Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Samuel Tackabury

Samuel T. Tackabury

Samuel T. Tackabury was born in New York, April 12, 1832, to Irish immigrant parents. He 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] Russell wrote that Tackabury “was engaged with us in the important, though personally obscure field of labor of Z.W.T.” By February 1883, Tackabury was back in Ohio, and answering a letter from the Townsendville, New York, Methodist Church:

Not doubting the general interest of yourself and those for whom you speak, in the welfare of a former pastor whose relations were mutually of the most amicable kind, I still suppose that it is particularly on account of my having withdrawn from the ministry and membership in the M.E. Church that you desire to hear. To those who listened to my preaching during my pastorate at Townsendville, it is unnecessary to state that I was at the time a Methodist. My notions of the teachings of Scripture were gained while yet a child. They were taught me by Methodist parents, in Methodist Sunday-schools, from Methodist pulpits.

            He believed his approach to doctrine was molded long before he “was capable of forming ... intelligent opinions concerning even the general scope of Scripture teaching” for himself. He “unquestioningly accepted the opinions of others” and made them his own. But, in an oddly-worded  confession, he said: “I am now disposed to believe, however, that it was with some degree of mental reservation that I accepted some of the doctrines of orthodoxy. How else could I, while professing to believe in endless torment for the unrepentant, associate with them, accept their many kindnesses, and speak to them from the pulpit on themes often tending to divert their attention from, rather than attract it toward, so horrible a fate.” Yet, he faithfully discharged his duties and “walked up to the degree of light” he possessed.
            Two years after leaving Townsandville, he wrote, “there fell into my hands, providentially as it seems to me, a publication which was the means of a decided change in my understanding of much of God's Word; a change, however, which led me to much more exalted views of the character of God, and served to harmonize many passages in his Word, which before appeared either unmeaning or contradictory.” That publication was Food for Thinking Christians.
            As a Methodist he rejected Second Probation doctrine. “Though it is nowhere stated in Scripture that there is not for any a probation after this life,” he explained, “it is preached and enforced much more vigorously than many things which the Bible does affirm.” He now saw that as unscriptural, false, and he presented a series of Bible verses to support a much wider salvation than Methodism allowed. By rejecting future probation – “after the dead shall have heard the voice of the Son of God and come forth, as illustrated in the case of Lazarus” – and other Bible teachings, “the nominal Church has been thrown into confusion and led into many errors.” This “largely contributed” to the “rapid increase of infidelity, both within and without her own pale.” The Church’s condition testified to his point:

What is the spiritual condition of the Church to-day? Where are the wonderful revivals of former years? Alas, they exist only in name, or are the result of the efforts of a few professional revivalists. The barriers that formerly separated between the Church and the world are mostly swept away, and the man of fair worldly prospects, with whom she refuses to share all her privileges, must fall below the world's standard of morality. These, dear brethren, are some of the causes which led me to sever a connection, which I once so highly prized, and to accept doctrines which, though they may bring reproach and obloquy, I believe to rest on the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Commending you to God, who is able to make all grace abound toward you, and trusting that this letter may lead you to a more careful study of His Word, which only is able to make you wise unto salvation, and to trust less in human creeds and traditions.”

He returned to New York State in April 1883, preaching in areas where he had family and where he was pastor of Methodist congregations. Russell announced this in the Watch Tower: “Bro Tackabury will travel some through western New York, holding meetings commencing this month.” He contributed articles to Zion’s Watch Tower. Among them is an article entitled “One Soweth and Another Reapeth.” It is a short ramble on order in creation and in the ministry, without a clear point. He seems to have meant that a clear understanding of “God’s plan” should focus evangelism into right paths.[7] Not all of his articles were vague – Far from it. An article appearing in the June 1884 issue is concise and pointed. Entitled “Let Not Your Hearts be Troubled,” it addressed issues of pure belief and faithfulness.
His articles reflected his Methodist ‘holiness’ background coupled with Watch Tower doctrine. This is especially so of an article entitled “Life Through Death” appearing in the December 1885, issue. In it we see Russell’s emphasis on the “narrow way to life” doctrine and rejection of Christendom’s lack of ‘regeneration,’ being “made new” in Christ:

The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). Many such, however, have undertaken to interpret “the things of the Spirit of God” – and have thus become blind guides, leading multitudes into error, and filling their minds with gross darkness.

In this way those powerful organizations known as churches have been established, and by their opposition to the truth, and those who hold the truth, have become anti-Christ. (Adversaries of the true Church – the anointed body of Christ.) The same spirit which in our day has become so formidable, manifested itself in Apostolic times (1 John 2:18), and has been alive during the entire history of the Gospel Church.

This accounts, in part at least, for the fact that the nominal church is so largely composed of the unrenewed, and that the many forms of worldliness which are so pleasing to the “natural man” are not only permitted, but declared to be in harmony with the Divine will. The renewed mind, however, readily distinguishes between the ways of “this present evil world” and the “path of life.”

The one is a narrow way with a strait entrance, and requires the most assiduous effort to tread therein; the other is a broad way with a wide approach, and many who presumably desire the way of life, find themselves drifting with the multitude in its seductive paths.[8]

He did not name the “many forms of worldliness which are so pleasing to the ‘natural man,’ but they’re commonly named elsewhere in Zion’s Watch Tower. Dancing, card playing, the theater, and similar entertainments were seen as corrupting.
Tackabury died August 5, 1888, of “consumption,” that is tuberculosis.[9] During his last illness, he received letters of encouragement and consolation. A comment by J. B. Adamson is preserved in the Watch Tower: “How often Brother Tackabury must, now that he is himself helpless, look back joyfully upon the record of his faithfulness.”[10] We lack access to other sympathetic expressions, but at Russell’s request, Tackabury addressed the body of believers through an open letter printed in the March 1888 paper:

It has been my privilege to enjoy Christian fellowship with some of you by personal association, and I believe that to all of you I am united by that tie (love) that binds together the children of God everywhere, in one family. I am comforted with the thought that many of you with whom I have personal acquaintance, show your sympathy and interest by making inquiry after my welfare.

To know that my dear brethren and sisters thus kindly think of me alleviates my sufferings and enables me the more cheerfully to endure affliction. It is now more than two years since I was attacked with a difficulty of the throat and lungs, and though I was quite thorough in its treatment, none of the remedies used gave more than temporary relief; and from the first, my physicians held out but little hope for my recovery. ...

During the whole of my sickness the Lord has been present to sustain me, and I have been enabled at all times to say from the heart, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” At times the thought of being “forever with the Lord,” makes me long for the end of the warfare and the union with Jesus our head, and all the “elect” – members of his body.

How glorious thus to be permitted to enter on the work for which he has called and is perfecting his Church! On the other hand, when I know that error is being preached so persistently from almost every pulpit in this land, and throughout Christendom, and that great efforts are being made to spread these errors among the heathen nations, I long for strength to raise my voice for the truth. But the decree has gone forth that the darkness of error shall give place to the light of truth, and whoever may fail, the work will go on till all God's promises shall be fulfilled.[11]

About a month before he died, his wife wrote to Russell, reporting on his condition and hoping for a return letter of encouragement:

Mr. Tackabury has regained strength to quite an extent, being able to walk about the house and sit up most of the day. His lungs show great power of resistance to the advance of the disease, much to the surprise of all, but he is scarcely more than a skeleton. He wishes me to remember him to you and Sister Russell with much love.

We feasted on the contents of the last tower. Mr. T. said he thought it one of the best he had ever read. We find many things in the Bible that we would like to hear you talk about. Almost every reading reveals something new, something that throws light on the grand plan which God has designed for a lost world's recovery.

How it all increases our love and gratitude to our heavenly Father! Write us whenever you can spare time from your numerous duties.[12]

            He remained active through his final illness. Not long after his death, his wife wrote to Maria Russell telling of his persistent, death-bed evangelism: “As people knew that we were professedly Christians, although of a peculiar sort, of course, it was Christian people who called to minister to our needs, and therefore, it was to them that Mr. T. had access, when he was able to talk, and he improved every opportunity. It also seemed usually Baptist people who came in, and we often remarked to one another that they seemed more willing to listen.”[13]
            Russell announced his death through the August 1888 Watch Tower:

After a protracted illness Brother Tackabury died Sunday morning, Aug. 5th, of consumption of the lungs. The last three months were a season of painful waiting and longing for the grim enemy, death, to finish his consecrated sacrifice. Though inclined, at times, to wonder why our Lord did not sooner permit the executioner (Satan, Heb. 2:14,) to snap the last cord, he was far from desiring to dictate in the matter, and accepted the weeks and months of weakness and pain as among the “all things” which he knew were being overruled for his good according to God's promise. Such experiences may be permitted as tests of faith to develop our trust in God; or, they may be profitable to us as giving experiences which will the better enable us to sympathize with the poor dying world in general, many of whom experience similar afflictions, without the supporting grace and strength of the everlasting arms, which carry us through victoriously.

During health it was his chief pleasure to tell the glad tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people,--that the sins of the world had been fully atoned for by the blood of the Lamb of God, and that in consequence “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:19-21) shall come, when, at his second advent, the great King of kings shall take the dominion of the world out of the hands of “the prince of this world.” And when confined to his room, and bed, and only able to converse in low tones, the same gospel of restitution was his theme; interspersed with explanations concerning the future work of the Church, the Bride, the Body of Christ, after the union of all the members with the Head, in glory and power, as the Royal Priesthood; to both rule and teach, and thus to “bless, all the families of the earth.”

His fervency of spirit, his patience, his strong confidence, and his explanations of Scripture, backed by an honorable, upright life in his community, seem to have made a favorable impression, so that when the Editor preached his funeral sermon, to an intelligent congregation, of about one hundred and fifty of his towns-people, gave close attention for nearly two hours. His desire was, that his death might accomplish as good results, to the glory of God, as his life. We trust it may be so, and have already heard good reports that the truth is making progress there.[14]

[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]               S. T. Tackabury: “One Soweth and Another Reapeth,” Zion’s Watch Tower¸ June 1884, pages 5-6.
[8]               S. T. Tackabury: Life Thorough Death, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1885, page 6.
[9]               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.
[10]             Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1887, page 2. [Not in Reprints.]
[11]             A Word from Brother Tackabury, Zion’w Watch Tower, March 1888, page 1.
[12]             Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1887, page 2. [Not in Reprints.] The letter is dated September 20, 1887.
[13]             Mrs. S. T. Tackabury: Let Your Light Shine, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1889, page 8. [Not in Reprints.]
[14]             C. T. Russell: Brother Tackabury’s Death, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1888, page 1.

1 comment:

Yanek Castell said...

Greetings, I would like to say I enjoyed the article on Bro. Tackabury. I had saved this site, sometime ago, and I had forgotten about it. I'm glad to have found it again, I plan to research many other topics. I've been a Witnesses for almost 40 years, and the History of the Bible Students and today's Jehovah's witnesses has been an on going research project of mine. Thanks for still being an active site.


John Castell-Rosol