Saturday, August 11, 2018

Some Early Quotes Regarding 1914

A tactic that many use to attack Brother Russell is to quote some of Russell's expectations as though they were prophecies and then claim that Brother Russell was a false prophet because what he had been expecting did not come to pass.

A website, under the title “Was Charles Taze Russell the Founder of the JW’s?”, gives some quotes from Charles Taze Russell as “gems” that were “published for public consumption.” Among the quotes are the following:

1892 “The date of the close of that ‘battle’ is definitely marked in Scripture as October, 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October 1874.” Watchtower Reprints, 1/15/1892, p 1355. Historians missed this one—The battle of Armegeddon starting in 1874 and ending in 1914.

What is not presented is that this represents the view Brother Russell adopted from N. H. Barbour in 1876, that is, that Armageddon had already begun in 1874, and would last until 1914. Russell changed view related to this in 1904. Russell later rejected this view.

1899 “…the ‘battle of the great day of God Almighty’ (Revelation 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced,” (The Time Is at Hand, 1908 edition, p. 101). Unless earth’s’ rulers were completely overthrown in 1914, Russell missed this one, Big Time.

This latter quote was originally published in 1889; it was not changed in the 1908 edition. However, Russell had changed his view related to this in 1904.

Nevertheless, the evident desire is to claim that Russell was some kind of false prophet, as the page before refers to the alleged false prophecies of Russell. There are at least a couple of things, however, about the quotes that readers should be aware of.

Point #1

One is that Russell, in writing the statements, did not write them as “prophecy”, nor was he condemning anyone as not being a Christian if they did not accept his conclusions. He certainly never claimed anyone was not saved if they did not accept his conclusions regarding Bible prophecies. There was no authoritarian JW organization in Russell’s day; however, by the giving the quotes while presenting the false expression that Russell was the founder of the JWs does leave many with the impression that he was stating this with the same “authority” that is claimed by the JW leadership today. What Russell said, however, should be tempered and viewed in the light of his other statements, and not by the tint of the JW organization that was developed after his death.  The two quotes above are from 1892 and 1899, but note the following statements of Russell:

Neither must you lean upon the DAWN and the TOWER as infallible teachers. If it was proper for the early Christians to prove what they received from the apostles, who were and who claimed to be inspired, how much more important it is that you fully satisfy yourself that these teachings keep closely within their outline instructions and those of our Lord; — since their author claims no inspiration, but merely the guidance of the Lord, as one used of him in feeding his flock.
I trust, dear Brother, that, as you examine these publications, that may seem to you to be true of the author which the Apostle Paul said of himself: “We preach not ourselves, but Christ, — the power of God and the wisdom of God. Whether successful or not, others must judge, and especially the Lord; but I ever seek to hold forth the Word of Life.” (Phil. 2:16) True, it has been held forth in my hands (powers), but never as my Word. Hence in no sense have I, as a pope, taken the place of Christ before his Church.
Indeed, time and again I have seen that the teachings of those who make utterances of their own, but in the name of Christ, by claimed inspiration, or special revelations, or boasted wisdom (which is the real spirit of popery), and without proof from the Scripture, are received by many. And I am confident that the DAWN and TOWER would have many more friends and believers if they followed this (popery’s) course; — for as some one has said, “People prefer to be humbugged.” But such a course I dare not follow; I must be true to the Lord and declare his Word, and let him take charge of the consequences.
--1893; letter written by Pastor Russell,
published in “The Watch Tower”, June, 1893 pg. 168

More perhaps than any other servant, ZION’S WATCH TOWER has opposed the thought that the Church of Christ is composed of a clerical class commissioned to teach, and a lay class not commissioned to teach the divine Word: it specially has held up the inspired words, “all ye are brethren” and “one is your Master”; and has pointed out that all consecrated believers are of the “royal priesthood” each fully commissioned, not to “lord it” over others, but to sacrifice himself in the service of the truth, doing good unto all, especially to the household of faith. So with the servants of Matt. 24:49; service is their only commission, not lordship or self-appointment.
– Zion’s Watch Tower, June 15, 1896, pages 139,140

We claim no infallibility for our presentations, nor do we simply offer our opinions and conjectures, after the manner of the scribes and Pharisees; but rather after the manner of the great Teacher, we seek to present to the minds of those interested the teachings of Moses and the prophets, and to voice the testimony of Jesus and the apostles, and to show the harmony of the Scriptures.
– Zion’s Watch Tower, April 15, 1901, page 136


We are not prophesying; we are merely giving our surmises, the Scriptural basis for which is already in the hands of our readers in the six volumes of SCRIPTURE STUDIES. We do not even aver that there is no mistake in our interpretation of prophecy and our calculations of chronology. We have merely laid these before you, leaving it for each to exercise his own faith or doubt in respect to them; but showing our own faith by our works.
“Views from the Watch Tower”, January 1, 1908, page 3, Reprints 4109

Point #2:

Russell admitted that his original statments, as given in the two quotations, were in error at least ten years before 1914. His earlier statements were actually based on Barbour’s earlier viewpoint that the “time of trouble” was to end in 1914. In 1904, Brother Russell rejected this viewpoint, and began to expect that the end of the Gentile Times would see the beginning, not the end, of the time of trouble. Brother Russell died in 1916 believing that the time of trouble had begun in 1914.

Brother Russell, however, did not believe in the Armageddon that the Jehovah’s Witneses preach. He was never expecting an Armageddon that would eternally destroyed unbelivers; his view was that Armageddon was to chastise (not eternally destroy) the unbelievers. Up until 1915, Brother Russell adopted Barbour’s idea that the “time of trouble” was the same thing as the “battle” of Armageddon. In 1915, he began to view “Armageddon” as the final part of the “time of trouble”, but not that time of trouble itself was Armageddon.

However, regarding the earlier quotes; these are often presented while ignoring Brother Russell’s change in this viewpoint in 1904, and thus the reader is left to assume that when 1914 came, it was only then that Russell or his associates realized that the earlier statements were in error. Actually, at least ten years before 1914, Russell had come the conclusion that his earlier statements concerning 1914 were not correct. In 1904 he came to realize that the end of the Gentiles Times would mean the beginning of the “time of trouble”, and the not ending of that trouble. He also realized that the battle itself is the final part of that trouble, not the trouble itself. Thus, from 1904 forward, Russell was not expecting the battle of Armageddon to be over in 1914, nor was even expecting the “battle” as such to begin in 1914. However, Brother Russell never made a full overhaul of his Studies in the Scriptures to reflect this change of view in 1904. For documentation from Brother Russell’s own words related to this, please see:

Nevertheless, in making this clarification, it is not our desire to make it appear that Brother Russell was a prophet, or that he was infallible, or that one should follow Brother Russell in all that he said. We do not believe Brother Russell himself would have wanted anyone to do this. We should always remember that one should belong to Christ, who is the way, the truth, and life. — John 14:6.

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