Friday, June 7, 2013

Working on the last chapter of volume 1

This is what we have. Can you add detail. ...?

A. H. Macmillan reported a later claim made by “Pittsburgh newspapers” that Russell “was on the Sixth Street bridge dressed in a white robe on the night of the Memorial of Christ’s death, expecting to be taken to heaven.” We could not find the original of this newspaper report, though we do not doubt its existence. The fact of the report is interesting, but the conclusions many have drawn from it are distorted. The report, no matter who printed it, was long removed from the events of 1878. Macmillan’s association dates from 1900.[1] The newspaper article could be no older than that and is probably dated later, perhaps after 1906. So at best it reports on events twenty years pervious. As Macmillan has it, Russell’s reaction was to laugh “heartily” and say:

I was in bed that night between 10:30 and 11:00 P.M. However, some of the more radical ones might have been there, but I was not. Neither did I expect to be taken to heaven at that time, for I felt there was much work to be done preaching the Kingdom message to the peoples of the earth before the church would be taken away.[2] 

            One should dispose of the ascension-robe claim first. It was an old often repeated calumny. Everyone with clearly defined end of the age expectations was subject to it, though there is not one verifiable instance. It is especially out of place when applied to Russell. He expected a change to a spirit body, making any self-made ascension robe irrelevant. He understood the “white robes” of Revelation [vs] to be symbolic, not literal. That he or any of the Pittsburgh Barbourites dressed in robes is a newspaper reporter’s lie. Some writers have taken this on face value. The story delights Russell’s enemies who discount his denial, and others simply repeat it as is, believing it to be accurate because it saw print.

            If Macmillan reports Russell’s belief that “there was much work to be done” and that he didn’t “expect to be taken to heaven at that time” with any sort of accuracy, then we must presume his doubts to have arisen in the last weeks before April 1878. Any time prior to the spring of 1878, we find Russell and Barbour believing with equal fervor that translation impended.[3] It is apparent that he believed and preached that translation was due. Taken as a whole, this seems a very unreliable report. But we come away from it noting two things: There was among the Pittsburgh brethren a “more radical” party; they were somewhat fragmented. And doubts grew as the time approached.

[1]               A. H. Macmillan: Faith on the March, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1957, page 42.
[2]               A. H. Macmillan: Faith on the March, page 27.
[3]               C. T. Russell: A Conspiracy Exposed and Harvest Siftings, Zion’s Watch Tower, special edition, Apriil 25, 1894, pages 103-104.  The Prospect, Herald of the Morning, July 1878, page 11.

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