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FROM WHERE DID PASTOR RUSSELL GET HIS BELIEFS? Part 1 – His Contemporaries

Pastor Russell never claimed to be the originator of Bible Truths.  He was a good investigator and we suggest that Jehovah put him in contact with the right people to piece together and assemble the complete Truth that had been gradually getting clearer since the time of the Reformation.

This is quite an involved question, so we will break it down into parts.  The information provided in these parts comes from the book, “Pastor Russell – Founder of the Bible Students,” published by Bible Students Christian Classics:

In this first part, we will explain how some of Charles Taze Russell’s contemporaries influenced his thought.

Jonas Wendell ( –1873 d.)

An Advent Christian minister based in Allegheny in the late 1860s.  Prominent in the “1873/74 Time Movement” (a group in the Advent Christian Church, who predicted the literal return of Christ in 1873-74).

Wendell left Allegheny for Edenboro, PA, by 1870. His booklet “Present Truth or Meat in Due Season” pointing to 1874 was published in 1870 from Edenboro.

[Note from Peter:  In 1869, the 17 year old Charles Taze Russell’s interest in the Bible is rekindled when he starts attending a Bible study lead by Jonas Wendell.  For the first time, Russell learns that man does not have an immortal soul and that unbelievers will not be tormented forever in hell.]

Dr. George W. Stetson (1814–1879)

Stetson studied with Br. Russell in Allegheny from 1870-1879.  He was a postmaster in Olena, Ohio, near Norwalk. Next he is mentioned as Dr. G. W. Stetson, a physician.  He practiced in New London, Ohio, from 1851 to 1855.  The statement was made that “he is now preaching the doctrine of the second coming of Christ in Pennsylvania.”

Stetson and Jonas Wendell both ministered to a congregation in Norwalk, Ohio, whose doctrines were adopted 1/18/1863:

1– Personal coming and reign of Christ on earth during Millennium.

2– At the beginning of which period the righteous dead will be raised, the living saints changed from mortal to immortality and will reign with Christ during thousand years.

3– The intermediate state between death and resurrection of both the righteous and wicked is that of unconsciousness.

4– Wicked raised at end of thousand years to mortal life and fall into second death, which will be extinction of being and eternal.

5– Some believe that all have “died in Adam” and will be raised in resurrection, that all who have lived and died in unavoidable ignorance, in this or previous dispensations, will then have opportunity of accepting or rejecting Christ in then their due time.

6– The belief in or rejection of these doctrines not test of fellowship.  Only test is Christian character.

7– Creed–Bible is only rule of faith and practice.

8– Practiced immersion baptism.

9– Organized into body corporate 8/3/1864.

(Stetson did not believe in 4, but believed in 5.)

Stetson wrote a letter in the 8/27/1872 Advent Christian Witness:

“It is now 10 months since I was called and came to Pittsburgh, PA…meeting …in Quincy Hall, …Allegheny…”

Jonas Wendell wrote a letter in the 4/23/1873 The World’s Crisis:

“Br. Grant: Since closing my labors with the NYS Mission Tent…my labor has been with the church in this place and in an adjoining county.  During the winter we had Br. G.W. Stetson of Ohio with us …for four weeks…The church in Edinboro… At the close of our protracted meetings, Br Stetson was invited by the church to take the pastoral charge of the same, which he consented to do……”

The “dingy hall” where Br. Russell first heard Wendell was very close to his retail store.  The address of Stetson’s meetings in Allegheny was Quincy Hall, 127 Leacock St, Allegneny, very possibly the same ‘dusty dingy hall’ where Br. Russell first heard Jonas Wendell.

Stetson very likely replaced Jonas Wendell in Allegheny from 1871-1873 and then moved to Edinboro for six years when Wendell died until near the time of his own death at 64, in 1879.  Br. Russell conducted Stetson’s funeral service.

George Storrs (1796-1879)

Storrs studied with Br. Russell in Allegheny from 1870-1879.

Storrs had been raised a Calvinist; at 19 joined the Congregational Church; at 29 in 1825 became a Methodist.  His anti-slavery teachings were opposed by the Methodist clergy and he withdrew in 1840 after 16 years.

Storrs received his conditionalist views in 1837 when, on railway coach, he found tract “The Intermediate State,” by “Deacon” Henry Grew of Philadelphia, with the Christian Connection.  After three years’ study, Storrs accepted the conditionalist views.  He wrote three letters, publishing them in 1841 under the title “An Enquiry: Are the Souls of the Wicked Immortal? In Three Letters.” [Peter’s note:  Conditionalism refers to conditional immortality, that immortal life is tied to belief in Christ and that the wicked will ultimately be annihilated, that is cease to exist.]

Storrs was drawn into the Second Advent movement and introduced conditionalism.  (Miller never accepted conditionalism.) For a time Storrs did not preach on the controversial theme.  Then he was invited to become pastor of an Albany NY congregation where his views were known.  On 1842 he spoke on them, carefully writing out the sermons.  Storrs was encouraged to and so published the sermons. This was the origin of the famous “Six Sermons” published in 1847.  By 1880 over 200,000 copies were circulated, including 10,000 in Britain.

A summary of Storr’s famous “Six Sermons”:

1. Indefeasible Immortality Involves Eternal Suffering

2. Supposed “Indestructibility” of Soul is Pure Assumption

3. Death Is Total Deprivation of Life

4. Perishing Is Ceasing to Exist

5. Death Is “Extinction of Conscious Being”

6. Fathers Mingled Philosophy with Words

7. Immortal-Soulism Derived from Platonism

8. No Evidence of “Eternal Sin and Suffering”

In 1843 Storrs started The Bible Examiner. Aug 29, 1863 the advocates of the “Life Only in Christ” teachings seceded from the Advent Christian denomination to establish The Life and Advent Union with Storrs elected president and

editor of new weekly publication, The Herald of Life and of the Coming Kingdom.  He temporarily suspended the publication of the Examiner.

Storrs had held the generally accepted teaching that the destiny of all would be unchangeably fixed at death.  By the end of 1871 he realized that this was a human tradition, unsupported by the Scriptures.  He was convinced that God was love and sent Jesus as a “ransom for all.”  To the vast majority of mankind that “due time” had not come in this life and it would, therefore, come in the future.

In withdrawing later from the Life and Advent Union, he announced that his study had convinced him that the non-elect would be raised from the dead and granted an opportunity to receive Christ.  He presented this concept in The Bible Examiner, which he began to publish again in 1871, and continued to publish faithfully until shortly before his death in 1879.

Joseph Russell, Br. Russell’s father, had been a subscriber to Storrs’ magazine “Herald of Life and the Coming Kingdom.” Storrs sent Pastor Russell his magazine, The Bible Examiner.

Storrs mentions “The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return” in The Bible Examiner, but did not accept the teaching that Jesus had come invisibly in his second advent.

Dr. Joseph A. Seiss (18231904)

A Lutheran Minister in Philadelphia who studied with Pastor Russell.

Seiss believed that Jesus was resurrected a spirit being (not with earthly body) and was not visible except at certain times when he manifested himself.  This view came from Henry Drummond who originated pre-tribulation rapture.

Seiss believed that “the glorified saints will to some extent mingle with those who live in the body and at times unveil their radiance to them..they will also be visible at least occasionally…” He believed the “entire world is to be restored” and that the Jews would return to their ancient homeland.

Nelson H. Barbour

Barbour was associated with Wendell and Storrs in the Second Advent Movement.  In 1876 Br. Russell received Barbour’s magaziine Herald in the Morning.  He read that Barbour also believed in the invisible return of Christ.  Br.

Russell understood object & manner of Christ’s return to be the restitution of all things.  He received the prophetic time and chronology from Barbour who got it from Adventists.

“Parousia” meaning “presence” was discovered in Benjamin Wilson’s DIAGLOTT by B.W. Keith, a reader of Herald in the Morning.

Barbour’s chronology came from Elliott, who gives credit to Bowen.  Bowen’s chronology is found in E.B. Elliott’s book HORAE APOCALYPTICAE (Hour of the Apocalypse) under “The Scriptural Chronology of the World.”  According to Elliott, credit for drawing up the chronology is given to a “Rev. C. Bowen, Rector of St. Thomas, Winchester.”

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