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Monday, June 2, 2008

Individuals are Unimportant to God's Work

That was a grave responsibility. In order for you to appreciate the position I was in personally, perhaps I should relate an experience I had with C. T. Russell shortly before his death.

Russell always spent the forenoon from eight o'clock until twelve in his study preparing articles for The Watch Tower and any other writing he had to do that called for research on the Bible. Nobody went to the study in the morning unless he was sent for or had something very important, a life or death case.

About five minutes after eight one morning a stenographer fix said to me, "Brother Russell wants to see you in the study."

I thought, "What now?"

I walked up and knocked on the study door. He said, "Come in, brother. Please walk into the drawing room." (This was the room adjoining his study.) "I'll be with you in a moment or two."

When he walked in, with a serious expression on his face, he said, "Brother, are you as deeply interested in the truth as you were when you began?"

I looked surprised.

He continued, "Don't be surprised. That is just a leading question." Then he described his physical condition, and knew enough about pathology to know that he would now live many more months unless he had some relief.

"Now, brother, this is what I want to talk to you about: I am no longer able to take care of the work alone. I must have someone who can be an assistant to the president. The work is increasing rapidly, and it will continue to increase, for there is a world-wide work to be done in preaching the 'gospel of the kingdom' in all the world."

He gave me a word picture of the work that I now see in progress in building up the New World society. He saw it from the Bible. I thought he was talking about something he would like to see, but to me there was not much hope that he would see it.

Then I made an unfortunate remark. "Brother Russell, what you're saying doesn't add up right in my mind."

"What do you mean, brother?"

"Your dying and this work going on. Why, when you die we all will complacently fold our arms and wait to go to heaven with you. We will quit then."

"Brother, if that is your idea, you don't see the issue. This is not man's work; it's God's work. No man is indispensable to its success. Now, you are acquainted with brothers in all parts of the country because of your extensive travel serving congregations. You can tell me who you think would be suitable for the position."

We discussed various ones from different parts of the country who were active workers preaching the kingdom message, but he did not seem to think any one of them would be suitable, or in a position to come to Brooklyn.

I moved to leave then, as it was about 11:30 A.M. There was a sliding door from the drawing room out into the hallway, and he pushed that door open. As I was going out he took hold of my arm and said, "Just a minute. You go to your room and pray to the Lord on this matter and come and tell me if Brother Macmillan will accept this position."

He closed the door and I stood there half dazed. I did think it over, very seriously, and prayed about it for some time before I finally told him I would be happy to do all that I could to assist him.

This was shortly before he went away on his final preaching tour. Before he left he wrote letters to what we then termed the heads of the different departments, outlining their duties and informing them that "A. H. Macmillan is to be in full charge of the office and the Bethel Home during my absence. Anything he says for you to do you must do; it doesn't make any difference whether you agree or not. If he tells you incorrectly, I'll attend to him when I get home." Then he handed me copies of all the letters and said, "You have the skeleton organization. Go to work and do things."

This matter weighed heavily on my mind during the two months preceding that election. Obviously Russell expected the work to go on. I had been willing to assist him in his absence, but the thought of taking full management of the entire organization appalled me. I dismissed it.

Then someone said to me, "Mac, you have a strong chance of getting in yourself. You were Brother Russell's special representative when he was gone, and he told all of us to do it as you say. Well, he went away and never did return. It looks like you're the man to carry on."

"Brother," I said, "that's not the way to look at this matter. This is the Lord's work and the only position you get in the Lord's organization is what the Lord sees fit to give you; and I am sure I'm not the man for the job."

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

Special Note: Regardless of what some might try and say after the fact, Br. Macmillan (who was appointed by Br. Russell as the assistant to the president) supported Br. Rutherford as the second president of the WTB&TS after Br. Russell's death in 1916. Also Br. Van Amburgh who was named as a member of the Editorial Committee (in Br. Russell's will of 1907) also supported Br. Rutherford as the second President of the WTB&TS. Also at the Society’s annual meeting on January 6, 1917, Br. Rutherford was nominated and elected as the president of the Watch Tower Society. And remember, The Watch Tower of November 1, 1917, suggested that a referendum vote be taken by each congregation. By December 15, 813 congregations sent in their votes and the poll indicated that 10,869 of the 11,421 votes were for J. F. Rutherford as the Society’s president. You would have a difficult time reading about this in the Watchtower Reprints offered by the Chicago Bibles Students, this is because they did not print the years 1917 - 1919. However the original Reprints produced by the Watch Tower Society are a complete set. So just go to the Nov. 1, 1917, and the Dec. 15, 1917 issues, for all of the details.


Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was formed on February 16, 1881, with W. H. Conley as president and C. T. Russell as secretary and treasurer. Arrangements were made for the printing to be done by commercial firms in various cities of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, as well as in Britain. In 1884, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was legally incorporated, with C. T. Russell as president, and its charter showed that it was more than a society that would direct publishing. Its real objective was religious; it was chartered for “the dissemination of Bible Truths in various languages.” The Jehovah's Witnesses and Bible Students, view Charles Taze Russell as the first president of the Watch Tower Society from the date that the Society was Legally Incorporated, not the date that the Society was formed. Some anti Watchtower faultfinders have a difficult time comprehending the term Legally Incorporated. Or it could be, they just have to much free time, as they always need to point the finger at the WTB&TS and Jehovah's Witnesses for something. What did Pastor Russell have to say about these type of people:

“All who cut loose from the Society and its work, instead of prospering themselves or upbuilding others in the faith and in the graces of the spirit, seemingly do the reverse—attempt injury to the Cause they once served, and, with more or less noise, gradually sink into oblivion, harming only themselves and others possessed of a similarly contentious spirit. . . . If some think that they can get as good or better provender at other tables, or that they can produce as good or better themselves—let these take their course. . . . But while we are willing that others should go anywhere and everywhere to find food and light to their satisfaction, strange to say, those who become our opponents take a very different course. Instead of saying in the manly fashion of the world, ‘I have found something which I prefer; goodbye!’ these manifest anger, malice, hatred, strife, ‘works of the flesh and of the devil’ such as we have never known worldly people to exhibit. They seem inoculated with madness, Satanic hydrophobia [rabies]. Some of them smite us and then claim that we did the smiting. They are ready to say and write contemptible falsities and to stoop to do meanness.” - Charles Taze Russell, October 1, 1909

Since Brother Russell had played such a prominent role in the work of declaring the good news, he was missed greatly by many Bible Students. “When I read the telegram regarding his death to the Bethel family at breakfast the next morning,” said A. H. Macmillan, “there were moans all over the dining room.” Among God’s people in general there were mixed reactions. Arden Pate, who, incidentally, was an attendant at the Majestic Theatre in San Antonio when C. T. Russell gave his last public talk, observes: “Some said, ‘That’s the end of it,’ and for them it was because they didn’t see Jehovah leading his people, but they looked too much to one man.” At Russell’s funeral services on Sunday, November 5, 1916, in the New York City Temple, a number of his close associates spoke of the great loss. However, there were also exhortations to continued faithfulness. Separate services were held at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh (Allegheny), Pennsylvania, beginning at 2 p.m. on November 6, with interment in the Bethel Family plot of the Rosemont United Cemeteries, Allegheny, at dusk of that day.

During the morning funeral service in New York city, A. H. Macmillan told about the talk Brother Russell had with him shortly before his death, mentioning also certain steps Russell took in connection with the work at the Society’s headquarters. Then, among other things, Macmillan declared: “The work before us is great, but the Lord will give us the necessary grace and strength to perform it. . . . some faint-hearted workers may think the time has come to lay down our harvesting instruments and wait until the Lord calls us home. This is not the time for slackers to be heard. This is a time for action—more determined action than ever before!”

Nearing the conclusion of his discourse at the evening service, J. F. Rutherford said: “My beloved brethren—we who are here, and all who are in the earth—what shall we do? Shall we slacken our zeal for the cause of our Lord and King? No! By his grace we will increase our zeal and energy, to finish our course with joy. We will not fear nor falter, but will stand shoulder to shoulder, contending for the faith, rejoicing in our privilege of proclaiming the Message of his Kingdom.”

Noteworthy, too, were the remarks of the Society’s secretary-treasurer, W. E. Van Amburgh. At Russell’s services, he stated: “This great worldwide work is not the work of one person. It is far too great for that. It is God’s work and it changes not. God has used many servants in the past and He will doubtless use many in the future. Our consecration is not to a man, or to a man’s work, but to do the will of God, as He shall reveal it unto us through His Word and providential leadings. God is still at the helm.”

For God’s people those were difficult days, indeed. Yet, they looked to Jehovah for aid. (Ps. 121:1-3) God would raise up others to carry major responsibilities in his organization. The preaching work would go on.

Jehovah’s servants had just passed through a trying time, but years of crisis were ahead of them. With the death of C. T. Russell on October 31, 1916, the Watch Tower Society lacked a president. Until its annual meeting on January 6, 1917, an executive committee managed the Society’s affairs. During that period, of course, the question of who would be the next president arose. One day Brother Van Amburgh asked A. H. Macmillan: “Brother, what do you think about it?” “There is only one person, whether you like it or not,” replied Macmillan. “There is only one man who can take charge of this work now, and that is Brother Rutherford.” Taking Macmillan’s hand Brother Van Amburgh said: “I’m with you.” J. F. Rutherford knew nothing about this and did no electioneering for votes. But at the Society’s annual meeting on January 6, 1917, he was nominated and elected as the president of the Watch Tower Society.

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

J. F. Rutherford knew that the annual corporation meeting of January 5, 1918, would afford the dissidents another chance to get control. He was reasonably sure that the Bible Students in general did not favor such a move. Yet, they would have no opportunity to express themselves at the election, since it was a matter to be handled only by members of the legally constituted corporation, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. So, what could Rutherford do? He could give all of Jehovah’s dedicated servants an opportunity to make expression. Accordingly, The Watch Tower of November 1, 1917, suggested that a referendum vote be taken by each congregation. By December 15, 813 congregations sent in their votes and the poll indicated that 10,869 of the 11,421 votes were for J. F. Rutherford as the Society’s president. Among other things, the referendum vote also showed that all the faithful members of the board of directors as reconstituted in July 1917 were preferred over the rebellious individuals who claimed to be board members.

At the annual shareholders’ meeting on Saturday, January 5, 1918, the seven individuals receiving the highest number of votes were J. F. Rutherford, C. H. Anderson, W. E. Van Amburgh, A. H. Macmillan, W. E. Spill, J. A. Bohnet and George H. Fisher. Not one of the opponents succeeded in establishing himself on the board. The officers of the Society were then elected from the duly chosen board members, J. F. Rutherford receiving all the votes cast for president, Charles H. Anderson all of those for vice-president and W. E. Van Amburgh all the votes for secretary-treasurer. Therefore, these men were duly elected as officers of the Society. The opposers’ attempt to gain control had been foiled completely.

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

In Br. Rutherford's own words:

The four brethren accuse me of disregarding Brother Russell's will. Such a statement is wholly without foundation. Brother Russell's will was written in 1907. In 1908 Judge Carpenter, who was leading counsel for Brother Russell in some litigation in Pittsburgh involving his voting shares, to my personal knowledge told him that these voting shares could not be transferred by will or in any other manner. The same question came up at the trial against us in the case of the "Brooklyn Eagle," and I discussed this matter with him again.

Brother Russell never changed his will in this regard; in fact, it was sealed up in 1910 and never opened thereafter prior to his death.

Within a short time after his death I informed the Board of the facts above stated and suggested that by voting these shares they were wrong. We would set a precedent, so that if someone else died whose relatives were against the Truth they might vote their shares to the disadvantage of the Society; and with the knowledge and consent of the Board we procured the opinion of a firm of lawyers in writing which was read to the five sisters by Brother Van Amburgh, and they fully agreed that it was not wise to vote those shares. They would have voted for me, and it surely cannot be said that I disregarded the Will for the ulterior motive.

Brother Russell did not by his Will appoint the Board of Directors. The laws of Penna. and the Charter alone can provide for such. There is not a single instance where it can be pointed out that I have disregarded Brother Russell's Will, except when I voted for Brother Sturgeon for the Editorial Committee. It was Brothers Ritchie and Van Amburgh who signed the contract to sell the Photo-Drama, and in that they were supported by the other four brethren. It was Brother Ritchie who first proposed before the Board that the Angelophone be sold to him and that the Society turn over to him the $18,000.00 that was then in the bank to the credit of the Angelophone Company and which belonged to the Society, and that he would assume the contracts outstanding. I prevented this from being done.

In harmony with the laws of New York and to protect the PEOPLES PULPIT ASSOCIATION, and in harmony with Brother Russell's wish, as previously expressed to Brother Cooke, the manufacturing part of the Angelico Company was sold to Brother Cooke and the Society reserved the right to make and furnish the records which it still has.

The Second Edition of the Memorial issue of the WATCH TOWER, which contained a brief biography of myself, was sent out over my repeated protest. Brother Hirsh insisted that it should be done in the interest of the work. The other members of the committee eventually supported him and finally I said: "Brethren, you may do as you please, but you must take the responsibility." Thus it will be seen that the opposition arising has not been caused by any alleged mismanagement or misconduct of affairs. The whole trouble has arisen because of the desire of the brethren named to put Brother Macmillan out of the position in which he was placed by Brother Russell and put themselves in control and so tie my hands that I could practically do nothing. I submit these facts, therefore, to the brethren everywhere in explanation of what I have done, and leave it to your judgment to determine whether or not I acted in the proper manner.

- Harvest Sifting, August 1, 1917, A paper by Joseph F. Rutherford.