The information provided in these parts comes from the book, “Pastor Russell – Founder of the Bible Students,” published by Bible Students Christian Classics:
From “The Christian Connection” to the Miller Movement and Second Advent Movement
The great awakening of Adventism in the early 1800s was paralleled by an even more remarkable phenomenon–the Christian Connection. The Christians or Christian Connection is not to be confused with Alexander Campbell’s movement beginning later in 1829. Campbell’s Disciples in Christ and/or Christian Churches, despite their claim that the Bible was the sole authority of doctrine, shackled themselves with many of the errors of the mainline churches carried over from the “Dark Age” creeds.
The “Christians” or “Christian Connection” dared to challenge the creeds and challenge any clergy authority that stifled this liberty. Wearied with the creedal and ecclesiastical tyranny of Calvinism, the founders, Abner Jones and Elias Smith, began the exodus from the mainline churches of New England in 1802. A parallel exodus was taking place in the south.
They rejected Calvin’s predestination, the trinity, inherent immortality of the soul, and eternal torment. Elias Smith began the first religious newspaper in the United States in which he dealt extensively with prophecies concerning the second advent. He taught future probation in the Millennial Age, the restoration of the Jews to their land, and the need to “come out” of Babylon–the church-state denominations in New England.
The Christian Connection had no formal creed and granted freedom of belief to all. They insisted that Christian was the only correct name and consequently were frequently confused with Campbell’s Christian Church.
In 1833 there were 100,000 communicants and 300,000 who held their views. After 1846 they could not withstand the creedal pressure of the Evangelical alliance and gradually compromised their independent doctrinal stance until they merged with them.
Although Abner Jones and Elias Smith were founders, the doctrinal expounder of their new found Biblical truths of no trinity, no hell fire, no immortal soul, and future probation in the ages to come was Henry Grew. Thus, from Grew to Storrs to Russell, the Christian Connection was actually the origin of some of Br. Russell’s basic Biblical doctrines.
Many of the leaders in the Christian Connection, e.g., Joseph Marsh, Henry Grew, Joshua Himes, became active in the Miller Movement. Not necessarily because of a date, but because Miller was the man preaching the second advent of Jesus.
Brother Grew was an Arian Baptist preacher who joined with Elias Smith in revolting against the Baptists who supported the government in establishing holidays. Grew probably joined one of Smith’s first New England churches in about 1803. (This movement later developed into the Christian Connection, an anti-trinitarian revivalist movement.)
“Deacon” Grew brought Conditionalism to George Storrs in 1837 through his “Intermediate State” Tract, published in 1835. The tract gave scriptural proof that the soul is not capable of separate conscious existence; “unconsciousness” marks the period between death and resurrection; all future existence depends on resurrection; and “Future Felicity” begins at the Second Advent.
Grew’s tract on “Future Punishment. Not Eternal Life in Misery” proves no “immortal or deathless spirits;” and the Second Death not “interminable Miserable Existence.”
Elias Smith was the co-founder of the Christian Reformation Movement in New England. He had been prominent Baptist clergyman.
Within 15yrs (1801-1816) he and Abner Jones formed several churches which they called “Christian.” He published more than 60 books, pamphlets dealing with the pre-millennial reign of Christ, political and religious freedom, and published the first religious newspaper journal ever to appear in print in America.
Elias Smith held to his faith in the Age to Come; his belief in Christ as the only begotten Son of God; water immersion and adult baptism. It was he who first heralded in America the “restitution of all things.”
The Restitution Herald 1991 states that Elias Smith got his “Age to Come” (restitution) view from Grew.
Joseph Marsh (1802-1863)
Joseph Marsh and his followers questioned the biblical basis for any churchly organization. They saw the world’s history divided into four great epochs—the Mosaic age was the first, ending with Christ’s death. Christ’s resurrection opened the second, or Gospel age which would end with his return. This would usher in the Millennium, or third, age, the “age to come.” The Eternal age would begin at the close of the Millennium.
Marsh’s contention was that during the millennium all those who had never had an opportunity to respond to the Gospel would be given an opportunity to do so. He used Ezk 18:32 as positive proof that Sodom and Gomorrah and even the Jews that had done worse than they, were to have a second probation. Marsh also espoused the return of the Jews to Israel.
William Miller (1782-1849)
Miller was an American farmer who was converted to Christ in 1816. By using only the marginal references and Cruden’s Concordance in his Bible study of the prophecies, he became convinced that the coming of Christ was pre-millennial, that at the second advent would be a resurrection of all the dead in Christ who would be “caught up to meet the Lord in the air,” that the wicked would then be judged, the present heavens and earth be dissolved by fire and then regenerated as the inheritance of the redeemed, followed by the glorious reign of Christ and his saints, and the date of the return was near at hand.
In August 1831, he covenanted with God that “if I should have an invitation to speak publicly in any place, I will go and tell them what I find in the Bible about the Lord’s coming.” He received an invitation that day to preach to a nearby Dresden, N.Y., church the next day. It was the beginning of his public ministry. In 1833 Miller was given a license to preach by the Baptists, and by the close of 1834 his whole time was devoted to lecturing. From October 1834 to June, 1839, Miller gave 800 lectures on the imminent second advent.
In December 1839, Miller was invited by Joshua V. Himes, of the “Christian Connection” to speak in Boston. Himes immediately began promoting Miller’s doctrines and began a publication The Signs of the Times in 1840 and a daily paper the Midnight Cry in 1842 (10,000 copies published daily for many weeks; then became a weekly paper). In 1840 Miller began preaching in New York and by late summer a group of ministers called for a conference on the second coming of Christ. From 1840 onward, the movement was no longer centered in Miller, but had spread to other preachers from various denominations in the U.S.
Many of the leaders in the Christian Connection (e.g., Joseph Marsh, Henry Grew, Joshua Himes) became active in the Miller Movement, not necessarily because of a date, but because Miller was preaching the second
advent of Jesus. The principle doctrine of the Miller Movement was not the date of the Second Advent, but belief that the Advent was near and it would bring the end of the world and leave only the glorified saints alive.
Millerite charts, books, periodicals, camp meetings, and urgent message made an impact in America. It is said that one of every seven people were Millerites—between 50,000 to 100,000 people inter-denominationally.
International movements awakening to an imminent second advent emerged at the same time in England (Irving, Cunninghame), Germany (Petri before 1800; Kelber in 1835), Switzerland (Gaussen), Asia (Wolff), Holland (Hentzepeter) and elsewhere.