Russell was acquainted with the time-proofs for 1873 before he met Barbour. He does not say as the quotation does above that he had never heard of Barbour. This is an inference that is being made. Barbour was part of the 1873 movement as well as Jonas Wendell. Russell's words are below. I have highlighted the portions that show that he was previously acquainted with the time-proofs.
Gradually I was led to see that though each of the creeds contained some elements of truth, they were, on the whole, misleading and contradictory of God's Word. Among other theories, I stumbled upon Adventism. Seemingly by accident, one evening I dropped into a dusty, dingy hall, where I had heard religious services were held, to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches. There, for the first time, I heard something of the views of Second Adventists from the preacher, Mr. Jonas Wendell, long since deceased.
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Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, and though it was very far from what we now rejoice in, it was sufficient, under God, to re-establish my wavering faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible, and to show that the records of the apostles and prophets are indissolubly linked. What I heard sent me to my Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading; for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the truth.
I soon began to see that we were living somewhere near the close of the Gospel age, and near the time when the Lord had declared that the wise, watching ones of his children should come to a clear knowledge of his plan. At this time, myself and a few other truth-seekers in Pittsburgh and Allegheny formed a class for Bible study, and from 1870 to 1875 was a time of constant growth in grace and knowledge and love of God and his plan. We came to see something of the love of God, how it had made provision for all mankind and how all must be awakened from the tomb in order that God's loving plan might be testified to them, and that they might then, by knowledge and help, through obedience--as a result of Christ's redemptive work--be brought back into harmony with God. This we saw to be the Restitution work foretold in `Acts 3:21`. But though seeing that the Church was called to joint-heirship with the Lord in the Millennial Kingdom, up to that time we had failed to see clearly the great distinction between the reward of the Church now on trial and the reward of the world after its trial, at the close of the Millennial age--that the reward of the former is to be the glory of the spiritual, divine nature, while that of the latter is to be the glory of restitution--restoration, to the perfection of human nature once enjoyed by their representative and head, Adam, in Eden.
However, we were then merely getting the general outlines of God's plan, and unlearning many long-cherished errors, the time for a clear discernment of the minutiae having not yet fully come. And here we should and do gratefully mention assistance rendered by Brothers George Stetson and George Storrs, both now deceased, the latter the editor of The Bible Examiner. The study of the Word of God with these dear brethren led, step by step, into greener pastures and brighter hopes for the world, though it was not until 1872, when I gained a clear view of our Lord's work as our ransom price, that I found the strength and foundation of all hope of restitution to lie in that doctrine. Up to that time, when I read the testimony that all in their graves shall come forth, etc., I yet doubted the full provision-- whether it should be understood to include idiots or infants who had died without reaching any degree of understanding, beings to whom the present life and its experiences would seem to be of little or no advantage. But when, in 1873, I came to examine the subject of restitution from the standpoint of the ransom price given by our Lord Jesus for Adam, and consequently for all lost in Adam, it settled the matter of restitution completely, and gave fullest assurance that ALL must come forth from Adamic death and be brought to a clear knowledge of the truth and to fullest opportunity of everlasting life in Christ.
Thus passed the years 1869-1872, and the years following, to 1876, were years of continued growth in grace and knowledge on the part of the handful of Bible students with whom I met regularly in Allegheny. We progressed from our first crude and indefinite ideas of restitution to clearer understanding of the details, God's due time for clearer light not having come until 1874.
During this time, too, we came to recognize the difference between our Lord as "the man who gave himself," and as the Lord who would come again, a spirit being. We saw that spirit-beings can be present, and yet invisible to men, just as we still hold and have set forth in Millennial Dawn, Vol. II., Chap. x. And we felt greatly grieved at the error of Second Adventists who were expecting Christ in the flesh, and teaching that the world and all in it except Second Adventists would be burned up in 1873 or 1874, whose time-settings and disappointments and crude ideas generally of the object and manner of his coming brought more or less reproach upon us and upon all who longed for and proclaimed his coming Kingdom.
These wrong views of both the object and manner of the Lord's return led me to write the pamphlet-- "The Object and Manner of The Lord's Return," of which some 50,000 copies were published.
It was about January 1876 that my attention was specially drawn to the subject of prophetic time, as it relates to these doctrines and hopes. It came about in this way: I received a paper called The Herald of The Morning, sent by its editor, Mr. N. H. Barbour. When I opened it I at once identified it with Adventism from the picture on its cover, and examined it with some curiosity to see what time they would set next for the burning of the world. But judge of my surprise and gratification, when I learned from its contents that the editor was beginning to get his eyes open on the subjects that for some years had so greatly rejoiced our hearts here in Allegheny--that the object of our Lord's return is not to destroy, but to bless all the families of the earth, and that his coming would be thief-like, not in flesh, but as a spirit-being invisible to men, and that the gathering of his Church and separating of the wheat from the tares would progress in the end of this age without the world's being aware of it. I rejoiced to find others coming to the same advanced position, but was astonished to find a further statement very cautiously made, that the editor believed the prophecies to indicate that the Lord was already present in the world (unseen and invisible) and that the harvest work of gathering the wheat was already due.
Here was a new thought: Could it be that the time prophecies which I had so long despised, because of their misuse by Adventists, were really meant for us --to indicate when the Lord would be invisibly present to set up his Kingdom--a thing which we clearly saw could be known in no other way? It seemed, to say the least, a reasonable, very reasonable thing, to expect that the Lord would inform his people on the subject--especially as he had promised that the faithful should not be left in darkness with the world, and that though the day of the Lord would come upon all others as a thief in the night (stealthily, unawares), it should not be so to the watching, earnest saints.--`1 Thes. 5:4`.
I recalled certain arguments used by the Adventists to prove that 1873 would witness the burning of the world, etc.--the chronology of the world showing that the six thousand years from Adam ended with the beginning of 1873, and other arguments drawn from the Scriptures and supposed to coincide. Could it be that these, which we had passed by as unworthy of attention, really contained an important truth which they had misapplied?
Anxious to learn, from any quarter, whatever God had to teach, I at once wrote to Mr. Barbour, informing him of our harmony on other points and desiring to know particularly why, and upon what Scriptural evidences, he held that Christ's presence and the harvesting of the Gospel age dated from the Autumn of 1874.
The answer showed that my surmise had been correct, viz.: that the time arguments, chronology, etc., were the same as used by Second Adventists in 1873, and explained how Mr. Barbour and Mr. J. A. Paton of Michigan, a co-worker with him, had been regular Second Adventists up to that time, and that when the date 1874 had passed without the world being burned, and without their seeing Christ in the flesh, they were for a time dumb-founded. They had examined the time-prophecies that had seemingly passed unfulfilled, and had been unable to find any flaw, and had begun to wonder whether the time was right and their expectations wrong,--whether the views of restitution and blessing to the world, which others were teaching, might not be the right thing to look for. Not long after their 1874 disappointment, a reader of the Herald, who had a copy of the Diaglott, noticed something in it which he thought peculiar,--that in `Matt. 24:27,37,39`, the word which in our common version is rendered coming, is translated presence.