by Epiphany Bible Students

No. 710

Our last paper gave an account in Pastor Russell’s own words of the Harvest Truth movement up to July 1879, when the first issue of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence appeared. We now continue his narrative:


For a time we had a most painful experience: the readers of the Tower and of the Herald were the same; and from the time the former started and the supply of funds from me for the Herald ceased, Mr. Barbour not only drew from the bank the money deposited by me and treated all he had in his possession as his own, but poured upon the Editor of the Tower [Pastor Russell] the vilest of personal abuse in order to prevent the Tower and the doctrine of the Ransom from having due influence upon the readers. This of course caused a division, as such things always do. The personal abuse, regarded by some as true, had its intended effect of biasing the judgments of many on the subject of the Ransom; and many turned from us.

But the Lord continued His favor, which I esteem of more value than the favor of the whole world. It was at this time that Mr. Adams espoused the views of Mr. Barbour and likewise forsook the doctrine of the Ransom. And, true to our inter­pretation of the parable of the wedding garment as given at the time, Mr. Barbour and Mr. Adams, having cast off the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness, went out of the light into the outer darkness of the world on the subjects once so clearly seen – namely, the time and manner of the Lord’s presence; and since then they have been expecting Christ in the flesh every Spring or Fall and twisting the prophecies accordingly.

Pastor Russell goes on to describe how Adams and Paton both eventually denied the doctrine of the Ransom. Paton published a book which Pastor Russell thus describes:

The false foundation which it presents is the old heathen doctrine of evolution revamped, which not only denies the fall of man, but as a consequence, all necessity for a redeemer. It claims, on the contrary, that not by redemption and restitution to a lost estate, but by progressive evolution or development, man has risen and is still to rise from the lower condition in which he was created until, by his own good works, he ultimately reaches the divine nature. It claims that our blessed Lord was Himself a degraded and imperfect man, whose work on earth was to crucify a carnal nature, which, it claims He possessed, and to thus show all men how to crucify their carnal or sinful propensities.

And here we remark that the darkness and degradation which came upon the whole world in its fallen, cast-off condition, and which was only intensified by Papacy’s priest-craft during the Dark Ages, when contrasted with the light of intelligence which God is now letting in upon the world, have gradually led men to esteem present intelligence as merely a part of a process of evolution. This view, as we have shown,[1] though quite incorrect, is nevertheless the occasion of the predicted great falling away from the faith of the Bible during the harvest period. (Psa. 91:7) And few Christian people seem to be well enough grounded in the Truth to be able to withstand this trial of the evil day, in which many will fall while only the few will stand. For this cause we use great plainness of speech.

The little history of the way in which Mr. Paton came to turn from us and from the Ransom, to oppose that which he once clearly saw and advocated, is important, as it became the occasion of another sifting or testing of The Watch Tower readers…It came about thus:

In the year 1881, Mr. Barbour, still publishing the Herald, and still endeavoring to overthrow the doctrine of the Ransom, finding that on a preaching tour I had used a diagram of the Tabernacle to illustrate how Christ’s sacrifice was typified in the sacrifices of typical Israel, wrote an article on the Atonement, in which he undertook to show that the sacrifices of the Day of Atonement typified almost anything else than what they do typify. I could readily see through the fallacy of his presentation, which made of the bullock a type of one thing in one verse and another thing in each other verse in which it was mentioned, and so too with the goat. But I well knew that people in general are not close reasoners, and that, with the cares of life upon them, they are too apt to accept a seeming interpretation, without a critical exami­nation of the words of Scripture and their context.

I thought the matter all over. I examined the chapter (Lev. 16), but while seeing the incon­sistency and error of Mr. Barbour’s interpretation, I could only confess that I did not understand it and could not give a connected interpretation which would fit all the details so plainly stated, and all of which must have a particular meaning. What could I do? Those reading the Herald as well as the Tower would probably be misled, if not helped out of the difficulty; and to merely say that the Herald’s interpretation was inconsistent with itself, and therefore a misinterpretation, would be misunder­stood. Many would surely think that I opposed that view from a spirit of rivalry; for there are always people with whom everything resolves itself into personality, rivalry and party spirit, and such cannot understand others who take a higher and nobler view, and who think always and only of the Truth, regardless of persons.

I went to the Lord with this as with every trial, told Him just how it seemed to me, how anxious I felt for His dear “sheep,” who, having their appetites sharpened by some truth, were by their very hunger exposed to Satan’s deceptions. I told Him that I realized that He was the Shepherd, and not I, but that I knew also that He would be pleased at my interest in the sheep and my desire to be His mouthpiece to declare the Truth, the Way and the Life to them; that I felt deeply impressed that if the time had come for the permission of a false view to deceive the unworthy, it must also be His due time to have the Truth on the same subject made clear, that the worthy ones might be enabled to stand, and not fall from the Truth. Believing that the due time had come for the correct understanding of the meaning of the Jewish sacrifices, which in a general way all Christians concede were typical of “better sacrifices,” and that the Lord would grant the insight as soon as I got into the attitude of heart best fitted to receive the light, I prayed with confidence that if the Lord’s due time had come, and if He were willing to use me as His instrument to declare the message to His dear family, that I might be enabled to rid my heart and mind of any prejudice that might stand in the way and be led of His spirit into the proper understanding.

Believing that the prayer would be answered affirmatively, I went into my study next morning prepared to study and write. The forenoon I spent in scrutinizing the text and every other Scripture likely to shed light upon it, especially the epistle to the Hebrews, and in looking to the Lord for wisdom and guidance; but no solution of the difficult passage came. The afternoon and evening were similarly spent, and all of the next day. Everything else was neglected, and I wondered why the Lord kept me so long; but on the third day near noon the whole matter came to me as clear as the noon-day sun – so clear and convincing and so harmonious with the whole tenor of Scripture, that I could not question its correctness; and no one has ever yet been able to find a flaw in it.[2]

Then I knew why the Lord had led me to it so slowly and cautiously. I needed a special preparation of heart for the full appreciation of all it contained, and I was all the more assured that it was not of my own wisdom; for if of my own why would it not have come at once? I found that the understanding of that subject was bound to have a wide influence upon all our hopes and views of all truths – not that it overturned old truths or con­tradicted them, but, on the contrary, that it set them all in order and harmony and straightened out little knots and twists.

For instance, the doc­trine of “justification by faith” had always been more or less confused in my mind, as it is in every mind, with the doctrine of “sanctification” which calls for self-sacrifice and works. This was all made clear and plain at once; for the types showed that we all, as sinners, needed first of all Christ’s ransom sacrifice, that we appropriate its merits (justification – forgive­ness) to ourselves by faith, and that thus we are justified (reckoned free from sin) when, turning from sin, we by faith accept of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. The type showed, too, that it is only after being thus cleansed in God’s sight (by our acceptance of Christ’s finished work as our ransom-sacrifice) that God is willing to accept us as joint-sacrificers with Christ, so that if faithful to the end, following in His footsteps, we should be granted the favor of joint-heirship with Him.

Here I first saw that the great privilege of becoming joint-heirs with Christ and partakers with Him of the divine nature was confined exclusively to those who would share with Him in self-sacrifice in the service of the Truth. And here, too, I saw for the first time that the Lord was the first of these sacrifices of the Sin-Offering; consequently, that none of God’s servants, the Prophets, who lived and died before Christ, were priests after His order, nor sharers in sacrifice with Him, even though some of them were stoned, others sawn asunder and others slain with the sword, for the cause of God; that though they would get a good and great reward, they would belong to a separate class and order from those called to sacrifice and joint-heirship with Christ on and since Pentecost. (Heb. 11)

Here, too, I first saw that the acceptable day [time, period] of the Lord (Isa. 61:2) signifies this Gospel Age – the time during which He will accept the sacrifice of any who come unto God through Christ, the great Sin-Offering: that when this acceptable day ends, the reward of joint-heirship and change to the divine nature ends; and that when this great day of sacrifice, the Gospel Age (the real day of Atonement),[3] has closed, when all the members of the body of Christ have participated with Him in the sacrifice of their rights as justified men, and been glorified, then the blessing will begin to come to the world – the Millennial blessings purchased for men by their Redeemer, according to the grace of God.

This first brought a clear recognition of the distinction of natures – of what constitutes human nature, what constitutes angelic nature and what constitutes divine nature.[4] And whereas we formerly used the word Restitution in a general way to mean some sort of blessed change, now under the clearer light we began to see that the great work of Restitution could only mean what the word implies – a restoration of that which was lost (Matt. 18:11; Luke 19:10) – a restoration to the original condition from which man once fell.

Then I saw that God’s plan, when carried out, would not bring all His creatures to the one level of the divine nature, but that He purposed to have an order of creatures called Angels, who, though perfect, would always be of a different order, or nature, from the divine nature, and He likewise purposed to have a race of beings of the human nature, of whom Adam was a sample or pattern, and whose future earthly home, Paradise, Eden was a sample or pattern. I also saw that God purposed that Christ and His joint-sacrificers and joint-heirs are to be God’s instruments for blessing the fallen race and restoring them to the condition of perfection enjoyed by Adam in Eden – a condition which God said was “very good,” and an image of Himself. And these joint-heirs with Christ, I saw, were to be highly exalted to a nature higher than restored and perfect manhood, higher, too, than the angelic nature – even to be partakers of the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:4)

When all these things so unexpectedly shone out so brightly and clearly, I did not wonder that the Lord gave me several days of waiting and preparation for the blessing, and to Him I rendered praise and thanks. All my faintness of heart and fear of the bad effect of the wrong view fled before this evidence of the Lord’s leading in the pathway that shines more and more unto the perfect day. (Prov. 4:18) I saw at once that these new developments would probably prove a stumbling block to some, as well as a great blessing to others who were ready for them. So instead of publishing them in the next Tower, I determined to first present the matter privately to the more prominent brethren, remembering Paul’s course in a similar matter. (Gal. 2:2)

Accordingly I sent invitations and the money necessary for traveling expenses to four of the more prominent brethren, requesting a conference. Mr. Paton, from Michigan was one of the four, and the only one who rejected the fresh rays of light. Nor could he find any fault with the exegesis, though urged, as all were, to state anything which might seem inconsistent, or to quote any passages of Scripture thought to be in conflict. But there were none; and every question only demonstrated more fully the strength of the position. I therefore urged that what was beyond the criticism of those most familiar with the plan of God must be the Truth, and ought to be confessed and taught at any cost, and especially when it arranged and ordered all the other features of truth so beautifully.

I pointed out, too, how necessary it was to a logical holding of the Ransom, to see just what this showed; viz.: the distinctions of nature – that our Lord left a higher nature, and took a lower nature when He was made flesh, and that the object in that change of nature was that He might as a man, a perfect man, give Himself a ransom for the first perfect man, Adam, and thus redeem Adam, and all lost in him. I also showed how, as a reward for this great work, He was given the divine nature in His resurrection – a nature still higher than the glorious one He had left when He became a man.

But either Mr. Paton’s mental vision or heart was weak, for he never took the step; and before long he too forsook the doctrine of the Ransom. Yet he still used the word “ransom,” while denying the idea conveyed by the word; nor can he give the word any other definition, or otherwise dispute the correctness of the meaning which I attach to it – which may be found in any English dictionary and is true to the significance of the Greek word which it translates, anti-lutron, a price to correspond.

Notwithstanding our best endeavors to save him he drifted farther and farther away…About this time Mr. Paton concluded that he would publish another book…revised to harmonize with his changed views, which ignored the Ransom, ignored justification and the need of either, and taught that all men will be everlastingly saved – not in any sense as the result of any sacrifice for their sin by Christ, but as the result of each one’s crucifying sin in himself – the law under which the poor Jews tried to commend themselves to God, but which justified none. Many and severe were the calumnies heaped upon me, because I exposed this change…

During this time I was busied by an immense work known to many of you, the issue and circulation of over 1,400,000 copies of two pamphlets, entitled Food for Thinking Christians and Tabernacle Teachings[5]I was flooded with thousands of joyous and joy-giving letters, from those who had received and were reading the pamphlets thus distributed, and asking questions and requesting more reading matter.

Some who have The Three Worlds or the old edition of Day Dawn [another early work published with Mr. Paton] would perhaps like to know my present opinion of them – whether I still think them profitable books to loan to truth-seekers. To this I reply, certainly not; because the very immature views of God’s Truth therein presented fall far short of what we now see to be God’s wonderful plan. Things which are now clear as noonday were then cloudy and mixed. The distinctions between the perfect human nature to which the obedient of the world will be restored during the Millennium, and the divine nature to which the Little Flock, the sacrificing elect of the Gospel Age, are soon to be exalted, were then unnoticed. All now so clear was then blurred, mixed and indistinct. Neither had we then seen the steps or planes, shown upon the Chart of the Ages (Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. I), which have assisted so many to distinguish between justi­fication and sanctification, and to determine their present standing and relationship to God.

Once I was much less careful about what I circulated or commended, but I am learning every day to be more careful as to what sort of food I put before any of the Lord’s hungry sheep. The Lord has taught me that it is a responsible matter to be a teacher, even to the extent of circulating a book or a paper. Even Food for Thinking Christians (now also out of print), I no longer commend because it is less systematic and therefore less clear than later publications.

Another chapter in our experience needs to be told, as it marks another shaking and sifting. Mr. A. D. Jones proposed to start a paper on the same line as the Watch Tower, to republish some of the simpler features of God’s plan and to be a sort of missionary and primary teacher. Knowing him to be clear on the subject of the Ransom, I bade him God speed and introduced a sample copy of his paper, Zion’s Day Star (now for some years discontinued), to our nearly ten thousand readers, only, as it soon proved, to stumble some of them into rank infidelity and others into the rejection of the Ransom; for though the Day Star for a few months steered a straight course and maintained the same position as the Tower with reference to the Ransom, and for the same reason refused the no-ransom articles sent for its columns by Mr. Paton, yet within one year it had repudiated Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and within another year it had gone boldly into infidelity and totally repudiated all the rest of the Bible as well as those portions which teach the fall in Adam and the Ransom therefrom in Christ.

All this meant another strain, another sifting, another cutting loose of friends, who erroneously supposed that our criticisms of the false doctrines were prompted by a spirit of rivalry, and who did not so soon see whither his teachings were drifting, nor how great the importance of holding fast the first principles of the doctrines of Christ, how Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification.

We want to put you all on notice that the shaking and sifting process, so far from being over and past, is bound to progress more and more until all have been tried and tested thoroughly. It is not a question of who may fall, but of “Who shall be able to stand?” as the Apostle puts it. (Rev. 6:17) And we have need again to remember the admonition, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor. 10:12)

This doctrine of another way of salvation other than by the cross of Christ, is not only the error which is, and has been since 1874, sifting all who come into the light of Present Truth, but it is the trial that is to come upon the whole of so-called Christendom. (Rev. 3:10) It is already spreading among all classes of Christian people, especially among ministers of all denominations. The number who believe that Christ’s death paid our sin-penalty is daily getting smaller, and before very long there will be a regular stampede from the doctrine of man’s fall in Adam and his ransom from that fall by “the man Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim. 2:5,6) As the Psalmist prophetically pictured it, a thou­sand will fall to one who will stand. (Psa. 91:7)

The time has come for each one to declare himself boldly. He who is not for the cross (the Ransom) is against it! He that gathereth not scattereth abroad! He who is silent on this subject, when it is being assailed by foes on every hand, whether it be the silence of fear, or of shame, or of indifference, is not worthy of the Truth, and will surely be one to stumble quickly. He who from any cause sits idly by, while the banner of the cross is assailed, is not a soldier of the cross worthy the name, and will not be reckoned among the overcomers who shall inherit all things. And God is permitting these very siftings, in order to sift out all who are not “overcomers,” and to test and manifest the Little Flock, who, like Gideon’s final army, will, though few, share the victory and honors of their Captain in glory.

Are you prepared for the issue, dear brethren and sisters? The armor of Truth has been given you for some time past; have you put it on? Have you made it your shield and buckler, your defense against all the wily arts of the Evil One?

Do not be deceived by the agents Satan often makes use of. In this he will be as cunning as in his presentation of the deceptive misrepre­sentations of truth, making unwitting use of many a weaker brother, and to some extent of every stumbling and deceived one, to spread farther the infection of false doctrine. And while every child of God should take earnest heed, that he prove not an occasion of stumbling to any, we cannot doubt that every one, through some instrumentality, will be assailed.

Aptly indeed did the Prophet liken it to a pestilence. (Psa. 91:6) A pestilence spreads because people are in a physical condition which renders them susceptible to disease. Physicians say that those whose systems are in good, healthy order are in little danger of any disease. So it is with a spiritual pestilence: it will flourish not only because all will be exposed to it who have not a clear intellectual appreciation of the doctrines of Christ…Most needful of all to be in a right condition is the heart. How is your heart? Is it proud, boastful, independent, self-conscious and self-willed? If so, take care; you will be very liable to this epidemic, no matter how far from it you may seem to be.

(Excerpts from Reprint 3820, with minor editing)


[1] Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. I, page 162.

[2] This was published as Tabernacle Shadows of the Better Sacrifices.

[3] Pastor Russell later came to see that the Antitypical Day of Atonement includes both the Gospel and Millennial Ages. See Tabernacle Shadows, page 130, Note II.

[4] Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. I, Chapter 10.

[5] The subject matter of these pamphlets was approx­imately the same as Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. I.