Friday, June 11, 2010

Puzzling over the Past

Puzzling over the past is both fun and frustrating. I’ve spend the day reading articles published in a small circulation 19th Century religious magazine. I know very little about it, but people I’m researching wrote for it.

The May 1893 issue contains an article by its editor, a man named William Lee Stroud. It’s a bit of commentary on chapter eight of Romans, but it’s really meant to smack Universalist Adventists and Zion’s Watch Tower adherents. Because it lacks specifics, it’s hard to follow Mr. Stroud’s points. Yet, he says important things – things I cannot dismiss – but I cannot find a place for them because they’re disconnected from the original circumstances. [That was a confusing sentence, wasn’t it?]

His words no longer connect to the circumstance that caused him to write. As a result, I can’t follow all his points. His arguments against Universalism seem to be directed against a preacher in Michigan. These don’t have a place in my research, though they are interesting. It’s just six short paragraphs that concern me, and, frankly, I’m not sure, beyond his not liking what he read in someone else’s book exactly, what he meant to say.

I’ll file this with similar material and wait for something more connective to show up. It usually does. I know these people did not write for posterity but for the immediate need. Sometimes I wish they’d been a bit clearer in their statements.

It’s hard to remain impartial. I’m frankly not impartial. I like some of these people (dead though they are) and some are just repulsive. Stroud was smart, educated, and erudite. He also comes across as commonly haughty, over confident in his own ability, and rude. None of that opinion will make it into my writing unless there is some pressing need for it. If I use this material at all, I’ll just report it as written. But one’s personality attaches to what they write even after a hundred or so years.

Now I also found some articles by another preacher, Hugh B. Rice. Rice started life as a Disciples minister, became briefly a Barbourite, showed some interest in Zion’s Watch Tower, and then went off on his own. He ended life back in the Disciples of Christ. But he maintained his interest in Millennialism and related topics until his death. The two articles I found are more connected … and more focused.

All in all I did good work today, even if I’m left confused by Mr. Stroud.

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