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Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Change in Administration

In his will Brother Russell outlined an arrangement for an Editorial Committee of five to determine the contents of The Watch Tower. In addition, the board of directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society made arrangements for an Executive Committee of three—A. I. Ritchie, W. E. Van Amburgh, and J. F. Rutherford—to have general supervision of all the work of the Society, subject to the control of the board of directors. Who, though, would become the new president? That decision would be made at the next annual meeting of the Society, about two months later, on January 6, 1917.

At first, the Executive Committee did its best to hold things together, encouraging the Bible Students to keep active and not lose courage. The Watch Tower continued to be published, containing articles that Russell had written before his death. But as the annual meeting approached, tension began to mount. Some were even doing a little electioneering to get a man of their choice selected to be president. Others, on account of their deep respect for Brother Russell, seemed more concerned with trying to copy his qualities and develop a sort of cult around him. Most of the Bible Students, however, were primarily interested in getting on with the work into which Russell had poured himself.

Additional Reading:

As the time for the election approached, the question remained, Who would succeed Russell as president? The Watch Tower of January 15, 1917, reported the outcome of the annual meeting, explaining: “Brother Pierson, with very appropriate remarks and expressions of appreciation and love for Brother Russell, stated that he had received word as proxy-holder from friends all over the land to the effect that he cast their votes for Brother J. F. Rutherford for President, and he further stated that he was in full sympathy with this.” After Rutherford’s name was placed in nomination and seconded, there were no further nominations, so “the Secretary cast the ballot as directed, and Brother Rutherford was declared the unanimous choice of the Convention as President.”

With the election decided, how was the new president received? The Watch Tower mentioned above reported: “The friends everywhere had prayed earnestly for the Lord’s guidance and direction in the matter of the election; and when it was concluded, everyone was content and happy, believing that the Lord had directed their deliberations and answered their prayers. Perfect harmony prevailed amongst all present.”

That “perfect harmony,” however, did not last very long. The new president was warmly received by many but not by all.

The New President Moves Ahead

Brother Rutherford was inclined, not to change the direction of the organization, but to continue in the forward-moving pattern established by Russell. Traveling representatives of the Society (known as pilgrims) were increased from 69 to 93. Distribution of the Society’s free tracts was accelerated on occasional Sundays in front of the churches and regularly in the house-to-house ministry.

The “pastoral work,” which had been started prior to Russell’s death, was now stepped up. This was a follow-up work, similar to the return-visit activity now carried on by Jehovah’s Witnesses. To further revitalize the preaching work, the Society’s new president expanded the colporteur work. Colporteurs (forerunners of today’s pioneers) were increased from 372 to 461.

“The year 1917 opened with rather a discouraging outlook,” stated The Watch Tower of December 15, 1917. Yes, following the death of C. T. Russell, there were some misgivings, some doubts, and some fears. Yet, the year-end report was encouraging; field activity had increased. Clearly, the work was moving ahead. Had the Bible Students passed another test—the death of C. T. Russell—successfully?

Efforts to Gain Control

Additional Reading:

Not everyone was supportive of the new president. C. T. Russell and J. F. Rutherford were very different men. They had different personalities and came from different backgrounds. These differences were hard for some to accept. In their minds, no one could ‘fill Brother Russell’s shoes.’

A few, especially at headquarters, actually resented Brother Rutherford. The fact that the work was moving ahead and that he was making every effort to follow the arrangements that had been put in place by Russell did not seem to impress them. Opposition soon mounted. Four members of the board of directors of the Society went so far as to endeavor to wrest administrative control from Rutherford’s hands. The situation came to a head in the summer of 1917, with the release of The Finished Mystery, the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures.

Additional Reading:

Brother Russell had been unable to produce this volume during his lifetime, though he had hoped to do so. Following his death, the Executive Committee of the Society arranged for two associates, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, to prepare this book, which was a commentary on Revelation, The Song of Solomon, and Ezekiel. In part, it was based on what Russell had written about these Bible books, and other comments and explanations were added. The completed manuscript was approved for publication by officers of the Society and was released to the Bethel family at the dining table on Tuesday, July 17, 1917. On that same occasion, a startling announcement was made—the four opposing directors had been removed, and Brother Rutherford had appointed four others to fill the vacancies. What was the reaction?

It was as if a bombshell had exploded! The four ousted directors seized upon the occasion and stirred up a five-hour controversy before the Bethel family over the administration of the Society’s affairs. A number of the Bethel family sympathized with the opposers. The opposition continued for several weeks, with the disturbers threatening to “overthrow the existing tyranny,” as they put it. But Brother Rutherford had a sound basis for the action he had taken. How so?

It turned out that although the four opposing directors had been appointed by Brother Russell, these appointments had never been confirmed by vote of the corporation members at the annual meeting of the Society. Therefore, the four of them were not legal members of the board of directors at all! Rutherford had been aware of this but had not mentioned it at first. Why not? He had wanted to avoid giving the impression that he was going against Brother Russell’s wishes. However, when it became evident that they would not discontinue their opposition, Rutherford acted within his authority and responsibility as president to replace them with four others whose appointments were to be confirmed at the next annual meeting, to be held in January 1918.

On August 8, the disgruntled ex-directors and their supporters left the Bethel family; they had been asked to leave because of the disturbance they had been creating. They soon began spreading their opposition by an extensive speaking and letter-writing campaign throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. As a result, after the summer of 1917, a number of congregations of Bible Students were split into two groups—those loyal to the Society and those who were easy prey to the smooth talk of the opposers.

But might the ousted directors, in an effort to gain control of the organization, try to influence those attending the annual meeting? Anticipating such a reaction, Rutherford felt it advisable to take a survey of all the congregations. The results? According to the report published in The Watch Tower of December 15, 1917, those voting indicated their overwhelming support of J. F. Rutherford and the directors cooperating with him! This was confirmed at the annual meeting. The opposers’ efforts to gain control had failed!

What became of those opposers and their supporters? After the January 1918 annual meeting, the opposing ones splintered off, even choosing to celebrate the Memorial, on March 26, 1918, on their own. Any unity they enjoyed was short-lived, and before long they broke up into various sects. In most cases their numbers dwindled and their activity diminished or ceased entirely.

Clearly, following Brother Russell’s death, the Bible Students faced a real test of loyalty. As Tarissa P. Gott, who was baptized in 1915, put it: “Many of those who had seemed so strong, so devoted to the Lord, began to turn away. . . . All of this just did not seem right, yet it was happening and it upset us. But I said to myself: ‘Was not this organization the one that Jehovah used to free us from the bonds of false religion? Have we not tasted of his goodness? If we were to leave now, where would we go? Would we not wind up following some man?’ We could not see why we should go with the apostates, so we stayed.”—John 6:66-69; Heb. 6:4-6.

Additional Reading:

Some who withdrew from the organization later repented and associated with the Bible Students in worship once again. By far the majority, like Sister Gott, continued to cooperate with the Watch Tower Society and Brother Rutherford. The love and unity that bound them together had been built up through years of association together at meetings and conventions. They would allow nothing to break up that bond of union.—Col. 3:14.

By 1918 the Bible Students had survived testing from within. What, though, if opposition arose from those on the outside?

Objects of Attack

Through the close of 1917 and into 1918, the Bible Students energetically distributed the new book, The Finished Mystery. By the end of 1917, the printers were busy on the 850,000 edition. The Watch Tower of December 15, 1917, reported: “The sale of the Seventh Volume is unparallelled by the sale of any other book known, in the same length of time, excepting the Bible.”

But not everyone was thrilled with the success of The Finished Mystery. The book contained some references to the clergy of Christendom that were very cutting. This so angered the clergy that they urged the government to suppress the publications of the Bible Students. As a result of this clergy-inspired opposition, early in 1918, The Finished Mystery was banned in Canada. Opposition soon mounted against the Bible Students in the United States.

To expose this clergy-inspired pressure, on March 15, 1918, the Watch Tower Society released the tract Kingdom News No. 1. Its message? The six-column-wide headline read: “Religious Intolerance—Pastor Russell’s Followers Persecuted Because They Tell the People the Truth.” Below the heading “Treatment of Bible Students Smacks of the ‘Dark Ages’” were set forth the facts of the persecution and the ban that had begun in Canada. The instigators? The tract pulled no punches in pointing to the clergy, who were described as “a bigoted class of men who have systematically endeavored to prevent the people from understanding the Bible and to throttle all Bible teaching unless it comes through them.” What a hard-hitting message!

How did the clergy respond to such an exposé? They had already stirred up trouble against the Watch Tower Society. But now they got vicious! In the spring of 1918, a wave of violent persecution was launched against the Bible Students in both North America and Europe. The clergy-inspired opposition came to a head on May 7, 1918, when U.S. federal warrants were issued for the arrest of J. F. Rutherford and several of his close associates. By mid-1918, Rutherford and seven associates found themselves in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia.

But with Judge Rutherford and his associates in prison, what happened to the operation of headquarters?

Keeping the Home Fires Burning

Back in Brooklyn an Executive Committee was appointed to take charge of the work. A chief concern of the brothers appointed was to keep The Watch Tower in circulation. The Bible Students everywhere certainly needed all the spiritual encouragement that could be given them. In fact, during this entire “testing season,” not one issue of The Watch Tower failed to appear in print!

What was the spirit at headquarters? Thomas (Bud) Sullivan, who later served as a member of the Governing Body, recalled: “It was my privilege to visit Brooklyn Bethel in the late summer of 1918 during the brothers’ incarceration. The brothers in charge of the work at Bethel were in no wise fearful or downhearted. In fact, the reverse was true. They were optimistic and confident that Jehovah would give his people the victory ultimately. I was privileged to be at the breakfast table on Monday morning when the brothers sent out on weekend appointments gave their reports. A fine picture of the situation was obtained. In every case the brothers were confident, waiting for Jehovah to direct their activities further.”

Many problems, however, were encountered. World War I was still raging. There were shortages of paper supplies and coal, which were vitally needed for the work at headquarters. With patriotism at fever pitch, there was considerable animosity against the Society; the Bible Students were viewed as traitors. Under these extreme circumstances, it appeared impossible to continue operations at Brooklyn. So, the Executive Committee, after consulting with other brothers, sold the Brooklyn Tabernacle and closed the Bethel Home. On August 26, 1918, the operations were transferred back to Pittsburgh to an office building at Federal and Reliance streets.

Nevertheless, a good spirit prevailed. Martha Meredith recalled: “We in Pittsburgh got together and decided we were going to keep ‘the home fires burning’ until the brethren got out of prison. At that time the Brooklyn office was moved to Pittsburgh, so the brethren got busy writing articles for The Watch Tower and had it printed. When The Watch Towers were ready to be sent out, we sisters wrapped them and sent them out to the people.”

The Bible Students had faced some severe trials since the Gentile Times had ended in the fall of 1914. Could they continue to survive? Did they really have ‘the love of God in their hearts’ or not? Would they firmly hold on to “the Lord and His Truth,” as Russell had cautioned, or would they let go?

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, Published by the WTB&TS

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Small Beginnings (1879-1889)

IN THE year 1879 it became evident which of the many early voices announcing Christ’s second coming were being chosen by Jehovah to be united in action as his witnesses. Now, 75 years later, it clearly appears that in those early days Jehovah’s hand was upon the small Pittsburgh (Pa.) Bible group under C. T. Russell’s chairmanship. For the eight years prior to 1879 these “layman” students of the Bible had gained much experience as to right Christian doctrine, prophetic time, and in preaching to the public as well as in printing their new-found truths. They were tested, too, as to their loyalty to the Bible on the issue of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, even though it meant severing of company with former religious affiliates.

By 1879 they had become sure that Christ’s second coming would begin his invisible presence; that a hard time of world distress was ahead; that thereafter would follow a millennium—the thousand-year reign of Jehovah’s Christ, to bring about restoration (restitution) of paradise conditions on earth with everlasting life for men of good will from all nations; and that the glad tidings of such “restitution” blessings should be heralded the world over. Their field experiences taught them that, as people soon forgot sermons and lectures they heard, it was advisable to add an educational service with the aid of books, pamphlets and magazines. They also came to realize that it was necessary for them to become better equipped to do their own writing, printing and publishing instead of leaving these operations to other so-called “Bible groups.” Those policy-forming experiences have influenced the Society of Jehovah’s witnesses ever since.

Having now withdrawn their editorial and financial support from the Rochester group’s monthly, The Herald of the Morning, the Pittsburgh Bible class decided to embark upon a great project, that of publishing for the first time their own monthly magazine. July 1, 1879, saw release of the first issue of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Soon 6,000 copies had been distributed. Class chairman C. T. Russell was chosen to be the editor, with five other mature Bible students serving as regular contributors. The new journal’s first words were—

“This is the first number of the first volume of ‘ZION’S WATCH TOWER,’ and it may not be amiss to state the object of its publication. That we are living ‘in the last days’—‘the day of the Lord’—‘the end’ of the Gospel age, and consequently, in the dawn of the ‘new’ age, are facts not only discernible by the close student of the Word, led by the spirit, but the outward signs recognizable by the world bear the same testimony, and we are desirous that the ‘household of faith’ be fully awake to the fact.”—Page 1.

Here, then, we have the story of the birth of The Watchtower, which since its commencement has been regularly issued to this day. In 1892 it was changed from a monthly to a semimonthly, to keep pace with the ever-expanding flow of new Scriptural material. The record of its circulation is most interesting. From 6,000 copies in 1879, by 1904 there were 25,000 copies regularly printed; and by 1949 the phenomenal peak of 500,000 copies per issue had been reached. But that is not all; by 1955 the world-wide circulation in forty languages had skyrocketed to 1,950,000 copies for every issue. The long, faithful record in the publishing of the Watchtower magazine itself further bears testimony of the fact that Jehovah had chosen the small Pittsburgh group to start a grand publishing work more than seventy-five years ago. Truly now for many decades this journal has proved to be a channel of spiritual communication that is singular and divinely blessed.

Russell having spent the years 1877 and 1878 largely in preaching afield, zealously going from city to city, and also by this time having closed out most of his previously successful business interests, which had netted him more than a quarter of a million dollars, it became necessary, in 1879, for him permanently to locate in Pittsburgh. Furthermore, in that year he was married to Maria Frances Ackley, who had become a colaborer and a contributor of articles to the Watch Tower magazine. They came to have no children. Nearly eighteen years later, in 1897, due to Watch Tower Society members’ objecting to a woman’s teaching and being a member of the board of directors contrary to 1 Timothy 2:12, Russell and his wife disagreed about the management of the journal, Zion’s Watch Tower. Thereupon she voluntarily separated herself from him after they had arranged a financial settlement to enable her to live apart from the Society’s headquarters. This agreed separation, however, had absolutely nothing to do with a much later divorce proceeding (1906), charging “adultery,” as clerical enemies of Russell slanderously tried and still try to maintain. The court records plainly fix the lie to all those who falsely accused and even now accuse Russell as having been an immoral man, divorced for adultery.

Additional Reading:

During 1879 and 1880 efforts were made to organize small congregations of interested ones, that is, Watch Tower subscribers. More than thirty congregations had come into existence in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio and Michigan. In 1880 Russell visited these congregations, spending at least six hours of study with each group. A special congregational songbook had been prepared, called “Songs of the Bride.” By this time it had become understood from the Scriptures that the Lord’s “evening meal” should be celebrated as a Memorial only once each year on Abib (Nisan) 14, the Passover date. This was quite contrary to the unscriptural custom of churches that held the “Lord’s Supper” or “Mass” many times each year. In 1879 and for a few years thereafter all the interested associates traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with this first and largest of the early congregations to celebrate jointly what they called the “Anniversary Supper.” At the same time they conducted a small convention for Christian study and fellowship, which annually strengthened the growing association.

These early congregations were called by the name in the Greek Scriptures, “ecclesias,” and sometimes “classes.” They were organized on the congregational and presbyterian style of church government. All members democratically voted on certain matters of business and also elected a board of seven or more “elders” (presbyters) who directed the general governmental interests of the congregation. (The first-century theocratic form of congregational control was not restored to Jehovah’s witnesses until 1938.) These ecclesias were loosely tied together merely by accepting the leadership and pattern of activity of the Pittsburgh congregation where Russell and other Watch Tower writers were elders. The Pittsburgh (“Allegheny”) congregation held meetings on Sundays from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. to hear Bible lectures; on Wednesday evenings from 7:30 to 9:00 “Cottage Meetings” for prayer and personal testimony were held, and Friday evenings “Dawn Circles” were conducted for Bible study.

During 1880 Russell and his helpers were further busy in writing several tracts, each being numbered. After 1891 this tract series first regularly marked “Bible Students Tracts” also were called Old Theology Quarterly. They were provided free for general public distribution by Watch Tower readers to expose fallacies of church doctrines. Soon it was recognized that there was need for organizing a definite society to guide and direct the growing publishing work. So early in 1881 ZION’S WATCH TOWER TRACT SOCIETY was established as an unincorporated administrative agency with Russell as its manager. Russell and others liberally contributed $35,000 to get this tract-publishing organization going. They then moved from their 1879 headquarters located at 101 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, to new and larger premises in the 40 Federal Street building from where he had formerly directed his early chain-store enterprise. Through this new arrangement began to flow millions of Bible tracts and the printing of additional Watch Tower issues put out as pamphlets. By 1881 Russell had completed writing the large pamphlets entitled Tabernacle Teachings and Food for Thinking Christians, the latter being a 162-page booklet which was printed and distributed as a special edition of the Watch Tower for September, 1881.

Russell, still under thirty years of age, and his enthusiastic associates were eager to get their message spread broadcast as quickly as possible. This is manifest in the following 1881 Watch Tower announcement, especially so when one recalls that then there were only about a hundred active associates with the movement:

“Wanted 1,000 Preachers. A vast field is open for the employment of the time and talent of every consecrated man and woman to whom the Lord has committed a knowledge of His truth. . . . To those so situated that they can give one-half or more of their time exclusively to the work of the Lord, we have a plan to suggest. . . . viz: That you go forth into large or small cities, according to your ability, as Colporteurs or Evangelists, seek to find in every place the earnest Christians, . . . As few could afford to travel, pay their board and clothe themselves without some income, we propose to furnish the TRACTS and DAY DAWNS [bound books] free, and to allow any such person to take subscriptions for the WATCH TOWER, using the money obtained from both of these sources, . . . in defraying necessary expenses.”

Eventually by 1888 fifty had volunteered for this full-time service toward the “1,000” eagerly desired. They were requested to submit weekly field reports to the Pittsburgh office. So here we have the beginning of the full-time pioneer (colporteur) service which in the course of years many thousands have joined as a valiant band of blessed Kingdom preachers. In fact, by 1954, the world over, there were 17,265 of these full-time educators.

An effort also was made to get all Watch Tower readers and especially all congregation-meeting attenders to commence a share in the field witness work by distributing tracts to their friends and neighbors. Note the following early instructions of 1881 as to field preaching:

“To those who would go forth to use either much or little of their time, we would say: It is a matter of great importance not only to teach the right thing but to present truth in a proper manner and order. . . . Present first the Restitution and the beauties of God’s unfolding plan; then show that all this awaits and is dependent on the King and kingdom coming. Then, when your hearer or reader has come to love the King and to long for his kingdom, may be quite soon enough to present the manner of His coming—that it is not Jesus the man but Jesus a spiritual [creature], who comes, unseen, . . . And lastly present ‘the time,’ that now we are ‘in the days of the Son of Man.’”

In this way gradually hundreds of Christian witnesses were nursed and trained to have a share in the field service. Here again we have the glimpse of a publishing work destined to swell like a mighty flood in our time, to cover the entire earth with a host of over half a million witnesses of Jehovah regularly going from house to house spreading Bibles, tracts and other Bible study aids.

But even today’s swift-moving mass communication seems foreshadowed in what young Watch Tower Society workers shared in projecting in 1881 for serving populous centers with the newly found Bible truths. Those early beginnings included unusual methods. Two examples:

“The manager of the principal paper of New York City agreed to send a copy of the tract [Food for Thinking Christians] to their entire list of subscribers, and several other papers of Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and New York favored us similarly in the work, for which they have our sincere thanks. [We omit the names of the papers only to save them inconvenience from applications from others. They say they have never before granted such privileges to any.]”

Additionally, for this far-flung task

“from an apparently small beginning, the tract work has spread to the immense proportions of 1,200,000 copies, . . . employed hundreds of men, women and boys in preparation and distribution, nearly 500 boys being employed to distribute in London [England], and about 300 in New York—other cities in proportion. The distribution was made in the larger cities at the church doors on Sundays.”

Also in 1881 two brothers were sent to Britain to augment spreading the work to Europe and they reported the distribution of 100,000 pamphlets in London and 65,000 in Scotland’s Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

- Jan. 15, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Joseph L. and Ann Eliza (Birney) Russell

C. T. Russell was born in the United States, in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, on February 16, 1852. He was the second son of Joseph L. and Ann Eliza (Birney) Russell, who were Presbyterians of Scottish-Irish descent. Charles’ mother died when he was only nine years old, but from an early age, Charles was influenced by both of his religiously-minded parents. As a later associate of C. T. Russell put it, “they trained the small twig; and it grew in the direction of the Lord.” Although brought up as a Presbyterian, Charles eventually joined the Congregational Church because he preferred its views. - Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS

Yet a fourth voice of proclaimers of an invisible presence of Christ comes to view, a group of sincere students of the Bible at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U. S. A., with its chairman, C. T. Russell. Charles Taze Russell was born in Old Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh) February 16, 1852; he was one of three children of Joseph L. and Eliza Birney Russell. Both parents were Presbyterians of Scottish-Irish lineage. Russell’s father operated a clothing store business. His mother died when he was only nine years old. While still a boy, he used to write Bible texts with chalk on the sidewalks, and although brought up a Presbyterian, he joined the neighborhood Congregational church, because it was more liberal. At fifteen years of age Russell was in partnership with his father in a growing chain of men’s clothing stores. - January 1, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

The inquisitive young man was Charles Taze Russell. Born in Allegheny on February 16, 1852, he was the second son of Joseph L. and Ann Eliza (Birney) Russell, both of Scottish-Irish descent. Charles’ mother, who had dedicated him to the Lord’s work at birth, died when he was a lad of nine. But at an early age Charles received his first impressions of religion from his Presbyterian parents. Eventually he joined the nearby Congregational Church because of its more liberal views.

As a mere boy of eleven years, Charles entered a business partnership with his father, the youngster himself writing the articles of agreement under which their enterprise operated. At fifteen he was associated with his father in a growing chain of men’s clothing stores. In time, they had stores in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

All along, young Charles was a sincere student of the Scriptures. He wanted to serve God to the best of his ability. In fact, once, when he was twelve years old, his father found him in the family store at two o’clock in the morning, poring over a Bible concordance, heedless of the hour.

Growing older, Russell was spiritually troubled. Especially was he concerned about the doctrines of eternal punishment and predestination. He reasoned: “A God that would use his power to create human beings whom he foreknew and predestinated should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men.” (1 John 4:8) Nonetheless, young Russell continued to believe in God’s existence. His mind beleaguered by concern over doctrine, he examined the various creeds of Christendom, studied leading Oriental religions—and experienced grave disappointment. Where was truth to be found?

Additional Reading:

By the time Russell was seventeen, a later associate says that this is the way he reasoned, namely: “There is no use in my trying to find out anything reasonable about the future from any of the creeds or even from the Bible, so I’m just going to forget the whole thing and give all my attention to business. If I make some money I can use that to help suffering humanity, even though I cannot do them any good spiritually.”

It was while young Russell had such thoughts that he stepped into that dingy hall in Allegheny and heard the sermon that ‘reestablished his wavering faith in the Bible’s divine inspiration.’ Approaching several young men of his acquaintance, he told them of his intention to study the Scriptures. Soon this small group—about six in number—began meeting weekly for systematic Bible study. At their regular gatherings during the years 1870 to 1875, the religious thinking of these men underwent profound changes. With the passing of time, Jehovah blessed them with increasing spiritual light and truth.—Ps. 43:3; Prov. 4:18.

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS


THE EDITOR has lost his oldest, tried and true friend--his Father according to the flesh, his Brother according to the spirit; well known to quite a number of our readers. He was in his 84th year, and the burdens and disabilities of life under present conditions had gradually come to outweigh its pleasures, so that he was glad to enter into rest;--the rest that remains for the people of God.

The Editor's mother, a noble Christian woman, whose instructions and example are still fresh to his memory and will never be forgotten, died when he was but nine years old; and from that time his father filled nobly the office of both parents. His care, his admonitions, his help into paths of righteousness will never be forgotten.

But it was after we had come under the first rays of "present truth" that his fellowship became most precious. He was one of the first to accept the harvest message as set forth in ZION'S WATCH TOWER, MILLENNIAL DAWN, etc. Altho not gifted as a teacher of the good tidings, either by voice or pen, he manifested his zeal for the Lord and his cause in various ways--he loaned and gave away thousands of tracts and DAWNS, besides contributing financially for their publication. He was one of the founders of the Tract Society; voluntarily giving $1,000 in the first subscription at its organization,--a large donation for his means. His greatest helpfulness however was in his personal encouragement of the Editor; in every visit and in every letter, he sought to "hold up our hands." This was specially noticeable at such times as the Lord permitted the great Adversary to assault the work, and the Editor as one of its representatives.

In his case we have been reminded of the Apostle's words in Hebrews 10:32-34. He had the spirit of martyrdom, and if he did not get into the thickest of the fight and did not bear the brunt of the Enemy's attacks, he surely was a faithful encourager and "companion of them that were so used" and "had compassion on me in my bonds." And as the Apostle adds so add we for the encouragement of all such whom the Lord has not assigned to duty in the front of the battle:--

"Cast not away therefore your confidence which hath great recompense of reward." "For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye ...have ministered to the saints, and do minister." --Heb. 10:35; 6:10.

Our last conversation before he became unconscious was respecting our blessed hope of eternal life through Christ, our dear Redeemer, and the promised future glory in which the Apostle intimates there will be different degrees of brilliancy, as "one star differeth from another star in glory." (1 Cor. 15:41.) Humble minded, unostentatious and neither vain nor boastful, he declared that he did not expect a great or prominent position in the Lord's Kingdom, but that he had full confidence nevertheless--not in his own perfection but in the Lord's perfection and sacrifice and love and grace,--and was confident therefore that a place was reserved for him, and he was satisfied to have the matter thus.

It is not for us to say what shall be his blessing and reward: the gracious Judge will esteem us none the less if our confidence is in him, rather than boastfully in ourselves; but we can say of father a few things without boasting of him or for him. He was a lover of [R2239 : page 5] righteousness. He walked not after the flesh but after the spirit. He was a true yoke fellow and helper in the Lord's cause. He fought a good fight--striving to conquer self-will and inherited sin and to resist the world and the devil. He kept the faith--did not deny it,--confessing it in word and deed to the very last, leaning on and trusting in the dear Redeemer. He has finished his course, and the righteous Judge, in whose grace he trusted, will grant him a goodly portion in the Father's house of many mansions.

- January 1, 1898 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Letter from Mr. Joseph L. Russell (now deceased), father of the Editor, relating to the same trouble:-- My Dear Son:--It is with love and sympathy in my heart that I write you at this time, after having read the full account of your trials and troubles amongst those whom you accepted as brethren in Christ. It does seem almost incredible that those people could be guilty of such mean and despicable conduct toward you, from whom they had received so many marks of kindness. But, my dear son, these are some of the trials we all may expect--especially those engaged in the "harvest" work. I am proud of the noble defense you make in vindication of your conduct, and especially in the cause of the Truth we all love so dearly. I feel confident that you will come out of this trial brighter and more appreciated in your character and works than you ever were before. The good Lord, who has been testing your works, will promote you to still higher honors in his Kingdom. I pray that he may bless you always and sustain you in every good word and work; and to him we will ascribe all the praise forever. Amen. But while confident that the outcome will be a final victory for the Truth, it is very trying for one who has labored late and early for the last twenty years for the cause of Truth, to have his supposed friends turn against him and brand him as a liar and a hypocrite. Oh! it is terrible! I often think of you and your many trials, which you seem to meet very courageously. But with an approving conscience a man can stand considerable, especially if the Lord is on his side to help and strengthen. Please extend to your dear wife my hearty congratulations on her noble defense of her husband and the cause of Truth during this trying ordeal. With love and congratulations from us all, I remain, your loving father. JOSEPH L. RUSSELL."

- July 15, 1906 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Children of Thomas and Fannie Russell: James G. Russell: b. 1796, d. 1847, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery. Sarah A. Russell: b. 1799, d. 1846, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery. Fanny (Russell) Harper: d. 1867. Mary Jane Russell: d. 1886, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery. Alexander G. Russell: d. [between 1872 and 1878]. Charles Tays Russell: b. 1806, d. 1875, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery. Joseph Lytle Russell: b. 1813, d. 1897, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery.

Children of Joseph Lytle Russell: b. 1813, d. 1897, and Ann Eliza (Birney) Russell: b. 1825, d. 1861, both are buried in the family plot in Allegheny Cemetery. Thomas B. Russell: b. 1850, d. 1855, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery. Charles Taze Russell: b. 1852, d. 1916 (aboard train near Pampa, Texas), buried in Rosemont United Cemetery in Pittsburgh. Margaret M. (Russell) Land: b. 1854, d. 1934. Lucinda H. Russell: b. 1857, d. 1858, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery. Joseph Lytle Russell, jr.: b. 1859, d. 1860, buried in the family plot, in Allegheny Cemetery.

Child of Joseph Lytle Russell and Emma H. (Ackley) Russell: Mabel R. (Russell) Packard: b. 1881, Allegheny; d. 1961, Saint Petersburg, Florida, buried in Royal Palm South Cemetery. The family plot also includes her Mother Emma H. (Ackley) Russell (1855 - 1929), her aunt Maria F. (Ackley) Russell (1850 - 1938), and her husband Richard P. Packard (1870 - 1946). - The Bible Student Movement, In The Days of C. T. Russell


The Family of Maria F. (Ackley) Russell

Mahlon Foster ACKLEY was born about 1807 in New Jersey. He died on 13 Dec 1873. And was buried on 14 Dec 1873 in Union Dale Cemetery, Plot 3, Allegany, Pennsylvania. Mahlon Foster ACKLEY and Selena Ann HAMMOND were married. Selena Ann HAMMOND was born on 18 Dec 1815 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She died of pneumonia on 3 Oct 1901 in Allegheny, Pennsylvania at the residence of her daughter Mrs. Charles T. Russell, of Allegheny. She was buried on 5 Oct 1901 in Union Dale Cemetery, plot 4, Allegany, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Ackley was born in Philadelphia and spent her childhood in Baltimore, Md. She journeyed by stage and canal with her mother to Johnstown, Pa, where she was married to the late Mahlon F. Ackley of Allegheny, who was employed on the Pennsylvania railroad, which was then in process of construction. Early in the 1840's she came to Allegheny with her husband and had resided there ever since. She saw the city grow from a straggling village to a metropolis. Mrs. Ackley was for many years a member of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal church, and before the formation of that church was, with her late husband, connected with the Arch Street church of the same denomination. She was the mother of seven children, of whom five are now living - Mrs. Laura J. Raynor, Mrs. Selena A. Barto, Mrs. Maria F. Russell and Mrs. Emma H. Russell of Allegheny and L. M. Ackley of Chicago.

Emma H. (Ackley) Russell (1855 - 1929), and Maria F. (Ackley) Russell (1850 - 1938) were laid to rest in the in Royal Palm South Cemetery in St. Petersburg, Florida. - Photos by Christopher Gross, 2007.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Warning Work (1909-1914)

HISTORICALLY, the activity of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society from 1909 to 1914 must be viewed largely with respect to the warning work of proclaiming the fateful year 1914. For thirty-two years now since 1877 the Society’s zealous volunteer workers, as witnesses of Jehovah, had publicly set forth the chronological proof and the physical facts indicating that the “Gentile times” were due to end in the fall of 1914.

During the two decades prior to 1914 explosive forces had been generating among the Gentile nations that had become dynamos of nationalism. Under an enlightened liberalism there might have been a period of great advancement for the general welfare by man’s harnessing and utilizing all the new inventions, by industrial build-ups, by scientific developments, and by acquired natural wealth usable for the common good. But, no, the Devil was at the helm of these ships of state. Instead, an armaments race had begun among the nations, each side striving to outdo the other for offsetting the balance of power. Old-world thinking, religious and political, was forced to adjust itself to this pattern of national rivalries. Truly the masses of mankind were being herded for a twentieth-century global debacle of nations. Amid such feverish Gentile madness these dedicated servants of Jehovah embarked upon their final, all-out warning work concerning 1914.

Additional Reading:

But to undertake an all-out campaign of world-wide proportions the Society’s twenty-year-old four-story “Bible House” headquarters in Allegheny (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, had become inadequate, besides being not strategically located for world shipping and communication. So in 1908 representatives of the Society, including its legal counselor, J. F. Rutherford, were sent to Brooklyn, New York, to negotiate the purchase of more desirable quarters. Those quarters Russell himself had found on an earlier trip to New York. They bought the old “Plymouth Bethel,” a mission structure completed in 1868 for nearby Plymouth Congregational Church. This mission, at 13-17 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, had long been used in connection with Plymouth Church (built in 1849 on Orange Street, near Hicks) where about half a century earlier antislavery sermons were preached by the noted Brooklyn clergyman, Henry Ward Beecher. They also purchased the old Beecher residence at 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, where other notables, even Abraham Lincoln, are said to have conferred with Beecher in the 1860’s. On January 31, 1909, some 350 attended the dedication of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, the new name for the now-renovated former “Plymouth Bethel.” Its second-floor auditorium, seating 800, gleamed in soft color, olive green prevailing, with tastefully artistic Bible-text wall decorations. The street floor was altered to be the Society’s headquarters operating office. The large basement floor had been turned into a small printery, stock and shipping departments. Soon, too, the home at 124 Columbia Heights had been readied for occupancy by more than thirty full-time members of the headquarters staff. “The new home we shall call ‘Bethel,’ and the new office and auditorium, ‘The Brooklyn Tabernacle’; these names will supplant the term ‘Bible House.’” By 1911 a spacious new dormitory addition had been completed, adjoining the rear of Bethel and fronting on Furman Street, further enlarging the facilities.

To hold this new property in New York state and to do business as a recognized religious body within this state it was necessary to form a New York corporation. Such corporation came into legal existence February 23, 1909, as decreed by New York Supreme Court Justice Isaac N. Miller. PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION was its name for thirty years. Then in 1939 that was legally changed to its present name, WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, INC., similar to that of the Pennsylvania corporation, WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY. The New York corporation’s purposes its charter sums up as follows:

“Its corporate purposes are, Charitable, benevolent, scientific, historical, literary and religious purposes; the moral and mental improvement of men and women, the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and for religious missionary work.”

From 1909 onward a monthly tract—first called “Peoples Pulpit,” then “Everybody’s Paper,” and still later, “The Bible Students Monthly”—was widely distributed annually in millions of copies, clearly explaining vital Bible truths and warning the Gentile nations of the fateful year 1914. And so during several years these earnest united workers became more and more widely known as Bible Students, or International Bible Students. In fact, in 1914 the identical work in the British field was legally established under law of Great Britain, being incorporated under the name INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION. All three of these corporations were organized for identical purposes and they harmoniously work together.

The Watch Tower Society now in its Brooklyn headquarters had become equipped to keep abreast with the continually expanding gigantic publishing work then under way. The years from 1909 to 1914 saw an ever-increasing output of tracts, pamphlets and bound books running into many millions. The 1914 warning work was augmented by the organizing of an international newspaper syndicate service that sent Russell’s sermon for each week to approximately three thousand newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Ten million people were reached each week in this manner, it was estimated.

The public platform also was geared to this expanding witness about the nearing year 1914. In 1911 alone, as officially reported, 12,113 public and semipublic lectures had been given all over the world. Fifty-eight special traveling ministers were regularly sent on assigned routes from the Society’s Brooklyn headquarters to serve in this public-speaking campaign, in which also many hundreds of local resident speakers carried on the “Class Extension Work,” endeavoring to organize new Bible classes. Much growth resulted. Finally by 1914 there were 1,200 congregations or classes operating in union with the Watch Tower Society at home and abroad. For 1915 the partial number reported as attenders of the annual Memorial celebration of Christ’s death was 15,430, and by this time there were 55,000 Watch Tower subscribers, thus indicating the approximate number associated in the warning and witness work.

In this period of witness the demand for personal appearances of the Society’s president, C. T. Russell, to address public gatherings in large centers, also was exceedingly insistent. To Europe he went every year for speaking engagements; and in North America he traveled extensively on “convention tour” special trains, accompanied by scores (once 240) of eager fellow workers, visiting all large cities in the United States and Canada. Thus he personally addressed thousands in many parts of the English-speaking world. From December, 1911, to March, 1912, Russell, as chairman of a committee of seven men, made a round-the-world tour, spreading seeds of truth that in time brought into fruitful action additional groups of anointed Christians in far-flung areas of the globe. For local lectures and for study of foreign missions the committee called at the following places: Honolulu, Hawaii; Yokohama, Tokyo, Kobe and Nagasaki, Japan; Shanghai and Hong Kong, China; Manila, Philippine Islands; Singapore and Penang, Straits Settlements; Colombo, Ceylon; Trivandrum, Kottarakara, Nagercoil, Puram, Madras, Vizagapatam, Calcutta, Benares, Lucknow and Bombay, India; Aden, Arabia; Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt; Piraeus, Athens, Corinth and Patras, Greece; Brindisi and Rome, Italy; Paris, France; and then London, England, and finally New York. Truly an extensive journey to gird the earth with the warning message of the approaching end of “Gentile times” in 1914. Before Russell’s death in 1916 (October 31) it is said that he traveled more than a million miles, preached more than 30,000 sermons, and wrote books totaling over 50,000 pages. By this time the Society’s publications were appearing in 15 languages.

To offset any private wild speculations as to 1914 the Watch Tower of December 1, 1912, published the following:

“There surely is room for slight differences of opinion on this subject and it behooves us to grant each other the widest latitude. The lease of power to the Gentiles may end in October, 1914, or in October, 1915. And the period of intense strife and anarchy ‘such as never was since there was a nation’ may be the final ending of the Gentile Times or the beginning of Messiah’s reign. But we remind all of our readers again, that we have not prophesied anything about the Times of the Gentiles closing in a time of trouble nor about the glorious epoch which will shortly follow that catastrophe. we have merely pointed out what the Scriptures say, giving our views respecting their meaning and asking our readers to judge, each for himself, what they signify. These prophecies still read the same to us. . . . However some may make positive statements of what they know, and of what they do not know, we never indulge in this; but we merely state that we believe thus and so, for such and such reasons.”

To demonstrate further that these united students and workers did not believe the prophetic year of 1914 would end all their operations with respect to this earth, from 1912 to the beginning of 1914 the Watch Tower Society spent a fortune (over $300,000) in preparing the Photo-Drama of Creation, to spread Bible knowledge to the masses of people during and after 1914. Although use of recorded talks and music synchronized with projected (moving and still) pictures was an art then in infancy, nevertheless the Society boldly proceeded to pioneer this field. In primitive studios in New York it produced a combined movie-film and picture-slide show of rare beauty, synchronized with which was a large variety of choicest musical recordings and 96 phonograph-record talks (each 4 minutes long) explaining the principal features of the Bible. Describing it, the Watch Tower of 1914 said:

“Naturally our readers are deeply interested in the Photo-Drama of Creation. All of you have heard more or less concerning its preparation during the past two years. The work has been much more tedious than we expected. All who have seen it concede that it is very beautiful. A minister, after seeing two parts, said, ‘I have seen only one-half of the DRAMA, but already have learned from it more about the Bible than I learned in my three years’ course in the theological seminary.’ . . . It [the DRAMA] includes everything appertaining to the creation of earth—animals, man, the experiences of mankind for the past six thousand years and the work of the thousand years of Messiah’s kingdom. It divides these into four parts—four Entertainments [of two hours each] with appropriate music, etc. Part I carries us from star nebula to the creation of the world and down to the Deluge—down to Abraham’s time. Part II reaches from Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, wilderness experiences, etc., down through the periods of the Kings to the time of Elisha, the Prophet. Part III continues the story from Daniel’s time down to the time when the Logos was made flesh at the birth of Jesus, his boyhood, manhood, baptism, ministry, miracles, crucifixion, death, resurrection. Part IV begins at Pentecost and traces the experiences of the Church, during the past nineteen centuries to our day and beyond for a thousand years to the glorious consummation.”

Many complete and abridged sets of this colorful sound-drama were produced, trained traveling supervisors and operators taking it to millions of people in free showings at the largest auditoriums and picture places of North America, Europe and Australia. This new medium for Bible education was ready in time to be shipped to Germany and other foreign countries where showings during the first world war brought comfort to multitudes of bewildered peoples. A truly great witness was given in this manner. Incidentally, the Supreme Court of Idaho granted the Society a victory over opposers who objected to Sunday showings of this Photo-Drama.

- March 1, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why Use God’s Name if Its Pronunciation Is Uncertain?

Additional Reading:

No one today knows exactly how God’s name was pronounced in ancient Hebrew. Significantly, however, God’s personal name appears in the text of the Bible some 7,000 times. Jesus made God’s name manifest when on earth, and he instructed his disciples to pray for the sanctification of that name. (Matthew 6:9; John 17:6) Thus, one thing is certain—the use of God’s name is of utmost importance to Christian faith. Why, then, is the original pronunciation of that name uncertain today? There are two main reasons.

First, some two thousand years ago, there arose among the Jews a superstitious tradition that it was wrong to pronounce God’s name. When a reader came to the name in Bible text, he would say the word “Lord” as a substitute. In this way, after many centuries of disuse, the pronunciation of God’s name faded from memory.

Second, ancient Hebrew was written without vowels, very similar to abbreviations in English and other languages. When reading the written text, the reader supplied the missing vowel sounds from memory. In time, a system was devised to prevent the pronunciation of Hebrew words from being completely forgotten. Vowel points were added to each word in the Hebrew Bible. For the divine name, however, either the vowel points for “Lord” were added to remind the reader to pronounce the substitute word, or none were added at all.

What survived, then, were the four consonants called the Tetragrammaton, which one dictionary defines as “the four Hebrew letters usu[ally] transliterated YHWH or JHVH that form a biblical proper name of God.” It is easy to see how JHVH, with vowel points and vowel sounds added, becomes “Jehovah,” the form that is most familiar and widely accepted in English.

Additional Reading:

Some scholars, though, recommend the pronunciation “Yahweh.” Is that closer to the original pronunciation? No one can be certain. Actually, other scholars have cited reasons for not using this pronunciation. Of course, Bible names, when spoken in a modern-day language, probably sound nothing like the original Hebrew, and hardly anyone objects. This is because these names have become part of our language and they are easily recognized. So it is with the name Jehovah.

The first-century Christians were called a people for God’s name. They preached about the name to others and encouraged them to call upon it. (Acts 2:21; 15:14; Romans 10:13-15) Clearly, it is important to God that we use his name in whatever language we speak, appreciate its significance, and live in harmony with what it stands for.

- Published by the WTB&TS, September 1, 2008 WT

GOD HAS A NAME! And knowing His name is important! @

Firstly, Jesus said in the prayer often called “Our Father”: “hallowed be your name”. But what is God’s name? It is not ‘Lord’, ‘Eternal’ or ‘Almighty One’. These are descriptive titles. It is also not Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said in a prayer to his father: “and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”’New American Standard Bible).

In spite of the fact that God’s name occurs more than 7000 times in the Bible, see our page “what explanation”, over past centuries many efforts have been made to send the name into oblivion. This is in contradiction with Bible texts such as Jeremiah 10:6, John 17:6. 26; Romans 10:13, 14 and many more texts.

The sole aim of our Internet site is to bring God’s name into the spotlight. Further information is given on our page “explanation”. By means of the other pages you will see that our Internet site focuses especially on “showing”. By means of many photographs and documents we show the use of God’s name in archaeology, literature, music and on exceptional objects. We transcend the borders of religion - God’s name is indeed found in many religions, on places and objects of which the visitors themselves perhaps are even not aware.

We hope that the many items that we present will interest you.

Can Anything “Separate Us From God’s Love”?

WHO of us does not need to be loved? Indeed, we thrive when we feel loved by family and friends. Sadly, though, human relationships can be very fragile and uncertain. Loved ones may hurt us, abandon us, or even reject us. Yet, there is someone whose love is unfailing. The love that Jehovah God has for his worshippers is beautifully described at Romans 8:38, 39.

“I am convinced,” says the apostle Paul. Convinced of what? That nothing can “separate us from God’s love.” Paul speaks not just for himself but also for “us”—that is, for all who serve God loyally. To emphasize his point, Paul lists a number of things that cannot prevent Jehovah’s love from reaching his devoted servants.

“Neither death nor life.” Jehovah’s love for his people does not cease when they die. In proof of his love, God keeps such ones in his memory, and he will restore them to life in the righteous new world to come. (John 5:28, 29; Revelation 21:3, 4) Meanwhile, God’s love for his loyal worshippers remains constant no matter what life in this system of things may bring them.

“Nor angels nor governments.” Humans can be susceptible to the influence of powerful individuals or authorities, but not so with Jehovah. Mighty spirit creatures, such as the angel who became Satan, cannot persuade God to stop loving his worshippers. (Revelation 12:10) Neither can governments, which may oppose true Christians, alter God’s view of his servants.—1 Corinthians 4:13.

“Nor things now here nor things to come.” God’s love does not fade with time. There is nothing that can come upon his servants now or in the future that will cause God to stop loving them.

“Nor powers.” Paul has referred to heavenly and earthly forces—“angels” and “governments”—but now he mentions “powers.” The Greek word used here is broad in meaning. Whatever the precise meaning, one thing is certain: No power in heaven or on earth can keep Jehovah’s love from reaching his people.

“Nor height nor depth.” Jehovah loves his people regardless of the circumstances—high or low—in which they find themselves.

“Nor any other creation.” With these all-inclusive words, Paul is saying that absolutely nothing can separate loyal worshippers from Jehovah’s love.

Unlike the love of a human, which can change or fade, God’s love for those who keep looking to him in faith is unalterable; it is everlasting. Knowing this surely moves us to draw closer to Jehovah and to try our best to prove our love for him.

- August 1, 2008 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

Did Jesus Mean Hellfire?

SOME who believe the doctrine of hellfire point to Jesus’ words recorded at Mark 9:48 (or verses 44, 46). He mentioned worms (or maggots) that do not die and fire that is not quenched. If someone asked you about those words, how would you respond?

Depending on the Bible version being used, the person might read verse 44, 46, or 48 because these verses read similarly in some versions. The New World Translation reads: “If your eye makes you stumble, throw it away; it is finer for you to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of God than with two eyes to be pitched into Gehenna, where their maggot does not die and the fire is not put out.”—Mark 9:47, 48.

In any case, some claim that Jesus’ statement supports the view that after death the souls of the wicked suffer forever. For instance, a comment in the Spanish Sagrada Biblia of the University of Navarre says: “Our Lord uses [these words] to refer to the torments of hell. Often ‘the worm that does not die’ is explained as the eternal remorse felt by those in hell; and the ‘fire which is not quenched,’ as their physical pain.”

However, compare Jesus’ words with the final verse of Isaiah’s prophecy. Is it not apparent that Jesus was alluding to the text in Isaiah chapter 66? The prophet there apparently refers to going out “of Jerusalem to the surrounding Hinnom Valley (Gehenna), where human sacrifice was once practiced (Jer 7:31) and which eventually became the city’s refuse heap.” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary) The symbolism at Isaiah 66:24 clearly is not that of people being tortured; it speaks of carcasses. What it refers to as not dying is worms—not live humans or immortal souls. What, then, is the import of Jesus’ words?

Note the comment on Mark 9:48 in the Catholic work El evangelio de Marcos. Análisis lingüístico y comentario exegético, Volume II: “[The] phrase is taken from Isaiah (66,24). There the prophet shows the two ways corpses were usually destroyed: putrefaction and incineration . . . The juxtaposition in the text of maggots and fire reinforces the idea of destruction. . . . Both destructive forces are described as permanent (‘is not quenched, does not die’): there is simply no way to escape them. In this image, the only survivors are the maggot and the fire—not man—and they both annihilate anything that falls within their power. Hence, this is not a description of everlasting torment, but one of total destruction which, as it prevents resurrection from occurring, is tantamount to final death. [Fire] is, then, a symbol of annihilation.”

Anyone who knows that the true God is loving and just should be able to see how reasonable it is to understand Jesus’ words in that way. He was not saying that the wicked will experience everlasting torment. Rather, they are at risk of total destruction that prevents resurrection from occurring.


The most reliable Bible manuscripts do not include verses 44 and 46. Scholars acknowledge that those two verses were likely later additions. Professor Archibald T. Robertson writes: “The oldest and best manuscripts do not give these two verses. They came in from the Western and Syrian (Byzantine) classes. They are a mere repetition of verse 48. Hence we [omit] the numbering 44 and 46 in our verses which are not genuine.”

“They will actually go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that were transgressing against me; for the very worms upon them will not die and their fire itself will not be extinguished, and they must become something repulsive to all flesh.”—Isa. 66:24.

- June 5, 2008 Watchtower, WTB&TS


In Christianity, annihilationism is the belief that sinners are destroyed, rather than tormented forever in "hell" as in the lake of fire. It is directly related to the doctrine of conditional immortality, the idea that a human soul is not immortal unless it is given eternal life. Annihilationism asserts that God will eventually destroy or annihilate the wicked, leaving only the righteous to live on in immortality. Some annihilationists believe the wicked will be punished for their sins in the lake of fire before being annihilated, others that hell is a false doctrine of pagan origin. It stands in contrast to the "traditional view" of eternal torment, and the view that everyone will be saved (universal reconciliation or simply "universalism") which is often associated with liberal Christianity.

The belief is a minority view, although it has appeared throughout Christian history. And is now almost a common view among conservative theologians.

Christian denominations which are annihilationist were influenced by the Millerite/Adventist movement of the mid-19th century. These include the Seventh-day Adventists, Bible Students, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians and the various Advent Christian churches. Additionally, the Church of England's Doctrine Commission reported in 1995 that "[h]ell is not eternal torment", but "non-being". Some Protestant and Anglican writers have also proposed annihilationist doctrines.

Annihilationists base the doctrine on their exegesis of Scripture, some early church writing, historical criticism of the doctrine of hell, and the concept of God as too loving to punish his creations forever. They claim that the popular conceptions of hell stem from Jewish speculation during the intertestamental period, belief in an immortal soul which originated in Greek philosophy and influenced Christianity, and also graphic and imaginative medieval art and poetry.

Millerite and Adventist movement

Recently the doctrine has been most often associated with groups descended from or with influences from the Millerite movement of the mid-19th century. These include the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Bible Students, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christadelphians, followers of Herbert Armstrong, and the various Advent Christian churches. (The Millerite movement consisted of 50,000 to 100,000 people in the United States who eagerly expected the soon return of Jesus, and originated around William Miller).

George Storrs introduced the belief to the Millerites. He had been a Methodist minister and antislavery advocate. He was introduced to the view when in 1837 he read a pamphlet by Henry Grew. He published tracts in 1841 and 1842 arguing for conditionalism and annihilation. He became a Millerite, and started the Bible Examiner in 1843 to promote these views. However most leaders of the movement rejected these beliefs, other than Charles Fitch who accepted conditionalism. Still, in 1844 the movement officially decided these issues were not essential points of belief.

The Millerites expected Jesus to return around 1843 or 1844, based on Bible texts including Daniel 8:14, and one Hebrew Calendar. When the most expected date of Jesus' return (October 22, 1844) passed uneventfully, the "Great Disappointment" resulted. Followers met in 1845 to discuss the future direction of the movement, and were henceforth known as "Adventists". However they split on the issues of conditionalism and annihilation. The dominant group, which published the Advent Herald, adopted the traditional position of the immortal soul, and became the American Evangelical Adventist Conference. On the other hand, groups behind the Bible Advocate and Second Advent Watchman adopted conditionalism. Later, the main advocate of conditionalism became the World's Crisis publication, which started in the early 1850s, and played a key part in the origin of the Advent Christian Church. Storrs came to believe the wicked would never be resurrected. He and like-minded others formed the Life and Advent Union in 1863.

Christian conditionalism

In Christian theology, conditional immortality or conditionalism or is a concept of special salvation in which the gift of immortality is attached to (conditional upon) belief in Jesus Christ. This doctrine is based in part upon another theological argument, that because the human soul is naturally mortal, immortality ("eternal life") is therefore granted by God as a gift. This viewpoint stands in contrast to the more popular doctrine of the "natural immortality" of the soul. It is usually paired with annihilationism, the belief that the unsaved will be ultimately destroyed and cease to exist, rather than suffer unending torment in hell. The view is also connected with the idea of soul sleep, in which the dead sleep unconscious till resurrection at Judgement Day.

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 12/3/2010

- also see:

Turning the “Hose” on Hell

In harmony with Brother Russell’s strong desire to remove from God’s name the foul stain that resulted from the teaching of a hellfire of eternal torment, he wrote a tract featuring the subject, “Do the Scriptures Teach That Eternal Torment Is the Wages of Sin?” (The Old Theology, 1889) In it he said:

“The eternal torment theory had a heathen origin, though as held by the heathen it was not the merciless doctrine it afterward became, when it began gradually to attach itself to nominal Christianity during its blending with heathen philosophies in the second century. It remained for the great apostasy to tack to heathen philosophy the horrid details now so generally believed, to paint them upon the church walls, as was done in Europe, to write them in their creeds and hymns, and to so pervert the Word of God as to give a seeming divine support to the God-dishonoring blasphemy. The credulity of the present day, therefore, receives it as a legacy, not from the Lord, or the apostles, or the prophets, but from the compromising spirit which sacrificed truth and reason, and shamefully perverted the doctrines of Christianity, in an unholy ambition and strife for power and wealth and numbers. Eternal torment as the penalty for sin was unknown to the patriarchs of past ages; it was unknown to the prophets of the Jewish age; and it was unknown to the Lord and the apostles; but it has been the chief doctrine of Nominal Christianity since the great apostasy—the scourge wherewith the credulous, ignorant and superstitious of the world have been lashed into servile obedience to tyranny. Eternal torment was pronounced against all who offered resistance to or spurned Rome’s authority, and its infliction in the present life was begun so far as she had power.”

Brother Russell was well aware that the majority of sensible people did not really believe the doctrine of hellfire. But, as he pointed out, in 1896, in the booklet What Say the Scriptures About Hell?, “since they think that the Bible teaches it, every step they progress in real intelligence and brotherly kindness . . . is in most cases a step away from God’s Word, which they falsely accuse of this teaching.”

To draw such thinking people back to God’s Word, he presented in this booklet every text in the King James Version in which the word hell was found, so readers could see for themselves what these said, and then he stated: “Thank God, we find no such place of everlasting torture as the creeds and hymn-books, and many pulpits, erroneously teach. Yet we have found a ‘hell,’ sheol, hades, to which all our race were condemned on account of Adam’s sin, and from which all are redeemed by our Lord’s death; and that ‘hell’ is the tomb—the death condition. And we find another ‘hell’ (gehenna—the second death—utter destruction) brought to our attention as the final penalty upon all who, after being redeemed and brought to the full knowledge of the truth, and to full ability to obey it, shall yet choose death by choosing a course of opposition to God and righteousness. And our hearts say, Amen. True and righteous are thy ways, thou King of nations. Who shall not venerate thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art entirely holy. And all nations shall come and worship before thee, because thy righteous dealings are made manifest.”—Rev. 15:3, 4.

What he was teaching was a source of irritation and embarrassment to the clergy of Christendom. In 1903 he was challenged to public debate. The condition of the dead was one of the issues in the resulting series of debates between C. T. Russell and Dr. E. L. Eaton, who served as spokesman for an unofficial alliance of Protestant ministers in the western part of Pennsylvania.

Additional Reading:

During those debates Brother Russell firmly upheld the proposition that “death is death, and that our dear ones, when they pass from us, are really dead, that they are neither alive with the angels nor with demons in a place of despair.” In support of this, he referred to such scriptures as Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Romans 5:12; 6:23; and Genesis 2:17. He also said: “The scriptures are in full harmony with what you and I and every other sane, reasonable person in the world shall concede to be the reasonable and proper character of our God. What is declared of our heavenly Father? That he is just, that he is wise, that he is loving, that he is powerful. All Christian people will acknowledge these attributes of the divine character. If this is so, can we find any sense of the word in which we could conceive of God as just and yet punishing a creature of His own hand to all eternity, no matter what the sin was? I am not an apologist for sin; I do not live in sin myself, and I never preach sin. . . . But I tell you that all these people around here that our brother [Dr. Eaton] says are making the air blue with their blasphemies of God and the holy name of Jesus Christ are all people who have been taught this doctrine of eternal torment. And all the murderers, thieves and evil doers in the penitentiaries, were all taught this doctrine. . . . These are bad doctrines; they have been injuring the world this long time; they are not a part of the Lord’s teaching at all, and our dear brother has not gotten the smoke of the dark ages rubbed out of his eyes yet.” -

It is reported that after the debate a clergyman who was in attendance approached Russell and said: “I am glad to see you turn the hose on hell and put out the fire.”

To give even more widespread publicity to the truth about the condition of the dead, Brother Russell served an extensive series of one-day conventions, from 1905 through 1907, at which he featured the public discourse “To Hell and Back! Who Are There? Hope for Return of Many.” The title was intriguing, and it attracted much attention. Audiences packed out assembly halls in cities both large and small in the United States and Canada to hear the talk.

Among those who were deeply moved by what the Bible says about the condition of the dead was a university student in Cincinnati, Ohio, who was preparing to become a Presbyterian minister. In 1913 he received from his fleshly brother the booklet Where Are the Dead?, written by John Edgar, a Bible Student who was also a medical doctor in Scotland. The student who received that booklet was Frederick Franz. After reading it carefully, he firmly declared: “This is the truth.” Without hesitation, he changed his goals in life and got into the full-time ministry as a colporteur evangelizer. In 1920 he became a member of the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters staff. Many years later he became a member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and, later, the president of the Watch Tower Society.

Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

False charges about Pastor Russell

Are the charges in a tract against Jehovah’s witnesses true that the Society’s first president was immoral, profiteered from selling some mysteriously named wheat at $65 a bushel, and committed perjury when asked in court if he could read Greek?—C. W., North Carolina.

No. They were deliberate falsehoods. No immoral action was ever proved against the Watchtower Society’s first president, Charles Taze Russell. In a suit for separate maintenance Mrs. Russell’s attorney said, “We make no charge of adultery”; and Mrs. Russell, who went to all ends to discredit her husband (her main objection was that he would not let her control the Watchtower magazine’s policy), specifically said she did not accuse him of immorality. When critics who did not know him thought they could take portions of the trial and malign his good name, he swore: “I never was guilty of immorality toward any person. . . . Further, I have never desired to do so.” Those who knew him personally highly respected his integrity. J. F. Rutherford, one who was sufficiently convinced of the importance of the Christian work Brother Russell did to likewise devote his life and funds to it, and who succeeded Russell as the Society’s president, said at Russell’s funeral: “Truly it can be said that Pastor Russell’s character was and is without blemish.”

The facts about “Miracle Wheat” are equally perverted. Brother Russell was interested in anything related to the Scriptural prediction that the desert would blossom as a rose and the earth yield her increase. So, when the public press reported a new and unusual strain of wheat, called “Miracle Wheat” by its original grower, Brother Russell reported this in The Watchtower, along with a government report on it. Some Watchtower readers contacted the grower, who was in no way connected with the Watchtower Society, and purchased some of the wheat. When theirs produced seed they offered it as a contribution to the Society. The original grower sold the seed at $1.25 a pound, so they suggested their contribution be priced at $1.00, and all the money received be given to the Society. The Society made no claim for the wheat on its own knowledge, though it won several State Fair grand prizes before it wore itself out. Brother Russell neither named it nor profited from it; the money went as a donation into Christian missionary work. When others criticized this sale, all who had contributed were told that if they were dissatisfied their money would be returned, and the money was held for a year for this purpose. Not a single person requested it back. The only critics were those who had no real knowledge of the matter, which was purely a donation sale for the benefit of the Society—as open and aboveboard as a church cake sale.

Additional Reading:

The “perjury” charge was not made in court, but in a tract written later by an irresponsible slanderer against whom Brother Russell had brought a libel case. The official record of the case in question (Police Court of the City of Hamilton, Ontario, March 17, 1913) says: “Q. You don’t profess, then, to be schooled in the Latin language? A. No, sir. Q. Or in Greek? A. No, sir.” After this he was asked if he knew individual Greek letters, and it was over this that the question of his knowledge of Greek arose. This false “perjury” claim has been repeated by many who never went to this Canadian city to check this old court record to see if they are spreading truth or a lie. Not only has the question they “quote” been reworded, but Brother Russell had specifically said that he did not know Greek.

Additional Reading:

The extent to which critics will deliberately falsify such quotations is shown in another tract that says Jehovah’s witnesses deny the ransom and tries to support this with a quotation from Volume 5, page 127, of the Studies in the Scriptures: “Jesus’ suffering would not pay the debt of sin.” Here is what the book actually says: “True, the wages of sin was not suffering, but death; and hence suffering on our Lord’s part would not alone pay the wages of sin for us: it was absolutely necessary that he should ‘taste death for every man.’” The book says exactly the opposite of what the tract claims it says.

With such lies and perverted facts the critics condemn themselves. They would not like to be classed with the ultramodernists who accuse Jesus of being illegitimate, but they stoop equally low regarding other men whose lives were spent unselfishly in God’s service.

- The Watchtower, May 15, 1953, p. 319, WTB&TS


My husband possesses a book, The Chaos of Cults, by Jan Karel Van Baalen, and, on pages 218, 219, that book states regarding Pastor Russell: ‘His boldness was so extraordinary that he calmly announced in the opening pages of his Studies in the Scriptures that it would be better to leave the Bible unread but read his comments than to omit the latter but read the Bible.’ My question is, did Pastor Russell really state or have written such a statement in the book or books Studies in the Scriptures?—E. N., United States.

In view of the reputation enjoyed by the Bible Students in Pastor Russell’s day and that being enjoyed by the witnesses of Jehovah in our day for knowing their Bibles, which reputation is justly deserved, there must be something wrong with what Van Baalen says in his book. There is.

In the first place, let it be noted that the two disciples on the way to Emmaus were Bible readers and yet did not understand why God had allowed Jesus to be put to death. The scribes and Pharisees read God’s Word continually and yet failed to appreciate that Jesus was their Messiah. The Ethiopian official that Philip met was reading the prophecy of Isaiah but did not understand what he was reading. Obviously, merely reading the Bible is not enough; we need help to understand it. That is why God provided apostles, prophets, missionaries, shepherds and teachers.—Luke 24:25-27, 32; John 5:39; Acts 8:30, 31; Eph. 4:11-15, NW.

As for the statement made by Van Baalen, neither it nor anything even remotely similar ever appeared in any of the six Scripture Studies, which were written primarily for the public. But, some six years after writing his sixth volume, Pastor Russell did write, in The Watchtower, which at that time was an organization journal, something in the September 15, 1910, issue under the heading “Is the Reading of ‘Scripture Studies’ Bible Study?” Apparently it is this that Van Baalen distorted. What was written there, however, can be readily appreciated in the light of the foregoing Scriptural examples. We quote from this article as follows:

“We all know people who have spent days and weeks and years in study of the Bible and have learned little or nothing. . . . It is a great deal like hunting or fishing. Some people go hunting every year, and though they do a lot of hunting, it is no sure indication of how much they get. Some do a lot of fishing, but do not get many fish. Bible study is very much the same. It is not the amount of time we spend in poring over a passage, but the amount of information we secure from the Bible.

“The six volumes of Scripture Studies are not intended to supplant the Bible. There are various methods to be pursued in the study of the Bible and these aids to Bible study are in such a form that they, of themselves, contain the important elements of the Bible as well as the comments or elucidations of those Bible statements, on exactly the same principle that our Lord and the Apostles quoted from the Old Testament, and then gave elucidations of those Old Testament passages.” - Additional Reading:

Far from discrediting the Bible as the basis for one’s faith, the article goes on to say: “In reading [the Scripture Studies] the first time, and perhaps the second time, and before we would accept anything as being our own personal faith and conviction, we should say, ‘I will not take it because these studies say so; I wish to see what the Bible says.’ And so we would study the Scriptures in the light of these Scripture Studies; we would prove every point, or disprove it, as the case might be. We would be satisfied with nothing less than a thorough investigation of the Bible from this standpoint.”

And from under the heading “‘Scripture Studies’ Not a Substitute for the Bible,’ we further quote: “This is not, therefore, putting the Scripture Studies as a substitute for the Bible, because so far as substituting for the Bible, the Studies, on the contrary, continually refer to the Bible; and if one has any doubt as to a reference or if one’s recollection should lapse in any degree, one should refresh his memory, and, in fact, should see that his every thought is in harmony with the Bible—not merely in accord with the Scripture Studies, but in accord with the Bible.”

The particular point distorted by Van Baalen is as follows:

"Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible by itself, but we see, also, that if anyone lays the Scripture Studies aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years—if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood his Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the Scripture Studies with their references, and not read a page of the Bible, as such, he would be in the light at the end of the two years, because he would have the light of the Scriptures.”

Obviously, if reading the Bible by itself did not give one a correct understanding of what one read, as the foregoing Scriptural examples as well as modern experience clearly show, then by one’s merely reading the Bible by the page and neglecting the aids that help one to understand it would result in his losing an understanding of what he read. And especially is this true in view of the prophetic promise that “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Prov. 4:18, RS) And bringing this ever-increasing light to the attention of all sincere students of the Bible is the anointed Christian group that serves as the “faithful and discreet slave” of Matthew 24:45-47, NW.

Clearly then, in view of all the foregoing, Mr. Van Baalen is guilty of willfully bearing false witness against his neighbor when he claims that Pastor Russell was so bold that he ‘calmly announced in the opening pages of his Studies in the Scriptures that it would be better to leave the Bible unread but read his comments than to omit the latter but read the Bible.’

- The Watchtower, July 1, 1957, pp. 414-5, WTB&TS

Additional Reading: Also See:


What was Pastor Russell's views regarding his writings; 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. The name of him who died for all--the name Christian--is quite sufficient to designate the spiritual sons of God, the true brethren of Christ; and whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil, of carnality, and tends toward more of the same. Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible, or on a par with the holy Scriptures. The most we claim or have ever claimed for our teachings is, that they are what we believe to be harmonious interpretations of the divine Word, in harmony with the spirit of the truth. And we still urge, as in the past, that each reader study the subjects we present in the light of the Scriptures, proving all things by the Scriptures, accepting what they see to be thus approved, and rejecting all else. It is to this end, to enable the student to trace the subject in the divinely inspired Record, that we so freely intersperse both quotations and citations of the Scriptures upon which to build. - Charles Taze Russell, December 15, 1896