SKK logo

Due to various electronic necessities, insignificant formatting, punctuation, capitalization, etc. and other minor editing has taken place. Spelling has been addressed especially where scanning has caused errors.

January 1919 IBSA Convention Report




In a testimony of Sister MacMillan, the following excerpts were read from a letter received from Brother MacMillan:

"Dec. 28, 1918. My Dear Mollie: — I am writing to you at Pittsburgh this week, as you will no doubt be there at the convention in a few days. Well, Christmas has come and is gone. We have a real good time. Friends from all over the country sent us good things to eat, or cards. It was a real Christmas. Brother Woodworth would get as much excitement and joy out of each package as a 10-year-old boy; and I enjoyed seeing him.

"I will not attempt to answer all the kind remembrances nor burden you to do so, however, you will no doubt see many at Pittsburgh. Tell them all that the gifts and cards made us glad and that we were able (through the kindness of the officials) to share our good things with others, so instead of reaching eight, they reached over 150. I am enclosing a few letters from friends, but cannot send you all of them. . . . I hope you will have a good time at the convention. Please tell everyone that I am well and as happy as a man or New Creature can be in jail, and that I am looking forward to the happy day when we all will not only be free from prison, but also free from the old fallen bodies and forever united with the Lord and all His faithful. Had a splendid time in Sunday School today. We have united our class with the Jews, and I spoke today, while Brother Rutherford spoke to the Christian Scientists. "So on we go, no knowing," etc.

"With heaps of love to you and all, as ever,


In a testimony, Sister VanAmburgh said, "Brother VanAmburgh wanted to write a letter but was not permitted to do so, but desired that his testimony be given." She said, "Our brethren were quite well, rejoicing in all their experiences, knowing divine providence is over all. Shut up in their little 5x9 rooms for fourteen hours a day, they think of the Lord's goodness, the love of the friends, their desire to serve them, and how much they will enjoy their freedom when in the Lord's due time, He says, 'It is enough. Come, I have other service now for you to perform.' Bro. VanAmburgh said:

"'Assure the dear friends of our great love and fervent prayers that the Lord will continue to bless them richly with grace for every time of need. No doubt the new year has as many surprises and blessings as the past one, so we need to search our hearts carefully lest any root of bitterness start and we stumble. WE WANT THAT CROWN. Assure them of my deep love for all. Ask them to please sing Hymn 328 as part of my testimony.'"

She said further: "It would make you glad, indeed, to know how their hearts were warmed, cheered and touched by the shower of Christmas remembrances from the dear friends. They would like to thank all."


"I am now rejoicing in the sufferings on your account, and I am filling up the remainder of the afflictions of the Anointed One, in my flesh, on behalf of his body, which is the congregation." Col. 1 :24, Diaglott.

What could bring greater joy to the Christian here on earth than to have the Lord's favor clearly made manifest to him? The Apostle Paul, who had such experience, wrote: "It is given unto you as a privilege, not only to believe on the Lord Jesus, but also to suffer on his account." (Phil. 1:29.) There are probably no men on earth today who are more highly favored and who are happier than the brethren now in prison. They are conscious of their entire innocence of intentional wrong-doing, and rejoice to be suffering with Christ for loyally serving Him.

On the 6th day of May an indictment was returned by the Federal Grand Jury for the Eastern District of New York at Brooklyn against the following: J. F. Rutherford, W. E. VanAmburgh, A. H. MacMillan, F. H. Robison, C. J. Woodworth, Geo. H. Fisher, R. J. Martin, G. De Cecca and R. H. Hirsh, charging them with conspiracy to obstruct the United States in the prosecution of the war. (Jer. 38:4.) The indictment was in four counts, each charging a separate and distinct offense under different parts of the statute. This statute, known as the Espionage Law, was enacted June 15, 1917, and is strictly a war measure. It would be impossible to violate it when the country is at peace.

The indictment as originally returned charged that the conspiracy was entered into some time between April 6, 1917 (the date when the United States declared war) and May 6, 1918. Upon motion, the Government specified the date of the alleged offense as between June 15, 1917, and May 6, 1918. The case was called for trial on June 3, and the Government dismissed as to R. H.. Hirsh.

The jury that was to try the case was impaneled June 4, and the taking of testimony began June 5. The trial progressed until June 21, when sentence was pronounced. Throughout the entire time the defendants were calm and serenely happy, conscious that the Lord was with them and that he was permitting the experiences for his own wise purpose. One spectator referred to them as "dignified, pale-faced Russellites." Another said: "Those fellows always have a smile. They will be smiling when they get behind the bars, and when they go to the gallows." Little does the world realize why the Christian smiles.

A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act. At the trial the Government contended that "The Finished Mystery" was written and published designedly to hinder the United States in raising an army and prosecuting the war, and that the defendants had written to members of the International Bible Students Association within draft age letters that interfered with the raising of an army. "The Finished Mystery" was offered in evidence by the Government, and portions of it read, particularly the preface, pages 247-252, 406, 407 and 469. The Government's counsel contended that these pages were designedly hidden in different parts of the book for the purpose of first getting a person interested in some other part of the book and then he would be influenced by the statements concerning war; that the publishing of the book, The Bible Students' Monthly and The Watch Tower, and the writing of letters to conscientious objectors were overt acts in carrying out the conspiracy. Defendants denied all such, and proved clearly and substantially the following facts:

Synopsis of Argument

That the International Bible Students Association is wholly a religious organization; that the members accept as their principles of belief the Holy Bible, as expounded by Pastor Russell; that Pastor Russell in his lifetime wrote and published six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, and as early as 1896 promised the Seventh Volume, and that it would treat the prophecies of Ezekiel and Revelation; that on his deathbed he stated some one else would write the Seventh Volume; that shortly after his death the Executive Committee of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society authorized Brothers Clayton J. Wood-worth and George H. Fisher to write and submit manuscript for consideration, without any promise being made concerning publication: that all the manuscript on Revelation, except the extract from an article by the Rev. John Haynes Holmes, was completed before the United States got into the war, and that all the manuscript of the entire book, except the "Temple" chapter in Ezekiel, was in the hands of the printer before the enactment of the Espionage Law, hence the impossibility of any such conspiracy as charged having been entered into with intentions to violate that law. Not one of the defendants saw or even knew of the existence of the Espionage Law until March, 1918;


but the Court held this fact to be immaterial and ruled it out, even on the question of intent.

The evidence further showed that the letters written by the defendants were replies to inquiries made by brethren of the International Bible Students Association, for advice under the law governing the selective draft.

Brother De Cecca did not take the witness stand. Each of the other seven testified that they never at any time had combined, agreed or conspired to do anything whatsoever to affect the draft or to interfere with the Government in the prosecution of the war, nor did they have any thought of so doing; that they never had any intention of interfering in any manner with the war; that their work was wholly religious and not at all political: that they did not solicit members, and never advised or encouraged any one to resist the draft; that the letters written were sent to those whom they knew to be consecrated Christians who, under the law, were entitled to advice; and that they were not opposed to the Nation's going to war. but that as consecrated Christians they themselves could not engage in mortal combat.

The law requires that before one can be convicted the proof must show that he wilfully committed the act with the intent to interfere with or obstruct the Government in its prosecution of the war. The defendants testified that they never at any time entertained such an intent and had no desire whatsoever to impede the Government in any manner. They further testified that their lives for years past had been devoted exclusively to religious work —  telling the divine plan for the blessing of mankind: that the Lord had foretold the war, and that for them to be against the war would mean to be against that which the Lord has permitted ; hence all their efforts were confined exclusively to religious work.

Christians Always Misunderstood

Verily the unconsecrated cannot understand the consecrated Christian. It was so with the Master; and it is equally so with his followers. As an example, the Government put in evidence a letter written by a brother to some brethren in camp, saying: "We rejoice with you, dear brethren, that you are having opportunities of study and fellowship together. Be of good courage and hold fast; a little while and the fight will he over, and then you will be glad that you have stood for the Lord and righteousness." This the prosecution construed as an overt act to resist the draft and encourage insubordination, whereas all Christian brethren understand the words to apply entirely to the Christian warfare and as having no application to worldly matters. To be misunderstood is a part of the sufferings for Christ's sake. Some day all will be made clear. What a happy day that will be!

The summing up by counsel occupied the greater part of two days. Counsel for the defense, Mr. Sparks and Mr. Fuller, made splendid addresses, which were both eloquent and forceful, and which brought forth many expressions of commendation from their auditors. These are both noble men, and God will reward them in His due time.

Sentence Imposed

The case went to the jury about 5 P. M. on June 20. and at 10:20 the same night a verdict of "Guilty" on all four counts was returned against all the defendants. They were sent away to jail at midnight and returned into court for sentence the day following, when seven of them were sentenced to twenty years imprisonment at Atlanta, Ga., on each count, the sentence to commence and run concurrently on each of the four counts. The brethren were not at all disturbed, knowing themselves to be in the Lord's hands. Their serene calmness was astounding to the large crowd gathered in the court room, and officers were heard to say; "We never before saw men like those."

Our brethren were then taken to a private room, where their wives and other friends were kindly permitted to serve a bountiful luncheon; and several hours were spent in sweet fellowship together. The bystanders looked on with amazement at the happy faces of all these Christian brethren. Again the testimony was given that these have walked with Jesus and learned of Him.

It was exactly high noon (sun time) Friday, June 21, when the Judge pronounced sentence against the seven brethren. Brother De Cecca's sentence being deferred for further investigation. This was the longest day of the year, and just at noon the sun reached its zenith.

When called upon by the Court to state whether they had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon them, the defendants remained silent. The Judge said in part: "During the trial counsel for the defense attempted to impeach the law officers of the Government, the Army Intelligence Bureau, and all the ministers throughout the land. The religious propaganda which these defendants have vigorously advocated and spread throughout the nation as well as among our allies is a greater danger than a division of the German army, and a person preaching religion usually has much influence and if he is sincere he is all the more effective. This aggravates rather than mitigates the wrong they have done. Therefore, as the only prudent thing to do with such persons, the Court has concluded that the punishment should be severe."

The ecclesiastics stirred up the people against Stephen because "they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." They charged that "this man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place (church system) and the law." (Acts 6:9-15.) A number of clergymen were in the court room when the sentence was imposed. Some of them had attended throughout the entire trial.

Some Comparisons

Just a moment before the Judge pronounced sentence Brother Woodworth leaned over and whispered in Brother Rutherford's ear the following:

"Imagine yourself in the place of the dear Redeemer, or of one of the martyrs of truth whose blood stains the pages of history. See yourself in the midst of your enemies — persecuted, hated, reviled — conscious of your innocence, of the singleness of your purpose and the righteousness of your cause. See yourself with hands tied, your accusers clamoring for your life, your judge unable to stem the tide of human ignorance and passion. Realize that though they may take your life, they can not injure the new creature, nor force you to renounce your faith, nor be unfaithful to yourself or to your cause."

"'A better day is coming, a morning promised long,
When truth and right with holy might
Shall overthrow the wrong;
When Christ the Lord shall listen to every plaintive sigh,
And stretch his hand o'er sea and land
With justice, by and bye.'"

1. Jesus, the perfect one Head of the church, was without fault and was wrongfully accused.1. Seven brethren were sentenced. The number symbolizes perfection, hence represents all of the New Creation on earth, wrongfully accused.
2. Jesus offended the clergy; and they stirred up the people against Him. He was brought before the civil powers and charged with sedition as an enemy of Rome.2. His brethren offended the clergy, who stirred up the people against them, sending petitions to the officers of the law and causing the brethren to be arrested, charged with sedition and hindering the Government in the war.
3. The moon symbolizes the law dispensation.3. The sun symbolizes the Gospel dispensation.
4. Once each month the moon is full, or at its zenith, and immediately begins to wane.4. Once each year (June 21) the sun reaches its zenith, and immediately begins to wane.
5. Jesus was tried and condemned on Thursday night.5. The brethren were tried and condemned at 10:20 Thursday night.
6. Jesus was dying on the cross at high noon, Friday, at full moon. — Matt. 27:45.6. Seven of His brethren were sentenced exactly at high noon (sun time) on the longest day of the year (June 21), when the sun was at its zenith.
7. The moon immediately began to wane after the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, thus signifying the fall of Judaism.7. The sun immediately began to wane at the hour the seven were sentenced, signifying the fall of Ecclesiasticism.

Immediately following the sentence, counsel appealed the case and asked the Court to admit the defendants to bail pending the presentation of their case to the Appellate Court. In support of the application, counsel stated in substance: "These men immediately stopped the publication of 'The Finished Mystery" when they learned of the Government's objection to it, and before the finding of the indictment. This seems to be the best evidence of good citizenship and that they are law-abiding; and they should be admitted to reasonable bail. They are engaged in a great and good religious work, and it is of the greatest importance to others that they be permitted to return to that work." The Judge replied: "If they are out of their activities the Court should see that they stay out of them, and do not return to them for some months. They are worse than traitors. No greater harm could be done than to admit them to bail." Thus were the names of the Lord's children cast out as evil. Truly, all of our brethren present became a gazing stock to others. Heb. 10:33.

Among the things Jesus said to his disciples were the sweet words: "In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." How consoling it is to know that he marks out our experiences for us that we may be overcomers! Shortly after the arrest two of the defendants were walking together, and one of them remarked to his brother in bonds: "Brother, I would not want to go right from enthusiasm of a big public meeting to the kingdom when I remember the difficult experiences through which our Master passed." How truly that statement expresses the sentiments of a consecrated heart! "It is enough for the servant that he be as his Lord." It is a blessed privilege to be companions in suffering with the Master, St. Stephen and St. Paul, all of whom were charged with sedition. Jesus trod the winepress alone. How sweet to let seven brethren have the companionship of each other in the trying ordeal!

Long have we expected severe trials to be upon the church, and now they have come. The nails pierced the hands and feet of Jesus. The hands very fitly represent the apostles and early martyrs. The "feet members" are the last members of the body of Christ on earth, and these may expect similar treatment. Let not one of the dear friends be discouraged by reason of the imprisonment of our seven brethren. They are in the Lord's hands; and probably the Lord will see to it that their imprisonment will speak more eloquently than their voices to the public. Let us all rejoice and be glad of the increased evidences that the kingdom draweth nigh.

(Since the writing of the above article Brother De Cecca has been sentenced by the Judge to ten years in the Federal Penitentiary at Atlanta.) THE WATCH TOWER will continue as long as the Lord permits. The editorial committee will remain the same, each having a proxy to act for him at the office. Considerable manuscript is on hand and ready for publication. The vice president and board of directors are managing the work at Pittsburgh.


The Following Letter Was Forwarded to Messrs. Sparks, Fuller & Striker (Counsel for the Society), by Hon. Judge Harland B. Howe


SIR: — Answering your telegram of the 1st inst., I wired you last evening as follows:

"Recommend immediate commutation for Joseph Rutherford, N. Fisher, Clayton J, Woodworth, Giovanni Dececca, A. Hugh MacMillan. They are all defendants in same case in Eastern District of New York. My position is to be generous now that the war is over. They did much damage by preaching and publishing their religious doctrines.

"The severe sentence of twenty years was imposed upon each of the defendants except Dececca. His was ten years. My principal purpose was to make an example, as a warning to others, and I believed that the President would relieve them after . the war was over. As I said in my telegram, they did much damage and it may well be claimed that they ought not to be set at liberty so soon, but as they cannot do any more here now I am in favor of being as lenient as I was severe in imposing sentence. I believe most of them were sincere, if not all, and I am not in favor of keeping such persons, in confinement after their opportunity for making trouble is past. Their case has not yet been heard in the Circuit Court of Appeals"

United States District Judge.

Valid CSS! Valid XHTML 1.0!