because of his new convictions, Storrs started a new publication advocating his views. He called this magazine The Bible Examiner and it found its way into the hands of many of the Adventists.

While William Miller Feb. 15, 1872-1849 criticized the views of George Storrs on the condition of the dead, many of the Millerites accepted them. It is for this reason that most of the splinter groups of Miller’s followers, such as the Seventh Day Adventists and the Christian Adventists, do not believe in hell fire or the immortal soul; many do believe in the resurrection of the wicked.

One of the Millerites who accepted these views was Charles Fitch. Upon accepting Storrs’ view of the dead, Fitch did all he could to broaden the reach of this doctrine. It was only a few months after accepting this view that Fitch immersed some brethren in a lake in ­October. As a result, he contracted pneumonia and died.

In the early 1860s George Storrs and several others who accepted his views formed “The Life and Advent Union.” Storrs ceased publication of The Bible Examiner and he and the Union published these views in a weekly newspaper called The Herald of Life and the Coming Kingdom.

George Storrs was the editor-in-chief of this paper for almost a decade when he became ill and unable to continue. He was so ill for several months that he almost died. Unable to pay his doctor bills, several of his friends took up a collection and paid his bills for him.

It was during his sickness that he had time to think and reconsider several of his views. One was that of the resurrection of the wicked, the same doctrine he and

Henry Grew debated for years. When he returned to the editorialship of the paper, he changed his view to conform to that of Grew. Afterward he began to publish editorials on this subject in a series of articles he titled, “God’s Promise and Oath to Abra­ham.”  He wrote:

  1. God has promised, and confirmed it with an oath, that in Abraham and his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
  2. This promise and oath is to be understood in the literal sense of the words in which it is made.
  3. This promise and oath is not yet fulfilled in its fullness.
  4. Therefore, there is to be an age, or ‘ages to come,’ in which fulfillment will be perfectly accomplished.”—George Storrs, The Herald of Life and the Coming Kingdom, April 26, 1871.

The same friends who paid his bills soon removed George Storrs from his post as editor because of these views. For this reason he restarted his previous publication, The Bible ­Examiner. In the few years before his death he wrote:

“The next age of Messiah’s personal reign of one thousand years, will open with a ­resurrection of all the sleeping saints who have suffered with or for Christ in this or the previous ages: such ‘shall reign with him.’ … These having suffered with Christ, and overcome the seductions to abandon His cause, will ‘together be made perfect’ in body and mind … That there will be more than two classes of men on the earth at the opening of the next age, or at the second advent of Christ, to me is clear … there is yet a … class of men at the second advent of Christ, who ‘have not heard God’s fame, neither have seen his glory,’ etc. … This class constitute by far the largest part of the inhabitants of the earth … will be the subjects of trial under Messiah’s personal reign.”—George Storrs, Bible Examiner, January 1877.

Those who opposed him accused him of ­accepting the views of a Henry Dunn of England. Since Storrs did not know who this Henry Dunn was, he began to search for his writings. He was surprised to find that Dunn had come to these same conclusions a few years earlier and had been advocating them in England at the same time Storrs was spreading these ideas in America. Dunn wrote:

“The heathen, regarded as tributary to Israel, they believed would also live again, in accordance with the promises of restoration they had received; but it was to be only as the subjects of the chosen race, who as kings in the kingdom of God were to rule over them.”—The Kingdom of God, p. 11.

“What he [the Jew] looked for and anticipated was … distinction, high service, rule over the nations, the possession of a boundless kingdom, in which every Israelite should be a kingly priest. So he read the word of the Lord to Moses on the mount, ‘Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests.’ (Exodus 14:6) All other nations were, he supposed, to be governed and taught by Israel. This privilege, with all that it involved, he believed would be his simply as a child of Abraham. For the Messiah that was to introduce this kingdom he watched and waited with an unwavering faith from infancy to old age.”—The Kingdom of God, p. 15.

“They did not even contemplate anything like a ‘new testament,’ the result of their national perversity, and of the calling of the Gentiles. … Ezekiel had distinctly told them that when Jehovah should gather Israel, he would put a new spirit within them; would ‘take the stony heart out of their flesh, and would give them a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 11:19). Jeremiah, in almost the same words, had similarly characterized the day of restoration (Jeremiah 31:33). Isaiah had said that then all their children should be taught of God (Isaiah 54:13); and Micah had enforced the same truth in connection with the period when the nations should come and go up to the house of the God of Jacob (Micah 4:2).” —The Kingdom of God, p. 20.

Another of the Millerite splinter groups was called “The Second Advent Movement.” These Second Adventists also accepted the early views of George Storrs on the condition of the dead, but their main focus was the second advent of the Lord. They had set several dates, and had many disappointments.

Jonas Wendall 1815-1873 A Second Adventist preacher was preaching the soon coming of the Lord in a book titled Present Truth in 1870. In this book he projected the date of 1873 as the second coming of the Lord.

It was through his preaching that he rekindled the faith of a man “almost by accident.” This man stumbled into a dirty, dingy hall one day when Jonas Wendell was preaching and was so intrigued by his views that his faith in the Bible was restored.

 

That man was…

 Pastor Charles Taze Russell

The parents of Pastor Russell were Presby­terians. His mother was very strict and tried to explain to him that she was exacting with him because she did not want him to go to hell. This impressed the mind of her young son enough that a few years after the death of his mother he (at age 16) wrote warn­ings on the sidewalk urging others to repent or they would go to hell.

Though it was the doctrine of hell that kept his interest in his early years, the young Charles Russell soon lost all interest and faith in the Scriptures as the inspired word of God. He then began a search of several world religions, trying to find something that would give him peace. It was the preaching of Jonas Wen­dell that reignited his love for the Lord.

Nelson Barbour 1824-1905

One of Wendell’s associates, Nelson Barbour, had also set 1873 as the date for the coming of the Lord. In 1871 he published the book Evidences for the Coming of the Lord in 1873 or The Midnight Cry on why he believed the Lord would come then and gave several reasons from different time prophecies and chronology that he believed proved this doctrine.

Nelson Barbour had been a Millerite and was disappointed along with all of the other Adventists in 1843, disappointed enough that he had lost his religion. He wrote that in that portion of his life he dwelt in total darkness.

While on a boat trip from Australia to London he had been discussing the time prophecies with an English chaplain. The chaplain proposed that they systematically study each of the prophecies to fill the time of a long trip. When they came to Daniel 12 Barbour noticed something that he had never seen before in the verse about the “abomination that maketh desolate.” He had read the prophecy several times but never thought about why the Millerites began the prophecy thirty years before the abomination was set up. Barbour deduced that this must have been the mistake and upon recalculating this time prophecy he decided that the days ended not in 1843, but in 1872.

Nelson Barbour went to the British Museum library when he arrived in London and found a book which had a chronology ending the six thousand years from Adam in 1873.

The book was titled Horae Apocalypticae (Hours with the Apocalypse) and was written by Edward Bishop Elliott.

This chronological list is found in the book under a long footnote, where Elliott wrote that “this Scripture Chronology, with the Scriptural authorities in brief” was “drawn up by the Rev. C. Bowen.”—Horae Apocalypticae, 1851, p. 236.

By writing “this Scripture Chronology” in the footnote, Elliott was referencing another Chronology written in the 1820s by a Henry Fynes Clinton.

Elliott wrote, “Mr. Fynes Clinton, in his Essay on the Hebrew Chronology has greatly elucidated the subject” stating that the “only real appeal is to Scripture” as to “what the world’s present age, dated from Adam’s ­creation, and when is the termination of its sixth millenary.”—Horae Apocalypticae, 1851, p. 230.

Though Clinton ended the six thousand years in 1862, Elliott used Clinton’s chronology as the basis for his own work in which he ended the six thousand years in October of 1872.

Even with this chronological evidence pointing to the time of the coming of the Lord, Nelson Barbour and his associates were disappointed that the Lord did not come in 1873 as they expected. After some recalculation the new date of 1874 was advanced, and again they were met with disappointment by not seeing Jesus coming in the clouds as they waited for him in expectation. Barbour recalculated and reevaluated his ideas several times and was unable to find any place where he could make further adjustments.

He was about to give up thinking that the Bible could supply an answer when correspondence from one of the readers of his magazine arrived. B. W. Keith wrote that he had been studying the Scriptures about the return of the Lord and had decided that they were looking for the wrong event to prove the presence of the Lord. Through their studies on this subject they discovered that the Lord had indeed returned in 1874, but invisibly; it was this discovery that gave them hope and encouragement once more. It was also B. W. Keith who published early ideas of the “sin offering” doctrine in Barbour’s magazine. He wrote:

“As suffering with Christ, must mean to suffer for the same purpose, it is necessary to know why he suffered. If he is the head and the church is his body, and the body is to ‘fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ,’ would not the plan be a failure without the suffering of the body? … if reigning with him, and being glorified together, means to share with him, in reigning and glory; then suffering with him, means to share in the sufferings. … If we shall be faithful to him who hath called us; if we hold fast, firm unto the end, we shall be made like him, ‘a royal priesthood’; and having been tried in all points, we shall be able to sympathize with, and deliver those who shall be tempted in the future dispensation.”—B. W. Keith, “Suffering With Christ,” Herald of the Morning, October 1878.

Nelson Barbour and his associates continued their studies and uncovered further understandings similar to this as well as more on time prophecy. It was through these studies that they formed their views on the parallels, doubles, ­Jubilees, the 1,260, 1,290, and 1,335 days, as well as the Gentile Times prophecy ending in 1914. It was early in 1876 that Pastor Russell ­received Nelson Barbour’s paper which was called The Herald of the Morning.

Concerning this magazine, Pastor Russell wrote that he “learned from its contents that the editor was beginning to get his eyes open on the subjects that for some years had so greatly rejoiced our hearts … that the object of our Lord’s return is not to destroy, but to bless all the families of the earth” (Reprints, p. 3822).

He was so excited about seeing there were others who believed like he did that he “paid Mr. Barbour’s expenses to come to see me at Philadelphia (where I had business engagements during the summer of 1876), to show me fully and Scripturally, if he could, that the prophecies indicated 1874 as the date at which the Lord’s presence and the “harvest” began. He came, and the evidences satisfied me.” (Reprints, p. 3822).

After this meeting ­Pastor Russell started his ministry and encouraged the true Church of God to come out of Babylon.

All of these things happened because this was the time for the cleansing of the sanctuary. The errors from the Papal dominion had defiled the church. But there was hope. It was not only prophesied that this would happen, it was also foretold that the sanctuary would be cleansed.

We not only have examples of the Ancient Worthies who were faithful to God, but we have the examples of many faithful Christians throughout the Gospel age: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:1-4).

We are part of this sanctuary class that is still here today. Let us trust in the Lord who protected and led all those who were his through the past ages, and who cleansed the sanctuary, the church, from the errors of the dark ages.

We should consider that since our offering to God has not yet cost us our lives, we must keep pressing on and striving against sin; we can keep spreading these beautiful truths that God has given to us, truths that we may take for granted, but truths that we should make a part of our daily lives.

“Are you willing to follow on to know the Lord through evil and through good report? Are you willing to forsake all, to follow as he may lead you by his Word?—to ignore the wishes of friends, as well as your own desires? It is hoped that [you] … may by it be so quickened to fresh zeal and fervency of spirit, through a clearer apprehension of the divine plan, that they will be able to say, By the grace of God, I will follow on to know and to serve the Lord, whatever may be the sacrifice involved. Like the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11), let such studiously set themselves to prove what has been presented in the foregoing pages. Prove it, not by the conflicting traditions and creeds of men, but by the only correct and divinely authorized standard—God’s own Word.”—Charles T. Russell, The Divine Plan of the Ages, ppg. 347-348.

Summary

Henry Grew

No “immortal soul.”   No “hell-fire.”
No trinity.
All men will be resurrected to judgment

George Storrs

“Two salvations”
Church’s part in the instructing of men in righteousness during the Millennium.

Henry Dunn

Restoration of both the nation of Israel and mankind.
Church will judge men and angels in Millennium.

E. B. Elliott

Six thousand years end in 1872 / modified chronology from Henry Fynes Clinton.
Elliott’s chronology drawn up and modified slightly by Rev. C. Bowen.
Jubilees end 1874; Gentile Times end 1914.

Nelson H. Barbour 1824-1905

Jewish and Gospel Age Parallels and Harvests, 1845 year doubles.
Published idea of invisible presence in 1874 in his magazine.
Views concerning the prophetic time periods taught by Pastor Russell originated with Barbour. (1,260, 1,290, 1,335, 2,300 day-for-year time prophecies).
The dates, 1798-99, 1828, 1846, 1872, 1874, 1878, 1881, 1914.
Taught six thousand years ending in 1872 from E. B. Elliott.

B. W. Keith

Introduced idea of invisible presence.
Early concepts of “Sin Offering.”

Pastor Charles Taze Russell
First to combine the ideas of time prophecy, chronology, and the purpose of the return of Christ to bless all mankind. Attributed his understandings to some of those listed above.

Ministry of Pastor Charles Taze Russell

A New Wine Bottle

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.—Matthew 9:17

Brian Kutscher

During the Reformation many Christians became convinced that the creeds of the Dark Ages contained errors. The great reformers and those that followed in their wake began restoring the truths as taught in the Bible.

Pastor Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) was no less a reformer than Martin Luther. Indeed his work went beyond that of Luther. Many Christians who were touched by his message claimed that he was the special messenger to the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22), though he himself was hesitant to accept such a claim.

Pastor Russell made no claims to special revelation from God. His only claim was that it was God’s due time for the Bible to be better understood. Because he was fully consecrated to God and ready, able, and willing to serve God, he was permitted to have an understanding of that plan and the privilege of transmitting it to others. He wanted merely to communicate the beauty of God’s plan to other Christians.

Old Truths Revived

Rather than search out new truths, Pastor Russell revived the great truths taught by the apostles, which had been previously spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets (Acts 3:21). He consecrated his life to the Lord at an early age and became a member of the Congregational Church as well as the Y.M.C.A. Unable to accept eternal torture and related creedal concepts, he temporarily fell prey to the logic of infidelity and turned his energies into the commercial world, managing his father’s haberdashery business.

In 1869 Pastor Russell came into contact with Adventism in what he described as “a dusty, dingy hall where I had heard religious services were held.” He stopped by “to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches.”

Faith Rekindled

Jonas Wendell was the preacher of the day, and, while attracted to his thoughts on the second advent, Pastor Russell did not believe that the Lord was coming to burn up the world. He reasoned that “if  Christ’s coming was to end probation and bring irrevocable ruin upon ninety-nine of a hundred of mankind, then it could scarcely be considered desirable, neither could we pray with proper spirit, Come, Lord Jesus, Come quickly.” As a result he joined in organizing a Bible study class in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

This introduction to Adventism at the mouth of Wendell was sufficient to convince him that the words of the apostles and the prophets were “indissolubly linked.” It sent him back to his Bible with increased zeal and care. This study showed him that “great masses of Scripture spoke glad things of millennial glory and how blessings would come out of it.” His conclusion was that thus “though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the truth.”

The Love of God

From 1870 to 1875 the Allegheny Bible study class “came to see something of the love of God, how it had made provision for all mankind and how all must be awakened from the tomb in order that God’s loving plan might be testified to them … as a result of Christ’s redemptive work.” Then the willing and obedient of mankind might be “brought back into harmony with God. This we saw to be the restitution work of Acts 3:21.”

During the year 1872 his contacts with George Storrs and George Stetson, former co-workers of William Miller, led him to fully appreciate the Lord’s ransom work. This supplied the necessary basis for the doctrine of restitution. By 1873 it was clear to him and his group that restitution was for all in Adam, not just those of sufficient age and mental capacity as he had previously thought. At the same time, they understood the subject of natures being separate and distinct.

The Object and Manner  of Our Lord’s Return

The failed expectation of the Adventists that the world would be burned up in 1873-1874 led Pastor Russell in 1877 to write his first pamphlet, The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return.

After seven years of study, before attending a display for his father’s business at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, his attention was drawn to a magazine entitled The Herald of the Morning published by N. H. Barbour. Arranging to meet Nelson Barbour in Philadelphia, Pastor Russell saw merit in Barbour’s interpretation of chronology.

Linking this chronology with the previously published thoughts on the object and manner of the Lord’s return, Pastor Russell and Nelson Barbour concluded that the Millennium had begun and that it would be a time of blessing for all mankind. The two entered into a publishing arrangement with Nelson Barbour handling the lion’s share of the printing and editing, and Pastor Russell providing the funding, contributing articles, and serving as a traveling lecturer to promote their newfound beliefs. Although it was a worthy paper, The Herald of the Morning was not reaching the masses so means were sought to increase its circulation.

A Meeting of Ministers

By 1877 Pastor Russell had become an influential businessman, having been a partner in his father’s firm from the age of eleven. He had gained the respect of the business community and was apparently well known also by the ministers of Pittsburgh. In 1877 he called a meeting of all the ministers of the Pittsburgh and Allegheny area to explain what light the Lord had revealed to their Bible study group.

He wanted to spread these truths, letting the established churches carry the message to all the people as had been done a half century ­earlier by William Miller. He reasoned that if he could convince the ministers that there had been a digression from the Bible’s teachings in the past and that now the Bible could be more clearly understood, these ministers could use their influence to convince their colleagues nationwide and worldwide, spreading the message through their pulpits to the people. It was a remarkable meeting. About a third of the invited ministers attended, but none agreed with the concepts he presented.

He presented the scriptural reasons for believing that the Lord had returned and was in the process of establishing his kingdom, to bless and uplift the world of mankind, through restitution processes which were already underway. Among the first of these blessings was the ­revealing of truths respecting the time period man was entering, the seventh millennium. But these truths held certain problems for the ministers. The teaching of future probation for the masses of humanity did not square with their understanding of the immortal soul and the fear of eternal torture in hell. Future probation would remove this powerful rule by fear. The restitution concept of the Lord’s return could mark them as liars in the eyes of their parishioners on these other subjects. It also challenged their view about judgment, for they anticipated a judgment day of twenty-four hours, not a thousand years.

Because Pastor Russell was not a trinitarian, he was shut out from further consideration. The Evangelical Alliance of 1846 identified the Trinity as an “essential” doctrine for membership. From the very beginning the Trinity was not taught in either the Watch Tower or Barbour’s Herald of the Morning. The ministers were suggesting that he keep his mind on sales figures and other business work and leave the Bible and religion to them.

Whatever their reasons, the ministers rejected the message presented that night in Allegheny. Pastor Russell reasoned that this was not the way the Lord wanted the work to go forth. He concluded that the Lord did not want the new wine of Bible truth served in the old wineskins of ecclesiasticism. There had to be another way of getting the truth to the listening ears of the saints in the churches.

Controversies

Pastor Russell decided to give up his earthly business interests and dedicated himself whole­heartedly to the work of ministering to the saints. During the second half of 1878 and the first half of 1879 he became more active in writing for The Herald of the Morning.

A controversy soon sprang up concerning the change to heavenly glory of the saints. Pastor Russell and Nelson Barbour agreed that the resurrection of the dead saints was due to occur in 1878 but disagreed as to whether to expect a rapture of the saints living at that time. Pastor Russell presented the thought that the dead (or sleeping) saints would be raised in 1878 and that the living ones would be changed instantaneously as they died, no longer sleeping in death.

Difficulties arose in the working relationship of these two as Nelson Barbour began inserting his “corrections” as editorial comments in Pastor Russell’s articles. As co-editor Pastor Russell felt he had a right to have his comments free of insertions from Barbour, all the more so since he was paying the bills and even offering free two-month magazine subscriptions to all interested. The breaking point came when Pastor Russell ­became convinced Nelson Barbour was denying the efficacy of Jesus’ blood, thus invalidating the concept of Christ’s ransom sacrifice.

And so it was in the early part of 1879 that Pastor Charles Taze Russell withdrew his financial and editorial support from The Herald of the Morning and formed The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, publishing, as its journal, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

1916-1918

Troubled Years

James Parkinson

As 1916 began, Christ’s Ransom and the Restitution hope for mankind were ..being preached far and wide. About eight million volumes of Studies in the Scriptures had already been circulated worldwide, colporteurs were distributing them on every continent, and Pastor Russell’s sermons were published weekly in over a thousand newspapers. But foreign work was being impeded by the war in Europe. Pastor Russell made no overseas trip in 1916. He was slightly ill as he began his last railroad trip, destination Los Angeles. His discourse there was delivered with a weak voice, and in a chair, rather than with his usual ambulatory presentation. Afterward Joe Brown drove him and Menta Sturgeon to the railroad station for the return trip. On October 31 on the train near Pampa, Texas, the pastor died. The body was removed from the train in Waynoka, Oklahoma. A Presbyterian minister offered his home for the viewing of the body, although it was taken to the lone mortuary in town. Helen Noah (later Williams, then Swanson) and her carload from Alva were the first on the scene a few hours later.

Menta Sturgeon wired his wife that Pastor Russell had died. A. H. MacMillan intercepted the telegram at the Brooklyn Bethel home and wired J. F. Rutherford, then at a convention in Oakland, Maryland, “The old man is dead.1 Rutherford came immediately to Brooklyn and took over.

Pastor Russell’s will had designated a five-member Editorial Committee: Wm. E. Page, Wm. E. VanAmburgh, H. Clay Rockwell, E. W. Brenneisen, F. H. Robison. Then, “The names of the five whom I suggest as possibly amongst the most suitable from which to fill vacancies in the Editorial Committee are as follows: A. E. Burgess, Robert Hirsh, Isaac Hoskins, Geo. H. Fisher (Scranton), J. F. Rutherford, Dr. John Edgar.” The declaration of “five” names, followed by six names, could possibly be because John Edgar (of Scotland) had died (although seemingly Ruther­ford’s name should have appeared after Edgar’s if that were an added codicil), or because as keeper of the will, he had added his own name. (It is said that Rutherford denied all requests to see the will.) Rutherford added himself to the Editorial Committee.

At the next Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society annual meeting on January 6, 1917, Rutherford insisted that some new by-laws needed to be passed to continue Watch Tower operations, though he did not allow the new by-laws to be read to the elders meeting or the membership meeting. Among the by-laws were provisions that votes for officers of the Watch Tower board would be counted only for those nominated, and that election as president of the Peoples Pulpit subsidiary would be for a life term.2 At the annual meeting A. H. MacMillan was chairman; for election as president he recognized only those who would nominate or second for J. F. Ruther­ford, and then those who moved and seconded that all votes be cast for him. Rutherford’s assertion in the January 15, 1917, Watch Tower that “There being no further nominations … Brother Rutherford was declared the unanimous choice of the convention as President of the Society for the coming year,” hardly seems to epitomize the matter.

Pastor Russell’s last will and testament left “all my voting shares … in the hands of five Trustees, as follows: Sr. E. Louise Hamilton, Sr. Almeta M. Nation Robison, Sr. J. G. Herr, Sr. C. Tomlins, Sr. Alice G. James. J. F. Rutherford convinced these five that it was contrary to law for them to vote those shares (which constituted a majority of all shares). It is unclear whether Rutherford then proceeded in the name of the Watch Tower to vote those shares himself, as he did in subsequent elec­tions.

Rutherford’s efforts to establish control met increasing resistance from the majority of the board. On July 17, 1917, Rutherford claimed the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society charter provided for the election of directors annually, so only the three officers of the board (elected January 6) were truly members of the board; and so he appointed A. H. MacMillan, G. H. Fisher, J. A. Bohnet, and W. E. Spill to replace Ritchie, Wright, Hoskins, and Hirsh.3 The board majority, joined by F. H. McGee, countered that officers of the board cannot be elected unless they are first members of the board; therefore there are either seven members or no members. Both sides purchased legal opinions to support their claims. The ousted members decided not to institute legal proceedings, per 1 Corinthians 6:6,7.

A series of publications were issued from various sides, including:

w    Light After Darkness (summer; by the ousted board members)

w    Harvest Siftings No. 2 (October 1917; by Rutherford)

w    Harvest Siftings Reviewed (P. S. L. Johnson)

w    Facts for Shareholders (November; by the ousted board members)

The Watch Tower proxies for the January 5, 1918, annual meeting were solicited with Power of Attorney (granting the proxy holder the right to override the designated vote). About 13% of the votes recorded were for M. Sturgeon, A. I. Ritchie, H. C. Rockwell, I. F. Hoskins, R. H. Hirsh, J. D. Wright, and W. J. Hollister.4 The convention then voted to ask R. H. Hirsh to resign from the Editorial Committee.

Thereupon several withdrew to a hastily-convoked mini-convention at the Fort Pitt Hotel. A Committee of Seven was elected to carry on work outside the Watch Tower and IBSA (International Bible Students Association, as a voluntary association, not the British corporation of the same name). The first convention scheduled outside the IBSA was held July 26-29, 1918, at Asbury Park, New Jersey. Two or three hundred attended the Providence, Rhode Island, convention November 8-10, where it was resolved to form the Pastoral Bible Institute (PBI): The first board of directors consisted of J. D. Wright, chairman; Ingram I. Margeson, vice-chairman; I. F. Hoskins, secretary; P. L. Greiner, treasurer; H. C. Rock­well; F. H. McGee; and E. J.  Pritchard. (The Committee of Seven was dissolved.) The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom commenced publication in December under an editorial committee of I. F. Hoskins; R. E. Streeter of Providence, Rhode Island; I. I. Margeson of Westwood, Mas­sachusetts; H. C. Rockwell; and Dr. S. N. Wiley of Philadelphia. PBI offices were in Brooklyn.

When P. S. L. Johnson, Raymond Grant Jolly, and Robert Hirsh were not re-elected to the Committee of Seven, they, with most of the Philadelphia church, severed association with the Committee. They then organized the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement (LHMM) and began publishing the Present Truth and Herald of Christ’s Epiphany in 1919. The Bible Standard began publishing in 1920 for public witness work. The LHMM calls Pastor Russell the Parousia Messenger, and P. S. L. Johnson the Epiphany Messenger.

When the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures was published in July, 1917, suggesting that the Gospel age harvest period was to end in the Spring of 1918, the IBSA  classes in the Pacific Northwest backed it completely. But C. E. Heard, of Vancouver, and many others, felt Rutherford’s recommendation in the spring of 1918 to buy war bonds was cowardice, and sacrilegiously perpetuating harvest work. The Stand Fast Bible Students Association was organized in December 1, 1918, at Portland. It published the monthly Old Corn Gems (Joshua 5:11,12) and organized many conventions in the northwest and in some midwestern states. Perhaps 40% of the Watch Tower adherents in the Northwest left in favor of the Stand Fasts. Many (non-doctrinal) divisions followed a July 25-27, 1919, Seattle convention.

In 1922 John A. Hardeson and C. D. McCray organized the Elijah Voice Society for an ambitious regathering and witness work. They published the Elijah Voice Monthly, and became the most prominent seventh volume group, though they never quite regathered “Gideon’s 300.”

In 1923 Ian C. Edwards and C. E. Heard organized the Stand Fasts into the Star Construction Company in Victoria (although Heard was persuaded by his wife to stay in Vancouver). Fearing the prophesied time of trouble, Edwards in 1924 took the company of more than 300 to Sooke and the Gordon River on the southwest part of Vancouver Island. The business failed in 1927 so most packed up and went home.

From twelve hundred adherents in 1919 in the Northwest and near Wisconsin, these seventh volume movements have now dwindled to the vanishing point.

Overseas, Alexander Freytag started the largest movement to break with the IBSA, the Man’s Friends group (or Philanthropical Society). They numbered around 50,000 until the French and Swiss groups divided.

In Great Britain, Jesse Hemery was progressively centralizing power in himself5 but was opposed by Henry J. Shearn and Wm. Crawford. P. S. L. Johnson was sent by J. F. Rutherford to England, where he expelled Shearn and Crawford. Secession from Hemery and the Watch Tower Society progressed rapidly after World War I ended. The Bible Students Committee was constituted on April 5, 1919,  in London to coordinate publishing, pilgrim service, etc., outside the IBSA. Its seven initial members were H. J. Shearn, W.  Crawford, and Frank B. Edgell of London (west side); Fred G. Guard, Sr. and Alex Guy of Forest Gate (London east side), William Seager of Ipswich; and George B. Tharratt of Bishops Stortford. (The Committee was dissolved in 1945.) Edgell began publishing Fellowship in 1923. Shearn began publishing the B.S.C. Monthly (then Bible Students Monthly until 1951, now Bible Study Month­ly) in 1924. Crawford commenced The Old Paths in 1925 (continuing to 1961).

In Australia, R. E. B. Nicholson rejected the seventh volume. In 1918 he formed the Berean Bible Institute in Melbourne and began publishing Peoples Paper, which continues today.

In India, S. P. Devasahayam (“Davey”), from near Nagercoil, had begun the work in 1912 including the translation of Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 1, into Tamil and then Malaya­lam. After Pastor Russell’s death, contact with the Watch Tower was lost for many years, but contact with the Pastoral Bible Institute was quickly established.6 Davey appointed V. Devasandosham to succeed him circa 1920. It was Devasandosham who organized the Associated Bible Students (later, India Bible Students Association) and centered the work in Madras.

In Germany and Switzerland, Samuel Lau­per published Herold des Königreiches Christi, which was the German Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. He also published a German translation of R. E. Streeter’s two Revelation volumes.

Polish activity outside the Society began with the journals Strasz [Watchman] in 1923, edited by R. H. Oleszynski, and Bzask Nowej Ery [Dawn of a New Era] in 1930. Oleszyn­ski also translated the six volumes and Tabernacle Shadows into Polish.

Probably a few thousand left the IBSA in the U. S. and Canada at this time, and many thousand did so overseas. Of the several groups, all continued to stress Ransom and Restitution. While the Stand Fasts, Elijah Voice Society, P. S. L. Johnson, and A. Frey­tag all believed the door to the high calling was now closed and that the hope of newcomers would be Restitution on Earth, Johnson rejected “The Finished Mystery” as the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures, and was not associated with the other two groups. Freytag’s claims to direct divine revelation were a concern to those outside his group.

The Pastoral Bible Institute, Bible Students Committee [England], and similar committees on the European continent (also in India), and the Berean Bible Institute [Australia], all stressed that the high [heavenly] calling remained open, though the called, chosen, and faithful were getting fewer. The Second Presence of Christ to accomplish the return of Israel and bring to an end the present evil world was also prominently featured. It seems a majority of those with the heavenly hope eventually left the IBSA though not all for the same reason.

In the 1920s F. H. Robison contacted Adolph Ernst Knoch of the Concordant Publishing Concern, then in Los Angeles, and was converted to universal reconciliation. He soon persuaded Menta Sturgeon, O. L. Sullivan, Walter H. Bundy, W. T. Hooper, and most of the ex-IBSA Bible Students in Finland and Sweden to go with him.

None of Pastor Russell’s nieces and nephews stayed with Rutherford: Alice Land Williamson was sister-in-law to A. Ed. Williamson, a leader in the 1909 New Covenant movement; Ada Land White, in Kansas, followed P. S. L. Johnson; May F. (“Thelma”) Land Kendall, in Florida; Joseph Russell Land, in Atascadero, California, associated with the Dawn.

Prominent Personnel

Many who had been with Pastor Russell were well known to Bible Students around the U.S. and Canada, and some overseas as well. All were well versed in Scripture.

Alfred Ritchie (1871-1946): Watch Tower Vice-President, was the principal ­administrator of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society including its main office and publishing plant. Originally from Nova Scotia, Ritchie was a capable administrator though not gifted as a leader.

Alex Hugh MacMillan (born 1877): The greatest orator the IBSA had. Widely known for his September 1914 discourse, “I am Ready to be Offered,” in which he said, “This is positively my last public address on this side of the veil” [i.e., in this life]. But Pastor Russell then persuaded him to speak at the New York Temple the following Sunday. (MacMillan did not get along well with A. I. Ritchie and several others at the Bethel home.) He apparently was given charge of the Brooklyn Bethel, home for the Watch Tower workers, in 1916.

William E. VanAmburgh (died 1947, age 83): Secretary/Treasurer of the Watch Tower. Originally from South Dakota and a man of financial integrity. Had some gift for writing, including poetry.

Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1861-1942): Came from a large Calvinist family; formerly a small-town lawyer in Missouri; at least once appointed to serve as judge in a case; politically active in Democratic politics. Custodian of Pastor Russell’s last will and testament. Apparently dismissed from Bethel in early 1915, lived in Monrovia near Los Angeles and worked as a lawyer for a department store in Los Angeles. Forceful in disposition and persuasive. Debated Rev. John H. Troy at First Baptist Church in Glendale, California, April 21-24, 1915.

Clayton Woodworth (died 1951, age 81): A bright idea-man, living in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1907 he had assembled a Bible commentary from Watch Tower publications, called the Berean Comments.

James Dennis Wright (died 1920):­Elderly, of gentle manner. The senior member of the Watch Tower board of directors.

Isaac F. Hoskins (died 1957): An able journalist with a sharp tongue for those who differed with him. One of many Hoskins brothers and sisters in the IBSA. Was a Watch Tower director.

Paul Samuel Leo (formerly Levitsky) Johnson (1873-1950): A converted Jew, then Lutheran pastor, and then one of Pastor Russell’s personal secretaries. A brilliant man, delved heavily into Bible types; had suffered a nervous breakdown (“brain fag”) in 1910. A strong leader, though controversial.

Robert H. Hirsh (died 1949): An able journalist.

Fredrik Homer Robison (1885-1932): Formerly Disciples of Christ, later a personal secretary to Pastor Russell. Perhaps the most scholarly in the Watch Tower office.

Menta Sturgeon (died 1935): An able speaker. Older than most of the others. Was Pastor Russell’s personal attendant on his final train trip to and from Los Angeles.

John G. Kuehn: Had a large Ohio family, all in the IBSA. Managed the extensive Watch Tower pilgrim work.

Henry Clay Rockwell (died 1950): Was on the Editorial Committee, but a relatively new member of the Watch Tower board of directors.

Francis H. McGee: A lawyer in Freehold, New Jersey. Assistant to the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey.

Charles E. Heard: A Watch Tower pilgrim from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

George H. Fisher (died 1926): Another from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Active also in the German Watch Tower. In 1926 he urged the German classes to disfellowship J. F. Rutherford.

R. Hipolit Oleszynski (1857-1930): Polish immigrant to Chicago. Active in Watch Tower work in the U.S.A. beginning 1891, and intermittently in Poland beginning 1894.

Jesse Hemery (born circa 1863, died 1963): Manager of the IBSA (the British subsidiary corporation of the Watch Tower) in London, England.

Henry J. Shearn (died 1946): Secretary of the IBSA in London.

William Crawford (died 1957): From Scotland. Treasurer of the IBSA in London.

R. E. B. Nicholson (died 1955): Former colporteur. Manager of the Australian branch of the Watch Tower beginning 1909.

Alexander Freytag (1870-1947): Manager of the Watch Tower office in Switzerland. Capable in the French language, as well as German and English.

______________________________________

[1] It remains to determine to what extent J.F. Rutherford’s conduct there had motivated this trip.

[2] It is perhaps possible the wording was a coded message, rather than simply disrespectful.

[3] J.F. Rutherford was the only one seeking that office. (The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was a Pennsylvania corporation; the Peoples Pulpit Association was a New York subsidiary, incorporated to do business in that state when Watch Tower offices were moved to Brooklyn, N.Y.)

[4] The simultaneous release of “The Finished Mystery,” advertised as the 7th volume of Studies in the Scriptures, appears to have been irrelevant to the arguing that followed this move.

[5] If the shares C.T. Russell had contributed to the Watch Tower were excluded, this percentage might have been closer to 16%. Had Power of Attorney not been exercised, it is unknown how much higher it would be.

[6] Hemery later published Futurist interpretations of Revelation, but he could not be forced out of the London Bethel home on account of a lifetime contract with the I.B.S.A.

[7] A letter from S.P. Davey of S. Travencore appears already in the Herald of 1918 Dec. 15.

[8] MacMillan’s version, “This is probably…,” is less positive than others remembered it.

1917-PresentRecent Bible Student HistoryRolando RodriguezHistory teaches that after the death of a charismatic leader, chaos reigns. The events that took place after the death of Pastor Russell are no ­exception. After forty years of pastoral work, of editing, writing, and publishing The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, Studies in the Scriptures, countless booklets, tracts and special interest papers, plus organizing Bible study classes throughout the United States and abroad, it all came to an end—or so it seemed.

 Charles and Maria Russell Pastor Russell was more than just a charismatic leader. He was a pastor, an elder, a father figure to some, a big brother to others; he was a friend and mentor to many, young and old. His death changed all that. The Society and associations he left behind would continue on without his guidance and spiritual ­insight. In fact they would go in a new direction, on a different road, contrary to most of what he taught and believed.Somehow many of the brethren felt that Pastor Russell would remain with the church in the flesh as long as there was work to do; it was difficult to grasp the hard fact that now he was gone. His missionary efforts resulted in thousands accepting the harvest truth. Nearly a hundred thousand subscribed to The Watch Tower. Twelve hundred local Bible Student ecclesias elected him as their pastor. Some of these ecclesias numbered more than a thousand, many of them in the hundreds.

On October 31, 1916, on a train eastward bound through Texas, “Pastor Russell” passed away. The news of his death spread rapidly, and for a time those who knew and loved him for his work’s sake could think and speak of little else as they met one another, except that “Brother Russell is dead.”

What would the tens of thousands of Bible Students do? Would they stay faithful to the man or to the organization he left behind? Would their allegiance be to God and Truth? For some, separating the three was impossible, and rightly so. Pastor Russell was the organization and for others he spoke for God. Still others clamored, “Not the messenger but the message.”

But now he was dead! That he died while still active in the missionary field did not alter the fact that he no longer could be the pacesetter for the brethren who loved the truth they received through him and who would lay down their lives to give it to others. He was gone, and the brethren were stunned. What now?

Siftings, Schisms, and Separation

After the death of Pastor Russell, the Bible Student movement was in chaos. 1914 failed to bring about the glorification of the saints; many of the brethren were still somewhat at a loss. Some had even fallen away from the association in disappointment. But if this were not enough, a bitter power struggle occurred at Watch Tower headquarters over control of the Society.

In 1917 Joseph Franklin Rutherford succeeded Charles Taze Russell as Watch Tower president. He tried and succeeded in gaining complete control over the Society’s activities. The illegal introduction of new by-laws gave the President full control over the affairs of the Society. However, this was not Pastor Russell’s wish. In his last will and testament he had provided for a seven-man board of directors to succeed him. Four members of the Society’s Board of Directors, a majority of the Board, took strong exception to what they regarded as Rutherford’s high-handed behavior and opposed him. Eventually tension between Rutherford and the directors grew and on July 17, 1917, Ruther­ford simply announced to the Bethel family in Brooklyn, New York, during meal time that he had replaced the four directors with his own appointees, using the legal jargon that the directors who had opposed him did not hold their positions legally under Pennsylvania law.

 Joseph Franklin Rutherford The Society would later claim that the deposed directors’ opposition was to the publication of The Finished Mystery, a book released to the Bethel family immediately after Ruther­ford took charge, and that it caused a heated, five-hour debate that followed his announcement. That book was styled the seventh volume of Pastor Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures and advertised as his “posthumous work.” Ru­therford falsely claimed that the four directors and others with them were refusing to cooperate with the Society. Even today Jehovah’s Wit­nesses are told that the four directors who were expelled from the Watch Tower headquarters were wicked and self-serving.

As early as 1917 Bible Students  classes and individuals were withdrawing their support from the Society. The four directors formed an institute to continue the work of Pastor Russell independent of the Society. Others would form corporations of their own. Some Bible Students followed the lead of their favorite elder or teacher. Still others, leery of organization and societies, stayed independent of all others.

As the years went by, more and more of the brethren seeing a change of direction and attitude within the Society soon departed and thus the exodus started. By 1930 the majority of the brethren who worked closely with Pastor Russell had left the Society—many had been forced out. By this time, all of Pastor Russell’s writings were discarded in favor of the writings of Ruther­ford, writings that contradicted each other. By 1929 over a hundred changes in doctrines had been made; the Society no longer resembled that which was established by Pastor Russell and his early associates. The Society had a new look and a new attitude. No longer was it simply a publishing house for the dissemination of Bible literature. Now it was “God’s Theocratic Organization.” To disagree with it was tantamount to treason against God himself.

A New Name

In 1931 Rutherford decided to make a distinction between the independent Bible Students and those loyal to him. He changed their name to “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The Society had become what they themselves ­abhorred in Christendom—a little Babylon. Those Bible Students remaining within the Society heard the admonition, “Get out of her my people!” and fled.

Even today the Watchtower organization describes members of the Bible Student community of that day as “wearing unclean garments,” being “contaminated by apostasy,” being “guilty of wrong practices,” and having “displayed characteristics that were weed-like,” “manifested fear of man,” and having “sold themselves because of wrong practices.” Today, although many of the original Bible Students have died, their children carry on. Children and grandchildren born decades after the events of 1917, even newcomers, are shown no mercy from the Society. These are considered evil and apostate, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are to have nothing to do with them. The Society has even gone so far as to state that Bible Students no longer exist, that they have died out and none remain.

A House Divided

After the death of Pastor Russell it was clear that the work he started should be continued. But who would continue it and how? It was obvious that the Society had no intention of carrying out his wishes as set forth in his last will and testament. The four ousted directors, having failed to secure their position on the board, along with other prominent Bible Students as individuals, congregations, and publishing houses, decided to do the job.

On August 15, 1918, the four ousted members of the board, along with former pilgrim Paul Samuel Leo Johnson, considered publishing The Bible Standard and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. They would soon have a falling out, and Johnson would go on to found what is today the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement [one of the unincorporated names used by Pastor Russell and the early IBSA] and publish independently of all Bible Students, introducing a new dispensation of views and doctrines. In December, 1918, Johnson published The Present Truth and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom; in 1920 he published The Herald of the Epiphany [later renamed The Bible Standard and Herald of Christ’s Epiphany]. Johnson taught that since Pastor Russell was the Parousia Messenger during the Lord’s parousia, he must be the Epiphany Messenger during the Lord’s epiphany. Johnson was a prolific writer; he penned the fifteen-volume Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, two volumes of which were added after his death in 1950.

 P. S. L. Johnson As was the case after the death of Pastor Russell, a number of schisms occurred after the death of Johnson. Raymond Jolly, a former Watch Tower pilgrim, took the reigns. No sooner than he did, disagreements occurred between Jolly and John Hoefle of Mount Dora, Florida, and John Krewson of Fort Myers, Florida, both pilgrims for the Laymen’s. Hoefle, who left the Society in 1928 and joined Johnson, was eventually disfellow-shipped from the Laymen’s in 1956. He began publishing a newsletter under the banner of Epiphany Bible Students Association. John Hoefle died in the 1980s; his wife, Emily, continues the work.

John Krewson was disfellowshipped in 1955 and formed the Laodicean Home Missionary Movement in Philadelphia. He claimed that since Pastor Russell was the “Parousia Messenger” and Johnson the “Epiphany Messenger,” he must be the “Apokalypsis Messenger” since he believed we are now living in the apokalypsis stage of the Lord’s presence. He published the three-volume Apokalypsis Studies in the Scriptures, and the monthly The Present Truth of the Apokalypsis. Krewson died in the 1970s; the work continued until1990 when it stopped.

Pastoral Bible Institute

After Rutherford’s victory, a number of prominent brethren withdrew their support. The first Bible Student Convention held independent of the Watchtower Society took place on July 26-29, 1918, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. In November a few months later two to three hundred people attended the second convention in Providence, Rhode Island. It was at this meeting that the Pastoral Bible Institute (PBI) was formed to resume Pastor Russell’s pastoral work independent of the Society. December 1918 saw the first issue of The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom; it was edited by R. E. Streeter until his death in December 1924. Today the Institute continues to publish The Herald along with other literature.

Watchers of the Morning

In the 1930s, some prominent members of the PBI influenced by the writings of both E. C. Henninges and M. L. McPhail—two prominent pilgrims who left the Society in 1909 ­because of some doctrinal disagreements with Pastor Russell—began to deny that Christ was present and other important doctrines held by the brethren. In 1936 Isaac Hoskins, a director of the Pastoral Bible Institute, and others withdrew from that association in a dispute over doctrinal matters and began publishing The Watchers of the Morning, a journal which continued until June 1957.

The Dawn Bible Students Association

By 1931 most of the Bible Student groups were falling apart or functioning as independent classes or individuals. Along came Norman Woodworth, a man who created the Society’s radio program and left in 1928 to run his own radio program with the help of the Brooklyn  congregation of Bible Students. They produced a little paper, The Bible Students Radio Echoes, containing highlights of their radio program which was called Frank and Ernest. In 1931 a board of directors was elected. “Radio Echoes” evolved into The Dawn and Herald of Christ’s Presence, a bi-monthly journal in 1932. Later it became a monthly. The Dawn was able to re-gather many of the independent Bible Students. In the decades of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s the Dawn association grew as a result of an influx from disenchanted Jehovah’s Witnesses who had grown weary of the Watchtower’s doctrinal changes. The Dawn republished Studies in the Scriptures, countless books, booklets, and tracts. Today it continues to produce video and audio cassettes, The Dawn magazine, and other literature for the Bible Student community. Its radio and television programs are broad­cast around the world.

The Christian Millennial Fellowship

The Italian Bible Students Association in Hartford, Connecticut, withdrew their support from the Society in 1928 and changed their name to Millennial Bible Students Church, then to its current name Christian Millennial Fellowship, Inc. (CMF). In 1940 they began publishing The New Creation—a Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. However a few years later Gaetano Boccaccio began to be influenced by the writings of Henninges and McPhail. The CMF eventually discarded most of Pastor Russell’s writings as error. Gaetano Boccaccio was its leader since its inception. He had been with the Society since 1917 and died in 1996. For over fifty years he led this group from Hartford. The group eventually reorganized and has relocated to New Jersey where it is headed by Elmer Weeks.

The Stand Fast Bible Students ­Association

The Stand Fasters get their name from their determination to “stand fast on war principles that our dear Pastor Russell announced.” Charles E. Heard of Vancouver and many others felt that Rutherford’s recommendation in 1918 to buy war bonds was cowardice and a sacrilegious perversion of the harvest work. Feeling that Christians should not support the military in any way, including the buying of Liberty Bonds or involvement in non-combatant service, the Stand Fast Bible Students Association was organized on December 1, 1918, in Portland, Oregon. It published Old Corn Gems and organized conventions throughout the United States. The Stand Fasters accepted the seventh volume and were quite successful, especially among those who did not accept what they saw as compromises over the war issue.

They felt that the harvest was over, organizations were relatively unimportant, and they were organized simply to help each other learn about Pastor Russell’s teachings. Their opposition to public witness was the main reason they were one of the first groups to disintegrate. From the original twelve hundred adherents in 1919 in the northwest and near Wisconsin, this movement eventually disappeared.

The Elijah Voice Society

The Stand Fast was not without its schisms. In 1923 John A. Herdersen and C. D. McCray along with nearly 300 from the Stand Fast Bible Students organized the Elijah Voice Society to engage in an ambitious re­gathering and witness work. They published the Elijah Voice Monthly and numerous tracts, becoming one of the most prominent “seventh volume” groups. They felt they were “called to smite Babylon.” Long before Jehovah’s Witnesses they refused to salute the flag, buy liberty bonds, or contribute to the Red Cross. This group eventually disappeared.

The Servants of Yah

Probably the strangest of all Bible Student groups was headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, and led by C. H. Zook. They believed that Satan’s name was Jehovah, so Jehovah’s Witnesses were really Witnesses of Satan. They were Universalists who deny Armageddon, the flood, water baptism, the ransom, restitution, etc. They had branches in Levittown, New York, and Vienna, Austria. Their doctrines were similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses; only the 144,000 are destined to discover the hidden meaning of the Scriptures and enter heaven. The meaning is hidden partly because they believed our Bible texts were altered. They saw the Bible as primarily prophecy, most of which relates to the present century. They believed that everyone who ever lived will live forever in an earthly paradise except the 144,000 who will live in heaven. This group eventually disappeared.

Schisms Abroad

In other countries many Bible Students did not know what was really happening in the U.S. in 1917; it took time for some to analyze the events and leave.The British Board of Directors took control of the “London Tabernacle” and formed the Bible Fellowship Union. They began publishing The Bible Students Monthly in 1924, later renamed The Bible Study Monthly so as not to be mistaken with the new Watch Tower which previously published a paper by that name. Albert O. Hudson became the general director and served in that capacity until his death at age 101 in 2000. Today it is run by an editorial committee.   Albert O. Hudson

William Crawford, an original member of the British Board of Directors, caused its first split. He founded Old Paths Publications and produced the monthly journal Old Paths. Countless booklets, books, and tracts were produced.

In 1922 the New Jerusalem Fellowship was formed. They produced a monthly journal and numerous books and booklets before going out of existence in 1992.

At the time of the split in 1917, the Forest Gate Church was the second largest Bible Student group in England. F. G. Guard, father-in-law of William Crawford, led the class in ­divorcing themselves from the Society. In 1939 they started publishing The Forest Gate Church Bible Monthly, along with booklets and tracts. This group disbanded in 1979.

William Robertson formed the Bible Student Publishing Co. before the major split of 1917; he published a quarterly journal The ­Bible Student that was critical of both Pastor Russell and Rutherford. There were certain IBSA ­officials who joined after the split in 1917. This group stopped operations in the 1920s.

The Goshen Fellowship was formed as a result of the ministry of Jesse Hemery. He was undoubtedly the most prominent Bible Student in England, serving as Vice President of the IBSA, a position he held until 1946 since his appointment by Pastor Russell in 1901. He was disfellowshipped by N. H. Knorr in 1951. Although he accepted much of Pastor Russell’s interpretations, he did reject the second presence as being a current reality. Believing Revelation was to be fulfilled in the future, he wrote a few commentaries on Revelation and other books of prophecy. He died in 1955 shortly after founding the “Goshen Fellowship” in 1951. Frank Lewis Brown headed the group for many years, publishing Zion’s Herald, a monthly journal beginning in 1965.

Adam Rutherford, a pyramidologist, found­ed The Institute of Pyramidology. A Bible Student who got most of his inspiration from the Great Pyramid, he published an extensive four-volume set on the Pyramid and it’s teachings, as well as the journal Pyramidology Monthly. He wrote numerous books, booklets, and tracts. His institute ceased operations a few years ago.

The Angel of Jehovah Bible and Tract Society

This organization was founded by Alexander F. L. Freytag who was branch manager of the Swiss Society and who disagreed with some of Pastor Russell’s views even while the pastor was alive. Yet Pastor Russell appointed him in 1898 as Branch Manager. In 1917 he started publishing his views using the Society’s presses and paper. He was ousted in 1919 by Rutherford. He published a four-volume set of Scriptural writings, mostly published in French. His writings have been translated from French into English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. He published his own hymn book (he wrote and composed all the music) as well as his own devotional book. He also wrote numerous booklets and tracts. He published two journals, a monthly The Monitor of the Reign of Justice and a weekly Paper For All. There are branch offices in Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. Members of this group view Freytag as “that Faithful and Wise Servant” of Matthew 24:45-47. This group also goes by the name Philanthropic Assembly of the Friends of Man, and The Church of the Kingdom of God, Philanthropic Assembly.

Berean Bible Institute (Australia)

This Bible Student group officially separated from the Society in 1918. It publishes the monthly The Voice and, since 1917, the monthly People’s Paper as well as other books, booklets, and tracts.

New Covenant Fellowship

In 1908-09 E. C. Henninges, the Australian branch manager of the International Bible Students Association, and M. L. McPhail, pilgrim for the IBSA, withdrew their support causing the second largest split in the Society’s history, second only to the 1917 split. They produced a monthly journal The New Covenant Advocate and Kingdom Herald and ­numerous books, booklets, and tracts. After Henninges’ death, his work continued for some years; operations ceased by 1944. Most of the New Covenant Bible Students were left to fend for themselves. Many did not survive and splintered off into non-existence. The Free Bible Students, as they call themselves today, make up the largest Bible Student group in Australia. In recent years there has been a resurgence of Free Bible Student rallying under the new leadership of the Christian Millennial Fellowship.

The Christian Truth Institute

This organization was founded by Frederick Lardent of England. It published the monthly Gleanings for Truth Seekers as well as various booklets and tracts. This group died out.

The New Covenant Believers

Former Watchtower pilgrim M. L. McPhail, supposedly the most loved Bible Student next to the pastor himself, led the “New Covenant” Bible Students in the United States. He published a few books independently, mostly ­relying heavily on the writings of E. C. Hen­ninges. In 1908 they began publishing The Kingdom Scribe which ceased publication in 1975. They also published the Berean News, a small newsletter beginning in 1956; it continues today under the imprint of the Berean Bible Students Church in Lombard, Illinois.

Bible Students Today

Despite the many schisms in the past, today there are many  ecclesias throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada, India, Asia, South America, and Africa, congregating during conventions, exchanging speakers and literature. Many Bible Student ecclesias publish their own monthly newsletters, tracts, and booklets; some have their own journals and ministries. There are many Bible Student committees made up of Bible Students of various ecclesias, to help others in poorer countries. There are Bible Student Retirement Centers in both the U.S. and Europe. They provide good opportunities for studies and fellowship.

Since 1982, International Conventions have been held throughout Europe, beginning first in Austria, then Germany, The Netherlands, France, Hungary, and Poland. There are various Bible Students camps for children during the summer. Dozens of conventions are held each year, lasting one to six days each, providing ample fellowship and spiritual food.

Since the fall of communism, brethren have been found throughout the former communist nations. What binds these brethren together? It is the Truth! It is a belief that Jesus Christ died once for all mankind, that through his ransom sacrifice he purchased every man, woman, and child. The first to benefit are his followers during the Gospel age, those who sacrifice their humanity to follow in the footsteps of their master and become joint heirs with him in the thousand-year kingdom to bless the world of mankind. The next to benefit is the world of mankind who will learn the truth during the kingdom and grow in grace and knowledge and eventually actual perfection. This is the theme of the Scriptures and a theme that has been carried forth by Bible Students since the days of Pastor Russell.

In Foreign Lands

“His Pulpit was the World”

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord,
and see how they do.—Acts 15:36

Carl Hagensick

Pastor Charles Taze Russell was called the “ubiquitous preacher” by the London Press because he traveled so extensively and “had the world for his congregation.” His annual travels overseas kept him in regular contact with the adherents of his message in scores of countries, as well as numerous evangelistic opportunities to preach “present truth” to thousands of enthusiastic listeners. On one occasion, in a public lecture at the vast Royal Albert Hall in London (capacity, 5,222), the crowds were so large that ushers were posted at all the doors to prohibit further entry.

Foreign Language Translations

In 1883, only four years after beginning the Watch Tower publication, a poll was taken as to which language group had the most interest in having it translated into their tongue. The winner was Swedish, with German following not far behind. Eventually the semi-monthly journal was issued in five languages.

Two popular monthly tracts, People’s Pulpit and Everybody’s Paper, each consisting of four newspaper-size pages, were produced in thirty-one different languages. Some parts of Pastor Russell’s messages had been translated and published in thirty-five to forty languages ­before his death in 1916. The circulation of these tracts in 1912 had reached 848,000 in languages other than English. A partial report in 1914 indicated these figures had grown dramatically as follows:

United States and Canada 47,610,000
Great Britain 15,787,950
Australia 1,138,704
Sweden 816,323
Finland 479,602
Germany 320,739
South Africa 106,030


Foreign Travels

The London Press, because of the frequency of Pastor Russell’s travels across the Atlantic, coined the title of “the ubiquitous preacher.” His first such journey was in 1891 to the British Isles, where the popularity of his message reached such proportions that he began making annual trips to oversee the activities there.

It was not long before these treks were extended into continental Europe, including Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. In 1912 Pastor Russell and six other prominent Bible Students traveled by ship around the world, including Japan, the Philippines, India, Egypt, Israel, and Greece among their ports of call.

The burgeoning interest in his writings soon resulted in ten main branch offices being set up to more efficiently handle distribution of literature in Great Britain, Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, France, South Africa, and Australia. Other smaller offices were also set up.

The tumultuous years from 1916-1918 divided the Bible Student movement into a number of segments. Most notably were the Pastoral Bible Institute and the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement, formed from those who left the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

In Great Britain, Jesse Hemery was progressively centralizing power in himself. Secession from Hemery, J. F. Rutherford and the Watch Tower Society progressed rapidly after World War I ended. The Bible Students Committee was constituted on April 5, 1919, in London to coordinate publishing, pilgrim service, etc., outside the Society.

H. J. Shearn (d. 1946) began publishing the B.S.C. Monthly (1924-1927), Bible Students Monthly (1927-1951), and then Bible Study Monthly (since Aug. 1951). There is cooperation with the PBI in the U.S.  William Crawford (d. 1957) commenced The Old Paths in 1925, which continued publication through 1961. Crawford was strict in doctrine and felt the harvest was essentially over. Frank Edgell began publishing Fellowship in 1923. Frederick Lardent was publishing Gleanings. Jesse Hemery, departing from the Society later than the others, established Goshen Fellowship and published futurist interpretations of Revelation, which have some adherents today. A monthly publication, Pyramidology by Dr. Adam Rutherford of Newcastle, began in 1941. The Forest Gate Church (London) ­Bible Monthly was published 1936-1985. Phillys Stracy compiled an evening devotional book, Songs in the Night. A Dawn office was established in England shortly after World War II. The annual Conway Hall/London convention (1931-1970), sponsored by four classes, was Great Britain’s largest. An annual convention was held in Portrush, Northern ­Ireland (1950-1980) [which corresponded roughly to the U.S. General Convention, though proportionately much smaller]. The annual Maranatha [Our Lord Cometh] Conference (1950-1980) corresponded approximately to the Berean (Grove City, Pennsylvania) Conference in the U.S.

In Australia, R.E.B. Nicholson rejected the seventh volume in 1918 and thence formed the Berean Bible Institute. This Institute has published Peoples Paper in Melbourne since 1918 (edited by E. E. Martin, ca. 1926-1988), and it represents both the PBI and the Dawn there. There are several associated Berean Bible Student ecclesias (including Polish) in Australia and also a few in New Zealand. At the same time Henninges in Melbourne continued publishing New Covenant Advocate and Kingdom Herald from April 1909 to March 1943. It was later resumed by H. S. Winbush.

In India, S. P. Devasahayam (“Davey”), from near Nagercoil, had begun the work in 1912, including translation of Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 1, into Tamil and then Malaya­lam. After Pastor Russell’s death, contact with the Watch Tower was lost for many years, but contact with the PBI was later established. Davey became physically weak about 1920 and became involuntarily inactive until his death in 1936. Then, also, many associates left the Society en masse.

Davey appointed V. Devasandosham to succeed him ca. 1920. A capable organizer, Devasandosham organized the “Associated Bible Students” (later India Bible Students Association) and centered the work in Madras. Tamil publications included “Babylon and her Daughters,” “Is Saturday the Sabbath of the Christians?,” and “The True Bible Catechism.” Later, he suggested 2520+30 years might signify the end in 1944; after 1939 many sold everything for the sake of the Christian work, which afterwards led to serious problems.

Originally from Singapore, Bro. Pakian (of poor health) bought a small printing press in Madras, 1920-1924. Pakian Press printed many Tamil tracts, and a monthly magazine (since 1922) for the Associated Bible Students. After Devasandosham’s death, the press was moved to Coimbatore, in 1966 (with a press bought by the Dawn) to Madurai, and in 1974 to Trichy (Tiruchiripali, where there were about 300 in the ecclesia). Sr. Ryer Pillai gave a trimming machine for books ca. 1960.

As head of the India Bible Students Association, Devasandosham (1920-1944) was succeeded by T.C. Devakannu (“TCD;” 1944-1970), by S. Rathansami (1967-1975) of Tiruchiripali, and Sebastian (1975- ). The India Bible Students ­Association [Tamil language] convention has been held annually since 1921. Currently it lasts about three days, attracts roughly a hundred, and from year to year rotates among a few cities. The Bible Students Press published a monthly magazine in the Tamil language. A few hundred Bible Students are scattered throughout India, but primarily in the south.

Sundar Raj Gilbert left an engineering career to begin his activity. His outreach beyond the Tamil state began in 1940. Solomon Subamangalam and Bro. George by chance found a small Dawn booklet at Madras and wrote for free literature early in 1946. In 1947 Subamangalam gave some of it to Sundar Raj Gilbert. Then correspondence between H. A. Livermore of Portland, Oregon, and Peter Sundar Raj Gilbert led to foreign support of the India work beginning in 1947. The Northwest India Committee (in America later renamed Northwest Committee for India, and now Friends of India) receives cooperation from several ecclesias and individuals in the U.S. and Canada. The South India Bible Students Committee was formed in 1965 (in conjunction with G.R. Pollock’s visit) to publish literature also in the other native languages: including Telugu, Kanada (Canarese), Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Oriya. The Bible Students Press has a working agreement with the Dawn in America.

In Germany and Switzerland, Samuel Lauper (d. 1938) published Heroldes des Köni­greiches Christi, which was the German Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. Lauper also published a German translation of Streeter’s Revelation volumes. Ewald Vorsteher published Wahr­heitsfreund [Friend of Truth] in the 1920s. Conrad C. Binkele began publishing Der Pilgrim ca. 1930. These efforts were all suspended around the advent of the Hitler regime. After the war many Bible Students again received Watchtower literature (for the first time in a decade) and forthwith left the Society. ­Joseph Huber began Die Brennende Lampe [The Burning Lamp], similar to the American Herald and Dawn (though more Futurist). A. Freytag published Jedermanns­blatt [Everybody’s Paper]. Emil Sadlac of Kirchlengern began Christliche Warte [Christian Watchtower] in 1949, which offers a pre-harvest theology. The German Tagesanbruch [Daybreak, the German Dawn], began in Berlin around 1950 and later moved to Freiburg. The German general convention began in 1955 and now typically hosts 200. There are Bible Students in the former East Germany also. They published Christliche Verantwortung [Christian Responsibility] for two years ca. 1950.

Polish activity outside the Society began with the journals Straz [Watchman] in 1923, edited by R. H. Oleszynski (1857-1930), and Brzask Nowej Ery [Dawn of a New Era] in 1930. S. F. Tabaczynski, Jan Jezuit, W. O. Wnorowski and Anthony E. Bogdanczik were also energetic. The general convention in Poland is held every two years and can attract over two thousand. Roughly three thousand have registered with the government as Bible Students. Na Strazy [On the Watch] began publication in Warsaw in 1958. A group formerly cooperating with the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement in the U.S. began publishing Swit [Daybreak] in 1958.  R. H. Oleszynski

The French Dawn, Aurore, began publication ca. 1951. Journal de Sion began near Lille, France, in 1956 and publishes translated writings of Pastor Russell and some current articles. The Polish constitute the largest proportion of Bible Students in France. Along a different line, Alexander Freytag formed the Man’s Friends (or Philantropic Assembly) group in 1920. Freytag claimed special revelations and looked for Christ’s Second Coming in the future. The Swiss and the French groups are divided now and publish their own journals. They claim an earthly hope and endeavor to do many good works.

The New York Greek ecclesia was established in 1933 and in 1934 began publishing a Greek Dawn, He Haravgi. Frouros [Watcher] was a doctrinaire publication (by Geo. Loum­bardas) in Toronto. In Greece most of the ­Bible Student activity is in Athens. Activity in Greece was often hampered by anti-proselytizing laws.

A publication in the Italian language, L’Aurora Millenniale [The Dawn of the Millennium] was attempted in Hartford, Connecticut, beginning ca. 1933. The Italian Dawn, Aurora, began publication in 1953.

Prominent among Scandinavians who left the Society was (Count) Carl Lüttichau of Copenhagen. The Dano-Norwegian Dawn, Daggry Forlaget, began publication ca. 1951.

Swedish efforts outside the IBSA commenced about 1920, with Mr. Mellinder of Harnosand and Axel Sjo prominent. A 1922 winter convention in Stockholm was attended by nearly one hundred. (A few years later most of these turned to universalism.) Anders Kar­len stressed the divine plan in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. A Swedish Dawn, Dagnigen, was published 1951-1960.

Finnish efforts apart from the IBSA commenced early in 1921. A year later a Finnish journal had fifteen hundred subscriptions, five hundred attended a convention in Helsinki (one hundred fifty spoke Swedish), and a thousand attended public meetings. Mr. Nor­tamo was a full-time pilgrim, and W. Berg­häll (pronounced “Berryhill” in English) appears to have been a guiding light. There were active ecclesias of about fifty in Tampere (Tam­mer­fors) and Turku (Åbo).

A journal, Strasz and corresponding to the Polish Straz, was published from Winnipeg in the Ukrainian language. A Ukrainian radio broadcast, Peter and Paul, was also sponsored by the Ukrainian ecclesia in Winnipeg.

Spanish broadcasts of Francisco y Ernesto are heard throughout Latin America and the southernmost U.S. The Spanish work was spearheaded by Roberto Montero in San Diego, California.

Romanian activity was curtailed by World War II. Afterwards, property was confiscated and activity suppressed during the Ceausescu regime. Several thousand there had no contact with Bible Students from other countries until the fall of the Ceausescu government in 1989.

Africa work began in earnest in 1972-1973 with visits to interested groups in Nigeria, though the Layman’s Home Missionary Movement had been active there for years. Recently a number of visits have also been made to Ghana.

Still more recently the New Brunswick, New Jersey, congregation has begun an extensive ministry of comfort to Israel. Kenneth Rawson has traveled extensively to Israel and many eastern European countries with the audio-video presentation Israel, Appointment With Destiny that has been well-received not only in the Holy Land but by thousands of Jews of the Diaspora.

The International Convention

Although there were Bible Students in many countries of the world, there was little communication and co-operation between them. It was largely to facilitate such collaboration that the International Convention of Bible Students was organized in 1982. A committee of representatives from Poland, France, Germany, Greece, England and the United States was formed to make the ­arrangements. The first convention was such a success that the gathered brethren voted to become self-sponsoring with an international committee and meet every two years. Venues have included Kufstein and Obsteig, Austria; Willingen, Germany; DeBron, Holland; Poitiers, France; Miskolc, Hungary; and Polanica Zdroj, Poland.

From the first conference held in Austria, with an attendance of about two hundred fifty to the last such meeting in Poland, with almost a thousand attending, brethren have come from over fifteen countries, including Japan, Russia, Nigeria, India, Argentina, and Brazil in addition to the U.S. and Canada, and many countries in both Eastern and Western Europe.

These gatherings have also spawned international youth camps with over a hundred at­tending and such multi-country gatherings as a joint French-German convention every year.

Present Activity

Bible Students now live and/or hold meetings in at least these countries: Russia (including Siberia), Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovenia, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, India, South Africa, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Guyana, United States, Canada, the Philippines, and the West Indies. Some work has recently begun in Sri Lanka.

The most sizeable movements, with over a thousand each, are in the United States, Poland, Romania, and India. The Herald magazine currently reaches a readership in 47 different countries and, through its web page, has an outreach to many more.

Short Subjects


Time-Line of Church HistoryEarly Church History33    Death of Jesus66   Death of Apostle Paul70   Fall of Jerusalem90   Council of Jamnia96   Death of Apostle John155    Polycarp Martyred200    New Testament Canon234    Origen Exiled

270    Monasticism Develops

303    Diocletian Persecution

325    Nicene Creed

336    Death of Arius

386    Trinity Established

394    Mass Introduced

395    Bible in Latin (Jerome)

421    Council of Ephesus

 

Middle Ages Begin

476    Rome Falls

496    Franks Converted

539    Papal Temporal Power

622    Mohammedanism Forms

664    England Becomes Catholic

711    Arabs Conquer Spain

760    Pope Gets Vatican States

787    Second Council of Nicea

800    Pope Crowns Charlemagne

842    Image Worship Established

900    Catholics Conquer Spain

910    Cluny Reform Begins

962    Holy Roman Empire

993    Canonization of Saints

1000   Fear of the End of the World

1049   Leon IX − Reform Pope

1054   East-West Church Schism

1073   Priesthood Celibacy Decreed

1090   Praying with Beads Began

1096   First Crusade

1160   Bible in French (Waldo)

1162   Thomas a Becket (England)

1173   Peter Waldo (France)

1189   Third Crusade

1209   Francis of Assisi (Italy)

1233   Inquisition Established

1252   Torture Introduced

1264   Thomas Aquinas (Italy)

1291   End of Crusades

1302   Papal Supremacy

1309   Avignon Papacy

1378   Great Schism (two popes)

1380  Bible in English (Wycliffe)

1398   Jan Hus (Czechoslovakia)

1408   Great Schism Ends

1431   Death of Joan of Arc

1456   Gutenberg Bible Printed

1471   Thomas a Kempis (Germany)

1491   Savanarola Burned at the Stake

1492   Jews Leave Spain

1498  Desiderius Erasmus (Holland)

1517  Luther’s 95 Theses

1524  Ulrich Zwingli (Switzerland)

1530  Augsburg Confession

1534  Bible in German (Luther)

1534  Church of England Established

1541  John Calvin (Geneva)

1558  John Knox (Scotland)

1572  Huguenots Massacred in Paris

1599  Divine Right of Kings

Middle Ages End

 

1611   King James Bible

1618   30-years War Begins

1633   Baptist Church Organized

1654   John Milton (England)

1667   Penn Denies Trinity

1675   Pietist Movement

1693   Cotton Mather (Puritan)

1730   Methodist Church (Wesley)

1738   “Great Awakening”

1764   Voltaire (France)

1772   Inquisition Abolished

1789   French Revolution

1798   Napoleon Imprisons Pope

1804   Bible Societies Established

1831   William Miller (U.S.)

1846   Evangelical Alliance

1859 Origin of Species Published

1870   Papacy Loses Temporal Power

1870   Papal Infallibility Proclaimed

1879   Bible Student Movement

1906   Pentecostal Movement

 

Bible Student History

 

1871   Pastor Russell Contacts Storrs

1876   Pastor Russell Meets Barbour

1877   Lord’s Return Pamphlet

1877   “Thee Three Worlds”

1879  Zions Watch Tower Magazine

1880   Colporteur Work Begins

1881   “Tabernacle Shadows”

1881  “Food for Thinking Christians”

1883  Foreign Translations Begin

1884  Tract Society Formed

1886 “Divine Plan of the Ages”

1889 “Old Theology Tracts

1889 “The Time Is At Hand”

1890  “Thy Kingdom Come”

1892 “Watch Tower” Semi-Monthly

1893 First Convention Held

1894 Pilgrim Ministry Begins

1895   “To Us the Scriptures Clearly Teach”

1895 Danish, English, Polish Work

1895 Allegheny Church Trial

1897 “The Day of Vengeance”

1899 500,000 Evolution Tracts

1899 “The At-One-Ment”

1900 London Tabernacle

1900 “The New Creation”

1905 Russell Separation Trial

1905 “Daily Heavenly Manna”

1907   Comment Bible

1908   “Overland Monthly” Articles

1908   Russell-White Debates

1909   Covenant Controversy

1910   Hippodrome Talk to Jews

1911   Die Stimme” for Jews (Yiddish)

1912   Round the World Trip

1914   “Photo-Drama of Creation”

1915   50 Million Tracts Distributed

1916   Death of Pastor Russell

1918   PBI Established

1932 Dawn Established

 

 


Bible Student Beliefs

Several beliefs, while not necessarily unique to the Bible Student movement, when taken collectively, outline a doctrinal position that is distinct from mainstream Christianity. Some of these teachings are:

  1. Inspiration of the Bible: Bible Students are united in holding that the sacred Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are inspired and are the final authority for authentic truth. Correct doctrine is to be established in beliefs that harmonize all Scriptures on each subject. No non-Scriptural words may be made an article of faith.
  2. Creation: Bible Students believe in Creation, while allowing for some evolution in the animal creation, and that man (and hence, woman) was a direct creation of God, physically and mentally perfect.
  3. Original Sin: Believing that Adam and Eve were created perfect, the Bible Student position is that the sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden resulted in all their parents being born under the blight of sin, imperfection, and death.
  4. Nature of God: The Bible Student position is neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian. While they believe that Jesus was the Son of God and possesses the nature of God since his resurrection, they do not accept the positions of co-eternity ir co-equality between the Father and the Son. Rather than accepting the doctrine of incarnation, they hold that Jesus was wholly flesh while on earth, having divested himself of his spirit nature. Nor do they accept the concept of the holy spirit being a person: it is the disposition or influence of God.
  5. Nature of Man: In distinction from inherent immortality, the Bible Student view is that man is mortal by nature and that immortality is available only be meeting conditions of obedience. They hold that the human soul is not a distinct entity but is the result of the union of the body and the breath, or spark, of life, and that death is the dissolution of these two elements.
  6. State of the Dead: Because death is the dissolution of body and breath, the soul that sins dies and goes out of existence until the resurrection process in the future kingdom of Messiah. The Bible “hell” is the grave and neither a place of eternal fire nor of conscious separation from God.
  7. Virgin Birth: While Jesus was miraculously begotten by God through the holy spirit in the womb of Mary, the Bible implies that she did not remain a virgin thereafter and probably had children by Joseph after the birth of Jesus. Her nature was the same as others of the fallen race, and there is no biblical implication of an “immaculate conception” of Mary.
  8. Ransom and Restitution: The main purpose of Jesus’ first advent was to provide a ransom, or substittutionary atonement for Adam and hence the entire human race descending from him. This Ransom was provided at the cross of Calvary and is efficacious for all who have ever died. It promises resuscitation from death for all humanity in Christ’s 1,000 year kingdom, along with an opportunity to obtain and maintain perfect life for eternity. The ransom also provides for the rehabilitation of planet Earth to perfect Edenic conditions.
  9. Resurrection: After Jesus Christ was crucified, he was raised to spiritual life by his Father, God, and given a divine body in the express image of God’s person.

10.  The Heavenly Calling: At his first advent, Jesus began calling out from mankind a special class to be his church or bride. To these he promises a part in heaven with him and his Father, and a kingdom role of reigning over mankind with himself for the blessing of all the families of the earth.

11.  Second Advent: As with most Christians, the expectation that Jesus Christ would return to finish the work he began two thousand years ago is an important part of their faith. Most Bible Students share the following beliefs in the second advent.

  1. Object: That the object of his return is the resurrection of the dead and the establishment of a new world order of peace and righteousness in which all sin, sorrow, and death will be eliminated.
  2. Manner: That Jesus returns invisibly, at first unnoticed by the world at large, though eventually manifesting that presence to all.
  3. Time: Though not in universal agreement, the majority of Bible Students feel confident that the time for his return was in the near past (1874) and that he in process of finishing his church, evicting the old regime of the adversary, and supervising the preparation of Israel for kingdom work,

12.  Return of Israel: The establishment of the nation of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland is an indication of the restoration of the favor of God to that nation and an indication of the nearness of Messiah’s kingdom. Bible Students anticipate a return of Israel to the borders promised to Abraham and a final conflict in the Middle East, in which their ancient prophets will be resurrected and God will, through them, bring about an unprecedented miraculous deliverance introducing the worldwide kingdom of Christ, expanding thence to a worldwide dominion of peace.

13.  Church Organization: The Bible Student community is organized on a strict congregational basis with each local group being totally autonomous. Each group selects its ministry (elders and deacons) by a local vote of their consecrated members, and co-operates with other congregations as determined by that local group. All expenses are paid entirely by free-will voluntary offerings with no collections nor mandated costs; the ministry serves in a voluntary and non-paid basis.


Historical and Biographical Sketches

Christians Before the Reformation

There are glimpses of Protestant teachings from earliest Christian times to the Dark Ages. The Epistle of Barnabas explains a typical significance of the Sabbath: “The meaning of it is this: that in six thousand years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. For with him one day is a thousand years. . . . And he rested the seventh day: he meaneth this: that when his Son shall come, and abolish the season of the Wicked One, and judge the ungodly; and shall change the sun and moon, and the stars; then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day. . . . the Sabbath, says he, which ye shall keep are not acceptable unto me, but those which I have made: when resting from all things I shall begin the eighth day, that is, the beginning of the other world.”1

Willingness to suffer martyrdom for the cause of Christ is illustrated in Ignatius’ epistle to the Romans (ca. A.D. 110) 2:2-4, “Suffer me to be food to the wild beasts; by whom I shall attain unto God. For I am the wheat of God: and I shall be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather encourage the beasts, that they may become my sepulcher; and may leave nothing of my body; that being dead I may not be troublesome to any.”

Similarly, the contemporary Polycarp writes,2 “I exhort all of you that ye obey the rule of righteousness, and exercise all patience; which ye have set forth before our eyes, not only in the blessed Ignatius, and Zozimus, and Rufus; but in others among yourselves; and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles.”

We hear of Arius first in A.D. 313 pleading for restoration of primitive purity in an Alexandrian church gone worldly. The leader of the worldly faction, Athanasius, could hardly accuse Arius of being too honorable; so after five years he accused Arius for heresy for not calling God a Trinity.3 Ultimately the Athanasians poisoned Arius to death, and called it the righteous act of God.

About A.D. 538 Jacobus Baradaeus (literally, James of rags, as he declined to spend money on clothing), of Syria, defended the monophysite concept of Jesus at his first advent having just one nature, the human. He ranged from Egypt to Babylon, and ordained 80,000 bishops. (The modern Syrian Orthodox Church descended from him and remains monophysite.)

The Paulicians in Asia were outside the Catholic Church, and began evangelizing in Europe. Likely from them came the modern Cathars (lit. Puritans, though the Catholic hierarchy called them “Ketzer,” heretics). Already in A.D. 1140, in Monteforte, they said Jesus did not have a soul, but by identity he was a soul. They looked forward to the “Rejuvenation Day.”

Other notable pre-Reformation Christians included Peter Waldo and the Waldenses in the Alps; John Wycliffe, who before William Tyndale’s time translated the Bible into English (though it would be incomprehensible a century later), had followers who were called Lollards; Jan Hus in Poland/Czech Republic; and Johann Wessel-Gansfort in the Netherlands, who said, “It is not by works, but in works, that faith lives.” All faced opposition, most were hunted, and some were burned at the stake.

  1. Epistle of Barnabas 13:1-10 (Likely the Barnabas who was with Paul.)
  2. Epistle of Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna) to the Phillipians 3:5-9.
  3. Curiously, the word Trinitatas was invented by Tertullian ca. A.D. 200, but he was outside the main body of professing Christians. Irenaeus did not share the concept, but he was declared a Catholic saint, not Tertullian.

Henry Grew (1781-1862)

Grew was born in Birmingham, England, but moved to Boston with his parents at age fourteen. At age 23 he was elected deacon of the Baptist Church he attended, and was later licensed to preach in Hartford, Connecticut, where he served ten years until he was dismissed for view the church deemed heretical.

He not only preached slavery, but from the Bible alone. Henry Grew determined that the doctrines of the immortal soul, hell-fire and Trinity were not Scriptural. He wrote several books against the doctrines, one of which was picked up by George Storrs, who was later convinced of Grew’s views regarding the state of the dead, Grew’s clear Scriptural exposition and ideas later influenced the Adventists and other individuals, directly to such as George Stetson and George Storrs, and indirectly through these to Pastor Charles Taze Russell.

Although he had only a moderate income, he was able to bestow half his income to charity. He gave a considerable about to missionary work as well as to the poor of the city. He not only cared for their well-being, but also for their spiritual welfare.


George Storrs (1796-1879)

While traveling on a train, Storrs picked up a tract be found on the floor which was on the condition of the dead. He found out later that it was written by Henry Grew. In 1842, after a few years of study on this subject, Storrs began to preach this message to many of the Adventists. After writing a  book on the subject, he started a magazine entitled The Bible Examiner for the same purpose. He differed from Grew’s teachings in respect to the wicked. Storrs believed these would go into second death and not be resurrected to judgment. The two debated the matter for years until Henry Grew’s death in 1862.

A decade later, during a severe illness, Storrs reconsidered his views on the wicked, and determined that the Scriptures taught that the wicked would be resurrected to an education in the knowledge of God, to judgment, and that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of the promise to Abraham. He was later surprised to find other individuals teaching these same doctrines, one of whom was Henry Dunn, who a decade earlier had been teaching these things in England, unknown to Storrs. Because of these views, his friends forsook him and Storrs became an independent publisher of these teachings. During these years Pastor Russell wrote for Storr’s magazine until Storr’s death in 1879.


Isaac Newton: Bible Student and Scientist 1

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was born in Lincolnshire on Christmas day nearly two months premature, and posthumous to his father. In the superstition of the day, all three of these circumstances of his birth were considered to portend a child of exceptional abilities, and so he was to prove. He was born in the last year in which a witch was burned at the stake in England. When he went to his grave at age 85, he was and still is remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time. During the age of Revolution (1796), a declassed French aristocrat, Champlain de la Blancharie, issued a manifesto denouncing England for its failure to honor Newton and proposing to re-date the calendar for the new era from the date of Newton’s birth.

But the advocates of rational thought were inventing a fiction, for first and foremost Newton was a man of faith. The community has long ignored or belittled Newton’s strong commitment to Christianity and earnest non-conforming Bible study. Although it is easy to take exception with a number of details in interpretation, his keenness of mind permitted him to see truths that we might believe were little known until the time of the harvest. Nearly one million words, mostly unpublished even today, range over Biblical prophecy, the Times of Restitution, translation and manuscript errors, chronology, the measurements of Ezekiel’s temple compared against the New Jerusalem, and the Great Pyramid and its measurements as a witness, to name but a few. Albert Einstein, whose reformulation of gravitation three hundred years later has far displaced Newton’s classic work, spent some time in 1940 perusing the Jerusalem-based Yehuda collection of these massive religious writings. Einstein, whose faith in God always was firm but who was uncomfortable with theological dogmatism, took the time to compose a letter praising the papers for the insight they afforded into his famous predecessor’s “spiritual workshop.”

Newton’s public anti-Trinitatian positions and writings continually created difficulties for his patrons. These kept him out of the Royal society and required special royal dispensation for him to hold a post as professor, ironically enough, at Trinity College, Cambridge. Most significantly, he is responsible for the scholarship that challenged the acceptance of the spurious 1 John 5:7 into the Greek NewTestament.

In Of the World to Come Newton shows a clear grasp of the heavenly salvation, the earthly salvation, and “the little season.” He dismisses eternal torment with this opening salvo: “So then the mystery of this restitution of all things is to be found in all the prophets; which makes me wonder with great admiration that so few Christians of our age can find it there. For they understand not the final return of the Jews from captivity . . . and the setting up of a peaceable, righteous, and flourishing kingdom at the Day of Judgment is this mystery . . . First, the earth shall continue to be inhabited by mortals after the day of Judgment, and not only for 1,000 years, but even forever . . . And that the citizens of this city are not the saints raised from the dead, but a race of mortal men like the nations over whom they reign . . . [That after the judgment of Isaiah 66] the saving in these and such like places of Scripture is of mortals at the last day from both misery and death both temporal ad eternal. . . . [for] the rest of his kingdom are the nations that have been saved; and they are mortals remaining on earth.”

Newton castigates misunderstandings arising from “fancies . . .occasioned by understanding in a vulgar and literal sense what the prophets wrote in their own mystical language.” He then goes on to explain that fire and melting of elements are references to social calamities and not to be interpreted literally. He closes by explaining that since Christ after his resurrection made only rare appearances, “so it is to be conceived that at his second coming, he and the children of the resurrection [the Church] shall reign invisibly unless when they see fit upon extraordinary occasions to appear.”

Although he published several seminal scientific works within his lifetime, when Newton died unmarried, the executors of his estate large found his religious writings to be an embarrassment. They kept all but four sequestered where they remained unread until the twentieth century.

  1. This synopsis is based on the highly recommended The Religion of Isaac Newton by Frank E. Manuel, Oxford (1974). See also H. MacLachlen, Isaac Newton (1950).

Henry Dunn (1801-1878)

Four articles by Henry Dunn appear in Zion’s Watch Tower (Reprints, ppg. 644, 649, 653, and 796). All come from Dunn’s book, The Study of the Bible, written in 1871. “Bros. George Storrs, Henry Dunn and others were preaching and writing if ‘the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets’ (Acts 3:21) and that ‘In the ages to come God would show the exceeding richness of his grace’ (Ephesians 2:7).” − Charles Taze Russell, Supplement to Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, July 1, 1879.

For many years Dunn was secretary of the British and Foreign School Society and was identified with the history of public education in England. After retirement he went to Italy and joined the Protestant missions there, devoting his life to a study of the Scriptures and the writing of Christian literature. He published his own magazine, The Interpreter, in 1860-61 and was have said to be heard to “express his obligation to a remarkable book, never much known and now almost forgotten: Dunbar Isidore Heath’s Future Human Kingdom of Christ. It was this book that inspired Dunn’s Destiny of the Human Race that is credited by both George Storrs and Charles Russell as helpful in the thoughts on the doctrines of two salvations and times of restitution. Shortly before his death, Dunn wrote a series if articles for Storrs’ magazine, The Bible Examiner. Pastor Russell wrote that on these doctrines both Storrs were influential in his thinking.


Dunbar Isidore Heath (1816-1888)

Dunbar Isidore Heath was a Reverend at Cambridge, elected scholar in 1836, and again in 1843. As a recognized authority on Egyptology, he was one of the early translators of the papyri in the British Museum. In 1852 Health wrote The Future Human Kingdom of Christ in which he distinguished the “saved nations from the glorified saints” by outlining an early concept of “the two salvations.” He was prosecuted for heresy in 1861 by the Bishop of Winchester and sentenced by the Court of Arches for publishing these ideas. He would not recant and tried to appeal his sentence by attempting to defend his character and doctrine from the Scriptures through the writing of several booklets. All of this failed and as a result of this prosecution he suffered not only the loss of his profession, but sustained heavy financial losses as well.


George Stetson (1814-1879)

The first Stetsons arrived from England in 1634; fourteen years after the Mayflower and the pilgrims arrived in America. For over 40 years he followed in the footsteps of Christ and associated with Henry Grew and George Storrs in his early ministry and even later with Jonas Wendell and Charles Russell (Reprints, p. 3821). 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 1870’s. 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.

“He had been a faithful under-shepherd, ever holding before his hearers, as the great incentive to holiness and purity of life, that which filled his own soul with joy and peace and helped him to live ‘above the world’ − viz: the appearing of the Heavenly Bridegroom − the King of Glory, and our gathering together unto him Our brother was a man of marked ability, and surrendered bright prospects of worldly and political honors to be permitted to preach Christ when the glories and beauties of God dawned upon his heart. The truth cost him much, yet he bought it gladly” (Reprints, p. 46).

For ten months during 1872 Stetson pastured the church in Pittsburgh, where he met young Charles Taze Russell. Then he led the Edinboro, Pennsylvania 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.


Jonas Wendell (1815-1873)

Jonas Wendell became a Christian in 1843. “About 1845 he came into the truth of life and immortality in Christ only, of his soon coming, and reign with the saints on earth renewed, and the everlasting destruction of the impenitent wicked. He began preaching these views at Syracuse in 1847.” − The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873.

It is quite possible that he had some association with George Storrs through letter he wrote to the Bible Examiner in the 1850’s. He was committed to the date 1854 for the return of the Lord and was so disappointed that he went astray for several years. In the winter of 1864-1865 he faith was restored by a traveling preacher friend, and he resumed preaching for the Second Adventists in the Advent Christian Church in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and New England from 1865 to 1871. Like Nelson Barbour, he set upon 1873 as the date for the soon coming of the Lord. In 1870 he wrote a booklet advocating his 1873 views entitled The Present Truth or Meat in Due Season.

In 1869 when preaching in Pittsburgh he rekindled the faith of a young man who stumbled “seemingly by accident” into a dirty, dingy hall where he was preaching (Reprints, p. 5909). That person was Pastor Charles Taze Russell who wrote: “Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear . . . it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the prophets and apostles are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help greatly in the unlearning if errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth” (Reprints, p. 3821).

On August 7, 1873, Wendell fell down a flight of stairs and received severe internal injuries from which he never recovered.


R. E. Streeter (1847-1924)

R. E. Streeter was one of the founding fathers of the Pastoral Bible Institute and an original member of the editorial board of The Herald magazine. He became a Christian in 1877 and originally associated with the Free Baptist Church. Finding denominational restrictions too binding he left that church and joined the Evangelical Advent Church. He first received The Divine Plan of the Ages in 1896 but rejected it as a false teaching. The following year he was sent on a successful missionary assignment to South America and the West Indies where he received another copy of that book and read it on his return journey. This time he accepted its message.

As editor in 1892 of a small journal, The Testimony of Jesus, he continued its publication and presented to his readers the new views he was learning. Eventually he discontinued the magazine and in 1902 entered the pilgrim ministry under Pastor Charles Taze Russell.

He was a member of The Herald’s editorial committee beginning in 1918 and was elected a trustee in 1923, serving in that capacity until his death the following year. He was a deep student of prophecy and was the author of Daniel, the Beloved of Jehovah and The Revelation of Jesus Christ.


Dwight Moody (1835-1899)

Speaking of Dwight Moody and his associates, Pastor Russell wrote: “It is our thought that the Lord used these men, and through their ministry the fore-ordained number was completed at the fore-ordained time, 1881” (Reprints, p. 4303).

Moody was born seventeen years before Pastor Russell. He was one of the most successful evangelists of the nineteenth century. His ministry differed somewhat from those of his contemporaries in that he laid stress on a full commitment to God rather than merely the “believe and be saved” formula of his peers. He urged his hearers to find a way to leave their earthly careers and spend their full time in service to God.

Moody was never endorsed by a seminary, disdaining such ordination as a qualification for the ministry of the Gospel. Though an aggressive fund raiser, Moody refused to be personally financed by members of his audiences. Influenced by a strong personal friendship with the Jewish Christian, Joseph Rabinowitz, Moody was vitally interested in the development of Israel as a nation headed for a great destiny in the plan of God.


W. Norman Woodworth (1891-1976)

W. Norman Woodworth became a Bible Student in the last decade of the nineteenth century and devoted his life to his convictions. After serving for several years as a colporteur in the maritime provinces of Canada and the state of Maine, Pastor Russell asked him to come to Bethel to learn to operate a movie projector and assist in the developmental work of The Photo-Drama of Creation. He presented the Drama in the Ohio cities of Columbus, Cleveland, and Toledo before being assigned to Chicago where his first day’s were 1,500 in the afternoon and 3,500 in the evening.

After the death of Pastor Russell, his duties were temporarily suspended until he received an invitation to re-enter the ministry in 1923. He soon became involved in developing a radio program for the IBSA. Music was an important part of early programming and he played a trombone in the Bible Student orchestra that accompanied the broadcast.

He was soon asked to prepare one of the programs and developed the format for Frank and Ernest in 1924. Disagreement with the new teachings of the Society soon led to his disassociation with the IBSA. In his new surroundings he found other brethren to assist in reviving the program and $1,300 was raised for a broadcast on WOR in New York for thirteen weeks. The first of these programs in 1931 produced over 200 responses. From twenty-two stations carrying the programs in 1941, the coverage reached a high of 352 stations on the MBS network in 1950.

To follow up the responses, the New York ecclesia published a small pamphlet, Radio Echoes. This grew into the magazine The Dawn by 1932 and Norman Woodworth volunteered to do the printing. He remained the editor and wrote many of the articles until his death.

And Finally

“In Memorian — C.T.R”
Beloved One!
Beyond earth’s sunshine and its rain,
Beyond all weariness and pain,
Thou art at rest.
E’n though we mourn our loss, we joy to feel
Thou art so blest.

O, faithful one!
Now privileged to see unfold
God’s purpose in the scroll unrolled
By Christ’s own hand;
And thou hast made report: I’ve done as Thou,
Lord, didst command.

O, radiant one!
Along the dark and narrow way
Thy faithfulness casts back a ray
Of hope and cheer;
For thou so joyously thy cross didst bear,
With scarce a tear.

O, blessed one!
We pray for strength to do God’s will,
To wait and suffer and be still,
As thou hast done,
Nor faint, nor fear, but run on until
The prize is one.

− Gertrude Siebert, Poems of the Way, p. 108

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2 Responses to “Bible Students History”

  1. I am a bible student in Uganda Africa. I have enjoyed to read about the bible students history and the zions tower.

    I have imagined the effort of all people of God especially the contribution of Pastor Russell was a very powerful man.

    However do we have powerful men and women of the time that we can talk about as compared Pastor Russell? Who are they that have furthered the teaching of seventh angel?

    What can I do to have attend the bible classes and the different events which take place world wide.

    Br. Ssewanyana Laban
    Wakiso Bible bible student.

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  2. Roger Kirkpatrick says:

    I am seeking any information regarding Benjamin Ray Kent who served as a Deacon in the Greater New York Congregation of Associated Bible Students of which Charles T. Russell was pastor. In the names of Deacons listed in Judge Rutherford’s pamphlet “A Great War In the Ecclesiastical Heavens,” Brother Kent is listed #16 as R.B. Kent. In 1940, Brother Kent married my father’s aunt, Jettie Kirkpatrick of Sweetwater, Texas, and served the interests of the Lord’s kingdom until his death on March 7, 1964.

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