Monday, October 26, 2015

A taste. Chapter introduction as it now is:

Out of Babylon

            There is almost no record of the internal structure of the earliest congregations or of the nature of their meetings. A standard meeting format wasn’t introduced until the 1890s, and nature of meetings varied by place. To understand them we must rely on comments made in later decades.
            While some of his observations were appropriate to later years, the anonymous author of the Watchtower series “The Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses” accurately describes affiliated congregations in the period before 1900:

These early congregations were called by the name in the Greek Scriptures, “ecclesias,” and sometimes “classes.” They were organized on the congregational and presbyterian style of church government. All members democratically voted on certain matters of business and also elected a board of seven or more “elders” (presbyters) who directed the general governmental interests of the congregation. … These ecclesias were loosely tied together merely by accepting the leadership and pattern of activity of the Pittsburgh congregation where Russell and other Watch Tower writers were elders.[1]

            The groups that most closely identified with Watch Tower doctrine followed the Allegheny congregation’s twice a week meeting schedule. They tended to read Watch Tower tracts and the magazine closely, discussing the topics raised. Some, perhaps most, had an open discussion period, an Adult Bible Class that was free-wheeling and sometimes fraught with controversy. Doctrinal unity did not exist in this period. Some of their number had been Second Adventists and others Literalist, Age-to-Come believers. Many of the Allegheny congregation hd been Methodists. These brought into the movement a huge diversity of belief. When Watch Tower writers’ belief in the preexistence of Christ became an issue in mid 1880, Paton wrote:

That we meet with some whom we believe to be Christians, and in some respects seem to be well advanced, who do not believe in the conscious or personal pre-existence of Christ, is true. Though never having doubted this great truth for a single moment, even when reading the arguments offered against it, yet we have never been disposed to make our opinions on this subject a test of fellowship. We rejoice that it has been our privilege to convince some of the truth of our position. We have often said that the statements of the Bible are on the side of the pre-existence, but the opposite view has been sustained in many minds by unanswered questions as to how this or that could be.[2]

Paton defined Christians loosely, often pointing to behavior rather than doctrine. Russell believed that atonement by shed blood was a defining doctrine, but also tended to see behavior as a key determiner. Pointing to 2 Corinthians 11:2, Russell said the faithful church was a “chaste virgin” committed to Christ. The First Century church defined Christianity. It maintained its purity for a period, but “gradually became enamored of the world and the prospects it offered and finally united with it, constitution the system of Papacy.”[3] Russell said that church-state alliances were a mark of corruption. Union with the world marked the abomination, the harlot church.
The Harlot Church compromised with ‘worldly’ practice. “She claims to be desirous of knowing and doing what would please the Lord, but actually studies and does what will please the world. She has a form of Godliness but really is far from God-like-ness.” The false church attracts and then admits into fellowship the unrepentant and unreformed of the world. Russell’s description of the apostate church is drawn from his own experience. (Our readers may want to return to volume one of this work and review chapter one.) Russell’s experience with church fairs and raffles found a place in his description of the Babylonish church:

She felt that she must erect a grand church building with the tallest spire, and that every inch she added to the spire and every dollar added to the cost of building would help draw to her bosom

[1]              Watchtower Writer: Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnessed -  Part 2 – Small Beginnings (1879-1889), The Watchtower, January 15, 1955, page  47.
[2]              J. H. Paton: Pre-existence of Christ, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1880, page 3.
[3]              C. T. Russell: Babylon is Fallen, Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1879, page 1.

Monday, October 19, 2015

This is fairly urgent ...

This letter appeared in the June 1886 issue of Zion's Watch Tower. I need help identifying the writer.

California, June 3, 1886.

DEAR FRIENDS:--I hope your list of workers in the vineyard have reported success so frequently that mine has not been missed. I have been working as all must every day and hour, wherever they are, but not in the wide field I would choose if it were mine to make choice. As I am not mine own, I accept all as the ordering of my never erring--Master. My dear parents are becoming feeble with age, and have been sick, lingering along and gaining strength slowly, till now they are able to go around, but cannot be left alone long. I am losing none of my interest, but watch the opportunities, and have used with care the precious "FOODS." I am intending to gather them in, to use again as soon as possible. Most of them were given to persons I met at different times, who seemed to be ready for the feast and were going to various parts. With this explanation, you will understand why my apparent success is small, and yet I am  needing a fresh supply. I found a Swede who is a constant student of the Word. He comes around once a week with fish. The first time he came I gave him a Swedish TOWER, and next time he said he found it taught Bible doctrines all through, and I gave him a FOOD and some English TOWERS.

Yesterday a physician's wife came here for the first time, and she said at once, and boldly, she had come to see what there was in the strange doctrine we taught, and she left with the promise to come often, and said she thought she was ready for the truth as never before, and would make it her study. She took my very last FOOD and two TOWERS.

As soon as I can leave home I want to go to Sacramento to work as you have suggested. So please send me what is necessary, that I may be prepared to improve time on short notice, and I shall be grateful.

I have no better way to give you an idea of how little time I've had than to say it took me three days to read the last precious TOWER, when usually I "literally devour" it almost without stopping, after which I leisurely re-read and turn to all the references.

I had hoped that by examining the subjects carefully with my parents, they would be ready to "keep the feast" as commanded with me, but they could not see that it was an anniversary, and I
kept it again alone, and yet not alone. One fully consecrated need never feel lonely. I knew the ones and twos would be remembered by the loved ones in congregated capacity.

I am so anxious to contribute to the Tract Fund, but strange to say I have not a half-dollar, nor have I purchased an article of that value for six months. Yet I am perfectly contented--yes, so happy. God bless you. Good-bye.

I am trying to hold myself in readiness to go especially with German TOWERS to San Francisco when the way is clear. I should have no other business only to "to do good and communicate," and would not be able to do much in short time without FOODS, TOWERS, etc. It only costs one dollar to go to San Francisco, over one hundred miles. Opposition steamer on now. I can rent a room and take meals at a restaurant cheap. May the Lord bless you is my constant prayer. Your sister,


The August 15, 2012, Watchtower says: “In July 1879, the Bible Students published the first issue of … Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. …. Twenty-seven-year-old Charles Taze Russell was chosen to be the editor, with five other mature Bible Students serving as regular contributors.” A similar claim appears in the January 15, 1955, Watchtower: “Having now withdrawn their editorial and financial support from … The Herald of the Morning, the Pittsburgh Bible class decided to embark upon a great project, that of publishing for the first time their own monthly magazine.”

These statements imply that starting Zion’s Watch Tower was a group decision and that Russell was elected editor. I cannot find support for this in contemporary records. Can you point me to an original source that shows a group choice, an election of Russell as editor?

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Update: The articles are in the Feb 14 and Feb. 23, 1882, Dispatch. We're trying desperately to shepherd our research funds. A month subscription to the Dispatch archive is about eight dollars. Any kind soul out there want to buy the Coovert and Russell articles for us?

            I’m putting the finishing touches on a chapter entitled “Food for Thinking Christians.” We wrote most of it months ago, but as with all first draft writing it has bumps, pimples and just plain bad writing.
            We need some help from someone living in Pennsylvania. William R. Coovert (also spelled Covert), a Winbrennerite clergyman living in Pittsburgh, challenged Russell to a debate through the pages of The Pittsburgh Dispatch. We do not have the original newspaper article. We need it.  The article would have appeared between August 1881 and December 1882. Can you help?

Here’s that bit of the story as we have it now:

William R. Coovert, [alternately spelled Covert] [1] a clergyman with the Church of God (Winebrennerites), challenged Russell to a debate. Coovert saw himself as an expert debater, and printed copies of several of his debates are available. He was less than stable and was involved in the Harlem Commons Swindle, serving for a while as manager of the syndicate claiming damages from New York City. He issued false claims about the involvement of prominent men, changing his story as every false claim was exposed.[2]
            He eventually went insane. Heavily involved in a controversy among the Order of Solons, a fraternal order, he demonstrated “pugilistic qualities” by slugging “Ex-supreme Secretary [G. A.] Mundorf.” He called in a reporter from The Pittsburgh Press to make a statement, and the reporter found him delusional and rambling:

When a Press representative entered the hotel, he was informed by the clerk that Mr. Covert had a vision during the night and was very much wrought up over something … Mr. Covert was found in an excited state of mind. His hair was disheveled and great drops of sweat were standing on his forehead. He was walking the floor in an excited manner, and papers and manuscripts were scattered in confusion about the floor.[3]

He had a spotty reputation among his own denomination, being admired as a debater but was also seen as a “vehement and disturbing.” A denominational history charitably calls him “a man of indefatigable energy, but of a volatile and flighty fancy.”[4] Why Coovert remained in favor with the Church of God despite his involvement with questionable activities, his pugnacious behavior, and his mental instability is unknown.
            Coovert challenged Russell through the pages of The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Dispatch, “to discuss in a public debate the Creed of the Church of God, which is the inspired revelation known as the word of God.”[5]  The History of the Church of God reports that “‘Mr. R failed to come to time,’ so Covert published him in the Pittsburg [sic]’Times’ as having virtually ‘conceded that my position is true.’”[6] Given Coovert’s known instability, it is not surprising that Russell failed to debate him. Coovert was content to declare victory without an actual debate, setting a pattern for others in the general community to which the Church of God belonged. Decades later various Disciples elders would follow suit, declaring victory over J. F. Rutherford without a word of actual debate passing between them.[7]

[1]              Covert was born December 17, 1853, in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.  He was married three times. Covert was enrolled at the Edinboro State Normal School, but did not graduate. In 1872 he moved to Wappello, Iowa and was ordained at Harmony, Iowa, in October 1874. He attended Grove City College, but did not graduate. He was pastor of the Townsend Street Church in Pittsburgh from about 1880-1886. He was a member of the Prohibition Party. There is some indication that he spent the first few years of his religious life associated with H. V. Reed and The Restitution and the last few years in association with the SDA church. An article signed “Wm Covert” appearing in the Lake Union Herald, a Seventh-day Adventist Journal, of January 27, 1915, makes this possible. We’re uncertain if this is the same person. Covert spent much time writing about crank science theories. Few accepted them in his lifetime and no-one takes them seriously today. See John M. Gresham: Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, page 576ff.
[2]              Claiming New-York City Lands, The New York Times, August 22, 1885; Harlem Commons, The New York Times, June 17, 1886; The Harlem Commons Heirs: One of them Declares that a Swindle is Being Attempted, The New York Times, June 9, 1886; The Harlem Commons: Roscoe Conklin Said to be Retained, The New York Times, June 17, 1886;
[3]              His Mind Impaired: Rev. Covert Succumbs Under a Mental Strain, The Pittsburgh Press, December 8, 1892. See also Pittsburgh Dispatch, December 31, 1892, page 10; The Rev. W. R. Coovert Seriously Ill, The New York Times, December 9, 1892.
[4]              C. H. Forney: History of the Church of God in the United States, Churches of God, 1914, pages 209, 715.
[5]              Quoted by Forney, History of the Church of God, page 206.
[6]              Forney, page 206.
[7]              For a rather stupid and silly example see O. C. Lambert, Russellism Unveiled, Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1940.  See also the letters from John A. Hudson to J. F. Rutherford as published in the second edition of Russell-White Debate, Old Paths Book Club, no date, appendix.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

See previous post

I don't have an answer to the puzzle, but readers without access to Paton materials, who would like to search might like to see the original reference to the mysterious R.O.L. and V.


R.O.L. is aged 66 in 1902, is a carpenter by trade, and is deaf. 


Someone signing themselves "R.O.L" from Wyoming County, Pennsylvania, wrote to Paton in February 1902. He/she mentions a sister V. We need to identify both individuals. Can you help?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Temporory Posts

In the past material posted on this blog was taken by others without credit. It was used on controversialist web pages, often distorted from the original material. Hard work, reputation, and money goes into our research. When people use our work for their own profit, they steal from us. We used to post longer bits of research, sometimes entire chapters, to an invitation only blog. Our expectation was that we would generate helpful, knowledgeable comments. That did not happen.

We have deleted that blog, and it will not return. We still hope for informed comments. Our 'compromise' is a temporary post. Probably, we won't get any comments or meaningful questions. But one can always hope.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Era Enterprise

If you have access to the Enterprise, please look for obituaries of early adherents. I'm interested in obituaries of those who came into the movement between 1876 and 1900.

This blog is not ...

This blog isn't going away anytime soon. I think I made that clear in a previous post. Mr. Schulz is unable to contribute to it at this time, but has agreed I may keep it active. Work will be considerably slower with him unable to contribute. But it will move forward.

You can help by recommending our books to others. Write a review for Amazon or Lulu or on Google Books or anywhere else you can think of.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

This is a temporary post.

I'll leave this up for a few days for comment. I'm not formatting this post. Blank spaces appear where illustrations would normally appear. Some of you copy posts like this to your computer or e-reader. If you do, please don't share it.

Advertising the Message

When the first volume of Millennial Dawn neared publication, Russell placed an announcement in The Christian Herald. It piqued the interest of at least one Herald reader, leading to their eventually committing themselves to Watch Tower teachings. Publication was subsequently announced through The Herald and the book sent for. A. I. Ritchie recalled his father sending for the book: “In 1886 my father saw your advertisement in the Christian Herald that Volume I, Millennial Dawn, was in preparation. As soon as he saw the announcement that it was ready, he sent his $1 and got its teachings, accepting it as rapidly as he saw that it harmonized the Scriptures.”[1]
A brief review of the book found in the October 7, 1886, issue of The Christian Herald caused controversy later. The review was very positive:

Millennial Dawn, the Plan of the Ages. A remarkable book! A book for the times! It is emphatically A Helping Hand for Bible Students. In these latter days, when Christians are so eagerly seeking the light of God's word, to interpret passing events and to forecast the dawning future, so pregnant with tremendous import to all mankind, this book comes as a soothing, satisfying draught from the fountain of all truth, knowledge and wisdom.

Every earnest seeker after truth, every sincere student of the Bible, will do well to secure a copy of this remarkable book at once and enjoy the feast of fat things which it contains.

Zion’s Watch Tower attributed the review to J. E. Jewett because the endorsement appeared in a column moderated by him. It was written by Samuel I. Hickey, a Presbyterian clergyman recently converted to Watch Tower theology. When Russell found out the truth, he changed the attribution on missionary matter to reflect reality, but one contentious person would suggest that it was a ‘fraud.’ Russell denied the charge, and he seems to be blameless in the matter.
Because the Christian Herald review was glowing, Watch Tower representatives would use it into the Twentieth Century, sometimes without regard to its origin among themselves. An example is found in The Hopkinsville Kentuckian of July 29, 1900, where two Watch Tower evangelists simply attribute the review to The Christian Herald. This was misleading. The Herald was not a friend to the Watch Tower movement.[2]

The rest of this post has been deleted.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Here's the scoop

Bruce collapsed in his classroom this afternoon and is in ER. I don't think they're keeping him in the hospital, though he is somewhat disoriented. I spoke with him briefly on the phone. He has passed the history project on to me, and I'm reactivating it.

Working on this project had been fun but frustrating. It is now a ten year old endeavor that has produced two solidly researched books. It has brought some slight interest and an occasional offensive comment. You don't see those. But we get them. Some of those who support (at least morally) this project are sexist and self-righteous. But we appreciate the support for this project. Just don't bring your social views to this blog.

I'm chronically ill too, so two 'sickies' have run this project. It will be considerably slowed with just one researcher and author. Also, I'm more blunt on some issues than Mr. Schulz has been. I have nothing invested in Russellite belief or practice. I'm not protective of any religion, even my own. The desire to protect or muddy religious reputations has created the many myths about Watch Tower history prevalent today. But ... if you find a better way of saying something I present here, I will listen.

As I see it - using my preferred outline rather than the one we previously used - volume 2 of Separate Identity is about two-thirds done. There is no cause for excitement. The remaining research will take months.

What do I need from you? We need documentation. If you have insight into an event share it. What goes on the page is up to me. Or if Dr. Schulz is able to return to this project (won't be anytime soon, I reckon.) then up to us both.

We create drama here from time to time. Blame it on Mr. Schulz' age and my illness. Life is very hard for both of us. I probably won't bring back the invitation only blog. I have too much to do right now. I'll reconsider later.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Several issues

We reviewed sales figures. They do not warrant continuing this project. People simply are not interested. We need a return on work to continue the project. It does not exist.

We are being cheated by a major book retailer. Our publisher seems unable to address this issue.

We have a few faithful blog followers. But no significant readership exists either for this blog or for our books.

Accordingly, this project is ended. We have put the private blog - we refer to it as blog 2 - in stasis. There is no access at this time. We haven't decided what to do with this blog.

The two books we have completed will continue to be available on We are working to end sales in all other venues such as Amazon and B&N.

While we will always be interested in this history, no further work is planned. No further blog posts are planned. Comment function will end by the first of November, 2015.

Please attach as an email

A large review of Millennial Dawn volume by a Thomas Calahan writer (more than 100 lines of review).

(Iron County Register [Ironton, Iron County, Mo.], 1887, March 10, p.???

On Blog 2

I have posted a nearly complete chapter on blog 2. Please do not circulate it to others. We are not taking new applications to read blog 2.

Issues from the comment trail

            Jerome asked how you could help with the current chapter. Other than the project for which Roberto and Andrew volunteered, there is nothing specific. We have to read and weigh the material ourselves. Otherwise we’re disconnected from context and miss vital points. That doesn’t keep helpers from rereading the older issues of Zion’s Watch Tower for relevant comments. But it does mean we can’t parcel out specific assignments for the partial chapter posted below.
            Send us what you find and your observations even if you think we may have it. Even if we’ve seen something, it lets us look at material with fresh eyes, and you may find something we haven’t.
            When we begin the writing process, we find connections we overlooked. Today, I returned to an article we extracted from The Indianapolis, Indiana, News of September 14, 1886. We saved it because it was a very early reference to Plan of the Ages, but reading it afresh gave it new importance. The article refers to two earlier publications in a way that adds to our understanding. We will add maybe two sentences to a chapter titled Publishing Ministry and perhaps a paragraph or less to one entitled Advertising the Message. That may seem as if these are small points at issue. And for the former chapter the point is interesting but minor. For the latter it is our first contact with an issue that grew in importance within the next decade. Look at the article and tell me I you can tell what two points we found in this short article:
            Probably the lack of comments to Rachael’s post mean that those who’ve read it shrugged their shoulders, thinking what we’ve written is simple and obvious. If you see this partial chapter as simple and obvious we’ve probably done our job. Our goal is to tell Watch Tower history as simply but completely as we can. However, if you’re familiar with what historians and sociologists write about Watch Tower history in the Russell era, you will see this chapter as differing radically from the usual. Our chapter also differs radically from some Russellite presentations, at least by presenting significantly more detail. (Remember you’ve only seen a partially written chapter and none of the additional documentation that will make its way into the chapter.)
            If you have access to Paton’s magazine, you can look for references to interactions between the two groups. Most of that will go to another chapter, but some will show up in this chapter.
            We are sometimes asked when volume 2 will be ready. We have no clue. Original research is time-consuming. It will appear when it appears.

Friday, October 9, 2015


We don't usually post raw work. We learned that lesson long ago, and established a rule against it. I'm breaking the rule with some cautions. This is roughly 10 percent researched. What you see here doesn't even qualify as a rough draft. The final version will be much changed. Don't take any of this as final. But since the idea of Rusellite organization or lack of it was raised, and there's a huge lack of understanding out there, here is a taste of my current research:

Out of Babylon

            There is almost no record of the internal structure of the earliest congregations or of the nature of their meetings. A standard meeting format wasn’t introduced until the 1890s, and nature of meetings varied by place. To recreate the nature of the first congregations, we must rely on comments made in later decades.
            While some of his observations were appropriate to later years, the anonymous author of the “The Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses” serialized in The Watchtower accurately describes affiliated congregations in the period before 1900:

These early congregations were called by the name in the Greek Scriptures, “ecclesias,” and sometimes “classes.” They were organized on the congregational and presbyterian style of church government. All members democratically voted on certain matters of business and also elected a board of seven or more “elders” (presbyters) who directed the general governmental interests of the congregation. … These ecclesias were loosely tied together merely by accepting the leadership and pattern of activity of the Pittsburgh congregation where Russell and other Watch Tower writers were elders.[1]


Sociologists especially, but historians too, struggle to place the Watch Tower movement in an easily identifiable niche. The results are usually unsatisfactory. Watch Tower adherents were religious pilgrims, often unsatisfied by their original churches. They were religious seekers, some of whom moved from one small group to another.
The nature of Russell-era congregations is misstated by Biblically illiterate historians and sociologists. Some present Russell era adherents as isolated, disenfranchised and alienated from society. This is part of a tendency to seek external causes for belief that sometimes overreaches the facts. John Wigley thought that early 19th Century British Sabbatarians, who were often also millenialists, came from among those who felt economically and politically threatened. He saw them as religiously “introverted.[2] If there is such a thing as religious introversion, it characterizes those who seek New Testament separation from the world. Those who would be ‘in the world but separate from it.’ This is a New Testament view of the world, and those who held it – including Watch Tower adherents – sought to maintain Bible standards. It is a mistake to find the roots of belief in a pessimistic world view. Clarke Garrett and W. H. Oliver rightly warn against simplistic, economic, or social, explanations for belief systems. And they warn against “chiliasm of despair” explanations.
Edward Abrahams extended this claim back to the Watch Tower’s earliest days, asserting that “Russell used the words ‘alienated,’ ‘isolated,’ and ‘troubled’ to describe his congregations.[3] Abrahams meant that Watch Tower adherents were disenfranchised and alienated from an evolving social structure. We ask, “where?” Where did Russell use these terms in this way?
            Between 1879 and the end of 1916, the word alienated appears in fifty-nine issues of the Watch Tower. Watch Tower writers and Russell especially use it as commentary on Colossians 1:21-23: “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard , and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” This is not a statement of social alienation, but of the need for reconciliation with God through Jesus.
            The word appears in quotations from other sources, usually as commentary on the alienation of the young from contemporary churches and the Bible. These are not a reference to Watch Tower congregations. Russell never uses the word alienated in the sense meant by a sociologist. The one place where one might presume he meant it in that sense is found in the January 15, 1912, Watch Tower. Russell wrote:

The Church has cried in “the wilderness” in the sense that she has been alienated and separated from the world. She has called upon all who would hear to prepare for Messiah's Kingdom. She has told more fully than did John the Baptist of the effect of Messiah's Kingdom – the leveling up of the valleys (the lifting up of the poor), the straightening out of the crooked things and the smoothing of the rough things, that thus all flesh might see, appreciate, understand, experience the salvation of God. Both John and the Church declare that this salvation is to be brought through Jesus and His glorified Bride in Kingdom power. The point we are making is that while John the Baptist was an antitype of Elijah, and was forerunner or herald of Jesus, so, only more particularly, the Church in the flesh is a higher antitype of Elijah, and still more particularly a herald of the Messianic Kingdom.[4]

            Did Russell suggest that the congregations were socially alienated? Not in the way Abrahams and others suggest, and certainly this one occurrence is not an example of continual usage. Russell says the Church has no part in the world’s social upheavals and essential sinfulness. But the Church has an obligation to the world to uplift, to declare salvation, and to rebuke wrongdoing. Christians are not to approve of the world’s ways. This is not similar to the social alienation that led to the Haymarket affair or the Railroad Insurrection. This is a push for holiness.
            But what of Russell’s use of the word “isolated”? When using it of Watch Tower adherents, especially in the very early days, Russell meant those who were the lone believer in their area, not that they were otherwise isolated from their communities. An example is found in the October 1881 Watch Tower. Russell wrote an extensive report on the progress of Watch Tower evangelism “To strengthen and encourage the lonely and isolated ones.”[5] Reporting Communion observance in 1884, he touched on the small number of believers, using the word ‘isolated’: “In some places only two or three assembled, in others more, and some isolated individuals alone, but the general testimony is that the Master was present at least in spirit; and for aught we know was personally present.” Does this seem to be a reference to social isolation? Not to us. But, as we shall explore, their unique beliefs left them separated partly or wholly from the religious community. Again in 1884, Russell wrote:

It is comforting to those who stand isolated in their own neighborhood to realize this. There are many such isolated ones, and all have much the same experience –
in the world, tribulation; in Christ, peace. It is also a source of encouragement to learn that while we realize that the harvest is great the laborers are being multiplied, and that so far as we can learn, the saints are realizing their call to make known the glad tidings, and that though their talents be many or few they are not to be folded away in a napkin. We have learned that there are as many ways to preach the Gospel as there are talents among the saints.

We rejoice with all these that we have been so enabled to comprehend the Gospel as to find that out of the abundance of the heart our mouth must speak; that the love of Christ and the knowledge of his glorious truth constraineth us.

But while we thus rejoice together, we can but rejoice with trembling as we realize the secret, subtle, and persevering efforts of the Prince of this world to overcome the saints. No artifice or effort is left untried: Opposition, ridicule, rejection, flattery, false reasoning to disprove the truth, cares of this world, bribery with the good things of this world, and allurements of various kinds, are all used as the necessities of the individual cases may require.[6]

            This is within Christian experience. Early Methodists and Baptists, and First Century Christians all experienced isolation because of belief. Plymouth Brethren chose it for the sake of pure belief. The trials Russell described are common to those who live by New Testament standards. Some sociologists believe this is harmful. Adherents in this era felt the isolation, but the counter to it was suggested in this article. Because they were ‘true believers’, they were also evangelists, expressing their beliefs to others. There is no alienation in this. They were determined to speak as God would have them speak, to bring the gospel to any who would hear.
            Russell was aware of this dichotomy. Isolated from “worldly” belief and practice by the desire for holiness and divine approval, adherents also felt compelled to take the Gospel to others. Drawn on his experiences with Watch Tower believers, he wrote:

But where is this faithful Church to be found? – this people so set apart from the world, so faithful, so loyal and so true? – so ready always to recognize and accept the Lord's help? Does it gather here or there or yonder? and is God manifestly in the midst of its congregation as evidenced by its joyous songs and fervent prayers? Ah, no! it is a scattered flock; so much so that the world does not discover that there is such a people. The world knows them only as isolated and peculiar individuals who cannot assimilate even with the masses of those who bear the name of Christ. There is one in the quiet of country life whose chief interest is not in the harvest of his earthly crops, and who only plants and reaps thus that he may be able to devote himself so far as possible to the reaping of God's harvest. He has glorious tidings for his neighbors far and near, of the kingdom which is soon to be established in the earth. And there is a farmer's wife: in the midst of her busy cares the blessed sound of gospel grace has fallen on her ears. She feels at once like dropping the domestic duties and going abroad to tell the good news. But no; she remembers the Lord's teaching, that he that provideth not for his own house is worse than an unbeliever; and so she says, I will let my light shine here. These little ones around my feet shall learn to rejoice in the truth; my companion, my neighbors, my farm hands and all that I can reach through the mail or the press shall know of it; and all these domestic duties which I realize the Lord would not have me ignore shall henceforth be done with an eye single to his glory.

Here is an invalid and there is an aged saint. Their faith in the Word of God, regardless of the vain philosophies and traditions so commonly accepted, brings upon them many reproaches which are meekly born for Christ's sake, while they humbly endeavor to let their light shine upon those about them. And yonder in a crowded city are a few who dare to be peculiar – to separate themselves from the customs and habits of social life, to forego the pleasures and present advantages of former social ties, to speak the new and heavenly language, to sing their songs of hope and praise and by every agency within their grasp to send forth the glorious message of the coming kingdom. And then scattered far and near are some unencumbered with earthly cares and joyfully denying themselves, esteeming it a privilege to devote all their time and energy to the great harvest work. Yes, “the Lord knoweth them that are his,” and he is in the midst of them. He knows their loyalty to him and they know his voice and are ever ready to follow his leading. Thus no harm can overtake them. They will stand and not fall, and will in the end be crowned as victors. A thousand will fall at their side and ten thousand at their right hand in this day of trial, but they will be kept in the very midst of the wildest confusion. They may, as the trial proceeds and as the faint-hearted and unfaithful fall, be left to stand almost or entirely alone in their several localities; but then they will realize all the more the preciousness of being alone with God.[7]

            Strict adherence to Bible standards, no matter what the doctrine, has always produced something like this. It is hard for us to see Watch Tower adherents in the Russell era as social misfits in the same sense that those at the extremes of the labor movement and other disenfranchised groups were. Former slaves and their children, poor farmers, under-paid and abused laborers, shop girls who prostituted themselves because they were not paid a fair wage suffered from forces outside their control. Separation form ‘the world’ on a doctrinal and holiness basis was a choice. Put in Apostolic terms, either one served God or one was part of the world.
            In 1892, Russell wrote a commentary on the International Sunday School Lesson on the First Psalm. Russell said that the righteous man of Psalm One pictured “the man whose heart is perfected in holiness, the pure in heart.” This was “pre-eminently” a picture of Jesus, but “secondarily … of those … justified by faith … new creatures, walking in their Master's footsteps.” They were “sometimes imperfect” through fleshly weakness. The Psalm delineates “three steps” the righteous avoid: “(1) the ungodly – literally, the wicked, (2) sinners or transgressors, and (3) scorners or the conceited and unteachable.” “The proper course is to have no fellowship (sympathy and common interest) with people of any of these classes,” Russell wrote. He explained that this “not mean that we are to treat them unkindly or discourteously, nor that we are never to be seen walking, standing or sitting with such; but it does imply that our company should, as far as possible, be select, and of those who reverence our God, and that other fellowships should not be encouraged.”
Of the three types of wrong-doers Russell identified, he felt most would avoid the unquestionably wicked and common sinners. Most were “in danger of getting into fellowship with the scorners or unteachable.” Association with them would lead “to the same spirit, and that leads gradually to violation of the covenant with God; and that leads to open wickedness and willful sin.” The safe way is to have was to have “no fellowship with darkness: it is never profitable.” The principals in the first Psalm affected church affiliation:

In all the nominal churches there are many who have a form of godliness, but who are really ungodly – far from being in harmony with God and his plan. In the nominal churches are also many sinners, living in known violation of their covenant with God. And there, too, may be found, alas! sometimes even in the pulpits, those who are of an unteachable, haughty spirit, who even scoff at God's Word and make it void through their traditions. Come out from among them; and neither sit, nor stand, nor walk in fellowship with such. (Rev. 18:4; Isa. 52:11.) Stand with God, even if that should seem to imply standing alone. The Lord knoweth them that are his, and he has yet more than seven thousand who bow not to the idol of sectarianism.

            Obedience to principals of good fellowship brought happiness rather than isolation:

Some might suppose that one thus isolated would have an unhappy lot; but no, he is truly said to have a delightful experience. He delights day and night in meditating upon God's will and plan. In this he finds a joy and a peace which the world and a worldly church can neither give nor take away. One thus consecrated and full of the spirit of the Lord finds that God's laws of righteousness are not restraints which he would fain be freed from; but, like the Master, he can say, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: thy law is engraven in my heart.”

… Such children of God as have reached this degree of development do not wither away and become dead and barren, but, since the root of their new life is fed by the river of God's grace and truth, they are always fresh and joyous and fruitful--adding to faith virtue, brotherly kindness, love, and so are not unfruitful in either the knowledge or the wisdom which surely comes to all who have communion and fellowship with God. Whatsoever such do shall prosper. They have no plans of their own: they desire that God's will shall be done. And since God's plan shall prosper (Isa. 55:11), their plan shall prosper; for his is theirs.[8]

            Again we observe that this is not the disenfranchisement that Abrahams and others who take the same tack envision. It is engagement but on terms set by holiness. If the world is common and ungodly, it is not association of choice for Christians, but it is populated by those who need to hear the gospel and to whom Christians owe courteous behavior. Those historians and sociologists who take this mean Watch Tower adherents were disenfranchised and disgruntled misunderstand the religious spirit of the age.
            Samuel L. Beiler, a professor at Boston College, a Methodist institution, also wrote a commentary on this psalm suggesting much the same things as Russell did:

The scorners are those who make an open scoff at religion, and blaspheme and ridicule it. These … are as many now as in Psalmist’s day. They still have their ‘seat’ or assembly and form a deliberate confederacy in wickedness. To ‘sit’ in their ‘seat’ does not necessitate being an open-mouthed blasphemer, but may only imply a silent member of such a company, who in his own heard … harbors such feeling. Beware of mocking, ridiculing, scoffing, scorning sacred things. Such a spirit indicates a heart empty of good and of god, near to destruction. … The ungodly … will be as the chaff blown away by the wind. … In the great day of judgment the hearts that are like empty shells will be found wanting …[9]

            Those more modern writers who suggest that Watch Tower believers were especially alienated from the world are significantly out of touch with the religious spirit of the age. Watch Tower theology – on the issue of holiness and obligations to fellow men – fits directly into common religious belief. To return to Abrahams’ suggestions, we should note that the third term he suggested, “troubled,” does not seem to us to have been used in the sense he suggests. Since he cites no references, we cannot follow his research trail.
            Zion’s Watch Tower and traveling evangelists served as point of contact from the “twos and threes” and individuals. Hamilton Lincoln Gillis wrote to Russell from Preston County, West Virginia, after the Lord’s Memorial Supper in 1887, noting concern for the small groups. Russell printed it in the May Watch Tower:

I have the great pleasure to report a very interesting and profitable meeting, on the evening of the 7th inst., of a little company, sixteen in number, who “kept the feast” in remembrance of “our Passover, slain for us.” We remembered the more isolated ones, who were not so privileged; also the little bands of twos and threes, and companies like our own, here and there all over the earth. We prayed also for the dear brothers and sisters in Allegheny; and we doubted not that we were also remembered, and the assurance gave us courage and strengthened us in our glorious privilege. We all join in sending our love and sympathy to you and Sister Russell, and to all the dear household that are privileged to see you face to face.[10]

            Most of those who rejected a Literalist approach to the Bible removed themselves from the Watch Tower movement by 1887. The Literalist tradition is based on belief in the plenary inspiration of Scripture.          The Bible is an inerrant guide. Its prophecies have literal fulfillments. Watch Tower adherents saw themselves as part of a prophetic movement. For prophecy to be useful and at all reliable, the Bible must be absolutely true, not open to fanciful interpretations. It was its own interpreter. Richard Bernard, a 17th Century British Literalist expositor defined Literalist exegetical principals The goal was “to give … right exposition of the place, to judge of other mens [sic] interpretations, for approving of the best, for the redirecting of the worst, to examine aright also variety of readings and translations, in what sense to take words of divers significations; to make supply of Grammatical Ellipsis, yea to reconcile truly places which seem to disagree.” Among these principals was “laying Scripture to Scripture.” A successful exegete would place the scripture “in hand” with “other places, the clearer expounding the more obscure.” The Prophets “must be laid to the Law, and the New Testament to the Old; for the Prophets expound Moses, and the Apostles and Evangelists them both.” This was, he wrote, the searching of scripture commanded by Jesus and for which the Bereans are commended.[11] This belief, common to all Christendom at the start of the 19th Century, was in retreat.

View of Religion

            A committee report delivered to the thirtieth annual YMCA convention in October 1882 said Zion’s Watch Tower was “of doubtful character owing to its opposition to church organization.”[12] Russell, and Storrs before him, didn’t oppose organization at the local level, but they opposed denominational organization. They saw it as “Babylon,” the whore of Revelation, which they interpreted as nominal Christianity. Russell defined the True Church in the October 1882 Watch Tower.[13] His article, entitled “The Ekklesia,” addressed two issues: Barbour’s claim to divine appointment and the definition of the true church. Many falsely claimed to be the true Church of Christ:

To-day there are many organizations claiming to be the church, and having various bonds of  union; but we wish to know, upon the authority of God’s Word, what ekklesia, body, or church, Jesus established, and what are its bonds of union; secondly, we wish to show that every Christian should belong to that church; thirdly, the injurious effects of joining the wrong ekklesia or church; and fourthly, having joined the right church, what are the results of losing our membership.

The true church was organized by Jesus. It was “the little company of disciples who had consecrated earthly time, talents and life a sacrifice to God.” They were “members of one society” with “laws and government, and consequently a head or recognized ruling authority.” They were united by “bonds of love and common interest.” Jesus was their head, their captain. They shared “hopes, fears, joys and sorrows, and aims … and thus they had a far more perfect union of heart than could possibly be had from a union on the basis of any man-made creed.” It was an organization “of the Spirit;” their law was love and they were under the “law of the Sprit” as “expressed in the life, actions, and words of their Lord.”
This is an idealized view of First-Century Christianity. The unity of belief and sympathy Russell postulated often existed in the breach rather than in reality. He wrote about what should have been, rather than what was. Russell and Watch Tower adherents saw the True Church in as in contrast to denominational structure. Russell wrote:

Thus we see the early church organized, governed, and in perfect unity and harmony under the rulership or headship of Jesus. Contrast this church organization with what now affects to be a continuance of the same – viz.: the various denominational organizations, each of which binds its members to a mental union on the basis of some creed or dogma of its own (many of them anything but lovely) and each having its own laws.

These laws emanate from their heads, or rulers and law-givers; so it is clearly seen that these present day churches, have and recognize as heads, or directing, ruling powers over them, the ancient founders of their various creeds, each contradicting the other, while their clergy, in conferences, councils, synods and presbyteries, variously interpret and enforce the “traditions of the elders” which “make void the Word of God.” These take the place of the true head of the church – Jesus – and the true teacher and guide into all truth, the Holy Spirit. … And the whole nominal system is described in the Revelation as “Babylon” – confusion – Papal mother and Protestant daughters. Will they own this to be so? No, for the lukewarm nominal church of today believes herself to be rich and increased with goods, having need of nothing; not knowing that she is wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:17.) …

The True Church is composed of those “fully consecrated to the doing of our Father’s will, amenable only to Christ’s will and government, recognizing and obeying none other.” It is the composite of all “saints” from the beginning of “the Gospel Age … to its close.” Jesus is “the head and ruler of the entire living church, and in every assembly where two or three meet in his name he is the head, ruler, and teacher.” Jesus teaches “by using one or more of those present as exercising the qualities of the head, or teacher; by using one or more of those present as His mouthpiece in unfolding truth, strengthening faith, encouraging hope, inspiring zeal, etc.” Russell saw himself and others prominent in the movement in this role; they functioned “just as the head of your body can call upon one member to minister to another.” He cautioned prominent preachers, saying:

If one becomes as useful an instrument as a right hand, he should take care that he aspire not to become the head. Be not puffed up; pride will paralyze and render useless. “Be not ye called Rabbi (master, teacher) for one is your master (head) even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” And let not the least member despise his office, “for if all were one member, where ere the body?” “Nay, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary”  “God hath set the members every one of them, in the body as it hath pleased him.” ….

It is evident that if you have given up all your will, talent, time, etc., you are recognized by Jesus as a follower, and member of the ekklesia, or body of which he is the head. But says one: Must I not join some organization on earth, assent to some creed, and have my name written on earth? No; remember that Jesus is your pattern and teacher, and neither in his words nor acts will you find any authority for binding yourselves with creeds and traditions of the elders, which all tend to make the word of God of none effect, and bring you under a bondage which will hinder your growth in grace and knowledge … . But say some: If it is not proper to unite with any of the present nominal churches, would it not be well to form a visible organization of our own? Yes, this is what we have – an organization modeled after that of the early church. We think we have come back to primitive simplicity. The Lord Jesus alone is our head or lawgiver; the Holy Spirit is our interpreter and guide into truth; our names are all written in heaven; we are bound together by love and common interest.

Do you inquire – how shall we know one another? We reply, how could we help knowing one another when the Spirit of our Master is made manifest in word and act, and manner and look? Yes, the living faith, the unfeigned love, the long-suffering meekness, the childlike simplicity coupled with the constancy and zeal of maturity, make manifest the sons of God, and we need no earthly record, for the names of all such are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

            Members of the True Church visit the sick, finance the Lord’s work, are willing to “sacrifice reputation” and suffer “the reproach of the world and a degenerate nominal church.” Russell addressed the issue of the “disorderly” among them. Some sought organization to confront the issue. His reply was: “If we have no organization such as we see about us, how can we free ourselves from such, as the Lord requires us to do? We answer: Do just as Jesus and Paul directed.” There are, he wrote, “various degrees of advancement among the individual members, and Paul says (1 Thes. 5:14,) some are feeble-minded, comfort them; some are weak, support them; but while you should be patient toward all, warn the disorderly (those who are drifting away from the true spirit of Christ). Don’t mistake the disorderly for the weak, and comfort them; nor for the feebleminded, and support them.” He advised applying Matthew 18:15, 18.
Christ’s church “has its evangelists, pastors and teachers appointed and directed by the Lord.” There was no Apostolic Succession, but they were anointed by Holy Spirit to preach. He restated the General Priesthood of All Believers doctrine, writing that Jesus has “all the members of the body to preach …, and it is the duty of every member of the body to exercise his office for the edification of the other members.”
Russell seldom concisely explained doctrines such as this. He believed direct statements tended to close ears. So it is not surprising if one finds this article prolix. Put bluntly, Russell rejected creedal churches because they were populated by those who proved false to their obligations to God and their brethren. Churches were worldly and not spiritual. Their creeds stifled scriptural inquiry, and they rejected his key doctrines. Most of this article considers mutual obligations. It is commentary on the post Civil War shift in to secular interests and the adoption of misunderstood Darwinism with its idea of human progress that muted the need for Redemption. Teachers were known by their subjection to Christ. Substituting oneself for Christ, as he believed Barbour had done, marked one as outside the fellowship. At the article’s end he retuned to the contrast between the true and the false church:

How complete is the organization of the church of Christ with its heaven-written, love-bound and Spirit-ruled membership, and how sad the error of mistaking the nominal for the real church! … It would indeed, be a dreadful calamity to lose our membership in the true church or body of Christ. And no member is out of this danger except when keeping a vigilant watch over the old nature, counted dead, lest it come to life again, and assert itself in the form of pride, selfishness, envy, evil-speaking – or what not? But if filled with love (the love that prompts to sacrifice) and clothed with humility, and under cover of the redeeming blood, we are safe in the church (body), having the assurance that it is our “Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.” …

We may have our names cast out as evil by those of the nominal church, and yet “rejoice and be exceeding glad because our names are written in heaven.” They may frown upon you and despitefully use you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, or they may seek to win you back by flattery, saying they cannot afford to lose your influence – you could do so much good by remaining among them. Oh, how necessary in this “evil day” is the faith – That bears unmoved the world’s dread frown, Nor heeds its flattering smile; That seas of trouble cannot drown, Nor Satan’s arts beguile.”[14]

            Belief in the guidance by Holy Spirit is New Testament doctrine, and it was characteristic of Christian sects, especially the socially conservative, in this era. It remains so among Christians who truly believe. For instance, The Christian Workers Magazine, published by Moody Bible Institute, issued a call for world-wide prayer signed by prominent clergy, among them James Gray, Robert Russell, A. T. Robertson and R. A. Torrey.  The believed, said their joint letter, that they “were led by the Spirit of God to make this recommendation.”[15]
Early in 1883 someone asked Russell: “Would not an earnest, aggressive organization (or sect), built upon scriptural lines, be the best means of spreading and publishing the real Good Tidings? We must have fellowship and sympathy. Union is strength. It is not the skirmishers that win the battle, but the disciplined and solid battalions.” Russell suggested otherwise:

We believe that a visible organization, and the adopting of some particular name, would tend to increase our numbers and make us appear more respectable in the estimation of the world. The natural man can see that a visibly organized body, with a definite purpose, is a thing of more or less power; therefore, they esteem the various organizations, from which we have come out, in obedience to the Master’s call. But the natural man cannot understand how a company of people, with no organization which they can see, is ever going to accomplish anything. As they look upon us, they regard us simply as a few scattered skirmishers – a “peculiar people” – with very peculiar ideas and hopes, but not worthy of special notice.

But, though it is impossible for the natural man to see our organization … we trust that you can see that the true Church is most effectually organized, and in the best possible working order …. The Apostle Paul urges all to unity of faith and purpose (Phil. 3:15, 16 – Diaglott.) All led by the same Spirit may and do come to a knowledge of the same truth. Under our Captain, all the truly sanctified, however few or far separated in person, are closely united by the Spirit of Christ, in faith, hope and love; and, in following the Master’s command, are moving in solid battalions for the accomplishment of his purposes. …

Recognizing this organization, which is of the Spirit, and desiring no assimilation whatever with the worldly, who cannot see or understand it, we are quite willing to bear the reproach of a peculiar people. We always refuse to be called by any other name than that of our Head – Christians – continually claiming that their can be no division among those continually led by his Spirit and example as made known through his Word.

We disown none of our Lord’s dear children. The weakest child of the household of faith (in Christ, our Redeemer) we gladly recognize as our brother. Some, in ignorance of their privilege of the communion of saints, are mixed with the various worldly organizations, to their great detriment. Though we cannot follow them there, we gladly welcome them when they come among us. …[16]

            Much as Campbellites had before them, Watch Tower adherents saw themselves as restored to New Testament doctrine and practice. This gave them a distinct identity. Russell addressed this in October 1883 with an article entitled “Our Sect.”
Russell referred to Webster’s definition of “sect” as “A part cut off,” “Hence a body of  persons who have separated from others by virtue of some special doctrine, or set of doctrines, which they hold in common.” They were a “sect,” he wrote, “since we hold to a set of doctrines delivered to the saints by Jesus and the Apostles, and since we separate and cut ourselves off from all other religious jurisdiction and control.” Citing Ephesians 5:11 and 2 Corinthians 6:17, he said were “separate from sinners” and had “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” Their distinctive standing before God was based on their obedience and on a restored, pure doctrine: “We obey the Lords command, ‘Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you …’ In doctrine we hold firmly to the glad tidings preached by Jesus and explained by the Apostles, and will receive none other.” Ransom by Christ’s blood was the underlying truth, “and built upon it, is our realization that we are justified and cleansed from all sin in Gods sight, by his … sin-sacrifice.” All who accept of their share in this atoning sacrifice are properly termed Christians, he wrote.
            While the early church progressed beyond first principals to “strong meat” a “comprehension … of the deep things of God,” “babes in Christ” are part of the true church. Russell said this brought responsibility to the spiritually stronger to support the week: “The more advanced in grace and doctrine bore the infirmities of the weak, each and all seeking to grow in grace and knowledge more and more.” Division entered the body of Christ when apostolic rule lapsed. (Russell cited 1 Cor. 11:18, 19)
Christians are separated from the word, separate from sinners, “separate from all others in that they accept of Jesus and salvation through his blood.” While “there should be no schism or division” (He cited 1 Cor. 12:25), “it is not remarkable” that Satan sought to divide the sheep, to put up denominational fences that hinder some “from following the Shepherd into green pastures of fresh and living truth.” Russell found it strange that Satan can “fetter the reason of so many, that they should think it a mark of spirituality to say, I am of Luther, a Lutheran; I of Calvin and Knox, a Presbyterian; I of Wesley, a Methodist” in the face of Paul’s question: “Is Christ divided?” Paul marked such divisions as an expression of a carnal mind. “Did Paul or Peter or Knox or Calvin or Wesley or anyone else than Christ die for your sins and redeem you?” Russell asked.  It is improper to name the Bride of Christ “after any other than the Bridegroom.”
            Russell wrote that “God cannot and does not sympathize with or recognize any split in the real church. He does not recognize the narrow creeds in which so many of the sheep are confined and starving.” Unfaithful teachers who bind the sheep in creedal pens will be “bound and beaten with stripes.”[17]
            Early Watch Tower adherents objected to denominational creeds because they focused Bible study into a narrow, predetermined focus. Their existence made it difficult to reason with those who saw the creed as strong scripture, a wall in front of error. Russell said as much when replying to a question about Restitution and final punishment doctrine: “We claim that … only the strong prejudice of early training hinders Christians from seeing” matters as he saw it. “Only this prejudice and training leads any one to suppose that God will punish willful sin with a life of torment when he positively declares, ‘The wages of sin is death’ (cessation of life), and that ‘all the wicked will he destroy.’”[18]

Fellowships and Congregations

            Two issues attached to the earliest congregations and small fellowships: Their self identity, and how outsiders identified them. Russell and many of his earliest associates came from traditions that rejected any name but Christian. They saw sectarianism as of the Devil. That left them nameless. Augustus Bergner told The New York Sun that he belonged “to a company of Christians who have no common name. We are not Second Adventists, and we are not the ‘Holiness’ or “Higher Life’ sect.”[19]
Most if not all early fellowships met in homes. When Frank Draper, an early-days evangelist spoke at Glens Falls, New York, it was in the home of W. H. Gildersleeve, who was willing to invite the public into his home.[20] H. Samson, for a while a Watch Tower evangelist, seldom spoke in a public facility. A newspaper noted that “most of his meetings … have been held in the parlor of some member of the church.”[21] There are many other examples of home-churches, but most of that history is more suitable for the third book in this series.
Individual congregations experimented with names. Before the publication of The Plan of the Ages, groups were so small that they left little record. Most of the congregational names that have come down to us are from outside the period we cover in these two volumes, but we should note some examples. The newly-formed congregation at Salem, Oregon, called themselves “The Church of the Living God,” a Biblical phrase. They met in the Women’s Christian Temperance Hall.[22] Believers in Akron, Ohio, organized regular meetings in late 1902. A representative told a reporter that they “may be called Dawn Students, or member of the Church of the Living God.” Their meetings were held in the homes of members.[23] The Watch Tower congregation in Grants Pass, Oregon, also used the name.[24] The Cedar Rapids congregation used it too, as did the congregation in Saratoga, New York W. Hope Hay, a Watch Tower representative, used it as well.[25] In Cortland, New York, they called themselves the Church of the Living God and Church of the Little Flock.

The Courtland, New York, Standard
November 29, 1902.

Though Church of the Living God was appealing because it is scriptural, it was used by a politically radical Black church, and Watch Tower congregations distanced themselves from the name.
When the Scranton, Pennsylvania, congregation was formed they used the name The Watch Tower Bible Class. Meetings were held in the home of George W. Hessler.[26] When Russell spoke there, the press release used drawn out phrasing laden with adjectives: “Readers and students of the ‘Millennial Dawn’ series and all others who are interest in the subject of the pre-millennial advent.” A meeting-time announcement for the Richmond, Virginia, congregation called them Believers in the Dawning Millennium. They met Sundays in Marshal Hall on East Broad Street.[27] The announcement did not capitalize as we have, and the name seems more of a description of belief than a title. Using some form of “Millennial Dawn” in advertisements resulted on some calling them “Millennial Dawners.”[28]
            In Albany, New York, Believers in the Restitution met in Fredrick J. Clapham’s home at 288 First Street. Earlier, at least one meeting was held in a “Bro. Fletcher’s home.”[29] Elsewhere the name Millennial Dawn Readers was used.[30] In Omaha, Nebraska, a newspaper called them Believers, without saying what they believed.[31]
            Outsiders were pressed to find descriptors. When Samuel Williams, one of the organizers of the Huston, Texas, congregation preached there in 1903, The Huston Daily Post described the movement as “those of Mr. Williams’ faith,” attaching no other name. Earlier The Post described it as Millennial Dawn faith.[32] This difficulty continued for some years. In 1909 someone asked Russell: “By what name would you suggest that the local classes advertise their meetings, so as to avoid the confusion of a multiplicity of titles, such as: “Millennial Dawn, “Believers in the Atonement,” “Believers in the Precious Blood, “Bible Students,” etc.” Russell’s answer is illuminating:

It is a difficult matter to know how to advertise, not for ourselves, but difficult to keep from being misunderstood by the people. “Church of God”; “Church of the Living God”; “Church of Christ.” Any of those names would suit us very well, and we would have no objections to them, but we find that there are various denominations who have appropriated those titles, not that we think they have a right to apply them to themselves, but we would like to live in peace. It is a difficult matter to decide, and each class will have to do that for themselves.[33]

            In his view they were to body of Christ, and while true sheep may be found within other churches, the various denominations were not of the Body of Christ. They were false religions.

Clergymen and Lay Preachers

            From the earliest days some clergy were attracted to the Watch Tower message. As we observed in volume one, abandoning previous affiliation was difficult because it meant giving up regular income. So we meet two classes of clergy: Those who suffered the consequences of their faith, and those who flirted with the message, believing all or part of it, but who did not become adherents. We should profile some of these.

J. W. Ferrell

            Sometime near July 1883, a Baptist minister from Pittsburg, Texas was “excluded” from the church for teaching Watch Tower doctrines. Baptists in Texas were a fractious lot, inclined to oppose each other and embroiled in a test of influence and wills. The General Association meeting in Pittsburg in 1879 issued a glum report:

The reports … showed a very discouraging condition …. Nothing had been prosperous. … There was great want of harmony and co-operation. Great complaints had been raised against the methods of the General Association as being partisan, and too much dominated by Waco University and the paper now called the Texas Baptist. A meeting had been held at Plano on July 3. and resolutions voicing these complaints and this dissatisfaction had been adopted.

            A report made to the 1883 General Association conference suggested that Baptist churches were deeply troubled, “that associations have been divided in counsel, some rent asunder; churches have been torn by factions, and brethren alienated, and strife engendered.” [34] While the expulsion of this minister must be understood within the context of Baptist pugnaciousness, there were sufficient doctrinal differences between Baptists and Zion’s Watch Tower adherents to overheat any Baptist. The minister’s identity is uncertain. He is not named in The Watch Tower. There are some clues, however. The American Baptist Year-Book for 1870 names a J. W. Ferrell as pastor in Pittsburg.[35]

Powell Samuel Westcott

            In 1885 Powell Samuel Westcott, a Baptist deacon prominent in the Potsdam, New York, area, was also expelled for embracing Restitution doctrine “as taught by Brother C. T. Russell.” We know more about Westcott then we know of the Baptist preacher at Pittsburg, Texas. Wescott was born in Charlotte, Vermont, April 29, 1821. He served in the 244th New York Regiment as a non-commissioned officer from which he was honorably discharged on August 21, 1846. He was for a period a cheese, lard, and butter merchant in Boston. In the 1859 he moved to Potsdam, establishing a music business and teach vocal music at the Potsdam Normal School, now the State University of New York at Potsdam. He was for a few years superintendent of the Baptist Sunday School in Potsdam.[36] His obituary said he was “for many years an active member of the Baptist church.” It does not mention his association with Zion’s Watch Tower, but describes him as “a man of strong religious convictions and … and earnest and intelligent student of the Bible … a man of integrity, faithful in business and an upright citizen.” Westcott died January 3, 1893, and C. E. Bacom, a Baptist clergyman officiated.
We do not know where or how he encountered Zion’s Watch Tower. His story is not told in the Watch Tower, but in a letter from J. W. Brite to J. H. Paton. Brite says that he “was expelled from his denomination for heresy.” Though Brite was introduced to Paton’s writing through him, Westcott did not advocate Universalism.[37] We don’t know how enduring his association with Watch Tower belief was, but he was willing for his conviction to be expelled from the Baptist fellowship. We suspect that the Baptist funeral was held at the request of his wife Phebe Ann who seems to have not shared his beliefs.[38]

Joseph Dunn

Sympathetic clergy were faced with hard choices, and not all took a firm stand or openly expressed their beliefs. A Mrs. H. F. Duke of New York City wrote to Russell in September 1901 expressing her concern for “the spiritual welfare of Bro. Joseph Dunn.” She described him as “the one whom the Lord used as a helping hand to lead [her] into the light.” Russell returned her letter, saying he was “glad” that she was “solicitous for his welfare, and seeking to counsel with hand encourage him to the taking of right steps to place himself fully on the Lord’s side in every sense of the word.” He expressed some sympathy for Baptists, Disciples and Congregationalists because they were “more independent” than most. But he warned Mrs. Duke (in a subsequent letter he addresses her as “Sister Duke.”) that Dunn faced difficult decisions:

I think Bro. Dunn, or any of us, would be justified in viewing such a congregation from the standpoint of its own claims, so that if its confession of faith were satisfactory to us, and if it agreed to give us full liberty of expression, we might consider it as one of the true congregations of the Lord. However, it would be most remarkable, under present conditions, if such a congregation should take such a stand and should maintain it for any length of time. Here will come the real test upon Bro. Dunn – whether or not he will preach the Gospel at any cost. If he does I am almost sure as that he lives that it will ere long mean a rupture between himself and the congregation and a sundering of their relationship as pastor and hearers. Indeed, I cannot see how any but spiritually minded people can accept the Gospel in the light of present truth as it is now shining. … I advice that you counsel him in every way to faithfulness, for certainly the Lord’s tests upon his minister are more crucial than upon the general average believer, and we all agree that it ought to be, for they have much advantage every way over the so-styled laity.[39]

            Joseph Dunn was a Baptist clergyman active in Hague and in Glens Falls, New York. He was a popular preacher whose sermons were well attended, one report saying that his meetings were “very interesting” and the congregation large with nearly every seat occupied. Whatever interest in Watch Tower doctrine he had was insufficient, and he did not change his public doctrine. In April 1903 he was by unanimous vote of the congregation reappointed pastor of the Baptist Church at Hague.[40]

William Davis Williams

In the mid-1880s William Davis Williams (c. 1849 – 1918) was a “backwoods country” Baptist clergyman, school teacher and farmer. He described himself as “full of zeal and earnestness” traveling the back country on foot for he was “a poor country school teacher and owned no horse.” He felt responsible for others’ salvation and preached a fiery message: “I was a strong believer in the eternal torment doctrine, and the thought of sinners dying in their sins and plunged into an everlasting hell of torment, cause me to suffer with awful fear, and dread that through my neglect or carelessness some would die in their sins though lack of hearing the Word.”[41]
Some of his views conflicted with more conservative elements among the Baptist fellowship. He preached against sectarianism and maintained pleasant fellowship with people from other denominations: “I loved a good Methodist, Episcopalian or Presbyterian … and sometimes I boldly denounce those divisions as not in harmony with … Scripture. Some of our rigid brethren wanted to have me disciplined and brought to order for preaching ‘unsound doctrine,,’ but the majority stood by me.”[42]

Someone sent him a sample copy of Zion’s Watch Tower, and he found its theology agreeable until he realized its editor rejected Hell-Fire doctrine. He was shocked:

I was delighted to find the Scriptures so beautifully opened up, giving me clearer light than any religious literature I had ever read before. But hold! What is this the editor is teaching? No hell of torment – why, Christ Himself taught that the rich man died and went to hell, and while in torment, he besought Father Abraham to send Lazarus to dip his fingers in water to cool his fiery sufferings! How can Bro. Russell thus condemn the very language of Jesus? I immediately sat down and wrote Pastor Russell a good lengthy letter, giving an account of myself and the pleasure and help I obtained from his teachings; in conclusion I denounced his error in teaching that there is no hell of torment. “By whose or what authority do you dare to make yourself wiser than Chrsit himself?” I demanded to know.

            Russell wrote back, praising his zeal and commending his “close Scripture studies.” “Go on, Bro. Williams,” Russell wrote, “continue to feed on the pure Word, prayerfully and earnestly, and you will come to a knowledge of the truth, as it is in Christ Jesus, and not the traditions of men.” Russell ignored Williams’ demand and “never mentioned hell.” Williams’ was disappointed, concluding that, “He (Russell) can’t answer my question, therefore he ignores it.”
            Russell continued to send Zion’s Watch Tower and “many tracts on various subjects.” When The Plan of the Ages was published, he sent that too. Russell’s patience and message slowly altered his views:

I continued in the Baptist ministry, preaching the truth, as I saw it then, with the exception of the subject of future punishment, and I began to have my doubts on that subject; but having been reared from infancy in that horrible doctrine, it required time and strong convictions of the truth to overcome it.

Thanks to God, I was not left to grope in the darkness of Popish errors, but eventually the teaching of dear Bro. Russell convinced me beyond the least flickering doubt, and I could have shouted for joy. Oh, what a terrible burden was lifted from mind and heart! I thought that from then on I could preach the true gospel with such convincing power, until all men would receive it gladly and rejoice with me in the glad tidings of salvation which is to all people.

            He “began to realize that the dividing time had come.” Williams tendered his resignation to the church at Sandy Creek, Florida. They were reluctant to accept it. The asked him to stay. He recalled it this way:

“Why should you leave us?” they asked. “Is that treating us just and right? Can’t you go on and preach the Bible as you have light, without introducing subjects of doubtful decision, that only create confusion and distress?” And I would hold on awhile longer, praying all the time for light – more light.

            Not everyone in Sandy Creek Church was happy with the compromise. “Persecution arose in the church,” he wrote. Whoever was unhappy took the matter to the Sandy Creek Baptist Association, the governing agency for Baptists in Holmes County, Florida, and Geneva County, Alabama. Two issues worked against him: What he believed though did not teach in the church and jealousy over his reputation and status within the Sandy Creek Association. A. J. Huggins, pastor of the Cerro Gordo, Florida, church led the assault. The Sandy Creek Association’s Minute Book contains the only record outside of William’s own memoir:

Whereas, It having reached the care of this Association that Sandy Creek church did in the year 1881, call a presbytery and ordain W. D. Williams, and give him full liberty to preach the Gospel and administer all the church ordinances, said church knowing said Williams to be unsound in the Baptist faith all of which we deem to be unscriptural and disorderly. Resolved there for that she stand thus charged, November 4th, 1882.[43]

            A committee of nine, Association clergy and prominent adherents, were chosen to examine the charge. A meeting was scheduled for Sandy Creek Church for “Saturday before the third Sunday in July 1883.”

Nancy C. Hudgings (1857-1922) of Ash Grove, Missouri, was introduced to the Watch Tower in 1894 and was soon sharing what she read. Her obituary reports the result: “When Sister Hudgings first began to read the truth she forthwith put her light upon a candlestick in stead of under a bushel, with the result that she was immediately excommunicated from the Baptist church, even before she had read enough to comprehend the call to ‘come out of her, my people.’”[44]
Mrs. Hudgings became a zealous worker, taking “her place along side the other members of the little ecclesia of which she was a member each time there was a call for service.” Her obituary called her a “faithful saint.” W. F. Hudgings, her son, eventually became a director of the People’s Pulpit Association, now the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York.

Internal Issues

[guidance issues here]
            A problem some of our readers will find familiar was boredom. Most early adherents were not accomplished speakers. Ratiocination did not characterize most believers. Some meetings were rambling discussions full of disagreement and doctrinal divergence. One unnamed “Brother” observed: “I find that in our meetings where we have a talk, a discourse, by one of the brethren, that circumstances must be very favorable if there are not some sleepy heads in the house – and even sometimes when we have a pilgrim with us this is the case.”[45]


            Dissension was not uncommon. It arose on several grounds. Those with similar, but ultimately opposition views attended Watch Tower meetings. Some swayed by Barbour continued to attend Watch Tower meetings simply because there was nowhere else to go. Paton’s adherents were increasingly small in number, often having no meetings of their own. They attended Watch Tower meetings, using them to spread Paton’s universalist ideas. We discuss it more fully elsewhere, but we note here that beginning at least in 1882, Paton prepared booklets and tracts that went out primarily to Watch Tower readers. The earliest of these known to us was a thirty-two page booklet reprinting chapter four and part of chapter five of the ‘revised’ edition of Day Dawn.[46] As long as the meetings included those with opposition beliefs, opposition literature made its way into the fellowship and colored group discussions.

[1]              Watchtower Writer: Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnessed -  Part 2 – Small Beginnings (1879-1889), The Watchtower, January 15, 1955, page  47.
[2]              J. Wigley: The Rise and Fall of Victorian Sunday, Manchester University Press, 1977, pages 33-35.
[3]              E. H. Abrahams: Charles Taze Russell and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, American Studies, Spring 1977, page 61.
[4]              C. T. Russell: Prepare Ye for the Kingdom, The Watch Tower, January 15, 1912, pages 32-33.
[5]              C. T. Russell: In the Vineyard, Zion’s Watch Tower, October/November 1881, page 5.
[6]              C. T. Russell: View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1884, page 1.
[7]              C. T. Russell: God is in the Midst of Her, Zion’s Watch Tower, August 1891, pages 108-109.
[8]              C. T. Russell: The King of Zion, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 15, 1892, pages 90-91.
[9]              Beiler’s commentary is found in: Boston Homilies: Short Sermons on the International Sunday School Lessons for 1892, page 113ff.
[10]            Letter from H. L. Gillis to Russell, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1887, page 8. [Not in reprints.] Gillis was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 1836 to Ander and Isabelle Gillis. About 1857 he married Isabel Crawford. They had four children. During the Civil War he served as a private in the 6th Regiment, West Virginia Cavelry (Union).  Though some online genealogies say he died in 1916, he died in 1906. Gillis traveled to Austraila in the late 1890s to mine for opals. On his return, they were stolen from him by an Aleck Cramer. [Swindled by his Friend, San Francisco Call, March 10, 1898] He returned to West Virginia.
[11]            Richard Bernard: The Faithful Shepherd, London, 1606, pages 28-29.
[12]            Associated as Christians: Buffalo, New York, Evening News, October 11, 1882.
[13]            C. T. Russell: The Ekklesia, Zion’s Watch Tower¸ October 1882, page 5.
[14]            He quotes from they hymn “O For a Faith that Will Not Shrink” by W. H. Bathurst.
[15]            A Call for World-Wide Prayer, The Christian Workers Magazine¸ March 1917, page 529.
[16]            C. T. Russell: Questions and Answers, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1883, page 6.
[17]            The article “Our Sect” is found on page 3 of the October 1883 issue.
[18]            C. T. Russell: Questions and Answers, Zion’s Watch Tower¸ October/November 1882, page 8.
[19]            Churchgoers Astonished: The New York Sun, August 15, 1881.
[20]            Extracts from the Bible, The Glens Falls, New York, Morning Star¸ November 11, 1897. According to the 1870 Census, William H. Gildersleeve was born in New York about 1842, or according to the 1892 New York State Census he was born near 1837. [Census record birth dates often conflict.] He seems to have been related to H. H. Gildersleeve, a cigar manufacturer in Glens Falls. In April 1884, a devastating fire broke out in rental space in a building he owned. [New York Times, April 29, 1884.] A newspaper article [Glens Falls Morning Star¸ January 22, 1895] notes him as prominent in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
[21]            Untitled notice, The Washington, D. C., Evening Star, August 18, 1900.
[22]            All Are Welcome to Attend, Salem, Oregon, Daily Capital Journal, November 2, 1900.
[23]            Dawn Students, a New Religious Sect, In Akron, The Akron, Ohio, Daily Democrat, January 17, 1902.
[24]            Free Lecture, The Grants Pass, Oregon, Rogue River Courier, March 17, 1904. The announcement was inserted by J. O. Sandberg. His first name may have been John. We are uncertain at this time.
[25]           Untitled notice: Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Evening Gazette, March 20, 1901. Untitled notice: The Ithaca, New York, Saratogan¸ January 18, 1902.
[26]            Hessler was born in Pennsylvania about 1848. The 1880 Census tells us that he was widowed. He subsequently remarried. He was a cabinet maker, and later a contractor. Advertisements for his business appear in the Scranton Tribune [eg. October 7, 1898, and June 5, 1899 issues] advertising his remodeling, cabinet and flooring business.]
[27]            The Millennium, The Richmond, Virginia, Times, June 7, 1902.
[28]            C. T. Russell: Sermon by Pastor Russell, The Bolivar, New York, Breeze, March 11, 1915.
[29]            His Second Coming, The Albany, New York, Evening Journal, May 28, 1900. Various New York State Census records tell us Clapham was born in England between 1833 and 1834. He was a shoemaker. We do not know to what degree Clapham was interested in the Watch Tower message. A newspaper report from 1906 noted that he faithfully attended the Tabernacle Baptist Church “every Sunday but one in seven years.” [Albany Evening Journal, June 11, 1906.] We cannot identify Fletcher.

[30]            Notice, The Minneapolis, Minnesota, Journal, February 18, 1905.
[31]            Untitled notice, The Omaha, Nebraska, Daily Bee, August 23, 1899.
[32]            Untitled notice, The Huston, Texas, Daily Post, May 29, 1901; Evangelist Sam Williams, February 22, 1903.
[33]            L. W. Jones [editor]: What Pastor Russell Said: His Answers to Hundreds of Questions, Chicago, 1917, pages 7-8.
[34]            Benjamin F. Fuller: History of Texas Baptists, Baptist Book Concern, Louisville, Tennessee, 1900, Pages 224-227.
[35]            Page 108.
[36]            Family history notes hosted on Rootsweb.
[37]            J. W. Brite: In Memoriam, The World’s Hope, February 15, 1892, page 61.
[38]            Westcott Obituary, The Potsdam, New York, Courier-Freeman, January 20, 1892.
[39]            Letter from C. T. Russell to Mrs. H. F. Duke dated October 3, 1901. Later letter mentioned above is dated November 2, 1901.
[40]            County and Vicinity New, The Glens Falls, New York Morning Star, September 26, 1903; Hague, Morning Star, April 3, 1903 and May 9, 1903; Untitled article in The Warrensburgh, New York, News, May 9, 1907.
[41]            W. D. Williams to Editor Saint Paul Enterprise found in the July 4, 1916, issue. Family Puzzlers, a genealogy paper, suggests (Nos. 585-636) that Williams was born William R. Davis, Jr. It is claimed that he was a lawyer in South Carolina sometime between 1870 and 1880, and that he killed a man. He subsequently moved to Florida changing his name to William Davis Williams. We cannot verify any of that.
[42]            W. D. Williams to Editor, Saint Paul Enterprise found in the July 4, 1916, issue. Unless otherwise noted, this material all comes from his letter.
[43]            Sandy Creek Baptist Association Minute Book as found in the Florida Baptist Historical Society Archives, Graceville, Florida.
[44]            Death Notices: Nancy C. Hudgings, 79, The New Era Enterprise¸ January 24, 1922.
[45]            1910 Convention Report.
[46]            Announcements: The World’s Hope¸ July 1884, page 152. The title appears to be Good News for All.