Testing and Sifting From Within
THE development and growth of the modern-day organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses has included many situations that have severely tested the faith of individuals. As threshing and winnowing separate wheat from chaff, so these situations have served to identify those who are real Christians. (Compare Luke 3:17.) People associated with the organization have had to manifest what was in their hearts. Were they simply serving for personal advantage? Were they merely followers of some imperfect human? Or were they humble, eager to know and to do God’s will, complete in their devotion to Jehovah?—Compare 2 Chronicles 16:9.
First-century followers of Jesus Christ likewise experienced tests of their faith. Jesus told his followers that if faithful, they would share with him in his Kingdom. (Matt. 5:3, 10; 7:21; 18:3; 19:28) But he did not tell them when they would receive that prize. In the face of public apathy, even hostility, toward their preaching, would they loyally continue to make the interests of that Kingdom the first concern in their lives? Not everyone did.—2 Tim. 4:10.
The manner in which Jesus himself taught presented a test to some. The Pharisees were stumbled when he bluntly rejected their traditions. (Matt. 15:1-14) Even many who professed to be Jesus’ disciples took offense at his manner of teaching. On one occasion, when he was discussing the importance of exercising faith in the value of his own flesh and blood offered in sacrifice, many of his disciples expressed shock at the figurative language that he used. Not waiting for further explanation, they “went off to the things behind and would no longer walk with him.”—John 6:48-66.
But not all turned away. As Simon Peter explained, “Lord, whom shall we go away to? You have sayings of everlasting life; and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69) They had seen and heard enough to be convinced that Jesus was the one through whom God was making manifest the truth concerning himself and his purpose. (John 1:14; 14:6) Nevertheless, the tests of faith continued.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he used the apostles and others as shepherds of the congregation. These were imperfect men, and at times their imperfections were a trial to those around them. (Compare Acts 15:36-41; Galatians 2:11-14.) On the other hand, there were individuals who became unbalanced in their admiration of prominent Christians and who said: “I belong to Paul,” while others said: ‘I belong to Apollos.’ (1 Cor. 3:4) All of them needed to be on guard so as not to lose sight of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul foretold other serious problems, explaining that even within the Christian congregation men would “rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) And the apostle Peter warned that false teachers among God’s servants would seek to exploit others with “counterfeit words.” (2 Pet. 2:1-3) Obviously, heart-searching tests of faith and loyalty lay ahead.
So, the testing and sifting that are part of the modern-day history of Jehovah’s Witnesses have come as no surprise. But not a few have been surprised at who stumbled and over what.
Did They Truly Appreciate the Ransom?
During the early 1870’s, Brother Russell and his associates grew in knowledge and appreciation of God’s purpose. It was a time of spiritual refreshment for them. But then, in 1878, they were confronted with a major test of their faith and their loyalty to God’s Word. At issue was the sacrificial value of Jesus’ flesh and blood—the very teaching over which many of Jesus’ first-century disciples had stumbled.
It was just two years before this, in 1876, that C. T. Russell had entered into a working relationship with N. H. Barbour of Rochester, New York. Their study groups had become affiliated. Russell had provided funds to revive the printing of Barbour’s magazine Herald of the Morning, with Barbour as editor and Russell as an assistant editor. They had also produced together a book entitled Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World.
Then a bombshell exploded! In the August 1878 issue of Herald of the Morning, Barbour wrote an article in which he brushed aside such scriptures as 1 Peter 3:18 and Isaiah 53:5, 6, also Hebrews 9:22, and declared that the whole idea that Christ died to atone for our sins was obnoxious. Russell later wrote: “To our painful surprise, Mr. Barbour . . . wrote an article for the Herald denying the doctrine of the atonement—denying that the death of Christ was the ransom-price of Adam and his race, saying that Christ’s death was no more a settlement of the penalty of man’s sins than would the sticking of a pin through the body of a fly and causing it suffering and death be considered by an earthly parent as a just settlement for misdemeanor in his child.”a
This was a crucial matter. Would Brother Russell hold loyally to what the Bible clearly said regarding God’s provision for the salvation of humankind? Or would he fall prey to human philosophy? Although Russell was only 26 years old at the time and Barbour was a much older man, Russell courageously wrote an article for the very next issue of the Herald in which he strongly defended the sin-atoning value of Christ’s blood, which he referred to as “one of the most important teachings of God’s word.”
Next, he invited J. H. Paton, the other assistant editor of the Herald, to write an article in support of faith in the blood of Christ as the basis for atonement for sin. Paton did write the article, and it was published in the December issue. After repeated unsuccessful efforts to reason on the matter with Barbour from the Scriptures, Russell broke off association with him and withdrew support from his magazine. In July 1879, Russell began to publish a new magazine—Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence—which was from the start a special advocate of the ransom. But that was not the end of it.
Two years later, Paton, who was then serving as a traveling representative of the Watch Tower, also began to turn away, thereafter publishing a book (his second one entitled Day Dawn) in which he rejected belief in Adam’s fall into sin and consequently the need for a redeemer. He reasoned that the Lord himself was an imperfect man who by his life simply showed others how to crucify their sinful propensities. In 1881, A. D. Jones, another associate, started a paper (Zion’s Day Star) along the same lines as the Watch Tower but with the idea that it would set out simpler features of God’s purpose. At first it seemed that all was well. Yet, within a year, Jones’ paper had repudiated Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and within another year, it had rejected all the rest of the Bible. What had happened to those men? They had allowed personal theories and fascination with popular philosophies of men to lead them astray from the Word of God. (Compare Colossians 2:8.) The paper published by A. D. Jones continued for only a short time and then faded from view. J. H. Paton decided to publish a magazine in which he set out the gospel as he saw it, but its circulation was quite limited.
Brother Russell was deeply concerned about the effect that all of this was having on readers of the Watch Tower. He realized that it put each one’s faith to the test. He well knew that some construed his criticism of unscriptural teachings to be prompted by a spirit of rivalry. But Brother Russell sought no followers for himself. Concerning what was taking place, he wrote: “The object of this trial and sifting evidently is to select all whose heart-desires are unselfish, who are fully and unreservedly consecrated to the Lord, who are so anxious to have the Lord’s will done, and whose confidence in his wisdom, his way and his Word is so great, that they refuse to be led away from the Lord’s Word, either by the sophistries of others, or by plans and ideas of their own.”
Was God Using a Visible Channel?
There are, of course, many religious organizations, and a considerable number of teachers make some use of the Bible. Was God particularly using Charles Taze Russell? If so, did God cease to have a visible channel when Brother Russell died? These became critical issues, ones that led to further testing and sifting.
It certainly could not be expected that God would use C. T. Russell if he did not loyally adhere to God’s Word. (Jer. 23:28; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17) God would not use a man who fearfully refrained from preaching what he saw clearly written in the Scriptures. (Ezek. 2:6-8) Nor would God use a person who exploited his knowledge of the Scriptures to bring glory to himself. (John 5:44) So, what do the facts show?
As Jehovah’s Witnesses today review the work that he did, the things he taught, his reason for teaching them, and the outcome, they have no doubt that Charles Taze Russell was, indeed, used by God in a special way and at a significant time.
This view is not based solely on the firm stand that Brother Russell took with regard to the ransom. It also takes into account the fact that he fearlessly rejected creeds that contained some of the foundation beliefs of Christendom, because these clashed with the inspired Scriptures. These beliefs included the doctrine of the Trinity (which had its roots in ancient Babylon and was not adopted by so-called Christians until long after Bible writing was completed) as well as the teaching that human souls are inherently immortal (which had been adopted by men who were overawed by the philosophy of Plato and which left them open to such ideas as the eternal torment of souls in hellfire). Many of Christendom’s scholars, too, know that these doctrines are not taught in the Bible,b but that is not generally what their preachers say from the pulpits. In contrast, Brother Russell undertook an intensive campaign to share what the Bible actually does say with everyone who was willing to hear.
Noteworthy too is what Brother Russell did with other highly significant truths that he learned from God’s Word. He discerned that Christ would return as a glorious spirit person, invisible to human eyes. As early as 1876, he recognized that the year 1914 would mark the end of the Gentile Times. (Luke 21:24, KJ) Other Bible scholars had likewise perceived some of these things and had advocated them. But Brother Russell used all his resources to give them international publicity on a scale then unequaled by any other individual or group.
He urged others to check his writings carefully against God’s inspired Word so that they would be satisfied that what they were learning was in full harmony with it. To one who wrote a letter of inquiry, Brother Russell replied: “If it was proper for the early Christians to prove what they received from the apostles, who were and who claimed to be inspired, how much more important it is that you fully satisfy yourself that these teachings keep closely within their outline instructions and those of our Lord;—since their author claims no inspiration, but merely the guidance of the Lord, as one used of him in feeding his flock.”
Brother Russell claimed no supernatural power, no divine revelations. He did not claim credit for what he taught. He was an outstanding student of the Bible. But he explained that his remarkable understanding of the Scriptures was due to ‘the simple fact that God’s due time had come.’ He said: “If I did not speak, and no other agent could be found, the very stones would cry out.” He referred to himself as being simply like an index finger, pointing to what is stated in God’s Word.
Charles Taze Russell wanted no glory from humans. To readjust the thinking of any who were inclined to give excessive honor to him, Brother Russell wrote, in 1896: “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.”
As his death neared, he did not take the view that there was nothing more to be learned, that there was no more work to be done. He had often spoken of preparing a seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. When asked about it before he died, he said to Menta Sturgeon, his traveling companion: “Some one else can write that.” In his will he expressed the desire that The Watch Tower continue to be published under the direction of a committee of men fully devoted to the Lord. He stated that those who would thus serve were to be men “thoroughly loyal to the doctrines of the Scriptures—especially so to the doctrine of the Ransom—that there is no acceptance with God and no salvation to eternal life except through faith in Christ and obedience to His Word and its spirit.”
Brother Russell realized that there was much work yet to be done in preaching the good news. At a question-and-answer session in Vancouver, B.C., Canada, in 1915, he was asked when Christ’s spirit-anointed followers then living could expect to receive their heavenly reward. He replied: “I do not know, but there is a great work to be done. And it will take thousands of brethren and millions in money to do it. Where these will come from I don’t know—the Lord knows his own business.” Then, in 1916, a short while before he began the speaking tour on which he died, he called A. H. Macmillan, an administrative assistant, to his office. On that occasion he said: “I am not able to carry on the work any longer, and yet there is a great work to be done.” For three hours he described to Brother Macmillan the extensive preaching work that he saw ahead, on the basis of the Scriptures. To Brother Macmillan’s objections, he replied: “This is not man’s work.”
Change of Administration Brings Tests
Many of Brother Russell’s associates were firmly convinced that the Lord had things well in hand. At Brother Russell’s funeral, W. E. Van Amburgh stated: “God has used many servants in the past and He will doubtless use many in the future. Our consecration is not to a man, or to a man’s work, but to do the will of God, as He shall reveal it unto us through His Word and providential leadings. God is still at the helm.” Brother Van Amburgh never wavered from that conviction down till his death.
Sadly, however, there were some who professed to admire Russell but who manifested a different spirit. As a result, the changed circumstances after Russell’s death resulted in a testing and sifting. Apostate groups broke away not only in the United States but also in Belfast, Ireland; in Copenhagen, Denmark; in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; and in other places. In Helsinki, Finland, some adopted the view that after Russell’s death there was no channel for further spiritual light. At the urging of certain prominent ones, 164 there left the organization. Did that have God’s blessing? For a while they published their own magazine and held their own meetings. In time, however, the group split up, withered, and ceased to exist; and many of them gladly returned to the meetings of the Bible Students. However, not all returned.
The death of Brother Russell, along with subsequent developments, also presented a test to R. E. B. Nicholson, the secretary of the Australia branch, and caused him to make manifest what was in his heart. After Russell’s death Nicholson wrote: “For over a quarter of a century I have loved him, not only for his works’ sake, but also for his beautiful character, have rejoiced in the truths he has sent out as ‘meat in due season,’ and in his counsel, admiring the sympathetic, kind, loving nature so grandly blended with fortitude and strong determination to do and dare anything in order to accomplish what he believed to be the Divine will or the unfolding of His Word. . . . There is a sense of loneliness as one realizes that this strong stay is removed in person.”
Joseph F. Rutherford, the new president of the Watch Tower Society, was not the sort of man Nicholson thought should have the position of oversight that Brother Russell had occupied. Nicholson became openly critical of the blunt manner in which new Bible study material denounced false religion. Before long he left the organization, and he took with him much of the Society’s property (which he had registered in his own name) and those in Melbourne who, in turn, had been inclined to look up to him. Why did it happen? Evidently Nicholson had allowed himself to become the follower of a man; so, when that man was gone, Nicholson’s honesty and zeal for serving the Lord grew cool. None of those that broke away at that time prospered. It is noteworthy, however, that Jane Nicholson, though frail in stature, did not join her husband in his defection. Her devotion was foremost to Jehovah God, and she continued to serve him full-time right down till her death in 1951.
Many discerned that what was taking place in the years after Brother Russell’s death was accomplishing the Lord’s will. One of Jehovah’s servants in Canada wrote concerning this to Brother Rutherford, saying:
“Dear Brother, do not misunderstand me now when I write what I do. Your disposition and that of our dear Brother Russell’s are as dissimilar as day is from night. Many, alas, very many, liked Brother Russell on account of his personality, disposition, etc.; and very, very few lifted up their finger against him. Many accepted the truth just because Brother Russell said so. Then, many got to worshiping the man . . . You remember the time when Brother Russell at a convention had a heart to heart talk about this failing of many well-intentioned brethren, basing his talk on John and the angel. (Revelation 22:8, 9) When he passed beyond we all know what happened.
“But you, Brother Rutherford, have a disposition which has no comparison with that of Brother Russell. Even your looks are different. It is not your fault. It was your birthday present, and you could not refuse it. . . . Ever since you have been placed at the head of affairs of the SOCIETY, you have been the object of unjust criticisms and slander of the worst kind, all this coming from the brethren. Yet in spite of all this you have been loyal and devoted to the dear Lord and to his commission as recorded in Isaiah 61:1-3. Did the Lord know what he was doing when he placed you at the head of affairs? He surely did. In the past we were all prone to worship the creature more than the Creator. The Lord knew that. So he placed a creature with a different disposition at the head of affairs, or I should say in charge of the work, the harvest work. You desire nobody to worship you. I know that, but you do desire that all of like precious faith should enjoy the light that is now shining on the pathway of the just, as the Lord sees fit for it to shine. And that is what the Lord wants done.”
Clearing Up the Identity of the “Faithful and Wise Servant”
Many who were sifted out at that time clung to the view that a single individual, Charles Taze Russell, was the “faithful and wise servant” foretold by Jesus at Matthew 24:45-47 (KJ), which servant would distribute spiritual food to the household of faith. Particularly following his death, The Watch Tower itself set forth this view for a number of years. In view of the prominent role that Brother Russell had played, it appeared to the Bible Students of that time that this was the case. He did not personally promote the idea, but he did acknowledge the apparent reasonableness of the arguments of those who favored it.c He also emphasized, however, that whoever the Lord might use in such a role must be humble as well as zealous to bring glory to the Master, and that if the one chosen by the Lord failed, he would be replaced by another.
However, as the light of truth progressively shone even more brightly after Brother Russell’s death, and as the preaching that Jesus had foretold became even more extensive, it became evident that the “faithful and wise servant” (KJ), or “faithful and discreet slave” (NW), had not passed off the scene when Brother Russell died. In 1881, Brother Russell himself had expressed the view that that “servant” was made up of the entire body of faithful spirit-anointed Christians. He saw it as being a collective servant, a class of persons who were united in doing God’s will. (Compare Isaiah 43:10.) This understanding was reaffirmed by the Bible Students in 1927. Jehovah’s Witnesses today recognize the Watchtower magazine and kindred publications to be the ones used by the faithful and discreet slave to dispense spiritual food. They do not claim that this slave class is infallible, but they do view it as the one channel that the Lord is using during the last days of this system of things.
When Pride Got in the Way
There have been times, however, when individuals in responsible positions came to view themselves as the channel of spiritual light, so that they resisted what was provided by the organization. Others simply gave in to the desire to exercise greater personal influence. They sought to get others to follow them, or, as the apostle Paul put it, “to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30) Of course, this tested the motives and spiritual stability of those whom they endeavored to entice. Consider some examples:
Special letters to the Bible Students in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, invited them to a meeting on April 5, 1894. Brother and Sister Russell were not invited and did not attend, but about 40 others were present. The letter, signed by E. Bryan, S. D. Rogers, J. B. Adamson, and O. von Zech, said that the meeting would involve things concerning their “highest welfare.” It turned out to be a malicious effort on the part of these conspirators to poison the minds of others by divulging what they surmised to be evil in Brother Russell’s business affairs (though the facts were to the contrary), by arguing that Brother Russell had too much authority (which they wanted for themselves), and by complaining because he favored use of the printed page to spread the gospel and Bible-class meetings instead of only giving discourses (in which they might more readily expound personal views). The congregation was greatly disturbed by what occurred, and many were stumbled. But those who turned aside did not as a result become more spiritual persons or more zealous in the Lord’s work.
Over 20 years later, prior to his death, Brother Russell expressed his intention to send Paul S. L. Johnson, a very capable speaker, to Britain to strengthen the Bible Students there. Out of respect for Brother Russell’s wish, the Society dispatched Johnson to Britain in November 1916. However, once he was in Britain, he dismissed two of the Society’s managers. Seeing himself as an important personage, he argued in speeches and correspondence that what he was doing was foreshadowed in the Scriptures by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Mordecai. He claimed to be the steward (or, man in charge) referred to by Jesus in his parable at Matthew 20:8. He tried to take control of the Society’s money, and he instituted a suit in the High Court of London to achieve his aims.
Thwarted in his endeavors, he returned to New York. There he sought to elicit support from certain ones who were serving on the Society’s board of directors. Those who were persuaded to side with him endeavored to achieve their aims by trying to pass a resolution to repeal bylaws of the Society that authorized the president to manage its affairs. They wanted authority for all decisions to rest with them. Legal action was taken by Brother Rutherford to safeguard the interests of the Society, and those who were seeking to disrupt its work were asked to leave the Bethel Home. At the annual meeting of the Society’s shareholders early the following year, when the board of directors and its officers were elected for the year to come, those who had been agitators were overwhelmingly rejected. Perhaps some of them thought that they were in the right, but the vast majority of their spiritual brothers made it clear that they did not agree. Would they accept that reproof?
Thereafter, P. S. L. Johnson appeared at meetings of the Bible Students and made it seem that he was in agreement with their beliefs and activity. But after gaining the confidence of some, he would sow seeds of doubt. If anyone suggested a break with the Society, he hypocritically discouraged this—until the loyalty of the group had been thoroughly undermined. By correspondence and even by personal trips, he endeavored to influence the brothers not only in the United States but also in Canada, Jamaica, Europe, and Australia. Was this successful?
Perhaps it seemed so when the majority in a congregation voted to sever ties with the Society. But they were like a branch cut from a tree—green for a while, then withered and lifeless. When the opposers held a convention in 1918, differences surfaced, and a split occurred. Further disintegration followed. Some functioned for a while as small sects with a leader that they admired. None of them devoted themselves to the work of giving a public witness in all the inhabited earth concerning God’s Kingdom, which is the work that Jesus assigned to his followers.
As these things took place, the brothers reminded themselves of what was recorded at 1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved ones, do not be puzzled at the burning among you, which is happening to you for a trial, as though a strange thing were befalling you.”
Those mentioned above were not the only ones who allowed pride to undermine their faith. Others also did so, including Alexandre Freytag, the manager of the Society’s office in Geneva, Switzerland. He liked to attract attention to himself, would add his own ideas when translating the Society’s publications into French, and even used the Society’s facilities to publish his own material. In Canada, there was W. F. Salter, a branch manager of the Society who began to disagree with the Society’s publications, let it be known that he expected to be the next president of the Watch Tower Society, and, after he was dismissed, dishonestly used the Society’s letterhead to instruct congregations in Canada and abroad to study material that he personally had written. In Nigeria, there was, among others, G. M. Ukoli, who at first showed zeal for the truth but then began to see it as a means of material gain and personal prominence. Afterward, when thwarted in his aims, he turned to roasting faithful brothers in the public press. And there were others.
Even in recent years, some individuals who occupied prominent positions of oversight displayed a similar spirit.
Of course, these people certainly had the freedom to believe what they chose. But anyone who publicly or privately advocates views that are divergent from what appears in the publications of an organization, and who does so while claiming to represent that organization, causes division. How did Jehovah’s Witnesses deal with these situations?
They did not launch a campaign of persecution against such persons (though the defectors often indulged in abuse of their former spiritual brothers), nor did they seek to do physical harm to them (as was practiced by the Catholic Church by means of the Inquisition). Rather, they followed the inspired advice of the apostle Paul, who wrote: “Keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them. For men of that sort are slaves, not of our Lord Christ . . . By smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones.”—Rom. 16:17, 18.
As others observed what was taking place, they too were given opportunity to manifest what was in their hearts.
Doctrinal Views in Need of Refinement
Jehovah’s Witnesses freely acknowledge that their understanding of God’s purpose has undergone many adjustments over the years. The fact that knowledge of God’s purpose is progressive means that there must be change. It is not that God’s purpose changes, but the enlightenment that he continuously grants to his servants calls for adjustments in their viewpoint.
From the Bible the Witnesses point out that this was also true of God’s faithful servants in the past. Abraham had a close relationship with Jehovah; but when he left Ur, that man of faith did not know the land to which God was leading him, and for many years he was not at all sure how God would fulfill his promise to make a great nation out of him. (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:3; 17:15-21; Heb. 11:8) God revealed many truths to the prophets, but there were other things that they did not then understand. (Dan. 12:8, 9; 1 Pet. 1:10-12) Likewise, Jesus explained much to his apostles, but even at the end of his earthly life he told them that there were yet many things for them to learn. (John 16:12) Some of these things, such as God’s purpose to bring Gentiles into the congregation, were not understood until the apostles saw what was actually occurring in fulfillment of prophecy.—Acts 11:1-18.
As might be expected, when changes have required the setting aside of formerly cherished views, that has been a test for some. Furthermore, not all adjustments in understanding have come simply, in one step. Because of imperfection, there is at times a tendency to go to one extreme or another before the correct position is discerned. This may take time. Some who are inclined to be critical have stumbled over this. Consider an example:
As early as 1880, the Watch Tower publications discussed various details associated with the Abrahamic covenant, the Law covenant, and the new covenant. Christendom had lost sight of God’s promise that through Abraham’s seed all the families of the earth would certainly bless themselves. (Gen. 22:18) But Brother Russell was keenly interested in discerning how God would accomplish this. He thought he saw in the Bible description of the Jewish Atonement Day indications as to how it might be accomplished in connection with the new covenant. In 1907, when the same covenants were discussed again, with special emphasis on the role of Christ’s joint heirs in bringing about for mankind the blessings foretold in the Abrahamic covenant, strong objections were raised by some of the Bible Students.
At that time there were certain obstacles to a clear understanding of matters. The Bible Students did not yet correctly see the position that natural Israel then occupied in relation to God’s purpose. This obstacle was not moved out of the way until it became overwhelmingly evident that the Jews as a people were not interested in being used by God in the fulfillment of his prophetic word. Another obstacle was the inability of the Bible Students to identify correctly the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9, 10. This identity did not become clear until the great crowd actually began to manifest itself in fulfillment of prophecy. Those who severely criticized Brother Russell did not understand these matters either.
Falsely, however, some who professed to be Christian brothers charged that The Watch Tower had denied that Jesus is the Mediator between God and men, that it had repudiated the ransom and denied the necessity and fact of the atonement. None of this was true. But some who said it were prominent individuals, and they drew others after themselves as disciples. They may have been right in some of the details that they taught in connection with the new covenant, but did the Lord bless what they were doing? For a time some of them held meetings, but then their groups died out.
In contrast, the Bible Students continued to share in the preaching of the good news, as Jesus had commanded his disciples. At the same time, they continued to study God’s Word and to watch for developments that would shed light on its meaning. Finally, during the 1930’s, the principal obstacles to a clear understanding of the covenants were removed, and corrected statements of the matter appeared in The Watchtower and related publications.d What joy this brought to those who had patiently waited!
Were Their Expectations Correct?
At certain times the Bible Students had hopes and expectations that have been ridiculed by critics. Yet, all those hopes and expectations were rooted in a keen desire to see the fulfillment of what these zealous Christians recognized to be the unfailing promises of God.
From their study of the inspired Scriptures, they knew that Jehovah had promised blessings for all nations of the earth by means of the seed of Abraham. (Gen. 12:1-3; 22:15-18) They saw in God’s Word the promise that the Son of man would rule as heavenly King over all the earth, that a little flock of faithful ones would be taken from the earth to share with him in his Kingdom, and that these would rule as kings for a thousand years. (Dan. 7:13, 14; Luke 12:32; Rev. 5:9, 10; 14:1-5; 20:6) They knew Jesus’ promise that he would return and take with him those for whom he had prepared a place in heaven. (John 14:1-3) They were acquainted with the promise that the Messiah would also select some of his faithful forefathers to be princes in all the earth. (Ps. 45:16) They recognized that the Scriptures foretold the end of the wicked old system of things and realized that this was associated with the war of the great day of God the Almighty at Armageddon. (Matt. 24:3; Rev. 16:14, 16) They were deeply impressed by the scriptures that show that the earth was created to be inhabited forever, that those who lived on it were to have true peace, and that all who would exercise faith in Jesus’ perfect human sacrifice could enjoy an eternity of life in Paradise.—Isa. 2:4; 45:18; Luke 23:42, 43; John 3:16.
It was only natural that they should wonder when and how these things would occur. Did the inspired Scriptures provide any clues?
Using Bible chronology that had first been laid out by Christopher Bowen of England, they thought that 6,000 years of human history had ended in 1873, that thereafter they were in the seventh thousand-year period of human history, and that they had surely approached the dawn of the foretold Millennium. The series of books known as Millennial Dawn (and later called Studies in the Scriptures), which were penned by C. T. Russell, drew attention to the implications of this according to what the Bible Students understood from the Scriptures.
Something else that was seen as a possible time indicator involved the arrangement that God instituted in ancient Israel for a Jubilee, a year of release, every 50th year. This came after a series of seven 7-year periods, each of which ended with a sabbath year. During the Jubilee year, Hebrew slaves were freed and hereditary land possessions that had been sold were restored. (Lev. 25:8-10) Calculations based on this cycle of years led to the conclusion that perhaps a greater Jubilee for all the earth had begun in the autumn of 1874, that evidently the Lord had returned in that year and was invisibly present, and that “the times of restitution of all things” had arrived.—Acts 3:19-21, KJ.
Based on the premise that events of the first century might find parallels in related events later, they also concluded that if Jesus’ baptism and anointing in the autumn of 29 C.E. paralleled the beginning of an invisible presence in 1874, then his riding into Jerusalem as King in the spring of 33 C.E. would point to the spring of 1878 as the time when he would assume his power as heavenly King.e They also thought they would be given their heavenly reward at that time. When that did not occur, they concluded that since Jesus’ anointed followers were to share with him in the Kingdom, the resurrection to spirit life of those already sleeping in death began then. It was also reasoned that the end of God’s special favor to natural Israel down to 36 C.E. might point to 1881 as the time when the special opportunity to become part of spiritual Israel would close.f
In the lecture “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” delivered by J. F. Rutherford on March 21, 1920, at the Hippodrome in New York City, attention was directed to the year 1925. On what basis was it thought to be significant? In a booklet published in that same year, 1920, it was pointed out that if 70 full Jubilees were calculated from what was understood to be the date when Israel entered the Promised Land (instead of starting after the last typical Jubilee before the Babylonian exile and then counting to the beginning of the Jubilee year at the end of the 50th cycle), this could point to the year 1925. On the basis of what was said there, many hoped that perhaps the remaining ones of the little flock would receive their heavenly reward by 1925. This year also was associated with expectations for resurrection of faithful pre-Christian servants of God with a view to their serving on earth as princely representatives of the heavenly Kingdom. If that really occurred, it would mean that mankind had entered an era in which death would cease to be master, and millions then living could have the hope of never dying off the earth. What a happy prospect! Though mistaken, they eagerly shared it with others.
Later on, during the years from 1935 through 1944, a review of the overall framework of Bible chronology revealed that a poor translation of Acts 13:19, 20 in the King James Version,g along with certain other factors, had thrown off the chronology by over a century.h This later led to the idea—sometimes stated as a possibility, sometimes more firmly—that since the seventh millennium of human history would begin in 1975, events associated with the beginning of Christ’s Millennial Reign might start to take place then.
Did the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses on these matters prove to be correct? They certainly did not err in believing that God would without fail do what he had promised. But some of their time calculations and the expectations that they associated with these gave rise to serious disappointments.
Following 1925, meeting attendance dropped dramatically in some congregations in France and Switzerland. Again, in 1975, there was disappointment when expectations regarding the start of the Millennium failed to materialize. As a result, some withdrew from the organization. Others, because they sought to subvert the faith of associates, were disfellowshipped. No doubt, disappointment over the date was a factor, but in some instances the roots went deeper. Some individuals also argued against the need to participate in the house-to-house ministry. Certain ones did not simply choose to go their own way; they became aggressive in opposing the organization with which they had been associated, and they made use of the public press and television to air their views. Nevertheless, the number who defected was relatively small.
Although these tests resulted in a sifting and some blew away like chaff when wheat is winnowed, others remained firm. Why? Regarding his own experience and that of others in 1925, Jules Feller explained: “Those who had set their confidence in Jehovah remained steadfast and continued their preaching activity.” They recognized that a mistake had been made but that in no respect had God’s Word failed, and therefore there was no reason either to let their own hope grow dim or to slow down in the work of pointing people to God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only hope.
Some expectations had not been fulfilled, but that did not mean that Bible chronology was of no value. The prophecy recorded by Daniel regarding the appearance of the Messiah 69 weeks of years after “the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” was fulfilled right on time, in 29 C.E.i (Dan. 9:24-27) The year 1914 was also marked by Bible prophecy.
1914—Expectations and Reality
In 1876, C. T. Russell wrote the first of many articles in which he pointed to the year 1914 as the end of the Gentile Times referred to by Jesus Christ. (Luke 21:24, KJ) In the second volume of Millennial Dawn, published in 1889, Brother Russell set out in a reasoned manner details that would enable readers to see the Scriptural basis for what was said and to check it for themselves. Over a period of nearly four decades leading up to 1914, the Bible Students distributed millions of copies of publications focusing attention on the end of the Gentile Times. A few other religious papers took note of the Bible chronology that pointed to the year 1914, but what group other than the Bible Students gave it ongoing international publicity and lived in a manner that showed that they believed that the Gentile Times would end in that year?
As 1914 neared, expectations heightened. What would it mean? In The Bible Students Monthly (Volume VI, No. 1, published early in 1914), Brother Russell wrote: “If we have the correct date and chronology, Gentile Times will end this year—1914. What of it? We do not surely know. Our expectation is that the active rule of Messiah will begin about the time of the ending of the lease of power to the Gentiles. Our expectation, true or false, is that there will be wonderful manifestations of Divine judgments against all unrighteousness, and that this will mean the breaking up of many institutions of the present time, if not all.” He emphasized that he did not expect the “end of the world” in 1914 and that the earth abides forever, but that the present order of things, of which Satan is ruler, is to pass away.
In its issue of October 15, 1913, The Watch Tower had stated: “According to the best chronological reckoning of which we are capable, it is approximately that time—whether it be October, 1914, or later. Without dogmatizing, we are looking for certain events: (1) The termination of the Gentile Times—Gentile supremacy in the world—and (2) For the inauguration of Messiah’s Kingdom in the world.”
How would this come about? It seemed reasonable to the Bible Students then that it would include the glorification of any still on earth who had been chosen by God to share in the heavenly Kingdom with Christ. But how did they feel when that did not occur in 1914? The Watch Tower of April 15, 1916, stated: “We believe that the dates have proven to be quite right. We believe that Gentile Times have ended.” However, it candidly added: “The Lord did not say that the Church would all be glorified by 1914. We merely inferred it and, evidently, erred.”
In this they were somewhat like Jesus’ apostles. The apostles knew and thought they believed the prophecies concerning God’s Kingdom. But at various times they had wrong expectations as to how and when these would be fulfilled. This led to disappointment on the part of some.—Luke 19:11; 24:19-24; Acts 1:6.
When October 1914 passed without the expected change to heavenly life, Brother Russell knew that there would be serious searchings of heart. In The Watch Tower of November 1, 1914, he wrote: “Let us remember that we are in a testing season. The Apostles had a similar one during the interim between our Lord’s death and Pentecost. After our Lord’s resurrection, He appeared to His disciples a few times, and then they did not see Him for many days. Then they became discouraged and said, ‘There is no use waiting’; ‘I go fishing,’ said one. Two others said, ‘We will go with thee.’ They were about to go into the fishing business and leave the work of fishing for men. This was a testing time for the disciples. So also there is one now. If there is any reason that would lead any to let go of the Lord and His Truth and to cease sacrificing for the Lord’s Cause, then it is not merely the love of God in the heart which has prompted interest in the Lord, but something else; probably a hoping that the time was short; the consecration was only for a certain time.”
That evidently was the case with some. Their thoughts and desires had been fixed primarily on the prospect of being changed to heavenly life. When this did not occur at the anticipated time, they closed their minds to the significance of the amazing things that did take place in 1914. They lost sight of all the precious truths that they had learned from God’s Word, and they began to ridicule the people who had helped them to learn these.
Humbly, the Bible Students examined the Scriptures again, to let God’s Word readjust their outlook. Their conviction that the Gentile Times had ended in 1914 did not change. Gradually they came to see more clearly how the Messianic Kingdom had begun—that it was established in heaven when Jehovah bestowed authority on Jesus Christ, his Son; also, that this did not have to wait until Jesus’ joint heirs were raised to heavenly life but that they would be glorified with him later. In addition, they came to see that the spreading of the influence of the Kingdom did not require that first the faithful prophets of old be resurrected, but that the King would use loyal Christians now living as his representatives to set before people of all nations the opportunity to live forever as earthly subjects of the Kingdom.
As this grand picture opened before their eyes, further testing and sifting resulted. But those who truly loved Jehovah and took delight in serving him were very grateful for the privileges of service that opened up to them.—Rev. 3:7, 8.
One of these was A. H. Macmillan. He later wrote: “Although our expectations about being taken to heaven were not fulfilled in 1914, that year did see the end of the Gentile Times . . . We were not particularly disturbed that not everything took place as we had expected, because we were so busy with the Photo-Drama work and with the problems created by the war.” He kept busy in Jehovah’s service and was thrilled to see the number of Kingdom proclaimers increase to well over a million during his lifetime.
Looking back over his experiences during 66 years with the organization, he said: “I have seen many severe trials come upon the organization and testings of the faith of those in it. With the help of God’s spirit it survived and continued to flourish.” Regarding adjustments of understanding along the way, he added: “The fundamental truths we learned from the Scriptures remained the same. So I learned that we should admit our mistakes and continue searching God’s Word for more enlightenment. No matter what adjustments we would have to make from time to time in our views, that would not change the gracious provision of the ransom and God’s promise of eternal life.”
During his lifetime, Brother Macmillan saw that, among the issues that resulted in tests of faith, willingness to witness and appreciation of theocratic organization were two that laid bare what was really in the hearts of individuals. How so?
Field Service and Organization Become Issues
Beginning with its first issue, and with increasing emphasis thereafter, Zion’s Watch Tower urged each and every true Christian to share the truth with others. Thereafter, readers of the Watch Tower were frequently encouraged to appreciate their privilege and responsibility to proclaim the good news to others. Many shared in limited ways, but relatively few were in the forefront of the work, calling from house to house so as to give everyone the opportunity to hear the Kingdom message.
However, beginning with the year 1919, participation in the field service came to the fore more strongly. Brother Rutherford forcefully emphasized it in a discourse at Cedar Point, Ohio, that year. In each congregation that requested the Society to organize it for service, arrangements were made for a service director, appointed by the Society, to care for the work. He was to take the lead himself and see to it that the congregation had the needed supplies.
In 1922, The Watch Tower published an article entitled “Service Essential.” It pointed to the dire need for people to hear the good news of the Kingdom, directed attention to Jesus’ prophetic command at Matthew 24:14, and stated to elders in the congregations: “Let no one think that because he is an elder of the class all his service should consist of preaching by word of mouth. If opportunities offer for him to go among the people and place in their hands the printed message, that is a great privilege and is preaching the gospel, often more effectively than any other way of preaching it.” The article then asked: “Can any one who is really consecrated to the Lord justify himself or herself in idleness at this time?”
Some held back. They raised all sorts of objections. They did not think it appropriate to “sell books,” though the work was not being done for profit and though it was through these same publications that they had learned the truth about God’s Kingdom. When house-to-house witnessing with the books on Sunday was encouraged, beginning in 1926, some argued against that, although Sunday was the day that many people customarily set aside for worship. The basic problem was that they felt it beneath their dignity to preach from house to house. Yet, the Bible clearly says that Jesus sent his disciples to the homes of people to preach, and the apostle Paul preached “publicly and from house to house.”—Acts 20:20; Matt. 10:5-14.
As emphasis on the field service increased, those whose hearts did not move them to imitate Jesus and his apostles as witnesses gradually withdrew. The Skive Congregation in Denmark, along with some others, was reduced to about half. Out of the hundred or so associated with the Dublin Congregation in Ireland, only four remained. There was a similar testing and sifting in the United States, Canada, Norway, and other lands. This resulted in a cleansing of the congregations.
Those who truly wanted to be imitators of God’s Son responded favorably to the encouragement from the Scriptures. However, their willingness did not necessarily make it easy for them to begin going from house to house. Some had a hard time starting. But arrangements for group witnessing and special service assemblies were an encouragement. Two sisters in northern Jutland, in Denmark, long remembered their first day of field service. They met with the group, heard the instructions, started for their territory, but then gave way to tears. Two of the brothers saw what was happening and invited the sisters to work with them. Soon the sun was shining again. After having a taste of field service, most were filled with joy and were enthusiastic about doing more.
Then, in 1932, The Watchtower contained a two-part article entitled “Jehovah’s Organization.” (Issues of August 15 and September 1) This showed that the elective office of elder in the congregations was unscriptural. Congregations were urged to use in responsible positions only men who were active in the field service, men living up to the responsibility implied by the name Jehovah’s Witnesses. These were to function as a service committee. One of their number, nominated by the congregation, was appointed by the Society to be service director. In Belfast, Ireland, this sifted out more of those whose desire was for personal prominence rather than for humble service.
By the early 1930’s, most of those in Germany who were trying to put the damper on field service had withdrawn from the congregations. Some others fearfully withdrew when in 1933 the work was banned in many of the states in Germany. But thousands endured these tests of faith and showed themselves willing to preach regardless of the danger involved.
Around the earth the proclamation of the Kingdom gained momentum. Field service became an important part of the life of all of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The congregation in Oslo, Norway, for example, rented buses on weekends to transport publishers to nearby cities. They met early in the morning, were in their territory by nine or ten o’clock, worked hard in the field service for seven or eight hours, and then joined the bus group for their homeward trip. Others traveled into rural areas by bicycle, with bookbags and cartons loaded with extra supplies. Jehovah’s Witnesses were happy, zealous, and united in the doing of God’s will.
In 1938, when attention was again given to the appointment of responsible men in the congregations,j the elimination of all local elections of servants was generally welcomed. Congregations gladly passed resolutions showing appreciation for theocratic organization and requesting “the Society” (which they understood to mean the anointed remnant, or faithful and discreet slave) to organize the congregation for service and to appoint all the servants. Thereafter, the visible Governing Body proceeded to make the needed appointments and to organize the congregations for united and productive activity. Only a few groups held back and withdrew from the organization at this point.
Devoted Solely to Spreading the Kingdom Message
For the organization to continue to have Jehovah’s approval, it must be devoted exclusively to the work that his Word commands for our day. That work is the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 24:14) However, there have been a few instances in which individuals who worked hard in cooperation with the organization also endeavored to use it to promote programs that tended to divert their associates to other activities. When reproved, this was a test to them, especially when they felt that their motives had been noble.
This occurred in Finland during 1915, when some brothers founded a cooperative association called Ararat and used the columns of the Finnish edition of The Watch Tower to urge its readers to join this business association. The one who had initiated this activity in Finland responded humbly when Brother Russell pointed out that he and his associates were letting themselves be “led away from the important work of the Gospel.” However, pride hindered another brother, one who had been active in Jehovah’s service for over a decade in Norway, from accepting the same counsel.
During the 1930’s, in the United States, a somewhat similar problem arose. A number of congregations were publishing their own monthly service instruction sheets, which included reminders from the Society’s Bulletin as well as experiences and their local schedule of service arrangements. One of these, published in Baltimore, Maryland, gave enthusiastic support to the preaching activity but was also used to promote certain business ventures. Initially Brother Rutherford gave tacit approval to some of these. But when it was realized what could develop from involvement in such ventures, The Watchtower stated that the Society did not endorse them. This presented a severe personal test to Anton Koerber, for he had intended by these means to be of help to his brothers. In time, however, he again made full use of his abilities to further the preaching work being done by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A related problem arose in Australia starting in 1938 and escalated during the ban on the Society (January 1941 to June 1943). In order to care for what at the time seemed to be valid needs, the branch office of the Society got directly involved in a variety of commercial activities. Thus, a great mistake was made. They had sawmills, more than 20 “Kingdom farms,” an engineering company, a bakery, and other enterprises. Two commercial printeries provided a cover for continued production of the Society’s publications during the ban. But some of their business operations got them involved in violations of Christian neutrality, the work being done on the pretext of providing funds and supporting the pioneers during the ban. The consciences of some, however, were deeply disturbed. Although the majority stayed with the organization, general stagnation in the work of Kingdom proclamation set in. What was holding back Jehovah’s blessing?
When the ban on the work was lifted in June 1943, the brothers then at the branch office appreciated that these enterprises should be disposed of, in favor of focusing on the all-important preaching of the Kingdom. In the space of three years, this was accomplished, and the Bethel family was reduced to a normal size. But it was still necessary to clear the air and thus restore complete confidence in the organization.
Nathan H. Knorr, the president of the Society, and his secretary M. G. Henschel visited Australia specifically to deal with this situation in 1947. In reporting on the matter, The Watchtower of June 1, 1947, said of the commercial activity that had been carried on: “It was not the every-day secular work of brethren engaged in making a living that was involved, but it was the fact that the Society’s Branch office had obtained various kinds of industries and called in publishers from all parts of the country, particularly pioneers, to work in these industries rather than preaching the gospel.” This had led even to indirect involvement in the war effort. At conventions in each of the provincial capitals, Brother Knorr spoke frankly to the brothers about the situation. At each assembly a resolution was adopted in which the Australian brothers acknowledged their error and asked Jehovah’s mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Thus, vigilance has been required and tests have been confronted so that the organization would continue to be devoted solely to spreading the message of the Kingdom of God.
As Jehovah’s Witnesses look back over their modern-day history, they see evidence that Jehovah has truly been refining his people. (Mal. 3:1-3) Wrong attitudes, beliefs, and practices have gradually been cleared out, and any who have chosen to cling to these have gone with them. Those who remain are not people who are willing to compromise Bible truth in order to accommodate human philosophy. They are not followers of men but are devoted servants of Jehovah God. They gladly respond to the direction of the organization because they see unmistakable evidence that it belongs to Jehovah. They rejoice in the advancing light of truth. (Prov. 4:18) They individually count it a grand privilege to be active Witnesses of Jehovah, proclaimers of the Kingdom of God.
a Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, Extra Edition, April 25, 1894, pp. 102-4.
b Regarding the Trinity, see the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV, 1967, page 299; Dictionary of the Bible, by J. L. McKenzie, S.J., 1965, page 899; The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 2, 1976, page 84. Regarding the soul, see the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIII, 1967, pages 449-50, 452, 454; The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, edited by H. S. Gehman, 1970, page 901; The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I, 1952, page 230; Peake’s Commentary on the Bible, edited by M. Black and H. H. Rowley, 1962, page 416.
c According to Brother Russell, his wife, who later left him, was the first one to apply Matthew 24:45-47 to him. See the Watch Tower issues of July 15, 1906, page 215; March 1, 1896, page 47; and June 15, 1896, pages 139-40.
d Vindication, Book Two, pp. 258-9, 268-9; The Watchtower, April 1, 1934, pp. 99-106; April 15, 1934, pp. 115-22; August 1, 1935, pp. 227-37.
e That 1878 was a year of significance seemed to be fortified by reference to Jeremiah 16:18 (‘Jacob’s double,’ KJ) along with calculations indicating that 1,845 years had apparently elapsed from Jacob’s death down till 33 C.E., when natural Israel was cast off, and that the double, or duplicate, of this would extend from 33 C.E. down to 1878.
f Extending the parallels further, it was stated that the desolation of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (37 years after Jesus was hailed as king by his disciples when he rode into Jerusalem) might point to 1915 (37 years after 1878) for a culmination of anarchistic upheaval that they thought God would permit as a means for bringing existing institutions of the world to their end. This date appeared in reprints of Studies in the Scriptures. (See Volume II, pages 99-101, 171, 221, 232, 246-7; compare reprint of 1914 with earlier printings, such as the 1902 printing of Millennial Dawn.) It seemed to them that this fitted well with what had been published regarding the year 1914 as marking the end of the Gentile Times.
g Compare the rendering in The Emphasised Bible, translated by J. B. Rotherham; see also the footnote on Acts 13:20 in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures—With References.
h See “The Truth Shall Make You Free,” chapter XI; “The Kingdom Is at Hand,” pages 171-5; also The Golden Age, March 27, 1935, pages 391, 412. In the light of these corrected tables of Bible chronology, it could be seen that previous use of the dates 1873 and 1878, as well as related dates derived from these on the basis of parallels with first-century events, were based on misunderstandings.
j See Chapter 15, “Development of the Organization Structure.”
[Blurb on page 619]
Testing and sifting have come as no surprise
[Blurb on page 621]
“They refuse to be led away from the Lord’s Word”
[Blurb on page 623]
“We want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings”
[Blurb on page 624]
“God is still at the helm”
[Blurb on page 626]
The “faithful and wise servant” had not passed off the scene when Brother Russell died
[Blurb on page 627]
A malicious effort to poison the minds of others
[Blurb on page 628]
Some allowed pride to undermine their faith
[Blurb on page 629]
“Keep your eye on those who cause divisions . . . and avoid them”
[Blurb on page 630]
Some falsely charged that “The Watch Tower” had repudiated the ransom
[Blurb on page 635]
“We merely inferred it and, evidently, erred”
[Blurb on page 636]
Those who truly loved Jehovah were grateful for the privileges of service that opened up to them
[Blurb on page 638]
“Can any one who is really consecrated to the Lord justify himself or herself in idleness at this time?”
[Blurb on page 641]
Wrong attitudes, beliefs, and practices have gradually been cleared out
[Box/Picture on page 622]
W. E. Van Amburgh
In 1916, W. E. Van Amburgh declared: “This great worldwide work is not the work of one person. . . . It is God’s work.” Although he saw others turn away, he remained firm in that conviction right down till his death in 1947, at 83 years of age.
[Box/Picture on page 633]
When he was a young man, Jules Feller observed severe testings of faith. Some congregations in Switzerland shrank to half their former size or less. But he later wrote: “Those who had set their confidence in Jehovah remained steadfast and continued their preaching activity.” Brother Feller determined to do that too, and as a result, down till 1992 he has enjoyed 68 years of Bethel service.
[Box/Picture on page 634]
C. J. Woodworth
To one who forsook Jehovah’s service because the anointed followers of Jesus Christ were not taken to heaven in 1914, C. J. Woodworth wrote as follows:
“Twenty years ago you and I believed in infant baptism; in the Divine right of the clergy to administer that baptism; that baptism was necessary to escape eternal torment; that God is love; that God created and continues to create billions of beings in His likeness who will spend the countless ages of eternity in the strangling fumes of burning sulphur, pleading in vain for one drop of water to relieve their agonies . . .
“We believed that after a man dies, he is alive; we believed that Jesus Christ never died; that He could not die; that no Ransom was ever paid or ever will be paid; that Jehovah God and Christ Jesus His Son are one and the same person; that Christ was His own Father; that Jesus was His own Son; that the Holy Spirit is a person; that one plus one, plus one, equal one; that when Jesus hung on the cross and said, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou Forsaken Me,’ He was merely talking to Himself; . . . that present kingdoms are part of Christ’s Kingdom; that the Devil has been away off somewhere in an unlocated Hell, instead of exercising dominion over the kingdoms of this earth . . .
“I praise God for the day that brought Present Truth to my door. It was so wholesome, so refreshing to mind and heart, that I quickly left the humbug and claptrap of the past and was used of God to also open your blinded eyes. We rejoiced in the Truth together, working side by side for fifteen years. The Lord greatly honored you as a mouthpiece; I never knew anybody who could make the follies of Babylon look so ridiculous. In your letter you ask, ‘What next?’ Ah, now comes the pity of it! The next thing is that you permit your heart to become embittered against the one whose labors of love and whose blessing from on High brought the Truth to both our hearts. You went out, and took several of the sheep with you. . . .
“Probably I look ridiculous to you because I did not go to Heaven, October 1st, 1914, but you don’t look ridiculous to me—oh no!
“With ten of the greatest nations of earth writhing in their death agonies, it seems to me a particularly inopportune time to seek to ridicule the man, and the only man, who for forty years has taught that the Times of the Gentiles would end in 1914.”
Brother Woodworth’s faith was not shaken when the events of 1914 did not turn out as expected. He simply realized that there was more to learn. Because of his confidence in God’s purpose, he spent nine months in prison in 1918-19. Later he served as editor of the magazines “The Golden Age” and “Consolation.” He remained firm in faith and loyal to Jehovah’s organization right down till his death in 1951, at 81 years of age.
[Box/Picture on page 637]
A. H. Macmillan
“I have seen the wisdom of patiently waiting on Jehovah to clear up our understanding of Scriptural things instead of getting upset over a new thought. Sometimes our expectations for a certain date were more than what the Scriptures warranted. When those expectations went unfulfilled, that did not change God’s purposes.”
[Pictures on page 620]
A major test of faith involved recognition of the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice
[Pictures on page 625]
Some who admired Russell found that their reaction to Rutherford’s disposition brought to light whom they were really serving
[Pictures on page 639]
When more emphasis was placed on field service, many withdrew; others showed increased zeal
“Watch Tower,” April 1, 1928
“Watch Tower,” June 15, 1927
“Watch Tower,” August 15, 1922
[Pictures on page 640]
As theocratic organization came to the fore, those seeking personal prominence were sifted out