BIBLE STUDENTS: WHO ARE THEY? WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?

 

Preface to Bible Student History

 

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.—1Pe 3:15

 

Who are you? What church do you attend? To what denomination do you belong? When these questions are asked they are not easy to answer. Bible Students are not easy to categorize.

 

When Alex Halley wrote his classical Roots and that became a television sensation, it started a trend of looking for one’s historical origins. Since this issue completes 75 years of publishing THE HERALD, it seems appropriate to do the same.

 

The Bible Student movement began about a hundred twenty years ago with the activity of Charles Taze Russell. Understanding the unique religious atmosphere of that time is essential to comprehending the whys and wherefores of a new movement.

 

This supplement to the Diamond Anniversary of THE HERALD will attempt to address this issue—placing the Bible Student movement in its historical context, both the broad scale setting of the entire Christian church and the narrower focus of the second advent movement.

 

Our regular feature, a verse by verse Bible Study, leads off this section. Entitled In the Beginning, it traces the very inception of the Christian church as it looks at each verse in the first chapter of Acts.

 

In Contending for the Faith we will note how controversy has always been an integral part of church history. Without question, the Bible can be a difficult book to understand. Sincere Christians have debated and fought mightily in their search for an accurate interpretation. They have not always agreed. Four of these great disputes are chronicled in this article—the nature of God, the authority of the priesthood, justification by faith, and the question of election and free grace.

 

Philosophy and religion have walked side by side. Man’s political struggle for justice has paralleled and interacted with his search for a more equitable religion. Tracing this tendency, particularly as it set the scene for religion in the close of the last century, is the object of the article The Decline of Faith.

 

More directly impacting the Bible Student movement was the interest in the second advent in the middle of the nineteenth century, centering around the activities of William Miller, anticipating the return of Jesus Christ in 1844. The relationship between the Miller movement and that of the Bible Students is chronicled in the article The Midnight Cry.

 

Zeroing in on the origins of the Bible Students are two articles. A New Wine Bottle deals with the birth pangs that accompanied the establishment of the new movement, while In The Time of Harvest takes a broader view of the entire ministry of Pastor Russell.

 

The Bible Student movement was revolutionary in its time. It was made the more so by the benign and benevolent leadership of Pastor Russell. The marked contrast between his leadership and the strong, dictatorial policies of his successor, Joseph Rutherford, was a cause of much confusion and dismay. Seeking peace and direction from the bewildering conditions, the Bible Students began to splinter into various groupings. One of these was the Pastoral Bible Institute, publisher of this journal. The origins of this group are traced in the article The Pastoral Bible Institute.

 

The past is merely prologue. Where do we go from here? How we build upon our origins is largely up to us. In the closing article of this series, the author looks at the future and seeks to chart a direction for the Christian to follow.

 

As in the regular issues of the magazine, we are including a Question Box feature. Customarily Bible Students call themselves truth people or speak about being in the truth. To many this sounds egotistical. This question is discussed in this column.

 

With this preview we submit the following articles for your consideration, and invite your comments.

In The Beginning

 

A Bible Study

 

’And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.’—Acts 2:42

 

A verse by verse study in Ac 1

 

THERE are many beginnings in the Bible. First, there is God who has no beginning. Then there is the beginning of his creative work in the forming of the Logos. (Re 3:14 Joh 1:1) There is also the beginning of his work with planet earth in Ge 1:1. But in the book of Acts we find another beginning, the beginning of the Christian church.

 

Those were confusing days. Memories were varied. There was elation at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Then there was perplexity when at the Last Supper he told them again of his imminent death. Finally there was the despair with his arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

 

Despondency gave way to joy with news of his resurrection; but joy was mixed with bewilderment, for their Master was not the same. He now appeared in locked rooms, seemingly coming right through the wall. He disappeared just as mysteriously. Those were confusing days.

 

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MANUSCRIPTS...

 

The basis for today’s Bible. Of over 3000 extant, the following are judged the most important.

 

Sinaitic —Fourth century; complete New Testament.

 

Alexandrian —Early fifth century; most New Testament

 

Vatican 1209 —Fourth century; Matthew to Heb 9:14.

 

Ephraemi —Late fourth century; Fragments of Septuagint and of the New Testament.

 

Regius 62 —Eighth century; most of the Gospels.

 

Papyrus P45 —Third century; fragments of Gospels and Acts.

 

Papyrus P46 —circa 200, most of Pauline Epistles.

 

Papyrus P47 —Third century, middle third of Revelation

 

Papyrus P52 —ca. 125, Joh 8:31-33, 37, 38

 

Papyrus P66 —ca. 200; most of John

 

Papyrus P75 —Third century, most of Luke & John

 

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The Book of Acts

 

Verses 1 and 2

 

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:

 

Theophilus is mentioned only here and in the opening verse of the Gospel of Luke, which indicates that Luke is also the author of Acts. While Theophilus was undoubtedly a real person, the meaning of his name, lover of God, is an appropriate title for all for whom the book was written.

 

The title, Acts of the Apostles, is somewhat vague and misleading, for it details the acts of very few of the apostles—Peter and Paul being the main characters in the book. Some authorities have named it, The Acts of the Holy Spirit or, relating it to the Gospel of Luke, The Acts of Jesus Christ after his Resurrection.

 

Post-Resurrection Appearances

 

Verse 3 to 5

 

To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

 

It is sad to note that in three and a half years of intense ministry Jesus, a perfect man with the most wonderful message of all time, had garnered a following of only about 500 interested people. (1Co 15:6) Though these felt deserted at his death, they were not, for he appeared miraculously to them eleven times.

 

The object of these appearances and the mysterious ways in which they occurred was, as Luke rightly puts it, to give them many infallible proofs that he had indeed risen from the dead. While the gospel records give few details of any conversations, we are here informed that Jesus’ message remained constant: speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.

 

Now, as with Moses of old when he ascended Mt. Sinai, they were to be given a lesson in patience. They were not to leave Jerusalem but wait for the next event: the promise of the Father. As his first advent was marked with the baptism of John, so his new presence with them always... to the end of the age (Mt 28:20) would be marked with the baptism of the holy Spirit. This was the baptism of which John the Baptist prophesied: ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’.( Mt 3:11 NIV)

 

When Will the Kingdom Come?

 

Verses 6 to 8

 

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

 

It was only natural that the disciples should ask the uppermost question in their minds—When? When would the kingdom of which Jesus had taught them so much be established? Not having yet been enlightened by the holy Spirit, they still had visions of grandeur and the establishment of an earthly kingdom to replace Rome and put Israel back into power.

 

The answer Jesus gave differed somewhat from an earlier statement recorded in Mr 13:32: ‘But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’

 

This time Jesus omits the words neither the Son, possibly because as a spirit being he now possessed knowledge he had not been given earlier. In any event it is obvious that the statement in Mark did not mean that the Son was never to know, for he would obviously know at the time of his return.

 

He further dispels their misconceptions by stating that instead of reigning they would merely be his witnesses throughout all the earth. The word order he here uses is no coincidence: (1) in Jerusalem and (2) in all Judea and (3) in Samaria and (4) unto the uttermost parts of the earth.

 

The first public witness message of the new church was indeed in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost. From there their message spread naturally to the environs of the city—Judea. Ensuing persecutions of the new religion forced the followers to flee to the neighboring area of Samaria, (see Ac 8:1-5) where Philip was sent to preach to them. Then, in an unusual sidelight, Philip is called away to Gaza where he meets and converts the Ethiopian eunuch. (Ac 8:27-39) Ethiopia (Sheba of the Old Testament) is called by Jesus the uttermost parts of the earth. (see Mt 12:42 Lu 11:31)

 

The Ascension

 

Veres 9 to 11

 

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven..

 

One last time their Master was in their midst. Now, just as they were finally becoming accustomed to his unusual comings and goings, there is yet another surprise. Instead of disappearing into thin air, he visibly ascends into the heavens; and they are confronted by angels appearing in the guise of two men.

 

The angels inform them that this is yet a new development. Their Lord would return, but they are given no clue as to how long or where it would be. At first they undoubtedly surmised that it would be in a few days as it had been during the past few weeks. Then time lengthened and he still did not reappear. Some sixty years later the finishing touches are put on the Bible by the Apostle John with these concluding words, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus.’

 

In like manner—few words in the Bible have been open to a wider range of interpretation than these. Many theologians are of the opinion this means that as Jesus disappeared in a visible form, so he would return visibly. This, however, stretches the meaning of the Greek word tropos, here translated manner.

 

Translated in a variety of ways, the word comes from a root meaning a turning or revolution. The word is used as an adverb modifying the method of coming and not as an adjective modifying the form in which he would return. Therefore the like manner of his return apparently refers to the quiet manner of his departure—unnoticed by the world at large, but seen only by his most intimate followers who were watching for it. Just as a cloud hid him from the disciples, so his return in or on a cloud indicates that his second advent is also invisible.

 

Days of Waiting

 

Verses 12 to 14

 

Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.

 

Now they were to have their test of patience. True to their Lord’s command, they abode in Jerusalem, waiting for the fulfillment of the promised gift of the spirit. Since Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday morning and was in their midst for the 40 days prior to his ascension, (Ac 1:3) that event must have taken place on a Friday. We may assume that his ascension was late in the day, for the journey back to Jerusalem is given as a sabbath day’s journey.

 

One of the sabbath prohibitions dealt with travel. Originally the devout Jew was to stay near enough to the Tabernacle so that he could worship on that day.’ See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day’.( Ex 16:29)

 

Orthodox Jewry reckoned this distance as being the space between the Tabernacle and the camp of Israel—2,000 cubits, about 1,000 yards—based on Jos 3:4: ‘Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore’..( Jos 3:4)

 

The occupation of the disciples (the eleven apostles plus some 109 others) during those anxious days was prayer and supplication. How they must have identified with Daniel of old who, while waiting, spent his days and nights in earnest prayer. (Da 9:3-19)

 

The Death of Judas Iscariot

 

Verses 15 to 19

 

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty) Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood.

 

Ever impetuous, it was Peter whose impatience brought him to the well-meaning but incorrect act of suggesting that perhaps the Lord was waiting for them to fill the vacancy in the apostolic body caused by the suicide of Judas.

 

Peter suggested choosing a replacement for Judas based, first of all, on the fact that he had been numbered with them in their ministry.

 

Anatomy of a Mistake

 

Verse 20

 

For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take.

 

Credit must be given to the small group for their studiousness in seeking the Lord’s will in those days of uncertainty. As they meditated and studied they noted the following words: ‘Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few; and let another take his office’.( Ps 109:6-8) Applying this wicked man to Judas Iscariot, Peter saw sound direction in his replacement—let another take his office.

 

Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection (vs. 21, 22).

 

Guidelines for the selection of this new apostle were set up. He must be one who had both witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection and been a disciple all the time that Jesus went in and out among them. Establishing these criteria they proceeded with the selection process.

 

And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias (vs. 23).

 

The Lord was not to be left out of the selection process. In a procedure reminiscent of that by which the Lord’s goat was selected on their Day of Atonement, (Le 16:8) they would narrow the choice down to two and leave the final decision to the Lord by the casting of lots.

 

This method of seeking the divine will may have had its origin in the ancient Hebrew custom of seeking the Lord through the Urim and Thummim, (Ex 28:30) which were supposedly two gems, one for yes and one for no, one of which would glow when exposed before the Shekinah light, giving direction from Jehovah.

 

Little is known of either Matthias or Joseph Barsabas. The latter may be one of the disciples sent to accompany Paul and Barnabas with the edict of the Council of Jerusalem. (Ac 15:22)

 

In any case their error was not in omitting the Lord from the selection process but in narrowing the Lord’s choices down to two of their own choosing and in rushing the timing of the Lord’s decision. Eventually, as time has shown, God did make his choice known—and it was neither Matthias nor Barsabas but Saul of Tarsus, whom we know so well as Paul.

 

And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place. And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles (vs. 24-26).

 

The rest is history. The lots were taken. Incorrectly assuming them to indicate the Lord’s will, they chose Matthias as the replacement for Judas. No great harm came, for both Matthias and Barsabas evidently acquitted themselves well in the Christian ministry. Being well intentioned, the Lord apparently accepted their desire to please him in the place of their wrong conclusions. How blessed we are that he does the same in our often bumbling efforts to discern his will in our lives: ‘For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not’.( 2Co 8:12)

Contending for the Faith

 

Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.—Jude 3

 

by James Owczarski

 

Given everything at stake in the matter, it is not too terribly surprising that most of the world’s religions have wanted to see the finger of God in their history. After all, discerning the presence of the divine in everyday life, especially when the divinity appears to intervene on one’s own behalf, is much more than the source for encouraging stories and other tales well told; it is, ultimately, a sign or seal that a believer has chosen wisely and is treading a path pleasing to the One he serves. This impetus has led well-intentioned people of all faiths and persuasions to drag history hither and thither like an unwilling dog on a short tether. Secular historians, with a mixture of disgust and anger, have tended to respond by denying the infinite any place, or at least any determinable place, in the human past—a denial which the more honest among their number will concede is really based in large part on their own atheism or agnosticism. Both extremes, it seems reasonable to argue, do God a gross injustice. History is neither a tidy, monochromatic story of ‘us versus them’ nor is it a Godless bundle of unconnected events. Christians, while never letting slip the faith that set them free, can take a fair view of the past and arrive at credible conclusions that do not marginalize their Creator. Doing so is as much a part of the struggle to which Jude referred as any matter of doctrine.

 

With all the foregoing in mind, the present study considers four men who have been raised up as among the greater in the history of the Church Militant: Arius, Peter Valdo (more commonly Waldo), Martin Luther, and John Calvin. More particularly, it concentrates on what are usually considered to be their greatest theological contributions to the Church in their own time and how these contributions may have been used to feed the flock of God.

 

Arius

 

Christianity is rent into so many pieces that one rather suspects that only Jehovah himself knows where all the tatters have gotten off to, much less how to fit them all back together. Nonetheless, the vast majority of those describing themselves as Christians heap nothing but abuse on Arius. Uniformly described in the standard texts as a heretic, his heresy, about which more will be said presently, has been violently abjured by both Pope and Protestant. The Nicene Creed of 325 A.D., drawn largely in response to his beliefs, has remained a standard confession of faith for mainstream Christianity and a touchstone of fellowship for those with ecumenical inclinations.

 

Despite all the foregoing, precious little can be said about him with certainty. Born sometime near the mid-point of the third century A.D., he did not come to prominence until his more advanced years. Then, in about 319 in his native city of Alexandria, his eloquent speeches on a variety of topics received sufficient popular attention to elicit a complaint about him to the imperial court of Constantine. Having only recently lifted the more onerous burdens associated with being a Christian within his empire, the emperor seems to have cared little for doctrinal dispute, but he was passionately concerned with good order. Arius, therefore, was more a political difficulty than a theological one as evidenced by Constantine’s dispatching St. Hosius in an ultimately vain attempt to patch things up. When he learned of the failure of Hosius’ mission, his next response was to summon one of the great early councils of the church, that at Nicaea in 325 A.D. From the beginning, it is entirely probable that Constantine was not too worried about what the Council ultimately decided, so long as it was something comprehensible and enforceable.

 

As the mind’s eye travels backwards to the crowded seats assembled around the throne imperial, the greatest difficulty in assessing what took place at Nicaea is a fundamental uncertainty about just what Arius believed. Only two works, both brief letters, can be ascribed directly to his hand. His Thaleia or ‘banquet,’ a collection of doctrine-laden songs sung to the tunes of naughty sea-chanteys, has vanished save as excerpted by his arch-rival Bishop Athanasius. The Council itself ordered his works destroyed and it is therefore little wonder that so little is known about his doctrine. In any event, the responses to his beliefs seem to indicate that he held for a form of subordinationism, that is, the Son or logos is in some respect less than the Father. This was not a new view within the Church and it could take on many forms; latter-day ‘Arians’ would find themselves profoundly uncomfortable with some of them. Jesus, after all, had stirred so many messianic hopes in the faithful—hopes that were not to be formally quashed by the church until the fourth century—that few had bothered to define with any precision who he was while on earth and who (or what) he was since the Ascension. When authors began to pose these questions, it became quickly plain that even completely orthodox thinkers were not of one mind on the matter and Arius’ experiences demonstrate that the notion of Jesus Christ as ‘very God from very God’ was anything but the accepted formula of his age.

 

On the other hand, it will not do to make Arius the harbinger of the Good News that Jesus Christ was the angelic logos made flesh. He may have so believed, and many of the Germanic tribesmen who were converted to Christianity by Arian missionaries in later years certainly found something congenial in the notion of a heroic spirit coming to rescue men from demonic captivity; but there is a certain subtlety in his beliefs, what can be ascertained of them, that suggests he would have ultimately recoiled at such a flat statement of difference between the nature of God and that of his Son, smacking as it might of a sort of bi-theism. Further, such a view is difficult to reconcile with his attempts at reconciliation with the Roman Church, attempts that failed just short of actually receiving Communion in Constantinople from his former enemies.

 

Still, by the time of Arius’ death in about 336, the Roman Church was well on its way to clearing away the tangled thatch of dissent that had surrounded the question of who Christ was and in so doing embraced the at-best obliquely scriptural notion of a trinity amongst the divine persons. While Arian Christianity persisted until at least the seventh century among several of the Germanic tribes that hastened the fall of the Roman Empire, his views were not those of the church’s future.

 

Peter Valdo

 

Unlike that of Arius, the history of Peter Valdo has been as much hidden by his friends as his enemies. Ever since the Reformers of the sixteenth century lit upon a seemingly ancient group of kindred spirits in the North Italian region of Savoy, the Waldensians (French Vaudois) have been used by various groups as evidence of the persistence of the true spirit of the Gospel throughout the ‘dark times’ of the Middle Ages. The Genevan reformer Beza, among others, thought their community to have been founded by the Apostle Paul on his semi-legendary journey to Spain. Others, with the same general purpose in mind, found their origins in the very earliest apostasy of the Bishop of Rome in the third or fourth century, arguing that they fled the corruption that was creeping into the Church. It makes matters no better, from a historical point of view, that the very name ‘Waldensian’ became attached by the official church to any number of heretical sects that were then subjected to persecution. Even worse, some chroniclers and later authors confused the followers of Valdo with the Albigensian perfecti who made trouble for both the Pope of Rome and the King of France through much of the High Middle Ages but were radically different from the Waldensians in both doctrine and form of life.

 

The earliest source to which any credibility can be attached is an anonymous chronicler who clearly thought little of Valdo and his followers. Nonetheless, he reports, with a certain impartiality, that, near the close of the twelfth century, Valdo—originally a rich merchant of Lyons, France—upon hearing the words of Mt 19:21 sold all his worldly possessions, dispersed his wealth to the poor, and adopted the life of a mendicant or ‘begging’ preacher. He soon acquired a sizeable following and set up a series of small communities on the French side of the Alps, communities that were eventually to be as wide-spread as Spain and Bohemia.

 

In his life and preaching there is a fair similarity between Valdo and his near-contemporary St. Francis of Assisi. Both railed against the wealth and splendor held by a church established by the son of a wood-worker and a group of fishermen. They both urged the church to be more mindful of the least of God’s sheep and both, for these and other reasons, ran afoul of church authority. Francis, in a little-known footnote to history, came within an ace of excommunication for his insistence on clerical poverty while Valdo, after appealing to the third Lateran Council of 1179 for official recognition as a monastic order, was placed under papal ban by Lucius III in 1184.

 

From that point forward, it seems, Valdo and the Waldensians’ circumstances were driven by their heretical status. More than once the church preached both ban and crusade against the scattered groups of what came to be known as the ‘poor men of Lyon.’ Moreover, Valdo, who died in Bohemia in 1217, began to radicalize in both doctrine and tone. His communities shaped themselves around a ‘form-of-life’ program of his drafting and appointed a new order clergy to meet their sacramental needs. Perhaps more than anything else, however, he is known in Christian circles for undertaking the translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible into his native Provencal. While no scholarly treatment of the text (the defects in the Vulgate alone would see to that), Valdo’s translation must be seen as part of his largely anti-clerical program and his desire to see the Church return to a better time before it was afflicted with what English Puritans were to call the ‘raiment of popery.’ With moveable type still almost three centuries distant, however, the impact of this translation was of necessity limited. Nonetheless, for those that cherish the ministry of the word and desire the Psalms on the lips of every plowman, Valdo’s will always be a special place in the past.

 

Martin Luther

 

If about Arius and Valdo too little is known, it is entirely possible that modern historians have said altogether too much about Martin Luther. In dissecting his life, historians have looked on this copper miner’s son as the founder of a new faith, the father of modern child-rearing, the great lexicographer of the German language, a liberator of women, the inspiration for the work of artists like Gruenewald and Duere, and even the distant intellectual ancestor of German anti-semitism and fascism. Whether any of these notions be true or not, they are utterly valueless hunks of stuff spinning through void-space if denied their centrifuge: Luther’s views of salvation, particularly justification by faith. It would be the crudest sort of arrogance to even suggest that in the space herein allowed one could encompass the mind-numbing mass of material that has been generated, in Luther’s time and since, on this subject. What follows, then, with deepest apologies, is as close to a standard account as can be gleaned from the literature and then synthesized for the general reader.

 

Even those who dissent from a psychoanalytical approach to Luther’s theology acknowledge the importance of father figures in his life. His natural father deeply disapproved of young Martin’s decision not to pursue a degree in law but instead to enter a monastery on a quest to make himself right with God. Once inside the fellowship of the Augustinian Canons, however, there was another Father who seemed far more terrible to his young conscience. Through fasting, prayer, sleepless nights, incessant confession, and even self-flagellation, Young Man Luther sought a near-magical combination of works that would allow him to stand before Jehovah as anything other than a damned penitent. As he sought and struggled, historians are agreed that, while lecturing on the scriptures at the relatively new University of Wittenberg, he gradually began to watch the accretions of medieval credulity fall away from a golden kernel of grace that was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In a way, he had stumbled on Medieval Christianity’s most carefully-kept secret, that none of the acts, works, or monuments fashioned by the hands of men could achieve a sinning soul’s salvation and, in fact, even the Roman Church’s own best minds had always marginalized these works in favor of grace. As external signs, however, as tangible objects for a large uneducated populace, these works were far too easily held forth as the centuries wore on as the real goals of human existence or at least the sure route to the salvation they represented. In them, Luther came to see only lies and deceptions, gaudy baubles that hid the simplicity and grandeur of salvation.

 

It was therefore that in the fall of 1517, when a Dominican by the name of Tetzel came to Wittenberg to sell indulgences, Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses for disputation on the door of the city’s cathedral. Historians have said again and again that there was nothing unique in this act. As a university professor Luther was all but obligated to hold such disputations from time to time; but, unlike so many modern academics, he put something of himself into the deed. When Pope Leo X first heard of the micro-furor the challenge to debate caused, he is said to have offered a quip to the effect that this was just another case of monks bickering among themselves; but, within only a few years, Luther was excommunicated and Western Christianity was broken to shivers. Everything that followed, the final rift with Rome, the radicalization of his views on the pope as antichrist, the emergence of a strain of German nationalism in the urban centers of the Reform, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1525, and all else is ultimately effect and not cause. Once Luther knew that salvation was by faith alone, he was willing to let heaven and earth fall beside. This belief led him to cast aside the Epistle of James as one ‘out of straw’ because of its emphasis on works. It drove him to reject the value of even good works by those who have not achieved salvation because they tend to lead those who perform them to unwarranted pride. It tended Luther toward strong predestinarian views for, if man is utterly unworthy and in fact incapable of his own salvation, on what basis is he selected for grace save on the impenetrable decision of his Creator? Luther never did grapple fully with the ramifications of this last consequence of his views on justification. His world, his views, were usually framed as rhetoric, even polemic, allowing him to dodge the bullet fired by them squarely at the heart of human free will and its relationship to salvation. John Calvin, on the other hand, never flinched for a moment.

 

John Calvin

 

A lawyer by vocation, Calvin remained throughout his life an avocational theologian. Known best as the man who reformed the Swiss city of Geneva during the 1530s, the systematic, analytic methods of the law never left him; and his Institutes of the Christian Religion remains as one of the hallmarks of Protestant thought. Initially a student of Luther’s writings, Calvin is usually viewed as a dour, double-blind predestinarian who thought of men as puppets in a cheap show run by, at best, an uncaring God. What Calvin really did, however, in his Institutes and elsewhere, was hatch the egg Luther laid. For him, if justification is by faith alone, then, as was the case for Luther, there can be no other basis for the selection of the elect than decisions in the mind of God. If grace is a free gift there is no salvation save by grace—yet scripture tells us there will be those who do not receive either grace or salvation—then, again, it is God who alone has numbered the elect.

 

For some, this is a troubling notion, disabling human will and volition, but for Calvin it was a source of infinite consolation. After all, he argued, if God had to depend on fallen, wretched creatures such as men to fulfill His plans, what assurance could there be of His ultimate success? Further, he first peered inside himself and, seeing nothing of worth, he then turned to heaven and asked what hope he could have of achieving salvation in his wretched state and therefore how Christ could dare to speak as the hope of human kind. His answer was that the Father had before the foundation of the world chosen the elect, and their salvation, through the gift of Christ Jesus, was certain. The thin, dry, often-acerbic Calvin will likely never be remembered as an urbane spirit that had one of the finest wine cellars in Geneva, loved music, and cared passionately about the care of the poor. As students of his doctrine know, though, his thinly-haired head slept sure of his salvation to a degree that it is sometimes difficult for the modern mind to comprehend.

 

These are not the only men of faith that have ministered unto the Church. Christ swore that he would neither leave nor forsake his followers, and the clear testament of what is now nearly two millennia of time is that he has kept his holy word. From both within and without the established church, God has often enough raised up servants of his word and, it seems reasonable to suppose, will continue to do so as circumstances warrant. Praised be His Name that, so far, He has not found it necessary to call upon the stones to bear His son witness, nor be praised by the very rocks should He need to give them utterance.

The Decline Of Faith

 

’When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?’—Luke 18:8

 

By Carl Hagensick

 

LIKE a mountain stream forking into two main branches, the flood waters of truth released by the Great Reformation split into two basic lines of thought.

 

With the Bible unchained from the pulpit and the concept of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ encouraging Christians to interpret the Word of God themselves, religious Protestantism divided into multitudinous sects. Within two decades of the Peace Treaty of Westphalia (1648) ending the Thirty Years War and bringing to an effective close the Reformation, Lutheranism fell into a state of sterile intellectual orthodoxy. The efforts of the Pietist movement under Philip Jakob Spener and August Francke revitalized individual Bible study and personal application of Christian principles in every situation of life.

 

Humanism

 

Simultaneously the exposure of the evils of feudalism gave rise to a secular philosophy that was known as humanism. By the middle of the 18th century, Jean Jacques Rousseau identified an agenda for the humanists with his notable work, The Social Contract. Working side by side with the noted deist Voltaire, and influencing the writings of Carlyle, Hume and Paine, the humanists challenged the authority of government, church, and the new class of capitalist overlords with religious philosophies of justice and equality. Their writings spawned first the American Revolution and subsequently the French Revolution and similar revolts throughout the former Holy Roman Empire. Hereditary ruling houses began to topple. The pulpit no longer held its dictatorial authority. A cry for equal rights—a veritable trumpet of jubilee—was heard throughout the world. Labor unions began to spread as in reaction to the new oppressions of the Industrial Revolution.

 

These two streams of thought—one based on interpretational dogmatism and the other on a broad social contract—divided the Protestant church into two irreconcilable camps.

 

Early attempts to stem the tide of humanism, such as the Great Awakening from 1720 to 1750 with such powerful voices as Jonathan Edwards in America and the parallel activity of John Wesley in England sufficed only as short term stopgaps. The founding fathers of the United States, men like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, represented the humanist line of reasoning or, at best, a deism which admitted to God creating the world but then perceiving him as leaving his creation, like a broken watch, to repair itself.

 

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Reform and Reformation

 

THE differences between the Lutheran Reformation and the opposing Calvinist Reform were marked. The Reformation stressed that Jesus Christ died for every man; Cal claimed he died only for the elect. Luther taught that the dead were unconscious until the resurrection. The Reform said that all souls are immortal and most were predestined to an eternity of torture. Luther permitted infant baptism, Calvin did not. But all Protestants agreed on three things: The Bible is the only standard of faith and truth; justification is by faith in the blood of Jesus Christ; and the Antichrist of Daniel and the New Testament was real and present, with Rome as its capital.

 

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Christianity Rides A Roller Coaster

 

A poll taken of the students at Harvard University in the last decade of the eighteenth century found not one student admitting to a Bible believing faith. But by 1809 the tables dramatically turned, with over half the students claiming biblical faith. Decreasing once again to a low ebb in the eighteen thirties, belief in the Scriptures rebounded to a remarkable 75% among students in the seventies. Such resurgence of belief was largely due to revivalists such as Dwight L. Moody.

 

The impact of the great revivalists gave strong impetus to a world-wide missionary work with the slogan of ‘Winning the world for Christ in our lifetime.’ The revival of Bible believers also gave rise to systematic scholarship, developing strong research tools such as concordances and verse-by-verse scriptural commentaries.

 

Liberalism

 

In the meantime other religionists, tired of denominational feuding and unable to accept the superstitious creeds of the Dark Ages, found an outlet in a new scheme of biblical interpretation. Using such devices as form and style criticism, these Higher Critics denied the literal accuracy of the Scriptures, professing the Bible to be a book of high moral principles and mythical allegories.

 

A growing technological explosion bred a formal educational structure where students were taught to challenge the assumptions of the past and to question all previous premises.

 

Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species introduced the theory of human evolution, raising fresh challenges to the biblical account of man’s creation, fall, and final destiny.

 

As knowledge and travel increased, the world seemed smaller and the customs of primitive cultures became more known to the so-called civilized world. The nobility of some of these cultures and the contrasting hypocrisy of many in Christendom yet another philosophy came into being—Existentialism. This line of thought held that there is no absolute truth; what is true for one person may not be true for another.

 

Adventism

 

The Miller movement and the development of Adventism, still another development of the 19th century, created great zeal for prophetic study on the one hand while at the same time placing it under a shadow of suspicion, because of the pronounced failure of repetitive dates to produce the predicted results. This movement is examined in greater depth in this issue in an article entitled The Midnight Cry.

 

Into this potpourri of conflicting religious winds, the Bible Student movement raised its head in the late 1870’s. Charles Taze Russell, its founder, found himself challenged by the tides around him. Briefly an agnostic himself, he understood both the forces of social inequity and the reaction to a superstitious creedal past; he saw how they naturally produced humanistic reasoning leading to socialism and communism. Attracted by the logic and prophetic vision of Adventism, he was at the same time repelled by the dismal future of a burning earth, which had been conjured up as the Millennium of the Bible.

 

Unable to sort out the confusing Babel of sounds which he was hearing in the religious world, he found it necessary to start from scratch. Striving to leave behind all his pre-conceived ideas, he embarked on a personal Bible study program that led to conclusions which substantially differed from most of his co-religionists.

 

The Cornerstones of Faith

 

The cornerstones of the Plan of God which Pastor Russell saw outlined on the pages of the Bible included:

 

*  SALVATION FOR ALL: The simplicity of substitutionary atonement—the perfect human life of Jesus for the perfect human life of Adam and his race—showed him a hope for both the saved and the unsaved of the present time. If Christ died for all, then should not all benefit from it?

 

He perceived two aspects of salvation, one heavenly for the footstep followers of Christ, and one earthly for all others.  This concept of a kingdom teaching men the laws of righteousness answered for him the age-old question, Why would a God of love permit evil? He saw that the evil of the present life was to be a contrasting experience with the good that men would experience in God’s kingdom and thus serve as an everlasting object lesson in the benefits of righteous living.

 

*  A GOD OF LOVE: His vision of a God who had a plan for all men led him to reject the creeds of more superstitious times, which envisioned a God of torture. Noting that the Bible held out immortality as a goal to be striven for, (Ro 2:7) he perceived that, as the Scriptures stated, ‘the dead know not anything.’ The concept of inherent immortality conflicted with the biblical teaching of the resurrection of the dead. The hope of man is not in denying the reality of death but in the belief of the resurrection of the dead.

 

*  THE SECOND ADVENT: His contacts with Adventism and the Miller movement proved to his satisfaction that the return of Christ was to be expected invisibly and unnoticed by men. Being convicted of the accuracy of the chronology developed by Christopher Bowen, and later published in 1851 in Horae Apocalypticae by E. B. Elliott, he believed that the Lord’s return could be dated to 1874.

 

*  PRE-MILLENNIALISM: Again the Adventist arguments for Christ’s return before the Millennium were convincing to Russell, and therefore he felt there was no need to convert the world prior to the second advent. This strengthened his interpretation that the great commission of Mt 20:28 was to be as a witness and not for the purpose of world conversion.

 

*  END OF THE WORLD: The intense interest in prophetic matters that was characteristic of the late 19th century also affected Russell’s theology. His insight into scriptural prophecy was broadened, however, by his knowledge as a well-established businessman of the workings of economics. Therefore his reasoning on the manner in which end-time prophecy would be fulfilled often paralleled those of the socially-conscious humanists and political reformers, even including Karl Marx. However, his vision of the future went far beyond that of the humanists; for, while foreseeing the coming of godless communism he also predicted a further step beyond that in the search for equality—the Kingdom of God.

 

We will not here discuss the manner in which the new Bible Student movement reacted to the Christian community around it. That is the subject of a subsequent article in this issue, In the Time of Harvest.

 

Summary

 

It was thus that these two broad streams of humanism and Protestant denominationalism, diverse as they were, contributed to the removal of a unified faith in the Bible’s message. It was thus, also, that the vision which Charles Taze Russell had of God’s Divine Plan of the Ages was designed to restore just such a unified belief to those whose faith could accept it.

The Midnight Cry

 

But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’—Matthew 25:6

 

By Charles Ryba

 

CHRISTIAN history can be a profitable study. The views and experiences of those preceding us provide lessons for our profit. Two significant examples are the advent movement (1830-1870) and the early Bible Student movement (1870-1890). Most of our questions today have their roots in these times. How long until the kingdom comes is foremost among them. Time is the issue. The kingdom of God is the goal.

 

Intense scriptural searching and examination were the mark of many individuals within this time frame. Second advent speculations generated new Christian fellowships crossing old denominational lines. This precipitated new movements not dominated by trained theologians, though many came from the ranks of mainline Protestant ministers. ‘Laymen’ became capable of intelligent inquiry as biblical scholarship became more accessible through Bible societies and missionary efforts. Circumstances in that era shaped theological currents and millennial expectations. The signs of the times were being noticed. (See Redeemer Nation, E.L. Tuveson, [1968]; When Time Shall Be No More, Paul Boyer, [1992]; The Rise of Adventism, E. S. Gaustad, ed, [1974]; and The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, L. E. Froom, vols. 3 and 4 [1946, 1954].

 

William Miller

 

William Miller became one of the lightning rods for much intense prophetic interest in America during the 1830’s. His message was simple. The return of Christ was very near. He even assigned a date, 1843, as the time when it would happen. Then current events brought new focus to biblical prophecies. Items of note included Daniel’s time of the end, the Antichrist, Palestine (Ottoman rule would fail, Jewish restoration was imminent), but specially the personal, visible coming of Christ to establish an earthly Millennial kingdom. The prophecies of Daniel and Revelation were distinctively favored.

 

William Miller was a Baptist preacher, but his message went well beyond that. He utilized Daniel and Revelation as keys to the Bible’s prophetic outline. His arguments for Christ’s return focus largely on the time of his return; the manner and object were visible and awesome. Time elements that Miller considered biblical encompass the days of Daniel (1260, 1290, 1335 and 2300), the Times of the Gentiles, the Jubilee cycles, and the 6000 years of human history. He reckoned them (except the 1260 at 1793-98) to a terminus of 1843.

 

Historic Prophetic Interpretations

 

The historic interpretive school of Daniel and Revelation was widespread among European and American scholars of that era. Building upon the earlier works of Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Newton, persons like J. A. Brown, William Cunningham, T. R. Birks, John Cumming, and E. B. Elliott were prominent exponents of a historically fulfilled Apocalypse. In spite of impressive biblical arguments, most Christian leadership at the time believed the second coming to be post-Millennial, that is, after the gospel age of world conversion. Many agreed with the historical general time interpretation, they differed only on when and what the Millennium or the second advent would be like.

 

The Futurist view originated by a Jesuit priest, F. Ribera [ca 1590], was hardly mentioned by serious prophetic students of the time. With this view, placing most of the book of Revelation (after 6:11) into a future seven-year tribulation period, many insurmountable problems were recognizable. These anticipated the present day quarrels among Futurists, pre, mid-, and post-tribulationists. Birk’s volumes titled First Elements of Prophecy and Visions of Daniel are pointed essays in defense of the historical school approach. These writings, among many others, provided vital resources for the early advent believers of the 1840’s as well as renewed growth among later Advent Christian believers in time prophecy. Nelson H. Barbour described examining these in European libraries during the 1860’s.

 

Unfortunately, historic pre-Millennial positions were often abandoned during the mid 1800’s. Competing theories swept most Christians into conflicting winds of futurism and preterism (fully past views, also of Jesuit origin.)

 

Wide ranging discussions about prophecy in general, and the second coming in particular, took place within Millerite camps and with contemporaries. It encompassed journals, conferences, camp meetings, books, pamphlets, speaking tours, and debates. Miller himself devoted years to public speaking on the advent to whoever would listen. Many others joined in. Of note are Joshua V. Himes, Charles Fitch, Josiah Litch, Joseph Bates, and George Storrs. Advent journals included The Signs of the Times, The Bible Examiner, and The Midnight Cry among many others. Use of charts to illustrate God’s prophetic plan was noteworthy. Based on Hab 2:2, they endeavored to make the vision plain. Tabernacle and temple symbolism was prominent, especially in connection with the vision of the 2300 days in Da 8. Christ as antitypical high priest would return soon to cleanse and restore his spiritual temple. Much of later Seventh Day Adventist revisions was based on this imagery.

 

Henry Grew wrote booklets concerning the nature of man. That, in turn, spurred George Storrs to spread the view more widely. Grew also wrote The Divine Testimony Concerning The Son of God, delineating a Christology later adopted by Charles Russell and others. Of special interest are thoughts concerning the nature of God, the nature of man, and eternal torment. George Storrs was one of Miller’s able supporters. Through the vehicle of his book and journal (of the same name) The Bible Examiner, compiled essays known as Six Sermons on the Inquiry: Is There Immortality in Sin and Suffering?, and in numerous other booklets and tracts he injected among Adventists a strong argument for conditional immortality. Miller himself did not accept these ideas but tolerated them for the greater good of awakening the people to the near advent and judgment.

 

Second Advent Focus

 

The greatest focus of the advent movement was the nearness of Christ’s return. All else in life was to be left behind in preparation for the bridegroom’s return. In the period of about 1840 to 1844 the advent interest greatly increased throughout the northeastern, mid- Atlantic, and mid-western states. It never took root in Europe. But the original 1843 date provided a first shock to the hopeful—nothing happened.

 

Re-examination twice led to six month adjustments, culminating in the Seventh Month Movement of 1844, spearheaded by Samuel S. Snow. His conviction was based on the high priest (Christ) in the day of atonement picture. He interpreted the leaving of the temple to bless the people as corresponding to Christ’s second coming. This was to be on the tenth day of the seventh month, October 22, 1844. Correspondence to the ‘proper’ figuring of the Jewish year justified altering the earlier 1843 view. He revived the faint-hearted advent movement in the spirit of the wise virgins of Mt 25. Miller himself was reticent to accept this after the earlier disappointment, but joined in as the time approached.

 

Disappointments

 

Again there was great puzzlement and disappointment. Explanations based on the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins sought to rationalize the mistakes. The time of delay of the parable was compressed into the first (1843) and repeated (1844) experience of the watchers. Search for fulfillment led to spiritualization or collective prophetic tests. Was the door shut? The controversy would flare at every date since. In 1844 and 1878-81, 1914, and beyond. Several times many would regard themselves as true heirs to the dates: 1844 (Seventh Day Adventists and the ‘cleansed sanctuary’), 1873-1874 (N. H. Barbour and Charles Russell, with the view of Christ’s invisible presence), and 1914 (Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses divergent claims as to what really happened). After each date, prophecy had to be reconciled with reality.

 

The Aftermath of Disappointment

 

Following the 1843-1844 disappointments, Storrs continued to preach the advent without dates. He drifted into an extreme position during the 1860’s with the group known as Life and Advent Union. It was analogous to the unsaved non-resurrection position of Christadelphians. In later autobiographical sketches he recounts his encounter with books of the English writer Henry Dunn about the ransom doctrine and the restitution of all things. One book was titled The Destiny of the Human Race. He then reactivated The Bible Examiner in 1871 (after a lapse of about eight years) and reworked it to incorporate the thoughts of the ransom for all and restitution of all things. The masthead verse was 1Ti 2:5,6. His conclusion: the plan of God extended beyond the few faithful to the entire human race. The Abrahamic promise applied to all men during a soon-to-come earthly kingdom. The general concept of God having a plan was popular among contemporary Advent Christian writers like I. C. Wellcome and Clarkson Gould in their The Plan of Redemption of 1867. But Storrs incorporated much more of the ‘wider hope’ than they would allow. On the other hand he avoided the modernism and speculation rampant among Universalists in their great social tolerances. God provided reasonable provision for mankind’s recovery, unlike Universalism’s unconditional salvation.

 

Parallel Movements

 

Parallel movements also arose during this period. Relatively mainstream Protestant dispensationalists were inspired by men like John Darby and Edward Irving. They restructured prophetic timetables into futurist patterns. In the long run they would become more influential than the Adventists in the minds of most Protestants. More diverse movements like the Christadelphians and Church of God (Abrahamic Faith) sprung out of a common pool with those of Alexander Campbell’s Disciples of Christ. Their earthly millennial hope was more distinct than that of many Adventists. They placed less emphasis on date setting (although 1866 was of significance to some) and tended to have ‘closed’ fellowships, believed in water baptism for salvation, believed in conditional immortality, and developed non-trinitarian theologies (the last two concepts traceable to F. Socinus of the 16th/17th century Polish Brethren). They shared with Campbell a prophetic remnant assumption for the recovery of lost early church teachings. Benjamin Wilson, author of The Emphatic Diaglott, was a member of the Church of God (Abrahamic Faith). The remnant concept was shared by Charles Russell and N. H. Barbour, who may have been influenced by their perspectives in their thoughts concerning the gospel age harvest.

 

Seventh Day Adventists

 

The largest prophetically based movement was of course the Seventh-day Adventists. Having a common derivative in Miller, they had solidified their thinking along much more exclusive lines than other advent groups. A novel doctrine of an 1844 heavenly cleansing of the sanctuary was fostered by reliance on the prophetic ‘gift of prophecy’ claimed for Ellen G. White. Sabbath keeping became an outward distinction which shaped much of their views on prophetic events. Their prophetic point however was a novel concept of the millennial reign of Christ. It was to be in heaven while the earth lay desolate, earth being restored after 1000 years. No hope was held out for the unsaved of this or previous ages, so their view of restitution was narrowed to match that of prophetic Babylon from which they had separated. Only Christians would be saved. The same can be said for their trinitarian position, after some debate within their ranks.

 

The general historic prophetic interpretation was bolstered in several important areas during the interim of 1840 through the 1870’s. The Ottoman empire was in decline, fueling expectations about a Jewish restoration. The Papacy was also losing ground in its temporal power, reinforcing the view that Daniel’s time of the end had indeed been entered. The American Civil War of the 1860’s also focused people’s attention on the fragility of earthly governments as well as on the need for true, but unattainable, justice for all peoples. These were the signs of the times that influenced the interpretations of Adventists like N. H. Barbour.

 

Charles Taze Russell

 

Charles T. Russell was not alone at the beginning. He had the able help of several seasoned elder Christian brothers to shape the nascent Bible Student movement. They were reaping the fruits of those before them. George Storrs’ Bible Examiner would soon cease publication at his death in 1880. Charles Russell contributed a few short items as early as 1877 to those pages. The mature Nelson H. Barbour and John H. Paton were early collaborators in sorting through the prophetic charts. Barbour’s Herald of the Morning (Paton and Russell were assistant editors) reawakened hopes in many advent believers that the return of Christ was near at hand (though originally set at 1873). It also presented thoughts to those of Storrs about restitution similar. Thoughts about a harvest separation also renewed an earlier Millerite call to separate from that Christianity which was merely nominal and sinful. In the early period they also faced opposition from their parent movement, the Advent Christian Church, publishers of The World’s Crisis. Later, many early collaborators in turn would set off in their own directions, including Barbour, J. H. Paton, A. P. Adams and A. D. Jones. By then young Russell was well under way in his publishing efforts of Zion’s Watch Tower and the Millennial Dawn studies.

 

C. T. Russell built on the Miller movement as a prophetic prelude, but also as a test and lesson learned by faithful Christians. Barbour had constructed an ingenious concept of first and second advent parallels, as can be seen on each cover of his journal. It included the delays and missed opportunities for the true and false wheat of each age. The tarrying bridegroom was so near in time as to be actually present. As a divine spirit being Christ had no need to be seen literally. The coming was real and personal, in the same sense as it was with Miller, but invisible in the same sense as those holding to a secret rapture. Charles Russell’s first publication, The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return;[ H/M Pub. 1877], was in line with this theme. Also of note is the cooperative publication of The Three Worlds, also in 1877.

 

Israel Regathered

 

The opening prophetic steps in Palestine were coming to pass in 1878 with the Berlin Congress of Nations. The first Jewish immigrants were returning to Israel as the Russian pogroms began in the early 1880’s. The harvest had begun. The kingdom to come was beginning to affect the world. Optimistic missionary activities and post-Millennial expectations were fading in the face of bloody 19th century wars, social revolutions, economic and political instabilities. The time for harvest had come. The call to come out of Babylon was renewed. The saints were to be gathered to be with the Lord in 1878, later by 1914, and then at an indefinite future point. Charles Russell always maintained his belief and conviction that the kingdom of God must continue to be preached until the Lord said it was time to stop during the gathering troubles of earth.

 

Restitution for All

 

Realistic interpretations of scripture concerning the state of the dead, the place of common sense beliefs, and a strong moral call for justice that all might receive salvation were crucial in the early Millennial Dawn movement. The age to come was accompanied by a unique concept, known as the permission of evil, which was illustrated by charts. Restitution was to all men who have ever lived. Christ had an object to his return beyond the confines of orthodox theology. Distinguishing the work of the Christian age from the Millennial age was pivotal in rightly dividing a host of scriptures. The tabernacle was brought to a valued place in God’s plan illustrating salvation. It was not left as part of some 1844 prophetic jigsaw puzzle.

 

The environment of exploration and exchange between various leaders, journals, and local groups began to fade. Adventist remnants, Christadelphians, Conditionalists, and Universalists built walls to stifle their controversies. Sadly many of these separated sincere Christians into specialized, often mutually antagonistic, groups.

 

Heirs of William Miller

 

Tracing the Miller movement past 1844 leads the author to suggest that the truest heirs of his movement belong to the Bible Students, initiated by Pastor Russell and his associates. One of the few leaders of the original movement to retain and build on the original advent faith was George Storrs. He anticipated (founded) central points of Bible Student thinking. Most other of the Advent leaders mentioned earlier had nothing to do with the innovations introduced by Hiram Edson’s visions to be promulgated by Ellen and James White in the late 1840’s foundation of the Seventh Day Adventists.

 

The advent doctrine was augmented by explaining the manner and object of Christ’s return in new terms. It extended the horizons of that imminent, but somehow remote, second coming. Bible Students determined a progressive series of events which fit into a prolonged invisible parousia, or presence. The real innovation was for devoted Christians to live on a continuing basis at the threshold of the millennium. Hope and watchfulness were enlivened to those who heard the spirit speaking to the churches. The bride endeavored to make herself ready. (Re 19:7,8)

A New Wine Bottle

 

Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the new bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish; but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.—Matthew 9:17

 

By Brian Kutscher

 

DURING the Reformation many Christians became convinced that the creeds of the Dark Ages contained errors. The great reformers and those that followed in their wake began restoring the truths as taught in the Bible.

 

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916) was no less a reformer than Martin Luther. Indeed his work went beyond that of Luther. Many Christians who were touched by his message claimed that he was the special messenger to the church of Laodicea, (Re 3:14-22) though he himself declined such a claim.

 

Bro. Russell made no claims to a special revelation from God. His only claim was that it was God’s due time for the Bible to be better understood. Because he was fully consecrated to God and ready, able, and willing to serve God, he was permitted to have an understanding of that plan and the privilege of transmitting it to others. He wanted merely to communicate the beauty of God’s plan to other Christians.

 

Old Truths Revived

 

Rather than search out new truths, Bro. Russell revived the great truths taught by the apostles, which had been previously spoken by the mouth of all God’s holy prophets. (Ac 3:21) Brought up as a Presbyterian, he consecrated his life to the Lord at an early age and became a member of the Congregational Church as well as the Y.M.C.A. Unable to accept eternal torture and related creedal concepts, he temporarily fell prey to the logic of infidelity and turned his energies into the commercial world, managing his father’s haberdashery business.

 

In the year 1870 Bro. Russell came into contact with Adventism in what he described as ‘a dusty, dingy hall where I had heard religious services were held.’ He stopped by ‘to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches.’

 

Faith Rekindled

 

Jonas Wendell was the preacher of the day and, while attracted to his thoughts on the second advent, Bro. Russell did not believe that the Lord was coming to burn up the world. He reasoned that ‘if Christ’s coming was to end probation and bring irrevocable ruin upon ninety-nine of a hundred of mankind, then it could scarcely be considered desirable, neither could we pray with proper spirit, ‘Come, Lord Jesus, Come quickly.”As a result he joined in organizing a Bible study class in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

 

This introduction to Adventism at the hands of Wendell was sufficient to convince Bro. Russell that the words of the apostles and the prophets were ‘indissolubly linked.’ It sent him back to his Bible study with increased zeal and care. This study showed him that ‘great masses of scripture spoke glad things of millennial glory and how blessings would come out of it.’ His conclusion was that thus ‘though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the truth.’

 

The Love of God

 

From 1870 to 1875 the Allegheny Bible study class ‘came to see something of the love of God, how it had made provision for all mankind and how all must be awakened from the tomb in order that God’s loving plan might be testified to them... as a result of Christ’s redemptive work.’ Then the willing and obedient of mankind might be ‘brought back into harmony with God. This we saw to be the restitution work of Ac 3:21.’

 

During the year 1872 his contacts with George Storrs and George Stetson, former co-workers with William Miller, led him to fully appreciate the Lord’s ransom work. This supplied the necessary basis for the doctrine of restitution. By 1873 it was clear to him and his group that restitution was for all in Adam, not just those of sufficient age and mental capacity, as he had previously thought. At the same time, they had their understanding opened to the subject of natures being separate and distinct.

 

The Object and Manner Of Our Lord’s Return

 

The failed expectation of the Adventists that the world would be burned up in 1873-1874 led Bro. Russell to write his first pamphlet, The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return.

 

After seven years of study, while attending a display for his father’s business at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, Bro. Russell’s attention was drawn to a magazine entitled The Herald of the Morning, published by N. H. Barbour. Arranging to meet Barbour in Philadelphia, Bro. Russell saw merit in Barbour’s interpretation of chronology.

 

Linking this chronology with the previously published thoughts on the object and manner of the Lord’s return, Bro. Russell and Barbour concluded that the Millennium had begun and that it would be a time of blessing for all mankind.

 

The two entered into a publishing arrangement, with Barbour handling the lion’s share of the printing and editing and Bro. Russell providing the funding, contributing articles, and serving as a traveling lecturer to promote their newfound beliefs. Although it was a worthy paper, The Herald of the Morning was not reaching the masses and means were sought to increase its circulation.

 

A Meeting of Ministers

 

By 1877 Bro. Russell had become an influential businessman, having been a partner in his father’s firm from the age of eleven. He had gained the respect of the business community and was apparently well known also by the ministers of Pittsburgh. In 1877 he called a meeting of all the ministers of the Pittsburgh and Allegheny area to explain what light the Lord had opened to their Bible study group.

 

He wanted to spread these truths, letting the established churches carry the message of truth to all the people in a similar manner as had been done a half century earlier by William Miller. He reasoned that if he could convince the ministers that there had been a digression from the Bible’s teachings in the past and that now the Bible could be more clearly understood, then these ministers could use their influence to convince their colleagues nationwide and worldwide, spreading the message through their pulpits to the people. It was a remarkable meeting. About one third of the invited ministers attended, but none agreed with the concepts Bro. Russell presented.

 

He presented the scriptural reasons for believing that the Lord had returned and was in the process of establishing his kingdom to bless and uplift the world of mankind through restitution processes, which were already underway. Among the first of these blessings—the revealing of truths respecting the time period that man was entering into, the seventh millennium.

 

These truths, however, held certain problems for the assembled ministers. The teaching of a future probation for the masses of humanity did not square with their understanding of the immortal soul and the fear of eternal torture in hell. Future probation would remove this powerful rule by fear. The restitution concept of the Lord’s return could mark them as liars in the eyes of their parishioners on these other subjects. Also it challenged their view on judgment, for they anticipated a judgment day of twenty-four hours, not a thousand years.

 

In addition, Bro. Russell was not a trinitarian. This shut him out from further consideration. The Evangelical Alliance of 1846 set the Trinity as one of the ‘essential’ doctrines for membership. From the very beginning the Trinity was not taught in either the Watch Tower or in Barbour’s Herald of the Morning.

 

Later ministers perhaps implied Bro. Russell was a businessman for whom there was no room in professional religion. Even today we hear the response, ‘I believe this because my minister told me. He went to school to learn all about the Bible while I went to school to major in another profession. He doesn’t question my professional judgment, and I won’t question his.’ In a similar manner the ministers were suggesting that Bro. Russell keep his mind on sales figures and other business work and leave the Bible and religion to them.

 

Whatever their reasons, they rejected the message presented that night in Allegheny. Bro. Russell reasoned that this was not the way the Lord wanted the work to go forth. He concluded that the Lord did not want the new wine of Bible truth served through the old wineskins of ecclesiasticism. There must be another way of getting the truth to the listening ears of his saints in the churches.

 

Controversies

 

Bro. Russell decided to give up his earthly business interests and to dedicate himself wholeheartedly to the work of ministering to the saints. During the second half of 1878 and the first half of 1879 he became more active in the work of writing for The Herald of the Morning.

 

A controversy soon sprang up concerning the change to heavenly glory of the saints. Bro. Russell and Barbour agreed that the resurrection of the dead saints was due to occur in 1878 but disagreed as to whether to expect a rapture of the saints living at that time. Bro. Russell presented the thought that the dead (or sleeping) saints would be raised in 1878 and that the living ones would be changed instantaneously as they died, no longer sleeping in death. Barbour rejected this solution, preferring a simultaneous rapture.

 

Difficulties arose in the working relationship of these two as Barbour began inserting his ‘corrections’ as editorial comments in Bro. Russell’s articles. As co-editor, Bro. Russell felt that he had a right to having his comments free of insertions from Barbour, all the more so since he was paying the bills, even offering two-month free subscriptions for the magazine to all interested. The breaking point came when Bro. Russell became convinced that Barbour was denying the efficacy of Jesus’ blood, thus invalidating the concept of the ransom.

 

And so it was, in the early part of 1879, Bro. Russell decided to withdraw his financial and editorial support from The Herald of the Morning and formed The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, publishing, as its journal, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

In the Time of Harvest

 

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.—Matthew 13:30

 

By Charles Redeker

 

In the latter part of the nineteenth century the religious movement known today as the Bible Students had its beginning. It was both the successor to previous reform efforts and the source of fresh outpourings of truth that providentially had become due.

 

The Reformation of the sixteenth century under Martin Luther and others had struck a bold blow against the medieval church and emphasized the rightful place of the Bible in its stead. This began a sweeping work of doctrinal cleansing with periodic bursts of fervor in succeeding years that was particularly strong in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Especially in the United States the atmosphere of political and religious freedom stimulated the birth of independent religious movements that participated in a further refining process and recovered additional lost truths. Perhaps the most thorough of all the reforms was brought about by the Millerite movement, which attracted widespread attention to a literal expectation of Christ’s return. Though ending in keen disappointment, it left a sanctifying mark upon the believers and prepared the way for fresh revelations of truth.

 

By the year 1846 two contrary forces were at work in the Protestant religious world. On the one hand, scattered small groups of dedicated believers had separated themselves from the larger, established bodies and were in agreement on certain basic points of Bible teaching.

 

* The Bible revered as God’s inspired word and sole source of authority.. Salvation by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ.. Simplicity of church organization.. The priesthood of believers and their equality in God’s sight.. Immortality a gift of God to the faithful, not inherent in the soul.. The dead sleeping peacefully unto the resurrection.. Baptism by immersion, a symbol of full consecration.. The need for personal holiness in the Christian life.

 

* The nearness of the second coming of Christ.. The purpose of the coming to set up God’s Kingdom on earth and to exalt the church.

 

On the other hand, the Evangelical Alliance had just been formed in London. This was an organization of more than fifty orthodox church groups that wanted to maintain the basic beliefs of evangelical Protestants and to promote interdenominational unity. As such it is recognized as the early forerunner of the modern ecumenical movement. Some of the nine cardinal points it stressed were:

 

* The Trinity and the unity of the ‘Godhead.’. The incarnation of the Son of God. (Christ appearing in the first advent as the God-man in the form of flesh.). The immortality of the soul.. The resurrection of the body.. The eternal punishment of the wicked in hell fire.. The Christian ministry (clergy) as divinely instituted. (Ordination claimed as an exclusive right of member groups.)

 

Thus some of the doctrines which were being discarded in the light of advanced Bible study were given new emphasis and held up as the mark of orthodoxy. In this way the Alliance served to keep separate and envelop in darkness the large nominal groups of Christians, in contrast to the little handful who had been cleansed of these errors. And so, as the nineteenth century progressed beyond the midway mark the stage was set for some rather unique additional developments on the religious scene.

 

Early Beginnings

 

The birth of the Bible Student movement can be traced to the year 1876 when Charles T. Russell, a successful young businessman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was elected pastor of a small Bible study group that had been meeting in that city (then called Allegheny) for six years. Having been disenchanted with many of the orthodox teachings of the larger churches, especially the believe that eternal torture was the fate of all but the saints, this group began an independent study of the Bible to determine what it revealed of the character of God and of the divine purpose for mankind. It soon became evident to them that the Bible as a whole had been badly misinterpreted: that the traditional creeds of the faith, while containing some elements of truth, did not properly reflect the great love of God toward his creation nor depict his comprehensive plan of redemption and blessing. They also became convinced that they were living somewhere near the close of the age when a clearer unfolding of the Father’s plans and purposes was promised to the diligent truth seeker. This early period was a time of growth in grace and in knowledge and of laying a strong foundation for fresh light to follow.

 

For a time in his younger life it seemed most unlikely that Bro. Russell would develop such an intense interest in the Bible or pursue the Christian ministry as his main focus. For although born of Christian parents (in 1852) and brought up in the Presbyterian Church, and later joining the YMCA and the Congregational Church, he was unable to defend the catechism and especially the belief that a majority of mankind was predestined to a hell of eternal torment. In attempting to reclaim a friend to Christianity he found himself overwhelmed at the apparent logic of infidelity and soon became a skeptic himself. Yet in short order, by God’s providence, he was led to see a distinction between the creeds of men and the true teachings of the Bible. This provided the motivation to examine the Scriptures in depth to determine if they held the secrets of God’s plan with respect to humanity; and if they depicted a God who was worthy of worship and devotion.

 

Bro. Russell freely acknowledged the influence and assistance of other earnest students of the Word in helping to shape his own thoughts and convictions. The Adventists were instrumental at a critical period in reestablishing his faith in the Bible and later in emphasizing the role of time prophecy in relation to other truths. In later years he gratefully recalled the part that George Stetson and George Storrs (editors of The Bible Examiner) had played in uncovering the broad outlines of God’s plan of salvation and, equally as important, in unlearning certain long-cherished erroneous views that had veiled its full appreciation.

 

Advancing Light

 

Among the beliefs that were very grievous to Pastor Russell and his associates was the expectation of Christ’s return in the flesh to be followed by the end of the world—meaning that the earth and all in it except a few saints would be burned up and destroyed. A string of failed time settings for this event by a number of sects, and accompanying crude ideas relating to the second advent, led Pastor Russell to write a pamphlet (about 1878) entitled, The Object and Manner of the Lord’s Return, with an initial printing of 50,000 copies. This pointed out that Christ’s return would not be in a visible body as commonly believed, but as a mighty invisible spirit being to reign upon the earth, to set up God’s long-promised kingdom, and to bring restitution blessings to earth’s teeming masses.

 

Even earlier, in 1872, a clear view of the ransom doctrine was gained, and its fundamental importance in the program of redemption appreciated. Most Christians gave assent to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, but failed to understand either how it accomplished a satisfaction of divine justice or that it actually guaranteed a full opportunity for gaining everlasting life. Pastor Russell recognized that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice affected every other Bible truth, as the hub of a wheel from which all other spokes radiated outward. Since all hope of future life and blessings of restitution in the kingdom were seen to depend upon it, it is evident why the ransom became the core doctrine of the movement.

 

Early in his ministry Bro. Russell’s attention was drawn to the Bible chronology first introduced by Rev. Christopher Bowen of England about 1830, which indicated that the first 6,000 years of man’s history had terminated in the year 1872. This combined with the prophetic understanding gleaned from Adventist sources that Christ had returned as Lord of the harvest led him to deduce that a gathering and reaping work was then due among the Lord’s people. This gave the impetus to begin preaching with great ardor and enthusiasm the good tidings of ransom and restitution, two salvations, the return of Christ, and the nearness of the Kingdom. In harmony with the prophecies of Da 12:12 and Lu 12:37, it was a time of blessedness as accumulated errors of past centuries progressively gave way to a flood of light and to clearer insights into the divine plan of the ages.

 

Consolidating the Work

 

As the Pastor began traveling and preaching the new found truths, at first from New England to the Midwest, much interest was aroused. At the same time it came to be recognized that a monthly religious journal which fully reflected these truths would be helpful in holding and developing the new interest. This led to the re-issuance of Herald of the Morning, an earlier Adventist-oriented publication, in a cooperative effort with other early associated in the work (N. H. Barbour, J. H. Paton and others). It was followed in 1878 with an entirely new publication, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, issued from Pittsburgh with an initial printing of 6,000 copies. For almost 40 years this journal became a mainstay of the movement, edited continuously by the Pastor, with five associate editors and many regular contributors. It was received eagerly by Bible students everywhere, reaching a peak subscription of about 50,000 by 1915.

 

The first words of the journal significantly stated the object of its publication. To fully awaken the ‘household of faith... to the fact ... that we are living in the last days... of the Gospel Age,’ and pointed out that a new day was dawning with the invisible presence of the Lord. It observed that not only was the end time becoming ‘discernible by the close student of the Word,’ but also by the world at large through manifestation by many outward signs. Subsequent issues elaborated on such signs as global preparations for war, the decline of spirituality, scientific and technological advances of the new day, growing unrest of the masses, a drive for unity among the churches, and renewed interest in regathering the Jews to Palestine.

 

Counterbalancing the emphasis on prophetic unfolding of events were articles on Christian life and doctrine to assist the believer in mankind progress in the way. These touched on vital areas, such as the ransom sacrifice, the atonement, the sin offering, the great covenants and the development of the fruits and graces of the spirit in order to gain greater character likeness to Christ. The twofold objective was to awaken readers to realities of the new era and ‘to assist them to put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand in the evil day.’ In so doing, the Pastor believed he was actively engaged in the grand work of reaping and gathering together the wheat in the harvest (end period) of the age, preparatory to the full establishment of the kingdom.

 

The next effort was to organize Bible classes wherever interest in the truth message was shown. This was done in concert with associated believers by traveling to those areas where subscribers to the Watch Tower magazine were located. In the years 1879 and 1880 alone, about 30 congregations were founded in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio, and Michigan. Pastor Russell himself visited these classes and spent at least a day in intensive Bible study with each group, lecturing and answering questions of interest.

 

In later years this procedure of encouraging and serving the brethren at large became the characteristic of the Pastor’s ministry and reflected his zeal for the Lord and love for the truth people. Subsequently hundreds of congregations across the land sprang up and elected him as their Pastor. (By 1916 there were 1,200 such Bible classes worldwide.) They appreciated his doctrine, his exemplary manner of life and his warm, kind personality. In traveling constantly as public lecturer and regularly serving these many classes, Pastor Russell later came to be known as the ‘ubiquitous preacher,’ a phrase coined by the London Press, which also said that he ‘had the world for his congregation.’

 

One of his earliest major works was a comprehensive booklet entitled Food for Thinking Christians, published in 1881. It summarized the main doctrinal views of the Bible Students and exposed some of the erroneous beliefs of the nominal churches. It also included a comprehensive ‘Chart of the Ages’ with full explanation, illustrating the plan of God for developing the church, blessing the world, and destroying the incorrigible in second death. More than a million copies of the booklet were distributed free of charge. The success of this effort led to the formation of the Watch Tower Tract Society which thereupon specialized in the distribution of books and tract materials to further the work of the movement.

 

Further Outreach

 

In 1881 the Society also put out a call for Christian laborers, termed ‘colporteurs,’ to sell Watch Tower subscriptions and distribute various tracts. By 1886 their number had grown to some 300 workers, mostly part-time, and became an integral part of the ministry. The Pastor urged any and all who had been reached by the truth message to devote whatever they could to sharing the good tidings with others by preaching and handing out literature. Some from all walks of life, in this country and abroad, eagerly responded to the call, reflecting the depth of their convictions and the enthusiasm of their leader.

 

As the light of truth continued to unfold, Pastor Russell saw the need for putting forth a comprehensive exposition of the inspired Word that would properly harmonize the entire Bible. He wanted a topical study that would delineate God’s principles, laws and promises as well as explain Scriptural types, symbols, allegories and prophecies, all in their correct time setting. The result was a six-volume series under the heading of Millennial Dawn (later retitled Studies in the Scriptures), written between 1886 and 1904. To this day many consider it to be the foremost aid to Bible study ever produced, revealing God’s majestic plan for uplifting mankind. The series became another mainstay of the movement, particularly the first volume, The Divine Plan of the Ages, which reach the phenomenal circulation of about 4.3 million in the Pastor’s own lifetime.

 

Pastor Russell’s prodigious writings were characterized by an easy flowing style that contrasted sharply with the complex theological treatises of his day and were well received. Despite heavy demands, such as of a growing staff of workers at the headquarters office in Allegheny, correspondence that some years topped 300,000 replies, editing the Watch Tower magazine, and extensive travels at home and abroad, he was still able to find time to produce a vast number of tracts and other materials. Some of the leading booklets he wrote were: What Say the Scriptures About Hell (1896—3 million copies), What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism (1897—500,000 copies), The Parousia of our Lord (1898—300,000 copies), and The Bible Versus the Evolution Theory (1898—400,000 copies). The amazing circulation was achieved by door to door distribution and by handouts to churchgoers on Sunday mornings.

 

As the number of Bible Students increased and the monthly circulation of the Watch Tower magazine readers passed 10,000, regular conventions were scheduled to built up the brethren spiritually. In 1893 the first national assembly was held in Chicago for five days with an attendance of 360. There were prayer meetings, discourses (an hour and a half in length), sessions devoted to answering questions, and an immersion service in which 70 were baptized. After 1898, convention gatherings became more frequent, both regional and general, and were often timed to take advantage of lower railroad rates for Expositions or special events. Their frequency increased from about three per year in early years such as 1899, to 20 regional gatherings of three days or more in 1909. These usually included special meetings for the public which swelled the attendance even more, reaching 1,000 in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1906; 2,000 in Niagara Falls in 1907; and over 3,000 in the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. in 1912. Outside the country a convention in Toronto, Canada in 1903 drew 800 brethren and over 1,000 public; Kingston, Jamaica in 1905 peaked at 800; London, in 1907, about 550; and Glasgow, Scotland in 1908 numbered about 800.

 

In 1894 another program was initiated to strengthen the movement. Twenty mature associates were sent out on weekends from Pittsburgh to visit nearby congregations (called ecclesias), both to edify the brethren and to conduct public meetings. This developed later into a full-time activity known as the ‘pilgrim work,’ and proved a valuable asset to maintaining contact with the growing number of classes and to unify their thinking and beliefs. The pilgrims were full-time preachers traveling from one congregation to another, spending a day or two with each group. Their service was greatly appreciated by the brethren at large, who considered it a privilege to entertain them and enjoy their fellowship. The number of such pilgrims increased from just three in 1897 to 25 in 1905, and to nearly 90 in 1916.

 

Growing Public Awareness

 

Beginning in 1891, due to the growing interest in Europe, it was decided that Pastor Russell should make his first trip abroad. For two months he and his party toured Ireland, Scotland, Europe, Palestine, part of Russia, Egypt and England. He was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm for truth that he found in some places, such as Scandinavia, and especially in England, Ireland and Scotland which he viewed as ‘fields ready and waiting to be harvested.’ But in Russia, Turkey, and Italy he saw little readiness for the message. After his return the Society began publishing books in German, French, Swedish, Danish, Polish, and Greek. The first overseas branch office was opened in London in 1900. This was followed by a branch in Germany in 1903 and another in Australia in 1904.

 

Several other foreign trips culminated in 1911-1912 with an historic round-the-world tour to China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, India, the Near East, Greece, Italy, France, and England. There were several objectives: to ascertain prevalent social and religious conditions, to evaluate the methods and results of conducting foreign missions by the churches, and to draw international attention to the ‘truth movement’ and its unique message of the harvest time. It gave tremendous momentum to yet another effort that had opened up—the syndicated publishing of the Pastor’s weekly sermons in newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe. These appeared regularly in over 2,000 newspapers with a combined circulation of over 15 million copies.

 

Pastor Russell’s increasing popularity and the remarkable growth of the movement were not without opposition. Despite his favor with the general public, his work aroused vigorous resistance from the clergy. They frowned on his lack of seminary credentials, de-emphasis of church organization, and his denunciation of many of the orthodox doctrines of churchianity. At first they attempted to defend their beliefs in a series of public debates; such as the six day encounter featuring Dr. E. L. Eaton at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall before record audiences. But even the most skillful of the ministers could not effectively meet the sound Scriptural arguments advanced by the Pastor, resulting in continued loss of membership in the established churches. This precipitated a new line of attack: vicious attempts were made to smear the personal character of the Pastor and, further, to portray him as the head of a cult that was not truly Christian. Though wholly unfounded, such criticism stalked the movement, found acceptance among many evangelical groups, and have persisted to this day.

 

End-Time Emphasis

 

Throughout his ministry, Pastor Russell stressed that the Biblical ‘end times’ had begun and he looked for various prophetic fulfillments that were due. Among these was the return of God’s favor to the Jews and their regathering from all the countries in which they had been scattered back to Palestine, the land of promise. But instead of seeking converts from the Jewish community, he counseled them to believe God’s promises that they would be restored as a nation and eventually exert a leading role in the earthly phase of God’s kingdom to bless all nations. This sympathetic view and special message of comfort to the Jews earned him the title of ‘Christian Zionist’ and prompted invitations to speak before large Jewish audiences, such as 4,000 at the Hippodrome in New York City in 1910.

 

The year 1914 figured very prominently in Bible Student prophetic expectations and carried with it some disappointment and grief. That year was though to mark not only the turning point of God’s dealings with the nations (the ending off the ‘Times of the Gentiles’ prophecy), but the completion of the church and inauguration of the Kingdom as well. In harmony with these expectations, an intensive five-year worldwide preaching effort began in 1909 that was extraordinary by any measure. Colporteurs and other volunteers gave zealously of their time and effort to preach. Millions of copies of a new series of tracts called ‘People’s Pulpit,’ ‘Everybody’s Paper,’ and ‘The Bible Students Monthly’ were distributed in addition to the usual pamphlets and books. Each month a new message was aimed at exposing false doctrines of orthodox religion and clarifying the basic teachings of Scripture. Also a ‘class extension’ activity opened up in 1911 which was directed specially toward the public. In that year alone over 12,000 public and semi-public lectures were given, mostly by a special group of 58 qualified speakers.

 

The climax of these feverish activities was reached in 1914 with The Photo-Drama of Creation, a unique state-of-the-art audio-visual production depicting God’s plan of the ages from earth’s creation to its perfection in the thousand year reign of Christ. It required two full years and $300,000 to complete, consisting of hand-colored slides and moving pictures, synchronized with phonograph records of voice and music. The showings were put on without any admission charge, aroused considerable interest, and were enthusiastically received. Due to the extraordinary eight-hour length, the presentation was shown on four successive nights. It was a powerful witness, given to over ten million viewers in major cities at home and abroad, from 1914 to 1916.

 

Evaluation and Legacy of the Early Days

 

When Pastor Russell passed away in 1916 at the age of 64 it brought great sadness to Bible Students. No doubt his great dedication to the work and the stress of ceaseless labors without adequate rest contributed to his early demise. Throughout his ministry he made no claim of direct revelation from God and considered himself more in the role of compiler of lines of truth from various sources, rather than the originator. In a sketch of the early days of the movement, the Pastor described himself simply as ‘an index finger’ used of God to help others trace ‘the wonderful plan of God’ as recorded in the sacred pages of Scripture. He said further, ‘Neither is this clear unfolding of truth due to any human ingenuity or acuteness of perception, but to the simple fact that God’s due time had come.’

 

A majority of his followers, however, were convinced that he had fulfilled a special role in God’s sight: that he held the scriptural office of that wise and faithful servant of Mt 24:45 and as given a charge over the household of faith to provide spiritual meat in due season. Further, that he was the seventh and last messenger to the Church during its historical course of development, specially noted as Jesus’ mouthpiece to Laodicea. (Re 1:16 3:14)

 

The movement, seldom correctly assessed as to its overall influence due to strong clergy opposition, made a significant impact and provided a clear alternative to traditional orthodox beliefs. The Creator, instead of being cast as a wrathful God, was portrayed as loving, wise, just and powerful, deeply interested in humanity and their eternal salvation. The church, rather than basking in heavenly bliss and mansions of gold, was pictured as being destined to reign with Christ in blessing the remainder of mankind. The masses of humanity were seen, not as predestinated to hell, but as being given a fair opportunity for everlasting life upon earth in the Millennial Kingdom. Only the incorrigible would eventually be destroyed, and that by second death after a full trial period, not punished by everlasting torment.

 

The Dark Ages dogmas of hell fire, Trinity, and immortality of the soul were exposed as pagan concepts without Biblical authority. There was a new emphasis upon the Biblical end times that called for, not doom and flaming destruction, but an expectation of grand prophetic fulfillments. These spoke of a new day that had dawned in earth’s history. Christ’s invisible parousia, and the imminent establishment of God’s long-promised Kingdom, restitution blessings, the end of war and death, and the restoration to the original perfection lost in Eden were seen as near at hand.

 

This was the unique legacy of the Bible Student movement, an altogether different mark than that left by traditional churchianity. It revived the pure doctrine of the early church, the ‘faith once delivered unto the saints’—a faith which had almost been exterminated through successive secular philosophies. A worldwide witness was given, the work of gathering the wheat almost completed, the hearts of faithful believers were greatly refreshed. Many are convinced that it represented the major thrust of our Lord’s commission for the ‘last days’:This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Mt 24:14)

The Pastoral Bible Institute

 

’For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’—Matthew 18:20

 

Condensed from the Booklet, ‘Our Association Together in the Ministry’

 

The history of Associated Bible Classes (and hence of the Pastoral Bible Institute), begins in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, during the period 1870 to 1875. A group of devout Bible Students began to meet together there. They realized that God’s oathbound covenant to Abraham (that in his seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed) must surely be fulfilled. Yet millions have died without receiving that blessing. These students observed the Apostle Paul’s teaching (Ga 3:8,16,27,29) that Christ is the primary seed of blessing, but that those who are Christ’s become heirs of God’s promise to Abraham. They are to be associate with Christ as kings and priests in ruling and blessing all the families of the earth. (2Ti 2:12) They saw further, that in order to receive that blessing all must come out of their graves, be taught the truth of God, and come to a full opportunity to gain everlasting life (Joh 5:28,29 RV; 1Ti 2:3-6). This restitution work is also foretold in Ac 3:21.

 

The church is called to joint-heirship with the Lord in the Millennial kingdom. This is a clear scriptural teaching. But prior to that time they had failed to distinguish between the reward of the church now on trial, and the reward of the faithful of the world (whose trial is at the close of the Millennial age). The church is to be rewarded with spiritual glory, the divine nature. The world will receive a restitution glory—restoration to the human perfection once enjoyed in Eden by their progenitor, Adam.

 

Charles Taze Russell, a Pennsylvania businessman, became the leader of this movement. As time is a test to us all, so some of his early associates began to deny the teaching of a ransom price for Adam and all his race. Bro. Russell maintained that this teaching was the only foundation for Christian faith.

 

His first published pamphlet was The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return (1877—50,000 copies). It was written to show that the object of our Lord’s return is to bless all the families of the earth. Bro. Russell showed that Christ’s coming would be thief-like. He would not return in the flesh, but as a spirit being, invisible to man; (Joh 14:14-19) and that the gathering of his church and the separation of true and false believers would continue during the end of this age without the world’s being aware of it.

 

In 1876, at the age of 24, Bro. Russell closed his Philadelphia business. Thereafter, for the next forty years until his death in 1916, he devoted his time and resources to traveling, preaching, and writing. The first issue of his magazine appeared in July, 1879. Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence continued as a monthly publication until December, 1891 and semi-monthly thereafter until his death. In 1881 he published Food for Thinking Christians and Tabernacle Teachings (about 1,400,000 copies each). These were followed by six volumes originally issued under the title Millennial Dawn, later renamed, as a series, Studies in the Scriptures (over 12,000,000 to date.)

 

The movement grew, until at his death in October 1916 he was pastor of more that twelve hundred congregations in various parts of the world. His writings were translated into more than 35 different languages. His weekly sermons, were syndicated and published in more than two thousand newspapers with a combined circulation of 15 million copies. He directed a lecture bureau of several dozen traveling lecturers on Bible subjects. This summary of the activities of Pastor C. T. Russell is necessary to understand the history of today’s Associated Bible Students classes.

 

Associated Bible Students

 

In his public work, Bro. Russell used the corporate name International Bible Students Association, a name was applied to the classes (or, ecclesias) of Bible students. Earlier, the name Associated Bible Students had also been used by such groups. The organization [now known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses] continued to use the name International Bible Students Association for several years following the death of Bro. Russell. The groups which drew away from the organization have generally assumed the former name: Associated Bible Students, or in some cases, Berean Bible Students.

 

After his death the organization changed many of its teachings from those presented in Studies in the Scriptures and ceased to publish or distribute Bro. Russell’s writings. Many individuals held to their understanding of God’s word and withdrew their support from the organization at this time. Those who did so were the beginnings of the Associated Bible Students classes and who, as a whole, adhere closely to the views presented in Pastor Russell’s writings.

 

The Consequence of Crisis

 

These historical events in mind, it can be seen how the passing of Pastor Russell resulted in a crisis in the work of ministering to the household of faith. The change in management of the organization meant a complete change in the spirit, policy, and methods of administration. Brethren who had served with Bro. Russell and who occupied positions of trust and responsibility were dismissed for no reason other than their stand in defence of principles of truth, love, justice, and righteousness and the life-work and ministry of Bro. Russell.

 

Brethren all over the world were called upon to answer questions involving truth and the liberty of the people of God. These friends, who faced similar tests of loyalty to Christ Jesus their head, saw advantages in cooperating among themselves. Through the efforts of these small groups of Associated Bible Students, the Pastoral Bible Institute came into existence in 1918.

 

The Associated Bible Students are congregational. That is, individual Bible classes are independent, self-governing bodies, while maintaining fellowship with other like congregations. Their ministers are termed elders, but assume no ecclesiastical titles. They recognize as brethren in Christ all who profess faith in his ransom sacrifice and have made a full consecration to God in response to his invitation in Ro 12:1,2, and who give evidence thereof in their course of life.

 

The apostle Paul declares that: ‘ Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work’—2 Timothy 3:16, 27 ASV.

 

On this basis the Associated Bible Students do not attempt to build another sect by creating tests of faith. They ask only for complete acceptance of God’s Word and conformance of the life to its teachings. Thus they are one with all who are truly the Lord’s. They have formulated no creed as a condition for fellowship, their position being that expressed in Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 6, page 241:

 

‘The real need of the church of Christ is still more liberty—until each individual member shall stand free and independent of all human bonds, creeds, confessions, etc. With each individual Christian standing fast in the liberty wherewith he was made free by the Lord, (Ga 5:1 Joh 8:32) and each individual Christian united in loyalty to the Lord and to his word, very quickly the original unity which the Scriptures inculcated would be discerned, and all true children of God, all members of the New Creation, would find themselves drawn to each other member similarly free, and bound each to the other by the cords of love far more strongly that are men bound in earthly systems and societies. The love of Christ constraineth us’—[holds us together—Young’s Analytical Concordance]. (2Co 5:14)

 

One other passage from the pen of Pastor Russell on this matter:

 

‘...the wisdom that cometh from above... entreats and exhorts for unity only in the Lord and along the line of questions positively settled by the Lord in the Scriptures—which generously leaves each with full liberty to act and to judge on all questions not positively settled by the Scriptures. We urge that all of the Lord’s dear flock copy the wisdom of the apostle in this matter (Zion’s Watch Tower).

 

The most concise summary of what Associated Bible Students understand the holy Scriptures to teach is that which from 1895 was published in every issue of the Watch Tower and can be found also in every issue of THE HERALD—currently on the inside cover of the wrapper—under the heading To Us The Scriptures Clearly Teach.

 

A New Creature

 

The Scriptures are clear. It is a new creature that counts. To be a new creature is everything. Membership in Christ is everything. However, getting into Christ is an individual matter and is not effected by any device, institute, or organization that we as the Lord’s people may form. We are accepted into Christ by a personal knowledge of God and by hearing the call from him to surrender all to him. This is the only way of becoming enrolled as a member of Christ’s church.

 

Membership in the Institute

 

Membership in our Institute is intended to preserve in the hands of those who are contributors the right of deciding how their funds shall be used. Membership implies no subscribing to a specified belief. and no one in becoming a member is in any sense of the word joining a church.

 

Anyone contributing five dollars is eligible for membership, entitling him to a vote in the management of the Institute’s efforts, its business meetings, elections, etc. This procedure was followed to prevent any individual from controlling the Institute’s elections.

 

We have not pursued a course designed to build a movement or attract a following. We feel certain that the end of the age is at hand and that the true saints are few—one here and one there. Any so convinced, who think to create a great organization composed of true footstep followers of Christ would surely be disappointed.

 

Nor do we propose a great work among men. As we have pointed out in THE HERALD the church in the flesh has never been authorized to do a great work of conversion or reformation that would affect either the masses of the world or the multitudes of professing Christians. On the contrary, we were only to feed his sheep (Joh 21:17) and to teach or make disciples (not converts) of all nations (Mt 28:19,20).

 

When asked about the Scripturalness of such a business arrangement for a service amongst the churches our reply is simple. We know nothing in the Scriptures forbidding such an organization. The Lord’s people are exhorted to use the spirit of a sound mind in all things, and to do whatsoever they do to the glory of God. The Apostle assures us that ‘the end of the commandment is [love]’ (1Ti 1:5) and that ‘Love worketh no ill to his neighbor’.( Ro 13:10)

 

The preaching of the Gospel is a ministry of love. Any device that encourages such holy service in harmony with the principles of justice and love is to be lauded and not condemned.

 

Admittedly, we do not read of a corporation being authorized in the early Church, nor for the Church subsequently; but neither do we read of Jesus’ contemporaries riding on airplanes or using telephones or television. Who of us would abandon the use of such devices because the early followers did not have them? No one! The human family has increased in size, and civilization has introduced legal devices by which the world’s business is transacted in an orderly fashion. Incorporation is one of those. It is a tool which the Lord’s people may use as freely as they would board a plane. They should feel no guilt that their lot has been made easy while their predecessors were forced to journey hundreds of miles on foot or by boat.

 

The present work of the church was never intended to be large. The message is only for those who have ears to hear. These are to be gathered out of the world—a ‘people for his name’.( Ac 15:14) The Gospel has never been popular—darkness still hates the light. (Joh 3:19) The great work of the church, as the Scriptures clearly point out, will take place after all the faithful called-out saints of this Gospel age have been glorified. Then they will be together with Christ and compose the kingdom of God. This will occur after Satan is bound and the time for restitution of all things is fully ushered in. Meantime the present work and mission of the church is that of the perfecting of the saints for the future work of service, to develop in herself every grace, to be God’s witness to the world and to prepare to be kings and priests in the next age.

 

Neglectful Workers

 

It is obvious that some are seized with the idea that their mission as God’s people is to do a work or engage in a great outward movement. They lose sight of their real work. As humans, we are not suitable in God’s purpose without growth and development in spirituality. If we would follow him we must develop the fruits of the Spirit: virtue, patience, long-suffering, meekness, gentleness, brotherly kindness and love. These qualities personify that complete Christian character which will be qualified to undertake the work or mission of the coming age, that of instructing and uplifting all humanity. Men offer ecclesiastical activity as proof of divine sanction. Such evidence is turned by the Word of God into the occasion of their own condemnation. Jesus foretells how some will ultimately come to him in that day, claiming the right of entering into the inheritance of the saints on the basis of their activities. Have we not done wonderful works? (See Mt 7:22 ff.) Jesus declares that their wonderful works will receive no recognition, inasmuch as they had neglected the work of grace, the work of the Spirit in the heart, the work of producing a character like his own. Only this will constitute a person fit for membership with Christ in the kingdom and fit to share its responsibilities and honors with him.

 

Our Purposes

 

In keeping with this Scriptural teaching the Pastoral Bible Institute was formed. Looking over history, it should be apparent that our purposes have been those stated:

 

0. To be spiritually helpful to scattered friends in various parts of the world.

 

1. To encourage and assist them in edifying and building up others of the Lord’s people in spiritual things.

 

2. To encourage the friends to maintain a state of spiritual poise and balance (which condition is scripturally recognized as the peace of God) amidst present perplexities and confusion.

 

3. To testify to God’s truths and minister the Good News to the extent which God allows during our lives.

 

4. To preserve these principles we present pure, simple teachings of Christ and the apostles, and to uphold Bible truths in general.

 

A New Commandment I Give Unto You

 

The major tool of our ministry is the bi-monthly journey, The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. We also distribute the divine message by means of booklets, leaflets, etc. We also assist capable brethren to travel, ministering the word of grace to large or small groups of friends (including isolated individuals) who desire and request such service. The Lord has blessed these activities. Finally, we communicate with brethren around the world, many of whom tell of their pain and heartaches and of the grace of the Lord that has so marvelously sustained and kept them through their experiences. Some write of their appreciation of the truth, the knowledge of the Lord, the knowledge of the principles of truth and righteousness, and that this knowledge is truly their shield and buckler at the present time.

 

Some Walk Not With Us

 

Quite obviously there are other brethren who are not associated in the ministry of the Institute. We have no quarrel with these. Furthermore we exercise the spirit of Jesus, praying that the Lord of the Harvest send forth more laborers into the vineyard. (Mt 9:38) We therefore refrain from controversial exchanges with anyone who desires to pursue other lines of Bible interpretation and service. The work at hand is not our work, but the Lord’s. We urge all so engaged to reflect our Master’s spirit as expressed in Mr 9:39,40.

 

Those who accept Jesus’ commission to his church have no time for strife. Our hands are to be filled with carrying out his commission. The Apostle Paul said, ...‘ let all things be done unto edifying’.( 1Co 14:26) The spiritual interests of the Lord’s people deserve first consideration. Spirituality, demonstration of the Lord’s spirit of love, forbearance, and tolerance in our lives is sorely needed. ‘A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you’.( Joh 13:34) Let us join St. Paul in his study of this subject, in his analysis of love—that it is kind, does not seek her own interests, is not easily provoked, bears all things, endures all things, and never fails.

 

The love of Christ and of God is central to the character of the Son of God. All who would become joint-heirs with Jesus must possess this love before they can share in the riches and glory of the kingdom of heaven. They will redound unto the glories of their Lord and Master and our Heavenly Father.

What’s In A Name?

 

Excerpts from the first issue of THE HERALD in explanation of the names chosen for the organization and its journal.

 

PASTORAL BIBLE INSTITUTE

 

"As for the title, Pastoral Bible Institute designating our work, the Committee was led to seriously consider this title by reason of the fact that some years ago our Pastor had expressly stated that he thought the time would come when the word ‘Institute’ would be found to be an appropriate one for use in connection with the work of the ministry.... the term ‘pastoral’ came into use to a considerable extent. It forcibly suggests the central thought of our work, viz: that of a pastoral work in administering to the spiritual needs of the Lord’s people. Hence the appropriateness of the title, ‘Pastoral Bible Institute.’"

 

THE HERALD OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM

 

"The name chosen for this journal—THE HERALD OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM—we believe is especially appropriate and significant.... The word ‘herald’ conveys the thought of an official bearer of important tidings—one who announces and proclaims an important message. What more important message could we bear than that earth’s new king is present! ... It shall ever be the aim of this journal to be a true herald of not only the presence of the King, but also of his glorious Kingdom at hand, and to preserve in these pages the spirit and influence of the great King himself, and thus prove true to the prophetic vision."

THE QUESTION BOX

 

@When the International Bible Students speak of themselves as truth people, do they mean that they alone understand God’s truth?

 

I SHOULD not put the matter in that form. My thought is that we are those who put the truth before anything else, we love the truth and would sacrifice anything we have for the truth. We are not putting creeds and traditions before the truth. We are not sacrificing the truth for any sect or party, but rather sacrifice sect and party, even self, for the truth, because we understand that God has put the truth as his own representative. Jesus so presents it in the word, saying, "I am the truth." In standing for the truth, we are standing for the Lord.

 

Besides, I might add, this word truth is sometimes used in contrast with error. As we look at our past experiences, we have held a great deal of error, and as we now find ourselves growing in knowledge and growing in truth, we have come to speak of the matter from that standpoint; it was not given a sectarian sense. The term was not given by myself, but sprung up amongst the truth people as those who love the truth. We are willing to welcome all people in the same general compliment.

 

by C. T. Russell (Q345)

A Delightful Inheritance

 

‘LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.’—Psalm 16:5, 6 NIV

 

By Tim Thomassen

 

The Lord’s people have a wonderful heritage. This is seen more clearly the deeper one probes into the Word of God. The scriptures confirm this. ‘Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart’.( Ps 119:111 NIV)

 

The word ‘heritage’ suggests something that has been inherited. Literally, it could be an heirloom, an estate, patrimony, or portion. It is a possession.

 

Some have been privileged to have been raised in an environment in which the Bible has been studied and its precepts followed closely. Others have come to know the beauties of the truth in different ways, having been led by the holy Spirit through other instrumentalities.

 

Once we have been introduced to God’s marvelous teachings, it is necessary to decide what we should do with them. Do we embrace or ignore them? Will they become the focal point of our life or merely occupy a distant place in our thoughts and affections?

 

Truth, like a modest little flower in the wilderness of life, is surrounded and almost choked by the luxurious growth of the weeds of error. If you would find it you must be ever on the lookout. If you would possess it you must stoop to get it.

 

Perhaps some are facing these decisions currently. If so, it is hoped that the following precious promises will provide strength and encouragement.

 

‘The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.’—Psalm 25:9

 

‘Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.’—Psalm 37:4, 5

 

‘Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh unto you.’—James 4:8.

 

If we are endeavoring to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2Pe 3:18) we must continue to ‘keep on keeping on.’ It is my prayer that we receive God’s message with great eagerness and examine the scriptures daily to see if what we have been told is true. (Ac 17:11) May we do our best to present ourselves to God as approved workmen who do not need to be ashamed and who correctly handle the word of truth. (2Ti 2:15)

 

Both individually and collectively, may we do good unto all men, especially the household of faith. (Ga 6:10) May the Lord grant us wisdom, strength, and the means to ‘preach the Word, to be prepared in season and out of season, to correct, rebuke, encourage with great patience and careful instruction’.( 2Ti 4:2)

 

The Lord’s people in this end of the age are told in Re 18:4 to ‘come out of her (Babylon)... that ye be not partakers of her sins.’ We should depart from any form of denominationalism, encourage each other not to be in bondage to the creeds and practices of men, teach the gospel to anyone who has a ‘hearing ear,’ while continuing to lay down our lives in sacrifice.

 

‘Come out, then, from among them, the Lord says to us, separate yourselves from them, and do not even touch what is unclean.’—2 Corinthians 6:17 (Knox Translation)

 

Many indicators suggest strongly that we are living in the time of the harvest, the end of the age. (Mt 13:39) It is a period of separating the real wheat from the tares. There may be many fine and noble people among the tares. However, they are not part of the wheat class because they are not begotten of the truth and its spirit. Only God’s truth sanctifies. (Joh 17:17) Furthermore, we are told that this is ‘the will of God, even your sanctification’.( 1Th 4:3)

 

Truth is a rare thing. Pr 23:23 counsels us to ‘buy the truth and sell it not.’ Truth, wisdom, and understanding are precious. They should never be sold nor compromised. May we be faithful to this end while cultivating the character likeness of our Master, Christ Jesus.

TIME LINE OF CHURCH HISTORY

 

33 —Jesus died 66 —Paul beheaded 70 —Fall of Jerusalem 90 —Council of Jamnia 96 —Apostle John Died 155 —Polycarp martyred 200 —New Testament canon 234 —Origen exiled 270 —Monasticism develops

 

303 —Diocletian persecution 325 —Nicene Creed 336 —Death of Arius 386 —Trinity established 386 —Augustine begins ministry 395 —Jerome translates Vulgate

 

431 —Council of Ephesus

 

MIDDLE AGES BEGIN

 

476 —Rome falls 496 —Franks converted 539 —Papal temporal power

 

590 —Pope Gregory reigns 622 —Mohammedanism forms

 

664 —England becomes Catholic

 

711 —Arabs conquer Spain 760 —Pope gets Vatican states 787 —Second Council of Nicea 800 —Pope crowns Charlemagne

 

842 —Image worship established

 

900 —Catholics conquer Cpain 910 —Cluny reform begins

 

962 —Holy Roman Empire founded 966 —Poles convert 993 —Canonization of saints 1000 —Fear of end of the world 1049 —Leo IX. —reform Pope 1054 —East-West church schism

 

1096 —First Crusade 1162 —Thomas a Becket 1173 —Waldensians begin 1189 —Third Crusade 1209 —Francis of Assisi 1233 —Inquisition begins 1252 —Torture introduced 1291 —End of Crusades 1302 —Papal supremacy 1309 —Papal "captivity" 1378 —"Great Schism" 1380 —Wycliffe—English Bible 1398 —Jan Hus—Reformer 1408 —"Great Schism" Ends 1431 —Joan of Arc killed 1440 —Gutenberg printing 1466 —First German Bible 1471 —Thomas a kempis 1492 —Jews leave Spain 1498 —Erasmus teaches 1517 —Luther’s 95 theses 1521 —Diet of Worms 1524 —Zwingli’s ministry 1530 —Augsburg Confession 1531 —Church of England 1541 —John Calvin/Geneva 1558 —John Knox/Scotland 1599 —Divine right of Kings 1611 —King James Bible 1618 —30 years War Begins 1633 —First Baptist Church 1648 —Treaty of Westphalia 1654 —John Milton 1668 —William Penn denies Trinity 1675 —Pietist movement 1693 —Cotton Mather 1730 —Methodist Church 1738 —"Great Awakening" 1764 —Voltaire 1772 —Abolish Inquisition 1789 —French Revolution 1799 —Pope dies in prison 1804 —Bible societies 1831 —William Miller 1846 —Evangelical Alliance 1879 —Bible Student Movement

TIME LINE OF BIBLE STUDENT HISTORY

 

1872 —Russell contacts G. Storrs 1876 —Russell meets N. Barbour 1877 —Meeting with ministers 1877 —Lord’s Return pamphlet 1877 —"The Three Worlds" 1879 —"Zion’s Watch Tower" magazine 1881 —Colporteur work begins 1881 —"Tabernacle Shadows" 1881 —"Food for Thinking Christians" 1882 —Topical Bible study advised 1883 —Foreign translations begin 1884 —Tract Society formed 1886 —"Divine Plan of the Ages" 1889 —"Old Theology" tracts 1889 —"The Time Is At Hand" 1890 —"Thy Kingdom Come" 1891 —Palestine purchase proposed 1892 —"Zion’s Watch Tower" bi-monthly 1893 —First convention held in Chicago 1894 —Pilgrim ministry begins 1895 —"To Us The Scriptures Clearly Teach" 1895 —Danish, English, Polish work 1895 —Allegheny Church trial 1897 —"The Day of Vengeance" 1899 —500,000 Evolution tracts 1899 —"The At-one-ment"—Vol. 5 1900 —London Tabernacle 1900 —"Zion’s Glad Songs" hymnal 1901 —Linear Bible/WT references 1901 —Newspaper sermon work 1903 —Move to Brooklyn 1903 —German Branch opens 1903 —Russell-Eaton debates 1904 —"The New Creation" 1904 —Australian Branch opens 1905 —Russell separation trial 1905 —"Daily Heavenly Manna" 1907 —"Comment" Bible 1908 —"Overland Monthly" articles 1908 —Russell-White debates 1909 —Covenant controversy 1910 —Hippodrome talk to Jews 1911 —"Die Stimme" for Jews/Yiddish 1912 —Round the world trip 1914 —"Photo-Drama of Creation" 1915 —50 Million tracts distributed 1916 —Death of Pastor Russell 1918 —Pastoral Bible Institute—"Herald of Christ’s Kingdom" Magazine