We’re not responsible for your ignorance. You are.
Defining every believer in the near Advent of Christ as an Adventist is wrong. Millerite Adventists had a distinctive doctrine that set them at odds with the bulk of Christians looking for the return of Christ. Almost without exception expositors writing in the pre-Millerite period adopted Literalism. Literalism came to full flower in Europe in the early 17th Century (1600s for the easily confused).
Most British writers on prophecy adopted Literalism. It characterized many of the German and Dutch writers too. Literalism was the standard approach of almost every American writer until Millerism. It remained the standard approach outside of Millerism and remains such.
The literalist approach is that the Bible should be taken at face value. If it says that God would reconstitute Israel, it means the Children of Abraham, the Jews. It does not mean a spiritualized Church. Millerites rejected this. Millerites believed Probation doctrine. It astounds me that people come to this blog unfamiliar with one of Christendom’s basic doctrines. Probation doctrine teaches that humans are on probation in this life, no matter what they know of God or the Bible. This life determines their destiny: Hell or Immortality or alternately Eternal Death or Immortality. Literalists were divided on this issue, but a significant number of them believed Probation doctrine false. After leaving the Advent movement, Storrs pointed out that God gave everyone a fair and sufficient chance at life. For some this would be after a resurrection. Disparagingly called “second-probationism,” this view was uniformly rejected by Millerite Adventists.
Adventists hated Russell’s doctrine. They saw none of their own in it, except for a shared belief in the death state. The belief that “when you’re dead, you’re dead” did not derive from Adventism. If you’ve bothered to read Froom’s Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, you’d know this. Are we to consider every American expositor before Miller to be Adventists too? Men like Elias Boudinot who expected Christ’s return in short order would have cringed at being called Adventist or Millerite. Aaron Kinne, who believed Christ would return near 1866, was a Congregationalist minister. He would not have found a place among the Millerites. Expecting Christ’s return does not make one an Adventist. If you think it does, you need to hit the books.
Speculation about the date of Christ’s return is not a uniquely Adventist pursuit either. It has a long history that includes Isaac Newton, German Lutherans of the 18th Century, an endless number of British and American writers from before the Millerite movement. Did you ever bother to read Froom’s Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers? Or did you just read the feculent material found on many web pages?
Storrs did not lead Russell into Adventism. Storrs abandoned Adventism in 1844. Here is an excerpt form our Chapter Three:
Leaves the Adventist Movement
The Millerite failure and a reconsideration of basic Millerite doctrine took Storrs out of the movement in 1844. While many within the Adventist community continued to respect him and consider him a brother in Christ, many more did not. His beliefs were purposely misrepresented and he was reviled in the Second Adventist press. This story has dropped out of most Adventist histories. You will not find it in a recent Advent Christian history. Even some of the older histories such as Johnson’s do not tell it. There is an element of shame attached to it that Adventist historians wish to bury.
Storrs entered the Millerite movement with reservations, though we are uncertain how loudly he voiced them. He objected to Miller’s cindered-earth doctrine:
We became convinced in the winter of ‘42 and ‘43 that the view, held by Mr. Miller and his adherents, that this age would close with the conflagration of the globe, and the cutting off of all men not then prepared for immortality, and that the next age would open with the new heaven and the new earth, with none inhabiting it but the immortal ones, was an error; an error, too, calculated to make thinking men, who were governed more by reason than excitement, reject the idea of the speedy advent of Christ, altogether. They saw that much remained to be fulfilled on this earth, and that if the conflagration of the globe was to take place at the second advent of Christ that event could not be near.
Storrs raised this objection by February or March 1843, though we do not know how widely he voiced it. He preached in Philadelphia in the spring of 1843. Thousands heard him and received a specially prepared edition of Six Sermons. This was one of his first opportunities to voice his objections to Millerite theology. If he did so, we cannot find a record of it. After preaching in Cincinnati for several months (from the Fall of 1843 into the Spring of 1844), he returned to Philadelphia for a brief visit in December 1843. Storrs message was well received. He wrote to the editor of The Western Midnight Cry describing the enduring interest there:
The work there is taking a new start; about 30 were forward for prayers last Sabbath evening – some of them found peace in believing. In this city (Philadelphia) I preached a week ago last Sabbath eve, to about three thousand deeply interested hearers, and the cause here is evidently rising higher and higher – no dying away. … I believe the Lord is at the door, and we shall not have to wait long. Tell the brethren and sisters, to be strong and fear not, for our God will come, and come quickly.
Leaving Philadelphia he returned to the Midwest, evangelizing in parts of Indiana. He was in Philadelphia again in November 1844 with the Seventh-Month message but with Literalist rather than Adventist beliefs. He remained there until 1852.
The sources of Storrs doctrine, who influenced whom, and many of the details of doctrinal shifts are issues for someone else’s research. They have little bearing on Zion’s Watch Tower’s theology. However, we do know some things. Charles Fitch started teaching “probation for the heathen after the Advent.” According to Lewis Gunn, at least by October 1844, some of the Philadelphia Adventists had adopted Storrs’ views. Gunn believed that “many of the Jews will be miraculously converted, and hail His appearing with the exclamation, ‘blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.’” They had, wrote Gunn, “changed from their former belief, and differed entirely from Mr. Miller, and the great body of advent believers in this country – but agreeing with the Literalists.”
Storrs elaborated at length on his doctrine as it was in 1844 and as it, with some modifications, remained until his death. His Literalism served as a growing wedge between him and the Adventist community:
We have since (1843) advocated the doctrine that the advent of Christ as King … is an event nigh at hand – that it will be ushered in with a great and terrible destruction of his enemies, especially among those who have heard the gospel and rejected it; but that there will be “left of the nations,” in the flesh, who will become subjects of the government of Christ and his immortal saints, who shall then rule the nations on this earth, having the seat of empire in Jerusalem, and on mount Zion, from whence “the law shall go forth” to all “left of the nations.” That under this administration “justice and judgment would be executed in the earth,” and “the whole earth be filled with the glory of God,” according to his own oath and promise …. That this period, or age, of the personal reign of Christ … on this earth, is the true millennium, which may be a thousand years; or possibly a much longer period …. That period to close with the final resurrection, judgment, and execution of the judgment on all men: at which time the age of the new heaven and new earth would be ushered in. … For holding such views we have been renounced, shunned, and avoided by a large part of the adherents of Mr. Miller’s theory, who call themselves “Adventists.”
Undeniably, Storrs was one of the leading lights in Philadelphia. Massive crowds gathered outside the Millerite chapel to hear him and others. Every event was wildly exaggerated by the press. Someone was reported to have stolen money from the Millerite treasury. This was false. Children were said to have frozen to death. This was false. The Philadelphia Ledger, appealing to its barely literate readership, described the Millerite gatherings with scorn, ridicule, and exaggeration. The Philadelphia Evening Chronicle reported:
Portions of the population of all the large eastern cities in this country, have been more or less, the victims of a singular and fantastical delusion. They call themselves Millerites, and implicitly believed the delirious and impious ravings of one Miller, who had prophesied that the second advent would certainly occur on the twenty-third instant, when this fair globe would certainly be destroyed by conflagration! Here, in Baltimore, and in Boston, the civil authorities have been compelled to close their churches by force, in consequence of hundreds of them having assembled, and thrown the neighbourhood into wild alarm by their yelling and howling cries and lamentations. On the evening of the twenty-second instant, many hundreds of these crazy people repaired to camps near this city, attired themselves in long white cotton dresses, which they called their “ascension robes,” and were seen wandering through the woods and on the banks of the rivers by moonlight, like sheeted ghosts. They left their business and their families, and many children would have perished, had it not been for the kindness of their fellow citizens. For days this flame of dangerous superstition and enthusiasm spread like wild-fire. There was no stopping it. In two or three instances the victims anticipated the end of the world by suicide: one named Culp, threw himself into the cataract of Niagara; and now that the day has passed over, many are found to be (incurably perhaps) delirious. Such scenes … have alluded to have not probably occurred for centuries, and I hope that centuries will again roll away, before such sorry evidences of the weakness of human nature, and the distress which invariably attends them, will harrow up the feelings.
Almost nothing in this article is true. The Philadelphia and Boston papers were particularly nasty, full of falsehood and ridicule. That they dressed themselves in ascension robes and similar claims were all false. Jane Marsh Parker, Joseph Marsh’s daughter, took pains to refute the Ascension Robes slander. J. V. Himes did as well. Some refutation of the most scandalously false reports was made in the Millerite press, but others wanted to make plain that those in Philadelphia were not “true” Millerites. Lewis Gunn wrote to the Philadelphia papers blaming the whole thing on Storrs and others who had adopted Literalist views:
Some … were not looking for the destruction of the earth, nor for its complete physical renovation, at the present time; they looked for the introduction of the millennium by the personal coming of Christ to the earth; they think this will be the commencement of the promised restitution of all things, to be carried forward until all things shall be made new; they think that probation will close to those who have heard the gospel, but not so with the heathen and all those who have not heard of his fame; they think it will be the beginning of a new dispensation to the heathen, during which it will be emphatically true that the leaves of the tree of life will be for the healing of the nations. These were the published views of Geo. Storrs. … In these views they differed entirely from Mr. Miller and the great body of Advent believers in this country, but agreeing with the Literalists of England (Millennarians) …
By 1845 Storrs “embraced the full Literalist doctrine.” Enoch Jacobs, editor of The Day Star (Cincinnati) wrote: “He has finally gone off into Judaism,” Storrs made the issue clear in 1849, writing that it was “true that we were drawn into Mr. Miller’s theory for a time, but renounced all his peculiarities more than four years ago, and some of them more then five years since; and have had no connection with his peculiar view for more than four years past.” He noted that Millerite “leaders … are among our opponents.” Sometime in late May or early June 1849, two “brethren” wrote to Storrs objecting to his comments about Millerite opposition to his work. They defined themselves as Millerites: “We are what the world, the church, and Br. Storrs calls Millerites. Why are we this? Is it not because we believe with Br. Miller that the Lord is soon coming?” Storrs replied that they had misapprehended the original article, but he also suggested that their definition of Millerite Adventism was wrong:
Whatever the “church” or ‘the world’ may understand by Millerism, I understand it to have three peculiarities, and nothing more: viz. “Definite time for the advent,” …. That view I gave up in the winter of ‘44 and ‘45; and time has since demonstrated that I was right in so doing. The two other peculiarities of Millerism I gave up, one in the month of Feb. ‘44, and the other in June ‘45. The three may be summed up thus, 1. “Definite time for the advent, not to go beyond ‘47.” 2, “No return of the literal posterity of Jacob to the land wherein their fathers have dwelt.” 3, “The earth all to be melted at the time of the advent, and none of its inhabitants left upon it.”
These three points constitute the whole of what I call Millerism. … The second personal advent of Christ – that advent premillennial – nigh, even at the door – the kingdom of God on earth, or the earth the inheritance of the saints – the earth renewed, Paradise restored, and all those kindred doctrines relating to the kingdom of God, are no part nor parcel of Millerism: They had a distinct existence from his theory, and before his views were published to the world. The fact that some who embraced his theory had no knowledge that these other points had been published, by English Literalists, years before they heard from Mr. Miller, does not make them really any part of his peculiarities: they are not, and never were, any of his peculiar views. … The three points I have named are all that constitutes the peculiarities of Millerism.
The leaders in his theory did not like to retain the name of Millerites after 1843-4 passed by, though they gloried in being called so in those years. No sooner did the time pass away, and they commenced the work of organizing churches, than they assumed the name of Adventists; thus showing they were unwilling to go forward under their former one, and so assumed that which is equally appropriate to all believers in the speedy return of Christ and his personal reign on earth, of whom there are many who never were Millerites. In assuming the name Adventists they wronged this latter class of believers; who thus became, in the public mind, identified with them; and they were as really a sect as any other. Why should they have left the name Millerite, by which they were every where known, to assume another without having given up one of Mr. Miller’s peculiarities? Was it to cover their errors without “confession?” It certainly has that appearance, whatever might have been their design.
Storrs pointed back to Miller’s letter as printed in Voice of Truth, saying that Miller and his associates, unable to fault his reasoning, faulted him. Attacks from Millerite Adventists continued throughout Storrs’ career. Apollos Hale and Sylvester Bliss issued a list of ten key doctrines that Storrs was supposed to have abandoned. It was largely and knowingly false. Storrs pointed out the misrepresentation, showing that Hale and Bliss did in fact know the truth of the matter. He called them “reckless in a degree and to an extent that must fill every honest mind with disgust who knows the facts.” He said that their attack “bears on the face of it the evidence of design to stigmatise [sic] us willfully.” Storrs set what he’d actually written side by side with Hale and Bliss’s contrivances, pointing out that they had the original article by Storrs at hand. Their behavior was inexcusable: “This effort to blast our character and destroy our influence is not the first that has issued from the same quarter, which has been borne in silence; and it gives us pain to feel that duty now calls us to rebuke openly those who have sinned in this matter. We have long time holden our peace while a stream of slander has been poured over the land concerning us from men who, if their professions could be relied upon, are as truly the representatives of Jesus Christ as the Pope is of St. Peter. But God will judge between us.”
James White republished Storrs’ 1843 article on the return of the Jews in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, failing to note that it was not his current belief. “When an association, or individuals publish sentiments which the author has publicly renounced – and give no notice of the renunciation – all men, who have knowledge of the facts must pronounce it an act of dishonesty,” Storrs wrote. White replied in the May 12, 1853, issue of The Review and Herald:
We much regret the date of this discourse was not given. We also regret that we did not state that George Storrs had renounced a portion, at least, of the truth contained in that discourse; for we never had the least desire to conceal this fact. Our object in publishing it was for the truth it contains …
We also much regret that the Editor of the Examiner should so rashly charge us with “dishonesty,” and then withhold from us his paper containing this charge. Had it not been for the kindness of a brother in Massachusetts … we might have been ignorant of the charge to this day.
Whether the course pursued by the Examiner is, or is not, in accordance with the gospel of Christ, we now leave the sincere to judge.
Our historian’s sympathies rest entirely with Storrs. The Whites would gather well-deserved accusations of plagiarism and misrepresentation throughout their careers. White’s sniffing complaint that Storrs hadn’t sent them the issue of Bible Examiner containing his exposure of the Review and Herald’s dishonesty was a bit of misdirection. It blames the wronged party for being wronged. Storrs was kinder than we are, “cheerfully” forgiving them upon receipt of the apology.
In the comment trail someone suggested that belief in the second advent makes one an Adventist. This is unreasoned idiocy. The near return of Christ is the common belief of Christendom. Adventism has distinctive doctrines, as Storrs noted. Most churches remain in the Literalist tradition, even if they don’t know the history.
In chapter four, A Separate Identity, we consider the early Bible Class in Allegheny. We trace their beliefs to original sources. The beliefs we consider in detail are: End of the Age; Second Probation, Ransom and Atonement, Parousia and Restitution, Restoration of the Jews, World Burning, Baptism, Resurrection, End Times Chronology and Prophetic Framework, The Trinity, Devil and Demons, Great Pyramid, and Church Ordinances.
We tell you what books Russell read, who he knew, and from where each of his doctrines came. Millerite Adventists rejected Russell’s teaching in each area except for two: The Trinity and Devil and Demons. Every other doctrine came from the Literalist community. In America, by Russell’s day, they were called Age-to-Come believers. Russell’s contacts centered on a small group associated with The Restitution.
Some of you insist Russell was an Adventist because he believed in Christ’s return. Do you have any idea how stupid that is? Did you bother to read one – just one – year’s worth of Bible Examiner? Did you notice who wrote for it, what they said, their view of Adventism? The other magazines and newspapers are not impossible to find. Did you look, or did you take intellectual poison by the spoonful? We are not responsible for your ignorance.
Did you know that Stetson abandoned Adventist doctrine for age to come belief. Did you know he wrote for The Restitution, a journal that opposed Adventism, and for The Rainbow, a British Literalist publication? Probably not.
Your definition of Adventism is wrong. No Adventist in the Russell era would have accepted it. No one else would either. The pastor of the Congregationalist church Russell attended wrote and preached on Christ’s return. This is not a secret. Anyone can find this. If you read his published sermon on the topic, you will see that he did not teach Millerite doctrine. He taught Literalist doctrine that most American and British writers found scriptural.
In chapter one, Developing a Religious Voice, we tell you about Russell’s introduction to prophetic thought. Contrary to what’s usually written, this happened in his youth. Here are two excerpts from that chapter:
1. Russell read religious books and magazines, apparently most interested in those that focused on leading a Christian life. He was impressed with Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Progress, referring to it in articles and sermons throughout his life. He tells us very little about his childhood reading. We know he read religious periodicals because he tells us so. He read tracts. He tells us that too. We believe he read juvenile literature. Almost without exception books for children were religious and often published by tract societies. The American Tract Society was an especially prolific publisher of children’s tracts and small books. Some of this material predisposed Russell to doctrines he would maintain for the rest of his life. Millennialist views, primarily British Literalist, found their way into young people’s books.
Books by Mary Martha Sherwood, a British writer, were widely circulated in the United States and were standard fare in Sunday School libraries. One of her earlier books was entitled The Millennium; Or, Twelve Stories Designed to Explain to Young Bible Readers, the Scripture Prophecies Concerning the Glory of the Latter Days. The belief system she presents is colored by the Trinity and Eternal Torment doctrines, but the Atonement and Millennium are presented in ways that Russell believed were scriptural. The Christ stands in the stead of sinful humans; the Millennium is a period of restored blessings on an earth again made paradise. “It was the children of Adam,” she wrote, “who owed this debt to God; and that Christ our Saviour, before he could be admitted to stand in our place, and pay our debt, was obliged to become one of us, and to be born a child of Adam after the flesh.” Christ’s millennial rule was to be “the happy days when the kingdom of Christ shall prevail on the earth.” Millennialist views pervaded Sherwood’s books, and there is very little of it that Russell did not accept.
Richard Newton, an Anglican clergyman and children’s writer, also elaborated on the millennium and a child’s place in it. In 1857 he published Rills From the Fountain of Life: or, Sermons to Children containing a sermon based on Isaiah 11:6. Entitled “The Millennial Menagerie,” it suggested that the interaction between animals and children as described by Isaiah was meant to be literally fulfilled. While we could develop a significant list of children’s authors who wrote similarly, these are, I think, sufficient to show the type of literature to which Russell was exposed. We believe that Russell was prepared to accept millennial doctrines of this flavor by early exposure to them.
More adult writing also presented a view of the millennium that he would find agreeable. While we cannot with surety prove he read any one book, we think it likely he was exposed to Charlotte Elizabeth Tona, a popular English author with a strong American following. She died shortly before Russell’s birth but remained popular in the United States and more than one uniform edition of her works was printed. Her Personal Recollections contains a very clear statement of millennial beliefs along with supporting arguments. It would have been hard for Russell to escape exposure to books like these, even if he did not read these exact books. They would have prompted him to accept Millenarian views, though not Adventist views.
Later we write:
2. Exposed to Millennialist Preaching
Henry D. Moore and others in Pittsburgh’s broad Calvinist community swayed Russell in ways he never fully discusses. Moore was a prophetic student, preaching on premillennial themes. An example of this type of sermon is his An Argument for the Second Personal Coming of Jesus Christ. Moore was Literalist, approaching prophetic interpretation from that standpoint, writing that doctrine should be established clearly and unambiguously “by ordinary and natural interpretation of language.” Russell was made comfortable by this sensible approach to scripture and would carry it into his own prophetic enquiries.
The Calvinist community in Pittsburgh had a vibrant premillennialist element extending back at least to the 1820s, and in 1844 Presbyterians in Pittsburgh republished Archibald Mason’s Observations, Doctrinal and Practical on Saving Faith. Mason (1753-1831) was a Scotch Covenanter with a strong interest in prophecy. His works were circulated in the United States, and his expectations for Christ’s return just past mid-Nineteenth Century influenced several expositors including Second Adventists. In Two Essays on Daniel’s Prophetic Numbers, written in 1820, Mason postulated that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 would end in 1844. Within Russell’s acquaintance was William James Reid, pastor of the United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. Reid preached on prophetic themes, and his sermons on the Revelation were collected together and published as Lectures on the Revelation. Reid’s lectures were strongly influenced by Seiss, Elliott, Albert Barnes, and by continental Literalists.
Zydek presents as fact his belief that Russell read The Time of the End: A Prophetic Period, Developing, as Predicted, an Increase of Knowledge Respecting the Prophecies and Periods that Foretell the End. This is the merest of speculations. The book was compiled from the writings of E. B. Elliott and others with the views of the anonymous Congregationalist author included. Zydek’s claim that “it has been reported that young Russell is seldom seen without a copy of The Time of the End” is puzzling. No contemporary source reports this; no nearly contemporary source presents this. This is, as is nearly all that Zydek presents about Russell’s early years, a bit of fantasy fiction.
Russells approach to prophecy did not vary from the Literalism adopted in his youth. He was predisposed to it. The Alleghny Church to whom Wendell preached was not an Adventist body. It’s listed in the Restitution as an approved One Faith-Age to Come church. Did you know that? That’s not hard to discover. Did you look?
For some of you, buying our book when it’s published next year will be a waste of money. I can see that from emails and from some comments posted here. You have an idea you do not wish to abandon, no matter what the evidence is. Some of you will find interesting new details. Volume one will be something over 300 pages, It takes you from Russell’s ancestry to the blow up between him and Barbour. In those 300 or so pages we will tell you things you did not know. But if you’re fixed in your ideas, don’t waste your money.
Our readers are responsible for themselves. It is not our responsibilty to define every phrase, word, idea, profile very person you may not find familiar. We expect you to think and to assume responsibility for your own study.
 J. Gordon Melton is in error when he suggests that Storrs was ever a member of the Advent Christian Church. (Encyclopedia of American Religions, page 615.)
 G. Storrs: The Age to Come, Bible Examiner, May 1850, page 74.
 Letter from George Storrs dated November 29, 1843, found in The Western Midnight Cry, December 9, 1843, page 5. Storrs residence in Brooklyn was at 62 Hicks Street. The house still exists. Cornelia Davenport, Alexander Russell’s daughter and C. T. Russell’s first cousin, was his neighbor living at 74 Hicks.
 Storrs’ itinerary is given in Six Sermons, 1856 revised edition, page 14, 17.
 Julia Neuffer: The Gathering of Israel: A Historical Study of Early Writings, Digital Edition, page 4.
 G. Storrs: The Age to Come, Bible Examiner, May 1850, page 74.
 See A. S. Braham: The Philadelphia Press and the Millerites, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, April 1954, page 189ff.
 As reprinted in The Christian Messenger and Reformer, December 1844, page 205. Christian Messenger was published in London, England.
 J. M. Parker: Did the Millerites Have Ascension Robes? The Outlook: A Family Magazine, October 15, 1894, page 582-583.
 Wellcome, op. cit, page 382.
 G. Storrs: Tour East with Various Observations, Bible Examiner, May 1849, page 73.
 G. Storrs: Misapprehension Corrected, Bible Examiner, July 1849, page 106.
 G. Storrs: Misrepresentations Corrected, Bible Examiner, August 1851, pages 127-128.
 J. White: Hear Us; Then Judge, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, May 12, 1853, page 208.
 eg. C. T. Russell: Characteristics of a Sound Mind, The Watch Tower, September 1, 1912, page 280.
 For a discussion of Literalist belief see the next chapter.
 1829 edition, pages 27, 37.
 Evangelical Book Society, Philadelphia, 1857. The sermon begins on page 170.
 Cincinnati, 1874.
 Published by A. Jaynes, Franklin Head, Pittsburgh, 1844.
 Among Mason’s prophetic works were Three Discourses on the Millennium and A Scriptural View and Practical Improvement of the Divine Mystery. The latter was strongly Literalist, a belief system adopted by Age-to-Come adherents and Russell himself.
 Stevenson, Foster & Co., Pittsburgh, 1878.
 Published by J. P. Jewett, Boston, 1856.