* ** jv chap. 5 pp. 43-44 Proclaiming the Lord’s Return (1870-1914) *** The twig, though, had been trained by God-fearing parents; it was inclined "in the direction of the Lord." While he was still searching for truth, one evening in 1869, something happened that reestablished Charles’ wavering faith. Walking along near the Russells’ store on Federal Street, he heard religious singing coming from a basement hall. In his own words, this is what took place:
"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 [Advent Christian Church], the preacher being Mr. Jonas Wendell . . . Thus, I confess indebtedness to Adventists as well as to other denominations. Though his Scripture exposition was not entirely clear, . . . 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."
*** jv chap. 5 pp. 45-46 Proclaiming the Lord’s Return (1870-1914) ***
Influence of Others
Russell referred quite openly to the assistance in Bible study he had received from others. Not only did he acknowledge his indebtedness to Second Adventist Jonas Wendell but he also spoke with affection about two other individuals who had aided him in Bible study. Russell said of these two men: "The study of the Word of God with these dear brethren led, step by step, into greener pastures." One, George W. Stetson, was an earnest student of the Bible and pastor of the Advent Christian Church in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.
The other, George Storrs, was publisher of the magazine BibleExaminer, in Brooklyn, New York. Storrs, who was born on December 13, 1796, was initially stimulated to examine what the Bible says about the condition of the dead as a result of reading something published (though at the time anonymously) by a careful student of the Bible, Henry Grew, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Storrs became a zealous advocate of what was called conditional immortality—the teaching that the soul is mortal and that immortality is a gift to be attained by faithful Christians. He also reasoned that since the wicked do not have immortality, there is no eternal torment. Storrs traveled extensively, lecturing on the subject of no immortality for the wicked. Among his published works was the SixSermons, which eventually attained a distribution of 200,000 copies. Without a doubt, Storrs’ strong Bible-based views on the mortality of the soul as well as the atonement and restitution (restoration of what was lost due to Adamic sin; Acts 3:21) had a strong, positive influence on young Charles T. Russell.
George Storrs (1796-1879)
While traveling on a train, George Storrs picked up a tract he found on the floor which was about the condition of the dead. He found out later that it was writ ten by Henry Grew. In 1842 after a few years of study on this subject, Storrs began to preach this message to many of the Adventists. After writing a book on the subject, he started a magazine, entitled The Bible Examiner, for the same purpose. He differed from Grew’s teachings in respect to the des tiny of the wicked. Storrs believed these would go into second death and not be resurrected to judgment. The two debated the matter until Henry Grew’s death in 1862.
A decade later, during a severe illness, Storrs reconsidered his views on the wicked, and determined that the Scriptures taught that the wicked would be resurrected to an education in the knowledge of God, to judgment, and that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of the promise to Abraham. He was later surprised to find other individuals teaching these same doctrines, one of whom was Henry Dunn, who a decade earlier had been teaching these things in Eng land. Because of these views, his friends forsook him and Storrs be came an independent publisher of these teachings. During these years Pastor Russell wrote for Storrs’ magazine until Storrs’ death in 1879.
Dwight Moody (1833-1899)
Speaking of Dwight Moody and his associates, Pastor Russell wrote: “It is our thought that the Lord used these men, and through their ministry the fore-ordained number was completed at the fore-ordained time, 1881” (Reprints, p. 4303).
Henry Grew (1781-1862)
Grew was born in Birmingham, England, but moved to Boston with his parents at the age of fourteen. At the age of twenty-three he was elected deacon of the Baptist Church he attended, and was later licensed to preach in Hartford, Connecticut, where he served over a decade until he was dismissed for views the church deemed heretical.
He not only preached against slavery, but, from the Bible alone, Henry Grew determined that the doctrines of the immortal soul, hell-fire, and trinity were not scriptural. He wrote several books against the doctrines, one of which was picked up by George Storrs, who was later convinced of Grew’s views regarding the state of the dead. Grew’s clear scriptural exposition and ideas later influenced the Adventists and other individuals, directly to such as George Stetson and George Storrs, and indirectly through these to Pastor Charles Taze Russell.
At the age of eighteen in about 1869 he attended a Second Adventist church meeting held by Jonas Wendell, in Russell's words, "to see if the handful who met there had anything more sensible to offer than the creeds of the great churches." 2 More "sensible" than the eternal punishment doctrine apparently. This meeting helped re-establish his faith in the Bible (Adventists believe in soul sleep).
After this, Russell soon started a Bible study with some relatives and associates. This included his father who had previously become interested in Adventism (around the time of C. T.'s skepticism). Not surprisingly, one of the first things discovered by the group was there was no eternal punishment or hell as traditionally conceived. Gruss noted, "according to his own position as cited by Stewart, Russell had to eliminate the doctrine of eternal punishment to believe the Bible... The Bible was studied" with this in mind. "It is strikingly strange for one to study the Bible starting from this point," he said. 3
Russell the Adventist
During the time of his Bible study, Russell was influenced heavily by several Adventists such as George Storrs, Jonas Wendell, George Stetson and Nelson Barbour. Other possible influences were Christadelphians, the Lutheran minister Joseph Seiss and possibly Freemasonry. The Watchtower Society has in more recent years admitted this Adventist influence on Russell, stating for example that Russell "learned much of the mortality of the soul" (soul sleep) from George Storrs. 4 Russell himself acknowledged his indebtedness to Adventists such as Stetson, Storrs, Wendell and Barbour. 5 Thus, even according to the Society today, Russell learned "much" about theology including soul sleep from Adventists, not from the Bible alone. Russell's Bible study group seems to have been an Adventist oriented study. In fact, according to Jonsson, Russell's Bible study group had numerous and close contacts with certain Adventists, including a group under the leadership of Jonas Wendell in Allegheny and George Storrs' congregation in New York. 6
Much of Russell's theology came from these and earlier Adventists. Some of Russell's beliefs can be traced back to the very beginning of the Second Advent movement started by William Miller, such as certain time calculations and some of Russell's type/antitype hermeneutics. 7