Modern History of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Part 6—1914 Date Verified
DURING the first few months of 1914 the clergy and others poured considerable ridicule upon C. T. Russell and the Watch Tower Society for failing to see anything happening to the Gentile nations. But all this ridicule stopped when nation after nation and kingdom after kingdom began cascading into what now is called the first world war. From July 27 onward into August of that year was a time of world-shaking surprises. A typical public-press reaction to the situation was published August 30, 1914, by a leading New York city newspaper, The World. “End of All Kingdoms in 1914” was the arresting headline of a long feature article in that journal’s Sunday magazine section (pages 4 and 17), from which we quote:
“According to the Calculations of Rev. Russell’s ‘International Bible Students,’ This Is the ‘Time of Trouble’ Spoken of by the Prophet Daniel, the Year 1914 Predicted in the Book ‘The Time Is at Hand,’ of which Four Million Copies Have Been Sold, as the Date of the Downfall of the Kingdoms of Earth.
“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students’, best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of travelling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ . . . Although millions of people must have listened to these evangelists, . . . and although their propaganda has been carried on through religious publications and a secular press service involving hundreds of country newspapers, as well as through lectures, debates, study classes, and even moving pictures, the average man does not know that such a movement as the ‘Millennial Dawn’ exists. . . . Rev. Charles T. Russell is the man who has been propounding this interpretation of the Scriptures since 1874. . . . ‘In view of this strong Bible evidence,’ Rev. Russell wrote in 1889, ‘we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914.’ . . . But to say that the trouble must culminate in 1914—that was peculiar. For some strange reason, perhaps because Rev. Russell has a very calm, higher-mathematics style of writing instead of flamboyant soap box manners, the world in general has scarcely taken him into account. The students over in his ‘Brooklyn Tabernacle’ say that this was to be expected, that the world never did listen to divine warnings and never will, until after the day of trouble is past. . . . And in 1914 comes war, the war which everybody dreaded but which everybody thought could not really happen. Rev. Russell is not saying ‘I told you so’; and he is not revising the prophecies to suit the current history. He and his students are content to wait—to wait until October, which they figure to be the real end of 1914.”
And so it proved to be that about October 1, 1914, the 2,520 years of divine tolerance of the Gentile nations’ assumed sovereignty over the earth came to a legal end, as we now know so well Scripturally and factually.a This then made possible the greatest event in universal history, the birth of the long-promised “male child,” the kingdom in heaven with Christ Jesus now enthroned as King, with his heavenly government empowered with divine sovereignty to rule amidst his enemies. All this that the earth may finally be rid of wickedness and be made a fit place for man to live on in a restored paradise with praise to his loving Creator, Jehovah God. (Dan. 7:13, 14; Ps. 2:6-9; Rev. 12:5, 10, NW) The Watch Tower Society of witnesses for Jehovah was right in its thirty-year public campaign of warning the Gentile nations of the fateful year 1914.b Individually, however, some who had shared in giving that warning were disappointed in that they incorrectly thought of themselves as due to go to heaven in 1914 to become part of the invisible Kingdom organization, little realizing that it was not until 1918 that it would become possible for any of the dead Kingdom heirs to be joined with Jehovah’s enthroned Christ in heaven, at which latter time the “first resurrection” was due to begin. Many also inaccurately thought that the world war which began in 1914 would merge into the “battle of the great day of God Almighty,” Armageddon, and thus cleanse the earth of all opposition to righteousness. However, Jehovah’s leading indicated that there was yet much work to be done by the anointed Christians on the earth. Glorious days of still greater witnessing lay ahead in accordance with Jehovah’s further purposes to prepare a great crowd of “other sheep” to survive the real Armageddon when it finally would come upon the earth. Truly Jehovah’s majestic ways and purposes are always best and work out for the greatest of happiness.
As we look back over the record of the Watch Tower Society’s publishing activities for the thirty years prior to 1914 we see that a remarkably extensive public warning was given to the nations. The adjoined table of figures gleaned from the Society’s annual reports, usually published in the December 15 issue of The Watch Tower during each of those years, bears eloquent testimony to the zeal, hard work, devotion to duty and determination of Jehovah’s witnesses to undertake and faithfully perform the 1914 warning task.
WORLD-WIDE DISTRIBUTION REPORTc
Years Tracts & Pamphlets Bound Books Published report in
1909 22,838,164 710,992 W 1909, p. 374;
W 1910, pp. 67-71
1910 27,025,180 711,410 W 1910 p 388;
W 1911, pp. 7-9, 21
1911 22,838,282 538,783 W 1911 pp. 452, 453
1912 49,151,244 812,046 W 1912, p. 386;
W 1913, pp. 38-42
1913 49,065,189 864,510 W 1913 p. 372, 3;
W 1914, pp. 41-43
1914 71,285,037 992,845 W 1914 p. 374;
W 1915, pp. 27-31
1915 55,149,578 661,789 W 1915, p. 373;
W 1916, pp. 8-11
1916 30,547,172 452,713 W 1916, p. 387;
W 1917, pp. 101-104
1917 33,890,664 836,417 W 1917, pp. 374-377
C. T. Russell and his associates gave all of their strength and fortunes in prosecuting as vigorous a campaign as was possible in their time under the guidance of Jehovah’s holy active force. The years 1915 and 1916 saw a decline in their publishing activitiesd due to the period of witnessing amidst growing opposition, ridicule and world-wide disruption. This decline was in fulfillment of the God-given prophecy: “I will cause my two witnesses to prophesy a thousand two hundred and sixty days dressed in sackcloth.” (Rev. 11:3, NW) Toward the end of 1916 Russell began to fail rapidly; and finally, on a return speaking trip from California, he died aboard a train near Pampa, Texas, October 31.e By the fruits he brought forth in his multitude of labors as a minister of the gospel, Brother Russell surely proved to be a faithful witness of Jehovah. He had fought valiantly in defending Bible truth to the extent of the enlightenment then available. During his 32 years as the Society’s president his many devoted Christian associates supported him to perform a phenomenal work under the leadership of the foremost Faithful Witness, Christ Jesus, to the praise of their Creator.f
Following Brother Russell’s death, years of crisis set in, producing within the organization the pressures of opposition, judgment and cleansing. Satan and his seed were ready to wield, in addition, external blows which were destined to strike down the Society in such weakened state to a sudden deathlike condition. After such a gigantic build-up of warning witness which had occurred with respect to that prophetic date of 1914, many of the associates became weary of well-doing. Rebelliousness among congregation elders came to the surface, and unhealthy spiritual conditions in general set in, to put many of the anointed witnesses to the test as to their real love and loyalty to their invisibly present King, Christ Jesus.g (Revelation, chapters 2 and 3) For three and a half years (1,260 literal days) they carried on their preaching in this critical period from the fall of 1914 to the spring of 1918 in a “sackcloth” condition of mourning and reproach. Finally, in 1918, “when they have finished their witnessing, the wild beast [collective earthly ruling powers] that ascends out of the abyss [the symbolic deep sea of men raging against God] will make war with them and conquer them and kill them. And after the three and a half days spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them.” Here we have the prophetic description of those years of crisis, and the historic record here reviewed shows the prophecy’s fulfillment by the facts.—Rev. 11:3, 4, 7, 11, NW.
For the two months of November and December, 1916, a transitional administration of the Society was in the hands of an Executive Committee of three, Vice-President Ritchie, Secretary-Treasurer Van Amburgh and legal adviser Rutherford.h In connection with a Watch Tower corporation meeting a convention was called to be held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, January 6 and 7, 1917. The chief business of that meeting was election of a president and other officials to succeed the Russell administration. Six hundred attended the business meeting on Saturday, January 6, where approximately 150,000 votes,i represented in person or by proxy, were unanimously cast for J. F. Rutherford for president and W. E. Van Amburgh for secretary-treasurer, and a majority for A. N. Pierson for vice-president.j The next day, Sunday, the newly elected president, J. F. Rutherford, addressed 1,500 at the convention. Thus commenced a new administration for the Society, which Rutherford was to supervise for twenty-five years.
A brief biographical sketch is in order as to the Society’s second president, Joseph Franklin Rutherford.k He was born November 8, 1869, in Boonville, Missouri, of parents who were Baptists. He was 16 years old when his father consented to his attending college to study law, provided he would earn his own way, since his father was merely a farmer and could not afford to assist him. After completing his academy education, he spent two years under the tutorship of Judge E. L. Edwards and finally at the age of twenty became the official reporter for the courts of the Fourteenth Judicial Circuit in Missouri. At 22 he was admitted to the bar and began to practice law at Boonville, becoming a trial lawyer for the law firm of Draffen and Wright. Later he served four years as public prosecutor for Boonville, and still later, as Special Judge in the same Fourteenth Judicial District of Missouri.l For 15 years he practiced law in Missouri.
In 1894 he came in touch with Watch Tower Society representatives and twelve years later, in 1906, dedicated his life to Almighty God, thus becoming ordained for the Christian ministry.a In 1907 he became the Watch Tower Society’s legal counselor at the Pittsburgh headquarters, to handle its court cases, and at the same time he was sent out to give public talks as a pilgrim representative of the Society.b In 1909 he was admitted to the New York bar as a recognized lawyer for that state; in the same year (May 24, 1909) he also was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States at Washington, D.C. He traveled widely as a public Bible lecturer in the United States, speaking at many colleges and universities by special request and before packed-out public audiences in this country and throughout Europe. He also visited Egypt and Palestine. In 1913, accompanied by his wife, he visited Germany, where he spoke to audiences totaling 18,000.c In 1915 he won a series of Bible debates in Los Angeles, California, against the “Rev.” J. H. Troy,d a Baptist, representing the clergy of southern California. In 1916 Rutherford was chosen to deliver the funeral talk at the death of his long-time, warm friend C. T. Russell.e
(To be continued)
a Watchtower, 1952, pages 260-276.
b W 1914, p. 371.
c Following are distribution figures for the period prior to 1909:
Years Tracts and Pamphlets Bound Books
1879-1893 3,859,609 205,916
1894-1901 15,740,357 588,402
1902-1908 37,687,694 2,518,233
d W 1915, p. 371.
e W 1916, p. 338.
f See biographical reports in W 1917, pages 131-136, 323-326; W 1916, pp. 356-359.
g W 1916, p. 327-329; W 1917, p. 99.
h W 1917, p. 372.
i The corporation’s former voting arrangement was that of one vote for every ten-dollar donation to the Society. Voting method was amended in 1944. W 1944, p. 334.
j W 1917, p. 22; New York Times, January 7, 1917, Section I, page 9.
k Webster’s Biographical Dictionary, 1943, p. 1295.
l An Encyclopedia of Religion, by Vergilius Ferm, 1945, p. 674; New York Times, January 7, 1917, Section I, p. 9.
a W 1894, p. 127.
b W 1919, p. 58.
c W 1913, p. 319.
d W 1915, p. 143; Consolation, August 23, 1939, p. 4.
e Press report “Pastor Russell’s Successor Judge Joseph F. Rutherford” from Pittsburgh, Pa., January 6, 1917, reproduced as pages 383, 384 of special reprint of Memorial number of The Watch Tower for December 1, 1916.
[Picture on page 173]
C. T. Russell