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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pastor Charles T. Russell

Seeing that God has such a wonderful Plan for the blessing of mankind, Pastor Russell gave all of his power and energy to making known these great truths to the world. He never took a vacation; he worked until the day of his death.

Like other Christians he was looking for the second coming of Christ. Between 1872-6 he discovered that the Scriptures clearly teach that the Lord would not return in a body of flesh, but would return as a spirit being, invisible to human eyes, and that his second presence was due in the autumn of 1874. This led to the publishing of a booklet entitled, "The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return," which had a phenomenal circulation.

Many students of the Bible throughout the United States and Canada responded to the information derived from that book, and his correspondence became voluminous.

Realizing the necessity of keeping the truth before the minds of those who had begun to investigate, in 1879 he began the publication of THE WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE, and was its sole Editor to the time of his death.

This journal is issued semi-monthly; it never publishes advertisements, but is devoted exclusively to religious topics. Among the English speaking people in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, its semi-monthly circulation is 45,000 copies. It is also published in Armenian, Dano-Norwegian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish Roumanian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish and Ukrainian, reaching a large number of subscribers in America and Europe.

He was President of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY from its organization in 1884 until his death. He was also President of the PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION, organized in 1909, and the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, incorporated in London, in 1913, both of the latter corporations being adjuncts to the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY. Through these religious corporations, as well as by word of mouth, he promulgated the Gospel of Messiah’s kingdom. He was the author of the following publications, issued between the years 1881 and 1914, each having phenomenal circulation, as given below: Food For Thinking Christians 1,450,000 Tabernacle Shadows 1,000,000 Divine Plan of the Ages 5,532,500 The Time is at Hand 1,878,500 Thy Kingdom Come 1,792,500 Battle of Armageddon 714,000 The Atonement 663,500 The New Creation 646,500 What Say the Scriptures About Hell? 3,000,000 He was also the author of WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT SPIRITISM, OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS, et cetera, et cetera. He was the author of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, which had been exhibited prior to his death to more than nine million persons. He wrote and published the SCENARIO of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, which has had a very wide circulation. His publications were translated into thirty-five different languages. At the same time he was Pastor of more than 1,200 congregations of Bible Students, in different parts of the world. These he visited and taught as often as possible.

He organized and conducted a Lecture Bureau which constantly employed seventy Bible lecturers, who traveled and delivered lectures on the Scriptures. He organized and managed an auxiliary lecture bureau of seven hundred men who gave a portion of their time to lecturing on Bible teachings. Each year he wrote practically all of the copy for the BIBLE STUDENTS MONTHLY, the annual distribution of which amounted to approximately fifty million copies.

His weekly sermons were handled by a newspaper syndicate. More than 2,000 newspapers, with a combined circulation of fifteen million readers, at one time published his discourses. All told, more than 4,000 newspapers published these sermons.

The Continent , a publication whose editor often opposed Pastor Russell, once published the following significant statement concerning him: "His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together."

- Published by the society after his death in certain printings of the Studies in the Scriptures.

In 1870 a zealous young man, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), began to ask many questions about Christendom’s traditional teachings. As a youth, he worked in his father’s haberdashery in the bustling industrial city of Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, U.S.A. His religious background was Presbyterian and Congregational. However, he was perturbed by such teachings as predestination and eternal torment in hellfire. What were his reasons for doubting these basic doctrines of some of Christendom’s religions? He wrote: “A God that would use his power to create human beings whom he foreknew and predestinated should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men.”—Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35; 1 John 4:8, 9.

While still in his late teens, Russell started a weekly Bible study group with other young men. They began to analyze the Bible’s teachings on other subjects, such as immortality of the soul as well as Christ’s ransom sacrifice and his second coming. In 1877, at the age of 25, Russell sold his share in his father’s prospering business and began a full-time preaching career.

In 1878 Russell had a major disagreement with one of his collaborators, who had rejected the teaching that Christ’s death could be an atonement for sinners. In his rebuttal Russell wrote: “Christ accomplished various good things for us in his death and resurrection. He was our substitute in death; he died the just for the unjust—all were unjust. Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man. . . . He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” He continued: “To redeem is to buy back. What did Christ buy back for all men? Life. We lost it by the disobedience of the first Adam. The second Adam [Christ] bought it back with his own life.”—Mark 10:45; Romans 5:7, 8; 1 John 2:2; 4:9, 10.

Always a staunch advocate of the ransom doctrine, Russell severed all ties with this former collaborator. In July 1879, Russell started to publish Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, known worldwide today as The Watchtower—Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. In 1881 he, in association with other dedicated Christians, established a nonprofit Bible society. It was called Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, known today as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, the legal agency that acts in behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From the very beginning, Russell insisted that there would be no collections taken at congregation meetings nor contributions solicited through the Watch Tower publications. The people who joined Russell in deep Bible study became known simply as the Bible Students.

A Return to Bible Truth

As a result of their Bible study, Russell and his associates came to reject Christendom’s teachings of a mysterious “Most Holy Trinity,” an inherently immortal human soul, and eternal torment in hellfire. They also rejected the need for a separate seminary-trained clergy class. They wanted to return to the humble origins of Christianity, with spiritually qualified elders to lead the congregations without thought of a salary or remuneration.—1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9.

In their investigation of God’s Word, those Bible Students were keenly interested in the prophecies of the Christian Greek Scriptures related to “the end of the world” and to Christ’s “coming.” (Matthew 24:3, KJ) By turning to the Greek text, they discovered that Christ’s “coming” was, in fact, a “pa‧rou‧si′a,” or invisible presence. Therefore, Christ had given his disciples information about the evidence of his invisible presence in the time of the end, not a future visible coming. Along with this study, those Bible students had a keen desire to understand the Bible’s chronology in relation to Christ’s presence. Without understanding all the details, Russell and his associates realized that 1914 would be a crucial date in human history.—Matthew 24:3-22; Luke 21:7-33, Int.

Russell knew that a great preaching work had to be done. He was conscious of the words of Jesus recorded by Matthew: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) There was a sense of urgency to the activity of those Bible Students prior to 1914. They believed that their preaching activity would culminate in that year, and therefore they felt they should expend every effort to help others to know “this good news of the kingdom.” Eventually, C. T. Russell’s Bible sermons were being published in thousands of newspapers around the world.

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