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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


Charles Taze Russell Makes a Far-reaching Decision

TOM: John, something has been going through my mind all week since you were here. Why is it that when we read about Paul and others in the Bible we have no problem in accepting their position and authority, yet today it is so difficult to believe that any one man or organization is being used by God?

JOHN: There should be no problem if we remember that those whom God uses as his witnesses at one time are always like those he has used at any other time. Did you have some specific point in mind, Tom?

TOM: Well, yes. You showed us last week that the need for a free world situation had developed since the days of the apostles. That hasn't been too difficult to recognize. But what of all the voices that began to cry out, 'This is the way'? If God did intend to use any of them as witnesses, how would we know it? You've pointed out how C. T. Russell had joined his voice in heralding the Lord's return, but what reason do we have for singling him out in preference to others?

JOHN: Today, because of the way the work has been blessed, we have more reasons than I could tell you in one evening. As our discussion develops I'm sure you'll agree. But even as viewed by Russell's contemporaries there was sufficient evidence for those really looking for it. In fact, that bears on the point I wanted to discuss this evening.

LOIS: You mean about the important decision Mr. Russell had to make as to the course he thought he should follow?

JOHN: Yes. You will recall that most of these early groups of watchers were interested primarily in time calculations. But Russell had a different type of mind. True, in spite of his youth, he was unusually analytical in his approach to any subject, but he had become convinced that Christ's purpose for returning was more important than some date that could be set.

LOIS: By the way, John, how old was Mr. Russell when he began to study?

TOM [interrupting]: That's something else I've wanted to ask. Could we interrupt the progress of the story long enough to get some vital statistics? I think it would help us to know more about Russell personally.


JOHN: Very well. Actually, he was still in his teens when he began to think seriously about his religious background and to question its foundations. Here's something from the opening paragraphs of his biography as published in the Foreword of a later


edition of his popular book, The Divine Plan of the Ages.

Charles Taze Russell, known the world over as Pastor Russell, author, lecturer and minister of the Gospel, was born at Pittsburgh, Pa., February 16, 1852; died October 31, 1916. He was the son of Joseph L. and Eliza Birney Russell,a both of Scotch-Irish lineage. He was educated in the common schools and under private tutors.b

TOM: He must have been an extremely serious-minded young man.

JOHN: He was. His mother died when he was nine years old, so he spent much time with his father after school hours. When he was only twelve years old, his father found him in the store one time at 2 a.m., poring over a concordance, unconscious of the lapse of time. c At the age of fifteen Russell was in partnership with his father, assisting him with his business activity in a men's furnishing store. When he was in his early twenties he had helped his father expand their business to several stores and was well on the way to establishing a national chain of stores when he abandoned it all to devote his entire time to the ministry. When he closed out his interests they netted him more than a quarter of a million dollars. d

TOM: He must have been a man of considerable resourcefulness and determination.

JOHN: He showed it in many ways. While still a lad, before he learned the truth concerning God's purpose, he would go out at night to chalk up Bible texts in conspicuous places so that workingmen, passing by, might be warned and be saved from the "torments of hell." His zeal in teaching God's love was just as strong when he finally saw the error of this blasphemous hell-fire doctrine. That's why he put everything he had into his life's work. He is quoted by a later associate as declaring vehemently:

If the Bible does teach that eternal torture is the fate of all except the saints, it should be preached—yea, thundered from the housetops weekly, daily, hourly; if it does not so teach, the fact should be made known, and the foul stain dishonoring God's holy name removed. e

But there are a few more points in these biographical notes we were reading I'd like to show you.

Pastor Russell was married in 1879 to Maria Frances Ackley. No children blessed this union. Seventeen years later they disagreed about the management of his journal; and a separation followed. . . .

He was not the founder of a new religion, and never made such claim. He revived the great truths taught by Jesus and the apostles, and turned the light of the twentieth century upon these teachings. He made no claim of a special revelation from God, but held that it was God's due time for the Bible to be understood; and that, being fully consecrated to the Lord and to his service, he was permitted to understand it. Because he devoted himself to the development of the fruits and graces of the holy spirit, the promise of the Lord was fulfilled in him: "For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."—2 Peter 1:5-8. f

LOIS: But what about the decision Pastor Russell was forced to make, John? You said it could have completely wrecked his work.

JOHN: I was thinking about that as Tom was asking for evidences of God's approval of Pastor Russell's work. Actually, there were a number of decisions involved, all related somewhat to this matter of time calculations. The course Russell chose was particularly significant because it was his first major testing and because it had such far-reaching results.



You will recall Russell's study group had come to realize that when Christ returned it would not be in the flesh, as commonly believed and taught by the Second Adventists. Pastor Russell had learned that when Jesus should come he would be as invisible as though an angel had come.

Then, in 1876, while Pastor Russell was in Philadelphia on a business trip, he happened to come into possession of a copy of the magazine The Herald of the Morning, which, you will recall, was being published by N. H. Barbour of Rochester, N. Y. He was surprised and pleased to note that here was another group that expected Christ's return invisibly and, because of the similarity of their views, he read more of this publication, even though he recognized it as an Adventist paper and even though, up to this time, he had had little regard for their doctrines. But Russell was interested in learning from any quarter, whatever God had to teach. He became interested in the chronology set forth in the magazine and immediately got in touch with Barbour to arrange a meeting at Russell's expense in order to discuss this matter further.

It seems that one of Barbour's group had come into possession of Benjamin Wilson's Diaglott translation of the "New Testament." He noticed, at Matthew 24:27, 37, 39, that the word rendered coming in the King James Version is translated presence in the Diaglott. This was the clue that had led Barbour's group to advocate, in addition to their time calculations, an invisible presence of Christ. Russell had been interested first in the purpose of Christ's return. His realization that it would be invisible led him now seriously to consider the time features. He was satisfied with the evidence Barbour presented.

Pastor Russell was a man of positive convictions and fully dedicated to the Lord. He wrote later:

I at once saw that the special times in which we live have an important bearing upon our duty and work as Christ's disciples; that since we are living in the time of the Harvest, the Harvest work should be done; and that Present Truth is the sickle by which the Lord would have us do a reaping work everywhere among his children. g

This conviction stayed with Russell throughout his entire life as a Christian minister.

As a result of Russell's meeting with Barbour, his study group in Pittsburgh became affiliated with the group in Rochester, and Russell contributed money from his personal funds to Barbour to get the printing of their message going again in the magazine The Herald of the Morning. Since Barbour was a printer by trade it was agreed that he should do the actual publishing of the magazine, whereas Russell would become a coeditor of The Herald of the Morning and assist in the financial end of the enterprise.

Russell was fired now with the idea of service in harmony with his knowledge of the divine will. But he was not personally ambitious. One of the first steps he took with his important message shows that, but it also reveals one of his first disappointments. Let me read this to you:

In 1877 Pastor Russell called a meeting of all the ministers of Allegheny and Pittsburgh, showed them the Scriptures which indicated our Lord's presence and urged them to investigate and proclaim the message. All of the ministers of the two cities were present; all of the ministers of the two cities refused to believe. In the same year he determined to give up secular work and devote his entire time and fortune to the work indicated in the Scriptures ... As a means of determining whether his course was in harmony with the Scriptures, and also as a means of demonstrating his own sincerity, he decided to test the Lord's approval as follows: (1) Devote his life to the cause; (2) Invest his fortune in the promulgation of the work; (3) Prohibit collections at all meetings; (4) Depend on unsolicited contributions


(wholly voluntary) to continue the work after his fortune was exhausted. h

LOIS: I never heard of anything like that before. Do you mean Pastor Russell never took up a collection or solicited money in his entire life? He really must have been a man of courage and conviction.

JOHN: He was a man of faith. He was highly privileged to understand the divine will and he knew it. Remember, he was only twenty-five years old in 1877. Yet, when all the religious leaders of Allegheny and Pittsburgh refused to accept the wonderful opportunity of sharing in the harvest work that he felt was beginning, Russell did not hesitate. His faith was rewarded many times over.

That same year, 1877, together with Barbour, Russell produced a book called "Three Worlds or Plan of Redemption." Nothing like it had ever been published before. It combined for the first time the explanations of time prophecies with the work of Restitution. i At this early date they recognized that the end of Satan's period of uninterrupted rule of the earth, called "Gentile times," would come in 1914. Almost at once, Russell was called upon to make another important decision.


LOIS: Was it on this point of 1914 that Pastor Russell's decision was forced on him?

JOHN: Not on that particular point, but it did involve his association with Barbour and his devotion to the truth as it had been revealed up to this time. In regard to this testing note Russell's words in The Watch Tower under the caption text, Luke 22:31, "Satan hath desired to have you, that he might sift you as wheat." (AV) Here is what he says:

Until then all had run smoothly onward. We had been greatly blessed with the Truth, but not especially tested in our love and fidelity to it. But with the summer of 1878, the parallel in time to our Lord's crucifixion and His utterance of the above quoted words, the sifting began which has continued ever since, and which must, sooner or later, test every one who receives the light of Present Truth.

"Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which shall try you, as though some strange thing happened to you"; for "the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" ... [1 Peter 4:12].

The object of this trial and sifting evidently is to select all whose heart desires are unselfish, who are fully and unreservedly consecrated to the Lord; who are so desirous of having the Lord's will done, and whose confidence in His wisdom, His way and His Word is so great, that they refuse to be led away from the Lord's Word, either by the sophistries of others or by plans and ideas of their own. These in this sifting time will be strengthened and will increase their joy in the Lord and their knowledge of His plans, even while their faith is being tested by the falling into error of thousands on every hand.—Psalm 91:7. j

Then Pastor Russell explains an erroneous view that had been held by all up to this point. Based on Paul's statement at 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52, it had been expected "that at some time the living saints would be suddenly and miraculously caught away bodily, thenceforth to be forever with the Lord." Believing this would take place in 1878, some were disappointed because nothing occurred that they could see. However, Pastor Russell was led to a re-examination of the scripture and realized that their "mistake lay in expecting to see all the living saints changed at once, and without dying—an erroneous view shared in by the whole nominal church, and one which we had not yet observed or discarded." Russell's re-examination of this text revealed that the true significance of the apostle's words was that those who were to be of Christ's body and who were alive at his presence or after his return would not lie unconscious in the grave as had those who preceded Christ's return. Instead they would be changed instantane-


ously at death to be present with him. This was really an important revelation of scripture and one that many fundamentalists still have not come to appreciate. Russell concludes this point by saying: "So this re-examination showed further light upon the pathway and became a good cause for encouragement, as evidencing the Lord's continued leading."


But while I was thus helped to clearer views and brighter hopes, and while I diligently endeavored to help others, the spring of 1878 proved far from a blessing to Mr. Barbour and to many under his influence. Rejecting the plain, simple solution presented above, Mr. Barbour seemed to feel that he must of necessity get up something new to divert attention from the failure of the living saints to be caught away. But alas, how dangerous it is for any man to feel too much responsibility and to attempt to force new light! To our painful surprise, Mr. Barbour soon after wrote an article for The Herald denying the doctrine of the Atonement—denying that the death of Christ was the Ransom-price for Adam and his race, saying that our Lord's death could no more avail for the payment of the penalty of man's sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child. I was astonished; for I supposed that Mr. Barbour had a clear understanding of the work of Christ as our Sin-Offering . . . Either I had given Mr. Barbour credit for clearer views than he ever had, or else he was deliberately taking off and casting away the wedding garment of Christ's righteousness. The latter was the only conclusion left; for he afterwards stated that he had previously recognized Christ's death as man's Ransom-price. k

TOM: What did he mean by the "wedding garment"?

JOHN: Russell was referring to Jesus' illustration at Matthew 22:11-14. This parable depicts a king who invited guests to the marriage feast of his son. Those first invited refused to come, so he finally sent out into the highways and byways and gathered others, but finally at the wedding feast he found a man without the appropriate wedding garment to show his recognition of the occasion and he commanded that he be put out. Jesus here illustrated that only those properly identified as being in complete union with him would be allowed to remain in the gathering of his chosen ones. Applying this illustration in this light, Russell was pointing out that Barbour's rejection of the merit of Jesus' ransom sacrifice was a deliberate discarding of his Christian identification. Peter warned about this when he said: "There also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among you. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves." l

MARIA: Pastor Russell was only twenty-six at that time and Mr. Barbour was a much older man. Besides, The Herald of the Morning was Mr. Barbour's magazine in the sense that he had started it, although Pastor Russell was financing it when this division arose. So Pastor Russell could easily have been influenced by Mr. Barbour's position. He could have hesitated to oppose him for fear of losing what ground they had gained.


JOHN: But, young as he was, he knew from his study of the Bible that compromise is the beginning of apostasy, and to forsake God's principles or truths for the sake of expediency would be fatal. This was Russell's first real test of integrity to the truth. The course he chose was immediate and decisive. He wrote an article for The Herald at once in contradiction of the error. For several months similar articles appeared, then Russell reports:

It now became clear to me that the Lord would no longer have me assist financially, or be in any way identified with, anything which


cast an influence in opposition to the fundamental principle of our holy religion. Therefore, after a most careful though unavailing effort to reclaim the erring, I withdrew entirely from The Herald of the Morning, and from further fellowship with Mr. Barbour. But a mere withdrawal I felt was not sufficient to show my continued loyalty to our Lord and Redeemer ... I therefore understood it to be the Lord's will that I should start another journal, in which the standard of the Cross should be lifted high, the doctrine of the Ransom defended, and the Good Tidings of great Joy proclaimed as extensively as possible.

Acting upon this leading of the Lord, I gave up traveling, and in July, 1879, the first number of THE WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE made its appearance. From the first, it has been a special advocate of the Ransom; and, by the grace of God, we hope it will be so to the end. m

The far-reaching effects of this bold stand for pure doctrine could not have been foreseen at that time; but it is now evident that, had Russell compromised on this vital issue, his service to Jehovah would have been of no more value than the lame sacrifices being offered by the leaders of apostate Christendom. This was a time of important decisions. It was a time when Christ Jesus, as Jehovah's representative, was selecting the channel to be used to gather his "wheat" class.

The truths that had been revealed from God's Word had come to Russell and his associates only by careful and diligent study. Their acceptance of them was based on an honest conviction that the time had now come for Jehovah to call "out of darkness into his marvelous light" all men who sincerely desired to know and do the divine will. Russell's position brings to mind the scripture at Galatians 2:4, 5. Lois, would you like to read that?

LOIS [reading]: "But because of the false brothers brought in quietly, who sneaked in to spy upon our freedom which we have in union with Christ Jesus, that they might completely enslave us—to these we did not yield by way of submission, no, not for an hour, in order that the truth of the good news might continue with you." It was Paul who said that, wasn't it?

JOHN: Yes. He had many such problems in the early congregation; but he not only stood his ground for the truth of God's Word, he also wrote much encouraging counsel for us today. And just as Paul was richly blessed for his faithfulness, so were Russell and his early associates.


These convictions, coupled with his enlightening experience with Barbour and The Herald of the Morning, led Russell to realize that, if this little body of true Christians were to maintain their integrity to the divine will, they must hold the publishing of these truths closely in hand, maintaining their own journal and other publications apart from all other groups. True, theirs was a small beginning. But it brings to mind the text at Zechariah 4:10: "For who hath despised the day of small things?" (AV) These days, beginning with 1879 when the little Pittsburgh group again found themselves working alone, proved to be days "of small things."

The first issue of Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, July 1, 1879, was limited to 6,000 copies. n C. T. Russell became the editor and five other mature Bible students were to serve as regular contributors. The first words of this new journal are of interest and read:

This is the first number of the first volume of "ZION'S WATCH TOWER," and it may not be amiss to state the object of its publication. That we are living "in the last days"—"the day of the Lord"—"the end" of the Gospel age, and conse-


quently, in the dawn of the "new" age, are facts not only discernible by the close student of the Word, led by the spirit, but the outward signs recognizable by the world bear the same testimony, and we are desirous that the "household of faith" be fully awake to the fact. o

From the beginning the name of Jehovah has been witnessed to by this magazine that is dedicated to him and the interests of his kingdom. In its second issue under the heading "Do You Want 'Zion's Watch Tower'?" it said:

"Zion's Watch Tower" has, we believe, JEHOVAH for its backer, and while this is the case it will never beg nor petition men for support. When He who says: "All the gold and silver of the mountains are mine," fails to provide necessary funds, we will understand it to be time to suspend the publication. p

Two years later the name and identity of Jehovah were discussed. In the issue of July, 1882, appeared the seven-page article entitled "Hear, O Israel! Jehovah Our God Is One—Jehovah," which article disproved the "trinity" doctrine or teaching of "one God in three persons." In August of 1882 the question was asked whether the name "Jehovah" is properly applied to the Father or to Christ. The answer was given:

We confidently assert that the name Jehovah is never applied in Scripture to any but the Father. It is for those who claim the reverse to give a text, and show its applicability to Jesus or anyone else than the Father. Here is a way to prove the matter conclusively—the New Testament writers quote much from the Old Testament; do they ever quote a passage in which the word Jehovah occurs and apply it to Jesus? We claim that they do not. On the contrary, we will give one out of many similar quotations, in which it is clearly applied, not to Jesus, but to the Father. Psa. 110:1, "The Lord (Jehovah) said unto my Lord (adon— master) sit thou," etc. (Note carefully the application of this by Jesus (Luke 20:41-44), and by Peter. (Acts 2:34-36, and 33.) This one text is sufficient until answered. If any one can twist it, we have others ready. q

Thus Pastor Russell acted and served as a witness of Jehovah. r


So you see, Tom, in many ways the evidence was beginning to accumulate that, of all the early voices heard, Jehovah had chosen the publication we now call The Watchtower to be used as a channel through which to bring to the world of mankind a revelation of the divine will and, through the words revealed in its columns, to begin a division of the world's population into those who would do the divine will and those who would not. For this reason 1879 was a turning point in the work. This little group, headed by C. T. Russell, had now been tested and had been found fit to undertake the great preliminary campaign leading up to the climax expected in 1914. But what could this small band expect to accomplish throughout the world in less than forty short years? Even with favorable conditions the task would have looked formidable. But these undaunted itinerant preachers set out literally on foot to accomplish the task in the face of what they knew would be the bitterest opposition. The record of praise to Jehovah's name that they built up in almost forty years could only have been accomplished as stated in Zechariah 4:6: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts." (AS) Only Jehovah could have been feeding and directing his people.

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