Friday, June 23, 2017

Jonas Wendell’s 1870 Presentation

In 1870, at age eighteen, he cautiously attended a presentation by the famous Adventist preacher, Jonas Wendell. Wendell focused on what Russell considered to be rational, logical matters relating to Biblical prophecy and chronology, drawing attention to the future date of 1874 as the supposed date for Christ’s return.

We have seen this statement or similar statements repeated, even amongst the Bible Students. However, we cannot verify this with what Russell actually wrote, and what he did write would seem to contradict the thought that Wendell spoke on  the Lord’s return in 1873 (later changed to 1874) that night. Russell does not say what Wendell spoke on, but considering what Russell did write concerning his views between 1870 to 1876, it seems highly likely that Wendell may have spoken on the Bible hell, the condition of the dead, or something similar. In Russell’s writings, he stated that he did not accept Wendell’s prophetic “dates”, and that he had no interest in prophetic dates until 1876; so more than likely, if Wendell had spoken on his views concerning 1874 in 1870, Russell, then tending toward agnosticism, would have been turned off by what Wendell presented. However, if Wendell spoke on one of his greatest concerns about the Bible, that is “hell”, or something related to the condition of the dead and the resurrection, then it seems more logical that Russell would have responded to that message favorably.
wherein Russell describes those years.

If anyone knows of something in Russell’s writings that would verify the statement that is being given, please let us know by clicking here and leaving a comment .

The concern we have is not as to whether Jonas Wendell held to any views concerning 1873/4 in 1870, but as to whether that was what he spoke about when Brother Russell came upon his presentation. Some leave the idea that Russell in 1870, by having chanced upon Wendell’s presentation, came to be believe at that time that Christ’s return was to be in 1873/4, which seems to disagree with what Russell himself stated in the supplement to the first issue of the Watch Tower in 1879, for in that supplement he indicates that he did not accept the return of Christ as related to 1874 until the year 1876. Regarding his encounter with Wendell, Russell does state: “I first had my attention called to the second coming of our Lord, by Jonas Wendel, a Second Advent Preacher, about 1869, who was then preaching the burning of the world as being due in 1873. But though he first awakened my interest on the subject, I was not a convert, either to the time he suggested nor to the events he predicted.” Evidently as related to 1876, when Russell came across Barbour’s explanation of the invisible presence, Russell stated: “Up to this time we persistently ignored time and looked with pity upon Mr. Thurman’s and Mr. Wendel’s ideas. (The latter was preaching the same time as Bro. Barbour; viz: The burning of the world in 1873.) We regarded those ideas as unworthy of consideration, for though we believed the event ‘nigh even at the doors,’ yet we recognized the fact that the church will be withdrawn — translated — before there would be any open manifestation to the world, or, in other words, the two stages of Christ’s second advent, viz: coming for his saints, and coming with all his saints. — Mark 13:29.”

The concern is that the statements that are often being presented leaves the impression that Russell, due to coming to believe that Christ was to return in 1874, had his faith in the Bible restored, which does not appear to be the true case as he states. While we suppose that it is possible that Wendell have have been speaking on some aspects of chronology, and even the Lord’s return, it should be evident that Russell did not accept Wendell’s views of Christ’s return in 1873 (changed to 1874) until 1876, two years after 1874. Up until 1876, as he stated, he “persistently ignored time and looked with pity upon Mr. Thurman’s and Mr. Wendel’s ideas.” This led us to think that perhaps Wendell may have spoken on some other subject on that night that Russell chanced upon his meeting, something that was of greater concern to Russell, such as the topic of hell, the condition of the dead, etc. It is just a thought, for we have not been able to find anything in Russell’s writings that actually states what Wendell presented that caused Brother Russell to have a revival of faith in the Bible. But seeing that he was already skeptical of the Bible, and stated that he was skeptical of the ideas of setting a date for Christ’s return until 1876, it seems that if this was what Wendell spoke on, this would not have been what rekindled Russell’s faith in the Bible.

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