Throughout his entire administration as the Society’s president, Brother Russell, along with the vice-president and secretary-treasurer, had made decisions about new publications. As a group, the board of directors had not been consulted. Rutherford followed the same policy. Hence, in the course of time the Society’s three officers made a far-reaching decision.
Charles Taze Russell had written six volumes of Millennial Dawn, or Studies in the Scriptures, but often spoke about writing a seventh volume. “Whenever I find the key,” said he, “I will write the Seventh Volume; and if the Lord gives the key to someone else, he can write it.” The Society’s officers arranged to have two Bible Students, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, compile a book consisting of commentaries on Revelation, The Song of Solomon and Ezekiel. The coeditors assembled material from Brother Russell’s writings and this was published under the title “The Finished Mystery” as the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. Containing largely the thinking and comments of C. T. Russell, it was termed the “posthumous work of Pastor Russell.”
By about mid-1917 it was time to release the new book. That significant day was July 17. “I was on duty in the [Brooklyn Bethel] dining room when the phone rang,” says Martin O. Bowin. “We were getting ready for the noonday meal. I was the nearest one to the phone, so I answered it. Brother Rutherford was on the other end. ‘Who is there with you?’ he asked. I answered, ‘Louis.’ He said to come to his study quickly, and ‘Don’t bother to knock.’ A stack of books was handed to us, with orders to put one at each place setting and get it done before the family arrived for the noon meal.” Soon the dining room was filled with members of the Bethel family.
“As usual,” continues Brother Bowin, “thanks to God was given. Then it started!. . . Headed by . . . P. S. L. Johnson, . . . this demonstration against dear Brother Rutherford began. Hurling vicious charges loudly, they walked back and forth, stopping only at Brother Rutherford’s table to shake their fists at him and further denounce him. . . . All this lasted for about five hours. Then everyone got up from the table with all the dishes and a lot of untouched food still on the table, to be cleaned up by brothers with little energy with which to accomplish it.” http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2008/08/savage-wolves-will-come-in-among-you.html
This incident revealed that some members of the Bethel family sympathized with the opposers. If such opposition continued, eventually it would disrupt the entire operation of Bethel. So J. F. Rutherford acted to correct the situation. Though fully acquainted with the legal structure of the Society, Rutherford had consulted a prominent corporation lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, concerning the status of the Society’s board of directors. The written opinion received disclosed that the four dissidents were not legal members of the board. Why not?
C. T. Russell had appointed those men as directors, but the Society’s charter required that directors be elected by vote of the shareholders. Rutherford had told Russell that appointees had to be confirmed by vote at the following annual meeting, but Russell never took that step. So, only the officers who had been elected at the Pittsburgh annual meeting were duly constituted board members. The four appointees were not legal members of the board. Rutherford knew this throughout the period of trouble, but had not mentioned it, hoping that these board members would discontinue their opposition. However, their attitude showed that they were not qualified to be directors. Rightly Rutherford dismissed them and appointed four new board members whose appointment could be confirmed at the next general corporation meeting, early in 1918.
Brother Rutherford did not summarily dismiss the former directors from the Christian organization. Instead, he offered them positions as pilgrims. They refused, voluntarily left Bethel and began spreading their opposition by an extensive speaking and letter-writing campaign throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Consequently, after the summer of 1917, many congregations of Bible Students were composed of two parties—those loyal to Jehovah’s organization and others who had become spiritually drowsy and had fallen victim to the smooth talk of the opposers. The latter became uncooperative and would not engage in the work of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom.
- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS
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.
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.
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.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS
Although thoroughly familiar with the legal organization of the Society, he took the matter to a prominent corporation lawyer in Philadelphia to determine the status of the board of directors. Through a written opinion he received, he discovered that these four men were not legally members of the board at all! Russell had elected them as directors for life but the law stipulated that directors must be elected by the vote of the shareholders each year. However, Rutherford, Pierson and Van Amburgh were directors because they had been elected to the office of president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. The fact that they were elected as officials made them members of the board. Since the four opposers were not legally elected they had no legal authority to act for the Society; and since the attitude they had displayed showed they were not qualified, it was a simple procedure for Rutherford to appoint other directors for the existing vacancies until the next legal election.
The climax came in July of 1917 only six months after Rutherford had been elected president. He had arranged to produce the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. Russell had written the first six. The seventh, called The Finished Mystery, was really a compilation of material from notes and writings of Russell and was issued as a posthumous work of Russell's. Since, according to the bylaws, the president of the Society was also manager of the Society's affairs, Rutherford had not consulted the board of directors and the four who thought they were members raised vehement objections. As a result, their opposition to the policy and work of the Society became so bitter that it was impossible to maintain unity at headquarters as long as they remained. They were asked to leave the Bethel home or get in line with the work. They chose to leave.
However, it was not Rutherford's wish to ignore them altogether. He gave them every opportunity to manifest a spirit of cooperation and even offered them the position of traveling representatives of the Society, but they refused. Finally, they completely withdrew themselves from association with the Society and started an organization of their own.
Additional Reading: http://pastorrussell.blogspot.com/2010/07/paul-johnson-disrupts-work.html
- Faith on the March, by A.H. Macmillan, 1957
The Finished Mystery, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (9/22/2010)
In late 1916 two prominent Bible Students at the Brooklyn headquarters, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, sought approval from the Executive Committee to produce a book about the prophecies of the books of Revelation and Ezekiel based primarily on Russell's writings. Work on the book, The Finished Mystery, which was labeled as the posthumous seventh volume of Russell's Studies in the Scriptures, proceeded without the knowledge of the full Board of Directors and Editorial Committee and was released by Rutherford to headquarters staff on July 17, 1917, the day he announced the appointment of the four replacement directors.
Although denounced by Rutherford's opponents, the book was an immediate best-seller, and was translated into six languages and serialized in The Watch Tower. Expecting God's Kingdom to establish rule on earth and for the saints to be raised to heaven in 1918, Rutherford wrote in January of that year: "The Christian looks for the year to bring the full consummation of the church's hopes." He embarked on a vast advertising campaign to expose the "unrighteousness" of religions and their alliances with "beastly" governments, expanding on claims in The Finished Mystery that patriotism was a delusion and murder. The campaign attracted the attention of governments and on February 12, 1918 the book was banned by the Canadian government for what a Winnipeg newspaper described as "seditious and antiwar statements" On February 24 in Los Angeles Rutherford gave a talk entitled "The World Has Ended—Millions Now Living May Never Die" (subsequent talks in the series were renamed, "Millions Now Living Will Never Die") in which he attacked the clergy, declaring: "As a class, according to the Scriptures, the clergymen are the most reprehensible men on earth for the great war that is now afflicting mankind." Three days later the Army Intelligence Bureau seized the Society's Los Angeles offices and confiscated literature.
In early May 1918 US Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory condemned The Finished Mystery as "one of the most dangerous examples of ... propaganda ... a work written in extremely religious language and distributed in enormous numbers". Warrants were issued for the arrest of Rutherford and seven other Watch Tower directors and officers on charges of sedition under the Espionage Act. On June 21 seven of them, including Rutherford, were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. Rutherford feared his opponents would gain control of the Society in his absence. On January 2, 1919 learned he had been re-elected president at the Pittsburgh convention the day before, convincing him that God wanted him in the position. In March 1919 the directors were released on bail after an appeals court ruled they had been wrongly convicted; in May 1920 the government announced that all charges had been dropped.
SINCE the days of the Apostles, Christian people have been looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus in great power and glory; for He said that He would come again and receive His Church unto Himself. He further pointed out that for some time prior to the completion of the Church He would be present, gathering out from Babylon and from the world the truly consecrated, and that during His presence "the Mystery of God" would be finished.
Through St. John the Lord Jesus revealed the fact that the Church would be developed during seven distinct periods, or epochs; and that for each of these epochs Ho would have a special angel, or messenger, to serve the other members of the Body. It follows, then, that the messenger to the last, or Laodicean, epoch would declare the Presence of the Lord and the time of the Harvest of the Gospel Age. The great Master laid special emphasis on the importance of the messenger to the seventh, or Laodicean, period of the Church, saying that such an one would be "a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord would make ruler over all His Household, to give them meat in due season."
Those consecrated Christians who have read and fully appreciated the Truth as contained in the preceding six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES readily sea and agree that Charles Taze Russell was the messenger of the Church of Laodicea. In the mind of every one who believes the Bible the evidence set forth in this volume will establish that fact beyond the question of a doubt.
In the light of Divine Prophecy, now being daily fulfilled and made clear to "the watchers," the following from the pen of Pastor Russell is further proof that he was sent of God to this generation. Long years before the beginning of the trouble now upon the nations he wrote:
"The four exhibitions of the Lord, given to Elijah, represent, we believe, four manifestations in which the Lord is about to reveal Himself to mankind, the first three of which will prepare men for the final one, in which will come the desired blessing to all the families of the earth. These are:
"(1) The mighty winds rending the very rocks Blowing winds seem to be used in Scripture for wars. The wars, whose dark clouds have threatened the civilized world so ominously for the past thirty years, have been miraculously hindered to give opportunity for 'sealing' the Lord's consecrated people in their foreheads (intellectually) with the Present Truth. We are therefore to expect that when these winds of war shall be let loose, lt will mean a cataclysm of warfare which shall divide kingdoms (mountains) — prefigured by the mighty wind shown to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11), which rent the rocks. But God's Kingdom will not follow the epoch of war; the world will not thus be made ready for the Reign of Immanuel. No; a further lesson will be needed and will be given. It is represented in
"(2) An earthquake. Throughout the Scriptures an earthquake seems always to represent revolution; and lt is not unreasonable to expect that an era of general warfare would so arouse the lower classes of Europe and so discontent them with their lot (and especially with the conditions which would follow such a war) that revolution would be the next thing in order. (Rev. 16:18.) But, severe though those revolutionary experiences will be to the world, they are not sufficient to prepare men to hear the voice of God. It will require
"(3) The fire from heaven — an epoch of Divine judgments and chastisements upon a maddened but unconverted world, wild in anarchy, as other Scriptures show us. The results of their wars, revolutions and anarchy, in the failure of their schemes, will have a humbling effect, and will prepare mankind for God's revelation of Himself in
"(4) The still small voice. Yes; He who spoke to the winds and the waves of the Sea of Galilee will, in due time, 'speak peace to the peoples.' He will speak with authority, commanding the observance of His long neglected Law of Love. 'And whosoever will not hear that Prophet shall be cut off from among His people.' (Acts 3:23.)" — THE WATCH TOWER. July 1, 1898, p 208.
"Looking back to the prophetic testimony respecting the Times of the Gentiles, we perceive that our Lord's words, 'Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the Times of the Gentiles be filled full,' give the Intimation that the determined times, or years, in which the empire of earth would be in the hands of Gentile governments was a fixed one from the Divine standpoint. And if, as we believe the Scriptures to teach, Gentile domination was provided for up to October, 1914, it would seem but a reasonable interpretation that Divine power would not be exercised to their dethronement until after the time allotted for their reign had ended — October, 1914." — THE WATCH TOWER, July 1, 1904, p. 188.
In 1879 Charles Taze Russell began the publication of THE WATCH TOWER, of which he was the sole editor as long as he remained on earth. THE WATCH TOWER was, and is, the first and only journal declaring the presence of the Lord Jesus. Pastor Russell being the messenger to the Laodicean Church, and occupying the position of the Lord's special servant to give the Household of Faith meat in due season, it was to be expected that he would bring forth from the Lord's great "Storehouse" the needed spiritual food for the Church, in harmony with God's will. By the Lord's grace he wrote the six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, which writings, aside from the Bible, have gladdened more hearts and thrilled Christians with greater hope and joyful expectation than have any other writings extant. These books have been properly designated "Keys to the Divine Plan of the Ages." These "keys" have been placed in the hands of thousands of Christian people throughout the world, and have enabled them to unlock the Lord's Treasure-house, the Bible, and there to see some of the "treasures of wisdom" and knowledge of God! Some have been able to use these "keys" more effectually than have others. "God hath set the members in the Body as it hath pleased Him."
Time and again Pastor Russell said that the Seventh Volume of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES would ba written; and it was expected that he would write it. The Scriptures show that the Seventh Volume must be published. Pastor Russell passed from the earth, and the Seventh Volume remained unpublished. In his last moments he said, "Some one else can write the Seventh Volume." For any one to arrogate to himself the authority to write and publish the Seventh Volume would, we believe, seem presumptuous before the Lord. Whom, then, would the Lord have to write it?
Pastor Russell was a man of unusual modesty. Great men usually are modest. The examination of the contents of this book will disclose the fact that it deals with Revelation and Ezekiel; that the Lord long ago caused to be recorded therein, in symbolic language, a history of the Church, particularly the closing earthly experiences thereof; that therein He set forth that He would uncover the frauds, deceptions and blasphemous teachings and practices of the church nominal — both Catholic and Protestant; that in the last days He would then make bare the unholy alliance between the unrighteous ecclesiastical systems and the corrupt political elements of the earth, which religious systems have prospered and grown fat in the name of Christ; that the Lord pronounces His indignation and wrath against all such Babylonish systems and marks their titter destruction in a Time of Trouble such as the world has never known and will never again know; and that the earthly creature made prominent therein above all others is the messenger of the Laodicean Church — "that wise and faithful servant" of the Lord — CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL. In view of the facts stated, is it at all surprising that the Lord spared him the publication of the Seventh Volume?
But the fact is, he did write it. This book may properly be said to be a posthumous publication of Pastor Russell. Why? Because to him the Lord gave the "key"; to him was given the privilege of making clear to the Church ln its last years the "Mystery of God"; to him was granted the privilege of bearing from the hands of the Lord to the Household of Faith "meat in due season" for the special development and sustenance of God's dear little ones. This service he has faithfully performed. This book is chiefly a compilation of things which he wrote and which have been brought together in harmonious style by properly applying the symbols which he explained to the Church.
By his last Will and Testament Pastor Russell designated George H. Fisher, of Scranton, Pa., as one whom he would approve as a member of the Editorial Staff of THE WATCH TOWER — the most important journal published on earth. For many years Brother Fisher has been consecrated to the Lord, a careful student of the Bible in the light of the Message brought from the Lord by the messenger to the Laodicean Church; and for some time he has made a careful and prayerful study of the Book of Ezekiel.
When Pastor Russell was with us he gave direction that the BIBLE STUDENTS MANUAL should be prepared by Clayton J. Woodworth, also of Scranton, Pa. This Manual was published by this Society, and has proven a great blessing to the Household of Faith. The preparation of that Manual required a critical examination of everything Pastor Russell had written; and thus Brother Woodworth was enabled to become more familiar, probably, than any one else with the explanation of the Scriptures which had been given by Brother Russell. In this manner the Lord seemed to have qualified him for some special work. With the "key" which Brother Russell, as the Lord's servant, had placed in his hands, Brother Woodworth, by the Lord's grace, has been enabled to bring together everything that Brother Russell wrote on Revelation, and to explain and harmonize the other parts of that book with the Divine Plan; also, to treat similarly, the Song of Solomon.
It seemed pleasing to the Lord that Brothers C. J. Wood-worth and George H. Fisher should prepare the Seventh Volume, under the direction of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY. While both residing in the same city, they have worked separate and apart from each other, not even comparing notes. The reader will be able to judge how fully the work of each harmonizes with that of the other and with the Divine Plan, thus giving further evidence of the Lord's direction in this matter.
Pastor Russell long ago said, in substance, that the Seventh Volume would not he for the development of the Church; that the preceding six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES contain the necessary spiritual food tor that purpose. Asked why, then, it would be written, he replied, "It will probably be given to the Church in a time of direst need, for her comfort and encouragement."
Who amongst the consecrated this side the veil does not realize that the Church is now in that time of "dire need of comfort and encouragement"? The hour of fiery trial and great testings is upon God's people, and there is need for their comfort and encouragement. The Lord has promised "grace sufficient" and help for every time of need for those who love Him and come confidently unto Him. We believe that as the Lord's dear children throughout the earth read the contents of this book and see how wonderfully He has shielded them from the storms of human passion and from the snares of the great Adversary; and that when they see that the unrighteous, wicked systems of Babylon are now crumbling under the mighty hand of God — which bespeaks the early deliverance of the last members of the Body from this vale of tears into the glorious light and liberty of the saints — that then they will be greatly comforted; that then they will take new courage and "gird up the loins of their mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to come unto them quickly;" that with exceeding joy they will lift up their heads, because the hour of deliverance is at hand! To all the truly consecrated who read and appreciate this book we believe that the words of the Master, "THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND!" will sound in their ears like clarion notes upon the clear morning air, giving courage and strength to those who are growing weak in faith, and more courage to the stronger ones. We believe that every one who appreciates this volume will have a burning desire to grasp his weapon and go forth to the smiting of the Jordan, giving praise to the Lord for the privilege.
Some will murmur and find fault with this book; some will grow angry, and some will join the persecutors. But, we believe, every saint whose heart is filled with love for God and for His people will rejoice and give praise to the Lord for this further evidence of His blessed favor.
The publisher takes pleasure in presenting this, the Seventh Volume, to the remaining members of the Church, and to all who may read with profit to themselves and to the glory of the Lord Jesus and our Father. As the Lord has sent forth the other six volumes, His blessing has accompanied each. That His blessing may be upon this volume, to the comfort and encouragement of the dear saints in the hour of direst need, is our prayer!
INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, COPYRIGHT 1917