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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose

CHAPTER 8

The Climactic Approach to 1914

LOIS: Did the divisions that occurred within the organization and the opposition that was raised up against Pastor Russell seriously affect the work, John?

JOHN: No not seriously. In fact, Pastor Russell said such trials only served to draw the survivors more closely together. Besides, those who separated themselves at any one time were few in number, and there was much work to keep Russell and his associates busy.

The expanding organization and the nearness of 1914 kept Russell fully occupied during the first decade of this new century. He knew that what was represented by Jerusalem before 607 B.C. would be "trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled." This was Jesus' prophecy at Luke 21:24. He knew that this time of uninterrupted rule of Satan's nations was due to expire in 1914. Since 1877 the modern witnesses of Jehovah had been energetically publishing that this long period of 2,520 years of Gentile times was fast running out. a

With this end in view Russell prepared and began to execute an all-out campaign of world-wide proportion as a final testimony to the nations that these few remaining years prior to 1914 would be their last opportunity to make peace with God before he came to execute his judgments against them.

Russell immediately realized that the four-story Bible house in Allegheny-Pittsburgh, which had served as headquarters for the Society for twenty years, was now too small to serve as a suitable center for the international work developing throughout the world. So, in 1908, several representatives of the Society, including its legal counselor, J. F. Rutherford, b were sent to New York to secure new headquarters, which Russell himself had previously located.

They bought the old four-story brown-stone parsonage of Henry Ward Beecher at 124 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn and converted it into a home for the Society's headquarters staff of thirty. Pastor Russell used Beecher's old study for his own office.

TOM: Wasn't Henry Ward Beecher the Brooklyn minister that was so famous in his day for his antislavery sermons?

JOHN: Yes, he was. He preached from the pulpit of the nearby Plymouth Congregational Church, where he served as pastor.c It is said, too, that Abraham Lincoln was one of the notables during the 1860's who

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visited Henry Ward Beecher at his Columbia Heights residence.

The Society also purchased the old "Plymouth Bethel," a nearby mission structure that had long been used by the Plymouth Church.d After some remodeling, on January 31, 1909, the Society dedicated their new headquarters, with 350 in attendance. An assembly hall on the second floor of the renovated Plymouth Bethel had a seating capacity of 800 and was attractively redecorated in light olive green, as the predominating color, with a few artistic Scripture texts along the walls. On its street floor were located the Society's offices and in the basement was a small press for printing handbills, also a shipping department. Concerning these buildings an announcement in The Watch Tower stated:


The new home we shall call "Bethel," and the new office and auditorium, "The Brooklyn Tabernacle"; these names will supplant the term "Bible House."e


The Society's facilities in Pittsburgh were now sold and its accelerated preaching campaign in its final stage of this important phase of the work was ready to begin. Commodious and convenient as these expanded headquarters in Brooklyn were, however, within two years, in 1911, spacious new housing accommodations were completed adjoining the rear of Bethel, fronting on Furman Street and overlooking the Brooklyn waterfront.f

A NEW LEGAL SERVANT IS FORMED

In order to hold title to this property in New York state it was thought advisable for the Witnesses to form a new corporation. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania was subject to certain legal restrictions. So, after proper application, on February 23, 1909, the People's Pulpit Association was given legal identity as decreed by New York Supreme Court Justice Isaac N. Miller. g Its chartered purposes are stated as follows:


Its corporate purposes are, Charitable, benev-

bethel and Brooklyn Tabernacle

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olent, scientific, historical, literary and religious purposes; the moral and mental improvement of men and women, the dissemination of Bible Truths in various languages by means of the publication of tracts, pamphlets, papers and other religious documents, and for religious missionary work.h


TOM: How do you co-ordinate the work of these two corporations, John?

JOHN: Perhaps this quotation from The Watch Tower in 1914 will help.


For the sake of our many new readers we explain that the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY [Pennsylvania corporation], as the parent organization, represents all the activities in Christian work with which THE WATCH TOWER and its Editor are associated. All of the work done through the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION and PEOPLE'S PULPIT ASSOCIATION, directly and indirectly, is the work of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY.


As I have already explained, Tom, the People's Pulpit Association was the New York corporation formed in 1909, whereas the International Bible Students Association mentioned here was a British corporation formed in 1914. This British corporation, while organized particularly for the British field, also had a New York address at the Society's headquarters in Brooklyn. Now the Watch Tower article continues:


The Editor of THE WATCH TOWER is the President of all three of these Societies. All financial responsibility connected with the work proceeds from the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY [the Pennsylvania corporation]. From it the other Societies and all the branches of the work receive their financial support. . . .

Our division of the work was made necessary by the fact that the parent society Charter by the State of Pennsylvania is not by law permitted to hold property in New York State; hence the necessity for organizing a subsidiary society to hold any real estate in New York. Similarly, the laws of Great Britain prevent any foreign society from holding title to real estate there. This necessitated the organization of the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION with a British charter. Thus it comes that we use sometimes the one name and sometimes the other in various parts of our work—yet they all in the end mean the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY [the Pennsylvania corporation]—to which all donations should be made. i


TOM: Are those three the only corporations you use?

JOHN: No, since then the Society has formed a number of corporations in various countries of the world, but all work together under the direction of the Pennsylvania corporation, which is, itself, merely a legal instrument for the unincorporated body of Jehovah's witnesses world-wide.

AN INTENSIVE CAMPAIGN BEGINS

Jehovah's witnesses have always carried on an intensive campaign, but these years from 1909 to 1914 were truly climactic in the activity exerted by these early modern Witnesses and in the results obtained. Day and night those at headquarters, as well as the pilgrims and colporteurs in the field and those volunteer service workers giving freely of their spare time, were truly expending themselves to give a global witness with the facilities they had.

Beginning with the year 1909 the Society began to put out a new series of tracts first called "People's Pulpit," then "Everybody's Paper" and still later "The Bible Students Monthly." Each month a different issue appeared with a powerful new salvo released against Protestantism, false religion and apostasy. Illustrations and cartoons added to their telling effect. These were distributed literally by the millions under the doors of homes and in front of churches and by personal contact. This tract distribution, however, was by no means the limit to the Society's efforts to give as great a witness as possible. Distribution of pamphlets and bound books, especially by colporteurs, was also running into many millions of copies.

MARIA: At the same time, the brothers organized an international newspaper syn-

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dicate that featured the sermons of Pastor Russell. His sermons were sent out weekly to about 3,000 newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe.

JOHN: This syndicate was really composed of four members of the headquarters staff at Bethel. Each week, no matter where Pastor Russell was traveling, he would send the syndicate at Bethel a new sermon. There those in charge of the syndicate would retelegraph this sermon of approximately two newspaper columns in length to the newspapers. With no radio yet available to the public, the press was the major means of reaching the people, and this syndicate service tremendously augmented the oral preaching at the doors and from the public platform. It is estimated that Pastor Russell's sermons, by means of this service, were available to ten million people each week.

TOM: Did the Society have to pay for this space like advertising, or did the newspapers pay Russell?

JOHN: The newspaper space was given free and the telegraphic expense was borne by the Society. j

But this syndicate service by no means replaced the individual preaching by Jehovah's witnesses. Another feature of the intensified activity of this period was an extensive public platform campaign. This was known as the "class extension work," beginning in 1911.k In that year alone 12,113 public and semipublic lectures were given. This was an extension of the public lecture service formerly undertaken by Pastor Russell himself. To do the work, fifty-eight special traveling ministers were sent out as speakers on a lecture schedule following assigned routes.

Nor was the work limited to delivering talks and then forgetting those in attendance. Names and addresses of interested persons at the lectures were obtained and then home visits were made in an effort to gather together these newly interested ones to form a new congregation. Colporteurs or pioneers helped to organize these congregations and as a result many new classes were formed. By 1914 there were 1,200 in various parts of the world. As to other figures regarding growth, reports of those attending the Memorial were incomplete; however, in 1915, the partial number reported was 15,430, while the records revealed the Watch Tower circulation had risen to 55.000. 1

As interest developed it is understandable that requests for Russell to appear personally would increase also. Every year he traveled to Europe, and his North American tours were increased in number and size as well. Now, instead of fulfilling these speaking engagements with just a few others along as previously, with a special railroad "convention car," larger groups were organized in "convention trains," with as many as 240 on one occasion accompanying him. Several railroad cars together would be used to make up this "convention party," traveling from one large city to another by prearranged schedule. m

On the party's arrival in its scheduled city these assistants would advertise the public meeting by putting out handbills and then would be at the public meeting personally to greet those in attendance and obtain the names and addresses of those interested. Wherever possible they would visit these newly interested ones and establish congregations. This powerfully concerted work produced lasting results.

MARIA: Many interesting experiences have been related about the problems these brothers encountered. It is reported that once Brother Russell and his party were riding through Wisconsin when the rail-

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road trainmen forgot to disengage their special car at a nonscheduled stop, so their train whizzed right through the town where the public meeting was to be held. It didn't stop until an hour later when the train reached Milwaukee. The brothers, of course, were all excited because they had missed their stop, so they immediately urged the railroad authorities to hitch a special engine on their special coach and take it back to the place Brother Russell was assigned to speak. They arrived just in time to hold the public meeting.

JOHN: Pastor Russell and his associates were aware of the scripture at Matthew 24:14, which reads: "This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness to all the nations, and then the accomplished end will come." Just how this could be finished by 1914 was not clear, but these Witnesses intensified their program even further. Now, a world-wide public speaking campaign was organized and the citation of this text we've just read appeared on some of the poster advertising.

As a part of this campaign from December, 1911, to March, 1912, Pastor Russell, as chairman of a committee of seven men, made a tour around the world, spreading seeds of truth that, in time, brought into fruitful action more groups of anointed Christians in far-flung areas of the globe. The particular interest of the committee was to study Christendom's foreign missions and to deliver local lectures. They traveled west to Hawaii, Japan, China and on through southern Asia into Africa, on up into Europe and back to New York. n Truly an extensive journey to gird the earth with a warning message of the approaching end of the Gentile times in 1914.

THE PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION

Then Pastor Russell conceived a daring and elaborate educational venture far ahead of the times. Motion pictures were just becoming popular, so, recognizing in this medium an effective means of reaching masses of people in a comparatively short time, Russell began the preparation of the "Photo-Drama of Creation." Work on it was begun in 1912, with the hope that it would be completed for this all-out campaign before 1914. The title was a descriptive one because the project depicted God's purpose for the earth and mankind, from the beginning of the earth's preparation as man's home, down to the climax of God's purpose at the end of the 1,000-year reign. The entire project included picture slides as well as moving pictures to be synchronized with phonograph records in the form of recorded talks and music. So the Society was really pioneering in the field of sound film and embarked on the project with full confidence of its success. The results of their pioneering efforts in this medium manifested God's spirit upon the entire undertaking.

The task was far greater than Russell had anticipated, and instead of being completed by the end of 1912 it was fully two years before the project was ready for its initial showing, and it cost the Society $300,000. A description of the "Photo-Drama" appears in The Watch Tower of 1914.


Naturally our readers are deeply interested in the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION. All of you have heard more or less concerning its preparation during the past two years. The work has been much more tedious than we expected. All who have seen it concede that it is very beautiful. A minister, after seeing two parts, said, "I have seen only one-half of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, but already have learned from it more

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about the Bible than I learned in my three years' course in the theological seminary." . . .

It [the Drama] therefore includes everything appertaining to the creation of earth—animals, man, the experiences of mankind for the past six thousand years and the work of the thousand years of Messiah's Kingdom. It divides these into four Parts—four Entertainments [of two hours each] with appropriate music, etc.

Part I. carries us from star nebula to the creation of the world and down to the Deluge— down to Abraham's time.

Part II. reaches from Israel's deliverance from Egypt, wilderness experiences, etc., down through the period of the Kings to the time of Elisha, the Prophet.

Part III. continues the story from Daniel's time down to the time when the Logos was made flesh at the birth of Jesus, His boyhood, manhood, baptism, ministry, miracles, crucifixion, death, resurrection.

Part IV. begins at Pentecost and traces the experiences of the Church, during the past nineteen centuries to our day and beyond for a thousand years to the glorious consummation. p


LOIS: That must have been a remarkable project, considering the infancy of the movie industry at that time.

MARIA: We still meet people in our door-to-door ministry who remember having seen it.

JOHN: But, due to its size and detail of preparation, it was not used in the pre-1914 period. We'll tell you a little more about its showing later. Meanwhile, service work and mounting anticipation were the order of the day for Jehovah's witnesses as this long-heralded time approached.

SOUND WARNING AGAINST SPECULATION

TOM: You stated earlier that Pastor Russell was not too certain as to exactly what would take place in 1914. Was that the general attitude of the Witnesses at that time?

JOHN: There is no doubt that many throughout this period were overzealous in their statements as to what could be expected. Some read into the Watch Tower statements that were never intended, and while it was necessary for Russell to call attention to the certainty that a great change was due at the end of the Gentile times, he still encouraged his readers to keep an open mind, especially as regards the time element. We might read a number of different excerpts from the Watch Tower over the years to demonstrate this. For instance, as early as 1885 Russell writes in the Watch Tower:


Storm clouds are gathering thick over the old world. It looks as though a great European war is one of the possibilities of the near future.


Then follows a rather drastic picture of the world situation, and the article closes with these words:


For these so-called kingdoms of God and their armies, prayers are offered to God in the name of him whose command is peace, good will toward man, and who announces himself as the one who shall set at liberty the captives and proclaim love, peace and liberty throughout the earth to all—for whose liberty he died.

Thank God the emancipation proclamation is going forth; shackles theological and political begin to break, and the groaning creation must shortly be delivered into the true liberty of sons of God under the dominion of Immanuel. q


In 1893 the Watch Tower stated:


A great storm is near at hand. Though one may not know exactly when it will break forth, it seems reasonable to suppose that it cannot be more than twelve or fourteen years yet future.r


In 1894,


A few more years will wind up the present order of things, and then the chastened world will stand face to face with the actual conditions of the established Kingdom of God. And yet the course of the Church is to be finished within the brief space of time that intervenes. s


Another statement in that same year is significant:


"As travail upon a woman with child" is the inspired description of the forty-year day of trouble, by which the Millennial age is commenced. The panic of 1873, which affected the whole world, was the first spasm, and since then at irregular intervals the labor-pains of earth have been experienced. Just now, we of the United States are in the midst of one of these throes of the groaning creation. t

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In 1912 Russell sounded a special warning to offset any private wild speculations as to 1914. He wrote:


There surely is room for slight differences of opinion on this subject and it behooves us to grant each other the widest latitude. The lease of power to the Gentiles may end in October, 1914, or in October, 1915. And the period of intense strife and anarchy "such as never was since there was a nation" may be the final ending of the Gentile times or the beginning of Messiah's reign.

But we remind all of our readers again, that we have not prophesied anything about the Times of the Gentiles closing in a time of trouble nor about the glorious epoch which will shortly follow that catastrophe. We have merely pointed out what the Scriptures say, giving our views respecting their meaning and asking our readers to judge, each for himself, what they signify. These prophecies still read the same to us. ... However, some may make positive statements of what they know, and of what they do not know, we never indulge in this; but we merely state that we believe thus and so, for such and such reasons. u


So these early watchers were reasonably certain of some things that were due to take place when 1914 arrived. Exactly how the prophecies were to be fulfilled was not altogether clear, but evidences were increasing steadily that this was to be a marked date in earth's history.

An explosive atmosphere of national rivalry was developed all over the world, and the feverish campaign of the political and commercial rulers in their mad armaments race was being fully supported by the clergy of all lands. France and Germany were piling up an enormous war potential, while Britain and the United States were fortifying themselves also. The latest scientific developments, such as the steam engine, the gasoline engine and electricity, were all being harnessed for war, with the keenest scientific minds of the world bending every effort to produce further advanced weapons of mass annihilation. Truly mankind's masses were being herded into camps of war. Satan, as ruler of this world, was gathering his forces for the end he knew must come in 1914.

But the twentieth-century global debacle of nations that appeared inevitable was just an evidence pointing to a far more significant war due to begin that year. The issue of the most far-reaching magnitude was not one of monarchy rule versus democratic rule. The issue of universal domination was now scheduled for settlement on the divine calendar of activity. What that conflict would produce in the way of immediate results, and how events were to develop in the outworking of the divine will, Jehovah's witnesses were not then given to understand. For forty years they had been commissioned to herald its approach. They had diligently bent their every effort to that end. Now that the time had arrived, they did not sit down to wait. From the new headquarters building in Brooklyn, the steady flow of Kingdom literature continued throughout the world.

Across the East River from the Society's headquarters towered the impressive skyline of New York city's financial district. These skyscrapers, the tallest in the world at that time, symbolized to many persons the strength and power of the world's mightiest empire and far overshadowed, in their appearance, the inconspicuous facilities of the Watch Tower Society in Brooklyn. No one at that time could realize what Jehovah had in store for this little band of Witnesses he had gathered together from the four corners of the earth; nor could anyone realize how the comparatively small voice emanating from these modest quarters of the Society could one day fill the earth with such power and strength that the very foundations on which the massive structures of Satan's entire world rested would be shaken.



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