Wednesday, December 9, 2015

More from the untitled chapter on clergy interest

Raw, unedited material. Comments wanted.



S. I. Hickey

            Samuel Ingraham Hickey, a Presbyterian clergyman in disfavor with a mission to the poor because of aggressive missionary tactics, obtained a copy of The Plan of the Ages shortly after publication. He wrote a lengthy letter to Russell expressing his frustration as his denomination and his belief that Millennial Dawn had led him to Truth. He attended Bloomsburg Normal School (now Bloomsburg University), to train as a teacher. And he attended Washington and Jefferson College. Later, Hickey graduated from Princeton Seminary and was ordained July 15, 1884. A year later he transferred from Pennsylvania to Brooklyn, New York, where he became the Associate Pastor of Throop Avenue Church. His primary assignment was to mission and temperance work. Beyond his first letter to Russell, there is almost no surviving record of his work in Brooklyn. We can place him at Clifton Place Chapel in Brooklyn on July 3, 1886, assisting at a day-long temperance rally. And in September 1886 he preached at a rally of the West Newburgh, New York, Total Abstinence Society. [1]
            Hickey’s aggressive street ministry led him to Watch Tower doctrine. He purchased a brush from a paint store, using it to apply paste to broadsides warning of eternal torture. An adherent working in the store discussed restitution doctrine with him, “but he, being a regular ordained minister of the Presbyterian Denomination, could not see it.” The store clerk recalled that Hickey thought him to be “a little off.” Hickey returned some days later to find the clerk reading Food for Thinking Christians to a group of men:

Another day, I was reading out of food in the store to a crowd of men, and Bro. Hickey was present. He came over to me and said, “What have you got there?” I told him it was a little book called “food for thinking christians.” He asked me where I got it, and I told him. He said he would write to you, and he did. You sent him millennial dawn, and you know how he was closeted for three days with dawn and the Bible, and when he came around to the store again, he was very happy, and praising the Lord.[2]

            Hickey wrote to Russell in August 1886. His letter is preserved entire in Zion’s Watch Tower:

New York, August 23, 1886. To the Author of Millennial Dawn:

dear brother: Truly the entrance of his Word giveth light! Your book, Millennial Dawn, has been used by God to so illuminate his divine revelation that the glorious view seems to have left me like one in a trance. Trained, as I have been, in the most rigidly Calvinistic school of thought, my whole self naturally and quickly assumed the defensive as I caught the spirit of the book in its opening pages. But God had beyond all doubt, been preparing my mind and heart for the childlike reception of his truth. And laying aside all prejudice, preconceived notions, and “traditions of the elders,” I closeted myself for the greater part of three days with my Bible and Dawn, and earnestly seeking, in prayer, the guidance of God's Holy Spirit to lead me into all truth, I feasted upon the fat things and drank in the precious truth until I could almost say with Paul, “Whether in the body I cannot tell; or whether out of the body I cannot tell: God knoweth.”

I have long since become dissatisfied and disheartened concerning the clash and din of jarring discord among opposing creeds and rival sects composing the heterogeneous “mass of baptized profession” – each division, large or small, wresting the Scriptures to conform to its own particular phase of belief, causing the Word to appear so distorted that its divine Author would fail to recognize his own production. But, blessed be God, the Scriptures, in reality, cannot be broken, and however men may seem to pervert them to support their peculiar views, they remain unchanged and unchangeable – the Rock of Eternal truth! I praise God that he has made you instrumental in opening my eyes to behold the beautiful symmetry which the Word exhibits in the marvelous combination of its manifold and multiform parts, and in unstopping my ears to hear the delightful harmony which its many and varied notes produce when taken in their entirety.

S. I. HICKEY, Presbyterian Minister.[3]

In a follow-up letter, Hickey told Russell of his frustrations with mission work:
           
Having failed during the fall and winter to bring the “neglected classes” within the Mission building to hear the gospel, I began in May a more aggressive method … . And for thus breaking away from the customary methods which had proved futile, and going out “into the streets and lanes of the cities,” I immediately lost caste with the Church and my ministerial brethren. The controllers of the Mission requested my withdrawal, and the committee from a large Presbyterian church in this city, who had engaged me to preach for them during this summer, waited upon me and requested me to release them from the agreement. They wanted not a man in their pulpit who had so little regard for his clerical dignity. Since which time I have been proclaiming what I believed to be the truth by distribution of tracts and other religious literature, and by posting up bold-type Scripture texts on fences, telegraph poles, etc. through the city. …

Now that I have received the truth as God has permitted you to present it to me, I long to proclaim it, and to give my whole time and attention to the work of spreading it abroad. Can you suggest ways and means? I am prepared to, and expect at the next opportunity to withdraw from all “ecclesiastical” connections.[4]

Presbyterian upset was precipitated by his outdoor ministry. The last Sunday in May 1886, with permission of the owner, he preached to a crowd at Ridgeway park, a baseball field and amusement area. Some “vicious boys” threw stones and there was “some disorder” when he began speaking, A Queens County deputy sheriff tried to stop him and “roughly handled” him. The crowd turned sympathetic, and the land owner restrained the deputies, pointing out that he had permission to be there, and they did not.[5] This was duly reported in the press. Scandal followed, and Hickey took up an independent street ministry but remained an ordained Presbyterian minister. He might have expected a difficult crowd and police intervention. The Queens County Sheriff strictly enforcing Sunday laws, canceling baseball games and boxing matches. The crowds were notoriously violent. But it was these people Hickey wanted to reach.
After reading The Plan of the Ages, he withdrew from the Presbyterian ministry October 4, 1886. His resignation was duly reported in the conference report of October twenty-six.  He left the Presbyterian ministry amidst endless gossip. “Numerous predictions were made concerning me by friends, relatives, and former clerical associates,” he wrote. “One was to the effect that I would soon go into infidelity; another, that I would lose my reason; another, that I would return to the fold of Orthodoxy and Calvinism.”[6]
Some weeks earlier the Hickeys changed residence, moving from 974 Myrtle to 174 Hart Street, from one Brooklyn brownstone to another. We do not know if the move is related to his disaffection with the Presbyterians, but suspect it may reflect a decrease in income associated with his loss of preaching and mission assignments.[7] He immediately took up the Watch Tower ministry. When asked back by the Newburgh, New York, temperance society in late October 1886, he spoke on themes we can identify with Watch Tower theology: “Proof of Two Salvations” and “The Judgment Day.”

The Newburgh, New York, Daily Register
October 30, 1886.

Hickey was introduced to the Brooklyn congregation and entered the colporteur work. (Russell called it “canvassing.”) By February 1887, Russell listed him among those most prominent in the work.[8] Simon Blunden assisted him in the work, and though we only have one record for that, Blunden’s assistance was probably greater than noted in the single letter that mentions it. Blunden’s letter to Russell was published in the March 1887, Watch Tower. “I aided Brother Hickey four Sundays in succession,” Blunden wrote.[9]
And he started a series of meetings that were “favorably started.” Illness intervened. By mid-year 1887, his activity was restricted by a debilitating and painful illness. His physician advised him to travel to Saratoga Springs, “and drink certain of the waters there for the removal of the gravel by dissolving.” The gravel, complained of by Dumas’ Aramis in fiction, are kidney stones, painful in real life in ways a fictional character never experienced. Hickey considered selling The Plan of the Ages to pay expenses. His wife tried to dissuade him.[10] While still ill, Hickey and his wife traveled to Newburgh, New York, a small village about sixty miles north of New York City, to keep the annual communion observance. About twenty took communion. We draw from his report that he used his previous contacts within the Temperance movement to spread the Watch Tower message.[11] As we observed, he preached the Watch Tower message there as early as October 1886, and his work bore fruitage.
He spent about four months at Saratoga drinking the mineral water and waiting on a cure. As did many fervent Christians in that era, he believed each life event was directed by God. He sought meaning in his illness, concluding:

 … that the prime object my Heavenly Father had in view in the severity of his dealings with me during the three months (just past) of physical suffering, was to bring me to see what is now manifestly my plain duty. That is, to devote all the strength God gives me to the work of carrying to others and to as many as possible, that same blessed instrumentality which served to dispel the darkness from my own pathway, and to carry me forward and upward to such sublime heights of vantage ground, as to make me spurn forever anything and everything that is of the earth earthy; and to so fill and sway and agitate my throbbing heart as to all but burst, it in the sudden and mighty inflow of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord; and to plunge me into such fathomless depths of the boundless ocean of God's love as to cause me to struggle and gasp, and – in my supreme joy, to wonder what possibilities there must be – can be, when we see face to face. God, I say, has been teaching me by exceedingly severe dealings that my bounden duty is “go and do likewise!” I can see very plainly now as I look back at the various stages of my sickness, how that God, in love permitted a severe and sudden attack when I thought I was gaining and began to plan for “my way.” That happened so often, that at last my dull comprehension has been sharpened and I have answered my Master with a “Yea, Lord, thy servant heareth!”[12]

We could have summarized his belief in a sentence or too, but it affords us insight into his character and personality. This was not hyperbole. He meant what he said, and, though others took the same tack, this statement is fraught with such emotion that one wonders about his mental stability. He was at least an emotional Christian rather than a rational one. We find him in extremes elsewhere in his life as we show below. However, true to his word, he sold Millennial Dawn while recuperating in Saratoga, even though he believed he was dying. He believed Saratoga was an unfavorable spot: “there could probably be no less favorable spot chosen than this wicked, brilliant, flashing Summer resort.” But he still sold ten to fifteen copies a day.[13]
The Brooklyn, New York, directories from 1888 and 1889 list him as a canvasser. We do not know if that’s a reference to his colportage or to commercial sales. Hickey disrupted a Presbyterian conference in May 1889. He seems never to have resolved issues connected to his difficulty within the Presbyterian Church. He had a circular printed in some quantity and interrupted the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church being held in New York City. Newspaper reports described him as “a crank.” He “appeared near the moderator’s desk and shouted to the brethren to ‘awake and bestir themselves.’”[14] The Pittsburgh Dispatch reported: “Soon after the afternoon session began a small man with a peaked brown beard and a pale complexion stepped from somewhere to the head of the center aisle next to the platform. He had under one arm an Oxford Bible, and in the hand a package of circulars.” He tossed circulars to the crowd, shouting, according to the Dispatch, “Men, brethren, fathers, it’s time to awake out of sleep. You are stupefied -” Reaction was immediate:

“You have no right here,” began the Rev. Dr. Howard Crosby. Other cries resounded through the church and half the brethren were on their feet. Two or three gray-haired and spectacles doctors of divinity jumped out into the aisle, got behind the intruder and pushed him, unresisting, down the aisle toward the door. On the way out he showered the commissioners with black-bordered circulars. “I am an ex-Presbyterian clergyman, he said, “and your servant in Christ, S. I. Hickey. I’m sorry the brethren didn’t approve of me. For further information address me at Station B, Brooklyn. … I am only doing what I believe is my duty.”[15]

We couldn’t locate a copy of Hickey’s circular and believe that sort excerpts from it in The Dispatch article are all that survive. The newspaper described the circular as “a little misty.” It appeared to be, wrote the reporter, “an argument in support of the doctrine of probation after death.” The followed the only surviving paragraphs:

We Presbyterians have an army of clergy distinguished by flattering titles, seeking worldly advancement, who covetously receive honor one of another, many receiving princely salaries beside perquisites for their hire.

Wherein the Inconsistency Lies.

We have as officers in our church the President of the United States, Cabinet officers, Supreme Court, Governors, editors and owners of metropolitan journals, merchant princes, manufacturing monarchs, railroad magnates, stock manipulators, monopolizers of the earth and its bounties, and other great ones. Mark our flagrant duplicity, therefore, in claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, whom the world’s rich and great hated and despised, who said to His disciples: ‘The world hath hated them because they are not of this world.’

After being tossed out of the church, he and an unnamed companion continued to distribute circulars. Dr. Crosby called the police who ejected them. This was and remains an illegal violation of free speech rights, but the police in this era felt empowered to made decrees with no basis in law. We do not know what Russell felt about Hickey’s invasion of the Presbyterian Assembly. He never says. But he welcomed Hickey to the Memorial convention at Allegheny the next month and spoke favorably of him in a subsequent convention report.[16]
He could not support himself through colportage, becoming instead a “traveling representative of New York interests.” He preached and met with Watch Tower adherent groups as he traveled. In 1891 he became editor of the Commercial Enquirer, of New York, and assistant editor of the Dry Goods Chronicle. He is listed as an editor in the 1901 Newark, New Jersey directory. But he continued to travel commercially, selling “novelties,” small, cheap gifts and toys.[17] The public record conflicts with a family history published in 1904, and we do not know which is correct. The genealogy says of Hickey:

Early in 1898, being relieved of all commercialism, he was at last fully convinced, God’s Spirit witnessing with his spirit, that Christ meant literally that his disciples were to “labor not for the food which perisheth,” to “seek not,” any temporal thing, but that “all things should be superadded” to one “seeking the Kingdom of God.” Hence, his only and all-absorbing occupation is just the striving to enter the Kingdom with Christ. 

In February 1899, he addressed a rambling letter to Russell that without giving specifics testifies to a crisis of faith. Published in the March 1st issue of The Watch Tower, it speaks about his view of Christ as exemplar. He said he had been emphasizing it until it obscured his view of Christ as Ransomer. These are all phrases used in the continuing Ransom-Atonement controversy. But the letter isn’t clear enough to say with assurance what he meant. He reread Tabernacle Shadows and was impressed with it, and incidentally tells us that he was living in near poverty.
“I have not sinned willfully, in the sense of Heb. 10:26,” he wrote. But he felt he had sinned and was ready to return to Christ. He reread the four volumes of  Millennial Dawn, convinced anew they were “truth.” He told Russell of his conviction:

After this study came a careful perusal of the four volumes of millennial dawn, drawn in their order from the library. The reading consumed many days, because of frequent silent meditations and constantly recurring references to the Law and to the Testimony. I could write much of this experience. But suffice it to say that I believe that these volumes present the only interpretation of the Holy Scriptures extant, that discovers the teachings of those sacred books to be at once harmonious and logical, symmetrical and complete, scientific and rational, satisfying alike the exactions of the intellect and the yearnings of the heart, and likewise offering the persistent disciple achievement of such exalted glory as to infinitely transcend the highest conceivable aspiration of the spirit – the new creature.

His return to Watch Tower theology was brief. Later that year Hickey abandoned his Watch Tower beliefs and associated with Paton’s Larger Hope Society, becoming pastor of a universalist church in Arlington New Jersey.[18] At the risk of psychoanalyzing the dead, we state that Hickey seems less than stable. He put himself in positions a more cautious individual may not have. His judgment seems impaired in key circumstances. But we really do not know. We don’t know why he was persuaded to adopt universalism. We are not likely to know either.


[1]              His transfer to Brooklyn is noted in Minutes of the Fourth Annual Session of the Synod of New York, 1885, page 53. His transfer from Pennsylvania to Brooklyn is noted in Church Gleanings, The Christian Union¸ October 15, 1885, page 26. Temperance meetings: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 3, 1886, and The Newberg, New York, Daily Register, October 16, 1886. He was born March 13, 1855, in Rochester, New York. He died in New Jersey in 1917.
[2]              Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1887, page 1.
[3]              Kind Words of Commendation: Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1886, page 8. [Not in Reprints.]
[4]              Another Chosen Vessel, Zion’s Watch Tower¸ September 1886, page 8.
[5]              Untitled article, The New York Tribune, June 5, 1886.
[6]              S. I. Hickey to C. T. Russell in the September 1887, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower, page  2. [Not in Reprints.]
[7]              Ecclesiastical Record: Presbyterian Monthly Record¸ September 1886, page 365.
[8]              Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, February 1887, page 7. [Not in Reprints.]
[9]              See Extracts from Interesting Letters, in that issue, page 2. [Not in Reprints.]
[10]            Letter from Hickey to Russell found in the August 1887 ZWT, page 2. [Not in Reprints.]
[11]            Letter from Hickey to Russell found in the May 1887, ZWT, page 8. [Not in Reprints.]
[12]            S. I. Hickey to C. T. Russell in the September 1887, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower, page  2. [Not in Reprints.]
[13]            ibid.
[14]            Presbyterians in Conference, The Rock Island, New York, Argus, May 18, 1889.
[15]            He Was Not Posted … Another Crank Causes a Sensation, The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dispatch, May 18, 1889.
[16]            C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1889, page 2.
[17]            Princeton Theological Seminary, 1909 list of Alumni; 1900 Census; Brooklyn, New York, directories for 1888 and 1889; Newark, New Jersey directory for 1901; R. S. Greenlee: The Stebbins Family Genealogy¸ Chicago, Illinois, 1904, Volume 2, page 897.
[18]            The Universalist Register for 1900, page 119.

1 comment:

roberto said...

Very interesting!
I'll make a translation of part of this article