Charles Taze Russell

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From 1870 through to 1875, the Russell family, and others, undertook an analytical study of the Bible and the origins of Christian doctrine, creed, and tradition. "Millerite" Adventist ministers George Storrs and George Stetson were closely involved. Russell's group believed they had found significant errors in common Christian belief. As a result of such study, the Russell family believed they had gained a clearer understanding of true Christianity, and were re-baptized in 1874.[24][25]

In December 1875 Nelson Barbour mailed a copy of Herald of the Morning, to Russell. Russell contacted Barbour to set up a meeting. The first response was a visit by John Henry Paton to Allegheny in March 1876. Russell arranged to meet Barbour in Philadelphia to compare notes. Russell sponsored a speech by Barbour in St. George's Hall, Philadelphia in August 1876 and attended other lectures by Barbour.[26]

Barbour introduced him to some new views that convinced Russell, amongst other things, that those Christians who were asleep in death would be raised in April, 1878.[27] Russell was moved to devote his life to what he believed were now the last two years before the return of Christ. He sold his five clothing stores for approximately $300,000 (US$ 7 million in 2010). With Russell's encouragement and financial backing, Barbour wrote an outline of their views in Three Worlds; or Plan of Redemption, published in 1877. A text Russell had written in 1874, The Object and Manner of our Lord's Return, was published the same year.[28] Russell's desire to lead a Christian revival was evidenced by his calling two separate meetings of every Christian leader in Pittsburgh. Russell's ideas, particularly stressing the Rapture's imminence, were rejected both times.[29][30]

Split with Barbour

When 1878 arrived, failure of the expected rapture of the saints brought great disappointment for Barbour and Russell, and their associates and readers. According to one of Russell's associates, A.H. Macmillan:

Confused by what was perceived to be an error in calculation, Russell re-examined the doctrine to see if he could determine whether it had biblical origins or was simply Christian tradition. His conclusion that it was tradition led him to begin teaching, through the pages of the Herald, what he believed to have discovered on the subject. Barbour, embarrassed by the failure of their expectations, rejected Russell's explanation and a debate ensued in successive issues of the journal from early 1878 to mid-1879. In a matter of months, Barbour's embarrassment led to a recanting of some of the views he and Russell had previously shared, including any reliance upon prophetic chronology. Their disagreements turned into a debate over Christ's ransom, resulting in a split between the two. Russell removed his financial support and started his own journal, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence, with the first issue published in July 1879. Barbour formed The Church of the Strangers that same year, continuing to publish the Herald of the Morning.[31][32][33]

The Watch Tower Society

In 1881, he founded Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society, with William Henry Conley as president and Russell as secretary-treasurer, for the purpose of disseminating tracts, papers, doctrinal treatises and Bibles. All materials were printed and bound by contract with local printers, then distributed by "colporteurs" (persons who travel to sell or publicize Bibles, religious tracts, etc.).[34] The Society was officially chartered in 1884, with Russell as President, and in 1886 its name was changed to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

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