That Servant, Brother Russell, finished his earthly journey on October 31, 1916, and it is doubtful that there are any left today who knew him personally. But many of us who never met him hold fond memories by considering his record of scholarly understanding of the Bible and related subjects. Thus, we shall endeavor to pass along some of his teachings and observations.
First, we shall offer 2 Timothy 3:16,17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” It will be readily noticed that this is a very poor translation as found in the King James version because “is” after Scripture is in italics, telling us there is no corresponding word in the original Greek. But even if this were not so, we could easily deduce that the statement cannot possibly be true, because “scripture” in the broad sense is anything written - including newspapers, magazines, books of fiction, etc. Certainly, no one would contend that such writings are given “by inspiration of God.”
In a more restricted sense, scripture may be applied to cherished writings of the various heathen religions, such as those from Confucius, Mohammed, etc. However, these likewise cannot be described as being inspired of God. It would seem that any one even moderately schooled in Present Truth should know this; yet the Jehovah’s Witnesses published a book as late as 1963, the title of which is ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED OF GOD AND BENEFICIAL. [Emphasis ours.] And in their strenuous effort to be “different,” they offer the word “beneficial” for profitable; but of the leading Greek scholars - such as Doctors Young, Strong, Rotherham and Wilson - not one of them offer the word “beneficial” as a good translational substitute for “profitable.” Even Brother Russell himself - who was not a Greek scholar - saw the error in the text as early as 1897, and omitted the word “is” from the Manna Comments of May 21; thus, the Witnesses would not have made this blunder had they held proper regard for Brother Russell’s excellent Biblical interpretations.
Following is an excellent translation of the text by Benjamin Wilson. “All Scripture, divinely inspired, is indeed profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for that discipline which is in righteousness; so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly fitted for every good work.” We have offered the detail foregoing because some of those who knew Brother Russell intimately before his demise in 1916 often referred to him as “that wonderful man of God,” their substance being taken from this writing of St. Paul.
“A PROPHET UNTO THE NATIONS”
At the outset, we would stress that Brother Russell is shown in more Scriptures and types than any other person on this earth, except our Lord Jesus; and it is our belief that one of such typical instances is the Prophet Jeremiah in his acts and words. In Jeremiah 1:4-6 there is this: “The word of the Lord came unto me saying… I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold I cannot speak: for I am a child.” In verse one we have “The words of Jeremiah” - the name meaning Jehovah is exalted. Certainly the name itself applies most fittingly to Brother Russell, whose firm and repeated expression was “God first,” which attitude well applied to him all during his entire adult life. Also, the statement, “I am a child” points fittingly to him. At the outset of his ministry in 1874, knowing his ignorance of Hebrew and Greek, he considered himself but a babe in Biblical exegesis; and for seven years - to 1881 - he always tried to place those with superior education before him because he considered them better qualified. But the Lord knew what He was doing when He called Brother Russell to be His special mouthpiece - “the prophet unto the nations.” Note verses 7-9: “The Lord said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I shall command thee thou shalt speak… The Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth… said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.”
Looking back, it is very easy to discern the fulfillment of these words. That Servant predicted the end of the Gentile Times (Luke 21:24) 25 years before 1914. During that 25 years he received much vilification and ridicule from various sources; and by 1913 - with the world then in seeming calm - some in high position said a general world war among the friendly (?) nations was just so much nonsense. But, when 1914 came - with the great explosion of July 28 to August 1 - large numbers began to have a different view and respect for what he said. In fact, a conference of southern ministers openly stated that Pastor Russell had been right in his predictions.
To emphasize the strong parallel between him and Jeremiah we need only to consider the parallel dispensation: It was just 2520 years before 1914 (in the Fall of 607 B.C.) that Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar, the temple was ravished and the gold and silver vessels carried away to Babylon. That was exactly what Jeremiah predicted - in the face of the severe criticism of the Jewish priesthood - just as Brother Russell had predicted against the disputations of the ministers of Christendom. Jeremiah had not predicted the beginning of Gentile dominion, because it was not possible for him to see that then; but Brother Russell, knowing that “seven times shall pass over thee” (Dan. 4:24,25,32), and understanding that those “seven times” would be of 2520 years duration, did not have much difficulty in figuring out when they would end, once he knew when it began.
Let us carry on now to Jeremiah 1:11-14: “What seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.” As explained in Tabernacle Shadows, p. 122, the almond rod symbolizes the royal priesthood, elect and fruitful; and this fact was seen very clearly by Brother Russell in 1879, when he wrote Tabernacle Shadows. “The second time, What seest thou? And I said I see a seething pot… an evil shall break forth upon all inhabitants of the land.” This “seething pot” was the Time of Trouble, which would come with the end of the Gentile Times; and those of us who were living at that time still have most vivid memory of that holocaust. Even though the United States was not immediately involved (the U.S. did not enter the war until April 1917), the uproar was so great and the shaking of society in all great countries of the earth was so severe that the New York Stock Exchange was forced to close down for three months - “an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.”
The great conflict - up to then the world’s greatest calamity - was also typed by Elijah smiting Jordan. In that picture Jordan pictured Christendom; and its smiting portrayed how the various elements of society would be divided into two distinct classes - the conservatives and the radicals; and this has become more pronounced each year since 1914, with the radicals generally victorious - just as the Babylonians (who typed the radicals of our day) won victory until the final one saw the complete collapse of Jerusalem, and the beginning of the desolation of the land for seventy years: “The word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths; for as long as she lay desolate, she kept the sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years.” (2 Chron. 36:21)
God further instructed Brother Russell to confess the sins of Christendom over the head of Azazel’s Goat - “the house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel.” (Jer. 2:4) In the Old Testament the Gospel-Age Christians are never called Jacob; rather, Jacob almost always refers to natural Israel; whereas, Israel usually is used to designate the Christian Household. And of both these houses Jeremiah said; “I brought you into a plentiful country… but when ye entered, ye defiled my land, made mine heritage an abomination.” (v. 7) This statement is indeed a true declaration of the Church history. Under Jesus and the Apostles “the people which sat in darkness saw a great light.” (Matt 4:16) But the intervening years up to 1874 had witnessed the distortion of that “great light” into all sorts of weird concoctions; with practically all of them - Protestant and Catholic - becoming infested with “their resemblance through all the earth.” (Zech. 5:6) The four great errors that arose during the Gospel Age are the Trinity, immortality, eternal torment and probation limited to this life. In these four errors most Protestants and all Greek and Roman Catholics resemble one another - they are “their resemblance through all the earth.”
Once Brother Russell became fortified with the Truth against these great errors he employed all of his remarkable skill and energy in onslaught against them. His favorite address to the public was “Where Are The Dead?” For forty years he battled with all courage against the theory of eternal torment as the wages of sin, and so well did he analyze those Scriptures that treated of that subject, that toward the end of his ministry one newspaper carried four stanzas of poetry, the last quatrain of which was something like this:
There is a man in our town
Whose name I need not tell;
I’m sure you all must know him,
Because he put the fires out of Hell.
Today few educated ministers believe in the doctrine of Hell-fire, although some of them occasionally preach it, perhaps believing it to be a restraint upon evildoers. All concordances and critical translations of the Bible clearly dispute the thought of eternal torment as the wages of sin. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23)
Brother Russell received strong assurance from the Lord for the work he was to do, as told to Jeremiah, chapter 1, vs. 17,18: “Speak unto them [the people of Christendom] all that I shall command thee; be not dismayed at their faces… I have made thee this day a defenced city” - immovable and strong as against society, against the various sects in Christendom, against the four prominent classes in American society: Rulers, capitalists, aristocracy and labor, particularly against their leaders. These are the “four angels” - messengers of wrath as set forth in Rev. 7:1-3 - whose destructive work was restrained “till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.” Although these all, some more, some less, waged controversies against him, God assured him of full victory: “They shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee… to deliver thee.” Surely, as we look back, we are able to see how forcefully this was fulfilled in the work he did.
When the prophecy was made, “They [the gainsayers] shall not prevail against thee,” it was not an idle promise; God gave him the Parousia Truth as his “strong tower,” which proved to be impregnable against the combined attacks of all adversaries. The promise made to Joshua (1:5): “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life,” certainly applied to Brother Russell with great emphasis. Those who attempted to engage him in controversy soon came within the scope of Revelation 16:10: “They gnawed their tongues for pain.” Many of them resorted to slander, which was their weapon of the last resort; but it may be said of Brother Russell that he never reciprocated in kind; with the strong and clear Biblical system of Truth he had, there was certainly no need to cheapen himself by using the tools of the “god of this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4) The Parousia Truth was indeed a “defenced city” for him. (Jer. 1:18)
Chapter 2 of Jeremiah carries on in much the same fashion as the first Chapter. Brother Russell was commanded to shout his message from the housetops, and it is a matter of record that he did just that. “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem [type of Christendom here in the end of the age], saying, Thus saith the Lord: I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth [when the pristine purity of Christianity was established under the guidance of Jesus and the Apostles], the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness.” “The woman [the true Church] fled in the wilderness, where she had a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand and two hundred and threescore days [the 1260 years from A.D. 539 to 1799].” (Rev. 12:6) Verse 3 continues: “Israel [the true Church] was holiness unto the Lord, the firstfruits of his increase.”
But that condition had become greatly changed “in the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4 - from 1799, and especially after 1874). Thus, antitypical Jeremiah was prompted to raise the question (Jer. 2:5): “What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?” The nominal church from 1874 is described in similar criticism to what Jeremiah said to the Jews before the fall of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.: “Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) Following are some of the Berean Comments on this text: “Possessing little of the truth and spirit of the truth … Cannot see afar off … cannot see the high calling for the Church or restitution for the poor world … stripped of the robe of Christ’s righteousness by the clergy, in the name of Higher Criticism and Evolution.”
Having come to the condition of full complacency - “rich and increased with goods” - they posed the insolent question (Jer. 2:6): “Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt [typical of the delivery of the Gospel-Age Church, which had been delivered from antitypical Egypt, “this present evil world”], that led us through the wilderness… the shadow of death [“the wages of sin is death”]… and (v. 7) I brought you into a plentiful country… but ye defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination.” “We have need of nothing”!
The question carries on in v. 11: “Hath a nation changed their gods… but my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit”; and because of this they “be astonished… be horribly afraid… very desolate.” (v. 12) During this “time of the end” nominal Christendom committed two evils - they gave up God as their God, though He is the only source of life-giving Truth; and they developed creeds: “broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (v. 13) “Their cities are burned without an inhabitant” - an evil which they brought upon themselves. “Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou has forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way?” (v. 17)
“Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed.” (v. 21) When we review the superb religious system which God had given Israel under Moses and Aaron, and the downward course they pursued in the following years, it is most difficult to understand how that could have been possible. Yet their course was but a forecast of the downward course of Christendom after the departure of the Apostles. Indeed, “A just man falleth seven times, but he riseth up again.” (Prov. 24:16) The words of Solomon in this text are a terse statement of the history of the Gospel-Age Church in its seven epochs, as outlined in Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3. Each of these epochs began with a virile message of Truth - first with Jesus and the Apostles, then followed with the ministry of the remaining “six stars” (Rev. 1:16); but in every instance those that came after the various stars quickly retrograded into much error and decay of morals - as their predecessors had done.
Finally in 1874 came That Servant (Matt. 24:46), faced with an accumulation of the colossal errors of the entire Age - a fact which would have discouraged any man who had not the encouragement of the Lord Himself; “I have made thee this day a defenced city and an iron pillar, and brazen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the priests thereof, and against the people.” (Jer. 1:18) But just as in times past, the finely tuned system of Parousia Truth, which he left, was bandied about by some of his followers - particularly by the Jehovah’s Witnesses - so that if his writings and their writings are placed side by side now, no unbiased mind would believe they should be recognized as coming from the same source - which indeed they do not!
THE TRUE VINE VS. THE VINE OF THE EARTH
The “noble vine” established through Moses and Aaron was all that the expression implies; and all will surely agree that had the Jews adhered to the Law Covenant through their continuing priesthood they would have developed into a nation the likes of which the world had never known. On the last night before He was crucified Jesus had told the Disciples, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), thus identifying Himself as the antitype of the “noble vine” God had planted in Israel; and Christians generally would have done well to “continue in His word.” But instead, they developed the “vine of the earth” (Rev. 14:18,19); and the angel was commanded to gather it… and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God” - the great Time of Trouble, which began in 1914 at the end of the Gentile Times.
“The vine of the earth” in these texts is the great Papal system which is slowly being consumed - much the same as are grapes that are pressed for their juice. And Paul tells us that this system is “the wicked one” (2 Thes. 2:8), whom the Lord “shall destroy with the brightness of His coming.” The word brightness in this text is from the Greek epiphania, which is literally bright shining; and coming is from the Greek parousia. Thus, the text properly stated should read, “Whom the Lord will destroy with the bright shining of His Presence.”
This has been progressing slowly, but surely, since 1914 - in harmony with the statement in Daniel 7:11: “I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame” - just another expression for the Time of Trouble. And just as much of Jeremiah’s message is harsh condemnation of the Jews, so much that That Servant wrote and preached was harsh condemnation of the “vine of the earth” - although he never resorted to reviling or slander in any of his statements; the Truth that he had was more than enough. And just as Jeremiah had been told, “speak unto them all that I command thee,” so Pastor Russell uttered the scathing message against nominal Christendom as it was revealed to him in the Word of Truth.
It is probably in order here to state that many features of the Gospel Age have been re-enacted here in the end of the Age, one of these being a Little Papal System in the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And just as the large Papal system “shall think to change times and laws” (Dan. 7:25), so this Little Papal system has also changed times and laws; in fact, they have made so many changes in their chronology and in some others of their teachings that few, if any, of them know just what they do believe. However, when we analyze big and little Papacy we assuredly do not include all members of those organizations in our criticism. It is our conviction that there are many noble and honorable people in both systems - some of whom are our good personal friends; but they have not given themselves to the research on the subject that we have done.
Jeremiah continues his castigation in Chapter 2:21,22: “I had planted thee a noble vine; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me… Though thou take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me.” Of course, such scathing denunciations aroused the sharp animosity of the Jews, who eventually did put Jeremiah to death by stoning him. He was a “speckled bird” (Jer. 12:9) - a man marked for contempt and persecution from early manhood, as was also Brother Russell. Yet the determination of both of them caused them to hew to the line to the end of life’s journey.
But, as some men are determined to declare the Word of Truth in purity and sincerity, so others are just as determined to go the way of Balaam, who was a type of those who teach error for profit. Thus they play the symbolic harlot with strangers. “I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” (Jer. 2:25) “Have gone astray, following the way of Balaam.” (2 Peter 2:15) “Thou hast them there that hold the doctrine of Balaam.” (Rev. 2:14) See the Berean Comment on both these texts - “Type of a class that teach error for profit.” The Revelation text was directed to the Church of Pergamos, the third epoch of the Gospel Age, which had its beginning about A.D. 315 when Emperor Constantine embraced the Christian religion and contaminated it with many of his former heathen beliefs.
The heathen beliefs and customs accumulated with each succeeding epoch of the Gospel-Age Church, many of which were discernable even to worldly men of good character. The nominal church had become clustered with hypocrites, as stated in Rev. 18:2: “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” Many “jail” birds were members of some great religious system at 1914; thus, the call had gone out, “Come out of her, my people.” (Rev. 18:4) This is emphasized by the Prophet Jeremiah (2:26,27): “As the thief is ashamed when he is found, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they, their kings, their princes, and their priests and their prophets [many of the leading clergy at 1914 openly admitted they accepted only such parts of the Bible as suited their taste]… they have turned their back unto me, and not their faces; but in the time of their trouble [which came upon them in 1914] they will say, Arise, and save us.”
At that time we were a faithful member of the Lutheran Church; and, when the preacher arose in the pulpit and urged the congregation to support the war in every way possible, we went to him to inquire how he could do such a thing, when the Lutheran Church had originated in Germany, with a large part of the population then members of that Church. Therefore, he was advising Lutherans to kill brother Lutherans instead of “we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16) as we are instructed by God’s Word; and we left his house never to return. The same could be said of the Roman Catholics in Italy, who were pitted against the Catholics in Romanist Austria. Thus, Jeremiah continued his charge: “Where are thy gods that thou hast made? Let them arise if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble… Ye all have transgressed against me, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 2:28,29) Wars always bring out the worst in people; and this was especially true of the 1914 conflagration. They had made dead churches their mothers, having rejected God; yet they called upon Him in their Time of Trouble. Thus, the accusation: “Your children have received no correction: your own sword hath devoured your prophets, like a destroying lion.” (v. 30) These truths were boldly and repeatedly proclaimed by Brother Russell; and he and his followers received much persecution from the nominal church; hence the charge, “In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents.” (v. 34) This is repeated in Rev. 18:24: “In her [the nominal church] was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”
Thus far we have considered only two chapters of the 52 chapters in the Jeremiah writings; and we hope to continue the book at some future time. [This was done in 1982 and reprinted in 1998, No. 497, free upon request.] However, we believe all our readers who have been even passingly schooled in Present Truth will recognize the pointed application of the writings and sayings of Brother Russell as he repeatedly set them forth. Briefly, Jeremiah was “the prophet unto the nations” for forty years before the capitulation of Jerusalem; Brother Russell was “the prophet unto the nations” for forty years before the collapse of Christendom in 1914. The former foretold the overthrow of Jerusalem, with the Tribes of Judah and Benjamin (the ten tribes had already been transplanted to Babylon 133 years previously by Shalmaneser, the Assyrian king - see 2 Kings 17:1-7 - and subsequently became the “ten lost tribes” of Israel); Brother Russell foretold the collapse of Christendom 2520 years later; and he gave his forecast about 25 years before the event occurred. The same conditions prevailed in both places before their collapse; and the current evils were repeatedly and truthfully castigated by both men.
WILL OUR PASTOR’S WORK ENDURE?
Will our Pastors’ work endure? If we were to answer our question from the standpoint of human experience and probability, we should have to admit that the trend of the teachings and practices among the vast bulk of the Truth people is in the direction of abandoning his work and nullifying his accomplishments. That this will not actually be accomplished we are Scripturally convinced; but undoubtedly human reason, in the light of the vast and varied revolutionisms since his demise, among Truth people, would suggest that our Pastor’s work will not stand.
But beloved brethren, despite the unfavorable aspect and prospect, we have the full assurance of faith that the work of our Pastor will not perish from the earth! In due time his teachings will emerge unscathed. His methods of doing the Lord’s work will be re-established and will successfully carry forward the Lord’s cause. Faith having been fully assured of this outcome, can quietly await the Lord’s good time for the fulfillment of its confidence; “for the zeal of the Lord will accomplish it,” “in due time.”
We take this occasion to pay grateful tribute to Pastor Russell, and, just as there were no successors to the twelve Apostles, so there was no successor to That Servant.
We “continue in that which we have learned and been assured of, knowing of whom we have learned them.” (2 Tim. 3:14) However, we would stress that none of the faithful mouthpieces of the Lord since the Apostles fell asleep were infallible; they made mistakes, as Church history relates. The same may be said for the Parousia Messenger. He never claimed to be infallible and made mistakes, especially relating to the duration of the Time of Trouble. But we accept That Servant’s basic chronology exactly as he gave it. His expectations for the duration of the Time of trouble was immature, but he taught with Scriptural proof the events that would occur during the Time of Trouble: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Thes. 5:4) So we are not in darkness concerning the “times and seasons,” as we see the prophecies fulfilling today. We feel his immature conclusions were permitted of the Lord for a “trial of your faith”; and we regard them in this light.
We believe Brother Russell, The Parousia Messenger, comes well within the Scripture: “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” (Psa. 112:6)
Will “that Servant’s” work endure?
Ah, yes! Of this we may be sure
For he was faithful, wise and true
And brought forth truths, both old and new.
Though Satan’s error now enshrouds
And hides the light with darkest clouds
Our God will shake and then remove
All things that He cannot approve.
“Truth crushed to earth shall rise again”
And in its purity remain,
Unconquered by the Devil’s arts
In even its minutest parts.
Will “that Servant’s” work endure?
Ah, yes, with all that’s good and pure!
For sin and error flee away
Before the light of the coming Day!
(By John J. Hoefle, Reprint 373, October 1, 1986)