Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Help With this Bit Needed

I'm seeking comments from the press, religous magazines or other sources on Paton's Day Dawn, first edition only. This far I have this:

Though Russell advertised Day Dawn through the pages of Zion’s Watch Tower, and it was sold by Watch Tower speakers, it did not sell extremely well. Paton still had remainder copies of the first edition in 1890.

Finding any sort of public review is almost impossible. The lone print comment on the book that I have thus far uncovered appears in The Kingdom and The Restoration, an anonymous book published in London in 1882. The author, writing only as “A Student of Prophecy,” believed the two witnesses of Revelation to be individuals. His belief drew forth strictures on the contrary claim made by Paton in Day Dawn and by J. P. Weethee in the March 22, 1882, issue of Restitution:

“But notwithstanding the strong evidence, throughout the account of the wto witnesses, of their individuality, some think it is all figurative. One writer, J. H. Paton, in his work called, ‘The Day Dawn,’ explains the two witnesses to represent the two Testaments, the Old and the New … Now if we are at liberty to interpret the word after this fashion, it seems to us that we may prove any thing we like from the word. Figures and symbols we know are sometimes used, and used very frequently in this book – The Revelation – But they are always used to represent something. And there is always consistency between figures or symbols, and the things they represent, and what is said. But what consistency is there here on the principle of these writers?”

A private comment made by the poet and writer David Gray to his brother made it into print some few years later with the publication of Letters, Poems and Selected Prose Writings of David Gray. Gray, not the more famous David Gray who died in 1861 but the lesser known writer who died in 1882, had a religious background that included Campbellism, and an association with John Thomas. Ultimately he believed Thomas had “got hold of some technicalities” and was “pushing things far beyond where the spirit of revelation will sustain him.” Sometime in the early half of 1881, his brother sent his a copy of Paton’s book. In a letter to his brother dated May 18, 1881, he wrote: “I have devoted all the few spare hours I have had since you kindly sent me Mr. Patton’s [sic] book to its perusal, and have been greatly interested in it. He certainly has a great deal of truth, some of which is new to me and very valuable. But I fear he goes farther in some things than the Word, fairly read, will sustain him.”

The letter is truncated, and we do not learn the particulars of Gray’s objections, but he continues: “It fact, we must always be entirely ready to stop and unload the most attractive theory when we collide with a plain statement of the Word. Our theories may easily be wrong; but the Word cannot be. Let us hold ourselves perfectly subject to it, even though that leave us to wait in great confusion and ignorance. More light will come, if our hearts be right before God.”

In a follow up letter dated August 24, 1881, Gray wrote: “I have chanced to learn a little, lately, of those people in Pittsburgh (‘Zion’s Watch Tower’) with whom Mr. Patton seems to be in sympathy. I think I saw one of their tracts in your possession. I have read a little of Mr. Russell’s writing, myself – perhaps the same tract I saw you have. It is very significant that, here and there through the country, we are seeing a breaking away of earnest, hungry souls from the corruptions of the professing church. There is a movement of similar kind just now in Chicago … But alas! I find the Pittsburgh Watchmen of Zion do not always seem to be content simply with what is written. They want to know more than is revealed, and draw on their imaginations to make up the deficiency. At least that is what I am bound to think of much of their teaching (and Mr. Patton’s) as to the destiny of the unsaved dead, and various ‘orders’ and classes of saved, and some other subjects. But, with this, they have much of the inspiring truth which has been brought out among our so-called ‘Plymouth’ friends, and this activity of inquiry is surely better than the spiritual death we find inside churches” [1]

Much more widely circulated than Paton’s Day Dawn were individual tracts.

[1] Larned, J. N. (editor): Letters, Poems and Selected Writings of David Gray, The Courier Company, Buffalo, New York, 1888, pages 166-168.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps Peters in his "Theocratic Kingdom" refers to Day Dawn. There are numerous references to Barbour and Russell.

B. W. Schulz said...

I checked a searchable digitalized version of Peter's book. There seems to be no mention of Day Dawn.