Friday, December 8, 2017

Temporary Post

I cannot keep this up much past two weeks. This is a partially completed chapter in very rough draft. Do not rely on it as is. Further research may bring changes. Proof reading comments are welcome, even though this is only partial rough draft. You may take a copy for yourself. Do not share it outside this blog.

Does this make sense? Is it well organized or confusing? Have we made obvious mistakes?

Also you should note that Bruce is in the hospital, and I just had surgery myself. Work has slowed to a crawl as a result. But we will do our best to keep the blog interesting.

Congregation Culture

            Congregations were independent, choosing their own elders and class leaders. Internal organization was a local affair. The Watch Tower suggested that congregations not tolerate disruptive individuals. A problem some of our readers will find familiar was boredom. Most early adherents were not accomplished speakers, and ratiocination did not characterize most believers. Some meetings were rambling discussions full of disagreement and doctrinal divergence. One unnamed “Brother” observed: “I find that in our meetings where we have a talk, a discourse, by one of the brethren, that circumstances must be very favorable if there are not some sleepy heads in the house – and even sometimes when we have a pilgrim with us this is the case.”[1] Pilgrims, visiting Watch Tower Society evangelists, generally better speakers than most, traveled regionally. Russell suggested that adherents replace rambling experience sessions with reading Watch Tower articles:

At evening meetings, when twos and threes and dozens assemble, it would be far better to take up and discuss with the Scriptures bearing thereon, one and another of the articles in the tower. It would be vastly better to thus study God’s Word, than to spend so much time, as some do, in vain repetitions and telling of “experiences.” Try it, brethren and sisters; and let all take part in the search for truth, and seek diligently till you find it – clear, beautiful, and invigorating.[2]

            Some fellowships found maintaining regular meetings a challenge. Russell advised small fellowships to continue steadfast, especially in the face of evil. The context of his remarks suggests his reference to “evil” attached to pressures from disaffected believers who continued to meet with Watch Tower adherents. Russell asked the small gatherings to write to him every few months telling him “how the Lord prospers you; whether you keep up your meetings with those of like precious faith.” Some few months later, Russell again advised meeting together and asked for a list of places where readers “hold regular meetings and services of any kind, whether in churches, halls, or private houses.” To those who had no regular meetings he recommended establishing one, “in your own home with your own family, or even a few that may be interested.” He recommended that they “read, study, praise and worship together.”[3]

Dissension and Disaffection

            Dissension arose on several grounds. Those with similar but ultimately opposition views attended Watch Tower meetings. Some, swayed by Barbour, continued to attend Watch Tower meetings because there was nowhere else to go. Paton’s adherents were increasingly small in number, often having no meetings of their own. They attended Watch Tower meetings, using them to spread Paton’s Universalist ideas. We discuss it more fully elsewhere, but we note here that beginning at least in 1882, Paton prepared booklets and tracts that went primarily to Watch Tower readers. The earliest of these was a thirty-two page booklet reprinting chapter four and part of chapter five of the ‘revised’ edition of Day Dawn.[4] As long as meetings included those with contrary beliefs, opposition literature made its way into the fellowship and colored group discussions. Most examples come from a somewhat later. In Brockport, New York, someone donated a subscription to Paton’s World’s Hope and Russell’s Watch Tower to the Free Library.[5] A letter written to J. H. Paton in 1902, said: “Sister V. … asked me to subscribe for the Hope; and I … have never been sorry. … It has been a blessing to me and much company when alone. Z. W. T.; the Hope, and my Bible are about all I read.”[6]
            Benjamin Ford Weatherwax, (June 15, 1836 – November 8, 1903) a retired Methodist clergyman living in Cortland, New York, took up the Watch Tower message in 1901, possibly from earlier preaching by S. O. Blunden.[7] Weatherwax wrote to Russell expressing his faith. A follow up letter was printed in the January 1, 1902, Watch Tower. It told the story of his withdrawal from the Methodist Church:

I have had a big fight and gained a glorious victory. I send you my article prepared for the Conference. I had a hard time to get a hearing, as my name was called before I reached the seat of Conference. Had I been there then I could have had the floor; but after that it was difficult. After pressing the matter they allowed me five minutes to speak and I read rapidly until I reached the sentence, “Thy Kingdom come,” two thirds through, and there the Bishop called me to order. He said I had used up six minutes and I asked for an extension of time but could not get it. (They had enough.) So I asked our own City Editor if he would like to publish it and he consented.

There was a great surprise I assure you, at Syracuse Conference, when I withdrew from it and gave my reasons even partially. I commenced giving out tracts – until all were gone. When I gave one I said, “Read that carefully, when you are all alone.” I have a good many old friends in the Conference and Church (Nominal), but thanks be to God, I am the Lord's free man. Some have asked me what church I am going to unite with, and my answer is the “Church of the first born, whose names are written in heaven.”[8]

            Weatherwax attended Fairfield Seminary, and later Hartwick Academy. Though he farmed for a while, “he felt a strong call to preach the gospel.” He was admitted to the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church becoming an itinerant preacher in New York. He retired in 1885, and returned to farming finally giving that up in 1892 and moving to Cortland, New York.[9]  He was convinced by Watch Tower doctrine about 1900 and preached it. He converted six others, and they formed the Church of the Little Flock. By 1903, The Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard gave it a membership of “about ten.”[10] Shortly after he resigned from the Methodist ministry, the editor of The Cortland, New York, Evening Standard published his statement of faith:

Cortland, N. Y., October 29, [1901]

To the Editor of The Standard:

Sir – I have been asked to give a reason for the hope that is within the church of the “Little Flock.” First, our organization is of a heavenly origin rather than earthly. We belong to the “Church of the first born whose names are written in heaven.” Our people are scattered all over the earth. They are known by their Lord. …They are held together by love divine … . They are one body and one spirit … .

We hold that the church which God is electing or selecting during this gospel age is promised a spiritual or heavenly reward to be “made partakers of the divine nature,” and to share with Christ the work of blessing the world during the millennium. We understand that the millennial age is for the very purpose of causing “the knowledge of the Lord to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea,” and see “the true light which lighteth [sic; he meant “lightest.”] every man that cometh into the world,” giving all a full opportunity to come in to [sic] harmony with God.

We understand that the Bible teaches both the doctrine of election and the doctrine of free grace – the election of this church during this age and free grace for the world in general in the millennial age and in perfect harmony as shown by the Scriptures. We also under that 6,000 years of earth’s history is past according to Bible chronology and that the seventh thousand is the mellinnium [sic] of Christ’s reign – and that the present time from 1874 to 1914 is the lapping period styled in Scripture the “harvest” of the age, in which the number of the elect church will be completed, and that then the millennial age will be ushered in by a great time of trouble, anarchy, etc., mentioned repeatedly in Scripture which will level society, humble pride and prepare the way for Immanuel’s long promised Kingdome “under the whole heavens.”[11]
            This was standard Watch Tower doctrine. Weatherwax assumed the leading position in the group. Meeting-time advertisements note him as “Elder,” a common Methodist designation. As did a few other former clergy, he continued to see himself as possessing special status. Based on his short article for the Cortland paper, editors of nearby journals presented him as the “founder of a new sect.” The Newburgh, New York, Register told its readers that “the Rev. B. F. Weatherwax, formerly of this city, has withdrawn from the Methodist Episcopal conference and has founded a new religious denomination.”[12] By the end of April 1902, they were meeting in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Hall. Sunday services were at 10 am, and a meeting for prayer and Bible study was on Wednesday at 7:30 pm.[13]

B. F. Weatherwax – Earlier in Life

            George B. Raymond, a Watch Tower evangelist, visited the Cortland group twice. An announcement in the April 12, 1902, Cortland Standard said he would address a meeting of the church in Good Templars’ Hall. R. E. Streeter visited The Church of the Little Flock in Cortland in July 1902. He returned in December 1902, speaking Wednesday, December 3rd on the topic “The Coming Kingdom,” and the next evening on “Restitution of All Things.”[14] Raymond returned in early May 1903, addressing the group twice. Noting Raymond’s visit, The Standard printed the congregation’s statement of belief:

There are people who believe the world is just entering the milennial [sic] reign of Christ, and that a wonderful age of progress, both material and spiritual, is about to be ushered in, preceded, however, by ten or fifteen years of intense strife and anarchy. They believe that the earth and the great bulk of humanity, both present and past, will, during the next thousand years, be restored to the perfection which 6,000 years ago was exampled in the Garden of Eden.

They reject the idea of eternal torment, claiming it to be unscriptural; asserting that only those who are guilty of sinning willfully against the fullest light (information) are to be considered incorrigible; these and these only, are to be destroyed in the second death.

They believe that God has for 6,000 years been allowing man to gain a sad experience with sin, and that he will, during the next thousand years, the millennium, restrain sin, that man may see righteousness n all of its beauty, and witness the blessed results of its reign. Having had 6,000 years’ experience with sin and 1,000 years’ experience with righteousness, man will be well prepared to make a wise choice as to which he will serve, and will then be tested by loosing of Satan to deceive those who during this long period shall have failed to become well grounded in godliness, Those being thus deceived will go down into the second death from which there will be no resurrection.[15]

Soon after this was published, Weatherwax deviated from Watch Tower teachings. He encountered Barbourite doctrine and adopted Barbour’s new chronology. Barbour expected the final last-days acts to occur in 1907. Weatherwax preached that. His obituaries report that the church “members believe the world ends in 1907.” We lack details. We don’t know how he encountered Barbourite doctrine. We do not know why he found it persuasive.[16] Contrary to newspaper claims, most members of the Cortland church retained Watch Tower belief. We think that the congregation continued to accept Weatherwax because, though he deviated in doctrine, they had tremendous respect for him. Writing some months after he died, Isaac Edgecomb described him as “a man of great faith.” Edgecomb was a Methodist, and wrote this despite Weatherwax’s defection from that church.[17] The small congregation continued, placing meeting notices in the Cortland paper through 1904. There were thirteen members in 1906, all of whom traveled to Binghampton, New York, on January 26th to hear Russell speak.[18] Cortland received two visits by traveling Watch Tower Pilgrims in 1908, and persisted at least to 1917. We do not know if the current Witness congregation is an outgrowth of the original group.

   Syracuse, New York, Herald

Randolph Elwood Streeter
George B. Raymond

Untoward behavior and belief stumbled some. A “sister” who defended the Episcopalian Church while also wishing everyone would read The Watch Tower pointed to behavior issues. Russell considered the matter through The Tower:

The sister shows that her interest in the truth and her perplexity on the Church question are real, throughout the entire communication, saying in conclusion: “I wish your papers could be in the hands of every reading Christian, and that they would read them.” And again, “You have come out and are living as you think you have been called to live, and yet whom [sic] have you among you? Some very nearly as bad as Judas, who deny the Lord that bought them, and this state of things is even worse than the first [sectarian condition] it seems to me, and your Church is no better than others in its mixture of good and bad. Can you not see reason for my perplexity?”[19]

            Watch Tower adherents kept no membership records; meetings were slimly attended; no collections were taken. They lacked the trappings of a denominational religion. While a larger fellowship might elect a class leader, there were no clergy. Because Bible study sessions were typically free-wheeling, differences arose and some turned into open animosity. Raymond G. Jolly, speaking at a Watch Tower convention in 1913, suggested that differences between individuals caused some to drift away, with the offended party happy to see them go.[20] Moral laxness and personal controversy plagued some congregations. In later years personal animosity and jealousy directed toward Russell caused major disruptions. In 1894 and again in 1908-1912 doctrinal and personal differences became major issues for adherents. These are matter for the next book in this series. In 1903 Paton’s son picketed a Watch Tower convention handing out his father’s tracts.
            The Watch Tower’s first year had not passed when B. W. Keith found it necessary to remind adherents that the ‘works of the flesh” – impurity, debauchery, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, quarrels, jealousies, resentments, altercations, factions, sects, envyings, inebrieties, revelings, and things similar to these – were forbidden to true Christians. He did not refer to specific cases, but given the emphatic nature of his article, he probably had some in mind.[21] He ended the article with this plea: “Brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” A few months later Paton emphasized the importance of ‘clean’ behavior. His comment was drawn from a remark of Barbour’s. Barbour wished his hearers would stop trying to be good and concentrate on his new theology. After presenting a series of scriptures illustrating the need for moral behavior, Paton wrote: “These are but samples of the general exhortations to the church by the Apostles. They do not either ignore or belittle knowledge or faith, but they do exalt the importance of holiness of heart and life.”[22]
            A. D. Jones left the fellowship in 1882, advocating other doctrine. We discuss this in detail in volume three of this work, but we need to notice some elements of that story in this context. Jones’ new beliefs were examined in both The Watch Tower and World’s Hope. If that was all the documentation we had, we would see it only as a doctrinal difference. Russell was reluctant to point to Jones’ mistress, his fornication, his multiple thefts. Russell wrote vaguely about the scandal: “Mr. Jones ran well for a time; but ambition or something else eventually worked utter shipwreck of his faith.”[23] The effect of Jones’ behavior was to turn the Newark, New Jersey, congregation from one of the largest into a very small group.
            Russell extracted an article entitled “Immoral Literature” from The Iowa Review, publishing it in the January 1885 Watch Tower. It advised against sensational, often immoral literature, saying, “Deprive a people of their literature and they degenerate into barbarism.” Russell and many of his associates had a very narrow view of life’s pleasures, even those innocent in themselves:

It would not be sinful to pay fifty cents or a dollar for a box of [out of season strawberries.] It is no crime to have a fine house, servants, a pleasure yacht, an automobile, etc. If there are entertainments, concerts, operas, and these are of good moral tone, one has a perfect right to engage a seat for the same at five dollars, and to employ a taxicab in going. One as a natural man has a perfect right, if he is able, to any of these things, which are not sinful in themselves. Things that are sinful should, of course, always be avoided.

But when one undertakes to become a follower of Christ he accepts instead of his own will the will of God. And as Christ pleased not Himself, but used His time, His influence, His life, for the good of others, so those who become His disciples will forego their rights and privileges, whenever these would conflict with their service to God. The Christian could not reason the same as he did before he made his consecration. He could not say, I will spend five dollars to go to the opera; but he will be obliged to say, My means are consecrated to the Lord. The same principle will control his judgment as to whether he shall have an automobile or not; whether he shall have a fine house or shall own any house; whether he shall have the finest food; whether he shall wear fine clothing, or plainer clothing, etc. It will control his judgment as to his use of consecrated time.

But no one is to judge another in regard to the use of money or time in his possession as the Lord's steward. It is for the individual himself to decide how he will use these. And it is the Lord who will decide whether he has been a faithful steward or an unfaithful one. The Lord will decide that those who, like Jesus, shall sacrifice the enjoyable earthly things, that thereby they may the better glorify God, shall have the more than compensating spiritual blessings, and shall receive the reward of the Kingdom and its positions of honor.[24]

            It is human nature to judge others, and Russell’s admonition to leave others un-judged over the use of money was sometimes ignored, causing petty strife and jealousy. Much of the Watch Tower collective personality was determined by the paper’s content, and that usually meant Russell’s scripture exposition or his personal opinion.
            In 1887 Dissension and behavior issues drew an article from Maria Russell’s pen. Many adherents rejected all forms of church discipline, believing they characterized false churches. They “seem to think,” she wrote “that there is not, neither can be, any such thing as discipline” in the true church. Their experience with “church discipline” was entirely negative. Some were expelled from prior fellowships because of belief while the disreputable and disorderly were never disciplined. But, wrote Maria, the organization and discipline of the church of Christ is perfect. Christ is its “only and infallible Head.” His Word authoritatively settles “every question.” “His plan of work is studied and acted upon by … the members; his spirit is fostered and cultivated in the hearts of all; and his disciplinary punishments are applied when necessary.”
            There is, she said, an “appointed method of dealing with offenders.” Discipline “includes the entire process of education by instruction, exercise, correction and punishment; and in cases where these methods fail and meet with defiant opposition from those who still claim to be members of the church, and associate themselves with it, it includes the cutting off of such members from the church.” She examined some of the relevant Bible verses, introducing the study with the claim “that the church has important duties in the direction of discipline is clearly indicated by many expressions of the Lord and the Apostles.”
            Jesus is head of the church and discipline falls within his purview. He left administration to humans who must follow his instructions. The object of Christ-directed discipline is the Church’s final approved state. She cited Ephesians 5:26, 27: “that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Its Christ’s church; discipline must meet his standard. There is no place for personal standards and opinions, only for Jesus’ words:

No member of the church has any authority in matters of discipline except in carrying out the directions of the Head, though each member has a duty in so doing. The talents of each must be used for the benefit of all as far as possible. Not only are our talents to be used in widely proclaiming the blessed gospel, but they are to be used for the upbuilding, protection, and perfecting, of those who accept it and by consecration have become members of the church, the body of Christ.

This important work requires carefulness both in our judgment of each other and in our study of the Word of God. But there is much misunderstanding with reference to the church’s duty in the matter of judging, from a failure to understand clearly the teaching of the Scriptures on the subject.

            Mrs. Russell believed Jesus’ words “judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1) did not mean believers should suspend righteous judgment. She pointed to Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian Christians’ failure to judge one of one of its members’ sin as proof that judgment to a divine standard was necessary. She wrote:

In the extreme case of immoral conduct referred to by Paul (1 Cor. 5:1), he was reproving the Corinthian church for not judging such a one unworthy to be counted one of their number. With their understanding of the general principles of God’s plan they should have needed no such instructions from him, but should have acted promptly on their convictions. And the fact that they did not do so, gave evidence of a cool indifference to the will of God which needed reproof.

Imperfect human judgment might greatly err in dealing with such a case. Some would say that the crime was so glaring and so base that the offender had justly merited eternal torment, while others would say, Well, he has some good traits of character yet; he is kind, or benevolent, or gives largely of his means to support the church, and the good must balance the evil. But those acquainted with the principles of God’s government know that eternal torment has no place in God’s plan, and also that the sin committed was not the sin unto death, but that it was by no means excusable; nor could it be considered as balanced by other good qualities. They know also that such a one, though he may have made a full and entire consecration of himself to God, has shamefully violated his covenant and brought reproach upon the cause of Christ, which must be resented by every loyal member of the church, that he may feel their righteous indignation and his own degradation. And not until there is evidence of sincere repentance should such a one ever again receive the hand of fellowship.

To thus judge and deal in such a case, is to deliver such a one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5). When thus cast off by the saints as unworthy and unfit for their society, and entirely deprived of their fellowship, the adversary to whose temptations he gave way, will buffet him yet more; the blows of adversity will come heavy in some shape or form; and God’s object in permitting it will be his reformation.

How painful is such a measure of discipline; yet had such measures been pursued the church would not have been overrun with tares as it has been, and great Babylon, with her millions of professors merely, would not have come into existence.

The necessity of judging in such matters will thus be seen to be most necessary to the purity and growth of the church, and to the honor of her name as the virgin of Christ. In difficulties or disputes between brethren, the church should find in its own members some at least who could point out the course of justice as viewed from God’s standpoint. If in the future they are to be the judges of angels and men, they should at present be able to judge in such small matters without appealing to civil courts to settle their disputes. For brother to go to law with brother would not indicate that either has much of the spirit of Christ, or much love for the cause they represent. If they had real love for the cause, they would prefer, as Paul says (1 Cor. 6:7), to suffer injustice rather than bring upon it this reproach.

Reproof, exhortation, encouragement, and teaching were duties of the church. Each was to judge when it was necessary to “perform them in the spirit of the Lord and Head of the church.” Each should “be ready at all times to receive as well as to give assistance, in the spirit of meekness, whether it be in the way of reproof, exhortation, or teaching, recognizing the Lord’s object in all discipline, whether painful or otherwise, to be to present to himself a glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” Maria Russell said that the wedding feast parable set the standard for fellowship. This pointed squarely at those who advocated atonement theories that negated purchase by shed blood, who believed that they stood before God in their own merit:

When the King came in to inspect those called to the wedding, he saw one there not having on a wedding garment. As in the illustration wedding robes were provided for all the guests by the host, the fact of one appearing without the robe provided, showed great disrespect to the host. It indicated that though the robe was given him he preferred his own clothing and considered it better than that provided.

The illustration is a striking one. Its location just prior to the marriage, points to the exact time in which we are living, the harvest of the Gospel age, just preceding the marriage of the Lamb, the exaltation of the church as the Bride of Christ. The robe of Christ’s righteousness, purchased for all by his precious blood, is the wedding garment. And to appear in this church company without this robe, is to appear in the filthy rags of our own righteousness and to do despite unto the spirit of grace in despising the robe provided by the Lord by his ransom. And to so appear in his own garments is a practical invitation for others to do likewise. Such an insult to our Lord, the King, should be promptly resented by every loyal member of the body of Christ, and those members who are strong and able should promptly follow the King’s directions – “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness.”

Such is part of the painful duty of the present hour. Some who once walked with us in the light of truth, clothed in the righteousness of Christ imputed to them “through faith in his blood,” have since taken off that robe and appeared in their own filthy rags, boldly inviting others to do likewise. While it is the duty of the stronger members of the body of Christ to protect the weaker, in every way possible against these baneful influences, it is their duty to bind the offenders and cast them out – in other words, to disfellowship them – to show up their true standing, and thus bind them hand and foot by putting others on their guard, thus restraining their influence upon the church. Sooner or later they will either put on the robe or withdraw from the light which reveals the filthy rags of their own righteousness. Thus the church must maintain her integrity and loyalty – “The King said to his servants, Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness.” The darkness is that in which the whole world is enveloped with reference to God’s plan.

Light is sown for the righteous, and only the righteous may enjoy it. Though these once had the light, it is for them no longer; and such as sympathize with them and do not firmly reprove their course are in danger of being drawn by their influence into outer darkness with them. Take heed that ye, brethren, be not deceived or ensnared, or hindered in the race for the prize of our high calling. Watch and pray, and be firmly established in the truth; be fully imbued with its spirit, that you may be counted worthy to be of that glorious church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.[25]

            Dissension remained an issue for decades. Doctor Smith Walker wrote to Russell in mid 1898, explaining the situation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, congregation. A “Mr. C” was a disruptive influence, projecting the extremes of Methodist perfectionism into Watch Tower doctrine:

We have still some trouble occasionally here: chiefly from Mr. C. (I can no longer call him brother). For nearly two years at every possible opportunity he has forced us to listen to “holiness” theories and tried to compel us to accept a hash of present truth and Methodism until we were obliged to send him a written request to absent himself from our meetings and seek more congenial society, and this has been a rather unpleasant step. This he has declined to do on the ground that he is the father of the Church here and intends to look after us. He has often told us that none of our number were even justified, to say nothing of being consecrated, and has sometimes included himself in the same category. So far as I am capable of judging he held and taught the truth clearly some four years ago, but he has seemed to be getting gradually into denser darkness for half that time, and he seems to attend our meetings for the purpose of annoyance.

            Russell’s response was that each “each little company meeting for communion, fellowship and the study of holy things” should to decide the character of the meetings and choose leaders according to their best judgment. “Any attempted deviation from this Scriptural rule should be kindly but firmly resented.” He said that only those who “profess both justification and full consecration should be recognized as having a voice on such matters.” [26] By July 1899, Walker could write: “I am glad to be able to say that all our meetings are smooth and harmonious: so much so as to be a little different from what we might Scripturally expect: but perhaps this is for a pleasant alternation to the ruggedness of the past few years.”[27]
            Divisiveness from Barbourites, Paton’s Larger Hope movement, and readers of A. P. Adams’ Spirit of the Word continued to cause problems into the Twentieth Century. While calling Watch Tower congregations “worse than Babylon,” they continued to attend. When the issue was raised in 1909, Russell advised congregations to mark those who cause divisions:

Mark those who are tending toward division, and don't make them your bosom companions, don't elect them as elders, etc., for that is just the wrong thing. Don't encourage anybody who has a strifeful condition. Lay him on the shelf and let him have strife to himself. Let us be careful that we do not cultivate anything in our own hearts, of their spirit. Let us be gentle, but firm. If any such should approach me, I would shake hands with him. I would not say, No, I will not shake hands with you. But I would not make of them my bosom companions.[28]

            In an effort to stifle controversy, some Watch Tower groups avoided difficult questions. Russell published a brief article by Robert Wakefield, an adherent from New Jersey, which addressed that issue. Wakefield suggested they take up the more controversial subjects and study them:

Again it is the aim of some in their undue desire for harmony, to avoid the investigation of any subject which might provoke controversy. This, we think, is manifestly wrong. Shall we sell the truth to purchase harmony? and are we so puffed up as to be offended if God's word should overthrow our former convictions? Or shall we limit God to five or ten minutes, and take the remainder of two hours to listen to each others experiences, which in nine cases out of ten would be better untold? Why not open the doors wide, and let the blessed Master come in and lead our meetings?

It matters not whether there is any one learned or talented among you. Let each one bring his own Bible, paper and pencil, and avail yourselves of as many helps in the way of a Concordance, Em.  Diaglott, old and new versions of the New Testament, etc., as possible. Choose your subject; ask for the Spirit's guidance in the understanding of it; then read, think, compare scripture with scripture, and you will assuredly be guided into truth.[29]

Who Were They?

            Some opposition writers see Watch Tower adherents in this period as primarily Second Adventists. They base this on Russell’s comment in the February 1881, Watch Tower: “Many of our company were what are known as Second Adventists.” But this is a look backward to 1871, and did not represent matters as they were in the 1880s. Even as things were in 1871, Russell was careful not to say that “most” had been Second Adventists. In point of fact, most were never Adventists of any sort but came from cognate movements.
            Edmond Gruss wrote that “many early converts seemed to come from fundamentalist groups who were dissatisfied with their churches.” The paragraph in which we find this claim is a mixture of fact and fancy typical of Gruss’s work. He adds: “Russell claimed that most of his followers were from Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist backgrounds,” and then speculates about the reasons for adherence to Watch Tower belief. He plainly did not carefully read the early issues of Zion’s Watch Tower. If he had, his speculations would not have found a place in his book. We note too that one cannot find in anything Russell wrote a statement about “most” Watch Tower adherents’ previous affiliation. Instead, Gruss derived his comment from A.H. Macmillan’s Faith on the March which quotes not Russell but another.[30]
            When Russell died The Christian Advocate, a Methodist journal, said that Watch Tower adherents were “drawn from many churches, probably from our own most of all.”[31] Russell-era issues of the Watch Tower tend to support this. While we feel an extended analysis here is distracting, a search of any of the digitalized libraries of early Watch Tower publications should prove the point to our readers. In Allegheny and Pittsburgh, clerical opposition most often came from Methodists, proof that, at least there, Watch Tower theology diminished Methodist churches.[32] And then there is a peculiar statement in a 1904 convention announcement placed in the April 24, 1904, Los Angeles Herald: “Mr. Russell is president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, under whose auspices the convention will be held, and is widely known in the religious world, especially among Methodists, as an able supporter of the old theology of the Bible.” This was a poke at the Methodists then in conference in Los Angeles, but it was true enough as Methodist losses to Watch Tower theology proved. In 1910, speaking at a convention of believers at Nottingham, England, Russell addressed similarities between Watch Tower doctrine and Methodism: “we see in Brother Wesley a grand man, and who in his teachings is loving and lovable, and he had much truth, but yet he did not have the whole plan.”[33]  
            Events show that Watch Tower teachings found a home among Baptists. J. F. Young, pastor of the Ardmore, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), First Baptist Church preached on the twin subjects of “Millennial Dawn” and “Truth and not Opinions.” Without Watch Tower inroads into churches, sermons such as these would not have taken place.[34] It is impossible to find a main-line church or small sect that was not affected by Watch Tower doctrine. The few early responses from clergy turned into a flood of antagonistic sermons, most of which had little effect. Carl L. Jensen, an agent for the American Bible Society, pointed to spiritual hunger as the reason converts found Watch Tower teaching attractive: “I find many homes filled with Millennial Dawn literature. This is especially the case among the nominal church members who are hungering for the food that satisfies, but somehow have neglected the means of grace, until they easily take up with all sorts of fads and isms” Jensen blamed Watch Tower adherents; they neglected the ‘means of grace.’ But lack of satisfying spiritual food was a denominational fault.[35]
            In dozens of ways, clergy and clerical sycophants blamed parishioners and Russellism for their own failures. Even when admitting failure, they shoved blame onto parishioners. In doctrinal and historical context the failure was immense. Some commentaries on Matthew identified the faithful and wise servant of chapter twenty-four as the clergy. Clergy were responsible for the education and faith of congregants. They failed, and Russellism blossomed. An example of mixed criticism comes to us from The Continent, the editor of which often opposed Russell. Richard R. Biggar, a Presbyterian clergyman wrote:

The church … is failing woefully … . We may safely say that more than one-half of the people whose names appear on our church rolls do not have any system of Bible reading or Bible study. How sad that this Source-book of our faith, this rule of our faith and practice, is so neglected! We wonder why some of our church members are running off to dangerous and foolish isms of our day. The answer is plain. They are not “rooted and grounded in the word of God. We are not carrying to them Bible study helps, but Russellism and Christian Science and “new thought” cults on every side are thrusting into their hands so called “keys to the Scripture” which confuse them and lead them away from the great fundamentals of our faith “which are able to make them wise unto salvation.”[36]

            As Russell often said, the clergy confused church creeds with Bible content, and it is evident that Biggar did that too. To him they were one and the same. Methodists felt besieged by Russell. After prolonged ad hominem, an anonymous writer for The Christian Advocate, probably its editor, wrote:

Russell’s career emphasizes several thoughts: First, the inveterate gullibility of humankind (and its thirst for religious novelty); second, the eagerness of the sinner to believe that having neglected his opportunity here, a loving God will give him another chance; third, the vitality of quackery in religion as in medicine; fourth the importance of the press in carrying on religious propaganda. In the matter of tracts, leaflets, books and periodicals, the followers of Pastor Russell, like the followers of Mother Eddy and Joseph Smith, are using with commendable efficiency that agency of popular religious literature in which the followers of John Wesley should never allow themselves to be outdone.[37]

            This ranting Methodist significantly misstated Watch Tower salvation doctrine, doing so for shock value. He blamed former Methodists, converted to Watch Tower belief, claiming they were gullible and seeking novelty. But most significantly, he described Methodists as “followers of John Wesley” rather than of Christ. Russell was right. Creeds supplanted the Bible.
            To W. W. Perrier, editor of The Pacific, a Congregational Church magazine published in California, the forms of that church were apostolic. Leaving it isolated one: “He who separates himself from the church, regarding it as an unauthorized body, may belong to the kingdom, but he is, by his poor judgment, placing himself where his influence for Christ will be lessened; and it, in addition to such separation he takes on some of the unscriptural doctrines of the times his influence is more largely lessened.” [The confusing grammar is his.] It is interesting that he found denominational allegiance more important that a relationship to Christ. His defense of denominationalism was a response to a withdrawal letter sent by a new Watch Tower adherent. He described it as “furnished by the publishers of ‘Millennial Dawn.’”  The letter disturbed him most when it said the Bible was in “direct conflict” with his church. He characterized those who used the pre-printed letter as “without much strength of mind” who are “swayed easily by what they read.” He railed against “cheap books such as ‘Millennial Dawn,’” saying that those swayed by it were “without the facilities by which the fallacies of these books might be made known.”[38]
            If members of Congregational churches were ill-prepared to reason on religious subjects, whose fault was that? If a book loses quality as its price declines then the many “cheap editions” of the classics published in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries declined in usefulness as the price declined. That seems a specious argument.
            In 1915, Lewis Sperry Chafer pointedly wrote:

The country is being swept by “Russellism” (so-called “Millennial Dawn,” “International Bible Students' League,” etc.), and the appalling progress of this system which so misrepresents the whole revelation of God can only be accounted for in the unsatisfied hunger of the people for the prophetic portions of Scripture. Such a false system, mixing truth with untruth, and designed to interpret all of the divine revelation, is evidently more engaging to the popular mind than only the Scriptural presentation of the fundamental doctrines concerning God, Man and Redemption. Satan's lies are always garnished with truth and how much more attractive they seem to be when that garnishing is a neglected truth! And insurance against the encroachment of such false teaching lies only in correctly presenting the whole body of truth rather than in treating any portion of it as impractical or dangerous. No minister need greatly fear any false system when he is intelligently and constantly feeding the people on the Word in all its symmetry and due proportions. This is not only true concerning the teachings of “Millennial Dawn,” but is equally true of the teachings of “Christian Science,” “New Thought,” “Spiritism,” “Seventh Day Adventism” and all unscriptural doctrines of Sanctification.[39]

            As did most clergy, Chafer sent a mixed message. The congregations were not being spiritually fed, but it is the members’ fault because they should be content with the basics of the church creed. Others would reject Chafer’s ultra-dispensationalism on the same basis that he rejected Russellism.
            Little of this accurately explains why churches lost members to Watch Tower belief. A much more accurate picture derives from letters published in Zion’s Watch Tower. A newly interested reader from Delta County, Texas, wrote to Russell in late 1884, saying:

Some time ago, a copy of the watch tower accidentally (?) got into my house. I read it and became interested very much; have received several numbers since, and “Food for Thinking Christians.” Well, what of it? I hardly know whether to accept it or reject it; in fact, I can’t reject a part of it without rejecting the Word of God. I determined many years ago not to accept or reject any theory until satisfied that the Word of God sustained it. I need not tell you this motto has made me a little “weak-kneed” on some things in my church.[40]

            Protestant clergy taught that the Bible was the rule of faith and that each was directly responsible to God. While most church members agreed with that, few practiced it. When they did, questions of faith and belief inserted themselves. This is an example. This letter also exemplifies another common belief. God directs events so his people find the truth. The inserted “?” suggests that finding The Watch Tower might have been a divinely guided event.
            Clergy snobbery and Protestant sola scriptura doctrine were in conflict. Even if Scripture was the voice of God to individual Christians, at least in Protestant doctrine, clergymen commonly saw themselves as specially trained, divinely guided interpreters of the Word. Russell and The Watch Tower trespassed on that perceived privilege. Baptists and Methodists ordained as clergy those who never graduated from a college or seminary. Methodists consigned Lutheran clergy to hell and Lutherans fired back at Methodists. But they all saw Russell as an interloper, as trespassing on their privileges. Later they would put the word “Pastor” in quotes when referencing Russell. Russell was chosen by individual congregations as pastor in a way that differed little from Methodist and Baptist practice. And he was as trained in Bible usage as most clergy. They wanted to diminish his message without addressing his teachings. As we observe in another chapter, at best they listed his doctrines (sometimes inaccurately) for shock value but without meaningful refutation. Clergy failure was most apparent when those newly interested in Watch Tower teaching asked pointed questions.                    
           Uneducated clergy abounded, and, even among those who graduated from a seminary or university, logic seems elusive. The July 1, 1898, Middlebury, Vermont, Register decried the lack of clergy education: “Culture is not to be laughed down. The dime museum … may caricature it, the penny magazine comment upon it, the back-woodsman laugh at it … and some of our uneducated clergy misconstrue the words of our Lord, until by the wrong use of terms, masses are arrayed against classes.”[41] Closer in time to the era we’re considering, The Richland (Rayville, Louisiana) Beacon and The New Orleans, Louisiana, Times took up the issue.
            The Times’ editor suggested that: “Christianity is in no danger from either atheism, infidelity or the discoveries of science, but from its own clergy, for lack of education adequate to the age in which they live.” The Beacon’s editor agreed with this, saying so in an editorial appearing in the August 27, 1881, issue. In point of fact, most clergy were marginally educated. The Beacon’s editor agreed that “clergymen are far behind the really educated and scarcely abreast with the masses,” but he saw even this as an improvement over past decades.
            The New Orleans Times suggested that clergy should be thoroughly trained New Testament scholars. The Beacon replied that more was needed. Unsuitable men, not spiritually qualified, entered the ministry, and if educated betrayed their trust:

The cause of Christianity often suffers at the hands of an ignorant preacher. … Therefore, while we freely admit the disadvantages and misfortunes of an uneducated clergy, we think that there is far less danger … from that source than from a godless clergy, which is the inevitable result of educating young men for the ministry regardless of their spiritual qualifications or moral status …[42]

            Unprepared, under-educated clergy turned away the questions raised by enquiring believers, who, rather than being untrained theologically were often as educated as the clergy who served them. Also, notorious clergy conduct was documented in the press, making it easy to see the churches they represented as hotbeds of sin and worldliness. While on first blush, Russell’s condemnation of Christendom may seem exaggerated, it was an accurate portrayal of the age.
            While researching this book we’ve read a significant amount of contemporary religious periodicals. Many of them are insipid, ill-prepared, and lacking in substance. If we found them thus, some of their readers did too. A resident of Howell County, Missouri, wrote to Russell in late December 1885 saying: “In 1879, I became a member of the Missionary Baptist church; am one yet, but have been dissatisfied on account of the scarcity of spiritual food.”[43] A letter from a man and wife resident in Chandler, Kansas, represents the feeling of spiritual famine many experienced: “We have been church members for forty years, but we have learned more from the watch tower than we ever learned from the pulpit.” They were eager to circulate tracts.[44]
            Russell frequently pointed to compromised churches. No better than social clubs, they admitted anyone. Ministerial standards were lax. We documented this in some detail in volume one, and it was a pronounced factor among those leaving denominational churches for Watch Tower belief. A letter from Orangeburg, South Carolina, appearing in the November 1884 Watch Tower illustrates this:

I am alone as yet, but the light is certainly making some impression. Babylon is visibly unstable and corrupt; her corruption is becoming so enormous that thinking men cannot much longer submit to it; she is actually closing her eyes and ears to known filth in her ministry, as well as laity, and her order is to “hold the fort” against the light now streaming from the Word.

            Russell’s Orangeburg correspondent had reason to complain. In 1875, the Orangeburg paper reported the Beecher-Tilton sex-scandal frequently and at length, and in 1879, Alonzo Webster of the African Methodist Episcopal Church was accused of misusing church funds. A long trail of clergy scandal filled the American press. One did not have to look for scandal; the press rubbed readers’ noses in it. But not all clergy opposed Russell; not all found his doctrine improbable or un-scriptural. Some ministers found Watch Tower teachings eye-opening and spirit-filling. We consider some of those in a later next chapter.

Growing Interest

            It may be an exaggeration to suggest that there were as many reasons for conversion to Watch Tower belief as there were converts, but a variety of reasons appear in adherents’ letters. An early clerical convert was convinced that the “dear old Methodist Episcopal Church” was in error, though we do not know in what particular he found it so. He wrote to Russell saying that his former church was part of “the image of the beast,” the Protestant offspring of the Roman Catholic Church.[45] He believed that teaching Watch Tower theology was obedience to Christ whom he loved better than his old church. Some, including clergy, found Watch Tower teaching a match or near match to their own conclusions. [See Chapter -] Some found relief from adverse personal circumstance that might include depression, drug use or other life issues. Some found doctrinal relief. Hell-fire torment and issues connected to Second Probation doctrine are mentioned in letters to Russell. The belief that Christ was then personally present, though invisible, gave some assurance that soon life would be better.
            A significant draw was Watch Tower emphasis on holiness. The ‘higher life’ and holiness movements represented an important quest for New Testament belief. Christendom in its American and European permutations preached morals but presented few examples. A female adherent in Venango, Pennsylvania, a small village with a population of 278, saw Watch Tower belief as “an effort to place us upon the original Christian basis, which Christ and his apostles outlined for all the true followers down to the end of the age.” She was discouraged because few listened to her but wrote: I cannot help rejoicing that I have found the true version of the Scriptures, even if others will not accept. I cannot tell you how happy it makes me. I try to do what good I can, but when others deem me crazy or lost to all my former senses.”[46] Another example comes from James West, a prominent Watch Tower evangelist. Writing to Russell about the just concluded Lord’s Memorial Meal [Communion], he said:  “This meeting was the nearest approach in its character to the New Testament idea of the assembling of the saints, for worship and study (“Search the Scriptures”), that I have ever seen or heard of. How I wish every consecrated child of God on earth could have been present, and seen and heard all that was done and said. It certainly was the most satisfactory religious gathering I ever participated in.”[47]


Herbert Stroup suggested that “Mr. Russell did not stress the idea of ‘numbers’ because he felt that the coming end of the world made the building of a large organization unnecessary.” Citing Volume Three of Studies in the Scriptures, he quoted Russell as writing that the Little Flock would “decrease in influence and numbers ... before the close of 1910.”[48] We do not know from where he derived this ‘quotation,’ but certainly not from any volume of Studies in the Scriptures or from anything else Russell wrote. Not only is this quotation false, but Stroup mischaracterized Russell’s reasoning. God chose the members of his church; they weren’t living saints simply because they were on a membership role. 
Estimates of the movement’s numerical strength in the 1880s vary widely. A Watchtower writer says the movement was “only about one hundred strong in 1881.”[49] We do not know how this figure was reached. Some estimates derive from Memorial attendance. Russell estimated that the memorial was celebrated by “about twenty” fellowships in 1881. However, in 1881 they were not united as to the timing of and manner of observing the Lord’s Memorial Supper. Not every group and not every individual sent in returns; it was early days and reporting Memorial attendance was not the fixture it became. [50] The Watchtower writer’s estimate is probably significantly in error.
Another Watchtower writer claimed: “In these first years of 1879 and 1880 they founded about thirty congregations in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio and Michigan. Then in 1880 Pastor Russell arranged to visit all of these thirty congregations himself, spending at least one day with each congregation.”[51] An Internet based polemicist claimed: “By 1880 there were scores of congregations around the United States.” The basis for the former is the writer’s imagination and for the latter a misunderstanding of reports found in Zion’s Watch Tower. In this era Memorial reports were incomplete and haphazard, leaving Russell requesting careful and complete reports clear up to 1900.[52] Russell did not name every congregation he visited. So we look at these claims with considerable skepticism.
We get some idea of numbers of adherents from Watch Tower subscription figures. In 1883, the British edition of the Latter-Day Saint journal Millennial Star described the Tower as “having a large circulation.”[53] Ayer’s Directory for 1882 suggests a circulation of forty-eight hundred copies. Edwin Alden’s Directory for 1886 claims a circulation of nine thousand.[54] The 1892 Directory of the Religious Press gives it a circulation of 9500, “chiefly local.”[55]  In 1899 Pettingill’s National Newspaper Directory gave the Watch Tower a circulation of twelve hundred copies per issue.[56]  Russell reported that some print runs were exhausted. He printed six thousand copies of the November and December 1881 issues, “and at the time supposed that sufficient.” He wanted new readers to have copies and proposed to reprint those issues. That plan was aborted and the material appeared in The Plan of the Ages. In January 1882, Russell said there were seven thousand names on their list. The February 1882 issue saw a print run of ten thousand copies.[57] The 1882 edition of N. W. Ayer & Son’s American Newspaper Annual reported 14,800 copies per issue.
We are skeptical of externally reported circulation figures. Even if accurate as approximations, they lack exactness, and we do not know the sources. But let’s accept that between 1882 and 1890 the Watch Tower’s circulation grew from about 5000 to over 9000 copies per issue. We still do not know how many of the readership were committed believers. We can probably safely assume that there were something over 500 adherents at the end of 1881 and more by the end of 1887. Food for Thinking Christians spurred growth. In April 1882, Russell could report “thousands of letters from all parts of this country and Great Britain.”[58] And again in January 1883 he could report: “Thousands of hungry hearts are upturned to God in thanksgiving for the blessed light now shining on and revealing the precious plan and promises of God. Thousands of letters tell of renewed faith in God and quickened lives resulting from even a first glimpse of ‘the riches of His grace,’ and the grandeur of the great plan of God for the salvation.”[59]
We do not know how many groups there were. Few were organized into anything more than a small fellowship of two, three of a few more. The “twos and threes” are not identified as to place. In a previous chapter we demonstrated interest in Missouri and Kansas, places reached by Lawver and others. The evidence suggests to us that there were more adherents than more recent Watchtower writers suggest and more sustainable groups than the twenty Russell thought existed in 1881. Ultimately we do not have a solid number, or even an approximate number with a solid basis. [maps, charts here]
We reject the idea that Russell organized these congregations. In the early 1880s, most of them were preexisting, composed of people with similar interests but with divergent doctrine. Instead, Russell encouraged readers to gather together to study and enquire. As the movement grew, new fellowships and congregations formed, often with the intervention of a colporteur or evangelist. Ads were placed in newspapers giving the meeting locations. Contact between interested parties was encouraged.

Relationship to the Center

            Some Watch Tower adherent groups functioned much as they had when associated with a church, electing or having a de facto pastor. Others were loosely organized with no clearly defined leader. All looked to Zion’s Watch Tower for guidance, though to varying degrees. More than seeking guidance from Watch Tower articles which in this period were written by a variety of authors, they increasingly looked to Russell who saw himself as a divinely chosen teacher, one of God’s “special agents for special work” used as were Abraham, Moses, Samson and Paul.[60] Though it was more reserved than Paton and Barbour’s self views, not everyone shared Russell’s self-assessment.
            Some controversialists and sectarians write that Russell claimed divine inspiration – that he claimed to be a modern-day prophet. This is at best inexact and at worst a total misrepresentation of Russell’s claims.

            A clearer authority structure emerged after Food for Thinking Christians and Tabernacle Teachings were published. They accomplished what Paton’s Day Dawn had failed to do, presenting a clearly and narrowly defined doctrine. With a narrowing doctrine came disaffection. Paton resented Russell displacing him as the most prominent preaching voice, and he finally stopped flirting with Universalism, openly espousing the doctrine. His articles were turned down as were those of others. Jones espoused Josephitism and other extreme doctrines and took a mistress. Conley, who lost a child and never gave up Trinitarian and Torment beliefs, drifted off into faith cure. Myers, who associated briefly, started his own magazine, presenting an atonement theory Russell saw as denying the worth of Christ’s sacrifice. While we examine this in volume 3 of this work, we must note it here because it sets the stage for the development of authority structure among Watch Tower readers.
            By mid-year 1882 some readers were suggesting that anointed Christians did not need human teachers. At least one cited 1 John 2:20, 27: “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you, but the same anointing teaches you concerning all things and is true.” (Diaglott.) The believed “that among those who are fully consecrated ... no teachers are to be recognized and that none are needed, as all shall be taught of God.” This was not a new theory. Elements of it are found in Protestant writing from the 16th Century onward. The scriptures are paramount, or should be. Teachers that presented doctrine differing from ‘the norm’ were castigated. Creeds were a block to open, critical Bible study. These are issues of authority.
            A sect calling itself The Christian Brethren was active in England in the 1840s. It was non-Trinitarian, and commonly called Unitarian, though far different from the Unitarian-Universalist Church of today. One of the principal leaders was Joseph Baker (not the American Unitarian of the same name.) Samuel Minton, one of his clerical opponents refused – despite calls to do so – to debate him, presenting a multitude of reasons why he wouldn’t.[61] The most important reason seems to have been that he would loose a face to face debate. Russell’s rejection of creeds and creed bound clergy reflected that of the Christian Brethren: Creeds and clergy blocked free enquiry. While we could not obtain a copy of Baker’s works, we have Minton’s representation of it: “The Unitarian makes a boast of despising all human creeds and human teachers, and thinks he justifies him self for so doing by declaiming against priestcraft and spiritual despotism, mental thraldom, &c, &c.” Baker called the paid clergy “hirelings,” and Minton saw that as disreputable, an attack on clergy authority:

No one can have read much of Mr. Barker's writings, with out seeing that the real object of his outcry against paid ministers is to throw discredit on the Christian ministry altogether. He knows, as well as I do, that a minister may receive pay, and yet not be what our Lord calls a “hireling;” but he knows also, that calling them all hirelings together lowers them in the eyes of ignorant people, and so far weakens their influence. If he can only get people to shut their ears against the ministers of Christ, on the ground that they are paid for teaching certain doctrines, and therefore are not worth attending to, he will then be able to instill his own teaching into their minds, with little danger of having his mistakes corrected or his deceptions exposed. To accomplish this end he spares no pains, and is not afraid of using such wholesale calumny ... . The Christian ministry is a thing ordained by God; and ... a paid ministry is ... sanctioned by God.

            Minton correctly saw Baker’s rejection of creedal statements and a clergy paid to teach the creeds as anti-authoritarianism. Minton saw clergy as God appointed. His reaction anticipated later clergy reaction to Russell. Both Baker and Russell saw the need for God-appointed human teachers. They denied that the clergy with their creeds were such. But the controversy of mid-1882 went a step beyond, resurrecting an 11th Century heresy centered among the clergy of Orléans, France. There is a sole-source record of the Orléanist’s beliefs made by their enemies. They believed that the gift of the Holy Spirit gave them full understanding of the Scriptures: “You will be replenished with the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will teach you unreservedly the underlying meaning of the scriptures, and true righteousness.” Similarly, those Russell tried to refute believed that “that among those who are fully consecrated to the Lord and have received the anointing ... no teachers are to be recognized and that none are needed, as all shall be taught of God.”  The Orléanists denigrated priestly ordination and authority. So, also, did those Russell tried to refute.[62]
            We do not know the full content of either party’s argument. Russell does not identify who was claiming insight independent of human teachers. We can eliminate Paton and Barbour who thought of themselves as God-appointed teachers. Paton believed that he was directly guided by God, and Barbour saw himself as specially anointed. A search of The Restitution, the One Faith journal, did not turn up a similar argument. A. D. Jones put forward theories Russell rejected, but not at this date. So, we’re left with a mystery. All we know about those Russell opposed is that they bolstered their argument with 1 John 2:20, 27: “You have an anointing from the Holy one; you all know it.” (Rendering of Sinaitic and Vatican MSS.) “The anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need that any one should teach you, but the same anointing teaches you concerning all things and is true.” [Diaglott] Russell’s rebuttal was: “God hath set in the Church apostles, teachers, &c., for the edifying of the body. We suggest that if the teachers be of divine appointment, those taught are divinely taught. See (Eph. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 4:2-5; John 13:20.) We believe that John does not contradict other Scriptures which show that God had appointed teachers in the church.” He suggested that this was a reaction to Christendom’s false teachings, but wrong in substance.
            Russell had addressed this issue the month previously (June 1882). [Continue]

[1]               1910 Convention Report.
[2]               C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1882, page 1.
[3]               C. T. Russell: Regular Meetings, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1881, page 8.
[4]               Announcements: The World’s Hope¸ July 1884, page 152. The title appears to be Good News for All.
[5]               Annual Report of the Brockport Free Library, The Brockport, New York, Republic, December 1, 1887.
[6]               R.O.L to Paton, The World’s Hope, February 15, 1902, page 47.
[7]               Blunden to Russell as found in the May 1, 1892, Watch Tower, pages 133-134. [Not in reprints.]
[8]               Interesting Letters from Friends, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1, 1902, page 15.
[9]               C. E. Fitch: Encyclopedia of Biography of New York: A life Record of Men and Women Whose Sterling Character and Energy and Industry Have Made Them Preëminent in Their Own and Many Other States, Volume 3.
[10]             Drops Dead in Hen Yard, The Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard, November 3, 1903. Founds a New Sect, Ogdensburg, New York, News¸ November 12, 1901.
[11]             B. F. Weatherwax: A Question of Belief, The Cortland, New York, Evening Standard, November 2, 1901. We do not know if the grammar errors are his or the editor’s. 
[12]             Founds a New Sect, The Newburgh, New York, Register, November 7, 1901.
[13]             Church of the Little Flock, Cortland, New York, Evening Standard, April 25, 1902.
[14]             Church of the Little Flock, Cortland, New York, Evening Standard, July 28, 1902.
[15]             Two Meetings, Cortland, New York, Evening Standard, May 9, 1903.
[16]             Drops Dead in Hen Yard, The Syracuse, New York, Post-Standard¸ November 3, 1903; The Syracuse, New York, Journal, November 9, 1903. There are possible explanations as to how Weatherwax encountered Barbourite doctrine. W. Horace Kirk, owner of a blacksmithing business and evangelist preacher, was interested in the Church of the Little Flock. He attended a “convention of the Church of the Little Flock in Binghampton, New York, in May 1904. His business partner was a Hoyt, some of whom were Adventist and Age-to-Come believers. There was through Kirk a connection to Rochester and the Fullers. Fullers were Barbourites. None of this rises to the level of firm proof.
[17]             I. Edgecomb: Some Pillars, The Cortland, New York Evening Standard, October 14, 1904.
[18]             To Attend Lecture, The Syracuse, New York, Herald¸ January 27, 1906.
[19]             C. T. Russell: The Episcopal Church, Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1884, page 7.
[20]             1913 Convention Report, page 244ff. The report misidentifies him as H. G. Jolly.
[21]             B. W. Keith: Stand Fast, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1880, page 4.
[22]             J. H. Paton: What Effect? Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1880, page 8.
[23]             C. T. Russell: Harvest Gatherings and Siftings, The Watch Tower, June 1, 1916, page 172.
[24]             L. W. Jones [Editor]: What Pastor Russell Said: His Answers to Hundreds of Questions, 1917, page 612.
[25]             M. F. Russell: Discipline in the Church, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1887, page 5.
[26]            Smith Walker to Russell in Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 15, 1898, page 224. We know very little about Smith Walker. The 1870 Census lists a Smith Walker resident in Allegheny City’s 8th Ward and gives him a birth date in 1842 or 1843. We believe this is the wrong man. A later letter from him notes him as living in Philadelphia. That takes us to a man born in England about 1845, immigrating to the United States in 1866. We know he traveled as an evangelist at least briefly. An announcement in the Glens Falls, New York, Morning Star of June 26, 1899, notes his lecture there.
[27]             Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, July 1, 1899, page 175. [Not in reprints.]
[28]             L. W. Jones [editor]: What Pastor Russell Said: His Answers to Hundreds of Questions¸ Chicago 1917, page 30.
[29]             R. W.: Assembling Together, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1884, page 2.
[30]             E. Gruss: Apostles of Denial¸ Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1986 printing, page 43. A. H. Macmillan: Faith on the March, pages 39-40.
[31]             Pastor Russell, The Christian Advocate, November 9, 1916, page 1466.
[32]             eg: The Wages of Sin, The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dispatch, November 8, 1890.
[33]             Souvenir Notes: Bible Student’s Conventions – 1910, page 59.
[34]             First Baptist Church, The Daily Ardmoreite, October 8, 1899.
[35]             Jensen’s annual report found in One Hundred and First Report of the American Bible Society: 1917¸ page 133.
[36]             R. R. Biggar: A Sunday-School Every Member Canvas, The Continent, January 29, 1920, page 140.
[37]             Pastor Russell, The Christian Advocate, November 6, 1916.
[38]             W. W. Perrier: Something New in the Ready Made Line, The Pacific, May 8, 1902
[39]             S. P. Chafer: The Kingdom in History and Prophecy, Fleming H. Revell, New York, 1915, page 13.
[40]             Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1884, page 2. [Not in reprints.]
[41]             Dime Museums appealed to working-class individuals. They were hardly better than carnival side shows.
[42]             A Peril to Christianity, The Rayville, Louisiana, Richland Beacon, August 27, 1881.
[43]             Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1885, page 2. [Not in reprints.]
[44]             C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1882, page 2.
[45]             C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower¸ June 1882, page 1.
[46]             Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1889, page 8.
[47]             Extracts from Interesting Letters, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1891, page 78.
[48]             H. H. Stroup: The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Columbia University Press, New York, 1945, page 80.
[49]             1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Watchtower Society, 1975, page 39.
[50]             C. T. Russell: Our Passover, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1881, page 6.
[51]             Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Divine Purpose, Watchtower, 1959, page 23.
[52]             Memorial Celebration Reports, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 15, 1900, page 113.
[53]             What a Change in Fifty Years, Millennial Star, April 23, 1883, page 258.
[54]             See page 308.
[55]             George Batten’s Directory of the Religious Press of the United States, 1892 edition, page 127.
[56]             See page 62.
[57]             C. T. Russell: Untitled notice, January-February 1882 issue, page 2. Back Numbers, Zion’s Watch Tower¸ February 1882, page 2. With the February issue Russell sent as a supplement a combined printed of Tabernacle Teachings and Food for Thinking Christians. See also untitled announcement April 1882, issue, page 2.
[58]             C. T. Russell: Truth Spreading, Zion’s Watch Tower, April 1882, page 4.
[59]             C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, January 1883, page 1.
[60]             G. B. Stacy: Perilous Times, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1880, page 6. See Russell’s comments appended to Stacy’s article.
[61]             Minton’s biography is found in Rupert Sims: Bibliotheca Staffordiensis: Or a Bibliographical Account of Books and Other Printed Matter Relating to – Printed or Published in – Or Written by a Native, Resident, or Person Deriving a Title from – Any portion of the County of Stafford, Litchfield, 1894, page 311.
[62]             English translation of Paul of Saint-Père de Chartres’ account, as close as exists to a first hand account, found in Edward Peters [Editor]: Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980, page 66ff.


roberto said...

Thanks, thanks, thanks.
Stellar post, Rachael and Bruce! I like it all. Only the last part is a bit strange to me, probally because it is a new argument for me.
On the basis of your research is the report of Macmillan in Faith on March pp. 31-32 reliable? I think so.

jerome said...

I've not had opportunity to read this through properly yet but noted at the end the reference to the Christian Disciples a UK Unitarian-leaning movement featuring Joseph Baker. The quote from Minton spells his name as Barker, and if the correct name is Joseph Barker then his life story was published in 1880 - going from the Methodists to the Unitarians to elsewhere. It can be found in several places including:

The volume online has his picture and signature.

A Unitarian history gave this bit of detail:

In connection with these Methodist Unitarian churches it is natural to speak also of
another and similar movement a generation later, that of the Christian Brethren, which
was active from 1841 to 1848 or later.56 Its founder was the Rev. Joseph Barker (1806–
75), a brilliant and eloquent but undisciplined and unstable minister of the Methodist
New Connexion, whose career moved successively from Methodism through Quakerism,
Unitarianism, Secularism, and back to Primitive Methodism, who was inclined to go to
extremes; and in 1841 was expelled from the Conference. Twenty-nine societies with
over 4,000 members followed him, and formed a movement called The Christian
Brethren, which spread somewhat widely in the northern counties and in the Potteries
district of Staffordshire, largely among the common people. Their only test for members
was the belief that Jesus is the Christ. Their beliefs drew them into sympathy with the
Unitarians, who welcomed and aided them. They provided Barker with a press in
furtherance of his effort to diffuse good literature among the people through cheap
popular editions, and he published a popular edition of Channing's works, of which
30,000 copies were sold, and had great influence in popularizing his thought: When,
however, Barker gave himself wholly to the cause of political and social reform, and left
the country in 1848, his loosely knit movement quietly dissolved. A number of his
congregations, and many scattered individuals, affiliated with the Unitarians, while others
returned to Methodism.

Chris G. said...

A brief thought on the first paragraph under the heading "Numbers"
you stated...

Herbert Stroup suggested that “Mr. Russell did not stress the idea of ‘numbers’ because he felt that the coming end of the world made the building of a large organization unnecessary.” Citing Volume Three of Studies in the Scriptures, he quoted Russell as writing that the Little Flock would “decrease in influence and numbers ... before the close of 1910.”[48] We do not know from where he derived this ‘quotation,’ but certainly not from any volume of Studies in the Scriptures or from anything else Russell wrote. Not only is this quotation false, but Stroup mischaracterized Russell’s reasoning. God chose the members of his church; they weren’t living saints simply because they were on a membership role."

The Stroup reference is confirmed as listed as from series 3 Studies in the Scriptures p. 243, however I believe the true quote is on p. 242. The quote from the Studies volume says in part, "As the time of trouble draws on, we must therefore expect the true Church in its present condition, the Elias, the John class, to decrease in influence and numbers..."

There is no mention of 1910 that I found on that page so that is a mystery but I hope this clarification assists in your final draft of the topic.

Gary said...

I loved this article. Thank you. Interesting to hear Russell's comment on a Christian's use of material possessions.

Best wishes to Bruce and Rachael with their present health difficulties.


P.S. Boring talks - 'a situation some will be familiar with' ... surely not!

Stéphane said...

Please accept my apologies for my long delay in posting this comment.

I found this article of yours very impressing, as it illustrates the richness of the facts that you succeeded in bringing to light, by your meticulous search for fragments of information scattered in the vast amount of old documents you had the patience to retrieve, and their perspicacious sorting and correlating.

I take the liberty to suggest some microscopic corrections (I wish a tiny mouse could wipe these very minor typing errors unconspicuously when you are looking elsewhere…)

I join my best wishes for an improvement of your health, and for Rachael's good recovery from her hospital treatment.


Here are some proofreading suggestions :

— Most examples come from a somewhat later. In Brockport, New York, someone donated -- READ from somewhat later

— A follow up letter was printed in the January 1, 1902, Watch Tower. -- READ follow-up

— and see “the true light which lighteth [sic; he meant “lightest.”] every man that cometh into the world,” -- MAY I SUGGEST that he really meant “lighteth”, quoting from John 1,9 King James Version : “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.”

— We also under that 6,000 years -- READ understand

— that man may see righteousness n all of its beauty, and witness the blessed results of its reign. -- READ in all of its beauty

— B. W. Keith found it necessary to remind adherents that the ‘works of the flesh” -- READ “works

— Russell’s admonition to leave others un-judged -- READ unjudged

— In 1887 Dissension and behavior issues -- READ dissension

— Its Christ’s church; -- READ It’s

— the Corinthian Christians’ failure to judge one of one of its members’ sin, -- READ to judge one of its

— Russell’s response was that each “each little company -- READ that “each little company

— should to decide the character of the meetings -- READ should decide

— They are not “rooted and grounded in the word of God. -- READ of God.”

— a small fellowship of two, three of a few more -- READ or a few more

— The believed “that among those who are fully consecrated ... -- READ They believed

— A sect calling itself The Christian Brethren was active in England in the 1840s. -- READ Brethren’

— that he would loose a face to face debate. -- READ he would lose

— and thinks he justifies him self for so doing by declaiming against priestcraft -- READ he justifies himself

— with out seeing that the real object of his outcry -- READ without seeing

— There is a sole-source record of the Orléanist’s beliefs made by their enemies. -- READ the Orléanists’ beliefs

— See (Eph. 4:11-16; -- READ (See Eph.

— Note [57] With the February issue Russell sent as a supplement a combined printed of , -- READ a combined print

Alan Crabb said...

Re Joseph Baker, should be Joseph BARKER (as noted above by Jerome). (1) He is mentioned several times in "The Origins and Early Development of the Plymouth Brethren." by P.L. Embley (2) There is also an entry for him at which indicates he was in the US for ten years until 1860. (3) An account of his amazing (and chaotic) life is in 'Modern Skepticism : A Journey through the Land of Doubt and Back Again (1874) : online at