The idea that Pastor Russell was "the faithful and wise servant" did not originate with him. It never crossed his mind--at least, not in the beginning. His original thoughts on the topic can be found in the October and November 1881 ZION'S WATCH TOWER: "We believe that every member of the body of Christ is engaged in the blessed work, either directly or indirectly, of giving meat in due season to the household of faith. 'Who then is that faithful and wise servant whom the Lord had made ruler over his household' to give them meat in due season? Is it not that 'little flock' of consecrated servants who are faithfully carrying out their consecrated vows--the body of Christ--and is not the whole body individually and collectively, giving the meat in due season to the household of faith--the great company of believers? Blessed is that servant (the whole body of Christ) whom the Lord when he comes (Gr. elthon) shall find so doing. 'Verily, I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods.' 'He shall inherit all things.' "
It is this very passage that the Watchtower Society in "God's Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached, 1973, page 346 , uses to maintain that "From this it is clearly seen that the editor and publisher of Zion's Watch Tower disavowed any claim to being individually in his person, that 'faithful and wise servant.' He never did claim such."
But we shall see.
Notice what Russell says in the Jan. 1890 issue under the title "Consider This Carefully": "We are most firmly convinced that the TOWER is and has been a chosen vessel in the Lord's hands for dispensing 'meat in due season,' and we pray and labor that it may so continue to be used."
Notice how here ZION'S WATCH TOWER is the servant. He says nothing about the body of Christ.
In the Sept. 15, 1895 Z.W.T. under "Concerning Profitable Meetings" we begin to see how Russell views himself and one of his works "MILLENNIAL DAWN." "Those who have come to an understanding of the plan of the ages, recognizes it as of divine and not human origination...God, still our Teacher, uses as heretofore instrumentalities, and has provided for his people instruction and use the orderly presentations of MILLENNIAL DAWN to point out to them his plan of the ages and the duties and privileges of this 'harvest' time, because the 'due time' has come for 'the mystery' to be finished. (Rev. 10:7) And those who have received instruction in the Word, in private, through use of MILLENNIAL DAWN as a teacher sent of God (Eph. 4:11-14) have no more reason to ignore it as God's mouthpiece in united study than in their own private study,--no more either, than they would a living teacher... And should they be disposed to worship the humble human instrumentality chosen of God as this channel for this blessing of present truth, we say to such,--'See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant (not thy Lord), and (fellow servant) of thy brethren the prophets [all true teachers or mouthpieces of God]:...Worship God." (Rev. 22:9) The water of life and the Giver of it, and not the earthen vessel through which it is sent, are to be reverenced..."
"...the humble human instrumentality chosen of God as this channel for this blessing of present truth" gives it away. The mouthpiece of God is more than just MILLENNIAL DAWN as we shall see come 1906.
In the March 1, 1896 Z.W.T.in the article "That Servant" Russell submits without comment the distinction some were making between "that servant" and "his fellowservants" and "the household of faith." Their argument went as follows: "...when 'that servant' and 'his fellow servants' and the 'household' are all mentioned in one connection, and in contrast, it would be a perversion of the rules of language and interpretation to mix and compound that which the holy spirit has so emphatically marked as distinct...'household' to be fed, the 'servants' (plural) to do the feeding, and 'that servant' at whose hands our present Lord will dispense the food to 'his fellowservants' 'for the household,' and who is thus constituted a general steward, overseer and dispenser of the Lord's 'goods.' "
In the June 15, 1896 issue under "Servants Render Service," someone commented: "Your article does not say who 'that servant' is, and I am somewhat puzzled over it. Could it refer to ZION'S WATCH Tower? or to the Tract Society?" Russell's response: " We purposefuly avoided making an application of 'that servant.' We merely corrected a former too careless criticism of the lesson, and showed that the language of the Scripture was so carefully chosen as to leave no room to question its reference to some one servant (animate or inanimate) whom the Lord would especially use in the present time to dispense the truth to 'his fellow servants' as well as to the 'household.' In response to a second question, Russell answers: "The account contains no suggestion of either the inspiration or infallibility of 'that servant.' This distinction belongs only to the Lord, the Apostles and prophets. The whole force of the statement shows 'that servant' to be merely a special channel for distributing the truth. His business is not to make truth, but to circulate it;--to put it into the hands of 'his fellows servants' and the truth-hungry 'household.' "
Notice. "His business ..."Ummmm. So could that servant be just one person? It didn't take long for others to make the connection. For example, ZWT of June 15, 1899 contains a circular letter sent to all missionaries in China, Japan, Korean and Siam by Horace Randle of China. Five thousand copies were printed. In it he writes of Russell: "There has arisen a witness of God and his Christ, an expositor of Bible turth, such as may be safely said has not heretofore appeared. The question is, Is this man's testimony of God? I believe it is. He claims little, but he teaches much...If what this man writes is true, he is the veritable John the Baptist of this age, or at least the voice of the one crying in witness to the second presence (not coming) of the Son of God. If his interpretations are true, he is 'that servant' now engaged in 'giving meat in due season to the household of faith.'--Matt. 24:45-46."
In Zion's Watch Tower April 15, 1904 under "The Faithful and Wise Servant"
Russell points out that this is not a composite steward; it is not the Lord's people collectively. While he says it refers to one person, he doesn't say it is himself. But does he need to? People are already thinking it and saying it. "There would be no violation of principle, however, in supposing that the Lord at the time indicated would especially use one member of his church as the channel or instrument through which he would send the appropriate messages, spiritual nourishment appropriate at that time...the steward through whom the Lord will dispense Present Truth in this 'harvest,' will, if found vigilant, humble, faithful be continued in the stewardship."
Do we have any doubt as to whom he believed was dispensing "Present Truth in this 'harvest"?
And the June 1, 1905 number tells us "...he would have us understand that the appropriate message for each approximate time of epoch in the church's experience would be sent by the Lord through a particular star or messenger whom he would particularly commission as his representative." And who would that minister be in 1905? Russell doesn't say, but does he need to?
But the July 15, 1906 ZWT journal is all revealing. Russell declares "...the truths I present as God's mouthpiece, were not revealed in visions or dreams, nor by God's audible voice, nor all at once, but gradually, especially since 1870, and particularly since 1880. Neither is this clear unfolding of truth due to any human ingenuity or acuteness of perception, but to the simple fact that God's due time has come; and if I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out..."
Next, in the same article as above, we find out who first suggested to Russell that he was the "faithful and wise servant." Speaking of Mrs. Russell he confesses: "It was she who first called attention to Matt. 24:44-45, applying it to me in a meeting at Allegheny and subsequently in another meeting with the New York Church. I demurred that I had not thought of the passage thus, and declined to make any personal application of it, although I could not deny the force of the argument that it pointed out 'that servant,' and 'fellow servants' and the 'household' apparently clearly and designedly distinguishing between these terms. Some little objection was aroused by her interpretation and I urged great moderation in the making of any personal application, suggesting that the WATCH TOWER rather than its editor might be considered 'that servant.' As an evidence of Mrs. Russell position on the question I give a copy of a letter she wrote in defense of her statements of the matter before the New York Church, as follows:--ALLEGHENY, Dec. 31, 1895...."
Now you should begin to see why there was such an increased interest in the topic of "that servant" beginning in 1896..Wifey was planting some tempting thoughts in hubbies mind. And by 1904 he is no longer adverse to the idea that the Matthean passage can refer to one person. As a matter of fact, he is sure that it is an individual (albeit not openly proclaiming he is the one). In the Oct. 1, 1909 TOWER Russell in considering the topic "That Servant" and "His Fellow Servants" Russell comments: "The application to us of Matthew 24:45 some fourteen years ago, styling us 'that servant' came not from us, but from one who is now our bitter enemy and who claims that while we did occupy such position, we have forfeited it, lost it, to a successor. We have taken no part in the discussion which followed...Of late, however, the violent opposiiton of our enemies has aroused many of our friends to an examination of the subject..." Russell goes on to describe his opponents as those who would apply the term "faithful and wise servant" to all members of the church of Christ rather than to an individual.
While Russell speaks of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY and its publications and speaks of "us," don't be fooled. Please remember that he admitted in 1906 that Maria Russell applied the passage to himself, not to a nebulous "us."
If Russell never openly claimed the title for himself (preferring modesty and humility????), he didn't have to. His disciples did it for him.
The foreword of the 1911 Bible Students convention report states: "The Lord has placed Pastor Russell in charge of the work this side of the veil. We are glad, theefore, to recognize him as 'that servant..."
In a letter written to Russell by Sidney and Hannah Smith of England and appearing in ZWT June 1, 1912 we read "...and upon our table are being laid good things continually, 'meat in due Season', from the hand of the Lord's Wise Steward, to who we are indebted for so much comfort and consolation."
The Ecclesia at Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada wrote a letter to Russell (see ZWT Aug. 1, 1915) stating: "We want you to know that this class in this little corner of the world have the utmost confidence in you as the Lord's faithful servant, used to deliver his message..." In that same issue Emma Anderson writes "We give him thanks and praise for every manifestation of his great love and for the increasing light as it is presented in THE WATCH TOWER. We also thank him for that faithful and wise Servant, and pray richest blessings upon him..."
In the Nov. 15, 1915 ZWT some sisters from North Island, New Zealand write Russell: "Beloved Brother, it has been our thought this year to send you some slight token of the great love we have for you, as God's appointed servant and channel for dispensing the 'meat in due season' to the household of faith." They sent him a copy of MANNA signed with their autographs and a donation of 2 L that Russell put into the 'Comfort Fund,'..."for aid of brethren falling into dire need..."
So, it is quite obvious by this time that the rank and file Bible Students are more and more acknowledging Russell as the "faithful and wise servant." And he is doing little to discourage it. It seems that it is no longer his enemies alone who refer to him in that fashion.
Pastor Russell died October 31, 1916. The following, appearing in ZWT Dec. 1, 1916, were comments made at his funeral oration, leaving us little doubt as to what some of the Bible Students believed about Russell:
PAUL S.L. JOHNSON--Columbus refers to Pastor Russell as "the speical channel for giving the 'meat in due season,' as well as for arranging and directing the work of the Household of Faith."
G.C. DRISCOLL--Dayton calls Russell "special servant of God."
E.W.V. KUEHN--Toledo says that Pastor Russell was "Eminently chosen of the Lord (Matt. 24:45) to serve the 'Household of Faith with meat in due season,' and elsewhere (Ezekiel 9:2,11) described as the 'man in linen with the writer's ink horn at his side.' "
J.F. RUTHERFORD at the evening service stated: "The Lord Jesus promised that at His Second Coming, which should be invisible to human eyes, He would have one wise and faithful servant whom He would make ruler over all His goods to give meat to the Household of Faith in due season. Christians throughout the world who are familiar with the work of Pastor Russell readily recognize that he has long been that wise and faithful servant of the Lord....For forty years the Lord has been present, feeding those who have been hungering and thirsty for righteousness. For forty years Pastor Russell--that faithful servant of the Lord--has set forth clear and unmistakable evidence of the presence of the Master."
Letters Expressing Sympathy and Loyalty appearing in this issue:
The Duluth Church--Minnesota called Russell "that faithful servant...."
The Albany Ecclesia refers to Russell as "that Servant..."
The Prince Rupert Church--B.C., Canada does likewise.
The Lincoln Church--Nebraska describes Russell as "the greatest Bible scholar of our day, the channel through which God is speaking to His Church and to the world..."
Also, interesting is the Biography of Russell at the beginning of this article; it probably was written by Rutherford. It is very telling. "Thousands of readers of Pastor Russell's writings believe that he filled the office of 'that faithful and wise servant' and that his great work was giving to the Household of Faith meat in due season. His modesty and humility precluded him from openly claiming this title, but he admitted as much in private conversation..."
Some Bible Students may try to say that Rutherford was the one who made Russell into "the faithful and wise servant." But, from examing all the evidence, we can see that this is not the case at all. Rutherford merely continued what had long been in the works.
The last issue of the Watch Tower that Bible Students still provide online at http://www.ctrussell.us/ is the Dec. 15, 1916 number. It sums up what they believe about Pastor Russell . "Shall we, then, continue to recognize in our Class-studies the Berean Bible lessons prepared by Brother Russell? Shall we continue to speak in our Class-studies of Brother Russell as the Lord's Servant who brought 'meat in due season to the household of faith?" Yes, indeed! If the Lord was pleased to use him for many years to give the 'meat in due season' to the Church, then it is still 'meat in due season,' and the Berean lessons are essential for the development of those who shall be partakers of the Kingdom. Should we now disregard the food contained in STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES and other publications of THE WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, it would mean that we were repudiating or disregarding, that which the Lord has graciously provided for our benefit. We must make the distinction between Brother Russell as creature and his official capacity as 'that servant' of the Master to give out the 'meat in due season.' To disregard the Message would be to disregard the Lord."
What JWs don't always tell you was that for years afterward the Watchtower magazine continued to promote the view that Russell was "the faithful and wise servant." As a matter of fact, the May 1, 1922 issue makes it quite clear that to deny Russell's teachings is to deny Christ. Yet this is exactly what they had already begun to do , opting for a "faithful and wise servant class," which they claimed had already been identified and approved in 1919 and tossing aside many of Russell's teachings. It had become wrong to make one person "that servant" because that was creature worship. But why a class was not creature worship, they fail to tell us.
Only some of the original Bible Students continue to maintain even until this day that Pastor Russell is "the faithful and wise servant."