Friday, September 18, 2009

Bits of things ...

If you have trouble with the lulu.com ordering system when trying to order Nelson Barbour: The Millennium's Forgotten Prophet, I would appreciate knowing of it.

http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/nelson-barbour-the-millenniums-forgotten-prophet/7645313

We've started on the chapter that details Russell's experiences with Wendell, Stetson, Storrs and others between 1871 and 1876. I've pasted a bit of it below. I'm not happy with the details we've uncovered. Please read what we have (though it's a very rough draft) and leave any comments you think helpful.

2. Among the Second Adventists

Russell’s experimentation with various religions was short lived. As he recounts it:

Gradually I was led to see that though each of the creeds contained some elements of truth, they were, on the whole, misleading and contradictory of God's Word. Among other theories, I stumbled upon Adventism. Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall, where I had heard religious services were held, to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists, the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell, long since deceased. …

Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, 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 apostles and prophets 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 me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the Truth.[1]

This is almost all the detail Russell provides. He adds in another place that this took place that this occurred “about 1869.” The evidence suggests me meant this happened in 1871. Wendell and Russell would quickly develop a mutual friendship, and Russell remembered him as “my friend Jonas Wendell.”

Wendell was born December 25, 1814, in Minden, Montgomery County, New York, to Jacob and Magdalena Wendell. They christened him in the St. Paul’s Church, a Lutheran Church in Minden Township, on January 22, 1815. Jonas Wendell became a Second Adventist in after the Millerite failure of 1843. He was converted to Adventism not long after accepting Christ’s salvation. A short obituary written by his friend and coworker, George Stetson, says: “He experienced remission of sins in Syracuse, N.Y., about 1843, and united with the M.(ethodist) E.(piscopal) church. 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 finally impenitent wicked.”[2] Wendell’s conversion to Adventism was through the efforts of Lucy Maria Hersey (Later Stoddard), a Millerite author and evangelist. Her preaching raised the issue of the propriety of women preachers in the Adventist body, and though there was some objection, the consensus was to allow them freedom to preach. Isaac Wellcome recorded, that “Jonas Wendell, and several ministers who are now proclaiming the gospel, state that their conversion was through her preaching.”[3]

Wendell started preaching in Syracuse, New York, in 1847 with some success. He associated with John C. Bywater, a Rochester, New York, minister who in turn was a close associate of Owen Russell Crozier and would advocate Crozier’s “Age to Come” theology. Bywater and Wendell advocated 1850 as the date for Christ’s return, writing articles espousing that view for various Adventist periodicals. Wellcome records it this way:

“Elders J. C. Bywater and Jonas Wendall started specially to advocate that the Lord would make his second advent in 1850. The other papers of the Adventists published the writings of these believers but also gave their reasons why the arguments were not to be relied on as proved. This did not meet their approval and they started a separate enterprise to teach this argument in a form that should not be criticized. This was not the style of 1843 advocates; they allowed the most rigid and thorough criticisms.”

Wendell and Bywater[4] started a small magazine entitled “The Watchman,” that survives as a two issues only. Their preaching “produced results and a small class endorsed the argument as a fact which none could refute. The public were told through press and pulpits that the Adventists had set another time leading many to suppose setting time was their chief business.”[5] Residual resentment lingered even after Wendell’s death. Members of the Seventh Day sect hated Bywater and all his Age-to-Come associates. Thirty years later, the Seventh-Day Adventist ‘historian’ J. N. Loughborough presented their Rochester, New York, meeting place as dirty and dusty and their theology as just as dark.[6]

The failure of his expectations for 1850 did not cure Wendell of the desire to divine from prophetic mathematics the date of Christ’s Second Advent. He was soon as positive about the date 1854 as he had been about 1850. He was “very sanguine in the correctness of the chronological data given, as reaching to ‘the end of the days,’ and the time of the promised blessing. The time passing without a realization of the expected event, his ‘faith failed him,’ as a result of overweening confidence in human computations of time, and human misapplication of data divinely given; and he turned aside from ‘the word,’ and got out of ‘the way,’ and for several years ‘went astray.’”[7]

The 1854 movement was characterized by “Age to Come” views and by a rejection of the idea that the wicked would be resurrected.[8] It was the founding event of the Advent Christian Church, though most of their historians minimize that truth. The primary voice behind the 1854 prediction was Jonathan Cummings who was deeply involved in the Millerite movement. In 1852 Isaac Wellcome viewed the whole matter with considerable distaste:

It would be quite improper to neglect such a prominent point in the history of an institution so important as this has now become because it had a rude beginning, and the task is unpleasant. In 1852 Eld. Jonathan Cummings, one of the ministers of the Advent body in earlier days, claimed to have obtained new light on the commencement and terminus of the periods of Daniel, He was ambitious, aspiring, erratic, with a good degree of eloquence, an air of knowledge and self sufficiency, and a very defiant dogmatic spirit well calculated to gain disciples. He began to teach that the … 1335 days would end and bring the resurrection in a.d. 1854. Those who had long looked and anxiously waited for the return of their Lord and the many who had through their constant labors and God's developments of signs of the impending judgment been brought to unite in the same expectation were interested in any argument which seemed to give evidence as to the time of deliverance and final redemption. A large proportion of them had never gone through a time movement or thoroughly examined a time argument, and but a limited number were competent to decide such a matter after they had heard all that could be said upon it. But the fact that they had ears to hear and hearts anxious to learn what they could about the return of the Lord is highly commendatory to their affections for Christ. They loved his appearing but this fact should not justify any one in tantalizing them with unreliable testimony as to the time of his coming, nor should it deter any faithful teacher from dissuading them from relying upon such evidences as are without foundation. … [The] leaders in this movement were positive beyond the possibility of doubt;’ … Men with such views teach as infallible guides. What they teach must be true for the Lord has given the distinguishing gift and sent them to announce a divine fact, and such were their feelings and the authority with which they taught.[9]

The 1854 Movement was disastrous for many. Wellcome estimated that one in fifty of the fragmented Adventist body participated in the movement. However, he consistently downplays participation in “definite time movements,” and one may safely suppose the percentage to have been much higher. Wellcome recalled that “some of the leading time brethren became doubtful as to the whole theme, and the most of these turned their attention to secular employments while others became convinced that the position occupied by the main body of Adventists was the Scriptural one, viz. that the consecutive fulfillment of prophecy shows conclusively that we are in the closing days of the gentile times.”

Jonas Wendell was among those who faltered. Though he seems to have left no written record of his reasons for becoming inactive, they are plain enough. He invested several years of his life to prophetic speculations that proved unfounded. His own dogmatism in the 1850 Movement and the self-serving identification of Cummings and his principal associates as divinely guided messengers could produce no other reaction in a person with any sense left. Stetson’s obituary of Wendell explains: “He was committed to … ‘the 1854 movement,’ and was very sanguine in the correctness of the chronological data given …. The time passing without a realization of the expected event, his ‘faith failed him,’ as a result of overweening confidence in human computations of time, and human misapplication of data divinely given; and he turned aside from ‘the word,’ and got out of ‘the way,’ and for several years ‘went astray.’”[10]

Even if Wellcome underestimates the proportion of Adventists involved in the 1854 Movement, he does not exaggerate the fanaticism of those involved. A very brief article in the February 24, 1854, issue of The Skaneateles, New York, Democrat recounts a winter-time baptism of the movement’s converts: “The Salem Gazette says that notwithstanding that the mercury was from 6 to 8 degrees below zero [Fahrenheit] on Sunday morning, several converts to the Second Adventists were baptized by immersion that forenoon – sufficient opening in the ice being found between Phillip’s wharf and Hawthorne’s Point.”

Wendell moved to Edinboro, Pennsylvania and settled there sometime before 1865. Wendell descendants would continue to live in Edenboro into the 1890’s at least. C. B. Turner, who had been converted to Adventism by Wendell, “becoming acquainted with these facts … came to Edenboro in the winter of 1864-1865, and proved instrumental in Bro. Wendell's recovery and restoration.” Wendell returned to preaching primarily in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. Notices of his itinerary appear in various issues of The World’s Crisis. He came to Pittsburgh, and Russell found him preaching in Quincy Hall in Allegheny; the Adventists meeting there were one of several groups to whom the hall was rented.

The Allegheny-Pittsburgh Congregation

There is no indication of the Allegheny/Pittsburgh congreagation’s size, but Second Adventists had a strong presence in Pennsylvania extending back to the Millerite Movement. In the first years they faced considerable ridicule from the press which expressed opposition in varying shades. Sometimes satire was used; sometimes outright ridicule or an expression of deep concern for those affected by Millerism was expressed.[11] There is little history for the congregation in Allegheny and Pittsburgh. It comes into our notice in late 1871, when George Stetson was called as its pastor. A letter from Stetson to The Advent Christian Witness dates his service there to about October 1869.[12]

The congregation seems to have been quite small and neglected. Stetson mentions a “schism” in the congregation, though he doesn’t say what caused it. The suggestion that Russell was the cause is made by an opposer with a speculative turn of mind. There is no support for this in the record, and it doesn’t fit the facts as known.

Russell found both the congregation and Wendell congenial company. He plied Wendell with many questions. Some answers satisfied him and some were less than satisfying, even confusing. Their conversations addressed the issue of God’s justice and eternal torment and introduced him to prophetic studies. He returned to his Bible. Here is how he remembered it: “Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, 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 apostles and prophets 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.”[13]

Russell’s statement isn’t as vague as it first appears. His faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible was shaken by his experience with the death of near relatives, including his mother and by the massive loss of life attendant on the Civil War. He saw first hand the results of mass death when the Arsenal exploded. Though is nephew Rufus Wendell was more noted for debating the issue of inherent immortality, Jonas Wendell knew the arguments as well as any Second Adventist. Typically a conversation with a member of the Advent Christian Association or one of the cognate movements was based on a series of questions for which Bible verses provided answers. It is a safe assumption that Russell’s conversations with Wendell followed the same pattern.

Henry Francis Carpenter, who had been briefly interested in the Barbourite movement,[14] produced a guide to Bible questions, and it gives us the best access to what their conversation must have included. It will remind anyone familiar with it of the later Watchtower publication Make Sure of All Things. Some of the questions proposed and then answered with a Bible verse are:

[1] Russell, C. T.: Harvest Siftings and Gatherings, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, page 229.
[2] Stetson, G.: In Memory of Elder Jonas Wendell, The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873
e Wellcome, Isaac: History of the Second Advent Message and Mission, Doctrine and People, Advent Christian Publication Society, Boston, 1874, pages 305-306.
[4] Bywater also published a booklet in 1852 entitled The Mystery Solved; or a Bible Expose of the Spirit Rapping.s, Showing That They Are Not Caused by the Spirits of the Dead, but by Evil Demons, or Devils (Rochester, N.Y.: Advent Harbinger Office, 1852);. It was an anti-spiritualist publication that attributed the abilities of psychic mediums to electricity and the work of demons.
[5] Wellcome, page 585-586.
[6] .Loughborough, J. N.: Recollections of the Past – No. 2, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, February 12, 1884, page 107.
[7] Stetson, G.: In Memory of Elder Jonas Wendell, The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873
[8] White, E. G. Spiritual Gifts – Vols. III-IV, Trustees of Ellen G. White Publications, pages 152-153. “Some who were in the 1854 movement have brought along with them erroneous views, such as the non-resurrection of the wicked, and the future age, and they are seeking to unite these views and their past experience with the message of the third angel.”
[9] Wellcome, pages 594-596.
[10] Stetson, G.: In Memory of Elder Jonas Wendell, The World’s Crisis, September 10, 1873
[11] Examples of press opposition in the Millerite era are found in A. Spencer Brahm: The Piladelphia Press and the Millerites, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, April 1954, page 189ff.
[12] Letter from George Stetson: The Advent Christian Witness, August 27, 1872: “It is now ten months since I was called and came to Pittsburgh, Pa. to labor.”
[13] Russell, C. T.: Harvest Sifftings and Gatherings, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1890, pages 3-4.
[14] Schulz, B. W. and R. M. de Vienne: Nelson Barbour: The Millennium’s Forgotten Prophet, Fluttering Wings Press via Lulu.com, 2009, pages 54-55.

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