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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


Strengthened for Patience and Endurance

LOIS: When did the time of mourning begin for the Witnesses?

JOHN: In 1914. It was a time of reproach, trials and disappointment. But Jehovah never brings more on his people than they can bear; and for this reason repeated encouragement and admonition to patience and endurance were given through the columns of The Watch Tower. In the issue of The Watch Tower of January 1, 1914, Pastor Russell compared the parallel positions of the early disciples of Jesus and those entering the significant year 1914. He said:

We know that disappointments have come to God's people along this line. . . . During the early persecutions of the Church, it was believed that those who suffered would soon enter into glory. They thought the Kingdom was near. Some of the disappointed ones continued to wait and hope and pray. Others organized the great Papal System, and declared that the Church should have her glory now . . .

We may not read the time features with the same absolute certainty as doctrinal features; for time is not so definitely stated in the Scriptures as are the basic doctrines. We are still walking by faith and not by sight. We are, however, not faithless and unbelieving, but faithful and waiting. If later it should be demonstrated that the Church is not glorified by October, 1914, we shall try to feel content with whatever the Lord's will may be. ... We believe that the chronology is a blessing. If it should wake us ... earlier in the Morning than we would otherwise have waked, well and good! It is those who are awake who get the blessing. . . .

If in the Lord's providence the time should come twenty-five years later, then that would be our will. This would not change the fact that the Son of God was sent by the Father, and that the Son is the redeemer of our race; that He died for our sins; that He is selecting the Church for His Bride; and that the next thing now in order is the establishment of the glorious Kingdom at the hands of this great Mediator, who . . . will bless all the families of the earth. These facts remain the same. a

In May Pastor Russell again referred to the prophecies and their expected fulfillment, and warned again of the uncertainty of time prophecies. Here is another quotation from The Watch Tower:

The Lord declares through the prophet David (Psalm 149:5-9): "Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand; to execute vengeance upon the heathen, ... to execute upon them the judgments written. This honor have all His saints." Heretofore we had not questioned that this description of the glory of the saints applied to them beyond the veil— beyond the completion of the First Resurrection. [He means after their being taken to heaven.] But a more careful investigation of the words forewarns us that we may not be too sure in such a supposition. We suggest as a bare possibility that a time may come when a part of the saints will be in glory beyond the veil, and when those on this side the veil in the flesh will enter very fully into the joys of their Lord and into participation in His work. . . .

But the word beds here, in harmony with usage elsewhere in the Bible, would signify a rest of faith—that these saints were at rest in


the midst of conditions to the contrary. . . .

Again, while the high praises of God are in their mouth they have the two-edged sword in their hand, according to the prophecy. This "two-edged sword" is evidently, as elsewhere, the Word of God. We can scarcely imagine the saints beyond the veil as handling the Word of God. On the contrary, this would seem to imply that the saints described are on this side of the veil, using the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in connection with the showing of high praise to God—clearing His name from the dishonor attached to it through the ignorance, superstition and creeds of the dark ages.b


Early the following year Russell referred again to this Psalm 149 and wrote:

The final phrase, "to execute the judgments written," would seem to imply that there would be something for the saints on this side of the Veil to do in connection with the execution of the judgments upon the nations. As to just what this means, we have not yet fully learned. But we see nothing here to conflict with the thought that the Lord's kingdom may be properly understood to have begun operations and that the present smiting of the nations is under Kingdom control. . . .

Our thought is that we should look for still further evidences day by day that the Gentile Times have ended, and that God's Kingdom has begun its work. . . . Now in this great Day of the Lord everything that can be shaken is to be shaken to pieces and shaken out, to the intent that nothing unrighteous or unworthy shall remain. God Himself is doing the shaking. c

In the November 1 issue of The Watch Tower in 1914 Russell again urged patience. He wrote:

Our Lord indicated that at His Second Coming all His servants who would be in the right condition of heart would hear His knock; and that if they would open to Him immediately, He would come in and sup with them. . . .

When the year 1875 came, was everything accomplished within twenty-four hours? Surely not! Did everybody awake at the same minute? Have they not been getting awake all through the Harvest Time? And some of us have not been awake very long. d

Then he relates many events that had occurred throughout the forty-year period of harvest prior to 1914 and continues:

We will not go into details further; we merely wish to impress the thought that these fulfilments of prophecy did not come suddenly, but gradually—that they had a particular time for beginning, and were sure of accomplishment. In view of these lessons from the past, what should we think about the future? . . .

Should we expect that the Lord would reveal Himself the very moment Gentile Times end? No. The Bible declaration is that He shall be revealed in "flaming fire." Just how long after the Gentile Times close will be the revealment in "flaming fire" we do not know. . . .

If the harvest work of our Lord's presence (parousia) has been a gradual work for forty years leading up to the present time, and if the Time of the End is a slow period, how long would this period be, in which present institutions will be ousted, and the present order of things be condemned and done away with, to make way for the Reign of Righteousness? We answer that according to such pictures we might expect a transition to run on a good many years.e

Then in the issue of December 15, 1914, Pastor Russell quotes 1 Thessalonians 5:4, 5 and encouragingly comments:

God has promised that He will give His true children the light at the time appointed, and that they shall have the joy of understanding His Plan at the appropriate season. . . . Even if the time of our change should not come within ten years, what more should we ask? Are we not a blessed, happy people? Is not our God faithful? If anyone knows anything better, let him take it. If any of you ever find anything better, we hope you will tell us. We know of nothing better nor half as good as what we have found in the Word of God. f


Not only did Pastor Russell encourage the brothers to patience and endurance but he also urged them to keep busy in the service of God and perform diligently the work that was at hand. Early in 1915 he wrote in The Watch Tower:

There are some of the Lord's children who seem possessed with the idea that "the door is shut," and that there is no further opportunity for service. So they become indolent in regard to the Lord's work. We should lose no time dreaming that the door is shut! There are people who are seeking the Truth—people who are sitting in darkness. There never was a time like


the present. Never have so many people been ready to hear the good Message. In all the forty years of Harvest there have not been such opportunities to proclaim the Truth as now present themselves. The great war and the ominous signs of the times are waking people up, and many are now inquiring. So the Lord's people should be very diligent, doing with their might what their hands find to do. g

With this constant encouragement there was every reason for Jehovah's witnesses at that time to remain steadfast and to look forward with keen anticipation to the years that lay ahead. Many, of course, did. True, the opposition was increasing, in fact, becoming intense. But it was also a time of great testing, and those who were watchful, eager to do the divine will, had every encouragement to maintain their stand firm and steadfast in preparation for the blessings still in store.

Pastor Russell himself was convinced a great work lay ahead for God's people. Those of his close associates who are still living remark at the clearness of his foresight. He told them to be prepared for the growth they could expect in the numbers associating with them. He made some changes himself to draw the organization together and recommended others for the future in the event he could not personally carry them out. He knew the time would come when groups would be meeting throughout New York city, that not all would be able to come to Brooklyn to meet in one congregation. Little did Russell realize though what must yet be endured before this great work he had foreseen could be accomplished.

As 1915 wore on and 1916 began, he knew that he would not have much longer to carry on his own personal ministry to God's flock. His health was rapidly failing and it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to fulfill the many duties pressing in upon him from all sides. But he would not give up. The stamina and Christian fortitude that had enabled him to face the religious world of Christendom almost single-handed, especially at the beginning of his ministry, and which had enabled him in the spirit of God to resist all corrupting influences from within the organization, now continued with him and made it impossible for him to deviate at this late date from his service to Jehovah that was so dear to him.

By fall of 1916 he was in extreme physical discomfort, yet he wished to carry out a previously planned lecture tour of California and the far west. Leaving New York Monday, October 16, he and his companion traveled to Detroit by way of Canada, on to Chicago, down through Kansas into Texas. On several occasions it was necessary for his secretary-companion to substitute at speaking engagements. Then, Tuesday evening, October 24, at San Antonio, Texas, he delivered his last public talk, during which he was forced to leave the platform for short periods on three different occasions while his secretary filled in for him.


His last talk to the congregation was October 29, 1916, at Los Angeles, California. By this time he had become so weak that it was necessary to deliver this talk sitting down. Realizing now that his condition would not permit him to go on, he decided to cancel the rest of his appointments and return as quickly as possible to the Bethel home in New York. He died en route, at Pampa, Texas, Tuesday, October 31.h

Here is the notice of his death as it appeared in The Watch Tower, November 15, 1916.

The sudden death of Pastor Charles Taze Russell, Editor of THE WATCH TOWER, has created a profound impression upon his many friends throughout the world. Hundreds of letters and telegrams received, further evidence


the love and esteem in which he was held, and express unqualified desire to cooperate in continuing the great cause for which he stood so many years.

Brother Russell left Brooklyn in the evening of October 16, to fulfill appointments in the West and Southwest, but was obliged to start homeward before his scheduled time, owing to ill health.

It was on a Santa Fe train at Pampa, Tex., that he died. Brother Menta Sturgeon, who accompanied him on the trip as his Secretary, telegraphed the information to the headquarters of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY at Brooklyn, adding that "he died a hero."

The body lay in state at Bethel Home Saturday, and at The Temple throughout the day Sunday.

In the afternoon at the hour of 2, funeral service was held for the congregation, and in the evening a service was conducted for the public. At about midnight the body was taken to Allegheny, Pa., where in the Carnegie Hall, at 2 in the afternoon of Monday, service was held by the Pittsburgh congregation, of which he had been resident Pastor for many years.

Interment, took place in Rosemont United Cemeteries at Allegheny, in the Bethel Family plot, according to his request.

We rejoice to know that instead of sleeping in death, as the saints of old, he is numbered among those whose "works follow with him." He has met the dear Lord in the air, whom he so loved as to lay down his life faithfully in His service. i

Thus ended the long, faithful career of a truly dynamic Christian minister. Few men have had the privileges of service enjoyed by Pastor Russell. While he never took credit to himself personally, nor do Jehovah's witnesses give him credit as a man, still his faithful service and his record of integrity under almost every conceivable kind of test provides a stimulating record for all to consider. As the first president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, C. T. Russell served Jehovah's witnesses for thirty-two years. It is said that he traveled more than a million miles as a public lecturer, preached more than 30,000 sermons and wrote books totaling over 50,000 pages, often dictated a thousand letters a month, managed every department of a world-wide evangelistic campaign employing 700 speakers and personally compiled the most amazing Biblical drama ever shown. j

LOIS: That is truly an amazing record for a minister and a publisher. One can readily understand how he practically wore himself out in the vigorous work that he did. He is a man to be admired. I can imagine he left a big void in the organization at his death.

JOHN: Yes, he was missed for some time. At his funeral service a number of his close friends and associates spoke of their great loss and in the evening funeral talk, delivered by J. F. Rutherford, this tribute was given him:

With a strong physique, a fertile brain, and a brave heart, wholly devoted to the Lord, he consecrated and used all of his power to teach man the great Message of Messiah's Kingdom and the blessing which it will bring to the world. k


That view of Pastor Russell was not shared by men of Christendom. Some of his enemies have hated him in death almost as much as when he was alive; and so bitter have been their attacks that prejudice against his name still lingers. In spite of it, however, the facts speak for themselves, as demonstrated in this impartial observation written over forty years after his death:

It is an amazing thing that no Pittsburgh history has ever even so much as contained the name of Charles Taze Russell, since his influence has easily been the widest of any man who ever lived in the city, not even excepting Andrew Carnegie. . . .

He founded the one major religious movement to have appeared in the Pittsburgh district in the past 100 years, a movement which has reached world-wide scope and is still one


of the fastest growing religious organizations in many countries. . . .

Pastor Russell,... a name as sincerely loved and as bitterly hated as almost any in American history.

Around that name for years raged some of the bitterest controversies which ever divided the Christian world, and the controversies still rage, although his name is not so much heard in the discussions. . . .

All through his life, he had told his followers not to revere him as more than just a fellow man with divine guidance. And he taught them this so well that his work passed into the hands of others with hardly a moment's halt and the publishing house which he founded has never published a biography of Pastor Russell. l

LOIS: Perhaps the fact that his name has been ignored by the world is in his favor. It would seem that all of God's servants in times past were considered of little importance in the eyes of the world, yet their works continue. That pattern certainly seems to have been the same in Pastor Russell's life, doesn't it? But, is it true you have never published a biography of Pastor Russell?

JOHN: That's right. Jehovah's witnesses admire the qualities he possessed as a man, but were we to give the honor and credit to Pastor Russell, we would be saying that the works and success were his; but Jehovah's witnesses believe it is God's spirit that guides and directs his people.

Some have stumbled over that point; and these qualities that he possessed and that were so admired by many in the organization at that time were to provide a real test that caused them to fail in their endurance and seek an occasion against Russell's successor as president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, and against the Society itself.

Drawings of Bros Russell and Rutherford

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