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Monday, August 10, 2009

“This is not man’s work.”

There are, of course, many religious organizations, and a considerable number of teachers make some use of the Bible. Was God particularly using Charles Taze Russell? If so, did God cease to have a visible channel when Brother Russell died? These became critical issues, ones that led to further testing and sifting.

It certainly could not be expected that God would use C. T. Russell if he did not loyally adhere to God’s Word. (Jer. 23:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) God would not use a man who fearfully refrained from preaching what he saw clearly written in the Scriptures. (Ezek. 2:6-8) Nor would God use a person who exploited his knowledge of the Scriptures to bring glory to himself. (John 5:44) So, what do the facts show?

As Jehovah’s Witnesses today review the work that he did, the things he taught, his reason for teaching them, and the outcome, they have no doubt that Charles Taze Russell was, indeed, used by God in a special way and at a significant time.

This view is not based solely on the firm stand that Brother Russell took with regard to the ransom. It also takes into account the fact that he fearlessly rejected creeds that contained some of the foundation beliefs of Christendom, because these clashed with the inspired Scriptures. These beliefs included the doctrine of the Trinity (which had its roots in ancient Babylon and was not adopted by so-called Christians until long after Bible writing was completed) as well as the teaching that human souls are inherently immortal (which had been adopted by men who were overawed by the philosophy of Plato and which left them open to such ideas as the eternal torment of souls in hellfire). Many of Christendom’s scholars, too, know that these doctrines are not taught in the Bible, but that is not generally what their preachers say from the pulpits. In contrast, Brother Russell undertook an intensive campaign to share what the Bible actually does say with everyone who was willing to hear.

Noteworthy too is what Brother Russell did with other highly significant truths that he learned from God’s Word. He discerned that Christ would return as a glorious spirit person, invisible to human eyes. As early as 1876, he recognized that the year 1914 would mark the end of the Gentile Times. (Luke 21:24, KJ) Other Bible scholars had likewise perceived some of these things and had advocated them. But Brother Russell used all his resources to give them international publicity on a scale then unequaled by any other individual or group.

He urged others to check his writings carefully against God’s inspired Word so that they would be satisfied that what they were learning was in full harmony with it. To one who wrote a letter of inquiry, Brother Russell replied: “If it was proper for the early Christians to prove what they received from the apostles, who were and who claimed to be inspired, how much more important it is that you fully satisfy yourself that these teachings keep closely within their outline instructions and those of our Lord;—since their author claims no inspiration, but merely the guidance of the Lord, as one used of him in feeding his flock.”

Brother Russell claimed no supernatural power, no divine revelations. He did not claim credit for what he taught. He was an outstanding student of the Bible. But he explained that his remarkable understanding of the Scriptures was due to ‘the simple fact that God’s due time had come.’ He said: “If I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out.” He referred to himself as being simply like an index finger, pointing to what is stated in God’s Word.

Charles Taze Russell wanted no glory from humans. To readjust the thinking of any who were inclined to give excessive honor to him, Brother Russell wrote, in 1896: “As we have been to some extent, by the grace of God, used in the ministry of the gospel, it may not be out of place to say here what we have frequently said in private, and previously in these columns,—namely, that while we appreciate the love, sympathy, confidence and fellowship of fellow-servants and of the entire household of faith, we want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings; nor do we wish to be called Reverend or Rabbi. Nor do we wish that any should be called by our name.”

As his death neared, he did not take the view that there was nothing more to be learned, that there was no more work to be done. He had often spoken of preparing a seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. When asked about it before he died, he said to Menta Sturgeon, his traveling companion: “Some one else can write that.” In his will he expressed the desire that The Watch Tower continue to be published under the direction of a committee of men fully devoted to the Lord. He stated that those who would thus serve were to be men “thoroughly loyal to the doctrines of the Scriptures—especially so to the doctrine of the Ransom—that there is no acceptance with God and no salvation to eternal life except through faith in Christ and obedience to His Word and its spirit.”

Brother Russell realized that there was much work yet to be done in preaching the good news. At a question-and-answer session in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, in 1915, he was asked when Christ’s spirit-anointed followers then living could expect to receive their heavenly reward. He replied: “I do not know, but there is a great work to be done. And it will take thousands of brethren and millions in money to do it. Where these will come from I don’t know—the Lord knows his own business.” Then, in 1916, a short while before he began the speaking tour on which he died, he called A. H. Macmillan, an administrative assistant, to his office. On that occasion he said: “I am not able to carry on the work any longer, and yet there is a great work to be done.” For three hours he described to Brother Macmillan the extensive preaching work that he saw ahead, on the basis of the Scriptures. To Brother Macmillan’s objections, he replied: “This is not man’s work.”

- Published by the WTB&TS, 1993