Thursday, November 6, 2014

End of Chapter on Food for Thinking Christians

Raw, unedited. But here it is:

Of those prominent in the work up to 1881, Paton’s name is conspicuously absent from the list of those circulating Food for Thinking Christians. He is mentioned in passing as active in Michigan and, Russell “presumed,” busy writing for the first issues of Zion’s Day Star. Paton was already surrendering to Universalism, something that had appealed to him from his youth, and he was uncomfortable with the lead Russell had taken. This is best detailed in another chapter.

Samuel T. Tackabury entered the work in March 1882. He had been “a member until now of the M.E. Conference.”[1] Tackabury was a new convert, one of the few ministers convinced by Food for Thinking Christians and other Watch Tower publications. He forwarded his ministerial credentials along with his resignation from the Methodist Episcopal ministry and from the M. E. denomination to church authorities, and it is duly noted in The Minutes and Official Journal of the New York Conference.[2] He had been active in the Methodist ministry at least from the mid 1860’s,[3] resigning his charge in 1877 because of chronic ill health. Early in his Methodist Episcopal ministry, he supported himself as a “dairyman and farmer.”[4]

He returned to the ministry later and was, at the time he was introduced to Watch Tower teachings, pastor of the newly-formed Methodist Episcopal Church in Pierre, South Dakota, and serving a congregation in Ohio.[5] Because of continued fragile health, his missionary activity was short-lived, and he fulfilled his mission by “preaching the blessed gospel by letter and otherwise to many of the scattered saints.”[6] Tackabury died August 5, 1888, of “consumption,” that is tuberculosis.[7] According to the 1870 Census he was born about 1832. By February 1883, Tackabury was back in Ohio.

Entering active Watch Tower evangelism at the same time were two individuals noted only by their last names: “We may also count among the public preachers Bro. Graves, who for many years has been not only a ‘commercial traveler,’ but a railroad train preacher[8] and tract distributor. He is rejoicing in the shining present truth, and has done good in preaching it, distributing ‘Food’ during the past six months. Bro. Boyer will, for the present, remain in Pittsburgh, where he will do some mission work among his numerous friends and former co-laborers in the temperance work, meantime giving much time to the study of the Word which is able to make us wise; preparing himself thus for more public work. While in good health he held meetings in western parts of New York State.”[9]

William Boyer, an English immigrant, was born June 30, 1823, in Warrington, Lancashire, to Samuel and Jane Boyer. A brief biographical note says:


He worked in a chemical laboratory until he came to the United States in 1846. He located in Dane County, Wis., coming out with what was then known as the “British Temperance Emigration Society,” which soon broke up. Mr. Boyer purchased a farm, and has followed this occupation, living in Wisconsin until January 1867, when he came to Iowa, purchasing 245 acres of fine land …. Mr. Boyer and all his family are members of the M. E. Church, in which he is a local deacon and supplies the Orchard Circuit. He has held many of the township offices and is at present one of the Trustees. He votes the republican ticket. He is one of the substantial and reliable men of Floyd County.[10]


Nothing is known of his conversion to Watch Tower theology or of any subsequent ministry. He was, however, involved in organizing believers in the United Kingdom into fellowships, “writing letters of introduction wherever two or more reside in one town.”[11]

He is not the same as the “gentleman” who in 1887 ran away with a fifteen year old girl from Reading, Pennsylvania. While it would make for an interesting story, the facts do not fit him. Boyer served as a sergeant in Company F of the 15th Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry. He was severely wounded in the neck at Corinth Mills, and this may account for the health issues mentioned by Russell.[12]

There is circumstantial evidence that “Bro. Graves” was John Temple Graves. If so, his association with Zion’s Watch Tower was brief. By 1910 he was espousing the cause of the American Peace Society. An article appearing in the June 11, 1910, New York Times quoted Graves as saying: “I was a traveling lecturer for many years between Pittsburg [sic] and Omaha … I dealt in natural gas and carried my fixtures.”[13] That John Temple Graves is the “Bro. Graves” of Zion’s Watch Tower remains speculative, but we think a good indicator is his connection to N. H. Barbour. In 1903 Graves invited Barbour to speak at a conference on the “mob spirit in America.” Graves, who became a well known writer and lecturer, was moderator at that conference.[14]


photo here

John Temple GravesLibrary of Congress Photo.


            While Russell recounted the efforts of others, he did not chronicle his own. Only one example of his personal evangelism using Food for Thinking Christians and Tabernacle Teachings exists. Russell admired Joseph Cook, a well known writer and lecturer.[15] Cook, a Congregationalist clergyman from Boston, held views of social issues that paralleled Russell’s, and he supported “vicarious atonement” beliefs that were similar to Russell’s own. Russell wrote that Cook was “justly celebrated for his able defense of the Bible and its author, God, against the attacks of Atheists and Infidels.”[16] Russell also published an extract from Cook’s Monday Lectures: Fifth Series in the September 1880 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower.[17] Cook returned from a widely publicized “around the world” tour in November 1882, lecturing in various places. Russell sought him out, probably sometime in 1884, gifting him with the two booklets.

            Russell extracted from another publication a short paragraph suggesting that Cook accepted some form of “second probation,” republishing the comment in The Watch Tower. The article said: “Rev. Joseph Cook, in one of his lectures, declared that no living man knows anything about the theory of probation, and expressed an opinion that the charitable view of the question was, that probation after death would be granted those who failed to accept the gospel in this life.”[18] This misrepresented Cook, but it was probably what prompted Russell to seek a meeting with him. Johnson believed that a strongly worded sermon rejecting the second probation doctrine of Dr. August Dorner, a German theologian, was really directed against Russell. Johnson also claimed that Cook prevented Russell from lecturing at “the conventions of many churches.” A review of Cook’s Occident does not reveal any mention of Russell, though Dorner’s theology is in this one area similar to Russell’s. While we cannot disprove Johnson’s claims, our research does not sustain them.

            P. S. L. Johnson elaborates an entire conversation between Russell and Cook that we find difficult to credit. The basic story is that Russell presented Cook with the booklets and Cook promised to read them. Johnson claimed that Cook had previously read other material from Russell, and it is very probable that Russell sent him tracts and sample copies of Zion’s Watch Tower. Cook believed Russell to be under-educated and did not endorse Russell’s doctrine. All the other matter presented by Johnson seems to be contrived to fit his hyper-allegorical, prophetic view of Watch Tower history.[19]


photo here

Joseph Cook


By January 1886, Maria Russell could report that “at present there are about three hundred colporteurs at work in the vineyard earnestly laboring for the good of their fellow beings and for the ‘well done’ of the Master, disseminating these publications.” She wondered why more hadn’t taken up the work “We should each ask himself,” she wrote, “What am I doing to herald the blessed gospel which did so much for my own heart? How am I manifesting to God my appreciation of his grace?”[20]




Newspaper reporters sought out Russell for interviews. Many of the articles were short and of no lasting interest. Some few give us a fair picture of Russell and his message. The New Philadelphia, Ohio, Democrat ran an interview with Russell that’s of particular interest. Russell pointed to growing labor unrest as a sign that the “time of trouble” was upon them. He mentioned no specific event, but there was no need. 1882 saw endless unrest in the mine fields of the west and Cumberland. In its May 2, 1884, issue The New York Times reported on no less than seven strikes, one that included threats of violence; so there was no need for Russell to pinpoint one specific event.[21]  The article, except the last paragraph, was largely fair:


Rather a new construction is put upon the signs of the times by Mr. C. T. Russell, of Pittsburgh, who is a leader of what he calls the “Christians,” and who do not belong to any denomination and are not Second Adventists. He says we are now in the thirty-seven years that will precede the reign of universal peace, but that until 1915 disaster and revolution are to be expected.


“What evidences are there that we are in these years of trouble that precede the millennium?” he was asked


“Look at the condition of affairs all over the world. Labor and capital are massing themselves, nations are trembling and the whole outlook tends to strengthen our position. God moves by natural means, and this uprising of labor against capital is the result of the diffusion of knowledge among the masses causing them to rise against oppression of all kinds, political and social.”


“This thirty-seven years, then, will be filled with trouble such as the world has never known?” said a reporter.


“Yes, sir. This period is the day of the Lord, we think in which society shall be disintegrated, and kingdoms and governments, as such, pass away.”


He thinks the Nihilists and Communists are forerunners of the storm, and that Church and State will go down in the “maelstrom.” His predictions of revolutions he bases on Scripture reading, as follows:


“Do you consider the present aspect of affairs between labor and capital indicative of great trouble in the future?” was asked.


“There will be more trouble, and there will be eventually a terrible struggle for supremacy with all the dire results consequent upon such a struggle, and I think the scriptures predict it. Among other passages read James V. 1-5” 


            The article quoted James 5:1-5 in full, but ended with the observation: “And thus the cranks do multiply, and the people imagine a vain thing, seek, in the supernatural, the explanation of social disturbances, which arise from purely economic causes.”[22]

            To prompt more interest a tract usually referenced as The Minister’s Daughter was issued as a supplement to the June 1882 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower. It reprinted John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem. On the reverse was a message entitled “True and Righteous Are Thy Ways, ‘Lord God Almighty.’”  




Because of their much wider circulation the Bible Students Tracts and Food for Thinking Christians filled a place that Day Dawn failed to fill. Paton’s book circulated in very small number, mostly among those already interested or within the Second Adventist community. The tracts and later booklet based on them, Food for Thinking Christians, circulated widely among those not previously exposed to Watch Tower teaching. It drew interest from outside the Second Adventist community.

A few decades later Harris Franklin Rall, professor of Systematic Theology at Garrett Biblical Institute, Evanston, Illinois, presented an analysis of Watch Tower teachings. Without commenting directly on either Food or the tracts, he suggested that it was rooted in First Century Christianity or at least in an attempt to reclaim primitive Christianity. His review was somewhat critical, because he felt Christianity had evolved beyond its Chiliastic roots:


A different influence was that working outside the great churches and appearing in the smaller separatist groups. These were the modern successors of the more radical circles of the Reformation period. In the first half of the nineteenth century there appeared in England the Irvingites and Plymouth Brethren, in this country the Adventists under Miller. Other movements appeared [including] Millennial Dawnism … Common to them all is the thought of a millennial kingdom to be established upon earth in some special manner. Certain other elements constantly recur, though not always present in any one instance: a verbal theory of inspiration, a frequent recourse to type and allegory, … and the sharp criticism of the established churches and opposition to them. The emphasis upon a biblical and legalistic literalism is often joined with an attempt to reproduce primitive Christianity.  … In its fundamental point of view as a theology and as a program of salvation, modern premillennialism represents Jewish apocalypticism. It despairs of this age and looks to some sudden and unexpected deed of omnipotence to overthrow the old, and establish a new world. It has the same extreme emphasis upon divine sovereignty and the same fatalistic conception of world history. 


It is important, as we turn to a detailed study of modern premillennialism, that we shall not only recognize how it is connected with the past, but also the peculiar character which it has to-day. The change that has taken place will appear if we contrast this modern movement with the chiliastic hopes that were held in many parts of the church in the first two centuries. The early Christians lived in a hostile world, governed by forces that were always frankly pagan and sometimes threatened their very existence. They saw no hope for deliverance except by the destruction of the whole world-order. They believed that the age was near its end. In the midst of this darkness they felt that the Lord would speedily return and deliver them. They had no plans for the future because they did not expect any future. …


Modern premillennialism faces a radically changed situation. It has to deal with the fact that nineteen centuries have passed, that several score generations have come and gone since that early day. It cannot ignore the fact that there is such a thing as a long Christian history for which some sort of meaning must be found. And unless it turns again to discredited calculations and fixing of dates, it must realize that there may still be long centuries and even millennia ahead of us here in this earth. The time is past when it can merely quote a passage and voice a hope. And so modern chiliasm differs radically from the simple and unreflective hope of that early day. It is no mere expectation of the speedy second coming of Christ. It is no mere teaching as to the order of certain events. It has of necessity become an elaborate system of doctrine, a complete outline of theology. It is an interpretation of Christianity claiming to give alone its true meaning. In Judaism and early Christianity these hopes were expressed with a certain freedom, marked with feeling and imagination, with no suggestion of logic and system. Modern premillennialism has become scholastic system, with rigid forms of thought and endless elaboration of doctrine.[23]


            Though Rall is critical, he saw “Millennial Dawnism” as an attempt to return to Christian (and Jewish) roots. He accurately describes the Watch Tower movement as a rejection of the world in favor of a clearly defined relationship to God and as a protest against the laxity and deflection of contemporary churches.

The claim to “truth” disturbed Rall and others for several reasons. Any claim to advanced understanding of “truth” calls into question those who do not hold the same views. No one likes to be questioned, though probing beliefs is an essential to solid faith. Finding themselves defined as lacking led many to an uncritical rejection of Watch Tower theology. It was a rare critique that addressed Watch Tower belief in a solidly Biblical way. The few criticisms that did address issues in that way probably number less than a dozen. Of those critical of Food for Thinking Christians, none address its doctrines with a clearly presented Biblical refutation.

Also, the claim to advanced light turned into a cudgel in the hands of the unkind and stupid and led to severe and un-analytic rejection of Watch Tower teachings. The two most dramatic examples come from the years immediately following those we’re considering. Briefly told, a number of pugnacious Watch Tower evangelists caused harm to the movement by their aggressive behavior. One got himself arrested for a disturbance outside a Pittsburgh church and another disrupted a religious assembly to hand out protest tracts not produced by the Watch Tower.[24]

One Twentieth Century writer suggests that Food for Thinking Christians is Russell’s most important book. In that it was the first wide-spread dissemination of Watch Tower teachings, this is true. Criticisms such are Rall’s and those of more modern anti-sect writers ignore or diminish the significance of the long history of Historicist interpretation of prophecy. A more thorough going Biblical discussion would have benefited all parties. It simply did not occur in any meaningful way.

What did occur was an increase of resignations from former church affiliation on the part of newly converted Watch Tower adherents. Russell printed one such letter in the December 1881, Watch Tower. Written by a woman to her congregation of sixteen years, it was a plain statement of the essentials of Watch Tower teaching:


Believing that we are in the harvest of the Gospel Age as spoken of in Matt. 13:30, when the reapers are separating the wheat from the tares, which the Lord has permitted to grow together during the age, and also that the nominal church of all denominations is represented by the wheat and tares in the field-- in which both have been growing, and that its mixed condition of worldly-mindedness and lukewarm Christianity is displeasing in the sight of our Lord, I have … concluded to sell all that I once found dear--my reputation and my friends if need be--my time, my talents, my means, my all.


This mixed condition of truth and error, worldliness and lukewarmness, etc., I believe to be the Babylon described in Rev. 18, in which are still some of the Lord’s dear children. To all such he says, (vs. 4) “Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”


In obedience to this command, I ask to have my name taken off the list of membership of the nominal church. It is written in the Lamb’s book of life and that is enough.


In withdrawing my name I do not withdraw my affections from you, but would if I could have you all “as ripened wheat,” gathered into the barn – condition of safety, rather than bound with the bundles of tares for the burning – with the “fire of God’s jealousy.”


Let me urge you each to a deeper consecration and a more thorough searching of the Scriptures.


Others separated from their pervious church affiliation forming de facto congregations in cities where more than one shared similar beliefs. The congregation in Albany, New York, dated its formation to 1881 and by implication the publication of Food for Thinking Christians. They called themselves “Believers in the Restitution,”[25] one of many names used by congregations of Watch Tower adherents.

[1]               View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1882, page 1.
[2]               The Minutes and Official Journal of the New York Conference: Fifteenth Annual Session of the Central New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church held at Ithaca, New York, October 11-17, 1882, pages 24, 60. Earliest mention of his ministry within the M. E. Church I could find is in The Syracuse, New York, Journal, May 3, 1866, page 5.
[3]               Elliot G. Storke. History of Cayuga County, New York,  lists him as active in the ministry in 1864.
[4]               Hamilton Child. Gazetteer and Business Directory of Onondaga County, N. Y., for 1868-9.
[5]               His health issues are mentioned in Central New York Conference reports in the late 1870’s Pastor in Pierre, South Dakota: Hughes County History, Compiled and Arranged in the Office of County- Superintendent of Schools, Hughes County, South Dakota, 1937, page 115.  
[6]               A Word from Brother Tackabury, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1888, page 1.
[7]               Brother Tackabury’s Death, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1888, page 1. Tackabury was married twice. His first wife, Mary G. Watkins, died May 6, 1863. The marriage and her death are noted in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, January 1913, page 84. He married secondly Alice Force in Ohio. That marriage is noted in A Centennial and Biographical Record of Seneca County, Ohio, The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago, 1902, page 439.
[8]               Christopher B. Coleman: Some Religious Developments in Indiana, Indiana Magazine of History, June 1909, describes a “railroad preacher” this way: The circuit rider and itinerant preacher, so necessary and useful in the early times, survives under different conditions in a less glorious service and with less effectiveness in the railroad preacher of the present, living in some central location and going to scattered congregations for preaching service on Sunday, and to funerals and weddings on week-days, stirring religious sentiment by periodic protracted meetings, but seldom vitally affecting the life of the community. – page 68.
[9]               View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1882, page 1.
[10]             History of Floyd County, Iowa, Inter-State Publishing Co., Chicago, 1882, volume 2, page 795. The story of the British Temperance Emigration Society and Boyer’s place in it can be found in William Kittle: History of the Township and Village of Mazomanie, 1900, See chapter one.
[11]             Untitled Announcement, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1882, page 1.
[12]             William Worth Belknap: History of the Fifteenth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, Keokuk, 1887, pages 208, 554, 594.
[13]             Commercial Men Get Divided Instruction, New York Times, June 11, 1910.
[14]             Mob Spirit in America, Chautauqua Press, 1903, page 23ff.
[15]             Cook was born January 26, 1838 in Ticonderoga, New York. He graduated from Harvard in 1865 and then studied for the ministry at Andover Theological Seminary. He moved to Boston in 1874, becoming famous for his Monday Lectures sponsored by the YMCA. His lectures drew upwards of 2500 people and earned him an enviable reputation as a speaker. He lectured through out the United States and in Europe. He died in 1901. His obituary is found in the January 26, 1901, New York Times.
[16]             C. T. Russell: Spiritualism, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1881, page 2.
[17]             Joseph Cook: God the Director of Forces, Zion’s Watch Tower, September 1880, page 5. The extract is from Monday Lectures: Fifth Series, London Edition, 1880, page 21.
[18]             Untitled short article: Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1884, page 2.
[19]             P. S. L. Johnson: The Parousia Messenger, Philadelphia, 1938, pages 555ff, 575, 584. The Parousia Messenger – Vol. 2, Philadelphia, 1949, page 504. Joseph Cook, Occident, With Preludes on Current Events, Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston, 1884.
[20]             M. F. Russell: Tract Fund Report, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1886, page 2.
[21]             Labor Troubles, The New York Times, May 2, 1884.
[22]             Religious, The New Philadelphia, Ohio, Democrat, May 18, 1882.
[23]          H. F. Rall: Modern Premillennialism and the Christian Hope, Abingdon Press, 1920, pages 101-103.
[24]             There are two versions of Elmer Bryan’s arrest outside a church in Pittsburgh in 1889; one describes him as “mild mannered” and the other as pugnacious. The New York Evening Telegram April 1, 1889, is most favorable to Bryan. The Pittsburgh Dispatch, April 1 and April 6, 1889, paint the opposite picture. The Dispatch may have been swayed against Bryan by the social stature of John S. Slagle, “a well-known iron manufacturer.” Bryan accused Slagle of assault.
                S. I. Hickey disrupted a meeting of The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in New York City, handing out a self-published protest tract. He was ushered out of the church where the meeting was held and driven away by police. The story is told in The Pittsburgh Dispatch, May 18, 1889.
                Neither Bryan nor Hickey would remain within the Watch Tower organization. Bryan had a reputation for being hyper critical of others. He married one of von Zech’s daughters was sucked into von Zech’s complaints against Russell. Hickey had universalist leanings and eventually pursued that doctrine.
                Another aggressive Watch Tower evangelist was J. N Kleusch. In 1894 he was arrested and fined twenty-five dollars for threatening behavior. The Chicago Inter-Ocean reported: “In his missionary zeal Mr. Kleusch endeavored to force Mrs. Charles Manval to buy a tract entitled “Millennial Dawn.” When she refused to do so he began to threaten her and tell her the doom of backsliders. At this juncture, however Mr. Manval entered the house. He covered the missionary with a revolver, ordered him out of the house, and then swore out a warrant for his arrest. In the Police Court yesterday morning the missionary appeared as his own advocate and conducted his case in a novel manner. Hanging up a chart before Justice Quinn, he began to demonstrate to the court that the day of judgment was at hand. It required only a few moments for the Judge to become satisfied on this point, and he accordingly assessed the alleged missionary $25 and costs.” – See the January 16, 1894, issue.
[25]             His Second Coming: Believers in the Restitution Say Christ Will Come again in 1914, The Albany, New York, Evening Journal, May 28, 1900. There is no record of this group in contemporary issues of Zion’s Watch Tower. This article comprises the entire history of the Albany congregation before the 1890’s. In 1900 they met in the home of Fredrick Clapham at 288 First Street. The article is vague, and it is possible that instead of the congregation being formed that year, it was a reference to the formation of Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society. The actual quotation is: “The ‘Believers in the Restitution is a society organized in 1881. It is comparatively small in this city, but in several sections and in England, it is flourishing.


roberto said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Il giorno delle piccole cose" in realtà è stato un gran giorno!
grazie per il vostro lavoro di memoria!