This is a fragment of the chapter we're currently writing. I'm posting it in very rough and incomplete draft. It's open for comment and suggestions.
Bible Students’ Tracts and an Expanding Ministry
Day Dawn, while it addressed the need for a clear statement of their theology, did not fill the need for simple direct and brief missionary tracts. Russell received “numerous and urgent calls for Watch Tower Tracts on various topics.” He suspended traveling for part of October 1880 to prepare them. “They will be cheap tracts for gratuitous distribution and will be furnished at a very low price to those agreeing to distribute them, or free to those so desiring them,” he explained.
Day Dawn stated their theology as seen by Paton. The tracts, with the exception of one written by Albert Delmont Jones, presented Russell’s view. There were differences, and they would grow. Ultimately they became the basis for the Watch Tower’s first major doctrinal publication, Food for Thinking Christians.
There was some sort of delay producing the proposed tracts, and Russell expressed his disappointment in a brief announcement in the December 1880 issue. He advised readers to expect them within a month: “They will be free to all who agree to use them wisely. We advise that you make a list of all Christian people whom you may have any hope of interesting, and send them the tracts in rotation, as numbered, so that
they will get hold of the subjects in a connected manner. Make out your lists at once.” When issued they were small thirty-two page tracts.
The first of the tract supplements, entitled Why Will There Be a Second Advent, was duly released with the January 1881 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. It was a reprint with slight revisions of an earlier Watch Tower article of the same title. Russell outlined his plans for circulation in the announcement:
With this number we send Tract No. 1. We have arranged for quite a number of them, and you may expect one or two a month for several months. They will all be free, on condition that you order no more than you will wisely use.
We will not send more than 25 at one time. You can re-order when they are gone. This is a way in which all can "both labor and suffer reproach," as well as give the "glad tidings" to some who have ears to hear and hearts to appreciate; "The love of God, which passeth all understanding," revealed to us in His word.
We suggest that each tract be carefully read by you before you give it to others.
Supplement number 2 was issued with the February magazine. Russell reminded his readers that they should read it carefully before circulating it. He explained that the tract supplements were “specially designed for thinking Christians, and would be, to the natural man, foolishness.” None of the tracts were designed to convert unbelievers. They believed they were in the Gospel Harvest when the Wheat and Weeds of Jesus’ parable would be separated. They were calling to the wheat-like Christians.
The titles of tracts two and three are unknown to me. An educated guess based on the later content of the small book Food for Thinking Christians leads me to suppose the titles were How Will Christ Come? and The Day of Judgment. These are only articles of correct length, and their subject matter follows logically after tract one.
[insert Wanted 1000 preachers]
Tract Supplement Number 4, Why Evil Was Permitted was mailed with the May 1881 issue of The Watch Tower with the explanation that “It is a subject much thought of by all, and more than one child has asked, "Why did God make the Devil?" It is a subject which should command some attention from all thinking Christians.” It was a reprint, with some revisions, of an article of the same name found in the [date] issue.
Why Evil Was Permitted: A Dialogue, reprinted from the August 1879, Zion’s Watch Tower, was meant as a restatement and elaboration of Russell’s Substitutional Atonement beliefs. He believed the doctrine to be misunderstood and incorrectly taught: “A false idea of substitution has obtained among Christian people from the supposition that it represented God as a vindictive, vengeful tyrant, angry because man had sinned; refusing to show mercy until blood had been had been shed and carrying not whether it was the blood of the innocent or the guilty as long as it was blood.”
The bulk of the tract considers atonement and restitution, issued dividing Watch Tower adherents from their former associates. The article and the tract it became also reveal the roots of Russell’s doctrine of the inevitability of sin and redemption. Russell acquired the doctrine via his association with George Storrs, who had published an identically titled tract in the 1860’s.
The tract published by Storrs was extracted from a larger work by Henry Smith Warleigh, Anglican rector of Ashchurch, Gloucestershire. It is unclear to us when and how the Warleigh material was first published, but the 1873 edition of his book, Twelve Discussion Proving the Extinction of Evil Persons and Things, reprints it all. The tract published by Storrs is found therein as chapter ten, “Why Evil Was Permitted.”
Russell’s tract and the Warleigh tract are both in dialogue format, but the parentage of the one by the other is not shown by this, but by similarity of doctrine. Russell asserted that “if an intelligent creature is to be made at all, he must be made liable to change; and as he was created pure, any change must be from purity to sin.” This thought was derived from Warleigh’s, “man can be but a creature … Unchangeableness is an infinite attribute; and can belong only to the Unchangeable, Uncreated God. … If man be made at all he must be liable to fall, though there may be no innate necessity for it. There must be the capacity, though there need not be the inevitability.”
Both Russell and Warleigh have the dialogue foil ask if God could not have made man incapable of sin. Russell answers: “No. To have done so would have been to make another God. Unchangeableness is an attribute only of an infallible, infinite being – God.” The dialogue respondents in both works ask, “Are not all things possible with god?” Russell’s answer is a paraphrase of Warleigh’s.
Russell believed sin was inevitable and desirable because it furthered God’s plans. Adam, he asserted, “could not … know the meaning of Good unless he had evil to contrast with it. … A knowledge of evil could be obtained in no way except by its introduction, and remember he could not have disobeyed if God had given no commandment. … Therefore, I claim that God not only foresaw man’s fall into sin, but designed it. It was part of his plan. God permitted, nay wanted man to fall. … He saw the result would be to lead man to … see the bitterness and blackness of sin.”
This was an elaboration of Warleigh’s claim that God’s “works of creation had exhibited his wisdom, power and goodness … but there were attributes not yet exhibited; such as pity and mercy; or that pitying love which he tells us he delights to exercise. … But his pity and love cannot be exhibited except by the exercise of them; and they cannot be exercised … except upon an appropriate object. Now the only thing that can call forth the exercise of pity, is a miserable object; and there can be no miserable object, unless there is sin. In other words, unless there is evil in existence.”
Neither Russell nor Warleigh relied on Biblical proof for any of this. Instead they relied on a chain of inferences, some of them quite flawed. Warleigh’s definition of pity was especially flawed, and both Russell and he limited the scope of Adam’s perfect intellect so that they presupposed a need for expirential learning. Apparently neither of them thought Adam or Eve capable of abstract reason.
Russell liked what he read of Warleigh’s work and adapted it uncritically. Warleigh wrote: “Man was the masterpiece of all creation” This viewpoint may be more understandable in him because he was Trinitarian and saw Jesus as uncreated, a part of the ‘godhead.” Still, it is hared to forgive him this bit of nonsense in the light of the Psalm that has man a little less than angels.
Russell borrowed this though wholesale, writing that man was “the masterpiece of God’s workmanship.” At least Russell had the good sense to limit that status to man’s state among earthly creatures. Even then the though implies that the rest of God’s earthly creation was only practice and not as well formed.
This is a history and not a theology text, and I will not discuss the theological merit of these ideas at length. The two most obvious problems were that Warleigh and Russell after him relied on “reason” and not scripture. They denied that their scheme made God the author of sin, but if He saw it as “necessary” so man could be taught “good,” planned for it, made it inevitable – who else was?
This belief undercut his more thought-out view of Atonement and Reconciliation, though it was scant few of his opponents that saw the flaw. Many of them shared his admiration for Warleigh. Most of this doctrine was abandoned by Jehovah’s Witnesses under J. F. Rutherford. Many Bible Students continue to believe it, though without any understanding of its roots.
Supplement number five was a reprint of the earlier article entitled “Narrow Way to Life.”
This tract we hope will be acceptable to you all. We hope that its general distribution will be productive of good results and that it may be used of the Lord as an eye salve to many to enable them to see "the exceeding riches of His grace in His loving kindness toward us." And for you, brethren, we pray that the viewing of the narrow way to life, may bless you, and that "The Father of Glory may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him (that) the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; ye may know, what is the hope of his calling; and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the Saints; and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us." Eph. 1:17.
We have quantities of this tract, and will try to supply all your demands. Order all you can use, and use all that you order.
This tract was a reprint of the article of the same title appearing in the August 1879 Watch Tower.
Tract number five was entitled The Narrow Way to Life, and was with slight revision the same as the article of the same title appearing in the [date] Watch Tower. Russell saw this matter as of primary importance and as a major advance forward in understanding Bible truth. [Develop]
Tract number six was by Albert Delmont Jones. Its title has been lost, but a record of controversy that followed its publication persists. Jones had already expressed positive views that 1881 would see a prophetic crisis, and he was drifting off into areas that Russell and others would see as un-Christian and unstable. Jones tract produced a strongly negative reaction, and Russell felt compelled to offer explanations through Zion’s Watch Tower:
We have a number of inquiries relative to tract No. 6, (written by Bro. A. D. Jones) asking whether the editor's views are in harmony with those expressed in that tract. To which we answer that it is quite possible for different persons to have somewhat different ideas regarding the manner of the unfolding future, though they be entirely agreed with reference to the work of the past, present and future. We are for instance, not much in sympathy with the idea that the "Perihelion of the planets" is to bring "a carnival of death," and for this reason have refrained from mentioning the harrowing details furnished by astrologists as the probable result. It may be that such a dreadful scourging is to come upon the world so soon, but from our understanding of prophecy we expect that the carnival of moral pestilence, spiritual famine, and death will come first, upon the nominal church--the sort of "pestilence" and "arrows" referred to in Psa. 91 from which nothing will shield but the "truth." (vs. 4.)
But while we do not expect such literal plagues, we do not venture to gainsay
the astrologers and their predictions; it is possible that both astrology and scripture may be correct concerning the coming events, but our confidence and sole reliance is on the latter. To compare notes we suggest that Scripture indicates that the nominal church is to be given over to tribulation and be shown no favor from October of this year; and every thing seems ripe for just such a thing: On the other hand the astrologers began as far back as 1871 to predict what would occur in 1880 and 1881. But though the largest planet Jupiter has already reached the point of perihelion (more than nine months ago) and though Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction six months ago, yet there is nothing except unusual rain storms thus far to justify the awful pictures drawn.
Any sympathy Russell had for astrological predictions would disappear. Given his later anti-Spiritualist writings, finding this much sympathy expressed is surprising. Jones was swayed by contemporary astrologers because they reflected his own views of what 1881 would bring. He borrowed heavily from them. It would be a surprise if he did not read C. A. Grimmer’s The Voice of the Stars: or the Coming Perihelia with Attendant Plagues, Storms, and Fires from 1880 to 1887, Supported by Historical Facts, published first in 1879 and reprinted several times in America. Grimmer predicted that the period “from 1880 to 1887 will be one universal carnival of death.” (Page 7 in the edition I consulted.) He may have also read L. D. Broughton’s The Elements of Astrology. Broughton and others suggested that the perihelion of the major planets due near 1880 and extending to 1886 would see major disasters. He predicted “great plagues … in all their intensity.” He foresaw “droughts, epidemics, pestilence and famine” but thought the effects would be less in more civilized countries. The predictions of astrologers fit exactly into Jones’ view of impending events.
The last of the Supplements was a Chart of the Ages issued with the
July/August 1881 magazine. It was reproduced the next month in Food for Thinking
We present to each of our readers with this issue, a "Chart of the Ages," (unfortunately printed June, instead of July supplement) with the suggestion that you hang it in some convenient place where it will be often in your sight; that its diagram of the narrow way to life, may be a constant and helpful reminder to you of the way our Leader trod; that thereby you may be enabled to make your calling and election sure.
We hope too, that you will so place it, that it will be an object of interest to all who may visit you, and that you will so familiarize yourself with it as to be able to explain its teachings to them; thus each reader will be a preacher of the "narrow way to life" -- to Glory, Honor and Immortality, so soon to close; and also of the plan of God for the world's salvation, which is only just beginning. May God make you able ministers of his word.
The Chart should have your careful attention and study for at least one month: for this reason, and to allow needed time for other parts of the service, this paper and chart supplement will constitute the July and August issue. Therefore you may expect nothing more until September.
Food for Thinking Christians
Financing the Work
Russell and others poured their personal fortunes into keeping Zion’s Watch Tower afloat. In late 1881 he attempted to make the paper free to all, something the Postal regulations would disallow. Explaining his reasons, he said, “The subscription price was made so low in endeavoring to make it burdenless upon the majority of our readers who cannot well afford to spend more, that it did not pay expenses. (The paper from the first has only paid about two-thirds of its expenses--not to mention the additional cost of
Supplements during the last six months.)”
A major source of the money was a donation of Florida land that seems to
have come from Russell and his father. A special supplement offering the land
for sale was issued with the November 1884 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. By
December, eight of the plots had been sold. There were forty plots on the list “of ten acres each, on Pinellas Peninsula, Hillsboro Co., Florida, donated to this Society's funds and offered for sale at ten dollars per acre cash; or two years' time to settlers.” The supplement seems not to exist in any library or collection, but some detail is preserved in short announcements. The land seems to have been in the Disston and Pinellas areas.
Additional plots were offered for sale late in 1885:
Some who engaged plots of the land donated to "Z.W.T. Tract Society" at Pinellas
(See Supplement), finding that circumstances do not favor their going, have donated the installments paid to the Fund and returned the land for sale. Besides this, another Brother interested in the truth, has donated to the Society near the other donated lands four ten-acre plots.
Thus it comes that we have about twelve plots now for sale. Of these four have small ponds, and would require some ditching, and can therefore be had at half price.