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Monday, July 26, 2010


Next summer saw the turn of the century and I met Pastor Russell. It was at a convention in Philadelphia. June 17 was Bunker Hill day in Massachusetts and, of course, a holiday. There were special train rates to Philadelphia at that time because the Republican party was also holding a convention there. That year they nominated William McKinley as president and Theodore Roosevelt vice-president of the United States. So I took advantage of the holiday and special rates and went to the Bible students' convention sponsored by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. There, as I now recall, Russell talked to the public on the subject, "Salvation from what, to what?" The theme of his discourse was that men are not saved from eternal torment, which does not exist. They are saved from eternal death to everlasting life.

After the talk I was delighted to meet the speaker. He was an extremely kind man. I was just about the only young person there. All others present seemed mature in years. His willingness to talk to me impressed me greatly, because I knew of no man of his importance on the public platform who would talk face to face with young people from his audience after his lectures. I recall that in Boston Dwight L. Moody would leave the hall immediately after his sermons and go to his hotel nearby. Anyone who desired to ask questions would have to go to others of Moody's party. But C. T. Russell always made himself personally available to anyone who wished to talk to him.


From that time I never missed any convention that was held in the East or the Middle West. In September, 1900 after returning from Philadelphia to Boston, I was baptized by total immersion in water, the service being conducted by Hayden Samson, a traveling representative of the Society. In July, 1901 I was ready to realize my ambition to become a missionary and entered the full-time ministry in Massachusetts.

In September of that year we had a convention in Cleveland and I attended. It was at this time that President McKinley was assassinated at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, so there was much excitement throughout the country. The convention at Cleveland ended Sunday night and Russell invited me to make my home at the Watch Tower Society's headquarters in Allegheny, though I was not a member of the staff. When I went there to the Bible House (where the headquarters "family" lived and worked) I was in my early twenties. C. T. Russell was very kind to me. I had no home, both my parents having died; so he took me under his wing and made me feel at home with the headquarters family. He was thoughtful and considerate in every way, and as I would go out on a trip or special assignment he always would say, "Brother, the door is open for you when you return. This is your home."

In October, 1902, I attended a convention in Washington, D.C., where I was married. My wife and I then spent a year in California, returning in 1904 to Allegheny. In 1905 I made a nation-wide convention tour with Russell. It was on this trip that I met J. F. Rutherford, whom I baptized in 1906 and who became the second president of the Society.

In 1909, due to expansion of the organization world-wide, headquarters were moved from Allegheny to Brooklyn, New York. There, at 13-17 Hicks Street, a mission annex of the Plymouth Congregational Church, called "Plymouth Bethel" was purchased and new operating offices of the Society were installed and a large auditorium utilized for meetings. The building was called the "Brooklyn Tabernacle."

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At the same time the former residence of the Plymouth church's famous preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, was purchased. This was at 124 Columbia Heights. Here the headquarters family were housed and the structure was named "Bethel" supplanting the term "Bible House" used for the Society's building in Allegheny. International headquarters of the Society and the headquarters family are still at this address and, after all these years, I am still a happy member of that family.


As I consider the years that I have been associated with the organization of Jehovah's witnesses I can appreciate more and more the value of the path along which we have been led by Jehovah God. Until I first began to study I had never been able to find any religious teaching that answered all my questions. And yet the knowledge of God's Word that was available to us at that time was so limited (compared with what we now rejoice in) that it would be like coming out of the faint light of dawn into the brightness of high noon. But the gradual growth in knowledge, as well as in numbers of persons associating in the work, has strengthened and developed the organization and brought it to maturity.

C. T. Russell had no idea of building a strongly knit organization. At that time we saw no need for it. We expected 1914 would mark the end of this system of things on earth. Our big concern at that time was to preach as effectively and extensively as possible before that date arrived. In the meantime, we thought, we must prepare ourselves individually to be ready to go to heaven.

Exactly what would occur in 1914 we did not then know, but of one thing we were certain: The year 1914 would see the beginning of the worst time of trouble the earth had yet known; for so many Bible prophecies foretold that. Our faith was strong and our hopes were based on much more than mere human speculation. Yet 1914 and the years that immediately followed proved to be a time of severe testing for the developing New World society. Had we realized then the trials we were still to face or the years that were to elapse before our preaching commission was due to expire, perhaps we would have entered the year with far more agitation of mind.

- Faith on the March, by A. H. Macmillan, Prentice-Hall (1957)

To the reader:

A. H. Macmillan is known to Jehovah's witnesses all over the world. His long and prominent association with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and his faithful record of service as a Christian minister have endeared him to his many friends.

Toward the end of 1955 Mr. Macmillan asked permission to use the Society's files to write an account of his experiences in the ministry. Since he is a trusted member of the headquarters staff, he was granted permission. A few months ago he informed me the work was finished, and at his request I agreed to read the manuscript for technical accuracy. I soon found myself engrossed in the story which the account of his life and association with Jehovah's witnesses had produced.

This book is more than the story of one man's growing faith. I believe Mr. Macmillan has made a sincere effort to capture and portray the very essence of the religion that he acknowledges has given meaning to his life. He reveals Jehovah's witnesses as human. He admits their mistakes and explains why no human organization can be infallible. At the same time he reveals their hopes, and presents sound Scriptural reasons for the appeal of these hopes to all kinds of men.

The book is a straightforward and truthful account. It is unique only in the personal experiences of A. H. Macmillan. In many other respects it could be the story of any one of hundreds of Jehovah's witnesses whom I have known.

President, Watch Tower Bible
and Tract Society of Pennsylvania
Brooklyn, New York

Is Jesus God?

MANY people view the Trinity as “the central doctrine of the Christian religion.” According to this teaching, the Father, Son, and holy spirit are three persons in one God. Cardinal John O’Connor stated about the Trinity: “We know that it is a very profound mystery, which we don’t begin to understand.” Why is the Trinity so difficult to understand?

The Illustrated Bible Dictionary gives one reason. Speaking of the Trinity, this publication admits: “It is not a biblical doctrine in the sense that any formulation of it can be found in the Bible.” Because the Trinity is “not a biblical doctrine,” Trinitarians have been desperately looking for Bible texts—even twisting them—to find support for their teaching.

A Text That Teaches the Trinity?

One example of a Bible verse that is often misused is John 1:1. In the King James Version , that verse reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God [Greek, ton the·on′], and the Word was God [the·os′].” This verse contains two forms of the Greek noun the·os′ (god). The first is preceded by ton (the), a form of the Greek definite article, and in this case the word the·on′ refers to Almighty God. In the second instance, however, the·os′ has no definite article. Was the article mistakenly left out?

The Gospel of John was written in Koine, or common Greek, which has specific rules regarding the use of the definite article. Bible scholar A. T. Robertson recognizes that if both subject and predicate have articles, “both are definite, treated as identical, one and the same, and interchangeable.” Robertson considers as an example Matthew 13:38, which reads: “The field [Greek, ho a·gros′] is the world [Greek, ho ko′smos].” The grammar enables us to understand that the world is also the field.

What, though, if the subject has a definite article but the predicate does not, as in John 1:1? Citing that verse as an example, scholar James Allen Hewett emphasizes: “In such a construction the subject and predicate are not the same, equal, identical, or anything of the sort.”

To illustrate, Hewett uses 1 John 1:5, which says: “God is light.” In Greek, “God” is ho the·os′ and therefore has a definite article. But phos for “light” is not preceded by any article. Hewett points out: “One can always . . . say of God He is characterized by light; one cannot always say of light that it is God.” Similar examples are found at John 4:24, “God is a Spirit,” and at 1 John 4:16, “God is love.” In both of these verses, the subjects have definite articles but the predicates, “Spirit” and “love,” do not. So the subjects and predicates are not interchangeable. These verses cannot mean that “Spirit is God” or “love is God.”

Identity of “the Word”?

Many Greek scholars and Bible translators acknowledge that John 1:1 highlights, not the identity, but a quality of “the Word.” Says Bible translator William Barclay: “Because [the apostle John] has no definite article in front of theos it becomes a description . . . John is not here identifying the Word with God. To put it very simply, he does not say that Jesus was God.” Scholar Jason David BeDuhn likewise says: “In Greek, if you leave off the article from theos in a sentence like the one in John 1:1c, then your readers will assume you mean ‘a god.’ . . . Its absence makes theos quite different than the definite ho theos, as different as ‘a god’ is from ‘God’ in English.” BeDuhn adds: “In John 1:1, the Word is not the one-and-only God, but is a god, or divine being.” Or to put it in the words of Joseph Henry Thayer, a scholar who worked on the American Standard Version: “The Logos [or, Word] was divine, not the divine Being himself.”

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Does the identity of God have to be “a very profound mystery”? It did not seem so to Jesus. In his prayer to his Father, Jesus made a clear distinction between him and his Father when he said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) If we believe Jesus and understand the plain teaching of the Bible, we will respect him as the divine Son of God that he is. We will also worship Jehovah as “the only true God.”

- Appeared in The Watchtower, April 1, 2009, WTB&TS

Paul Johnson Disrupts the Work


Russell gave me definite instructions before leaving on his last preaching tour. He suggested certain changes in the office force: some were to be assigned to different work. I at once made these changes. However, after Russell's death I was criticized for doing so.

Another instruction Russell gave me before leaving was to arrange to send one of our traveling representatives, P. S. L. Johnson, to England. He should try to preach the good news to the troops wherever possible. Talking to the soldiers about the Kingdom of God would comfort them as they prepared for action.

The executive committee, of which Rutherford was chairman, arranged to send Johnson to England according to Russell's wish as expressed to me. In addition to preaching to the troops, he was to make a tour of England and visit the congregations scattered all over that land, and comfort them in their war-time anxiety, encouraging them to continue steadfast in the work of preaching the Kingdom of God as the hope of mankind. In general he was to learn all he could about the progress of the work in England. He was to make a full report on conditions there and offer suggestions as to how things might be improved. This report was to be made to the Society, but Johnson was not to make any changes in the personnel at the British headquarters. If anything of that kind seemed necessary, the Society would consider it on the basis of his report.

When Johnson arrived in England in November, 1916, he was given a warm and hearty welcome by the friends. They were having many problems to solve after the death of Russell, and were glad to have a representative from headquarters with them. Johnson was welcomed everywhere he went. He could tell them many things about Russell's death, and the progress the work was making in America.

The attention heaped upon him began to warp his judgment and finally his reason, until he came to the ridiculous conclusion that he was the "steward" of Jesus' parable of the penny. He later thought he was the world's high priest. His conduct in England caused much confusion and deep concern about the work there. He tried to seize control of the Society's bank account in London and summarily dismissed some of the London headquarters' staff with no authority to do so. Rutherford, who in the meantime was elected president of the Society, saw that he must act promptly to save the work in England from disruption.

He cabled Johnson, canceling his appointment and recalling him to the United States. After many cables were sent by Johnson trying to show that he was much needed in England and that he should be given control of the British field, he finally heeded Rutherford's recall. After his return to America he tried to persuade Rutherford to return him to England to complete his work there, but, was unsuccessful. His failure to get back to England led him to think that Rutherford was not the right man to be president of the Society. He, Johnson, was the man with the ability necessary to be president.

The next step was to influence the board of directors to compel Rutherford to send him back to England. Seemingly he had little trouble gaining the support of four of them. He persuaded them to oppose the president in an effort to run the Society in their own way. They concluded that they were going to take a hand in the Johnson matter and show their authority. "It isn't good for Rutherford to control the management of the Society's affairs. We'll inform him that he can be the president; that is, he'll just be a figurehead. He will go out on the road under our direction to lecture but, as a board of directors, we will manage the Society, direct its policies and look after all its affairs. Van Amburgh will be our secretary-treasurer and we will have the whole thing in our own hands." This was in the spring of 1917. Rutherford knew that Johnson was counseling them in this matter, still he was extremely patient throughout the entire ordeal. In view of what Johnson had done to show his lack of real concern for the Society's welfare, Rutherford had every reason to dismiss him from the Bethel home. But he didn't. Neither did he take action to interfere with the rebellious plot being hatched to oppose him in his office as president. He did everything that he could to help his opposers see their mistake, holding a number of meetings with them, trying to reason with them and show them how contrary their course was to the Society's charter and to the entire program Russell had followed since the organization was formed. He even came to several of us and asked, "Shall I resign as president and let those opposing ones take charges" We all replied, "Brother, the Lord put you where you are, and to resign or quit would be disloyalty to the Lord." Furthermore, the office force threatened they would quit if these men got control.

Matters began to come to a head when, at an extended session of the 1917 annual meeting, these four directors endeavored to present a resolution to amend the by-laws of the Society to place administrative powers in the hands of the Board of Directors. This was not only contrary to the organizational arrangement practiced by Russell for the entire thirty-two years of his administration, but it was contrary to the expressed wish of the shareholders. Rutherford was forced to rule the motion out of order, and from then on the opposition grew stiffer and more determined.

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Faced with the certainty that these men would try to tie up the funds of the Society by court action (as Johnson had attempted in London), Rutherford decided he would have to act. The time for strategic action in the interest of all concerned had come.

He was preparing to go on a preaching trip to the West and was much concerned about what his opposers might do while he was gone. He said to me: "Brother, these men may try to start something while I'm away, but don't be fearful or worried about what they might try to do."

"If they try to take hold of things while you are gone what shall I do?" I asked.

"If they get too obstreperous and indicate they want to start action against the Society, call a policeman."

"What! A policeman?"

"Yes, if it becomes necessary, don't hesitate."

But I did not understand the operation of his legal mind. Well, sure enough, one day while Rutherford was away, I was in the office down on Hicks Street with our office manager, Robert J. Martin. These four dignitaries who thought they were directors marched down to Van Amburgh's desk in the rear of the office and said, "Brother Van Amburgh, we order you upstairs to the chapel." That was on the second floor right over the mice. "We want you up there to transact some business."

Van Amburgh knew what was coming and said, "Don't bother me, friends. Go about your business; I have my work to do."

"We want you up there. We need to have a quorum." where were four of them, which was a majority of the board. There were seven on the board, and to transact legal business a quorum of five was necessary. I was watching what was going on. The other workers were all looking on nervously and worrying about what was going to take place.

The four went upstairs and sat down and began talking about what they would do. I was worried too. I knew that if they could obtain a quorum to transact business they could railroad new bylaws through that would change the complete structure of the organization. I waited a little while and said, "Brother Martin, let's go up and see what those brothers are doing." When we got up there they ordered me out.

"We've had enough of you. You've been trying to run this place because Pastor Russell left you in charge of the work, but now we are in charge! You get out of here."

At that time I was vice-president of our New York corporation. Therefore in the absence of President Rutherford, I had control and responsibility for the property owned by the Society. I did not remind them of this point but told Martin to call a policeman.

He found an old Irishman, a typical old fellow, who came in twirling a long night stick around in his hand. He said, 'Well, gentlemen, what's the trouble here?"

I said, "Officer, these men have no business here. Their place is up at 124 Columbia Heights, and they are disturbing our work here. They refused to leave when we ordered them to. Now we just thought we would call upon the law."

They jumped up and began to argue. The policeman twirled his stick around and said:

"Gentlemen, it's after being serious for you now. Faith, and I know these two, Macmillan and Martin, but you fellows I don't know. Now you better be after going, for fear there'll be trouble."

They grabbed their hats and went down the steps two at a time, and hurried up to Borough Hall to get in touch with a lawyer. They were fighting mad. Rutherford told me afterward that is the very reason he had told me to bring the policeman in, to draw their fire. They had been sneaking around in an underhanded way trying to disturb the congregations and interfere with the work. He knew that, and calling the policeman brought the issue to a head. Now the matter must be settled in some way in order to restore unity to the organization.

Although thoroughly familiar with the legal organization of the Society, he took the matter to a prominent corporation lawyer in Philadelphia to determine the status of the board of directors. Through a written opinion he received, he discovered that these four men were not legally members of the board at all! Russell had elected them as directors for life but the law stipulated that directors must be elected by the vote of the shareholders each year. However, Rutherford, Pierson and Van Amburgh were directors because they had been elected to the office of president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. The fact that they were elected as officials made them members of the board. Since the four opposers were not legally elected they had no legal authority to act for the Society; and since the attitude they had displayed showed they were not qualified, it was a simple procedure for Rutherford to appoint other directors for the existing vacancies until the next legal election.

The climax came in July of 1917 only six months after Rutherford had been elected president. He had arranged to produce the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. Russell had written the first six. The seventh, called The Finished Mystery, was really a compilation of material from notes and writings of Russell and was issued as a posthumous work of Russell's. Since, according to the bylaws, the president of the Society was also manager of the Society's affairs, Rutherford had not consulted the board of directors and the four who thought they were members raised vehement objections. As a result, their opposition to the policy and work of the Society became so bitter that it was impossible to maintain unity at headquarters as long as they remained. They were asked to leave the Bethel home or get in line with the work. They chose to leave.

However, it was not Rutherford's wish to ignore them altogether. He gave them every opportunity to manifest a spirit of cooperation and even offered them the position of traveling representatives of the Society, but they refused. Finally, they completely withdrew themselves from association with the Society and started an organization of their own.

- Faith on the March, A. H. Macmillan, Prentice-Hall (1957)


Regular readers of The Watchtower will recall that just a few weeks ago, in the August 15 issue, they read an account entitled “Doing God’s Will Has Been My Delight,” as told by A. H. Macmillan. On August 26, in the late afternoon, Brother Macmillan finished his earthly life, at the age of 89. Since 1900 he had been active as a dedicated servant of Jehovah God, and for the past sixty-five years he devoted himself full time to Jehovah’s service. In 1918 he was one of the eight principal members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society who were unjustly sentenced to long terms in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, only to be exonerated and released the following year. He was the last survivor of that group of eight. In later years, during World War II, he visited and spiritually upbuilt others who had been similarly imprisoned because of their stand as Christian neutrals. Funeral services for Brother Macmillan, held at 3 p.m. on August 29, were conducted by the Society’s president, N. H. Knorr, and then the earthly remains of Brother Macmillan were interred at the private burial plot of the Brooklyn Bethel family on Woodrow Road, Staten Island, New York. Brother Macmillan had firm faith that credit for the faithful service of those anointed to the heavenly kingdom with Christ would “go right with them,” because they would continue right on in their Master’s service, but now in the heavenly realm. (Rev. 14:13) We rejoice with Brother Macmillan in his obtaining of that reward.

- October 1, 1966 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pastor Russell's writings

Realizing the necessity of keeping the Truth before the minds of those who had begun to investigate, in 1879 he began the publication of THE WATCH TOWER AND HERALD OF CHRIST'S PRESENCE, and was its sole Editor to the time of his death. This journal is issued semi-monthly; it never publishes advertisements, but is devoted exclusively to religious topics. Among the English speaking people in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, its semi-monthly circulation is 45,000 copies. It is also published in German, French, Swedish, Dano-Norwegian and Polish, reaching a large number of subscribers in America and Europe.

He was President of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY from its organization in 1884 until his death. He was also President of the PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION, organized in 1909, and the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION, incorporated in London, in 1913, both of the latter corporations being adjuncts to the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY. Through these religious corporations, as well as by word of mouth, he promulgated the Gospel of Messiah's Kingdom. He was the author of the following publications, issued between the years 1881 and 1914, each having phenomenal circulation, as given below:


He was also the author of WHAT SAY THE SCRIPTURES ABOUT SPIRITISM, OLD THEOLOGY TRACTS, et cetera, et cetera. He was the author of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, which had been exhibited prior to his death to more than nine million persons. He wrote and published the SCENARIO of the PHOTO-DRAMA OF CREATION, which has had a very wide circulation. His publications were translated into thirty-five different languages. At the same time he was Pastor of more than 1,200 congregations of Bible Students, in different parts of the world. These he visited and taught as often as possible.

He organized and conducted a Lecture Bureau which constantly employed seventy Bible lecturers, who traveled and delivered lectures on the Scriptures. He organized and managed an auxiliary lecture bureau of seven hundred men who gave a portion of their time to lecturing on Bible teachings. Each year he wrote practically all of the copy for the BIBLE STUDENTS MONTHLY, the annual distribution of which amounted to approximately fifty million copies.

His weekly sermons were handled by a newspaper syndicate. More than 2,000 newspapers, with a combined circulation of fifteen million readers, at one time published his discourses. All told, more than 4,000 newspapers published these sermons.

The Continent, a publication whose editor often opposed Pastor Russell, once published the following significant statement concerning him:

"His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America; greater even than the work of Arthur Brisbane, Norman Hapgood, George Horace Lorimer, Dr. Frank Crane, Frederick Haskins, and a dozen other of the best known editors and syndicate writers put together."

- December 1, 1916 Watchtower, WTB&TS

- This WEB site is dedicated to the memory of Charles Taze Russell who dedicated all of his work in the following manner:


What was Pastor Russell's views regarding his writings: As we have been to some extent, by the grace of God, used in the ministry of the gospel, it may not be out of place to say here what we have frequently said in private, and previously in these columns,--namely, that while we appreciate the love, sympathy, confidence and fellowship of fellow-servants and of the entire household of faith, we want no homage, no reverence, for ourselves or our writings; nor do we wish to be called Reverend or Rabbi. Nor do we wish that any should be called by our name. The name of him who died for all--the name Christian--is quite sufficient to designate the spiritual sons of God, the true brethren of Christ; and whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil, of carnality, and tends toward more of the same.

Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible, or on a par with the holy Scriptures. The most we claim or have ever claimed for our teachings is, that they are what we believe to be harmonious interpretations of the divine Word, in harmony with the spirit of the truth. And we still urge, as in the past, that each reader study the subjects we present in the light of the Scriptures, proving all things by the Scriptures, accepting what they see to be thus approved, and rejecting all else. It is to this end, to enable the student to trace the subject in the divinely inspired Record, that we so freely intersperse both quotations and citations of the Scriptures upon which to build. - Charles Taze Russell, Dec. 15, 1896 Watchtower

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Administration Amid World War I

THE new administration under Joseph F. Rutherford immediately set about in 1917 to reorganize the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters office at Brooklyn, New York, and also to effect changes in the field service, to arrest the downward trend in the Kingdom witness work. The “pilgrim” service was increased from 69 to 93 traveling representatives of the Society, to visit and strengthen the more than one thousand congregations of dedicated servants of Jehovah spiritually. The volunteer service whereby tracts were distributed on occasional Sundays in front of churches and regularly in house-to-house visits was stimulated, there being distributed in 1917 alone 28,665,000 free copies of new four-page numbers of The Bible Students Monthly. The so-called “pastoral work” was stepped up, which new activity started before Russell’s death as a sort of forerunner to our present back-call or “follow-up” work.

“The activities will in a general way consist of visiting the addresses mentioned [received at public meetings and at Creation Photo-Drama showings], ascertaining interest, removing prejudice, loaning [books]; and the culmination of the project is to interest as many as possible to the extent of gathering them into classes . . . and later to become regular Berean Classes.”

The colporteur (pioneer) service was expanded from 372 to 461, and in the early part of 1917 for the first time a Bulletin was issued giving periodic service instructions from headquarters to pioneers, this instrument being an ancestor of the present Informant. Furthermore, several regional conventions were held as part of this great rejuvenation campaign. Likewise the V.D.M. (Verbi Dei Minister or Minister of the Word of God) questionnaire arrangement was pressed to encourage the male associates to train themselves as better ministers of God’s Word, there being a written examination on twenty-two Bible questions that such were asked to answer in writing and submit to the Brooklyn headquarters to check on their qualifications as a V.D.M. All this resulted in increased field activities for the year 1917.

Not all were happy to follow the Watch Tower Society’s new administration in accelerating the witness work. From the beginning in 1917 there were several leaders who became ambitious for administrative control for themselves. They became unco-operative. One prominent speaker sent forth from the Brooklyn headquarters had to be recalled from his assignment in England because there he arrogantly assumed administrative powers never entrusted to him. Disruption among the British congregations of Jehovah’s people was being caused by him. Upon that one’s return to Brooklyn Bethel, he and four other prominent members of the family began to foment divisive issues. On July 17, 1917, at the Brooklyn Bethel home noon meal, Society’s president Rutherford announced the release of the long-awaited seventh volume in the series of Studies in the Scriptures, entitled “The Finished Mystery.” “Brother Russell often spoke about writing the Seventh Volume, and one of his last utterances about it was to this effect: ‘Whenever I find the key, I will write the Seventh Volume; and if the Lord gives the key to someone else, he can write it.’”

Months prior to this, two careful Bible scholars, Fisher and Woodworth, had worked busily in gathering together a commentary out of the Society’s previous publications on the Bible books of Ezekiel and Revelation. That compilation comprised the new book. Release of The Finished Mystery provoked a five-hour rebellious wrangle at the Bethel table, led by the five prominent ones above mentioned, and to whom others of the family chose to join themselves. Such disunity could not be tolerated by the far greater majority of faithful brothers; so the administration authorized the dismissal of not only the five ringleaders but also those who chose to join them in opposition.

This opposition clique, being dismissed, immediately began to publish letters and other material which they circulated among congregations associated with the Watch Tower Society in this country and abroad. Gradually opposition parties arose in some of those congregations where deceived ones were easily taken captive because of their growing spiritual drowsiness. Such refused to co-operate with the awakening loyal ones in conducting a revitalized work of preaching the Kingdom in that time of growing clergy hostility and persecution. Thus many congregations came to have a pro-Society group of zealous workers and an anti-Society group of “sick ones” who tried, for their private purposes, to wrest control of the local meetings. This proved to be a very trialsome time.

The ambitious opponents thereafter sought to gain control of the legal corporation, the Watch Tower Society, at the next annual corporation meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, due January, 1918. Because of the dispute as to the legal control of the Society the November 1, 1917, Watch Tower (page 330) suggested a referendum vote by each congregation. By December 15, 813 congregations had sent in their votes, which tallied to show that Rutherford was given 10,869 votes as president out of 11,421 cast; and all the other faithful members of the board of directors as reconstituted in July, 1917, were preferred over the five rebellious ones. This voting trend proved to be true, for at the corporation meeting held in Pittsburgh January 5, 1918, Rutherford and the others of the board were legally re-elected, and not one of the opponents succeeded in getting voted in.

The internal crisis came to its full with the occurrence of an outstanding Bible-predicted event, namely, the coming of Jehovah’s “messenger,” Christ Jesus, to Jehovah’s temple for judgment in the spring of 1918, to separate the “faithful and discreet slave” class from the “evil slave” group. (Mal. 3:1-3; Matt. 24:43-51, NW) The cleavage between the two groups became more evident after the opponents’ failure to gain their ends at the 1918 corporation meeting. After that January meeting the opposition leaders remained in Pittsburgh to form a separate organization headed by what they called a “Committee of seven.” By Memorial time, March 26, 1918, the separation had become irreconcilable, as the opposers chose to celebrate the death of Christ apart from the Society’s faithful congregations.

It had been the Society’s usual practice to publish a partial report of the Memorial attendance as sent to the Society by congregations in this land and abroad, but due to the 1918 disturbances, both internally and externally, the attendance figures were not gathered. However, in 1917 the partial report of the Memorial (April 5) showed 21,274 in attendance as associates of the Society. By 1919 Memorial time (April 13), according to partial report showing attendance of 17,961, it became evident that a minority of less than four thousand had ceased to walk with their faithful former associates. From this time of separation the “evil slave” group came into further internal disagreements and divisions among themselves. Eventually several other small dissentient groups tried to establish themselves but, after brief existence, disappeared.

In the latter half of 1917 the faithful forefront preachers of the “discreet slave” class energetically took up distribution of The Finished Mystery, for within seven months the Society’s outside printers were busy on the 850,000 edition. “The sale of the Seventh Volume is unparalleled by the sale of any other book known, in the same length of time, excepting the Bible.” Not only did this book crystallize the opposition of the “evil slave” class, as already indicated, but it also brought forth a most bitter reaction of the clergy in many parts of Christendom. Sunday, December 30, 1917, was the historic date for commencement of the mass distribution through the Sunday volunteer service of ten million copies of the fiery tract, the Bible Students Monthly issue entitled “The Fall of Babylon—Why Christendom Must Now Suffer—The Final Outcome.” That tabloid-size, four-page tract contained excerpts from The Finished Mystery and came to be a stinging exposure of the clergy. Accompanying this distribution, public lectures were widely given the same day on this same subject.

On February 12, 1918, the public press contained the following dispatch from Ottawa, Canada:

“The Secretary of State, under the press censorship regulations, has issued warrants forbidding the possession in Canada of a number of publications, amongst which is the book published by the International Bible Students Association, entitled Studies in the Scriptures—The Finished Mystery, generally known as the posthumous publication of Pastor Russell. The Bible Students Monthly, also published by this Association at its office in Brooklyn, New York, is also prohibited circulation in Canada. The possession of any prohibited books lays the possessor open to a fine not exceeding $5,000 and five years in prison.”

Later, the Winnipeg (Canada) Tribune, after mentioning the banning order above described, said:

“The banned publications are alleged to contain seditious and anti-war statements. Excerpts from one of the recent issues of The Bible Students Monthly were denounced from the pulpit a few weeks ago by Rev. Charles G. Patterson, Pastor of St. Stephen’s Church. Afterward Attorney General Johnson sent to Rev. Patterson for a copy of the publication. The censor’s order is believed to be the direct result.”

This set off a chain of clergy-inspired actions that were aimed to force the governments of the United States and Canada to destroy the Watch Tower Society and its co-workers.

- May 1, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS, Also See:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Manner of the Lord’s Return

In course of time there came other stirrings among those Christians who professed to be of the “chaste virgin” class, particularly that in connection with a man born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in the year 1781. This man was William Miller, who became the founder of the so-called Millerites or Adventists. Says M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Volume 6, page 271:

About 1833, when a resident of Low Hampton, N.Y., he began his career as an apostle of the new doctrine, which taught that the world was coming to an end in 1843. The main argument on which his belief rested was that relative to the termination of the 2300 days in Daniel 8:14, which he regarded as years. Then considering the seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24, as the key to the date of the 2300 days of the preceding chapter, and dating the periods B.C. 457, when Artaxerxes, king of Persia, sent up Ezra from his captivity, to restore the Jewish polity at Jerusalem (Ezra 7), and ending the seventy weeks, as commentators generally do, in A.D. 33, with the crucifixion of Christ, he found the remainder of the 2300 days, which was 1810, would end in 1843. For ten years he held forth to this purport, and succeeded in gathering a large number of followers, which is said to have reached fifty thousand, who awaited, with credulous expectation, the appointed day. The result, however, turning out contrary to the teaching of their apostle, the Adventists, as they are sometimes termed, gradually forsook Miller. He died at Low Hampton, Washington County, N.Y., December 20, 1849.

Evidently, then, the launching of the Millerite movement did not turn out to be the midnight cry, “Here is the bridegroom!” The heavenly Bridegroom did not appear in the flesh visibly to those Adventists and take them in a rapture to their desired heavenly home, in 1843. And yet Bible study continued on. Thirty years later found a small group of men, not associated with the Adventists or affiliated with any of the religious sects of Christendom, studying the Holy Scriptures at Pittsburgh (Allegheny), Pennsylvania, U.S.A. They studied independently so as to avoid looking at the Bible through sectarian spectacles. Among these men was one Charles Taze Russell, just entered into his twenties. They were, of course, intensely interested in the second coming of the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. However, their Bible studies led to their discovery that Christ’s return would be an invisible one, not visibly in the flesh as a materialized man, but invisibly in the spirit, inasmuch as he was no longer flesh and blood. His arrival would therefore be unseen to men, and this arrival would begin an invisible presence or parousia on his part. But it would be made manifest by evidences.

- God’s Kingdom of a Thousand Years Has Approached, 1973, WTB&TS

It was in the mid-1870’s that Brother Russell and those who were diligently examining the Scriptures along with him discerned that when the Lord returned he would be invisible to human eyes.—John 14:3, 19.

Brother Russell later said: “We felt greatly grieved at the error of Second Adventists, who were expecting Christ in the flesh, and teaching that the world and all in it except Second Adventists would be burned up in 1873 or 1874, whose time-settings and disappointments and crude ideas generally as to the object and manner of his coming brought more or less reproach upon us and upon all who longed for and proclaimed his coming Kingdom. These wrong views so generally held of both the object and manner of the Lord’s return led me to write a pamphlet—‘The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return.’” This pamphlet was published in 1877. Brother Russell had some 50,000 copies of it printed and distributed.

In that pamphlet, he wrote: “We believe the scriptures to teach, that, at His coming and for a time after He has come, He will remain invisible; afterward manifesting or showing Himself in judgments and various forms, so that ‘every eye shall see Him.’” In support of this, he discussed such texts as Acts 1:11 (‘he will come in the same manner as you have beheld him go’—that is, unobserved by the world) and John 14:19 (“a little longer and the world will behold me no more”). Brother Russell also referred to the fact that The Emphatic Diaglott, which had first been published in complete form in 1864 with an interlinear word-for-word English translation, gave evidence that the Greek expression pa‧rou‧si′a meant “presence.” In analyzing the Bible’s use of that term, Russell explained in this pamphlet: “The Greek word generally used in referring to the second advent—Parousia, frequently translated coming—invariably signifies personal presence, as having come, arrived and never signifies to be on the way, as we use the word coming.”

When discussing the purpose of Christ’s presence, Russell made it clear that this was not something that would be accomplished in a single world-shattering moment. “The second advent, like the first,” he wrote, “covers a period of time, and is not the event of a moment.” During that time, he wrote, the “little flock” would be given their reward with the Lord as joint heirs in his Kingdom; others, perhaps billions, would be given opportunity for perfect life on an earth restored to Edenic beauty.—Luke 12:32.

Within just a few years, on the basis of further study of the Scriptures, Russell realized that Christ would not only return invisibly but also remain invisible, even when manifesting his presence by judgment upon the wicked.

In 1876, when Russell had first read a copy of Herald of the Morning, he had learned that there was another group who then believed that Christ’s return would be invisible and who associated that return with blessings for all families of the earth. From Mr. Barbour, editor of that publication, Russell also came to be persuaded that Christ’s invisible presence had begun in 1874. Attention was later drawn to this by the subtitle “Herald of Christ’s Presence,” which appeared on the cover of Zion’s Watch Tower.

Recognition of Christ’s presence as being invisible became an important foundation on which an understanding of many Bible prophecies would be built. Those early Bible Students realized that the presence of the Lord should be of primary concern to all true Christians. (Mark 13:33-37) They were keenly interested in the Master’s return and were alert to the fact that they had a responsibility to publicize it, but they did not yet clearly discern all the details. Yet, what God’s spirit did enable them to understand at a very early time was truly remarkable. One of these truths involved a highly significant date marked by Bible prophecy.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS



By C.T. RUSSELL, Pittsburgh, PA. Price ten cents.

Such is the title of a pamphlet of sixty four pages. The author is one of my very dear friends, and is a sincere lover of truth. I have not the slightest doubt of his stern integrity, and nothing but a full conviction that it is the truth he is promulgating which will lead him on in the work which he is engaged. His sacrifice of time and money shows his faith. Much that he has written is interesting. His belief that Christ "has come" -- "is present" -- in the Scripture sense of His "second time," I cannot for a moment admit; but as the time for its demonstration is in the next few weeks, I shall not enter into controversy on the subject.

BRO. CHAPLIN, Editor of THE RESTITUTION, in noticing the above named pamphlet, has expressed views of the "Second Advent" of our Lord which I heartily agree. He says:

"We think that the coming Messiah is the same Jesus that died, was buried, rose from the dead, and subsequently ascended from Mount Olivet into heaven; and we also think that He will change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body. We look, for more tangibility in the resurrection than our brother seems to expect. We also think that Christ in the first stage of the advent will only descend to the aerial regions where He will be met by his raptured saints, with whom he will afterward descend to earth."

Such I regard as a true statement of the facts to be realized in that glorious return of our Lord "from heaven."


Throughout his entire administration as the Society’s president, Brother Russell, along with the vice-president and secretary-treasurer, had made decisions about new publications. As a group, the board of directors had not been consulted. Rutherford followed the same policy. Hence, in the course of time the Society’s three officers made a far-reaching decision.

Charles Taze Russell had written six volumes of Millennial Dawn, or Studies in the Scriptures, but often spoke about writing a seventh volume. “Whenever I find the key,” said he, “I will write the Seventh Volume; and if the Lord gives the key to someone else, he can write it.” The Society’s officers arranged to have two Bible Students, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, compile a book consisting of commentaries on Revelation, The Song of Solomon and Ezekiel. The coeditors assembled material from Brother Russell’s writings and this was published under the title “The Finished Mystery” as the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. Containing largely the thinking and comments of C. T. Russell, it was termed the “posthumous work of Pastor Russell.”

By about mid-1917 it was time to release the new book. That significant day was July 17. “I was on duty in the [Brooklyn Bethel] dining room when the phone rang,” says Martin O. Bowin. “We were getting ready for the noonday meal. I was the nearest one to the phone, so I answered it. Brother Rutherford was on the other end. ‘Who is there with you?’ he asked. I answered, ‘Louis.’ He said to come to his study quickly, and ‘Don’t bother to knock.’ A stack of books was handed to us, with orders to put one at each place setting and get it done before the family arrived for the noon meal.” Soon the dining room was filled with members of the Bethel family.

“As usual,” continues Brother Bowin, “thanks to God was given. Then it started!. . . Headed by . . . P. S. L. Johnson, . . . this demonstration against dear Brother Rutherford began. Hurling vicious charges loudly, they walked back and forth, stopping only at Brother Rutherford’s table to shake their fists at him and further denounce him. . . . All this lasted for about five hours. Then everyone got up from the table with all the dishes and a lot of untouched food still on the table, to be cleaned up by brothers with little energy with which to accomplish it.”

This incident revealed that some members of the Bethel family sympathized with the opposers. If such opposition continued, eventually it would disrupt the entire operation of Bethel. So J. F. Rutherford acted to correct the situation. Though fully acquainted with the legal structure of the Society, Rutherford had consulted a prominent corporation lawyer in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, concerning the status of the Society’s board of directors. The written opinion received disclosed that the four dissidents were not legal members of the board. Why not?

C. T. Russell had appointed those men as directors, but the Society’s charter required that directors be elected by vote of the shareholders. Rutherford had told Russell that appointees had to be confirmed by vote at the following annual meeting, but Russell never took that step. So, only the officers who had been elected at the Pittsburgh annual meeting were duly constituted board members. The four appointees were not legal members of the board. Rutherford knew this throughout the period of trouble, but had not mentioned it, hoping that these board members would discontinue their opposition. However, their attitude showed that they were not qualified to be directors. Rightly Rutherford dismissed them and appointed four new board members whose appointment could be confirmed at the next general corporation meeting, early in 1918.

Brother Rutherford did not summarily dismiss the former directors from the Christian organization. Instead, he offered them positions as pilgrims. They refused, voluntarily left Bethel and began spreading their opposition by an extensive speaking and letter-writing campaign throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Consequently, after the summer of 1917, many congregations of Bible Students were composed of two parties—those loyal to Jehovah’s organization and others who had become spiritually drowsy and had fallen victim to the smooth talk of the opposers. The latter became uncooperative and would not engage in the work of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom.

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS

Not everyone was supportive of the new president. C. T. Russell and J. F. Rutherford were very different men. They had different personalities and came from different backgrounds. These differences were hard for some to accept. In their minds, no one could ‘fill Brother Russell’s shoes.’

A few, especially at headquarters, actually resented Brother Rutherford. The fact that the work was moving ahead and that he was making every effort to follow the arrangements that had been put in place by Russell did not seem to impress them. Opposition soon mounted. Four members of the board of directors of the Society went so far as to endeavor to wrest administrative control from Rutherford’s hands. The situation came to a head in the summer of 1917, with the release of The Finished Mystery, the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures.

Brother Russell had been unable to produce this volume during his lifetime, though he had hoped to do so. Following his death, the Executive Committee of the Society arranged for two associates, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, to prepare this book, which was a commentary on Revelation, The Song of Solomon, and Ezekiel. In part, it was based on what Russell had written about these Bible books, and other comments and explanations were added. The completed manuscript was approved for publication by officers of the Society and was released to the Bethel family at the dining table on Tuesday, July 17, 1917. On that same occasion, a startling announcement was made—the four opposing directors had been removed, and Brother Rutherford had appointed four others to fill the vacancies. What was the reaction?

It was as if a bombshell had exploded! The four ousted directors seized upon the occasion and stirred up a five-hour controversy before the Bethel family over the administration of the Society’s affairs. A number of the Bethel family sympathized with the opposers. The opposition continued for several weeks, with the disturbers threatening to “overthrow the existing tyranny,” as they put it. But Brother Rutherford had a sound basis for the action he had taken. How so?

It turned out that although the four opposing directors had been appointed by Brother Russell, these appointments had never been confirmed by vote of the corporation members at the annual meeting of the Society. Therefore, the four of them were not legal members of the board of directors at all! Rutherford had been aware of this but had not mentioned it at first. Why not? He had wanted to avoid giving the impression that he was going against Brother Russell’s wishes. However, when it became evident that they would not discontinue their opposition, Rutherford acted within his authority and responsibility as president to replace them with four others whose appointments were to be confirmed at the next annual meeting, to be held in January 1918.

On August 8, the disgruntled ex-directors and their supporters left the Bethel family; they had been asked to leave because of the disturbance they had been creating. They soon began spreading their opposition by an extensive speaking and letter-writing campaign throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. As a result, after the summer of 1917, a number of congregations of Bible Students were split into two groups—those loyal to the Society and those who were easy prey to the smooth talk of the opposers.

But might the ousted directors, in an effort to gain control of the organization, try to influence those attending the annual meeting? Anticipating such a reaction, Rutherford felt it advisable to take a survey of all the congregations. The results? According to the report published in The Watch Tower of December 15, 1917, those voting indicated their overwhelming support of J. F. Rutherford and the directors cooperating with him! This was confirmed at the annual meeting. The opposers’ efforts to gain control had failed!

What became of those opposers and their supporters? After the January 1918 annual meeting, the opposing ones splintered off, even choosing to celebrate the Memorial, on March 26, 1918, on their own. Any unity they enjoyed was short-lived, and before long they broke up into various sects. In most cases their numbers dwindled and their activity diminished or ceased entirely.

Clearly, following Brother Russell’s death, the Bible Students faced a real test of loyalty. As Tarissa P. Gott, who was baptized in 1915, put it: “Many of those who had seemed so strong, so devoted to the Lord, began to turn away. . . . All of this just did not seem right, yet it was happening and it upset us. But I said to myself: ‘Was not this organization the one that Jehovah used to free us from the bonds of false religion? Have we not tasted of his goodness? If we were to leave now, where would we go? Would we not wind up following some man?’ We could not see why we should go with the apostates, so we stayed.”—John 6:66-69; Heb. 6:4-6.

Some who withdrew from the organization later repented and associated with the Bible Students in worship once again. By far the majority, like Sister Gott, continued to cooperate with the Watch Tower Society and Brother Rutherford. The love and unity that bound them together had been built up through years of association together at meetings and conventions. They would allow nothing to break up that bond of union.—Col. 3:14.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS

Although thoroughly familiar with the legal organization of the Society, he took the matter to a prominent corporation lawyer in Philadelphia to determine the status of the board of directors. Through a written opinion he received, he discovered that these four men were not legally members of the board at all! Russell had elected them as directors for life but the law stipulated that directors must be elected by the vote of the shareholders each year. However, Rutherford, Pierson and Van Amburgh were directors because they had been elected to the office of president, vice-president and secretary-treasurer. The fact that they were elected as officials made them members of the board. Since the four opposers were not legally elected they had no legal authority to act for the Society; and since the attitude they had displayed showed they were not qualified, it was a simple procedure for Rutherford to appoint other directors for the existing vacancies until the next legal election.

The climax came in July of 1917 only six months after Rutherford had been elected president. He had arranged to produce the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures. Russell had written the first six. The seventh, called The Finished Mystery, was really a compilation of material from notes and writings of Russell and was issued as a posthumous work of Russell's. Since, according to the bylaws, the president of the Society was also manager of the Society's affairs, Rutherford had not consulted the board of directors and the four who thought they were members raised vehement objections. As a result, their opposition to the policy and work of the Society became so bitter that it was impossible to maintain unity at headquarters as long as they remained. They were asked to leave the Bethel home or get in line with the work. They chose to leave.

However, it was not Rutherford's wish to ignore them altogether. He gave them every opportunity to manifest a spirit of cooperation and even offered them the position of traveling representatives of the Society, but they refused. Finally, they completely withdrew themselves from association with the Society and started an organization of their own.

Additional Reading:

- Faith on the March, by A.H. Macmillan, 1957

The Finished Mystery, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (9/22/2010)

In late 1916 two prominent Bible Students at the Brooklyn headquarters, Clayton J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, sought approval from the Executive Committee to produce a book about the prophecies of the books of Revelation and Ezekiel based primarily on Russell's writings. Work on the book, The Finished Mystery, which was labeled as the posthumous seventh volume of Russell's Studies in the Scriptures, proceeded without the knowledge of the full Board of Directors and Editorial Committee and was released by Rutherford to headquarters staff on July 17, 1917, the day he announced the appointment of the four replacement directors.

Although denounced by Rutherford's opponents, the book was an immediate best-seller, and was translated into six languages and serialized in The Watch Tower. Expecting God's Kingdom to establish rule on earth and for the saints to be raised to heaven in 1918, Rutherford wrote in January of that year: "The Christian looks for the year to bring the full consummation of the church's hopes." He embarked on a vast advertising campaign to expose the "unrighteousness" of religions and their alliances with "beastly" governments, expanding on claims in The Finished Mystery that patriotism was a delusion and murder. The campaign attracted the attention of governments and on February 12, 1918 the book was banned by the Canadian government for what a Winnipeg newspaper described as "seditious and antiwar statements" On February 24 in Los Angeles Rutherford gave a talk entitled "The World Has Ended—Millions Now Living May Never Die" (subsequent talks in the series were renamed, "Millions Now Living Will Never Die") in which he attacked the clergy, declaring: "As a class, according to the Scriptures, the clergymen are the most reprehensible men on earth for the great war that is now afflicting mankind." Three days later the Army Intelligence Bureau seized the Society's Los Angeles offices and confiscated literature.

In early May 1918 US Attorney General Thomas Watt Gregory condemned The Finished Mystery as "one of the most dangerous examples of ... propaganda ... a work written in extremely religious language and distributed in enormous numbers". Warrants were issued for the arrest of Rutherford and seven other Watch Tower directors and officers on charges of sedition under the Espionage Act. On June 21 seven of them, including Rutherford, were sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. Rutherford feared his opponents would gain control of the Society in his absence. On January 2, 1919 learned he had been re-elected president at the Pittsburgh convention the day before, convincing him that God wanted him in the position. In March 1919 the directors were released on bail after an appeals court ruled they had been wrongly convicted; in May 1920 the government announced that all charges had been dropped.


SINCE the days of the Apostles, Christian people have been looking for the coming of our Lord Jesus in great power and glory; for He said that He would come again and receive His Church unto Himself. He further pointed out that for some time prior to the completion of the Church He would be present, gathering out from Babylon and from the world the truly consecrated, and that during His presence "the Mystery of God" would be finished.

Through St. John the Lord Jesus revealed the fact that the Church would be developed during seven distinct periods, or epochs; and that for each of these epochs Ho would have a special angel, or messenger, to serve the other members of the Body. It follows, then, that the messenger to the last, or Laodicean, epoch would declare the Presence of the Lord and the time of the Harvest of the Gospel Age. The great Master laid special emphasis on the importance of the messenger to the seventh, or Laodicean, period of the Church, saying that such an one would be "a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord would make ruler over all His Household, to give them meat in due season."

Those consecrated Christians who have read and fully appreciated the Truth as contained in the preceding six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES readily sea and agree that Charles Taze Russell was the messenger of the Church of Laodicea. In the mind of every one who believes the Bible the evidence set forth in this volume will establish that fact beyond the question of a doubt.

In the light of Divine Prophecy, now being daily fulfilled and made clear to "the watchers," the following from the pen of Pastor Russell is further proof that he was sent of God to this generation. Long years before the beginning of the trouble now upon the nations he wrote:

"The four exhibitions of the Lord, given to Elijah, represent, we believe, four manifestations in which the Lord is about to reveal Himself to mankind, the first three of which will prepare men for the final one, in which will come the desired blessing to all the families of the earth. These are:

"(1) The mighty winds rending the very rocks Blowing winds seem to be used in Scripture for wars. The wars, whose dark clouds have threatened the civilized world so ominously for the past thirty years, have been miraculously hindered to give opportunity for 'sealing' the Lord's consecrated people in their foreheads (intellectually) with the Present Truth. We are therefore to expect that when these winds of war shall be let loose, lt will mean a cataclysm of warfare which shall divide kingdoms (mountains) — prefigured by the mighty wind shown to Elijah (1 Kings 19:11), which rent the rocks. But God's Kingdom will not follow the epoch of war; the world will not thus be made ready for the Reign of Immanuel. No; a further lesson will be needed and will be given. It is represented in

"(2) An earthquake. Throughout the Scriptures an earthquake seems always to represent revolution; and lt is not unreasonable to expect that an era of general warfare would so arouse the lower classes of Europe and so discontent them with their lot (and especially with the conditions which would follow such a war) that revolution would be the next thing in order. (Rev. 16:18.) But, severe though those revolutionary experiences will be to the world, they are not sufficient to prepare men to hear the voice of God. It will require

"(3) The fire from heaven — an epoch of Divine judgments and chastisements upon a maddened but unconverted world, wild in anarchy, as other Scriptures show us. The results of their wars, revolutions and anarchy, in the failure of their schemes, will have a humbling effect, and will prepare mankind for God's revelation of Himself in

"(4) The still small voice. Yes; He who spoke to the winds and the waves of the Sea of Galilee will, in due time, 'speak peace to the peoples.' He will speak with authority, commanding the observance of His long neglected Law of Love. 'And whosoever will not hear that Prophet shall be cut off from among His people.' (Acts 3:23.)" — THE WATCH TOWER. July 1, 1898, p 208.

"Looking back to the prophetic testimony respecting the Times of the Gentiles, we perceive that our Lord's words, 'Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the Times of the Gentiles be filled full,' give the Intimation that the determined times, or years, in which the empire of earth would be in the hands of Gentile governments was a fixed one from the Divine standpoint. And if, as we believe the Scriptures to teach, Gentile domination was provided for up to October, 1914, it would seem but a reasonable interpretation that Divine power would not be exercised to their dethronement until after the time allotted for their reign had ended — October, 1914." — THE WATCH TOWER, July 1, 1904, p. 188.

In 1879 Charles Taze Russell began the publication of THE WATCH TOWER, of which he was the sole editor as long as he remained on earth. THE WATCH TOWER was, and is, the first and only journal declaring the presence of the Lord Jesus. Pastor Russell being the messenger to the Laodicean Church, and occupying the position of the Lord's special servant to give the Household of Faith meat in due season, it was to be expected that he would bring forth from the Lord's great "Storehouse" the needed spiritual food for the Church, in harmony with God's will. By the Lord's grace he wrote the six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES, which writings, aside from the Bible, have gladdened more hearts and thrilled Christians with greater hope and joyful expectation than have any other writings extant. These books have been properly designated "Keys to the Divine Plan of the Ages." These "keys" have been placed in the hands of thousands of Christian people throughout the world, and have enabled them to unlock the Lord's Treasure-house, the Bible, and there to see some of the "treasures of wisdom" and knowledge of God! Some have been able to use these "keys" more effectually than have others. "God hath set the members in the Body as it hath pleased Him."

Time and again Pastor Russell said that the Seventh Volume of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES would ba written; and it was expected that he would write it. The Scriptures show that the Seventh Volume must be published. Pastor Russell passed from the earth, and the Seventh Volume remained unpublished. In his last moments he said, "Some one else can write the Seventh Volume." For any one to arrogate to himself the authority to write and publish the Seventh Volume would, we believe, seem presumptuous before the Lord. Whom, then, would the Lord have to write it?

Pastor Russell was a man of unusual modesty. Great men usually are modest. The examination of the contents of this book will disclose the fact that it deals with Revelation and Ezekiel; that the Lord long ago caused to be recorded therein, in symbolic language, a history of the Church, particularly the closing earthly experiences thereof; that therein He set forth that He would uncover the frauds, deceptions and blasphemous teachings and practices of the church nominal — both Catholic and Protestant; that in the last days He would then make bare the unholy alliance between the unrighteous ecclesiastical systems and the corrupt political elements of the earth, which religious systems have prospered and grown fat in the name of Christ; that the Lord pronounces His indignation and wrath against all such Babylonish systems and marks their titter destruction in a Time of Trouble such as the world has never known and will never again know; and that the earthly creature made prominent therein above all others is the messenger of the Laodicean Church — "that wise and faithful servant" of the Lord — CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL. In view of the facts stated, is it at all surprising that the Lord spared him the publication of the Seventh Volume?

But the fact is, he did write it. This book may properly be said to be a posthumous publication of Pastor Russell. Why? Because to him the Lord gave the "key"; to him was given the privilege of making clear to the Church ln its last years the "Mystery of God"; to him was granted the privilege of bearing from the hands of the Lord to the Household of Faith "meat in due season" for the special development and sustenance of God's dear little ones. This service he has faithfully performed. This book is chiefly a compilation of things which he wrote and which have been brought together in harmonious style by properly applying the symbols which he explained to the Church.

By his last Will and Testament Pastor Russell designated George H. Fisher, of Scranton, Pa., as one whom he would approve as a member of the Editorial Staff of THE WATCH TOWER — the most important journal published on earth. For many years Brother Fisher has been consecrated to the Lord, a careful student of the Bible in the light of the Message brought from the Lord by the messenger to the Laodicean Church; and for some time he has made a careful and prayerful study of the Book of Ezekiel.

When Pastor Russell was with us he gave direction that the BIBLE STUDENTS MANUAL should be prepared by Clayton J. Woodworth, also of Scranton, Pa. This Manual was published by this Society, and has proven a great blessing to the Household of Faith. The preparation of that Manual required a critical examination of everything Pastor Russell had written; and thus Brother Woodworth was enabled to become more familiar, probably, than any one else with the explanation of the Scriptures which had been given by Brother Russell. In this manner the Lord seemed to have qualified him for some special work. With the "key" which Brother Russell, as the Lord's servant, had placed in his hands, Brother Woodworth, by the Lord's grace, has been enabled to bring together everything that Brother Russell wrote on Revelation, and to explain and harmonize the other parts of that book with the Divine Plan; also, to treat similarly, the Song of Solomon.

It seemed pleasing to the Lord that Brothers C. J. Wood-worth and George H. Fisher should prepare the Seventh Volume, under the direction of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY. While both residing in the same city, they have worked separate and apart from each other, not even comparing notes. The reader will be able to judge how fully the work of each harmonizes with that of the other and with the Divine Plan, thus giving further evidence of the Lord's direction in this matter.

Pastor Russell long ago said, in substance, that the Seventh Volume would not he for the development of the Church; that the preceding six volumes of STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES contain the necessary spiritual food tor that purpose. Asked why, then, it would be written, he replied, "It will probably be given to the Church in a time of direst need, for her comfort and encouragement."

Who amongst the consecrated this side the veil does not realize that the Church is now in that time of "dire need of comfort and encouragement"? The hour of fiery trial and great testings is upon God's people, and there is need for their comfort and encouragement. The Lord has promised "grace sufficient" and help for every time of need for those who love Him and come confidently unto Him. We believe that as the Lord's dear children throughout the earth read the contents of this book and see how wonderfully He has shielded them from the storms of human passion and from the snares of the great Adversary; and that when they see that the unrighteous, wicked systems of Babylon are now crumbling under the mighty hand of God — which bespeaks the early deliverance of the last members of the Body from this vale of tears into the glorious light and liberty of the saints — that then they will be greatly comforted; that then they will take new courage and "gird up the loins of their mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to come unto them quickly;" that with exceeding joy they will lift up their heads, because the hour of deliverance is at hand! To all the truly consecrated who read and appreciate this book we believe that the words of the Master, "THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND!" will sound in their ears like clarion notes upon the clear morning air, giving courage and strength to those who are growing weak in faith, and more courage to the stronger ones. We believe that every one who appreciates this volume will have a burning desire to grasp his weapon and go forth to the smiting of the Jordan, giving praise to the Lord for the privilege.

Some will murmur and find fault with this book; some will grow angry, and some will join the persecutors. But, we believe, every saint whose heart is filled with love for God and for His people will rejoice and give praise to the Lord for this further evidence of His blessed favor.

The publisher takes pleasure in presenting this, the Seventh Volume, to the remaining members of the Church, and to all who may read with profit to themselves and to the glory of the Lord Jesus and our Father. As the Lord has sent forth the other six volumes, His blessing has accompanied each. That His blessing may be upon this volume, to the comfort and encouragement of the dear saints in the hour of direst need, is our prayer!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Charles Fitch (1805-1844)

Sit back and listen to the story of Charles Fitch:

After studying at Brown University in Rhode Island, Charles Fitch began his ministry in the Congregational Church at Abington, Connecticut. In March of 1838 Fitch wrote William Miller stating that he had read Miller's Lectures and did not doubt the correctness of his views. For approximately three and a half years, he held back from preaching the Millerite message. Eventually, because he preached the doctrine of "holiness" and was exhorted not to do so, Fitch felt it necessary to separate from the established church. This separation caused him to be less influenced by the fear of man regarding the Millerite understanding of the advent.

Josiah Litch visited Fitch and told him he needed the doctrine of the second advent to add to his doctrine of holiness. Litch left him more literature to study and requested he correspond as to the result of his study. This study led to his accepting the advent doctrine.

Thereafter, Fitch traveled tirelessly, throwing himself unreservedly into proclaiming the need of preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. He moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio and held meetings and baptisms all over Ohio.

In 1842, feeling the need of an accurate chart, Fitch and Apollos Hale prepared the famous chart illustrating the fulfillment of the last-time prophecies of Daniel. This was used extensively by the Millerites. Fitch himself used this chart and also other visual aids including a replica of the Daniel 2 statue that could be separated into its various parts. Charles Fitch became seriously ill, probably with pneumonia, in the month of October, 1844. He had chilled while baptizing converts. He died on Monday, October 14th, in full faith that he should awake in a few days in the likeness of his Redeemer. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

William Miller had a strong religious background, but he became attached to the wrong "crowd". His friends set aside the Bible and had vague ideas about God and His personality. When Miller was thirty-four years of age he became dissatisfied with his views. The Holy Spirit impressed his heart, and he turned to the study of the Word of God. He found in Christ the answer to all his needs. His study led him to the great prophecies that pointed to the first and to the second advent of our Lord. The time prophecies interested him, particularly the prophecies of Daniel and The Revelation.

In the year 1818, as a result of his study of the prophecies of Daniel 8 and 9, he came to the conclusion that Christ would come some time in the year 1843 or 1844. He hesitated until 1831 before he began to announce his findings. From his first public service we may mark the beginnings of the Advent movement in North America. In the months and years that followed, roughly 100,000 persons came to believe in the imminence of Christ’s second coming.

Following the great disappointment of 1844, Miller lived for several years. He fell asleep in Christ in 1849. A small chapel stands near his home in Low Hampton, New York, built by Miller before he died. In spite of his misunderstanding of the event that was to transpire in 1844, God used him to awaken the world to the nearness of the end and to prepare sinners for the time of judgment.

- APL Gallery, Updated 27 June 2006

Charles Fitch (1805–1844) was an American preacher in the early 19th century, who rose to prominence for his work with the Millerite movement.

During his early years, in the 1830s, he had associated with famous evangelist Charles G. Finney, and worked with him on the causes of temperance and abolition. In 1838, he found some copies of William Miller's lectures, and accepted them at once. However, when he went to share them with local colleagues, he was rebuffed, and so he backed off.

Three years later, after meeting with Josiah Litch, he openly accepted the Millerite movement, and became one of its foremost preachers. While the core of the Millerite movement was in New England, Fitch focused his efforts on Ohio, Michigan, and Western New York.

Fitch's most notable contribution to Millerism came in the summer of 1843. At the time the public sentiment had begun to turn against the Millerites, and many preachers and believers were faced with expulsion from their churches. But up to this point, William Miller had advised his followers not to separate from their churches.

Charles Fitch then preached a powerful sermon based on Revelation 18: "Babylon the great has fallen... Come out of her, my people!" Up to this point, most Protestants had identified Babylon in the text as the papacy of the Roman Catholic Church. In this sermon, Fitch labeled all the Protestant churches that had not accepted the message of Jesus' Second Coming as Babylon. He then invited the Millerites to separate from their churches.

This cry was taken up by George Storrs, who cautioned the Millerites not to organize a new church, for "no church can be organized by man's invention but what it becomes Babylon the moment it is organized." Joseph Marsh, editor of the Voice of Truth, also supported this call to separate. The Millerite leaders themselves withheld from supporting this call, but neither did they do anything to prevent it.

After the first initial disappointment that occurred when Jesus did not come by the spring of 1844, Fitch then traveled east to continue evangelizing. In August 1844, Samuel S. Snow reinvigorated the Millerite movement by predicting that Jesus would come on October 22, 1844. Charles Fitch continued to preach and baptize, even into the colder autumn months, and in early October after baptizing three groups of believers in a brisk wind, he contracted a high fever and died on October 14, 1844, just eight days before he expected Jesus to come. He was 39 years old. - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, July 6, 2010

Among the younger men who supported William Miller in his preaching of the advent of Christ was Charles Fitch. Born in December, 1805, he was only thirty-three years old when he first heard Miller in 1838. After his education at Brown University he had been a pastor much beloved in the several churches of Connecticut and Massachusetts where he had served. It was while he was pastor of the Marlboro Chapel, a Congregational church, that he heard Miller lecture and later sent for copies of his sermon.

Although Fitch did not accept the teaching concerning the second coming of Christ at that time, the preaching of Miller fired his zeal, and he left Boston, traveling widely, conducting evangelistic meetings in the churches of New England, New York, and even as far west as Lake Erie. He eventually returned to Haverhill, Massachusetts, his former home. In some unaccountable way he felt that his power of witnessing for Christ had deserted him. He fell into a period of deep discouragement.

It seemed the doors of the churches now were shut to him. Where should he go to tell the message of God's love and desire to make His people perfect in His love? He had fasted and prayed and wept before the Lord, but no way was open for him to continue. Then, as he sat there one cold December day, there came a knock at his door. When he opened it, there stepped within a stranger who said: "Brother Fitch, you do not know me, but I have known of you for four years, since you first inquired about the message of the Lord's coming. For in that year I also heard this faith, and believed it, and began to preach it. My name is Josiah Litch, of Philadelphia."

Then they talked together, and as Fitch told his new friend of his perplexities, Litch said to him, "Brother, you need the truth of Jesus' coming with the message you have been preaching."

Charles Fitch turned again to his Bible and studied the subject of Jesus' coming. And again he was convinced, and now he put his whole soul into it. He expected, as did others who accepted this faith, that he would lose his friends, some of whom in his ministry of love had become very dear to him. And, of course, there were some who turned against him, but there were others who rejoiced with him in the faith of Jesus' coming.

Now Charles Fitch found the ears of the people open to listen, and with Miller and Himes and Litch and others, he went forth to proclaim the soon coming of Jesus. It took him far away from his home most of the time. Traveling by foot and horse and stage and steamboat was hard; there was no certain pay; but there was gladness in his heart and voice as he went out to give the message.

Very soon, as he was lecturing on the visions of Daniel and John, there came to his mind a word from the prophet Habakkuk, "Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it," and he sat down and devised what are believed to be the first prophetic charts used by the Advent preachers of those days.

In the latter part of 1842 Charles Fitch started for the West to proclaim the message. In those times the United States was not so large as now, and the territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains and around the Great Lakes was very little settled. There were as yet no railroads out there, but the rivers and the Great Lakes were beginning to be used by steamboats; and two canals in the State of Ohio, which connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River, had helped greatly to develop the country. Cincinnati, then the largest city, had about forty thousand people, and Cleveland, on Lake Erie, had about six thousand.

Fitch went to Cleveland, where he soon moved his family, and where he lived for the next two years. From this place he, with Elon Galusha and other ministers, went out over the State to the new and growing cities and the little towns, where the country people would come in to listen to the message. Akron and Marietta, the oldest towns in the State, were cities where the message was gladly received, and indeed all through this Western country the preachers of the Advent message found a people more ready to believe in Jesus' coming than those in the older country of the East. These new settlers were deeply interested in education also, and they established schools such as Oberlin College, near Cleveland, where the students and some of the teachers largely supported themselves on the farm and in other industries, and where a true Christian education was in every way encouraged. At Oberlin there was great interest in the message Charles Fitch and his helpers brought, and many there turned to look for the coming of their Lord.

In Cleveland, Fitch found a Congregational church who were willing to let him use their building, fronting the public square, and from this church for perhaps a year the people of Cleveland in greater and greater numbers heard the message proclaimed. Finally the company of believers built a larger church, in which the work was continued. One who was then a young man living in Cleveland has told of hearing Charles Fitch preach. "He was a very winsome man," he said, "slender, but well built, and with a smile that would disarm an enemy and which truly spoke the kindliness of his nature. He was a very powerful speaker, and under his preaching many nights I have seen hundreds, deeply convicted, rise and go forward to ask for prayers and salvation in the kingdom. There was a solemnity about the meetings that none, even of the most flippant, could resist or change. Fitch always had command of his audiences.

"One night, I remember, when at the close of his sermon he called for repentant sinners to come forward, a great lubberly fellow, whom I well knew, with others rose in the gallery and started to come down the stairs that led to the pulpit. Part way down he stumbled and almost fell the rest of the way. A laugh started among the lighter-minded in the audience, but Mr. Fitch called out, 'Never mind, brother! It's better to stumble into heaven than to walk straight into hell.' And the laughing died as quickly as it had started."

In the summer of 1844 William Miller, to whom Charles Fitch was very dear, went on a tour of the cities and country where Fitch had been working. He came to Cleveland and preached there, and then went on to other cities and towns as far as Cincinnati. And everywhere he found the people in great crowds eager to hear.

Not only did Fitch preach, but he published in Cleveland a paper called the Second Advent of Christ, which for two years carried far out through the northwestern country the message that he could not everywhere carry in person. A great love of the truth of Jesus' near coming was thus planted in the hearts of the people; and, as will be noted, in later years the fruit of this sowing was reaped in the rapid progress of the message.

Charles Fitch, however, did not have long thereafter to labor. There appears a most interesting statement about his death and his coming reward in Early Writings, on page 17, 1945 edition. The cause of his death, in October, 1844, was a fever that was brought on in the following way. He had a large number of new believers who desired baptism, and others who had not yet made up their minds. The company who were ready went with him to the lake, and there were baptized. A cold wind was blowing as he, with them, started in his wet garments for home, and he was much chilled. But he had not gone far when he met another company from among those whom he had left behind, who now came desiring baptism. He went back with them to the lake and also immersed them. Then as they started home there came a third company whose conviction of sin and of Jesus' salvation and of His soon coming had brought them to the decision. At their request he turned again and baptized them also. The next day, though ill from the effects of his chill, he rode in the cold wind some miles to another appointment. This proved too hard on him, and he was stricken down, and after an illness of several weeks he died. His last clear words, in answer to some who asked him of his faith, were, "I believe in the promises of God."

Among all those in America who preached and taught the message of Jesus' coming, perhaps none was so widely and deeply loved as Charles Fitch. He had a depth of love that reached high to his Savior and low and far to his fellow men. Always courageous, hopeful, and helpful, he interpreted the love of God not only in word but in deed, and he bound firmly in friendship and perfect love thousands to whom he ministered and hundreds with whom he labored. He did a great work, and he left a mark of his labors both upon the country where he preached and upon the methods of his successors. He may well be remembered as the beloved apostle of the Advent message.

- Connecticut Valley Adventist Church, Pioneer Stories - compiled by Theodore Lucas, 1956

Congregational minister, later Presbyterian minister, Millerite leader, the designer of the “1843 chart.” Early in 1838 Fitch accepted Miller’s views, producing a sensation with his sermons. But his ministerial associates treated the new doctrine with such searing ridicule and contempt that for a time he lost confidence in it, and lapsed into his former views of the world’s conversion.

It was Josiah Litch, who had known of Fitch’s experience, who brought him again to the definite acceptance of the Adventist faith. From then on he was one of the most fearless, aggressive, and successful Millerite leaders. Fitch, assisted by Apollos Hale, designed the widely used “1843” prophetic chart, painted on cloth, which he presented to the Boston General Conference of May 1842.

In the latter part of 1842 Fitch was asked to go to Cleveland, Ohio, and vicinity. Despite opposition, a definite interest in the Advent message developed at Oberlin College, where Fitch was given opportunity to deliver a series of lectures on the Second Advent in September 1843.

By 1843 Fitch was one of the most prominent of the Millerite leaders. In January of that year he began to edit a weekly journal called the Second Advent of Christ. In this he printed (July 26, 1843) his sermon (from Rev. 14 and 18) on the mighty angel who cried, “Babylon the great is fallen,” and who was followed by the warning voice, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” In this Fitch contended that the term Babylon was no longer limited to the Roman Catholic Church, but now included also the great body of Protestant Christendom. He maintained that both branches of Christendom had, by their rejection of the light on the Advent, fallen from the high estate of pure Christianity. He contended that Protestantism was either cold to the doctrine of the Second Advent or had spiritualized it away. This address was put into pamphlet form and later reprinted in various Millerite papers.

Early in October 1844 Fitch accepted the “seventh month” concept, and looked to Oct. 22 as the time for the coming of Christ. He was ill in Buffalo at the time, and died on Oct. 14, shortly before the day of expectation, from pneumonia contracted after prolonged exposure while baptizing outdoors in cold weather. - IMS Media Online Library


Charles Fitch: herald of Christ's return

During the early 1800s, William Miller, a Baptist lay preacher, became convicted that the second coming of Jesus would soon occur. For several years, he resisted preaching about this conviction, but in 1832, he accepted an invitation to speak at a Baptist worship service in Dresden, New York. The people were so impressed by Miller’s exposition of Daniel and Revelation that they invited him to speak every evening that week.

Word spread quickly and Miller never lacked for a pulpit after that.

By late 1844, an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people, including many ministers, had joined what has come to be known as the “Millerite movement.”

Two of those preachers were Charles Fitch and Josiah Litch.

Litch was the first to become a Millerite, and he became an ardent advocate of the Second Coming. Charles Fitch was one of his converts. In a letter to a friend, Fitch wrote, “When dear Brother Litch named the second advent, I went to the Lord; I read my Bible, and all the works that I could obtain. I possessed myself of all the evidences in the case that I could; and then with fasting and prayer I laid them and myself with my all before the Lord... . Light seemed breaking in upon my mind, ray after ray.”

Fitch and Finney

For a few years, Fitch was associated with Charles G Finney, who was the “Billy Graham” of his day. Finney, a young lawyer, became a Christian in 1821 and he eventually became a Presbyterian minister. By the 1830s, what had begun as village revivals, were impacting urban centres such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Rochester.

It’s been estimated some 500,000 people were converted as a result of Finney’s preaching.

When Finney opened his famous Broadway Tabernacle in New York City in 1836, he chose his friend Charles Fitch to preach the sermon and offer the benedictory prayer. Fitch often spoke of Finney as the “father of modern revivalism.” The two were close spiritual brothers. They were also linked as reformers in an age filled with reform. Both embraced social concerns such as antislavery and temperance.

Finney and Fitch also believed Jesus would return someday. However, a serious disagreement over that teaching put extreme strain on their relationship.

Finney believed Christ would come at the end of the 1000-year period called “the millennium,” while Fitch was equally certain the Second Coming would occur before the millennium. (Signs of the Times adopts Fitch’s view.)

Fitch and “the Advent near”

As a minister in Congregational and then Presbyterian parishes, Fitch gave years of close study to the biblical teaching about Christ’s second coming.

In March 1838, he read a paper about the Second Coming to his local ministerial association and in December 1841, a magazine called Signs of the Times (a forerunner of today’s Signs of the Times but a different magazine) reported that “dear brother” Fitch “has come into the full faith of the Second Advent.”

Next to William Miller himself, Fitch became one of the most prominent ministers in the Millerite movement. In January 1843, he launched his own Millerite periodical with the title, The Second Advent of Christ. This magazine helps us trace his experience as one of the hundreds of ministers in many denominations who focused on Miller’s message of Christ’s return. By March 1844, a Second Advent paper in New York City, The Midnight Cry, estimated that between 1500 and 2000 lecturers were proclaiming that “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Methodist ministers—followed by Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian clergy—were the most prominent heralds of the urgent message of the nearness of Christ’s return. Such preachers were not short of Bible verses to sustain their claim that Christ would return personally, visibly, audibly and gloriously. Didn’t Jesus liken His return to the brightness of lightning that shines from the east to the west? He also declared that “all the nations of the earth ... will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory”

(Matthew 24:26–30). These ministers cherished the apostle Paul’s reference to “the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11–14).

Fitch’s spirituality

To study the writings of Charles Fitch is to journey with him into a deepening understanding of the Bible and its saving message. As Fitch wrestled with the significance of Christ’s glorious return, he started to see a fresh meaning in the texts that refer to the resurrection.

Jesus promised, “All that are in their graves will hear his voice.” He declared Himself to be “the resurrection and the life.” When the apostle Paul described the events that will occur at the Second Coming, he stated that “the dead in Christ will rise first” (see John 5:28; 11:25; 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Fitch was especially enthusiastic about Miller’s preaching of the second advent of Christ. Like Fitch, for a number of weeks, Miller believed the Scriptures indicated an exact date on which Jesus would return—October 22, 1844. Miller was of course deeply disappointed when the great day of hope turned into a day of bitter disappointment.

Cured forever of date-setting, on November 10, 1844, Miller wrote a letter that was printed in The Midnight Cry the following month: “Brethren,” he wrote, “hold fast; let no man take your crown. I have fixed my mind upon another time, and here I mean to stand until God gives me more light— and that is Today, TODAY, TODAY, until He comes, and I see Him for whom my soul yearns.”

Unfortunately, several weeks before October 22, Fitch performed several baptisms outdoors in cold weather.

As a result, he contracted pneumonia, and he died on October 14, 1844, just eight days before the anticipated date of Christ’s return. Had he lived to read Miller’s letter, he would surely have heartily agreed. He might also have quoted what Jesus said, after describing the signs that warn us about the climax of history: “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28).

In His greatest Advent sermon, Jesus speaks to all of us, saying, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).

- By Arthur Patrick
Copyright © 2011 Signs of the Times & netAdventist


Letter from Charles Fitch to William Miller

"Boston, March 5, 1838.

"MY DEAR BROTHER: - I am a stranger to you, but I trust that, through the free sovereign grace of God, I am not altogether a stranger to Jesus Christ, whom you serve. I am the pastor of an Orthodox Congregational church in this city. A few weeks since your lectures on the Second Coming of Christ were put into my hands. I sat down to read the work, knowing nothing of the views which it contained. I have studied it with an overwhelming interest, such as I never felt in any other book except the Bible. I have compared it with Scripture and history, and I find nothing on which to rest a single doubt respecting the correctness of your views. Though a miserable, guilty sinner, I trust that, through the Lord's abounding grace, I shall be among those that `love his appearing.' I preached to my people two discourses yesterday on the coming of our Lord, and I believe a deep and permanent interest will be awakened thereby in God's testimonies. My object in writing you, my dear sir, is twofold.

"1st. Will you have the kindness to inform me, by letter, in what history you find the fact stated that the last of the ten kings was baptized A. D. 508, and also that the decree of Justinian, giving the Bishop of Rome power to suppress the reading of the Scriptures, was issued in 538? All the other data which you have given I have found correct, and I know of no reason to doubt your correctness in these. But, as I have not yet been able to find a statement of those facts, you will do me a great favor by just informing me where I may find them; and I shall then feel prepared to defend the truth, and to point others to the right source of information.

"There is a meeting of our Ministerial Association to-morrow, and, as I am appointed to read an essay, I design to bring up this whole subject for discussion, and trust that I may thereby do something to spread the truth.

"2d. My second object in writing was to ask if you would put me in the way to obtain a dozen copies of your lectures. I know of none to be obtained here. I know of several individuals who are very desirous to obtain the work, and if you can tell me of any place where it can be obtained in this city, or in New York, you will greatly oblige me. If you can give me any information of importance on the subject, not contained in your book, I should greatly rejoice, because, as I stand a watchman on the walls, I wish to `give the trumpet a certain sound,' and to make that sound as full, and explicit, and convincing as possible.

"Yours in the faith of Jesus Christ,