(Investigator 147, 2012 November)

Russellism, also known as Millennial Dawn, was a 19th century cult that experienced many divisions or splits. The main branch renamed itself Jehovah's Witnesses in 1931. The transition from Russellism to JWs was gradual, taking about 15 years, and included hundreds of changes in doctrine.

The reprint below is from a publication called The Life of Faith (May 5, 1915) and presents a Reverend's view of Russellism in 1915.

"Russellism" Under the Searchlight

By the REV. A. C. DIXON, B.A., D.D.

IT is my purpose to give simply a statement of the teachings of "Russellism," believing that to those who have even a smattering of Biblical knowledge such a statement is sufficient refutation. And for the public good there should be an exposure of the methods pursued by "Russellism" in popularising its vagaries.

"Russellism" teaches that Christ was not Divine before he came to earth, but only a created spirit of an order higher than the angels, and that He was not God in any sense.

It teaches that, when Christ came to earth, He dropped that spirit nature and became simply a human being, nothing more nor less—not a man and God, but only man in body, soul and spirit; while He was on earth, He was in no sense Divine. On the cross a man died, and whatever atonement was made for sin was made by the sacrifice of a mere man.

To sum it all up, Jesus Christ came from heaven as a mere spirit, created like other spirits, but of a higher order than the angels. In the incarnation of that spirit there was nothing but the human, nothing of the Divine. On the cross the human disappeared entirely, and He became simply a spirit again with some sort of Divine nature.

A Denial of the Resurrection.

The resurrection of Christ's body, according to "Russellism," never took place. He says we do not know what became of it. It may have been dissolved into gases, or it may be preserved as a sort of relic in a museum, but there was never any physical resurrection.

"Russellism" teaches, again, that the Lord Jesus in his second spiritual nature returned to this earth in 1874. This was His Second advent.

"Russellism" teaches, also, that in the year 1878 all the righteous dead were raised and became spiritual. Just as Christ came out a spirit, so all the righteous dead in 1878, prophets, apostles and martyrs, and all the rest, came forth, and that spiritually Christ and these righteous spirits have been on earth ever since. Nobody has ever known it except Mr. Russell and his followers; and when you ask him what evidence there is that the Second Advent has already taken place, his reply in substance has uniformly been, "You can see it by looking upon the world and noting the progress that has been made. Its civilisation has developed; peace congresses have been held." There was a fair promise, he thought, of the suppression of war by means of these peace congresses. Every indication shows, according to "Russellism," that the world has already heard the trumpet and the voice of the archangel in the advent of Christ in this spiritual way.

"Russellism" taught that the consummation of the Second Coming of Christ would take place in October 1914. The changes have been rung upon the claim that from October 1, 1914, "the times of the Gentiles" would be fulfilled, and the Millennium would begin. It looks now as if Pandemonium began about that time, and has been going on to a large extent ever since.

As 1914, with its first of October approached, Mr. Russell began to hedge a trifle. He expressed some doubt as to the certainty of the prophecy. He thought it might run through 1915, and even go into 1916; indeed, he was not quite certain that it might not take till 1920 to bring it all about.

What "Russellism" Teaches about Death.

"Russelllsm" taught, again that in 1881 God spued out the Churches of Christendom, rejected them all for "the elect," and we are left, for the most part, to read between the lines as to who the "elect" are.

"Russellism" teaches that death means the cessation of existence. "Death means death," it says — it means to cease to exist. Dr. I. M. Haldemann, of New York, has published a booklet entitled "Millennial Dawnism, the Blasphemous Religion which Teaches the Annihilation of Jesus Christ." The death of Christ meant the blotting out of His humanity. So it is with all human beings. Death means the cessation of existence. Whatever takes place after their death must, therefore, be a re-creation.

Though it teaches that death is a cessation of existence, "Russellism" teaches also that all mankind, wicked and righteous, will be raised from the dead during the Millennium. That is, they will be re-created, brought forth out of non-existence. They will have an opportunity then to be saved, a second chance, and only a little company will refuse because they prefer annihilation.

The hope is held out to the wickedest people that they will have a better chance in the time to come than they have now. That accounts to a large extent for the popularity of the movement. A gentleman in America heard a friend of his, the son of Christian parents, say: "I have just bought all of Mr. Russell's works, and I am going to read them through, for I have heard that he teaches there is no hell — a thing that I have been hearing about all my life — and that I will have a better chance in the future that I have had now." He said: "I am not living a righteous life, and I tell you, that sounds well! I am going to find out if it is true, and, if it is, I will be comforted." Of course! Men and women are comforted to live on in sin, if after death they will have a better chance than they have now.

The wicked dead will be raised during the Millennium, and they will have the choice then of heaven or of blotting out of existence. The fantastic interpretations of Scripture which wrest them into this meaning would be ludicrous indeed if the matter were not so very serious.

A Rare Example of Exegesis.

Take the interpretation of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. The rich man, according to "Russellism," means the Jew, the tribes of Benjamin and Judah; and the five brothers refer to the ten tribes, making each brother represent two tribes, without a word of Scripture for it. Lazarus represents the Gentiles, when the fact is that the Gentiles were the rich folk of that day and the Jews were the persecuted poor. The Roman world was robbing the Jews, and the Gentiles were being enriched. Mr. Russell thinks that the cry of the rich man for a drop of water was partially fulfilled in the appeal of the United States for the relief of the Jewish population. You can hardly restrain a smile as you see the effort that an ingenious man makes to hold intact, so far as possible, an imaginary theory that must be maintained at all costs.

Professor William G. Moorehead, D.D., of the United Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Zenia, Ohio, who has written a tract upon the subject, says that there is a close kinship between "Russellism" and Mormonism. Mormonism teaches that men become gods. Adam was God with a number of wives. It declares that we, by the same sort of process, can become gods. Mormonism is polytheistic; and the teaching of "Russellism," when reduced to its plain meaning, is that we by a certain process can become gods.

Those who have been following in the footsteps of Russell are not conscious of it, but in denying the Trinity, in denying the everlasting Deity of our Lord, there is, of course, a denial of the Deity of the Holy Spirit. And in the teaching that we may become gods in the sense that Russell claims that Christ became God after His death Professor Moorehead sees the kinship with Mormonism.

Much is said by Russell about "redemption through the blood," but when you bring it to an analysis, it is redemption through the blood of a mere man who was really annihilated at death. What came out of the grave was a created spirit without any humanity at all. The Bible speaks of "the Son of man" and "the Son of God," but "Russellism" tells us that there were not two natures in Christ. He calls such a Being "a hybrid thing."

The Man and His Methods.

The plan of salvation in "Russellism" is a plan of damnation. It teaches that there is no New Birth here, no present salvation at all, that what we call the New Birth is associated with the resurrection in the future; that the re-creation and the salvation of the soul come at the resurrection or after, but that in this life we have no complete sal¬vation in Jesus Christ. In his first volume he says: "The ransom for all given by the man Christ Jesus does not give a guarantee of everlasting life or blessing to any man."

"Russellism" seems to have adopted the policy of "ruse de guerre." The word "Pastor" as applied to the leader gives him a fictitious standing. So far as I can learn, he has never been pastor of any church, and I know of no church in America that would permit him to preach in its pulpit. He goes here and there renting halls and aban¬doned churches, and advertising himself as "Pastor," when, as a matter of fact, he is merely superintendent of his own enter¬prises, which he or his agents originate and carry forward under various guises. Recently it has taken the form of a huge picture show with a phonographic accom¬paniment.

"Russellism" began as "Millennial Dawn." That, however, became unpopular because of so many exposures in America, and he adopted the "International Bible Students' Association." "I.B.S.A." is so very like "I.B.R.A" that it makes the impression that it is a kindred institution. A clever "ruse de guerre"!

Mr. Russell goes to Brooklyn and rents a mission hall that used to be under the charge of Henry Ward Beecher's church, and he names it "The Brooklyn Tabernacle." That was after the death of Dr. Talmage, the famous pastor of "The Brooklyn Tabernacle." Then it goes out all over the world that "Pastor" Russell is the successor of Dr. T. De Witt Talmage in Brooklyn.

He rents Henry Ward Beecher's old home, and has his picture taken in Beecher's study, so that he is the successor of both T. De Witt Talmage and Henry Ward Beecher! Another clever "ruse de guerre."

How false impressions are spread.

Next he comes to London, rents a building and calls it "The London Tabernacle." Then it is published in a London paper that he is here to establish a work like that of Charles H. Spurgeon. That London paper is quoted on the other side, and all over America the papers have it that "Pastor" Russell is the successor of Charles H. Spurgeon. When the pastors of Chicago were giving me a farewell, one of them rose and said: "Will you tell me, sir, how two men can be pastor of the same church? I have just seen it in the papers that ‘Pastor' Russell has been elected pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle."

I have recently received a letter from a pastor in Louisiana, U.S.A., in which he says that the agent of "Russellism" is in his town, advertising in big headlines that "Pastor" Russell is the successor of Charles H. Spurgeon. When he comes to London he advertises himself in big bulletins as "Pastor of Brooklyn and London Tabernacles." It goes out over the world, therefore, that this marvelous preacher is the successor of T. De Witt Talmage in America and Charles H. Spurgeon in London. Another clever "ruse de guerre"!

Mr. Russell brought a suit for libel against the Rev. J. J. Ross, of Canada, and the following dialogue took place in the courtroom:
"'Do you know the Greek?' asked the attorney. ‘Oh, yes,' was Russell's reply . Here he was handed a copy of the New Testament in Greek, by Wescott and Hort, and asked to read the letters of the alphabet as they appear on the top of page 447. He did not know the alphabet. ‘Now,' asked Mr. Staunton, ‘are you familiar with the Greek language?' ‘No,' said Mr. Russell, without a blush." Another "ruse de guerre," which did not work well.

Mr. Russell took a world tour in order to study foreign missions, which he had been speaking against year after year. He went with a committee, rather a committee went with him, and when he came back it was widely advertised that he would give an exposure of foreign missions in the Hippodrome building, New York City. Money was lavishly spent in advertising. By the way, I have been asked, "Where in the world does he get so much money?" for there are no collections. Another "ruse de guerre." There are no collections in the meetings, and yet he has become noted for great financial schemes of various hues in order to get money. When he gets hold of people who come because there are no collections, he has been careful to impress them  with the prophecy that the Lord is coming very soon, and that the time is short for using their money, and this "ruse de guerre" has worked well. A well-informed American tells me that two rich women in Pennsylvania have furnished him millions.

The Exposer Exposed.

But what took place at that "exposure" in the New York Hippodrome? Mr Russell told the people that foreign missions were a conspicuous failure. Missionaries were discouraged and the heathen did not have much interest in the movement. What they were hungry for was "the Gospel of the Kingdom" that he preached, and they rallied to him in order to hear it. One sermon he preached in a heathen town was reported, and it was said that a great audience listened in rapture to the thrilling truth. Investigation was made, and it was learned that the boat touched at that port, but he never preached at all. There was no audience and there was no sermon.

Mr. W. T. Ellis, a journalist on the Continent, a great American paper, had travelled over the world, investigating missions, and he took it upon himself to investigate Mr. Russell and his investigation. After a careful inquiry he found that he stopped at foreign ports just long enough for the ship to take in coal and change its freight. He did not talk about missions to a single missionary in the heathen world, except one. He went as a rapid tourist and came back to hold a great meeting in the Hippodrome, exposing missions as a failure!

It gives me pain to say these things, but some good people in London have been drawn into this terrible maelstrom of error, and I feel that God would have me raise the red flag of warning.

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: