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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose

CHAPTER 6

Going on the Offensive

TOM: What did your mother have against Judge Rutherford, Lois—aside from the fact that she never listens to anyone except her own minister?

LOIS: Now Tom, that isn't fair. You know mother isn't as strong-minded about her religion as she used to be. But Judge Rutherford was certainly outspoken against the churches. Now wasn't he, John?

JOHN: Yes, he was. But you must remember that by the time he became president of the Watch Tower Society he had had ample opportunity to see the deep-rooted animosity church leaders had manifested against Pastor Russell personally and the Society in general.

LOIS: But don't you think that if Pastor Russell had tried more to work with the churches, instead of fighting them, he might have accomplished more?

TOM: what could he have accomplished, except maybe a compromise, Lois? From what I've learned through our discussions, that was one of the tests applied to see whether he would stand firm for his beliefs or follow the same course of apostasy all the churches have taken. Besides, Russell's views were about as diametrically opposed to those of the orthodox religions as it would be possible to imagine. Isn't that right, John?

JOHN: Yes, it is, Tom. But you will remember, Lois, I told you that Pastor Russell approached the ministers of Pittsburgh and Allegheny with his new-found Scriptural understanding of Christ's second presence and they refused to accept it. Now, what was he to do? He couldn't forsake his views just because these ministers opposed them. He was convinced that the time for the harvest ingathering had come, so if the ministers would not tell those "sheep" in their charge, then there was nothing left for him to do but tell them himself. This he proceeded to do with all the energy and ingenuity of which he was capable.

It is true, as Russell himself admitted, that the Adventists had brought considerable disrepute upon the doctrine of Christ's return because of their continued extravagant views and time settings. Russell himself was outspokenly opposed to Adventism in this regard. And, as a result, he was invited to speak in some of the more liberal churches. But, to show how impossible it was for Pastor Russell to tell the people everything they needed to know without incurring the disfavor of the church leaders, I'd like to relate an incident I heard from one of the old-timers with the Society.

One Sunday morning Russell was invited to deliver a sermon in one of the churches

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in a certain city in Pennsylvania. He spoke at their morning service about the blessings of the Kingdom, picturing the happy conditions that would be brought about by Christ's thousand-year reign. Everyone was thrilled with this news and wanted to hear more. In fact, some in the audience were from the other church in the city, and because of the good impression that had been made they influenced both ministers to ask Russell to give another talk that same night to an audience made up of members of both churches. This was agreed upon. At the evening meeting Russell determined that now, since they had evidenced their interest in Christ's return and in the blessings that would accompany his presence, it was necessary for him to go deeper into this matter and talk to them about the time that these things would take place. a This he did, pointing to 1914.

At the conclusion of the talk he went into the minister's study right back of the pulpit. There both ministers were waiting for him and angrily proceeded to accuse him of being a wolf in sheep's clothing. They said that he was nothing but an Adventist, that he had merely talked nice and sweet to the people in the morning in order that he might get them all together that evening to fill them full of a lot of Adventist propaganda. They did not object to his talk on the blessings of God's kingdom at the morning meeting. But, they said, when he got all the best people in town at the night meeting, then he showed his true colors as an Adventist. Russell was quite young at the time and he said later that they continued to abuse him for several minutes, not allowing him an opportunity to say a word. He said he just offered a silent prayer for help, hoping that the floor would open up and swallow him.

Just then there was a loud knock at the door and, before the minister could say, Come in, or go to the door, in walked an old man with a large cane in his hand that he had used to knock at the door. He walked up to his preacher and shook his cane in his face and said: "I have been paying you a good salary for twenty years to teach this congregation. But I learned more from Brother Russell in two talks than I did from you in the twenty years you've served here. You will improve your talks and learn from Russell or you'll be out looking for a new job." Then he walked over to Russell and took him by the hand and said: "God bless you, Brother Russell. Come home with me, for I have some questions I want to ask you." In relating this incident later Pastor Russell said, according to my informant, that it was certainly a happy ending to a bad situation.

Russell's repeated disappointments with such church leaders forced him to realize that few, if any, would turn to the truth and that time would more profitably be spent in dealing with their flocks, rather than with these so-called pastors themselves.

LOIS: But in all fairness to these leaders in the various churches, didn't they feel, perhaps, they had a duty to warn their flocks against Pastor Russell if they disagreed with his doctrine?

JOHN: Perhaps they did. But since they were in a position as overseers, that made their responsibility even greater. James warned the early Christians that teachers would be given a severer judgment because of that greater responsibility. b A few of these leaders tried to argue Scripturally with Russell, but this always proved fatal to them. However, instead of awakening the clergymen to their true position, it merely embittered them and forced them to take stronger measures against Russell.

Now their responsibility was emphasized, as it became the usual practice to malign Russell personally as an individual

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and try to belittle his position as a minister. You see, in 1846 leaders of the outstanding Protestant organizations had formed a sort of preachers' union called the "Evangelical Alliance," which limited recognition of ordination to those major sects already operating theological schools. Those who did not belong to this alliance were not recognized as accredited ministers; and if they endeavored to preach, as Russell did, they were viewed with contempt and held up to public ridicule. So Russell found himself opposed in every way by these men that he had hoped to help. c

A STRIKING PARALLEL

LOIS: But does that necessarily mean that the religious leaders were actually against God too? Perhaps in their own way they were also doing good.

JOHN: It was not just that they were opposed to the work being done by Jehovah's witnesses at that time, Lois. It was the manner in which the clergy opposed the Witnesses. The clergy's course gives vital testimony to the fact that they were really being used by Satan. Let me show you a parallel that Pastor Russell himself recognized. This is how he expressed it in the Watch Tower of May, 1881. He points to the first presence of Christ Jesus as setting a pattern for his second presence. He recalls that Jesus preached to the nation of Israel for three and a half years, during which time the nation as a whole refused to listen. As a result fleshly Israel was rejected by God as a nation and only Jews as individuals could come to him for the following three and a half years, the remainder of the period of favor granted Israel at the Messiah's first presence.

Russell, believing that the glorified Jesus became invisibly present in 1874, then writes:


Now what would be the parallel, or meaning of this prophetic "shadow" here? We answer that during the three and one-half years from 1874 the proclamation of Jesus, the present Bridegroom, was made to the church as a whole, that the spirit addressed nominal Zion as a whole, saying: "I counsel thee buy of me gold tried in the fire, and white raiment, ... as many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock." (Rev. iii.18).

But they heeded not his presence and call, as the "shadow" showed they would not, (the "Doctors of Divinity" mostly opposing it, as the "Doctors of the Law" had done in the "shadow"). After three and one-half years (in 1878) he rejected or left desolate the nominal church here, as he had done in the "shadow," saying, "Because thou art neither cold nor hot I will spew thee out of my mouth." (Rev. iii.16). The Jewish church was God's mouthpiece until "left desolate," but from that time forward God's truth came through another channel. So here the gospel church has been God's recognized channel of truth, or mouthpiece, but are such, we believe, no longer. Truth will now come through other channels.

Since 1878 (and never before that) we have felt at liberty to call God's children out of the nominal churches to a position of freedom and liberty, where they would be free to serve Him fully, as well as to study his word and be taught of Him: saying, "Babylon ... is fallen and become a habitation of devils and a hold of every foul spirit and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." (This falling of the nominal church and receiving into her bosom the corruptions of earth has been in progress for some time). Now comes the message: "And I heard another voice saying, Come out of her my people that ye be not partakers of her sins and receive not of her plagues." (Rev. xviii.2-4). d


Why would anyone who claimed to serve God want to fight against a message to the effect that the time had come for the Messiah to present himself a second time and bring to faithful mankind the blessings that he had promised when he was here before? So, instead of opposing Pastor Russell as they did, the very least these religious leaders could have done was to take the position urged by Gamaliel, the honest lawyer who argued in favor of Jesus' disciples. He said to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court: "Do not meddle

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with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme and this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, you may perhaps be found fighters actually against God." e The religious leaders of Russell's day, however, did not take this wise counsel of Gamaliel, and when Pastor Russell came to them with the claim that he was a servant of Jesus Christ and when he tried to point out the same hope that the disciples of Jesus had been preaching, they were not content to say to their followers: "Don't pay any attention to these men. Just let them alone and it will be established in due time that their work is not really of God but that it is of men and it will fall of its own weight."

They couldn't very well have said that, could they, unless, of course, they would be willing to admit their error and follow the divine will? But they were too proud. Because of the eagerness with which the very best people of their church organizations accepted this doctrine, the clergy took the same course that the religious leaders of Jesus' day took when, as the Bible says, the people heard him gladly. These modern scribes and Pharisees began not only to oppose the work Russell was doing but to malign him personally and ridicule his followers. Furthermore, they began to raise barriers to the work, appealing to Caesar's government and causing legal difficulties for the advancement of the work. However, Russell always gave the people a chance to make their own fair comparison and make their own choice.

COMPARING SPIRITUAL FOOD AT TWO TABLES

For example, there was a feature that began in the Watch Tower magazine in the January 1, 1892, issue, and was continued up to 1927.f In each issue of the Watch Tower, the Society kept abreast with the program of Bible discussion being used by many of the Protestant churches in the United States, Canada, Britain, and a number of other countries. These major Protestant organizations published what they called the "International Sunday School Lessons." These were prepared by a Congregational clergyman, F. N. Peloubet, and his assistants and consisted of an annual book setting forth an outline of Bible studies, Sunday by Sunday, that would be considered by these Protestant organizations. For example: Sunday, January 19, 1908, the study was based on John 1:35-51. The key text, called the "golden text," to be considered was a verse selected from this passage. On the date of our example the text read: "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth." The writers of the book then gave various notes and suggestions to Sunday-school teachers and ministers as to what might be discussed on this scripture for the assigned date. This service was quite popular and many Protestant groups used it in many countries of the world for over fifty years.

From 1892 forward the Watch Tower in each issue would furnish a study from the Society's view for each Sunday-school "golden text" selected for the following month. In its issue of January 1, 1908, it presented an article entitled "Finding the Lord's Jewels" as a discussion of the "golden text" we've selected for our example, January 19, based on John 1:35-51. Thus till 1927, or for more than thirty-five years, Jehovah's witnesses as well as many professed Christians, especially Protestant, were studying every Sunday the same Biblical material, but at two different

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tables. The Watch Tower Society studied it according to their advanced understanding of the truth from the Lord's table, recognizing that Jesus had said that he himself would come and serve his people if he found them faithfully watching. Those whom Jehovah's witnesses met in the field could therefore make a comparison of the food being dispensed at this table of the Lord with that being served in their own church organization. The Watch Tower spoke of these Sunday-school lessons as


suggestive thoughts designed to assist those of our readers who attend Bible classes, where these lessons are used; that they may be enabled to lead others into the fulness of the Gospels


Many persons of good will were enabled by this comparison to recognize the rich spiritual food being served at the true table of Jehovah and choose to accept it to the exclusion of all other religious food. This, of course, further angered the Protestant leaders.

LOIS: Well, I can imagine that it would, since it brought into direct comparison the opposing views of Jehovah's witnesses and those of the orthodox churches.

MARIA: It was not done to antagonize the clergy, but rather to help students of the Bible decide in their own minds what it was they wanted to believe. Since their salvation depended upon their own course, it was imperative that they have an opportunity to know the truth and make their own decision. Nothing could be fairer than that, could it?

STANDING ON THE STREETS WITH THE GOOD NEWS

JOHN: A few years later volunteers were called from all Christians attending the Society's meetings to undertake a mass distribution of 300,000 copies of a new booklet, The Bible vs. Evolution. This was to be given free to people as they left the Protestant churches on Sundays.

TOM: A sort of church-picketing service, I suppose you could call it.

JOHN: Perhaps, although no attempt was made on the part of these early campaigners for Christ's kingdom to prevent regular churchgoers from attending their services.

LOIS: But it was almost like asking for trouble, wasn't it?

JOHN: We weren't looking at it from that standpoint but, if trouble resulted, we knew the people must still be given their own chance to decide for themselves. Do you think the prophet Jeremiah was just looking for trouble when he carried his message to the religious Jews of Jerusalem?

LOIS [laughing]: No, of course not. I suppose now you're going to tell me he was a prophetic "shadow," too.

JOHN: Well, let's see what the Bible says about his work. Would you like to read Jeremiah 7:2?

LOIS [reading]: "Stand in the gate of the house of Jehovah, and you must call out there this word, and you must say, 'Hear the word of Jehovah, all you of Judah, who are entering into these gates to bow down to Jehovah.' " I guess I'll not comment on that one.

JOHN: There is another one we should read. Jeremiah 11:6.

LOIS: I have it. [Reading] "And Jehovah went on to say to me: 'Call out all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, "Hear the words of this covenant and you must do them."' " Well, I guess that's precedent enough for Jehovah's witnesses today to do the same thing. How did they carry on their work?

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JOHN: Zion's Watch Tower for April 15, 1899, called it "Volunteer Service" and outlined the plan as follows:


The preferable plan of operations is for the friends who will so engage in each city or village to lay out a program which will insure that no congregation be omitted and that none be served twice. All large congregations require at least two or three for proper rapid service as they come out. And generally the effect is better if the distributors locate half a block away from the church building in each direction in which the people go.h


The work was taken up enthusiastically by thousands of volunteers in the United States, Canada and even in Europe, and in the first year 948,459 tracts were delivered to the people in this way. i This work was continued for a number of years, especially on Sundays, and eventually was expanded to include house-to-house distribution of tracts by placing them under the doors at the homes on Sunday morning. Two or three times every year new tracts were released and these were delivered by the millions to church attenders. In this way the flood of truth was reaching right up to the church doors and overflowing the pastures of these religious shepherds.

TOM: With, no doubt, a decided reaction on the part of the pastors.

JOHN: Their hostile reaction was intense. Repeated attempts were made by these clergymen to have publishers arrested for standing on the streets distributing the free tracts. And it was necessary for the Society to offer legal counsel from time to time because of the interference of public officials who, at the instance of the clergy, were trying to "frame mischief by law" to discourage and hamper or entirely suppress such street distribution of tracts. j

LOIS: I suppose good results were obtained from this work.

JOHN: Yes, indeed. More and more persons of good will were coming to a knowledge of the truth and separating themselves from their respective churches. To assist them in their resignation and to provide a further testimony to those in the church systems responsible for removing their names from the church rolls, specially printed "Withdrawal Letters" were provided, beginning in 1900. These letters were printed on Watch Tower Society stationery and presented a suitable testimony to the effect that the person signing the letter had come to an increased knowledge of the Scriptures, not by revelation or special inspirations or visions, but by a careful and analytical study of the Bible. The letter then set forth a few of the simple doctrines learned as opposed to those false doctrines that were taught by the church, and that this person had now come to know were in error.

In this way, as newly interested ones became convinced of the truth, their responsibility to stand free from this world's system was pointed out and those desiring to do so would submit these letters. This practice continued for thirty years, and not only did it provide sound Scriptural arguments for the position taken by the one thus withdrawing from the denominational systems but it made further divisions among those who were for and those against the Kingdom message. k

TOM: The work certainly has not collapsed of its own weight. If there is anything in the principle that lawyer Gamaliel urged in defense of the early Christians, then the growth of your organization should give people something to think about.

JOHN: And the work at that time was only beginning. So, for that matter, was the opposition. But it had caused many persons to take serious notice.



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