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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


Release from Babylonish Captivity

LOIS: I have been thinking all week about the persecution of the Witnesses during 1918. That must have been a horrible experience and one to try the faith of all those associated with the Society at that time.

JOHN: Yes, it was. But as stated at Matthew 24:13: "He that has endured to the finish is the one that will be saved." Whenever Jehovah allows a period of testing he always makes a way out. Many endured. The work was not killed forever; and while the officials of the Society were in prison the voice of The Watch Tower was still being heard, even though faintly.

Little was done during this time of the imprisonment. A few small assemblies were held, but little effort was made to bring the public together for these conventions. They were primarily to strengthen those still in the way of truth and to keep the work going as best they could. As we saw last week, some of the faithful colporteurs were still busy, though many had been arrested.

Then suddenly, on November 11, 1918, World War I came to an end. This brought new hope to the brothers, although Judge Rutherford and his associates were still in Atlanta penitentiary. There was now good reason to begin an active campaign for their release. Meantime, however, January, 1919, arrived and with it the occasion of another annual meeting of the Watch Tower Society's corporation. On January 4 a convention was called in Pittsburgh to see what could be done to awaken the brothers spiritually and at the same time see to the election of officers.

TOM: Judge Rutherford was in prison at that time. So what arrangements could be made for a corporation meeting?

JOHN: That was the question in the minds of many. Particularly that of Brother Rutherford himself. All of these brothers in prison were not idle. Although they had been told when they entered that they could not preach, within a few months regular Bible studies were being held, with each of the brothers conducting a class of his own. These were held on Sunday with about a hundred in attendance. a But Brother Rutherford was concerned as to what would take place at the corporation meeting. One of his associates in prison, who is still living, Brother A. H. Macmillan, has often spoken of this fear in Brother Rutherford's mind that now, with the officers of the Society in prison, those who were opposed to the organization might find some way of getting control and wrecking the work that had been done to build up the Society throughout these years.



LOIS: What did happen at the meeting?

JOHN: For two days before the meeting a general convention was held, with 1,000 or more of the brothers attending from all parts of the United States and Canada. On the morning of January 4, Vice-President C. H. Anderson addressed the assembly briefly and then presented a resolution that was unanimously passed by all in attendance. This was a resolution of

confidence in the integrity of these eight defendants and in their loyalty to the government and people of these United States, as well as their loyalty to the Lord, and our utmost confidence that judgment will be reversed, and that they will be completely vindicated when all the facts are fully and impartially reviewed by the Appellate Court. b

There was some question as to the legal aspect of the situation because the Society's president and secretary-treasurer were not present. Some were in favor of a six-month recess before holding the election. Others were of the opinion that such action on the part of the shareholders might be construed in some way by the public generally as being a repudiation of their brethren. A prolonged discussion ensued in which one brother expressed what seemed to be the spirit of the majority present. He said:

I believe that the greatest compliment we can pay to our dear Brother Rutherford would be to reelect him as president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. I do not think there is any question in the mind of the public as to where we stand on this proposition. If our brethren in any way technically violated the law they did not understand, we know their motives are good. And before Almighty God they have neither violated any law of God nor of man. We could manifest the greatest confidence if we reelected Brother Rutherford as president of the Association. I am not a lawyer, but when it comes to the legality of the situation I know something about the law of the loyal. Loyalty is what God demands. I cannot imagine any greater confidence we could manifest than to have an election and reelect Brother Rutherford as president. c

After a recess in the meeting the motion for the six-month recess was withdrawn. It was clear that the vast majority of those present favored an election and that there was not the slightest doubt as to the reelection of Rutherford as president.

The election was held and Brother Rutherford was elected president; Brother C. A. Wise, vice-president; and W. E. Van Amburgh, secretary-treasurer. d None who had opposed the Society during 1917 and 1918 had any voice in the proceedings.

The following month a country-wide agitation was started by certain newspapers for the release of Rutherford and his associates. e Thousands of letters were also written by the Witnesses to newspaper editors, congressmen, senators and governors urging their action in behalf of the imprisoned officials of the Society. Many of those addressed expressed themselves in favor of the release, indicating that they would do their part to assist. f

The next effort in behalf of these brothers was a nationwide petition circulated during March of 1919. Within a short time 700,000 signatures were obtained. g In this petition the United States government was asked to render justice to these men falsely accused and imprisoned. This public demonstration was evidence of the growing resurgence and vitality of the awakening Witnesses. It was the largest petition in its time. And although it was never presented to the government, it served as an outstanding witness. h


TOM: But after all the work of obtaining 700,000 signatures why was it never presented to the government?


JOHN: It was not necessary. The government had already taken action to release the eight brothers. It is interesting to note in this regard that Harlan B. Howe, the Federal District Judge who was the first to deny bail after sentencing the brothers to imprisonment, had telegraphed Attorney General Gregory in Washington on March 2, 1919, "recommending immediate commutation" of the sentences of the eight men in prison. Gregory had sent a telegram to Howe requesting him to make this move. i This maneuver was attempted because the brothers had entered an appeal and neither the Attorney General nor Howe were interested in seeing this case come to the higher courts. Remember, the Society's officials were in prison while their appeal was pending only because Howe, and also Manton, had denied bail. However, this maneuver of Howe failed and instead, on March 21, j the United States Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis ordered bail for the eight brothers, instructing that they should be given the right of an appeal on April 14.

Promptly the brothers were released. On Tuesday, March 25, they left the Atlanta penitentiary by train, arriving in Brooklyn the following day. There, March 26, 1919, the federal authorities released them on bail of $10,000 each, pending further trial.k You can imagine the joy of the brothers in Brooklyn who had been notified of the release and who were present to welcome their brothers home. Although the headquarters of the Society was now in Pittsburgh, these loyal brothers in New York city had quickly arranged for a big banquet, which was held in the Bethel home. Some of those present report that there was not even sufficient furniture for all to sit down, but this did not dampen their spirits or lessen the enthusiasm with which the expressions of the released brothers were received. Following this happy occasion Brother Rutherford and the others left immediately for Pittsburgh, where another joyful reception by the Bethel family there awaited them.

TOM: If the brothers were out on bail, this means that their case was not yet finished. What did finally happen?

JOHN: Their case was due to be heard on appeal April 14, 1919, when they had a hearing before the Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals at New York. May 14, 1919, their erroneous convictions of the preceding summer were reversed. In remanding the case for retrial, Judge Ward stated in the opinion:

The defendants in this case did not have the temperate and impartial trial to which they were entitled, and for that reason the judgment is reversed. l

This meant the brothers were free unless the government would decide to reprosecute. However, the war was over and they knew that, on the facts at hand, it would be impossible to get a conviction. Therefore the following year, May 5, 1920, the eight men were completely cleared of an illegal judgment when, in open court at Brooklyn, on order of the Attorney General, the government's attorney announced withdrawal of the prosecution. The indictments were dismissed by motion to nolle prosequi.m

Due notice of this reversal was taken by the public press. The Brooklyn Eagle, May 15, 1919, reported:

Russellite verdict reversed by appeal; "Trial was unfair." Judges Ward, Rogers and Manton of the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the New York Federal District today reversed the convictions of the leaders of Russellism, who were found guilty last June before Judge Harlan B. Howe of Vermont, sitting in Brooklyn, of conspiring to obstruct the draft, discourage enlistment and foment insurrection and insubordination among the armed forces of the Nation.


The decision holds that the attitude of Judge Howe was unfair in his treatment of the [three] Witnesses. . . . Inasmuch as the decision sustains the legitimacy of the claim of the Russellites that their organization, which forbids members to kill, entitled its members to exemption from active service with the Army, there seems little likelihood that the leaders of the cult will ever again be placed on trial. . . .

Judge Martin T. Manton dissented from the majority opinion, which was written by Judge Henry G. Ward. n

Judge Manton's dissenting vote was not too unexpected, because this eminent Roman Catholic on July 1, 1918, for no assigned reason, had refused bail to Rutherford and his associates. Thus nine months of unjust imprisonment was forced upon them while their appeal was pending. Such denial of bail was

clearly contrary to a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, from which we quote, as follows: "The Statutes of the United States have been framed upon the theory that a person accused of crime shall not, until he has been finally adjudged guilty, in the court of last resort, be absolutely compelled to undergo imprisonment or punishment, but may be admitted to bail, not only after arrest and before trial, but after conviction and pending a Writ of Error."—Hudson vs. Parker, 156 U. S. 277. o

Although Manton was later made a "knight of the order of St. Gregory the Great" by Pope Pius XI, his disregard for justice was finally revealed when, June 3, 1939, he was sentenced to the maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment plus a fine of $10,000 for shamefully misusing his high federal judgeship by accepting bribes of $186,000 for six decisions.p

TOM: The reversal of their decision, then, meant that Judge Rutherford and the others were exonerated. Is that right? I saw a Catholic publication a short while ago where Judge Rutherford was spoken of as an "ex-convict."

JOHN: Such a charge is absolutely false. The decision of the court, May 14, 1919, established that Rutherford and his associates had been imprisoned on an illegal conviction; but it is further proved that Judge Rutherford was not an ex-convict because he later practiced before the Supreme Court of the United States, and had it been considered that he had a prison record, that would have been impossible. Anyone making such a charge is either completely ignorant of the facts or is deliberately endeavoring to falsify Brother Rutherford's position.


LOIS: What did the brothers do after they were released?

JOHN: One of the first things they did was to make an effort to get the wheels of the organization moving again. This was not an easy task. Work had ground to almost a complete standstill. The Brooklyn Tabernacle had been sold, Brooklyn Bethel was dismantled and practically unfurnished, the brothers in Pittsburgh had little money with which to operate, the headquarters were too small for expansion, they had no printing facilities, many of the plates from which the books had been printed had been destroyed, and the prospects were dark indeed. But the brothers were filled with a new zeal. They were freed from prison. There was some hope now for the future.

True, Brother Rutherford was not sure just what course should be properly taken. For that reason he decided to make a test in California. He had gone west shortly after release from prison partly because his family was there and partly because of his health. He had contracted a lung condition while in prison that stayed with him for the remainder of his life. To determine how much interest there might yet be in the


Kingdom message, he arranged for a public meeting in Clune's Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, May 4, 1919. He had promised through extensive newspaper advertising to explain the reasons for the illegal conviction of the Society's officers, and the meeting was an overwhelming success. His talk "The Hope for Distressed Humanity" was received with great enthusiasm.

This convinced Brother Rutherford that the work was not yet finished, that there was much yet to be done. He immediately arranged for a convention to be held that fall at Cedar Point, Ohio, and began to investigate the possibility of returning the headquarters of the Society to Brooklyn, New York.

Here is an interesting incident related later by Vice-President C. A. Wise. He was instructed by Brother Rutherford to go to Brooklyn to see what could be done to rent premises where they could begin printing operations and to see what could be done to reopen Bethel. Brother Rutherford's words were: "Go and see whether it is the Lord's will for us to return back to Brooklyn." Brother Wise said: "How will I determine as to whether it is the Lord's will for us to go back or not?" Brother Rutherford replied: "It was a failure to get coal supplies in 1918 that drove us from Brooklyn back to Pittsburgh. Let's make coal the test. You go and order some coal." Knowing that coal was still rationed in New York at the end of the war, Brother Wise said, "How many tons do you think I should order to make the test?" "Well," Brother Rutherford said, "make it a good test; order five hundred tons."

Brother Wise went to New York with considerable misgivings because of the coal shortage, made his application to the authorities and to his amazement was granted the certificate to get five hundred tons of coal. He immediately wired Brother Rutherford that the coal order was granted. This would insure operations of the Society for a number of years. But the problem was where to put all the coal. It was necessary to convert large sections of the basement for coal storage space. But to the brothers it was an unmistakable indication that the time had come to go back to Brooklyn and get things moving there. This they did, October 1, 1919. q

LOIS: Was the move to hold a convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, as successful as that one?


JOHN: Yes, indeed, it turned out to be an extremely happy occasion. Of course, there was some question as to what the results of it would be as far as attendance was concerned, because the brothers had lost some contact with the Witnesses throughout the country. We can imagine their joy, therefore, when over 6,000 brothers assembled from all over Canada and the United States. This was truly a reunion of battle-scarred members of the remnant who had gone through a severe time of persecution. Yet their faith was strong and some had spent their last cent to attend that unforgettable Cedar Point convention, September 1-7, 1919. But they were not alone in their zeal, for 200 new recruits to the war of true worship symbolized their dedication by water immersion. At the public meeting there were 7,500 in attendance. r

Many were the expressions of appreciation to Jehovah for having strengthened his people through the time of crisis they had just experienced. Many too were the evidences that the brothers recognized their responsibility as Christian ministers to preach the good news of God's kingdom to the world. One outstanding instance of this is in the talk delivered by Brother Rutherford, which appeared in The Watch


Tower under the title "Announcing the Kingdom." He said, in part:

Golden Age cover

Obedient to the command of our Master, and recognizing our privilege and duty to make war against the strongholds of error which have so long held the people in bondage, our vocation was and is to announce the incoming glorious kingdom of Messiah. While striving faithfully to perform our covenant thus, there suddenly broke over our heads a terrific storm, and like sheep the Lord's people were either scattered or driven to cover. So pitiless was the onslaught of the enemy that many of the Lord's dear flock were stunned and stood still in amazement, praying and waiting for the Lord to indicate his will. On every hand Bible students, because of their faithfulness to their Lord, were reproached, and these reproaches became so severe that their heart sentiments found expression for a time in the words of the Prophet Jeremiah: "I am in derision daily, everyone mocketh me. .. . For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name." s But notwithstanding the momentary discouragement, there was a burning desire to proclaim the message of the kingdom, and like Jeremiah the faithful followers of the Master said: "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay; for I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side." t

In sober moments a Christian naturally asks himself, Why am I on the earth? And the answer of necessity must be, The Lord has graciously made me his ambassador to bear the divine message of reconciliation to the world, and my privilege and duty is to announce that message."


Brother Rutherford then pointed out that, in the war against the truth that had just been carried on, the original plates that had been used to print the People's Pulpit and Bible Students Monthly had been destroyed along with the official files. He said too that, due to new ordinances that were being passed, there was increasing difficulty in many communities to distribute papers except to subscribers. He then revealed:

Seeking diligently and prayerfully to know the Lord's will, the thought came to us that we should arrange for some publication to carry the message now due, and to put it in such form that it will be sought after and read by the people. We were reminded that Brother Russell once contemplated a publication of this kind, and we reasoned that probably the time was due for such a publication. The result is that under the Lord's providence we have arranged for the publication of a new magazine under the name and title "THE GOLDEN AGE." v

It has proved indeed to be a valuable and powerful instrument in exposing false worship and deeds of darkness of the rulers of the world, as well as providing comfort and hope for the masses of the people. The first issue appeared October 1, 1919. w This magazine was received with real enthusiasm by the brothers and added further stimulus to their desire to pick up the work and press on in their God-given assignment. TOM: If the plates used in printing were destroyed, how were they able to pick up the work right away?

JOHN: Of course, they were still printing The Watch Tower and now the new magazine The Golden Age was being produced. Besides, there were a large number of The Finished Mystery that had been printed be-


fore the brothers went to prison and these were available for distribution also. Then on June 21, 1920, a paper edition of The Finished Mystery in "Watch Tower" form was released for distribution. This edition, commonly called "ZG," had been printed before the war and was stored by the brothers while the book was being restricted in distribution. x In reorganizing its distribution The Watch Tower said:


In 1917 and the early part of 1918 there was a wide circulation of "The Finished Mystery." The war furnished an excuse to stop it. ... The war is now over, ... so there could be no just cause or excuse now for any one to interfere with the disposition of "The Finished Mystery". . . .

There could be no real legal objection to the sale and distribution of any of the Seventh Volumes at this time. However, the Society deems it best to dispose of the cheap edition in WATCH TOWER form first, and arrangement is made for the beginning of the sale and distribution of this edition on the 21st of June next, of which the classes have been advised. These will be sold at 20c per copy.y

So there was plenty of work for the brothers to do. Many of them had issues of the Bible Students Monthly and Kingdom News still on hand too, but they were all encouraged to put the "ZG" work first.

LOIS: What did they mean by the initials "ZG"?

JOHN: "Z" was the symbol used at the beginning to refer to Zion's Watch Tower. "G" indicated the Seventh Volume of the Studies in the Scriptures. The books in this series were designated in symbol by the first seven successive letters of the alphabet. So "ZG" merely meant The Finished Mystery or Seventh Volume printed as a special edition of The Watch Tower, March 1, 1918. z

When the brothers went to Brooklyn in 1919 they were able to secure a suitable location on Myrtle Avenue, where they installed a large secondhand rotary press that they purchased. The brothers in the factory named it "old battleship" and it was used by the Society for years to print millions of copies of The Golden Age and The Watch Tower as well as booklets. I'm going to tell you some more about the old battleship later on.


The colporteur or pioneer service was revived in 1919 too, with 150 active in this branch of the service in the spring, and, by fall, 507 were engaging in full-time action in the field. The pilgrim service was revived too, and eighty-six special representatives were sent out from congregation to congregation to gather those who had been scattered due to war persecution and to stimulate new enthusiasm through this close contact with the headquarters organization. aa Truly the stormy years of crisis had been successfully weathered and now the brothers were on their way to new and exciting exploits in defense of true worship.


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