CHARLES T. RUSSELL Biography - Religious Figures & Icons


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PASTOR Charles Taze Russell was born February 16, 1852, and died Oct. 31, 1916,               
aged 64 years 8 months and 15 days. Thus in years, months and days, we measure               
the duration of his life; but measuring the duration of a life is not measuring               
the life.                                                                                     
"We live in deeds not years; In thoughts, not breaths."                                       
We can count the number of his years, but many a man has lived longer to whom                 
mankind owes no debt of gratitude. We can count the number of his days, but the               
value of a day depends upon what is put into it. One day may be worth a thousand             
other days, and how much he accomplished in those 64 years we can only begin to               
know when we learn the intensity with which he lived them.                                   
In testimony meetings, thousands all over our land and in every land under the               
sun, bear witness to their gratitude to God that he has raised up a man who has               
been the instrument in his land of snatching them from the very brink of doubt               
and infidelity, placing their feet on the solid rock of Christ's "ransom for all."           
Some of these men simply could not believe the Bible as interpreted by their                 
religious teachers. They would not say they believed when they did not. They did             
not wish to be infidels, and they bewailed their lack of faith and hope. You                 
need not tell me that normally constituted men are infidels from choice. You                 
need not tell me that normally constituted men deliberately choose to believe                 
and are glad to believe that they die as the brutes, with no hope of a future                 
life. Many of these men are infidels not so much from their own fault as from                 
the fault of their religious teachers who gave them an interpretation of the                 
Bible contrary to reason and impossible for them to believe. Many a man in this               
attitude has gone to hear Pastor Russell. They have gone to the service infidels             
and came back rejoicing Christians. Their religious teachers kept saying: "Don't             
go to hear that man Russell; he preaches dangerous doctrine." But, by the grace               
of God, they went and received the spiritual food they had been starving for,                 
the spiritual food their religious teachers did not know how to give. It is no               
wonder that men would sometimes stand in a crowded aisle and listen to his                   
inspiring words for two hours at a time without moving from their places --no                 
wonder, when those words were bringing hope instead of despair, faith in the                 
place of doubt, peace in the place of agitation and unrest, joy in the place of               
When men with heart full of gratitude would tell him of the blessings they had               
received, he would simply say something like this: "Brother, I am glad you                   
received blessing from God's word; his truth is very precious." He simply                     
ignored his part in the matter. In proof that this was his attitude, hear his                 
own words, as found on page 10 of his celebrated book, "The Divine Plan of the               
"Though in this work we shall endeavor, and we trust with success, to set before             
the interested and unbiased reader the plan of God as it relates to and explains             
the past, the present and the future of his dealings, in a way more harmonious,               
beautiful and reasonable than is generally understood, yet that this is the                   
result of extraordinary wisdom or ability on the part of the writer, is                       
positively disclaimed. It is the light from the Sun of Righteousness in this                 
dawning of the Millennial Day that reveals these things as present truth, etc."               
He believed that the time was due for these truths to be made known, and if he               
had not written them, God would have found some one else to do so.                           
One of the great objects of his life was to show that the Bible, when correctly               
translated and rightly understood is harmonious throughout, and gives the most               
exalted and uplifting conception of our Creator and our duties to him that is                 
possible for a human being to attain. To show this complete harmony of the Bible,             
of all its parts, was no easy task. It meant labor. At that time there was great             
indifference on the part of the people. Most of them did not seem to care                     
whether the various texts of the Bible were in harmony with one another or not.               
Each seemed more interested in seeking such texts as prove or seemed to prove                 
his particular creed, and ignored such texts as oppose it. Even ministers, when               
texts were brought to their attention that contradicted their creed, would make               
such remarks as: "Oh, don't trouble yourself about such matters as that. There               
is enough in the fifth chapter of Matthew to save anybody." They were merely                 
seeking such knowledge as they thought would save them and their friends, and                 
seemed utterly indifferent as to what truth honors God most. In 1st Sam. 2:30                 
the Lord says, "Them that honor me, I will honor." This promise is not to those               
who carry on some great work of charity or make some great attempt to convert                 
the world, for these things are often done in such a way as to dishonor God.                 
Many are engaged in these things; few make it the chief object of their lives to             
do those things and to preach those doctrines that bring most honor to God's                 
name. Most men seem utterly indifferent on this matter. At a time when such                   
indifference was widely prevalent, Pastor Russell began his work of showing the               
harmony of the Bible with itself and with the character of its Divine Author. He             
saw that there is no way to bring permanent blessing to the human race except                 
through faith in God and faith in the Bible. He, therefore, sought to show how               
worthy the Bible is of all our faith and love. That was the great motive of his               
life. We know that this was his motive, not because he has told us so, but                   
because the motive rings through every article that he wrote and every sermon                 
that he preached. A motive like that could not live in a narrow life. It could               
not find room in a little heart. Therefore it is natural for us, as thoughtful               
men and women, to inquire, "What were the events of his life and the various                 
circumstances leading up to such a motive? What must his childhood, his boyhood               
and his early manhood have been?" Charles T. Russell was the second son of                   
Joseph L. and Ann Eliza Russell, and was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. His father was               
a well-to-do merchant, and the son, when not engaged in study, spent much of his             
time helping his father in the store. By so doing, he rendered himself liable to             
the awful charge that certain ministers in various parts of the country have                 
brought against him, that in his early life he was "a seller of shirts." In this             
work, however, he developed the qualities of industry, perseverance and                       
earnestness of purpose, qualities that have been such prominent characteristics               
of his mature years. As the father was a very successful business man, it was                 
only natural for the son also to begin business as a merchant. In this work the               
young man manifested such business acumen that, in a few years, he was the owner             
of five clothing stores. In all this work he was so thoroughly honest and his                 
goods so thoroughly reliable that his success was marvelous, so marvelous that               
some who then knew him believe that if he had continued in the mercantile                     
business he might have rivaled in the accumulation of wealth some of the richest             
money kings of his day. But his great desire was not to be rich, but to be                   
useful. We need not tell you this, you may know it for yourself when you                     
consider the following facts: At one time in his life, while he was yet a young               
man, the valuation of his real and personal property is said to have reached                 
over $200,000. Of this $40,000 were spent in the publication and circulation of               
his first book, "Food for Thinking Christians." At various times he contributed               
large amounts to the Society of which he was president. In fact at the time of               
his death he had but $200 left of his own private fortune.                                   
Notwithstanding this fact, there have been men so ignorant of the facts in the               
case, or had so little regard for truth and veracity as to say: "Russell has                 
just started this religious movement as a money-making scheme." The utter                     
foolishness of such a statement could not be fully manifest to persons                       
unacquainted with the manner in which the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is             
operated. The very idea of a company of men getting rich preaching the gospel                 
without money and without price, while their friends at the various appointments             
advertised the meetings "Seats free; no collection." The truth of the matter is               
that those ministers who have done this talking about "money making scheme"                   
concerning Pastor Russell have simply been "measuring his corn in their own half-bushel."     
A man whose own life is actuated by low motives cannot appreciate a higher                   
motive in another man.                                                                       
In all of Pastor Russell's work, and in all the work of the Society including                 
missionary work, translation of the books into all the important modern                       
languages, exhibition of the Photo Drama of Creation, etc., not one penny was                 
ever solicited and no collection was ever taken. That, of course, does not mean               
that money has not been liberally contributed, but every contribution is and                 
must be absolutely voluntary and unsolicited. Two years ago last summer in the               
northern part of Pennsylvania, a little girl eight years old came to me after                 
the services and said: "Here is five cents to help other little boys and girls               
to see the Photo Drama." The five cents were forwarded to the Watch Tower office,             
along with larger contributions, and in the course of a few days the proper                   
officer of the Society sent her a receipt with just the same care that a $50                 
contribution in a neighboring town was receipted for.                                         
Pastor Russell was a man of great faith, and he always had perfect confidence                 
that money would be forthcoming for every work that the Lord wanted done. On one             
occasion, after he had spoken to a large audience, he was shaking hands with the             
people as they passed out, when a man handed him an envelope. He put it into his             
pocket and went on shaking hands. After a few minutes some of the brethren were               
consulting with him concerning some work that all agreed would be good to have               
done; "but where was the money to come from?" Brother Russell said: "If it is a               
work the Lord wants done, he will see that the money is provided." He opened the             
envelope. It contained a check for one thousand dollars, and the work went on.               
Men have sometimes come to him and said: "Brother Russell, I have been greatly               
blessed by your explanation of the Scriptures. I feel that this is a great work.             
How can I get some money into it?" This may sound strange to men who all their               
lives have been dunned for money "to pay the preacher," but "Truth is stranger               
than fiction." "The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. The cattle on a thousand hills             
are his," and he does not need money that must be begged for or raffled for at               
box socials or church fairs. His "Divine Plan of the Ages" has a circulation                 
several times that of any other book ever published in the English language                   
except the Bible. He is the author of five other principal books and of numerous             
booklets and tracts. He is also the author of the "Photo Drama of Creation,"                 
which has been seen and heard by over nine millions of people. His sermons of                 
recent years have appeared regularly every week in over a thousand newspapers,               
and are read by millions of people.                                                           
While Pastor Russell had his friends and admirers he also had his enemies and                 
persecutors. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."             
So if any one is not suffering persecution he is not living godly in Christ                   
Jesus. When you read that a certain man did not have an enemy in the world, you               
have found a man that never steadfastly and earnestly opposed the wrong. On the               
other hand, every man that has done anything earnestly to free the race from                 
wrong and error and superstition has had his opposers and persecutors. Christ                 
and all his apostles save one suffered martyrdom for the truth they preached,                 
and from that day to this, every man who stood for unpopular truth and against               
popular error has had his persecutors. So Pastor Russell has likewise had his                 
persecutors who tried to minimize his work, burned his books and attempted to                 
destroy his good name. Yes, they sometimes burned his books, and they did so for             
the very same reason that they used to burn the Bibles; they were afraid of the               
truth there was in them. But the more they burned the books, the more the truth               
spread. I had the pleasure a few months ago of speaking in a town where, not                 
long before, some of the religionists had got together and agreed to advise the               
people to burn Pastor Russell's books. In a few weeks colporteurs came into the               
town and sold far more books than had been burned. The bigots who had burned the             
books had merely aroused the curiosity of the people. In the Dark Ages they                   
sometimes sought to terrify the people by burning the Bibles in the streets, and             
thus compel them to submit to the prescribed forms of religion, the "Orthodox"               
forms. There is too much of the spirit of liberty and tolerance in free America               
for such an indignity to be perpetrated to-day without arousing a sense of                   
justice in the minds of those who hate tyranny. It is interesting to note how                 
the books have found their way through the hands of those who did not appreciate             
them into the hands of those who did. It often happens that one man buys and                 
does not appreciate them, then loans them to another man who enjoys them with                 
all his heart. At one of the conventions, a lady tells us that a friend sent her             
"The Divine Plan of the Ages" and she burned it. Another friend sent her a                   
second book of the same kind, and she burned it. A third friend sent her a third             
book, and she stopped and thought. It is sometimes a good thing to stop and                   
think. "Finally," says she, "I read this book and it burned me." By this, I                   
suppose, she means that it burned away all her prejudice and left her ready for               
the heart-glow of joy that comes to those who see what beautiful truth God has               
in store for those who are ready to enjoy it.                                                 
The parents of Charles T. Russell were of the "orthodox" faith, and up to the                 
age of fifteen he believed all and only such doctrines as his sectarian                       
ministers took the trouble to teach him. To fully understand doctrines at that               
time was very difficult. The clergy as a rule discouraged questions. So he                   
simply believed the doctrines of the church he attended, especially the doctrine             
of the eternal torment of all except the saints. His favorite teacher was                     
Spurgeon, because, as he said, "he peppered it hot," his claim being that if one             
believed a thing he should tell it with all his might. So at the age of fifteen               
he used to go about the city of Pittsburg on Saturday evenings with a piece of               
chalk writing on the fence boards and telling the people not to fail to attend               
church on Sunday, so that they might escape that terrible hell in which he so                 
firmly believed. At about this time it seems that Providence had decreed that he             
should attempt to reclaim an infidel friend to Christianity. By skillful                     
questions that neither layman or minister could answer and hold to the accepted               
creed, the infidel completely routed young Russell, and he became a skeptic. He               
saw, for instance, that with the doctrine of eternal torment in it he could not               
believe the Bible; though he still held to a belief in God and the hope of a                 
future life. As he desired to learn the truth in regard to the hereafter, the                 
next few years were devoted to the investigation of the claims of the leading                 
Oriental religions, all of which he found unworthy of credence. At the age of                 
twenty he was possessed of much knowledge and voluminous data in regard to "religion"         
as believed and practiced in all parts of the world, but his mind was                         
unsatisfied and unsettled.                                                                   
At length he decided to search the Scriptures for their own answer on hell-fire               
and brimstone. Here was the turning point in his life. Picture to yourself a                 
young man in the early twenties with large business responsibilities upon him,               
and with little time for research, and yet longing to know the truth in regard               
to the great hereafter. He believed that the Creator of all things must be a                 
loving God, and in harmony with this he read in the Bible, "God is love." He                 
also read, "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his                 
works." That too was in harmony with what he believed the character of the                   
Creator must be. But how could he harmonize this with what his creed taught? How             
could God's tender mercies be over all his works when some of his works, some of             
his creatures, were to be roasted eternally in an abyss of fire and terrors? How             
could there be any "tender mercies" in a course like that? How could our loving               
Creator be a God like that? Then the question came, Does the Bible really teach               
the eternal torture of the unsaved?                                                           
As he searched the Scriptures for the answer, the answer came. Not one text,                 
merely, but texts by the hundreds showing the foolishness and unreasonableness               
of the doctrine of eternal torment. We do not know the order in which these                   
texts came to his mind, but we know that they came. He read, "The Lord                       
preserveth all them that love him" (Yes, he preserveth them, to all eternity) "but           
all the wicked will be destroyed." It does not say "All the wicked will he roast             
eternally." Again he reads, "He that converteth the sinner from the error of his             
ways shall save a soul from death," not from eternal torment. Again he reads "The             
soul that sinneth it shall die," not live in torment eternally. In fact, he saw               
that all the comparisons and contrasts in the Bible are never between life in                 
happiness and life in misery, but always between life and death, eternal life or             
eternal death, all the wicked utterly destroyed in what the Scriptures call "the             
second death," so completely destroyed that "they shall be as though they had                 
not been," and even "the remembrance of the wicked shall rot," utterly pass from             
the memory of all forever. Then this young man saw God finally triumphant over               
all evil, when "at his name every knee shall bow," when "at the name of Jesus                 
every knee shall bow, in heaven on the earth and under the earth, and every                   
tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father." So he saw               
the whole glad universe uniting in one grand hymn of praise to the Creator, no               
room in that happy universe for men or demons who choose to remain in rebellion               
against the Creator, but all ready to join in a hymn of praise. Then this young               
man saw a loving God looking down upon a sin-cursed earth with an eye of pity                 
and love, and in order to make it possible for us to have eternal life, he must               
give what was dearest to him in the whole universe. "For God so loved the world               
that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not                 
die eternally but live eternally." When, as a young man, Charles T. Russell saw               
all this and far more, his great heart was thrilled to its very depths. He was               
ready to do anything for the God he had found to be so wise, so loving, so                   
wonderful. It was then that he gave his heart to the Lord in full consecration,               
ready to do or say or be whatever the Lord might show him. Little did he care                 
for wealth, or fame, or worldly pleasure. He had found a better God than he                   
before had known, and he must tell it, and he did tell it out with a shout,                   
hallelujah! Praise God's holy name, that he has found a man strong enough, true               
enough, brave enough to vindicate His character from the unscriptural and                     
unreasonable doctrine of eternal torment. To the very ends of the earth he has               
told the Bible truth that "the wages of sin is death," and not eternal torment.               
Yes, and his words have been heard, heard by many who will not admit that they               
have heard, believed by many who will not admit that they believe. A few years               
ago a minister who was then preaching in this country was asked by one of his                 
parishioners if he believed the doctrine of eternal torment. He admitted that he             
did not. "Then why do you preach it?" asked the parishioner. "Oh, there has to               
be some kind of a whip to bring them in," was the reply. A minister who used to               
preach in Waynesburg made the same admission to one of his parishioners. "Then               
why don't you tell your congregation so?" said the parishioner. "If I did that,               
I could not hold this pastorate," was the reply. A minister of Washington, Pa.,               
made the same admission. The young man said to the minister: "Then, why don't                 
you tell your congregation? He replied: "Young man, my bread isn't buttered on               
that side." That is the very class of men that are circulating false reports                 
about Pastor Russell and other men who are opposing their false doctrines.                   
"Yes, but in regard to Pastor Russell's character, the people say__________" Yes,             
"the people say" and "the people said" are the cudgels with which Satan has                   
destroyed the reputation of many an innocent man. A few years ago, W. W. Giles,               
a leading financier of Brown Summit, N.C., made the following offer and                       
published it broadcast wherever the English language is spoken:                               
"I have deposited $1,000 in the American Exchange National Bank of Greensboro, N.C.,         
and $500 in the First National Bank of Miami, Florida, to be paid to the first               
person who proves through any court of justice in the United States that Pastor               
Russell is guilty of immorality such as is the gossip of those ministers who                 
preach 'for pay.'"                                                                           
No one ever responded.                                                                       
The editor of the Evening Journal of Wilmington, Del., about two years ago,                   
published a statement that his columns were open to the publication of anything               
that might be published against Pastor Russell's character, provided the whole               
truth was stated with all the related circumstances and accompanied by the                   
writer's name. Why did none of Pastor Russell's defamers respond to this fair                 
offer? The people say! The people said! Satan's weapon now; Satan's weapon                   
always. The people said that Jesus was a blasphemer. His friends on one occasion             
"went out to lay hold on him, for they said, He is beside himself." The people               
said that the apostles were unfit to live, and put them to death. The people                 
said that the noble John Huss was unfit to live, and when they burned him at the             
stake, they confined a ball of brass in his mouth, in order, as the historian                 
states, "that the people might not understand his just defense against their                 
unjust condemnation." The people said that the brave Savonarola was a heretic                 
and they hanged him and afterwards burned his body in reproach. The people said               
that the noble Alexandre Campbell was a "heretic." "He is not orthodox." "He is               
little better than an infidel." The people said that the brave and true John                 
Wesley was a "falsifier," "a fomenter of strife," "a breeder of contention."                 
They talked about the jealousy of his wife against Sarah Ryan, the jealousy                   
against him of the husband of Sophia Christiana Williamson and how his wife                   
finally deserted him. Does what the people say, weaken our confidence in the                 
purity of John Wesley's life? By no means. The only difficulty was that he was               
so pure-minded himself that he forgot to guard himself well against impure minds             
who were watching to find a charge against him. John Wesley, Alexander Campbell,             
Charles T. Russell, three of the bravest, purest men of modern times and the                 
three most severely persecuted and slandered. Do we believe those slanders? Not               
if we are charitable, thoughtful and wise. Their names will go down in history               
together as the three greatest and truest reformers of the last two hundred                   
years. We have only space to conclude with a quotation from Judge Rutherford:                 
From a personal and painstaking examination of every charge that has been made               
against Pastor Russell, I am thoroughly convinced and confidently state that he               
is the most unjustly persecuted man on earth. Notwithstanding this, his good                 
work continues, and thousands testify to the blessings received therefrom. For               
many years he has stood forth to battle for the right. He is prematurely aged                 
from his arduous and unselfish labors in behalf of mankind. He is loved most by               
those who know him best, and while he has some relentless enemies, his staunch               
and substantial friends are numbered by the thousands.