Category Archives: Bible Students

Brief Biographies

Henry Dunn
(1801-1878)

Four articles by Henry Dunn appear in Zion’s Watchtower (Reprints, pp. 644, 649, 653, and 796). All come from Dunn’s book, The Study of the Bible written in 1871. “Bros. George Storrs, Henry Dunn and others were preaching and writing of ‘the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets’ (Acts 3:21) and that ‘In the ages to come, God would show the ­exceeding riches of his grace.’ (Ephesians 2:7)”—Charles Taze Russell, Supplement to Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, July 1, 1879.

For many years Dunn was the secretary of the British and Foreign School Society and was identified with the history of public education in England. After retirement he went to Italy and joined the Protestant missions there, devoting his life to a study of the Scriptures and the writing of Christian literature. He published his own magazine, The Interpreter, in 1860-61 and was said to have been heard to “express his obligation to a remarkable book, never much known and now almost forgotten: Dunbar Isidore Heath’s Future ­Human Kingdom of Christ. It was this book that inspired Dunn’s Destiny of the Human Race that is credited by both George Storrs and Charles Russell as helpful in the thoughts on the doctrines of two sal­vations and times of restitution. Shortly before his death, Dunn wrote a series of articles for Storrs’ magazine, The Bible Examiner. Pastor Russell wrote that on these doctrines both Storrs and Dunn were influential in his thinking.

 

Henry Grew
(1781-1862)

Grew was born in Birmingham, England, but moved to Boston with his parents at the age of fourteen. At the age of twenty-three he was elected deacon of the Baptist Church he attended, and was later ­licensed to preach in Hartford, Connecticut, where he served over a decade until he was dismissed for views the church deemed heretical.

He not only preached against slavery, but, from the Bible alone, Henry Grew determined that the doctrines of the immortal soul, hell-fire, and trinity were not scriptural. He wrote several books against the doctrines, one of which was picked up by George Storrs, who was later convinced of Grew’s views regarding the state of the dead. Grew’s clear scriptural exposition and ideas later influenced the Adventists and other ­individuals, directly to such as George Stetson and George Storrs, and indirectly through these to Pastor Charles Taze Russell.

Although he had only a moderate income, he was able to bestow half his income in charity. He gave a considerable amount to missionary work as well as to the poor of the city. He not only cared for their well being, but also for their spiritual welfare.



Dunbar Isidore Heath
(1816-1888)

Dunbar Isidore Heath was a Reverend at Cambridge, elected scholar in 1836, and again in 1843. As a recognized authority on Egyptology, he was one of the early translators of the papyri in the British Museum. In 1852 Heath wrote The Future Human Kingdom of Christ in which he distinguished the “saved nations from the glorified saints” by outlining an early concept of “the two salvations.” He was prosecuted for heresy in 1861 by the Bishop of Winchester and sentenced by the Court of Arches for publishing these ideas. He would not recant and tried to appeal his sentence by attempting to defend his character and doctrine from the Scriptures through the writing of several booklets. All of this failed and as a result of this prosecution he suffered not only the loss of his profession, but sustained heavy financial losses as well.

 

Dwight Moody
(1833-1899)

Speaking of Dwight Moody and his associates, Pastor Russell wrote: “It is our thought that the Lord used these men, and through their ministry the fore-ordained number was completed at the fore-ordained time, 1881” (Reprints, p. 4303).

Moody was born seventeen years before Pastor Rus­sell. He was one of the most successful evangelists of the nineteenth century. His ministry ­dif­fered somewhat from those of his contemporaries in that he laid stress on a full commitment to God rather than merely the “believe and be saved” formula of his peers. He urged his hearers to find a way to leave their earthly careers and spend their full time in service to God.

Moody was never endorsed by a seminary, ­dis­daining such ordination as a qualification for the ministry of the gospel. Though an aggressive fund-raiser, Moody refused to be personally ­financed by members of his audiences. Influenced by a strong personal friendship with the Jewish Christian ­Joseph Rabino­witz, Moody was vitally interested in the development of ­Israel as a nation headed for a great destiny in the plan of God.

 

Isaac Newton:
Bible Student and Scientist*

Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was born in Lincolnshire on Christmas day nearly two months premature, and posthumous to his father. In the superstition of the day, all three of these circumstances of his birth were ­considered to portend a child of exceptional abilities, and so he was to prove. He was born in the last year a witch was publicly burned at the stake in England. When he went to his grave at age 85, he was and still is ­remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time.

But the advocates of rational thought were inventing a fiction, for first and foremost Newton was a man of faith. This community has long ignored or belittled Newton’s strong commitment to Christianity and earnest non-conforming Bible study. Although it is easy to take exception with a number of the details in his interpretations, his keenness of mind permitted him to see truths that we might believe were little-known until the time of the harvest. Nearly one million words, mostly unpublished even today, range over biblical prophecy, the Times of Restitution, translation and manuscript errors, chronology, the measurements of Ezekiel’s temple compared against the New Jerusalem, and the Great Pyramid and its measurements as a witness, to name but a few.

Newton’s public anti-Trinitarian positions and writings continually created difficulties for his patrons. These kept him out of the Royal society and required special royal dispensation for him to hold a post as professor, ironically enough, at Trinity College, Cambridge. Most significantly, he is responsible for the scholarship that challenged the spurious acceptance of 1 John 5:7 into the Greek New Testament.

In Of the World to Come Newton shows a clear grasp of the heavenly salvation, the earthly salvation, and the “little season.” He dismisses eternal torment with this opening salvo: “So then the mystery of this restitution of all things is to be found in all the prophets; which makes me wonder with great admiration that so few Christians of our age can find it there. For they understand not that the final return of the Jews from captivity … and the setting up of a peaceable, righteous, and flourishing kingdom at the Day of Judgment is this mystery … First, the earth shall continue to be inhabited by mortals after the day of Judgment and not only for a 1,000 years, but even forever … And that the citizens of this city are not the saints raised from the dead, but a race of mortal men like the nations over whom they reign … [That after the judgment of Isaiah 66] the saving in these and such like places of Scripture is of mortals at the last day from both misery and death both temporal and eternal. … [for] the rest of his kingdom are the nations that have been saved; and they are mortals remaining on earth.”

Although he published several seminal scientific works within his lifetime, when Newton died unmarried, the executors of his estate largely found his religious writings to be an embarrassment. They kept all but four ­sequestered where they remained unread until the twentieth century.

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* This synopsis is based on the highly recommended The Religion of Isaac Newton by Frank E. Manuel, ­Oxford (1974). See also H. MacLachlen, Isaac Newton (1950).

 

George Stetson
(1814-1879)

The first Stetsons from England arrived in 1634, fourteen years after the Mayflower and the Pilgrims landing in America. For over forty years George Stetson followed in the footsteps of Christ and associated with Henry Grew and George Storrs in his early ministry, and even later with Jonas Wendell and Charles Russell (Reprints, p. 3821). He was not only a minister, but also a school teacher, and physician. As a member of the Advent Christian Church he and Wendell worked together in several churches throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio in the early 1870s. They also wrote for George Storrs’ magazine The Herald of Life and the Coming Kingdom, and for other magazines such as The World’s Crisis.

“He had been a faithful undershepherd, ever holding before his hearers, as the great incentive to ­holiness and purity of life, that which filled his own soul with joy and peace and helped him to live ‘above the world’—viz: The appearing of the Heavenly Bridegroom—The King of Glory, and our gathering together unto him. Our brother was a man of marked ability, and surrendered bright prospects of worldly and political honors to be permitted to preach Christ, when the glories and beauties of the word of God dawned upon his heart. The truth cost him much, yet he bought it gladly.” (Reprints, p. 46)

For ten months during 1872 Stetson pastored the church in Pittsburgh where he met a young Charles Taze Russell. Then he led the Edinboro, Pennsylvania, congregation for six years until his death. His dying request was that Pastor ­Russell give his ­funeral sermon (Reprints, p. 46) where over twelve hundred ­attended and heard the good news of the kingdom of God.

 

George Storrs
(1796-1879)

While traveling on a train, George Storrs picked up a tract he found on the floor which was about the condition of the dead. He found out later that it was writ ten by Henry Grew. In 1842 after a few years of study on this subject, Storrs began to preach this message to many of the Adventists. After writing a book on the subject, he started a magazine, entitled The Bible Examiner, for the same purpose. He differed from Grew’s teachings in respect to the des tiny of the wicked. Storrs believed these would go into second death and not be resurrected to judgment. The two debated the matter until Henry Grew’s death in 1862.

A decade later, during a severe illness, Storrs reconsidered his views on the wicked, and determined that the Scriptures taught that the wicked would be resurrected to an education in the knowledge of God, to judgment, and that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of the promise to Abraham. He was later surprised to find other individuals teaching these same doctrines, one of whom was Henry Dunn, who a decade earlier had been teaching these things in Eng land. Because of these views, his friends forsook him and Storrs be came an independent publisher of these teachings. During these years Pastor Russell wrote for Storrs’ magazine until Storrs’ death in 1879.

 

R. E. Streeter
(1847-1924)

R. E. Streeter was one of the founding fathers of the Pastoral Bible Institute and an original member of the editorial board of The Herald magazine. He became a Christian in 1877 and originally associated with the Free Baptist church. Finding denominational restrictions too binding, he left that fellowship and joined the Evangelical Advent church. He first received The Divine Plan of the Ages in 1896 but rejected it as a false teaching. The following year he was sent on a successful missionary assignment to South America and the West Indies where he received another copy of that book and read it on his return journey. This time he accepted its message.

As editor beginning in 1892 of a small journal, The Testimony of Jesus, he continued its publication and presented to his readers the new views he was learning. Eventually he discontinued the magazine and in 1902 entered the pilgrim ministry under Pastor Charles Taze Russell.

He was a member of The Herald’s editorial committee beginning in 1918 and was elected a trustee of the Pastoral Bible Institute in 1923, serving in that capacity until his death the following year. He was a deep student of prophecy and was the author of Daniel, the Beloved of ­Jehovah and The Revelation of Jesus Christ.

 

W. Norman Woodworth
(1891-1976)

W. Norman Woodworth devoted his life to his convictions. After he served for several years as a colporteur in the maritime provinces of Canada and the state of Maine, Pastor Russell asked him to come to Bethel to learn to operate a movie ­projector and assist in the ­developmental work of The Photo Drama of Creation. He presented the Drama in several Ohio cities, then in Chicago where his first day’s audience was 1,500 in the afternoon and 3,500 in the evening.

He remained with the Society after the death of Pastor Russell until 1928 when he left because of a serious disagreement with Rutherford. He helped revive a radio program called “Frank and Ernest” and wrote a small pamphlet, Radio ­Echoes to send to interested listeners. This eventually became The Dawn magazine. Bro. Woodworth remained the editor of that journal and wrote many of its articles until his death in 1976.

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Chronological Bible Students History

Bible Student History

1871   C. T. Russell Contacts Storrs
1876   C. T. Russell Meets Barbour
1877   Our Lord’s Return Pamphlet
1877   “The Three Worlds”
1879   Zions Watch Tower Magazine
1881   “Food for Thinking Christians”
1881   Colporteur Work Begins
1881   “Tabernacle Shadows”
1883   Non-English Translations Begin
1884   Tract Society Formed
1886   “Divine Plan of the Ages”
1889   “Old Theology” Tracts
1889   “The Time Is At Hand”
1890   “Thy Kingdom Come”
1892   “Watch Tower” Semi-Monthly
1893   First Convention Held
1894   Pilgrim Ministry Begins
1895   “To Us the Scriptures Teach”
1895   Danish, Polish Work
1895   Allegheny Church Trial
1897   “The Day of Vengeance”
1899   500,000 Evolution Tracts

1899   “The At-One-Ment”
1900   London Tabernacle
1903   Russell-Eaton Debates
1904   “The New Creation”
1905   “Daily Heavenly Manna”
1906   Russell Separation Trial
1907   “Comment” Bible
1908   “Overland Monthly” Articles
1908   Russell-White Debates
1908   Covenants Controversy
1910   Hippodrome Talk to Jews
1911   “Die Stimme” for Jews (Yiddish)
1912   Around the World Trip
1914   “Photo-Drama of Creation”
1915   50 Million Tracts Distributed
1916   Death of Pastor Russell
1918   PBI Organized
1920   LHMM established
1932   Dawn Organized
1938   General Conventions Begin
1952   Television Work Begins
1982   Int’l. Conventions Begin

 

 

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Bible Student Beliefs

Several beliefs, while not unique to the Bible Student movement, when taken collectively, outline a doctrinal position that is distinct from mainstream Christianity. Some of these teachings are:

  1. Inspiration of the Bible: Bible Students are united in holding that the sacred Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are inspired and are the final authority for authentic truth. Correct doctrine is to be established in beliefs that harmonize all scriptures on each subject. No non-scriptural words may be made an article of faith.
  2. Creation: Bible Students believe in creation, while admitting for some evolution in the animal creation, and that man (and thence, women) are a direct creation of God, physically and mentally perfect.
  3. Original Sin: Believing that Adam and Eve were created perfect, the Bible Student position is that the sin of disobedience in the Garden of Eden resulted in all their posterity being born under the blight of sin, imperfection, and death.
  4. Nature of God: The Bible Student position is neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian. While they believe that Jesus is the Son of God and possesses the nature of God, the divine nature, since his resurrection, they do not accept the position of co-eternity or co-equality between the Father and the Son. Rather than accepting the doctrine of incarnation, they hold that Jesus was wholly flesh while on earth, having divested himself of his spiritual nature. Nor do the accept the concept of the holy spirit being a person; it is the disposition or influence of God.
  5. Nature of Man: In distinction from inherent immortality, the Bible Student view is that man is mortal by nature, and that immortality is available only by meetings conditions of obedience. They hold that the human soul is not a distinct entity, but is the result of the union of the body and the breath, or spark, of life, and that death is the dissolution of these two elements.
  6. State of the Dead: Because death is the dissolution of body and breath, the soul that sins dies goes out of existence until the resurrection process begins in the future kingdom of Messiah. The Bible “hell” is the grave, and is neither a place of eternal fire or conscious separation from God.
  7. Virgin Birth: While Jesus was miraculously begotten by God through the holy spirit in the womb of Mary, the Bible implies that she did not remain a virgin thereafter and probably had children by Joseph after the birth of Jesus. Her nature was the same as others of the fallen race, and there is no indication of an “immaculate conception” by Mary.
  8. Ransom and Restitution: The main purpose of Jesus’ first advent was to provide a ransom, or substitutionary atonement for Adam, and hence the entire race descending from him. This Ransom was provided at the cross of Calvary, and is efficacious for all who have ever died. It promises resuscitation for all humanity in Christ’s 1000-year kingdom, along with the opportunity to obtain and maintain perfect human life for eternity. The ransom also provides for the rehabilitation of planet earth to perfect Edenic conditions.
  9. Resurrection: After Jesus Christ was crucified, he was raised to spiritual life by his Father, God, and given a divine body in the express image of God’s person.
  10. The Heavenly Calling: At his first advent, Jesus began calling out from mankind a special class to be his church, or bride. To these he promises a part in heaven with himself and the Father, and a kingdom role of reigning over mankind with himself for blessing all the families of the earth. Those who accept this invitation make a complete consecration or commitment to do the will of God as they see it revealed and at the cost of a surrender of the right to a life on earth. This consecration is witnessed by a baptism (complete water immersion,)
  11. Second Advent: As with most Christians, the expectation that Jesus Christ would return to finish the work that he began two thousand years ago is an important part of their faith. Most Bible Students share the following beliefs in the second advent:
    1. Object: That the object of the return is the resurrection of the dead and the establishment of a new world order of peace and righteousness, in which all sin, sorrow, and death will be eliminated.
    2. Manner: That Jesus returns invisibly, at first unnoticed by the world at large, though eventually manifesting that presence to all.
    3. Time: Though not in universal agreement, the majority of Bible Students believe that the time for his return was in the near past (1874), and that he is in process of finishing his church, evicting the old regime of the adversary, and supervising the preparation of Israel for kingdom work.
  12. Return of Israel: The establishment of the nation of Israel and the return of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland is an indication of the restoration of the favor of God to that nation, and an indication of the nearness of Messiah’s kingdom. Bible Students anticipate a return of Israel to the borders promised to Abraham; and a final conflict in the Middle East, in which their ancient prophets will be resurrected and God will, through them, bring about an unprecedented miraculous deliverance, introducing the worldwide kingdom of Christ, expanding thence to a worldwide dominion of peace.
  13. Church Organization: The Bible Student community is organized on a strict congregational basis, with each local group totally autonomous. Each group selects its leaders (elders and deacons) by a total vote of their consecrated members, and cooperates with other congregations as determined by that local group. All expenses are paid entirely by freewill voluntary offerings with no collections of mandated costs, The ministry serves on a non-paid and voluntary basis.

 

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A Delightful Inheritance

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.—Psalm 16:5,6, NIV

Tim Thomassen

The Lord’s people have a wonderful heritage. This is seen more clearly the deeper one probes into the Word of God. The Scriptures confirm this. “Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart” (Psalm 119:111, NIV).

The word “heritage” suggests something that has been inherited. Literally, it could be an heirloom, an estate, patrimony, or portion. It is a possession.

Some have been privileged to have been raised in an environment in which the Bible has been studied and its precepts followed closely. Others have come to know the beauties of the truth in different ways, having been led by the holy spirit through other instrumentalities.

Once we have been introduced to God’s marvelous teachings, it is necessary to decide what we should do with them. Do we embrace or ignore them? Will they become the focal point of our life or merely occupy a distant place in our thoughts and affections?

Perhaps some are facing these decisions currently. If so, it is hoped that the following precious promises will provide strength and encouragement:

“The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.”—Psalm 25:9

“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”—Psalm 37:4,5

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”—James 4:8.

If we are endeavoring to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), we must continue to “keep on keeping on.” It is my prayer that we receive God’s message with great eagerness and examine the Scriptures daily to see if what we have been told is true (Acts 17:11). May we do our best to present ourselves to God as approved workmen who do not need to be ashamed and who correctly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Both individually and collectively, may we do good unto all men, especially the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). May the Lord grant us wisdom, strength, and the means to “preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV).

The Lord’s people in this end of the age are told in Revelation 18:4 to “come out of her [Babylon] … that ye be not partakers of her sins.” We should depart from any form of denominationalism, encourage each other not to be in bondage to the creeds and practices of men or organizations, teach the gospel to anyone who has a “hearing ear,” while continuing to lay down our lives in sacrifice.

“Come out, then, from among them, the Lord says to us, separate yourselves from them, and do not even touch what is unclean” (2 Corinthians 6:17, Knox).

Many indicators suggest strongly that we are living in the time of the harvest, the end of the age (Matthew 13:39). It is a period of separating the real wheat from the tares. There may be many fine and noble people among the tares. However, they are not part of the wheat class because they are not begotten of the truth and its spirit. Only God’s truth sanctifies (John 17:17). Furthermore, we are told that this is “the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Truth is a rare thing. Proverbs 23:23 counsels us to “buy the truth, and sell it not.” Truth, wisdom, and understanding are precious. They should never be sold nor compromised. May we be faithful to this end while cultivating the character likeness of our Master, Christ Jesus.

 

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“His Pulpit was the World”

And … Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren
 in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord,
and see how they do.—Acts 15:36

Carl Hagensick

Pastor Charles Taze Russell’s annual travels overseas kept him in regular contact with the adherents of his message in scores of countries, as well as offering numerous evangelistic opportunities to preach “present truth” to thousands of enthusiastic listeners. On one such occasion, in a public lecture at the vast Royal Albert Hall in London (capacity, 5,222), the crowds were so large that ushers were posted at all the doors to prohibit further entry.

Translation into Many Languages

In 1883, only four years after beginning the Watch Tower publication, a poll was taken as to which language group had the most interest in having it translated into their tongue. The winner was Swedish, with German following not far behind. Eventually the semi-monthly journal was issued in five languages.

Two popular monthly tracts, People’s Pulpit and Everybody’s Paper, each consisting of four newspaper-size pages, were produced in thirty-one different languages. Some parts of Pastor Russell’s messages had been translated and published in thirty-five to forty languages before his death in 1916. The circulation of these tracts in 1912 had reached 848,000 in languages other than English. A partial report in 1914 indicated these figures had grown dramatically as follows:

   United States, Canada [est.]

47,610,000

   Great Britain

15,806,301

   Germany

5,247,225

   Australasia

1,138,074

   Sweden

816,323

   Finland

596,653

   Suisse-German

320,749

   South Africa

106,030

Overseas Travels

The London Press, because of the frequency of Pastor Russell’s travels across the Atlantic, coined the title of “the ubiquitous preacher.” His first such journey was in 1891 to the British Isles, where the popularity of his message reached such proportions that he began making annual trips to oversee the activities there.

It was not long before these treks were extended into continental Europe, including Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. In 1912 Pastor Russell and six other prominent Bible Students traveled by ship to countries around the world, including Japan, the Philippines, India, Egypt, Israel, and Greece among their ports of call.

The burgeoning interest in his writings soon resulted in ten main branch offices being set up to more efficiently handle distribution of literature in Great Britain, Germany, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, France, South Africa, and Australia. Other smaller offices were also set up.

The tumultuous years from 1916-1918 divided the Bible Student movement into a number of segments. Most notable were the Pastoral Bible Institute and the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement, formed from those who left the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. Another large movement was the Philanthropic Society in Europe, 50,000 strong.

In Great Britain, Jesse Hemery was progressively centralizing power in himself. Secession from Hemery, J. F. Rutherford and the Watch Tower Society progressed rapidly after World War I ended. The Bible Students Committee was constituted in London on April 5, 1919 to coordinate publishing, pilgrim service, etc., outside the Society.

Albert O. Hudson

The B.S.C. Monthly (1924-1927), Bible Students Monthly (1927-1951), was published by the Bible Fellowship Union (BFU) under the original editorship of E. Housden. In August 1951 the name was changed to Bible Study Monthly, and A. O. Hudson served as editor until his death in 2000 at the age of 101. He was succeeded by Derrick Nadal. The BFU cooperates with the PBI in the U.S. Separate from the BFU William Crawford (d. 1957) commenced The Old Paths in 1925, which continued publication through 1961. Crawford was strict in doctrine and felt the harvest was essentially over. Frank Edgell began publishing Fellowship in 1923. Frederick Lardent was publishing Gleanings. Jesse Hemery, departing from the Society later than the others, established Goshen Fellowship and published futurist interpretations of Revelation which have some adherents today. A monthly publication, Pyramidology, by Dr. Adam Rutherford of Newcastle, began in 1941. The Forest Gate Church (London) Bible Monthly was published 1936-1985. Phillys Stracy compiled an evening devotional book, Songs in the Night. A Dawn office was established in England shortly after World War II. The annual Conway Hall/London convention (1931-1970), sponsored by four ecclesias, was Great Britain’s largest. An annual convention was held in Portrush, Northern Ireland (1950-1980) [which corresponded roughly to the U.S. General Convention, though proportionately much smaller]. The annual Maranatha [Our Lord Cometh] Conference (1950-1980) corresponded approximately to the Berean (Grove City, Pennsylvania) Conference in the U.S.

In Australia, R.E.B. Nicholson rejected the “seventh volume” in 1918 and thence formed the Berean Bible Institute which has continuously published Peoples Paper in Melbourne since 1918 (edited by E. E. Martin, circa 1926-1988). The Institute represents both the PBI and the Dawn in that country. There are several associated Berean Bible Student classes (including Polish) in Australia and also a few in New Zealand. At the same time Henninges in Melbourne continued publishing New Covenant Advocate and Kingdom Herald from April 1909 to March 1943. It was later resumed by H. S. Winbush.

In India, S. P. Devasahayam (“Davey”), from near Nagercoil, had begun the work in 1912, including translation of Studies in the Scriptures, volume 1, into Tamil and then Malayalam. After Pastor Russell’s death, contact with the Watch Tower was lost for many years, but contact with the PBI was later established. Davey became physically weak about 1920 and thenceforth involuntarily inactive until his death in 1936. Then, also, many associates left the Society en masse.

Davey appointed V. Devasandosham to succeed him circa 1920. A capable organizer, Devasandosham organized the “Associated Bible Students” (later India Bible Students Association) and centered the work in Madras. Tamil publications included “Babylon and her Daughters,” “Is Saturday the Sabbath of the Christians?,” and “The True Bible Catechism.” Later, he suggested 2520+30 years might signify the end in 1944; after 1939 many sold everything for the sake of the Christian work, which afterwards led to serious problems.

Originally from Singapore, Bro. Pakian (of poor health) bought a small printing press in Madras, 1920-1924. Pakian Press printed many Tamil tracts, and a monthly magazine (since 1922) for the Associated Bible Students. After Devasandosham’s death, the press was moved to Coimbatore, in 1966 (with a press bought by the Dawn) to Madurai, and in 1974 to Trichy (Tiruchiripali, where there were about three hundred in the class). Sr. Ryer Pillai gave a trimming machine for books circa 1960.

As head of the India Bible Students Association, Devasandosham (1920-1944) was succeeded by T. C. Devakannu (“TCD” 1944-1970), by S. Rathansami (1967-1975) of Tiruchiripali, and Sebastian (1975- ). The India Bible Students Association [Tamil language] convention has been held annually since 1921. Currently it lasts about three days, attracts as many as five hundred, and from year-to-year rotates among a few cities. The Bible Students Press publishes a monthly magazine in the Tamil language. Several hundred Bible Students are scattered throughout India, but are primarily in the south.

Sundar Raj Gilbert left an engineering career to begin his activity. His outreach beyond the Tamil state began in 1940. Solomon Subamangalam and Bro. George by chance found a small Dawn booklet at Madras and wrote for free literature early in 1946. In 1947 Subamangalam gave some of it to Sundar Raj Gilbert. Then correspondence between H. A. Livermore of Portland, Oregon, and Sundar Raj Gilbert led to foreign support of the India work beginning in 1947. The Northwest India Committee (in America later renamed Northwest Committee for India, and now Friends of India) receives cooperation from several classes and individuals in the U.S. and Canada. The South India Bible Students Committee was formed in 1965 (in conjunction with G. R. Pollock’s visit) to publish literature also in the other native languages including Telugu, Kanada (Canarese), Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Oriya. The Bible Students Press has a working agreement with the Dawn in America.

In Germany and Switzerland, Samuel Lauper (d. 1938) published Heroldes des Königreiches Christi, which was the German Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. Lauper also published a German translation of Streeter’s Revelation volumes. Ewald Vorsteher published Wahrheitsfreund [Friend of Truth] in the 1920s. Conrad C. Binkele began publishing Der Pilgrim ca. 1930. These efforts were all suspended around the advent of the Hitler regime. After the war Bible Students were again able to receive Watchtower literature (for the first time in over a decade) and forthwith many left the Society. Joseph Huber began Die Brennende Lampe [The Burning Lamp], similar to the American Herald and Dawn (though more Futurist). Alexander Freytag published Jedermannsblatt [Everybody’s Paper]. Emil Sadlac of Kirchlengern began Christliche Warte [Christian Watchtower] in 1949, which offers a pre-harvest theology. The German Tagesanbruch [Daybreak, the German Dawn], began in Berlin around 1950 and later moved to Freiburg. The German general convention began in 1955 and now typically hosts two hundred. There are Bible Students in the former East Germany also. They published Christliche Verantwortung [Christian Responsibility] for two years circa 1950.

R. H. Oleszynski

Polish activity outside the Society began with the journals Straz [Watchman] in 1923, edited by R. H. Oleszynski (1857-1930), and Brzask Nowej Ery [Dawn of a New Era] in 1930. S. F. Tabaczynski, Jan Jezuit, W. O. Wnorowski and Anthony E. Bogdanczik were also energetic. The general convention in Poland is held every two years and can attract over two thousand. Roughly three thousand have registered with the government as Bible Students. Na Strazy [On the Watch] began publication in Warsaw in 1958. A group formerly cooperating with the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement in the U.S. began publishing Swit [Daybreak] in 1958.

The French Dawn, Aurore, began publication circa 1951. Journal de Sion began near Lille, France, in 1956 and publishes translated writings of Pastor Russell and some current articles. The Polish constitute the largest proportion of Bible Students in France. Along a different line, Alexander Freytag formed the Man’s Friends (or  Philanthropic Society) group in 1920. Freytag claimed special revelations and looked for Christ’s Second Coming in the future. The Swiss and the French groups are divided now and publish their own journals. They claim an earthly hope and endeavor to do many good works.

The New York Greek congregation was established in 1933 and in 1934 began publishing a Greek Dawn, He Haravgi. Frouros [Watcher] was a doctrinaire publication by George Loumbardas in Toronto. In Greece most of the Bible Student activity is in Athens. Activity in Greece was often hampered by anti-proselytizing laws.

A publication in the Italian language, L’Aurora Millenniale [The Dawn of the Millennium] was attempted in Hartford, Connecticut, beginning ca. 1933. The Italian Dawn, Aurora, began publication in 1953.

Prominent among Scandinavians who left the Society was (Count) Carl Lüttichau of Copenhagen. The Dano-Norwegian Dawn, Daggry Forlaget, began publication ca. 1951.

Swedish efforts outside the IBSA commenced about 1920, with Mr. Mellinder of Harnosand and Axel Sjo prominent. A 1922 winter convention in Stockholm was attended by nearly one hundred. (A few years later most of these turned to universalism.) Anders Karlen stressed the divine plan in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. A Swedish Dawn, Dagnigen, was published 1951-1960.

Finnish efforts apart from the IBSA commenced early in 1921. A year later a Finnish journal had fifteen hundred subscriptions, five hundred attended a convention in Helsinki (one hundred fifty spoke Swedish), and a thousand attended public meetings. Mr. Nortamo was a full-time pilgrim, and W. Berghäll (pronounced “Berryhill” in English) appears to have been a guiding light. There were active classes of about fifty in Tampere (Tammerfors) and Turku (Åbo).

A journal, Strasz and corresponding to the Polish Straz, was published from Winnipeg in the Ukrainian language. A Ukrainian radio broadcast, Peter and Paul, was also sponsored by the Ukrainian class in Winnipeg.

Spanish broadcasts of Francisco y Ernesto are heard throughout Latin America and the southernmost U.S. The Spanish work was spearheaded by Roberto Montero in San Diego, California.

Romanian activity was curtailed by World War II. Afterwards, property was confiscated and activity suppressed during the Ceausescu regime. Several thousand there had no contact with Bible Students from other countries until the fall of the Ceausescu government at the end of 1989.

Africa work began in earnest in 1972-1973 with visits to interested groups in Nigeria, though the Layman’s Home Missionary Movement had been active there for years. Recently a number of visits have also been made to Ghana.

Still more recently the New Brunswick, New Jersey, congregation has begun an extensive ministry of comfort to Israel. Kenneth Rawson has traveled extensively to Israel and many eastern European countries with the audio-video presentation Israel, Appointment With Destiny that has been well-received not only in the Holy Land but by thousands of Jews of the Diaspora.

The International Convention

Although there were Bible Students in many countries of the world, there often was little communication and co-operation between them. It was largely to facilitate such collaboration that the International Convention of Bible Students was organized in 1982. A committee of representatives from Poland, France, Germany, Greece, England and the United States was formed to make the arrangements. The first convention was such a success that the gathered brethren voted to become self-sponsoring with an international committee and meet every two years. Venues have included Kufstein and Obsteig, Austria; Willingen, Germany; DeBron, Holland; Poitiers, France; Miskolc, Hungary; and Polanica Zdroj and Nowy Sacz, Poland.

From the first conference held in Austria, with an attendance of about two hundred fifty to the last such meeting in Poland, with about nine hundred attending, brethren have come from over fifteen countries, including Japan, Russia, Nigeria, India, Argentina, and Brazil in addition to the U.S. and Canada, Australia, and many countries in both Eastern and Western Europe.

These gatherings have also spawned international youth camps with over a hundred attending, and such multi-country gatherings as a joint French-German convention every year.

Present Activity

Bible Students now live and/or hold meetings in at least these countries: Russia (including Siberia), Ukraine, Lithuania, Slovenia, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi, Cameroon, Kenya, Pakistan, India, South Africa, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Guyana, United States, Canada, the Philippines, and the West Indies. Some work has recently begun in Sri Lanka.

The most sizeable movements, with over a thousand each, are in the United States, Poland, Romania, and India. The Herald magazine currently reaches subscribers in nearly fifty different countries and, through its web page, has an outreach to many more

 

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Recent Bible Student History

  Now, brethren, I beseech you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfectly united in the same mind, and in the same judgment. 1 Co 1:10

Rolando Rodriguez

History teaches that after the death of a charismatic leader, chaos reigns. The events that took place after the death of Pastor Russell are no ­exception. After forty years of pastoral work, editing, writing, and publishing The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, Studies in the Scriptures, countless booklets, tracts and special interest papers, plus organizing Bible study classes throughout the United States and abroad, it all came to an end—or so it seemed. 

Pastor Russell was more than just a charismatic leader. He was a pastor, an elder, a father figure to some, a big brother to others; he was a friend and mentor to many, young and old. His death changed all that. The Society and associations he left behind would continue on without his guidance and spiritual ­insight. In fact they would go in a new direction, on a different road, contrary to most of what he taught and believed. 

Somehow many of the brethren felt that Pastor Russell would remain with the church in the flesh as long as there was work to do; it was difficult to grasp the hard fact that now he was gone. His missionary efforts resulted in thousands accepting the harvest truth. Nearly a hundred thousand subscribed to The Watch Tower. Twelve hundred local Bible Student ecclesias elected him as their pastor. Some of these ecclesias numbered more than a thousand, many of them in the hundreds.

On October 31, 1916, on a train eastward bound through Texas, Pastor Russell passed away. The news of his death spread rapidly, and for a time those who knew and loved him for his work’s sake could think and speak of little else as they met one another, except that “Brother Russell is dead.”

What would the tens of thousands of Bible Students do? Would they stay faithful to the man or to the organization he left behind? Would their allegiance be to God and Truth? For some, separating the three was impossible, and rightly so. Pastor Russell was the organization and for others he spoke for God. Still others clamored, “Not the messenger but the message.”

But now he was dead! That he died while still active in the missionary field did not alter the fact that he no longer could be the pacesetter for the brethren who loved the truth they received through him and who would lay down their lives to give it to others. He was gone, and the brethren were stunned. What now?

Siftings, Schisms, and Separation

After the death of Pastor Russell, the Bible Student movement was in chaos. 1914 failed to bring about the glorification of the saints; many of the brethren were still somewhat at a loss. Some had even fallen away from the association in disappointment. But if this were not enough, a bitter power struggle occurred at Watch Tower headquarters over control of the Society.

In 1917 Joseph Franklin Rutherford succeeded Charles Taze Russell as Watch Tower president. He tried and succeeded in gaining complete control over the Society’s activities. The illegal introduction of new by-laws gave the president full control over the affairs of the Society. However, this was not Pastor Russell’s wish. In his last will and testament he had provided for a seven-man board of directors to succeed him. Four members of the Society’s Board of Directors, a majority of the Board, took strong exception to what they regarded as Rutherford’s high-handed behavior and opposed him. Eventually tension between Rutherford and the directors grew and on July 17, 1917, Ruther­ford simply announced to the Bethel family in Brooklyn, New York, during meal time that he had replaced the four directors with his own appointees, using the legal jargon that the directors who had opposed him did not hold their positions legally under Pennsylvania law.

The Society would later claim that the deposed directors’ opposition was to the publication of The Finished Mystery, a book released to the Bethel family immediately after Ruther­ford took charge, and that it caused a heated, five-hour debate that followed his announcement. That book was styled the seventh volume of Pastor Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures and advertised as his “posthumous work.” Ru­therford falsely claimed that the four directors and others with them were refusing to cooperate with the Society. Even today Jehovah’s Wit­nesses are told that the four directors who were expelled from the Watch Tower headquarters were wicked and self-serving.

As early as 1917 Bible Students classes and individuals were withdrawing their support from the Society. The four directors along with other brethren formed an institute to continue the work of Pastor Russell, independent of the Society. Others would form corporations of their own. Some Bible Students followed the lead of their favorite elder or teacher. Still others, leery of organizations and societies, stayed independent of all others.

As the years went by, more and more of the brethren seeing a change of direction and attitude within the Society soon departed and thus the exodus started. By 1930 the majority of the brethren who worked closely with Pastor Russell had left the Society—many had been forced out. By this time, all of Pastor Russell’s writings were discarded in favor of the writings of Ruther­ford, writings that contradicted each other. By 1929 over a hundred changes in doctrines had been made; the Society no longer resembled that which was established by Pastor Russell and his early associates. The Society had a new look and a new attitude. No longer was it simply a publishing house for the dissemination of Bible literature. Now it was “God’s Theocratic Organization.” To disagree with it was tantamount to treason against God himself.

A New Name

In 1931 Rutherford decided to make a distinction between the independent Bible Students and those loyal to him. He changed their name to “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” The Society had become what they themselves ­abhorred in Christendom—a little Babylon. Those Bible Students remaining within the Society heard the admonition, “Get out of her my people!” and fled.

Even today the Watchtower organization describes members of the Bible Student community of that day as “wearing unclean garments,” being “contaminated by apostasy,” being “guilty of wrong practices,” and having “displayed characteristics that were weed-like,” “manifested fear of man,” and having “sold themselves because of wrong practices.” Today, although many of the original Bible Students have died, their children carry on. Children and grandchildren born decades after the events of 1917, even newcomers, are shown no mercy from the Society. These are considered evil and apostate, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are to have nothing to do with them. The Society has even gone so far as to state that Bible Students no longer exist, that they have died out and none remain.

A House Divided

After the death of Pastor Russell it was clear that the work he started should be continued. But who would continue it and how? It was obvious that the Society had no intention of carrying out his wishes as set forth in his last will and testament. The four ousted directors, having failed to secure their position on the board, along with other prominent Bible Students as individuals, congregations, and publishing houses, decided to do the job.

On August 15, 1918, the four ousted members of the board, along with former pilgrim Paul Samuel Leo Johnson, considered publishing The Bible Standard and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. They would soon have a falling out, and Johnson would go on to found what is today the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement [one of the unincorporated names used by Pastor Russell and the early IBSA] and publish independently of all Bible Students, introducing a new dispensation of views and doctrines. In December, 1918, Johnson published The Present Truth and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom; in 1920 he published The Herald of the Epiphany [later renamed The Bible Standard and Herald of Christ’s Epiphany]. Johnson taught that since Pastor Russell was the Parousia Messenger during the Lord’s parousia, he must be the Epiphany Messenger during the Lord’s epiphany. Johnson was a prolific writer; he penned the fifteen-volume Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures, two volumes of which were added after his death in 1950.

As was the case after the death of Pastor Russell, a number of schisms occurred after the death of Johnson. Raymond Jolly, a former Watch Tower pilgrim, took the reigns. No sooner than he did, disagreements occurred between Jolly and John Hoefle of Mount Dora, Florida, and John Krewson of Fort Myers, Florida, both pilgrims for the Laymen’s. Hoefle, who left the Society in 1928 and joined Johnson, was eventually disfellowshipped from the Laymen’s in 1956. He began publishing a newsletter under the banner of Epiphany Bible Students Association. John Hoefle died in the 1980s; his wife, Emily, continued the work until her death in 2007, and the work still continues under a new administration.

John Krewson was disfellowshipped in 1955 and formed the Laodicean Home Missionary Movement in Philadelphia. He claimed that since Pastor Russell was the “Parousia Messenger” and Johnson the “Epiphany Messenger,” he must be the “Apokalypsis Messenger” since he believed we are now living in the apokalypsis stage of the Lord’s presence. He published the three-volume Apokalypsis Studies in the Scriptures, and the monthly The Present Truth of the Apokalypsis. Krewson died in the 1970s; the work continued until1990 when it stopped.

Pastoral Bible Institute

After Rutherford’s victory, a number of prominent brethren withdrew their support. The first Bible Student Convention held independent of the Watchtower Society took place on July 26-29, 1918, in Asbury Park, New Jersey. In November a few months later two to three hundred brethren attended the second convention in Providence, Rhode Island. It was at this meeting that the Pastoral Bible Institute (PBI) was formed to resume Pastor Russell’s pastoral work independent of the Society. December 1918 saw the first issue of The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom; it was edited by R. E. Streeter until his death in December 1924. Today the Institute continues to publish The Herald along with other literature.

Watchers of the Morning

In the 1930s, some prominent members of the PBI influenced by the writings of both E. C. Henninges and M. L. McPhail—two prominent pilgrims who left the Society in 1909 ­because of some doctrinal disagreements with Pastor Russell—began to deny that Christ was present and other important doctrines held by the brethren. In 1936 Isaac Hoskins, a director of the Pastoral Bible Institute, and others withdrew from that association in a dispute over doctrinal matters and began publishing The Watchers of the Morning, a journal which continued until June 1957.

The Dawn Bible Students Association

By 1931 most of the Bible Student groups were falling apart or functioning as independent classes or individuals. Along came Norman Woodworth, a man who ran the Society’s radio program and was forced out in 1928. He began to air his own radio program with the help of the Associated Bible Students Brooklyn, New York. They produced a little paper, The Bible Students Radio Echoes, containing highlights of the radio program which was called Frank and Ernest. In 1931 a board of directors was elected. “Radio Echoes” evolved into The Dawn and Herald of Christ’s Presence, a bi-monthly journal in 1932. Later it became a monthly. The Dawn was able to regather many of the independent Bible Students. In the decades of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s the Dawn association grew as a result of an influx from disenchanted Jehovah’s Witnesses who had grown weary of the Watchtower’s doctrinal changes. The Dawn republished Studies in the Scriptures, countless books, booklets, tracts, and the DAWN magazine, along with producing video and audio presentations, for the Bible Student community to use in their witness work. Its radio and television programs are broad­cast around the world.

Despite the DAWN promoting itself as a “non-channel” organization, most Bible Students saw Norman Woodworth as the leader of the independent movement, and the DAWN as God’s de facto organization. That would later change as The Dawn began deviating from its doctrinal platform established at their inception.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s sound doctrines were being replaced by new teachings that many refused to accept.  Questions arose about financial matters that went unanswered.  They claimed that the Volumes contained thousands of errors and needed to be extensively edited.  Brethren began opposing the Dawn leadership.  Activities once performed by individual classes in cooperation with the Dawn were pulled back to headquarters. 

Numerous doctrinal changes emerged among Dawn leaders and followers, contrary to Pastor Russell’s teachings in the Volumes and Reprints. Some of these changes were published in the Dawn magazine and promoted from the platform at conventions.  These new teachings were also in contradiction to earlier Dawn literature. Older publications were reprinted with these new views without informing the brethren that the literature was a revision, giving the impression that new printings were just that, new printings and not revisions of earlier editions.  Like the Jehovah’s Witness, the DAWN leadership was guilty of promoting “New Light” for these changes.  Not all brethren were aware of these changes and they did not all appear in DAWN publications. Nor did all “Dawn Brethren” accept or support these views. For the sake of unity and the witness work, the DAWN encouraged the brethren to remain loyal, and the old “channel” concept was revived. 

 

 

As a result the brethren began to be tested once again.  A new exodus began as Bible Students disassociated themselves from the DAWN, financial support began to wane.  Many found themselves ostracized for opposing the Dawn’s new views.  Disenchanted DAWN members and supporters resigned. DAWN pilgrims began attacking those who refused to support the DAWN and warned the brethren not to attend conventions that were not sponsored by the DAWN. DAWN Pilgrims who did not support the changes were dropped from service. Families and classes began splitting. A new independent movement began, independent of the DAWN.

 The Christian Millennial Fellowship

 

The Stand Fast Bible Students ­Association

The Stand Fasters get their name from their determination to “stand fast on war principles that our dear Pastor Russell announced.” Charles E. Heard of Vancouver and many others felt that Rutherford’s recommendation in 1918 to buy war bonds was cowardice and a sacrilegious perversion of the harvest work. Feeling that Christians should not support the military in any way, including the buying of Liberty Bonds or involvement in non-combatant service, the Stand Fast Bible Students Association was organized on December 1, 1918, in Portland, Oregon. It published Old Corn Gems and organized conventions throughout the United States. The Stand Fasters accepted the seventh volume and were quite successful, especially among those who did not accept what they saw as compromises over the war issue.

They felt that the harvest was over, organizations were relatively unimportant, and they were organized simply to help each other learn about Pastor Russell’s teachings. Their opposition to public witness was the main reason they were one of the first groups to disintegrate. From the original twelve hundred adherents in 1919 in the northwest and near Wisconsin, this movement eventually disappeared.

The Elijah Voice Society

The Stand Fast was not without its schisms. In 1923 John A. Herdersen and C. D. McCray along with nearly 300 from the Stand Fast Bible Students organized the Elijah Voice Society to engage in an ambitious re­gathering and witness work. They published the Elijah Voice Monthly and numerous tracts, becoming one of the most prominent “seventh volume” groups. They felt they were “called to smite Babylon.” Long before Jehovah’s Witnesses they refused to salute the flag, buy liberty bonds, or contribute to the Red Cross. This group eventually disappeared.

The Servants of Yah

Probably the strangest of all Bible Student groups was headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, and led by C. H. Zook. They believed that Satan’s name was Jehovah, so Jehovah’s Witnesses were really Witnesses of Satan. They were Universalists who deny Armageddon, the flood, water baptism, the ransom, restitution, etc. They had branches in Levittown, New York, and Vienna, Austria. Their doctrines were similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses; only the 144,000 are destined to discover the hidden meaning of the Scriptures and enter heaven. The meaning is hidden partly because they believed our Bible texts were altered. They saw the Bible as primarily prophecy, most of which relates to the present century. They believed that everyone who ever lived will live forever in an earthly paradise except the 144,000 who will live in heaven. This group eventually disappeared.

Schisms Abroad

In other countries many Bible Students did not know what was really happening in the U.S. in 1917; it took time for some to analyze the events and leave.

The British Board of Directors took control of the “London Tabernacle” and formed the Bible Fellowship Union. They began publishing The Bible Students Monthly in 1924, later renamed The Bible Study Monthly so as not to be mistaken with the new Watch Tower which previously published a paper by that name. Albert O. Hudson became the general director and served in that capacity until his death at age 101 in 2000. Today it is run by an editorial committee.

 William Crawford, an original member of the British Board of Directors, caused its first split. He founded Old Paths Publications and produced the monthly journal Old Paths. Countless booklets, books, and tracts were produced.

In 1922 the New Jerusalem Fellowship was formed. They produced a monthly journal and numerous books and booklets before going out of existence in 1992.

At the time of the split in 1917, the Forest Gate Church was the second largest Bible Student group in England. F. G. Guard, father-in-law of William Crawford, led the class in ­divorcing themselves from the Society. In 1939 they started publishing The Forest Gate Church Bible Monthly, along with booklets and tracts. This group disbanded in 1979.

William Robertson formed the Bible Student Publishing Co. before the major split of 1917; he published a quarterly journal The ­Bible Student that was critical of both Pastor Russell and Rutherford. There were certain IBSA ­officials who joined after the split in 1917. This group stopped operations in the 1920s.

The Goshen Fellowship was formed as a result of the ministry of Jesse Hemery. He was undoubtedly the most prominent Bible Student in England, serving as Vice President of the IBSA, a position he held until 1946 since his appointment by Pastor Russell in 1901. He was disfellowshipped by N. H. Knorr in 1951. Although he accepted much of Pastor Russell’s interpretations, he did reject the second presence as being a current reality. Believing Revelation was to be fulfilled in the future, he wrote a few commentaries on Revelation and other books of prophecy. He died in 1963 at the age of 99. Frank Lewis Brown headed the group for many years, publishing Zion’s Herald, a monthly journal beginning in 1965. The group survived into the 1990s, and has since disbanded.

Adam Rutherford, a pyramidologist, found­ed The Institute of Pyramidology. A Bible Student who got most of his inspiration from the Great Pyramid, he published an extensive four-volume set on the Pyramid and its teachings, as well as the journal Pyramidology Monthly. He wrote numerous books, booklets, and tracts. His institute ceased operations a few years ago.

The Angel of Jehovah Bible and Tract Society

This organization was founded by Alexander F. L. Freytag who was branch manager of the Swiss Society and who disagreed with some of Pastor Russell’s views even while the pastor was alive. Yet Pastor Russell appointed him in 1898 as Branch Manager. In 1917 he started publishing his views using the Society’s presses and paper. He was ousted in 1919 by Rutherford. He published a four-volume set of Scriptural writings, mostly published in French. His writings have been translated from French into English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Dutch. He published his own hymn book (he wrote and composed all the music) as well as his own devotional book. He also wrote numerous booklets and tracts. He published two journals, a monthly The Monitor of the Reign of Justice and a weekly Paper For All. There are branch offices in Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. Members of this group view Freytag as “that Faithful and Wise Servant” of Matthew 24:45-47. This group also goes by the name Philanthropic Assembly of the Friends of Man, and The Church of the Kingdom of God, Philanthropic Assembly.

Berean Bible Institute (Australia)

This Bible Student group officially separated from the Society in 1918. It published the monthly The Voice and since 1917, the monthly People’s Paper as well as other books, booklets, and tracts.

New Covenant Fellowship

In 1908-09 E. C. Henninges, the Australian branch manager of the International Bible Students Association, and M. L. McPhail, pilgrim for the IBSA, withdrew their support causing the second largest split in the Society’s history, second only to the 1917 split. They produced a monthly journal The New Covenant Advocate and Kingdom Herald and ­numerous books, booklets, and tracts. After Henninges’ death, his work continued for some years; operations ceased by 1944. Most of the New Covenant Bible Students were left to fend for themselves. Many did not survive and splintered off into non-existence. The Free Bible Students, as they call themselves today, make up the largest Bible Student group in Australia. In recent years there has been a resurgence of Free Bible Student rallying under the new leadership of the Christian Millennial Fellowship.

The Christian Truth Institute

This organization was founded by Frederick Lardent of England. It published the monthly Gleanings for Truth Seekers as well as various booklets and tracts. This group died out.

The New Covenant Believers

Former Watchtower pilgrim M. L. McPhail, supposedly the most loved Bible Student next to the pastor himself, led the “New Covenant” Bible Students in the United States. He published a few books independently, mostly ­relying heavily on the writings of E. C. Hen­ninges. In 1908 they began publishing The Kingdom Scribe which ceased publication in 1975. They also published the Berean News, a small newsletter beginning in 1956; it continues today under the imprint of the Berean Bible Students Church in Lombard, Illinois.

Bible Students Today

Despite the many schisms in the past, today there are many ecclesias throughout the U.S., Europe, Canada, India, Asia, South America, and Africa, congregating during conventions, exchanging speakers and literature. Many Bible Student ecclesias publish their own monthly newsletters, tracts, and booklets; some have their own journals and ministries. There are many Bible Student committees made up of Bible Students of various ecclesias, to help others in poorer countries. There are Bible Student Retirement Centers in both the U.S. and Europe. They provide good opportunities for studies and fellowship.

Since 1982, International Conventions have been held throughout Europe, beginning first in Austria, then Germany, The Netherlands, France, Hungary, and Poland. There are various Bible Students camps for children during the summer. Dozens of conventions are held each year, lasting one to six days each, providing ample fellowship and spiritual food.

Since the fall of communism, brethren have been found throughout the former communist nations. What binds these brethren together? It is the Truth! It is a belief that Jesus Christ died once for all mankind, that through his ransom sacrifice he purchased every man, woman, and child. The first to benefit are his followers during the Gospel age, those who sacrifice their humanity to follow in the footsteps of their master and become joint heirs with him in the thousand-year kingdom to bless the world of mankind. The next to benefit is the world of mankind who will learn the truth during the kingdom and grow in grace and knowledge and eventually actual perfection. This is the theme of the Scriptures and a theme that has been carried forth by Bible Students since the days of Pastor Russell. 

The Italian Bible Students Association in Hartford, Connecticut, withdrew their support from the Society in 1928 and changed their name to Millennial Bible Students Church, then to its current name Christian Millennial Fellowship, Inc. (CMF). In 1940 they began publishing The New Creation—a Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. However a few years later Gaetano Boccaccio began to be influenced by the writings of Henninges and McPhail. The CMF eventually discarded most of Pastor Russell’s writings as error. Gaetano Boccaccio was its leader since its inception. He had been with the Society since 1917 and died in 1996. For over fifty years he led this group from Hartford. The group eventually reorganized and has relocated to New Jersey where it is headed by Elmer Weeks.

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Regathering

Carl Hagensick

Discouragement, disillusionment, and confusion reigned among the Bible Students after the death of their beloved Pastor in 1916. The bitter succession battle that saw the questionable election of “Judge” Joseph Rutherford, with its charges and counter-charges, left many brethren disenchanted and at a loss for direction. The uncertainty was further heightened as the official organization introduced change after change to the historic beliefs that the Pastor had eloquently espoused, and changed the emphasis from character development to marketing.

In reaction to the new circumstances within the Society, various groups were formed to try to recapture the vision of Pastor Russell. Three of the first to form, all in 1918, were the Stand Fast Bible Students Association, the Pastoral Bible Institute, and the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement.

The Finished Mystery

The breaking point for many came with Rutherford’s ouster of a majority of the board of directors, and, secondarily, with the publication of The Finished Mystery in 1917 and its subsequent partial renunciation by the Watch Tower Society in 1918. Purporting to be the posthumous work of Pastor Russell, this so-called “Seventh Volume” was an exposition on the books of Revelation, Ezekiel, and the Song of Solomon; it was co-authored by Clayton Woodworth and George Fisher at the direction of Rutherford. Its exegesis on Revelation was deemed speculative if not outright bizarre in places, by many in the movement. The last, greatly edited, edition of this book was published in 1927.

The Stand Fast Bible Students

When parts of the “Seventh Volume” were officially renounced by the Society in 1918, a few thousand, who felt the original anti-government position that was removed from the book should have remained, left that organization and some formed the Stand Fast Bible Students Association. The name “Stand Fast” was chosen to emphasize “standing fast” against the purchase of Liberty Bonds, a position then championed by the Society. The movement has since died out.

In 1922 a young brother, John Herderson, became convinced that Bible Students should become active in witnessing and preaching the impending doom of Babylon. After he failed to convince the Stand Fast community as a whole, he and C. D. McCray, formed the Elijah Voice Society within the Stand Fast movement to implement that mission. For the larger number of dissenters, the words “Stand Fast” took on the meaning, “Patiently stand fast in Bible study … until Christ’s kingdom would be established.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses

When Rutherford’s expectation that the ancient worthies would be raised in 1925 failed, he admitted to no mistake. Instead he changed the teachings, a few each year, and demanded that others “Keep up with the new light!” He changed the name to “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in 1931 and progressively seized control over local classes until he called it “God’s Theocratic Organization.” Others called it a ruthless takeover.

Joseph Franklin Rutherford

To disagree with the organization, or with him, became tantamount to treason against Jehovah God himself. Those who left or were disfellowshipped were not allowed further contact, and were to be shown no mercy.

The Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement

P. S. L. Johnson had been a prominent pilgrim under Pastor Russell. When his interpretations of the separation of Elijah and Elisha, and of “that evil servant,” caused him to be rejected from the editorial committee of the planned new journal at the Asbury Park, New Jersey, convention in 1918, he, Raymond Grant Jolly, R. H. Hirsh, and most of the Philadelphia congregation left. They formed the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement, and their intense witnessing efforts gathered a sizeable group of mostly former members of the Society as adherents. They held Pastor Russell in high esteem. A prodigious writer, Johnson produced a series of seventeen books under the general title of Epiphany Studies in the Scriptures. Abounding in typology, the LHMM categorized both prominent ones involved in their work, as well as those who differed with them, under various symbolic names. Teaching that the door to the High Calling was closed, they claimed Paul Johnson was the last member of the Church and his successor, Raymond Jolly, was the last member of the Great Company. Their two periodicals The Bible Standard and Present Truth continue to be published today.

P.S.L, Johnson

Two smaller groups split off from the LHMM. In 1955, Raymond Jolly withdrew the credentials as a pilgrim from John Krewson when Krewson began circulating an opposition paper. Krewson formed what came to be called in 1962 the Laodicean Home Missionary Movement in Philadelphia and published a journal entitled The Present Truth of the Apocalypsis. A year later John Hoefle of Mount Dora, Florida, also had his credentials withdrawn; he formed the Epiphany Bible Students Association. Hoefle taught that the door to the high calling had closed at a date later than the LHMM taught. He published a monthly newsletter that has been continued by his widow.

The Pastoral Bible Institute

After a new committee to provide spiritual food for the brethren was selected at a July, 1918, Asbury Park, New Jersey, convention, the committee adopted the name Pastoral Bible Institute (PBI) for the corporation formed there. The committee then called for a general convention to be held in Providence, Rhode Island, on October 18-20, later postponed to November 8-10, to “calmly and soberly consider matters of vital importance to the New Creation, and take counsel together as to the best methods of conducting themselves and the work of the ministry during this stormy time” (quotation from the Committee Bulletin, September, 1918). A similar convention was scheduled for the Midwest in St. Louis, Missouri, from December 6 to 8.

The business meeting formally endorsed the legal incorporation under the laws of the State of New York and empowered the directors of the PBI to publish a journal under the guidance of an editorial committee headed by Isaac F. Hoskins and Randolph E. Streeter. The first issue of The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom appeared in December of that year. In addition to the magazine, the PBI also opened an extensive pilgrim service serving isolated brethren and provided free literature for public distribution. Horace Hollister, P. L. Read, Paul Thomson, and Will Siekman were also active in this effort.

The outreach of the PBI, while designed for the general public, was particularly aimed at reaching disheartened members of the Watch Tower Society. As a result it became an umbrella group for brethren with a wide range of views on the Scriptures. This “open door” policy was distressing to many who felt it encouraged deviation from the truths they had learned from the ministry of Pastor Russell.

While maintaining an editorial view that mirrored the Pastor’s historical viewpoints in the pages of its magazine, it simultaneously stood in defense of the liberty of other brethren to hold a broad variety of differing interpretations; some of the PBI’s pilgrims also espoused diverse ideas. Three notable teachings were questioned by several: the doctrine of the Lord’s invisible return, the church having a share in the sin offering [though not in the ransom merit], and the time and scope of the New Covenant. In the 1990s the Institute returned The Herald to the historic Bible Student positions expressed in the writings of Pastor Russell.

Watchers of the Morning

At its annual meeting in 1936, the openness of the PBI’s doctrinal policy came into question. The directors who were divided on the subject, as well as the style of Hoskin’s leadership, placed two competing slates of candidates before the membership. When the votes were tallied, a majority voted to retain the liberal position. The directors who advocated changing to a more restrictive policy then severed connections with the PBI and began to publish their own journal, Watchers of the Morning, under the editorial direction of Isaac Hoskins. This magazine remained in publication until Hoskins’ death in 1957.

Reunion Conventions

In a continuing effort to reach out to all who had left the Society, a Reunion Convention was hastily organized at the old Bible House in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, November 1-3, 1929. This gathering attracted as many as 375 attendees and continued as an annual event for ten years. Speakers in the early conferences included George Wilson, J. G. Kuehn, Robert Lee Smith, Isaac Hoskins, A. L. Muir, J. J. Blackburn, Ernest Wylam, and H. A. Friese.

The Radio Work

Norman Woodworth, with John Dawson, created the first radio program for the Society in 1927. It was in the form of a dialog between “Frank [Fact Finder] and Earnest [Truth Seeker].” After airing a number of programs featuring the truths taught by Pastor Russell, “Judge” Rutherford informed Woodworth that henceforth Rutherford would write the scripts and Woodworth would deliver them. When Woodworth objected to that approach, he was summarily evicted from the Watch Tower Bethel Home.

He and Dawson left the Society in 1928 and associated with the Bible Students of greater New York. By 1931 the idea was proposed to restart the “Frank and Earnest” program under the auspices of the New York congregation and the first program aired over the powerful WOR radio station on April 12 of that year. Success was so gratifying that the class made the decision to continue broadcasting as long as finances permitted.

As the radio work expanded beyond the New York area, the “Dawn Radio Committee” was formed in the Greater New York congregation. Needing literature on a regular basis to send to those who responded to the radio messages, a small press was purchased and Woodworth wrote scripts, recorded the broadcasts, wrote a small journal, set the type, and printed it. The journal was originally entitled “Radio Echoes” and in 1932 was expanded and the name changed to “The Dawn.”

Woodworth actively promoted the radio project on numerous pilgrim trips for the PBI. When some PBI directors and members objected that witness work was a diversion from the pastoral work for which the Institute had been formed, the two activities were separated.

The Dawn Bible Students’ Association

The radio work led to the formation of a new service organization, the Dawn Bible Students Association, originally known as “Dawn Publishers.” Originally headquartered in Brooklyn, it later moved its facilities to larger quarters in East Rutherford, New Jersey. George Wilson, Don Copeland, G. Russell Pollock, and Edward Fay were also active in the radio work.

Driven by a vision to spread the good news of God’s plan, the Dawn soon expanded its activities into other fields. A variety of tracts and booklets was produced; the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures were reprinted; an active pilgrim service was initiated; and advertising campaigns were carried out in newspapers and magazines, including such illustrious journals as Readers’ Digest and National Geographic. In an attempt to encourage personal follow-up, a program was inaugurated with small postcard tracts called “Kingdom Cards” with addresses encoded so the ones distributing the tracts would receive any response to enable them to follow through with a visit, phone call, or letter.

General Conventions

The fellowship and spiritual refreshment were so great at a 1937 convention in Aurora, Illinois, that it was decided to hold a general convention under the joint-sponsorship of the Aurora, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Stevens Point, Wisconsin, congregations from July 2-4, 1938, at a Methodist campground in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

The next year the Pittsburgh and Chicago congregations sponsored a five-day convention at Epworth Forest at Lake Webster, Indiana. The following year it moved to the Miami Valley Chautauqua campground near Dayton, Ohio, where it continued to be held until 1944. After a three-year hiatus because of World War II, it resumed in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York, as a self-supporting convention. It has been held annually at various venues ever since. Peak attendance, during the 1950s, was about a thousand.

A New Schism

The early general conventions featured speakers holding a wide variety of scriptural interpretations. The PBI tended to sponsor pilgrims and convention speakers with differing doctrinal viewpoints, particularly on the second presence of Christ, the covenants, and the church’s part in the sin offering, while the Dawn held to a more rigid doctrinal standard. As a result, considerable friction developed. In 1941, when the sponsors of the general convention voted to have only speakers that held to the historic truths proclaimed by Pastor Russell, brethren who held the PBI position felt disenfranchised and started their own convention, initially in North Webster, Indiana, in 1950, with an attendance of 250. This developed into the Berean Christian Conference, currently held in Grove City, Pennsylvania.

Many classes also divided over the same issue with so-called “PBI” and “Dawn” groups meeting separately in a number of cities. Two later attempts to reconcile the differences and reunite the classes met with little or no success.

Network Broadcasting

The Frank and Earnest radio ministry had grown from one station to an average of seventy stations prior to the Second World War. With the ending of hostilities, the Bible Students considered a broader outreach. At the 1949 General Convention a motion was made to take up Good Hopes pledges to determine if sufficient funds would be available to broadcast the Frank and Earnest program nationwide. The proposal met with unanimous approval, and the programs began broadcasting weekly over 174 stations on the ABC network.

After a few years, the programs were switched to the Mutual Broadcasting System. Responses began flooding in to the Dawn and the need was felt to follow up on the interested names. Christian Zahnow and John MacAuley, Dawn pilgrims, began traveling to areas where there were a number of names and began organizing new classes where there were enough interested to do so.

The radio has also been used as a medium for their message by the Fort Worth Bible Students and the Winnipeg Bible Students. In recent years a radio call-in talk show, “Christian Questions,” featuring Rick Suraci and Jonathan Benson, has been airing weekly in Connecticut. There is also a call-in talk show on television from Tucson, Arizona, with John Harris.

The Divine Plan Movement

In the early 1950s dissension rose again. There were multiple causes for the new divisions. The Dawn leadership and pilgrims were perceived as presenting other viewpoints on justification, the role of Israel in Christ’s kingdom, the beginning date for the times of restitution and the millennial reign, and the chronological concepts of the jubilee. Some felt that the work of publishing and witness projects had become too centralized. After years of disagreement, a number of brethren organized a new general convention in Fort Collins, Colorado (later relocated to Denver).

The Fort Collins convention elders initiated a number of class-sponsored projects. Notable among them was the decision to publish a non-doctrinal journal to keep the brethren informed of activities, baptisms, deaths, conventions, and other news of interest to the fellowship. The original editors of The Bible Students Newsletter were Stanley Gorgas, Alvin Raffel, and Gilbert Rice. This periodical was shortly transferred to the Dayton (now Miami Valley), Ohio, ongregation.

In 1974 this convention was disbanded in favor of one in the Midwest under the joint-sponsorship of several classes in Indiana and Ohio. This conference has continued annually at a number of locations, with a current attendance of about 150. The platform of speakers is chosen based on a strict adherence to doctrinal viewpoints perceived to be the historic position of the Bible Student movement.

Decentralization resulted in a number of printing activities by different classes: New Brunswick, Chicago, Waterbury, Louisville (New Albany), Piqua, Oakland County Michigan, and other places produced public witness literature.

In the 1960s, exploratory endeavors were made to investigate the feasibility of a work in Japan. Robert Alexander and others organized The Divine Plan Foundation for the purpose. As the Japanese effort decreased in size, the Foundation turned its focus to funding several class-sponsored projects in other places.

George Wilmott of Fort Worth, Texas, began an extensive ministry in the preparation and airing of radio and television programs under the name The Divine Plan programs. To follow-up with the responses, he began the monthly Divine Plan Journal. He also reprinted the Divine Plan of the Ages in a magazine format and the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures plus Tabernacle Shadows in a single, hard-cover edition.

Reprinting Pastor Russell’s Writings

Another activity, also begun in the 1960s, was the reprinting of all the known writings of Pastor Russell. Over twenty books have been produced and have enjoyed a steady demand over the years.

Other congregations and individuals also print books for the movement. The Portland Area Bible Students publishes the works of John and Morton Edgar, Benjamin Barton, and Anton Frey. The New Brunswick, New Jersey, congregation printed two editions of Studies in the Scriptures that are thought to include the latest revisions of Pastor Russell, discovered after his death, as well as a comprehensive topical index. Waterbury, Connecticut, publishes the notes of Ludlow Loomis. New Albany, Indiana, has printed extensive notes on Revelation and Hebrews. Other individuals produce and publish treatises from time to time.

Although the writings of Pastor Russell republished by the Chicago Bible Students are now produced commercially, the first set of Watch Tower Reprints was printed by brethren on a press bought by George Tabac. This was formally organized as Bible Students’ Publications, and continues to produce materials for dozens of classes, as well as The Herald magazine, and many items for the Dawn Bible Students Association.

Youth Camps

Annual camps for young Bible students began in 1965 in Petersburg, Ontario. After two years in Canada, they were moved to various sites in Michigan. A second camp soon started in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. This evolved into the Midwest Youth Camp, which presently serves about a hundred young people. A committee of parents, as well as other interested brethren, plans this camp. Other camps have included ones in the Northeast, in Chicago, in the Northwest, the Southwest, and in Jackson, Michigan. The “Free Bible Student” movement also operates a series of camps at their own center at Camp Blessing near Wausau, Wisconsin, and at locations in Vermont and California.

International Conventions

In 1981 a committee was formed to organize an International Convention of Bible Students, which was held the following year in Kufstein, Austria. The organizing committee included Adolphe Debski of France, Hercules Gonos of Greece, Carl Hagensick of the United States, Bob Robinson of England, Lutz Ruthman of Germany, and Adam Zieminski of Poland.

This convention continues to be held every two years in various locations and has grown from an attendance of three hundred to about a thousand. After being held in various venues in Austria, Germany, Holland, France, and Hungary, it has been held in Poland since 2000.

Bible Students’ Retirement Center

Timothy Krupa envisioned the idea of a Bible Student Retirement Center and organized a board of directors to examine the feasibility of such a plan. As a result, a tract of land with a stately house in a Portland, Oregon, suburb was purchased with the help of gifts from many brethren. The Center began operation in 1985 and eventually twenty-eight living units were constructed. The Center provides both a pleasant physical and rich spiritual environment. Today it is filled to capacity and maintains a waiting list.

Work in Other Lands

For years the Dawn has had its magazine translated into many languages, as well as providing translations of other Bible Student material, and the sponsorship of its radio ministry. It has also provided traveling pilgrims around the world.

From the early 1940s, the Northwest Committee for India has provided logistical support for the brethren living in India. The work of that committee has been largely taken over by a new committee, appropriately called “The Friends of India.” Also active in providing assistance to that sub-continent is the Oakland County [Michigan] Bible Students and, recently the ministry of Global Solutions started by Larry Davis of Romania, formerly of Denver. This ministry is also active in Africa, specifically Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, and Ghana.

The elders’ meeting at the Fort Collins convention in 1971 authorized an exploratory trip by Carl Hagensick to see if it would be feasible to arrange for a follow-up activity in Africa. As a result of an encouraging report, the Bible Students’ Committee for Africa was organized and has found a steady growth of interest, not only in Nigeria, but in Ghana and other countries as well.

Robert Alexander broached the idea of expanding Bible Student activities to Japan. He, with Owen Kindig of Columbus, Ohio, became active in maintaining contact with brethren there. Today there is still a small number of Japanese brethren.

The class in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has given translation and literature support, as well as arranging regular pilgrim trips, to the Ukraine. A committee has also been established by brethren in Ohio to support activities in Romania.

New Witness Efforts

The various classes around the country have tried many forms of outreach to spread the gospel to those around them. While the number of these projects far exceeds the space available here, a few seem especially worthy of mention.

Television: After a trial effort in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1952, the development of TV programming was pioneered in Chicago under the direction of Alfred Burns. After an initial thirteen programs plus the half-hour color presentation King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, The Dawn took up the project and produced a number of television programs. When broadcasting costs became prohibitive, the service of Modern Talking Pictures was secured to place the programs in schools, churches, and other organizations. The Fort Worth Bible Students and the class in Winnipeg, Manitoba, also produced television programming. In more recent years it has been found more cost-effective to use spot announcements on television.

Audio-Video: Ken Wade Bordes, Frank Shallieu, and August Tornquist developed a three-screen multi-media presentation, The Third Temple, in the early 1970s. A few years later, George Tabac of Chicago produced a three-screen stereophonic presentation, For This Cause, that drew audiences of hundreds to many of its showings. This program along with several television programs was eventually placed on video and, in 2004, on digital video discs. Also widely distributed were two other programs produced in Columbus, Ohio: The Great Pyramid: Modern Wonder, Ancient Mystery; and Messiah, based on Handel’s classical masterpiece.

Israel: In the 1990s Kenneth Rawson and the New Brunswick congregation began an intensive ministry for the Jewish people, not only those in Israel but those residing around the world. This witness centered around the audio-visual presentation Israel: Appointment with Destiny, which was soon translated into a number of languages and enthusiastically received by Jewish audiences at exhibitions in synagogues and auditoriums throughout the world. The presentation was supplemented by a number of relevant booklets. Recently a second program directed toward Evangelical Christians has been completed.

Internet: The Internet has been effectively used by the Bible Student community worldwide. Different classes, service organizations, and individuals within the fellowship have established approximately fifty web sites. Most are located in America, Poland, Germany, France, England, Spain, Holland, Romania, and Australia. One site features the Divine Plan of the Ages in more than thirty different languages and is profusely illustrated. Two other sites, designed by Jordan Gray of Columbus, Ohio, are advertised on major internet search engines and produce numerous requests for free literature every month.

The computer has also been used as a means to connect the brethren through internet studies, with at least seven such studies being held each week. After Allen Springer of Ohio (now of Romania) spearheaded a project to computerize the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures and the Watch Tower Reprints, several computer programs of Pastor Russell’s writings and other Bible helps have been produced. Since then, others have used his work and further expanded on it, including the work of Jeff Mezera in his vast collection of material in the Bible Students Library and the assimilation of Bible Student writings with the popular On-Line Bible program, a work initiated by Peter Hill of Australia and completed by Mezera.

New Covenant Fellowship

In 1909 a division occurred in the Bible Student movement between M. L. McPhail and Pastor Russell over their understanding of the covenants and sin offering. McPhail and E. C. Henninges of Australia formed the New Creation Fellowship. They published a journal, The Kingdom Scribe. Over the years that movement has evolved into various separate but parallel groups. Two of these are perhaps the most prominent in the United States.

The Berean Bible Students was organized in 1926 when the expected resurrection of the Ancient Worthies failed to take place. It was an outgrowth of the Ukrainian Bible Students, later joined by several young people from the Polish Bible Students in the Chicago suburb of Cicero (now meeting in Lombard). Their stand for Christian liberty has resulted in a wide variety of scriptural interpretations. Because of this open approach they often term themselves “Free Bible Students,” emphasizing their claim to be free of all sectarian bondage.

The Christian Millennial Fellowship was formed in 1928 and was formerly a part of the Italian Bible Students Association. Gaetano Boccacio was the editor of their magazine, The New Creation, and was succeeded as editor by Elmer Weeks of New Jersey.

Two “general” conventions are held annually by these groups, the Berean Christian Conference in Grove City, Pennsylvania, and the Christian Believers Conference near Boston, Massachusetts.

With all of its offshoots, the Bible Student movement today numbers in excess of ten thousand spread over forty or more countries.

 

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Troubled Years (1916-1918)

James Parkinson

As 1916 began, Christ’s ransom and .the restitution hope for mankind were ..being preached far and wide. About eight million volumes of Studies in the Scriptures had already been circulated worldwide, colporteurs were distributing them on every continent, and Pastor Russell’s sermons were published weekly in over a thousand newspapers. But overseas work was being impeded by the war in Europe. Pastor Russell made no trips abroad that year. He was slightly ill as he began what turned out to be his last railroad trip, with destination Los Angeles. His discourse in that city was delivered with a weak voice and while seated, rather than with his usual ambulatory presentation. Afterward Joe Brown drove him and Menta Sturgeon to the railroad station for the return trip. On October 31 on the train near Pampa, Texas, the pastor died. The body was removed from the train in Oklahoma. A Presbyterian minister offered his home for the viewing of the body, although it was taken to the only mortuary in town. Helen Noah (later Williams, Swanson) and her carload were the first on the scene a few hours later.

Menta Sturgeon wired his wife that Pastor Russell had died. A. H. MacMillan intercepted the telegram at the Brooklyn Bethel home and wired J. F. Rutherford, then at a convention in Oakland, Maryland: “The old man is dead.”1 Rutherford came immediately to Brooklyn and took over.

Pastor Russell’s will had designated a five-member Editorial Committee: Wm. E. Page, Wm. E. VanAmburgh, H. Clay Rockwell, E. W. Brenneisen, and F. H. Robison. Then, “The names of the five whom I suggest as possibly amongst the most suitable from which to fill vacancies in the Editorial Committee are as follows: A. E. Burgess, Robert Hirsh, Isaac Hoskins, George H. Fisher (Scranton), J. F. Rutherford, Dr. John Edgar.” The declaration of “five” names, followed by six names, could possibly be because John Edgar (of Scotland) had died (although seemingly Rutherford’s name should have appeared after Edgar’s, if that were an added codicil), or because, as keeper of the will, he had added his own name. (It is said that Rutherford denied all requests to see the will.) Rutherford was added to the Editorial Committee.

At the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s next annual meeting on January 6, 1917, Rutherford insisted that some new by-laws needed to be passed in order to continue Watch Tower operations, though he did not allow the new by-laws to be read to the elders’ meeting or the membership meeting. Among the by-laws were provisions that votes for officers of the Watch Tower board would be counted only for those nominated, and that election as president of the Peoples Pulpit subsidiary would be for a life term.2 At the annual meeting A. H. MacMillan was chairman; for election as president he recognized only those who would nominate or second for J. F. Rutherford, and then those who moved and seconded that all votes be cast for him. Rutherford’s assertion in the January 15 Watch Tower that “There being no further nominations … Brother Rutherford was declared the unanimous choice of the convention as President of the Society for the coming year,” hardly seems to epitomize the matter.

Pastor Russell’s last will and testament left “all my voting shares … in the hands of five Trustees, as follows: Sr. E. Louise Hamilton, Sr. Almeta M. Nation Robison, Sr. J. G. Herr, Sr. C. Tomlins, Sr. Alice G. James. J. F. Rutherford convinced these five that it was contrary to law for them to vote those shares (which constituted a majority of all shares). It is unclear whether Rutherford then proceeded in the name of the Watch Tower to vote those shares himself, as he did in subsequent elections.

Rutherford’s efforts to establish control met increasing resistance from the majority of the board. On July 17, 1917,  Rutherford claimed the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society charter provided for the election of directors annually; thus only the three officers of the board (elected January 6) were “legally” members of the board. So he appointed A. H. MacMillan, G. H. Fisher, J. A. Bohnet, and W. E. Spill to replace Ritchie, Wright, Hoskins, and Hirsh.3 The board majority, joined by F. H. McGee, countered that officers of the board cannot be elected unless they are first members of the board; therefore, there are either seven members or no members. Both sides purchased legal opinions to support their claims. The ousted members decided not to institute legal proceedings, following 1 Corinthians 6:6,7.

A series of publications ensued from various sides, including:

w    Harvest Siftings (August 1917, by Rutherford)

w    Light After Darkness (September 1917, by the ousted board members)

w    Harvest Siftings No. 2 (October 1917, by Rutherford)

w    Harvest Siftings Reviewed (November 1917, by P. S. L. Johnson)

w    Facts for Shareholders (November 1917, by the ousted board members)

The Watch Tower proxies for the January 5, 1918,  annual meeting were solicited with Power of Attorney (granting the proxy holder the right to override the designated vote). About 13% of the votes recorded were for M. Sturgeon, A. I. Ritchie, H. C. Rockwell, I. F. Hoskins, R. H. Hirsh, J. D. Wright, and W. J. Hollister.4 The convention then voted to ask R. H. Hirsh to resign from the Editorial Committee.

Thereupon several withdrew to a hastily-convoked mini-convention at the Fort Pitt Hotel. A Committee of Seven was elected to carry on work outside the Watch Tower and IBSA (International Bible Students Association, as a voluntary association, not the British corporation of the same name). The first convention scheduled outside the IBSA was held on July 26-29, 1918, at Asbury Park, New Jersey. Two or three hundred attended the Providence, Rhode Island, convention on November 8-10, where it was resolved to form the Pastoral Bible Institute (PBI). The first board of directors consisted of J. D. Wright, chairman; Ingram I. Margeson, vice-chairman; I. F. Hoskins, secretary; P. L. Greiner, treasurer; H. C. Rockwell; F. H. McGee; and E. J. Pritchard. (The Committee of Seven was dissolved.) The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom (The Herald) journal commenced publication in December under an Editorial Committee of I. F. Hoskins, Randolph Elwood Streeter (Providence, Rhode Island), I. I. Margeson (Westwood, Massachusetts), H. C. Rockwell, and Dr. S. N. Wiley (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania). PBI offices were in Brooklyn, New York.

When P.S.L. Johnson, Raymond Grant Jolly, and Robert Hirsh were not re-elected to the Committee of Seven, they, with most of the Philadelphia church, severed association with the Committee. Johnson began publishing The Present Truth and Herald of Christ’s Epiphany in December, 1918. The Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement (L.H.M.M.) was organized in 1920 and The Herald of the Epiphany issued regularly for public witness work. (In 1952 the name was changed to The Bible Standard.) The L.H.M.M. calls Pastor Russell the Parousia Messenger, and P.S.L. Johnson the Epiphany Messenger.

When the so-called “seventh volume” of Studies in the Scriptures was published in July 1917, suggesting that the Gospel age harvest period was to end in the spring of 1918, the ibsa classes in the Pacific Northwest backed it all the way. But C. E. Heard, of Vancouver, and many others felt Rutherford’s recommendation in the spring of 1918 to buy war bonds was cowardice, and sacrilegiously perpetuating harvest work. The Stand Fast Bible Students Association was organized on December 1, 1918, at Portland, Oregon. It published Old Corn Gems (Joshua 5:11,12) monthly, and organized many conventions in the Northwest and even in the Midwestern states. Perhaps 40% of the Watch Tower adherents in the Northwest left in favor of the Stand Fasts. Many (non-doctrinal) divisions followed a Seattle convention in July 25-27, 1919.

In 1922 John A. Hardeson and C. D. McCray organized the Elijah Voice Society for an ambitious regathering and witness work. They published the Elijah Voice Monthly, and became the most prominent “Seventh Volume” group.

In 1923 Ian C. Edwards and C. E. Heard organized the Stand Fasts into the Star Construction Company in Victoria, British Columbia, although Heard was persuaded by his wife to stay in Vancouver. Fearing the prophesied time of trouble, Edwards in 1924 took the company of more than three hundred to Sooke and the Gordon River on the southwest part of Vancouver Island. Because the business failed in 1927, most packed up and went home.

From twelve hundred adherents in 1919 in the Northwest and near Wisconsin, these “Seventh Volume” movements have dwindled to near vanishing.

Overseas, Alexander Freytag started the largest movement to break with the IBSA: the Man’s Friends group (or Philanthropic Society). They numbered several thousand until the French and Swiss groups divided.

In Great Britain, Jesse Hemery was progressively centralizing power in himself5 but was opposed by Henry J. Shearn and Wm. Crawford. P. S. L. Johnson was sent by J. F. Rutherford to England, where he expelled Shearn and Crawford. Secession from Hemery and the Watch Tower Society progressed rapidly after World War I ended. The Bible Students Committee was constituted on April 5, 1919, in London to coordinate publishing, pilgrim service, etc., outside the ibsa. Its seven initial members were H. J. Shearn, W. Crawford, and Frank B. Edgell of London (west side); Fred G. Guard, Sr. and Alex Guy of Forest Gate (London east side), William Seager of Ipswich; and George B. Tharratt of Bishops Stortford. (The Committee was dissolved in 1945.) Edgell began publishing Fellowship in 1923. Shearn began publishing the B.S.C. Monthly (then Bible Students Monthly until 1951, now Bible Study Monthly) in 1924. Crawford commenced The Old Paths in 1925 (continuing to 1961).

In Australia, R. E. B. Nicholson rejected the “Seventh Volume” and in 1918 formed the Berean Bible Institute in Melbourne; it began publishing Peoples Paper which continues today.

In India, S. P. Devasahayam (“Davey”) from near Nagercoil had begun the work in 1912, including the translation of Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 1, into Tamil and then Malayalam. After Pastor Russell’s death, contact with the Watch Tower was lost for many years, but contact with the PBI was quickly estabished.6 Davey appointed V. Devasandosham to succeed him around 1920, and he organized the Associated Bible Students (later, India Bible Students Association) and centered the work in Madras.

In Germany and Switzerland, Samuel Lauper published Herold des Königreiches Christi, which was the German Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. He also published a German translation of R. E. Streeter’s two Revelation volumes.

Polish activity outside the Society began with the journals Strasz [Watchman] in 1923, edited by R. H. Oleszynski, and Bzask Nowej Ery [Dawn of a New Era] in 1930. Oleszynski also translated the six volumes and Tabernacle Shadows into Polish.

Probably a few thousand left the ibsa in the U.S. and Canada at this time, and many thousands overseas. Of the several groups, all continued to stress Ransom and Restitution. While the Stand Fasts, Elijah Voice Society, P. S. L. Johnson, and A. Freytag all believed the door to the high calling was now closed and that the hope of newcomers would be restitution on earth, Johnson rejected The Finished Mystery as the “seventh volume” of Studies in the Scriptures, and hence was not associated with the other two groups. Freytag’s claims to direct divine revelations were a concern to those outside his group.

The PBI, Bible Students Committee [England], and similar committees on the European continent (also in India), and the Berean Bible Institute (Australia), all stressed that the high [heavenly] calling remained open (though the called, chosen, and faithful were getting fewer), that Christ’s second presence had occurred, Israel was to return to her land, and the end of the present evil world would occur soon. It seems a majority of those with the heavenly hope eventually left the ibsa, though not all for the same reason.

In the 1920s F. H. Robison contacted Adolph Ernst Knoch of the Concordant Publishing Concern, then in Los Angeles, and was converted to universal reconciliation. He soon persuaded Menta Sturgeon, O. L. Sullivan, Walter H. Bundy, W. T. Hooper, and most of the ex-IBSA Bible Students in Finland and Sweden to go with him.

Of Pastor Russell’s nieces and nephews, Alice Land Williamson was sister-in-law to A. Ed. Williamson, a leader in the 1909 New Covenant movement; Ada Land White, in Kansas, followed P. S. L. Johnson; May F. (“Thelma”) Land Kendall, in Florida, and Joseph Russell Land, in Atascadero, California, associated with the Dawn. None stayed with Rutherford.

Prominent Personnel

Many who had been with Pastor Russell were well known to Bible Students around the U. S. and Canada, and some overseas also. All were well versed in Scripture.

Alfred I. Ritchie (1871-1946): Watch Tower Vice-President. The principal administrator of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, including its main office and publishing plant. Originally from Nova Scotia. A capable administrator, though not gifted as a leader.

Alex Hugh MacMillan (b. 1877): The greatest orator the ibsa had. Widely known for his September 1914 discourse, “I Am Ready to Be Offered,” in which he said, “This is positively my last public address on this side of the veil [meaning in this life].” But Pastor Russell then persuaded him to speak at the New York Temple the following Sunday. (MacMillan did not get along well with A. I. Ritchie and several others at the Bethel home.) He apparently was given charge of the Brooklyn Bethel, home for the Watch Tower workers, in 1916.

William E. VanAmburgh (d. 1947, age 83): Secretary/Treasurer of the Watch Tower. Originally from South Dakota. A man of financial integrity. Some gift for writing, including poetry.

Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1861-1942): From a large Calvinist family; formerly a small-town lawyer in Missouri; at least once appointed to serve as judge in a case; politically active in Democratic politics. Custodian of Pastor Russell’s last will and testament. Apparently dismissed from Bethel in early 1915, living in Monrovia near Los Angeles, working as a lawyer for a department store in Los Angeles. Forceful in disposition and persuasive. Debated Rev. John H. Troy at First Baptist Church in Glendale, California, April 21-24, 1915.

Clayton Woodworth (d. 1951, age 81): A bright idea-man, living in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In 1907 he had assembled a Bible commentary from Watch Tower publications, called the Berean Comments.

James Dennis Wright (d. circa 1920): Elderly, of gentle manner. The senior member of the Watch Tower board of directors.

Isaac F. Hoskins (d. 1957): An able journalist. Often had a sharp tongue for those who differed with him. One of many Hoskins brothers and sisters in the ibsa. A Watch Tower director.

Paul Samuel Leo (formerly Levitsky) Johnson (1873-1950): A converted Jew, then Lutheran pastor, and then one of Pastor Russell’s personal secretaries and Watch Tower pilgrim. A brilliant man, delved heavily into Bible types. A strong leader, though controversial.

Robert H. Hirsh (d. 1949): An able journalist.

Fredrik Homer Robison (1885-1932): Formerly Disciples of Christ, later a personal secretary to Pastor Russell. Perhaps the most scholarly in the Watch Tower office.

Menta Sturgeon (d. 1935): An able speaker. Older than most of the others. Was Pastor Russell’s personal attendant on his final train trip to and from Los Angeles.

John G. Kuehn: Had a large Ohio family, all in the ibsa. Managed the extensive Watch Tower pilgrim work.

Henry Clay Rockwell (d. 1950): On the Editorial Committee, but a relatively new member of the Watch Tower board of directors.

Francis H. McGee: A lawyer in Freehold, New Jersey. Assistant to the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey.

Charles E. Heard: A Watch Tower pilgrim from Vancouver, British Columbia.

George H. Fisher (d. 1926): Another in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Active also in the German Watch Tower. (In 1926 urged the German classes to disfellowship J. F. Rutherford.)

R. Hipolit Oleszynski (1857-1930): Polish immigrant to Chicago. Active in Watch Tower work in the USA since 1891, and intermittently in Poland since 1894.

Jesse Hemery (b. circa 1863, d. 1963): Manager of the ibsa (the British subsidiary corporation of the Watch Tower) in London, England.

Henry J. Shearn (d. 1946): Secretary of the IBSA in London.

William Crawford (d. 1957): From Scotland. Treasurer of the ibsa in London.

R. E. B. Nicholson (d. 1955): Former colporteur. Manager of the Australian branch of the Watch Tower since 1909.

Alexander Freytag (1870-1947): Manager of the Watch Tower office in Switzerland. Capable in the French language, but also in German and English.

 



1. It Is perhaps possible the wording was a coded message, rather than simply disrespectful.

2. J. F. Rutherford was the only one seeking that office.  (The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society was a Pennsylvania corporation; the Peoples Pulpit Association was a New York subsidiary, incorporated to do business in that state when Watch Tower offices ere moved to Brooklyn, New York.)

3. The simultaneous release of “The Finished Mystery,” advertised as the “seventh volume” of Studies in the Scriptures, appears to have been irrelevant to the arguing that followed this move.

 4.. If the shares C. T. Russell had contributed to the Watch Tower were excluded, this percentage might have been closer to 16%.  Had Power of Attorney not been exercised, it is unknown how much higher it would have been.

5. .Hemery later published Futurist interpretations of Revelation, but he could not be forced out of the London Bethel home because of a lifetime contract with the ibsa.

6. A letterfrom S. P. Davey of S. Travencore appears already in The Herald of December 15, 1918.

 

 

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The Harvest Movement

Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest
I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them
in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.—Matthew 13:30

Charles Redeker

In the latter part of the nineteenth century the religious movement known today as the Bible Students had its beginning. It was both a successor to previous reform efforts and the source of fresh outpourings of truth that providentially had become due.

The Reformation of the sixteenth century under Martin Luther and others had struck a bold blow against the medieval church practices and reestablished the rightful place of the Bible in its stead. This began a sweeping work of doctrinal cleansing with periodic bursts of fervor in succeeding years that was particularly strong in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Especially in the United States the atmosphere of political and religious freedom stimulated the birth of independent religious movements that participated in a further refining process and recovered additional lost truths. Perhaps the most thorough of all the reforms was brought about by the Millerite movement, which attracted widespread attention to a literal expectation of Christ’s return. Though ending in keen disappointment, it left a sanctifying mark upon the believers and prepared the way for fresh revelations of Bible truth.

By the year 1846 two contrary forces were at work in the Protestant religious world. On the one hand, scattered small groups of dedicated believers had become separated from the larger, established bodies and were in agreement on these basic points of Bible teaching:

The Bible revered as God’s inspired word and sole source of authority … Salvation by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ … Simplicity of church organization … The priesthood of believers and their equality in God’s sight … Immortality as a gift of God conditional upon faithfulness, not inherent in the soul … The dead sleeping peacefully until the resurrection … Baptism by immersion, a symbol of full consecration … The need for personal holiness in the Christian life … The nearness of the second coming of Christ … The purpose of the coming to exalt the church and to set up God’s kingdom on earth.

On the other hand, the Evangelical Alliance had just been formed in London. This was an organization of more than fifty orthodox church groups that wanted to maintain the traditional beliefs of evangelical Protestants and to promote interdenominational unity. As such it is recognized as the early forerunner of the modern ecumenical movement. Among the nine cardinal points it stressed were:

The Trinity and the unity of the “Godhead” … The incarnation of the Son of God (Christ appearing in the first advent as the God-man in the form of flesh) … The immortality of the soul … The resurrection of the body … The eternal punishment of the wicked in hell fire … The Christian ministry (clergy) as divinely instituted (exclusive to their own group).

Thus some of the very doctrines that were being discarded in the light of advanced Bible study were given new emphasis and held up as the mark of orthodoxy. In this way the Alliance served to keep the large groups of “nominal” Christians shackled in Dark Age creedal misconceptions and separate them from the little handful which had been “cleansed” of these errors. And so, as the nineteenth century progressed beyond the midway mark, the stage was set for some unique additional developments on the religious scene.

Early Beginnings

The birth of the Bible Student movement may be traced to the year 1876 when Charles Russell, a successful young businessman from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was elected pastor of a small Bible study group that had been meeting in the north side of that city (then called Allegheny). Having been disenchanted with many of the orthodox teachings of the larger churches, especially the belief that eternal torture was the fate of all but the saints, this group began an independent study of the Bible to determine what it revealed of the character of God and of the divine purpose for mankind. It soon became evident to them that the Bible as a whole had been badly misinterpreted: that the traditional creeds of the faith, though containing some elements of truth, did not properly reflect the great love of God toward his creation, nor depict his comprehensive plan of redemption and blessing. They also became convinced that they were living somewhere near the close of the age when a clearer unfolding of the Father’s plans and purposes was promised to the diligent truth seeker. This early period was a time of growth in grace and in knowledge and of laying a strong foundation for fresh light to follow.

For a time in his youth it seemed most unlikely that Charles Russell would develop such an intense interest in the Bible or pursue the Christian ministry as his main focus. Although born in 1852 of Christian parents and brought up in the Presbyterian Church, and later joining the Y.M.C.A. and the Congregational Church, he was unable to defend the catechism, especially the belief that a majority of mankind was predestined to a hell of eternal torment. In attempting to reclaim a friend to Christianity he found himself overwhelmed at the apparent logic of infidelity and soon became a skeptic himself. Yet in short order, by God’s providence, he was led to see a distinction between the creeds of men and the true teachings of the Bible. This provided the motivation to examine the Scriptures in depth to determine if they held the secrets of God’s plan with respect to humanity; and if they depicted a God who was worthy of worship and devotion.

Pastor Russell freely acknowledged the influence and assistance of other earnest students of the Word in helping to shape his own thoughts and convictions. The Adventists were instrumental at a critical period in reestablishing his faith in the Bible, and subsequently in emphasizing the role of time prophecy in relation to other truths. In later years he gratefully recalled the part that George Stetson and George Storrs (editor of The Bible Examiner) had played in uncovering the broad outlines of God’s plan of salvation and, equally important, in unlearning certain long-cherished erroneous views that had veiled its full appreciation.

Advancing Light

Among the beliefs that were grievous to Pastor Russell and his associates was the expectation of Christ’s return in the flesh to be followed by the end of the world—meaning that the earth and all in it, except a few saints, would be burned up and destroyed. A string of failed time settings for this event by a number of sects, and accompanying crude ideas relating to the second advent, led Pastor Russell to write a pamphlet (in 1877) entitled “The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return”; it had an initial printing of 50,000. The treatise pointed out that Christ’s return would not be in a visible body as commonly believed, but as a mighty invisible spirit being to reign upon the earth, to set up God’s long-promised kingdom, and to bring restitution blessings to earth’s teeming masses.

Even earlier, in 1872, a clear view of the ransom doctrine had been gained, and its fundamental importance in the program of redemption appreciated. Most Christians gave assent to the atoning sacrifice of Christ, but failed to understand either how it accomplished a satisfaction of divine justice, or that it actually guaranteed a full opportunity for gaining everlasting life. Pastor Russell recognized that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice affected every other Bible truth, as the hub of a wheel from which all other spokes radiated outward. Because all hope of future life and blessings of restitution in the kingdom were seen to depend upon it, the Ransom became the core doctrine of the movement.

Early in his ministry the Pastor’s attention was drawn to a Bible chronology first introduced by Rev. Christopher Bowen of England (about 1830), which indicated that the first six thousand years of man’s history would terminate in the year 1872. This realization, combined with the prophetic understanding gleaned from Adventist sources that Christ had returned as Lord of the harvest, led him to deduce that a gathering and reaping work was then due among the Lord’s people. This gave the impetus to begin preaching with great ardor and enthusiasm the good tidings of ransom and restitution, two salvations (heavenly and earthly), the return of Christ, and the nearness of the kingdom. In harmony with the prophecies of Daniel 12:12 and Luke 12:37, it was a time of blessedness as accumulated errors of past centuries progressively gave way to a flood of scriptural light and to clearer insights into the divine plan of the ages.

Consolidating the Work

As Pastor Russell began traveling and preaching the new found truths, at first from New England to the Midwest, much interest was aroused. At the same time it came to be recognized that a monthly religious journal which fully reflected these truths would be helpful in holding and developing the new interest. This led to the reissuance of Herald of the Morning, a former Adventist-oriented publication, in a cooperative effort with other early associates in the work (Nelson Barbour, J. H. Paton and others). It was followed in 1879 by an entirely new publication, Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, issued from Pittsburgh with an initial printing of six thousand copies. Pastor Russell himself became editor, with five others originally listed as regular contributors. For almost forty years the journal was a mainstay of the movement and was received eagerly by Bible students everywhere, reaching a peak subscription of about fifty thousand by 1915.

The first words of the journal significantly stated the object of its publication: To fully awaken “the household of faith” … to the fact … “that we are living ‘in the last days’ … of the Gospel age,” and pointed out that a new day was dawning with the invisible presence of the Lord. It observed that not only was the end time becoming “discernible by the close student of the Word,” but also by the world at large through manifestation by many outward signs. Subsequent issues elaborated on such signs as global preparations for war, the decline of spirituality, scientific and technological advances of the new day, growing unrest of the masses, a drive for unity among the churches, and renewed interest in regathering the Jews to Palestine.

Counterbalancing the emphasis on prophetic unfolding of events were articles on Christian life and doctrine to assist the believer in making progress in the way. These touched on vital areas, such as the ransom sacrifice, the atonement, the sin offering, the three great covenants and the development of the fruits and graces of the spirit in order to gain greater character likeness to Christ. The twofold objective was to awaken readers to realities of the new era, and “to assist them to put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to stand in the evil day.” In so doing, Pastor Russell believed he was actively engaged in the grand work of reaping and gathering together the wheat in the harvest (end period) of the age, preparatory to the full establishment of the kingdom.

The next effort was to organize Bible classes wherever interest in the truth message was shown. This was done in concert with associated believers by traveling to those areas where subscribers to the Watch Tower magazine were located. In the years 1879 and 1880 alone, about thirty congregations were founded in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Ohio, and Michigan. Pastor Russell himself visited these classes and spent at least a day in intensive Bible study with each group, lecturing and answering questions of interest. The purpose was not to establish another denomination but to provide for voluntary association of Bible believers, unfettered by imposed creeds.

In later years this procedure of encouraging and serving the brethren at large became characteristic of Pastor Russell’s ministry and reflected his zeal for the Lord and love for the “Truth people.” Subsequently hundreds of congregations across the land sprang up and elected him as their Pastor. (By 1916 there were twelve hundred such Bible classes worldwide.) They appreciated his doctrine, his exemplary manner of life, and his warm, kind personality. In traveling constantly as a public lecturer and regularly serving these many classes, Pastor Russell later came to be known as the “ubiquitous (widely-traveled, omni-present)  preacher,” a phrase coined by the London Press, which also said that he “had the world for his congregation.”

One of his earliest substantial works was a comprehensive 64-page booklet entitled Food for Thinking Christians, published in 1881. It summarized the main doctrinal views of the Bible Students and exposed some of the erroneous beliefs of the nominally Christian churches. It also included a comprehensive “Chart of the Ages” with full explanation, illustrating the plan of God for developing the church, blessing the world, and destroying the incorrigible in second death. More than a million copies of the booklet were distributed free of charge. The success of this effort led to the formation of the Zion’s Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society which thereupon specialized in the distribution of books and tract materials to further the work of the movement.

Further Outreach

In 1881 the Society put out a call for Christian laborers, termed “colporteurs,” to offer Watch Tower subscriptions and distribute various tracts. By 1886 their number had grown to some three hundred workers, mostly part-time, and had become an integral part of the ministry. Pastor Russell urged any and all who had been reached by the truth message to devote whatever they could to sharing the good tidings with others by preaching and handing out literature. Some from all walks of life, in this country and abroad, eagerly responded to the call, reflecting the depth of their convictions and the enthusiasm of their leader.

As the light of truth continued to unfold, Pastor Russell saw the need for putting forth a comprehensive exposition of the inspired word that would harmonize the entire Bible. He wanted a topical study that would delineate God’s principles, laws, and promises as well as explain scriptural types, symbols, allegories, and prophecies, all in their correct time setting. The result was a six-volume series under the heading of Millennial Dawn (later changed to Studies in the Scriptures), written between 1886 and 1904. To this day many consider it to be the foremost aid to Bible study ever produced, revealing God’s majestic plan for uplifting mankind. The series became another mainstay of the movement, particularly the first volume, The Divine Plan of the Ages, which reached the phenomenal circulation of about 4.3 million in Pastor Russell’s own lifetime.

Pastor Russell’s prodigious writings were characterized by an easy flowing style that contrasted sharply with the complex theological treatises of his day and were well received. The enthusiasts ranged from farmers to businessmen, from prisoners to pastors, and from conscientious objectors to military generals. Despite heavy demands, such as a growing staff of workers at the headquarters office in Allegheny, correspondence that some years topped 300,000 replies, editing the Watch Tower magazine, and extensive travels at home and abroad, he was still able to find time to produce a vast number of tracts and other materials. Some of the leading booklets he wrote were What Say the Scriptures About Hell (1896, 3 million copies), What Say the Scriptures About Spiritism (1897, 500,000 copies), The Parousia of our Lord (1898, 300,000 copies), and The Bible Versus the Evolution Theory (1898, 400,000 copies). The high circulation was achieved by door-to-door distribution and by handouts to churchgoers on Sunday mornings.

As the number of Bible Students increased and the monthly circulation of the Watch Tower magazine passed ten thousand, regular conventions were scheduled to build up the brethren spiritually. In 1893 the first national convention was held in Chicago for five days with an attendance of three hundred sixty. There were prayer meetings, discourses (an hour and a half in length), sessions devoted to answering questions, and an immersion service in which seventy were baptized. After 1898, convention gatherings became more frequent, both regional and general, and were often timed to take advantage of lower railroad rates for Expositions or special events. Their frequency increased from about three per year in early years such as 1899, to twenty regional gatherings of three days or more in 1909. These usually included special meetings for the public, which swelled the attendance even more, reaching a thousand in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in 1906, two thousand in Niagara Falls in 1907, and over three thousand in the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in 1912. Outside the United States a convention in Toronto, Ontario, in 1903 drew eight hundred brethren and over a thousand public; Kingston, Jamaica, in 1905 peaked at eight hundred; London, in 1907, about five hundred fifty; and Glasgow, Scotland, in 1908 numbered about eight hundred.

In 1894 another program was initiated to strengthen the movement. Twenty mature associates were sent out on weekends from Pittsburgh to visit nearby congregations, both to edify the brethren and to conduct public meetings. This developed later into a full-time activity known as the “pilgrim work.” It proved a valuable asset to maintaining contact with the growing number of classes and to help unify their thinking and beliefs. The pilgrims were full-time preachers traveling from one congregation to another, spending a day or two with each group. Their service was greatly appreciated by the brethren at large, who considered it a privilege to entertain them and enjoy their fellowship. The number of such pilgrims increased from just three in 1897 to twenty-five in 1905, and to nearly ninety in 1916.

Growing Public Awareness

Beginning in 1891, due to the growing interest in Europe, Pastor Russell made his first trip abroad. For two months he and his party toured Ireland, Scotland, Continental Europe, Palestine, part of Russia, Egypt, and England. He was greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm for truth that he found in some places, such as Scandinavia, and especially in England, Ireland, and Scotland, which he viewed as “fields ready and waiting to be harvested.” But in Russia, Turkey, and Italy he saw little readiness for the message. After his return the Society began publishing books in German, French, Swedish, Danish, Polish, and Greek. The first overseas branch office was opened in London in 1900. This was followed by a branch in Germany in 1903 and another in Australia in 1904.

Several other overseas trips culminated in 1911-1912 with a round-the-world tour to China, Japan, Korea, the Philippine Islands, India, the Near East, Greece, Italy, France, and England. There were several objectives: to ascertain prevalent social and religious conditions, to evaluate the methods and results of conducting foreign missions by the established churches, and to draw international attention to the “Truth movement” and its unique message of the harvest time. It gave tremendous momentum to yet another effort that had opened up—the syndicated publishing of Pastor Russell’s weekly sermons in newspapers in the United States, Canada, and Europe. These appeared regularly in over two thousand newspapers with a combined circulation of over fifteen million.

Pastor Russell’s increasing popularity and the remarkable growth of the movement were not without opposition. Despite his favor with the general public, his work aroused vigorous resistance from many of the clergy. They frowned on his lack of seminary credentials, de-emphasis of church organization, and his denunciation of many of the orthodox doctrines of churchianity. At first they attempted to defend their beliefs in a series of public debates, such as the six-day encounter featuring Dr. E. L. Eaton at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Hall, before record audiences. But even the most skillful of the ministers could not effectively meet the scriptural arguments advanced by Pastor Russell, resulting in continued loss of membership in many established churches. This precipitated a new line of attack: vicious attempts were made to smear the personal character of the Pastor and further, to portray him as the head of a cult that was not truly Christian. Though wholly unfounded, such criticism stalked the movement, found acceptance among many evangelical groups, and has persisted to this day.

End-Time Emphasis

Throughout his ministry, Pastor Russell stressed that the biblical “end times” had begun, and he looked for various prophetic fulfillments that were due. Among these were the return of God’s favor to the Jews and their regathering back to Palestine, the land of promise, from all the countries in which they had been scattered. But instead of seeking converts from the Jewish community, he counseled them to believe God’s promises that they would be restored as a nation and eventually exert a leading role in the earthly phase of God’s kingdom to bless all nations. This sympathetic view and special message of comfort to the Jews earned him the title of “Christian Zionist” and prompted invitations to speak before large Jewish audiences, such as the four thousand at the Hippodrome in New York City in 1910.

The year 1914 figured prominently in Bible Student prophetic expectations and carried with it some disappointment and grief. That year was thought to mark not only the turning point of God’s dealings with the nations (the ending of the “Times of the Gentiles” prophecy), but the completion of the church and inauguration of the kingdom as well. Though these latter expectations did not come to pass, they stimulated an intensive worldwide preaching effort beginning in 1909 that was extraordinary by any measure. Colporteurs and other volunteers gave zealously of their time and effort to preach. Millions of copies of a new series of tracts called “People’s Pulpit,” “Everybody’s Paper,” and “The Bible Students Monthly” were distributed, in addition to the usual pamphlets and books. Each month a new message was aimed at clarifying a basic teaching of Scripture and exposing false doctrines of “orthodox” religion. Also a “class extension” activity opened up in 1911 that was directed specially toward the public. In that year alone over twelve thousand public and semi-public lectures were given, mostly by a group of fifty-eight qualified speakers.

The climax of these energetic activities was reached in 1914 with The Photo-Drama of Creation, a unique state-of-the-art audio-visual production depicting God’s plan of the ages from earth’s creation to its perfection in the thousand-year reign of Christ. It required two full years and $300,000 to complete, and consisted of hand-colored slides and moving pictures synchronized with phonograph records of voice and music. The showings were put on without charging admission (“Seats Free—No Collection”), aroused considerable interest, and were enthusiastically received. Due to the extraordinary eight-hour length, the presentation was shown on four successive nights. It was a powerful witness, given to over ten million people in major cities at home and abroad, from 1914 to 1916.

Evaluation and Legacy of the Early Days

When Pastor Russell died in 1916 at the age of 64, it brought great sadness to the Bible Students. No doubt his great dedication to the work and the stress of ceaseless labors without adequate rest contributed to his demise. Throughout his ministry he made no claim of direct revelation from God, and considered himself more in the role of compiler of lines of truth from various Christian sources rather than as the discoverer. In a sketch of the early days of the movement, the Pastor described himself simply as “an index finger” used of God to help others trace “the wonderful plan of God” as recorded in the sacred pages of Scripture. He said further, “Neither is this clear unfolding of truth due to any human ingenuity or acuteness of perception, but to the simple fact that God’s due time had come.”

A majority of his followers, however, were convinced that he had fulfilled a special role in God’s sight: that he held the scriptural office of that “wise and faithful servant” of Matthew 24:45 and was given a charge over the household of faith to serve spiritual meat in due season. Further, that he was the seventh and last messenger to the Church during its historical course of development, specially noted as Jesus’ mouthpiece to Laodicea (Revelation 1:16; 3:14).

The movement, seldom correctly assessed as to its overall influence due to strong clergy opposition, made a significant impact and provided a clear alternative to traditional “mainstream” beliefs. The Creator, instead of being cast as a wrathful and vindictive God, was portrayed as loving, wise, just, and powerful, deeply interested in humanity and its eternal salvation. The church, rather than basking in heavenly bliss in mansions of gold, was pictured as being destined to reign with Christ to bless the remainder of mankind. The masses of humanity were seen, not as predestinated for torment, but as being given a full and fair opportunity for everlasting life upon earth in the Millennial Kingdom. The incorrigible, after an adequate trial period, would eventually be destroyed by second death, and none would suffer everlasting torture.

The Dark Age dogmas of immortality of the soul, hell fire, and Trinity, were exposed as pagan concepts without biblical authority. There was a new emphasis upon the biblical end times that called for not doom and supernatural destruction, but an expectation of grand prophetic fulfillments. These spoke of a new day that had dawned in earth’s history and heralded Christ’s invisible presence, and the imminent establishment of God’s long-promised kingdom. Restitution blessings, the end of war and death, and the restoration to the original perfection lost in Eden were all seen as near at hand.

This was the unique legacy of the Bible Student movement, an altogether different mark than that left by traditional churchianity. It revived the pure doctrine of the early church, the “faith once delivered unto the saints”—a faith which had almost been exterminated by a successive series of secular philosophies. A worldwide witness was given, the work of gathering the wheat almost completed, and the hearts of faithful believers greatly refreshed. Many are convinced that the Pastor’s ministry represented a major thrust of our Lord’s commission for the “last days”: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

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Why Are Bible Students Called “Truth People”?

When the International Bible Students speak of themselves as truth people, do they mean that they alone understand God’s truth?

I SHOULD not put the matter in that form. My thought is that we are those who put the truth before anything else, we love the truth and would sacrifice anything we have for the truth. We are not putting creeds and traditions before the truth. We are not sacrificing the truth for any sect or party, but rather sacrifice sect and party, and even self, for the truth, because we understand that God has put the truth as his own representative. Jesus so presents it in the word, saying, “I am the truth.” In standing for the truth, we are standing for the Lord.

Besides, I might add, this word truth is sometimes used in contrast with error. As we look at our past experiences, we have held a great deal of error, and as we now find ourselves growing in knowledge and growing in truth, we have come to speak of the matter from that standpoint; it was not given a sectarian sense. The term was not given by myself, but sprung up amongst the truth people as those who love the truth. We are willing to welcome all people with the same general compliment.

by C. T. Russell (Q345)

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