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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Millennial Dawn & Studies in the Scriptures

In that same year—1881—C. T. Russell completed two large pamphlets. One was entitled “Tabernacle Teachings.” The other—Food for Thinking Christians—exposed certain doctrinal errors and explained the divine purpose.

Originally the printing of tracts and Zion’s Watch Tower was done almost entirely by commercial firms. But if literature distribution was to expand, and if the Bible Students (as Jehovah’s witnesses were then known) were to receive contributions to carry on the work, some sort of society was required. So, early in 1881, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was established as an unincorporated body with C. T. Russell as its manager. He and others generously contributed some $35,000 to get this printing organization into operation. During 1884 the formerly unincorporated Society was incorporated as Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, Russell serving as its president. Today this religious corporation is known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.

“The purpose for which the corporation is formed,” said its charter, “is, the dissemination of Bible truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and by the use of all other lawful means which its Board of Directors, duly constituted, shall deem expedient for the furtherance of the purpose stated.”

“The dissemination of Bible truths” took a notable step forward with a series of books entitled “Millennial Dawn” (later, “Studies in the Scriptures”). Written by C. T. Russell in easily understood language, Volume I was published in 1886. First called “The Plan of the Ages” and later “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” it covered such subjects as “The Existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator Established,” “Our Lord’s Return—Its Object, the Restitution of All Things,” “The Day of Judgment,” “The Kingdom of God” and “The Day of Jehovah.” During a forty-year period, six million copies of this publication were distributed, helping hundreds of sincere truth seekers to come out of false religious bondage into Christian freedom.

In the course, of time, C. T. Russell wrote five other books of the “Millennial Dawn” Series. They were: Volume II, The Time is at Hand (1889); Volume III, Thy Kingdom Come (1891); Volume IV, The Battle of Armageddon (1897; originally called “The Day of Vengeance”); Volume V, The At-one-ment Between God and Man (1899); Volume VI, The New Creation (1904). Russell did not survive to write an intended seventh volume of this series.

What a response there was to such Christian publications! God’s spirit prompted individuals to act. In some cases, withdrawal from false religion was quick. “Its truth captured my heart at once,” wrote one woman in 1889, after reading a volume of Millennial Dawn. “Forthwith I withdrew from the Presbyterian Church where I had so long been groping in the dark for the truth, and found it not.” A clergyman wrote in 1891: “After preaching in the M[ethodist] E[piscopal] church for three years, during all of which time I have been earnestly seeking the truth, I am now, by the help of God, able to ‘come out of her.’”—Rev. 18:4.

A keen desire to preach the good news is displayed in the thoughts others expressed to the Society by letter. For instance, in 1891 a man and his wife wrote: “We have consecrated our all to the Lord and to his service to be used to his glory; and, the Lord willing, I am going to try the colporteur work as soon as I can get things arranged, and if the Lord accepts of my service and blesses me in doing his work, then we will break up housekeeping and both wife and I will engage in the harvest work.”

Quite interesting was correspondence the Society received in 1894 from one man who had obtained volumes of Millennial Dawn from two women who were colporteurs. He read the books, ordered additional copies, subscribed to Zion’s Watch Tower, and was moved to write: “My dear wife and myself have read these books with the keenest interest, and we consider it a God-send and a great blessing that we have had the opportunity of coming in contact with them. They are indeed a ‘helping hand’ to the study of the Bible. The great truths revealed in the study of this series have simply reversed our earthly aspirations; and realizing to some extent, at least, the great opportunity for doing something for Christ, we intend to take advantage of this opportunity in distributing these books, first, among our nearest relatives and friends, and then among the poor who desire to read them and are unable to purchase.” This letter was signed by J. F. Rutherford, who dedicated himself to Jehovah twelve years later and eventually succeeded C. T. Russell as president of the Watch Tower Society.

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


The publishing of Bible truths took a significant step forward in 1886 with the release of the first volume of a promised series of books called Millennial Dawn, written by C. T. Russell. Volume I was called The Divine Plan of the Ages. It contained studies on 16 subjects, such as “The Existence of a Supreme Intelligent Creator Established,” “The Bible as a Divine Revelation Viewed in the Light of Reason,” “Our Lord’s Return—Its Object, the Restitution of All Things,” and “The Permission of Evil and Its Relation to God’s Plan.” Eventually, C. T. Russell wrote five other books of the Millennial Dawn series.

Russell did not survive to write an intended seventh volume of the series, but the widespread distribution of the six volumes that he did complete struck a responsive chord in honesthearted persons. “Your book MILLENNIAL DAWN came to me last Fall,” wrote one woman in 1889, “the first hint I ever had of such a work. I received it on a Saturday evening, commenced to read it immediately and never laid it aside, except when obliged, until finished. Its truth captured my heart at once; forthwith I withdrew from the Presbyterian Church where I had so long been groping in the dark for the truth, and found it not.”

It took real courage in those days to withdraw from one’s church. Demonstrating this was a woman in Manitoba, Canada, who came into possession of Millennial Dawn in 1897. At first, she tried to stay with her church and teach in local Sunday schools. The day came, in 1903, when she decided to make a break. She stood up and told all present why she felt she must separate from the church. The nearest neighbor (dear to people in small communities in those days) tried to persuade her to go back to church. But she stood firm, even though there was no congregation of Bible Students nearby. As her son later described her situation: “No study servant [elder] to lean on. No meetings. A contrite heart. A worn Bible. Long prayerful hours.”

What was it about Millennial Dawn, the Watch Tower, and other publications of the Society that captured the hearts of people and moved them to take such decisive action? C. T. Russell took an approach to explaining Bible teachings that was distinct from many writers of his day. He believed the Bible to be the infallible Word of God and that its teachings should be harmonious. Therefore, if any part of the Bible is difficult to understand, he felt, it should be clarified and interpreted by another part of the inspired Word. He did not try to support the explanations he presented with the testimony of theologians of his day or with the views of the so-called early church fathers. As he wrote in Volume I of Millennial Dawn: “We believe it to be a common failing of the present and all times for men to believe certain doctrines because others did so, in whom they had confidence. . . . Truth-seekers should empty their vessels of the muddy waters of tradition and fill them at the fountain of truth—God’s Word.”

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 1993, WTB&TS


While the Society had been circulating a bound book entitled “Day Dawn,” written by an early associate, J. H. Paton, it was decided for Russell to become writer of a new book to be called “Millennial Dawn,” which after many difficulties appeared in 1886 as Volume 1 of a promised series. Later this became known, instead, as Volume 1 of “Studies in the Scriptures” as well as “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” More than six million copies were distributed over a forty-year period. It covered more clearly subjects previously explained in Food for Thinking Christians and in Tabernacle Teachings (later called “Tabernacle Shadows”). Its sixteen chapters (352 pages) included “Our Lord’s Return,” “Ransom and Restitution,” “Plan of the Ages,” and “The Kingdom of God.” Chapter 15, “The Day of Jehovah,” amazingly foreshowed the great preaching work now being done.

“The ‘Day of Jehovah’ is the name of that period of time in which God’s kingdom, under Christ, is to be gradually ‘set up’ . . . while the kingdoms of this world are passing away and Satan’s power and influence over men are being bound. It is everywhere described as a dark day of intense trouble and distress and perplexity upon mankind. . . . That some of the saints will still be in the flesh during at least a part of this burning time seems possible. Their position in it, however, will differ from that of others, not so much in that they will be miraculously preserved (though it is distinctly promised that their bread and water shall be sure), but in the fact that, being instructed from God’s Word, they will not feel the same anxiety and hopeless dread that will overspread the world. . . . The troubles of this ‘Day of Jehovah’ will give opportunity for preaching the good tidings of coming good, such as is seldom afforded, and blessed are they who will follow the footsteps of the Master, and be the good Samaritans binding up the wounds and pouring in the oil and wine of comfort and cheer.”

By end of the ‘80’s they had outgrown the quarters at 151 Robinson Street (earlier designated as 44, and then 40, Federal Street), Allegheny, Pennsylvania. They decided to build, and in 1889 they moved into their own large, handsome four-story brick structure costing $34,000, located at 58 and 60 (later renumbered as 610-614) Arch Street, Allegheny (North Side, Pittsburgh), containing quarters for a small “Bible House family,” printing works, shipping rooms, an assembly place for about 200, an office, an editorial department and a store front. They named it “Bible House.” Years later, the Society’s board of directors accepted the donation of title to this plant, the board valuing the building’s net equity and all of its equipment at $164,033.65.

By 1890 there were about 400 active associates of the Society. The only report available shows the placement of 841,095 tracts, 395,000 extra copies of the Watch Tower magazine, and 85,000 Millennial Dawn bound books between 1886 and 1891.

- February 1, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS