VOL. I. March, 1918
VOL. I. March, 1918
The following pages are a facsimile of a circular letter circulated in March, 1918
OUR DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN:
Greetings in the Savior's Name!
The undersigned Committee addresses a message to you at this time oil matters of vital and solemn import matters that lie very near to the heart of all God's faithful children. We ask your patience, dear brethren, while you read this statement. The Apostle Paul gave us solemn warning concerning our time, the closing days of the Church's earthly pilgrimage: "Every mail's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire, and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." Statements similar to this are to be found in our Lord's great Prophecy and in the messages of others of the Apostles and Prophets. Wise and masterful, indeed, are these messages, these voices that, "out of the past," speak to the people of God in these "latter days"! Therefore none of the faithful watchers should be dismayed nor overwhelmed as they find themselves in the midst of these fiery experiences, the successful endurance of which will mean to them the "crown of glory that fadeth not away."
True to His promise the Lord in due time sent to the Laodicean Church "that Servant." The evidence has convinced us that the Savior's prediction regarding a "faithful and wise servant . . . to give meat in due season to the household" has been fulfilled in the person and work of our beloved Pastor, Brother Russell. Only sixteen months ago this great man of God passed from our midst, we believe to be "ever with the Lord." His departure became the occasion for God's faithful people to feel a deep sense of loneliness and loss. And yet as they have continued to look to the Good Shepherd for guidance, lie has richly blessed them through their rereading the six volumes of "Studies in the Scriptures" and the back issues of "The Watch Tower." It is now seen by these faithful students that many of our Pastor's explanations and teachings contain a depth of significance that seems not to have been realized while he was with us, and in fact it is doubtful if he himself was conscious of the full force and import of many of his messages.
Do we not, beloved brethren, recall how he ceased not to put the brethren in remembrance, and how he warned the saints "night and day"? And we doubt not that it was "with tears," yea, and that at the cost of bitter persecution and earthly loss, and even at the cost of life itself. Like St. Paul he could say, "None of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify tile Gospel of the grace of God." Time after time lie called bur attention to the sacred and solemn warnings of Holy Writ and exhorted us to sobriety and watchfulness against the devices and sophistries of our Adversary. As if almost possessed of the gift of the ancient Prophets, he looked forward to the experiences of the very last members of the Church and seemed to sense an especially fiery trial and a strong delusion that would sweep through the ranks of the Truth people and work havoc with vast numbers of the partly consecrated, failing of deceiving only the "very elect." Alas, that in so short a time after the departure of our dear Pastor there should be realized a complete and world-wide fulfillment of his solemn predictions! Yea, so subtle and so heart-searching has been this fiery trial, as apparently to overtake the majority unawares! Perhaps not since the days of the apostasy, early in this Gospel Age, has there been such a severe test upon the people of God.
It is not our purpose in these lines, dearly beloved, to go into a review of the facts and circumstances that have led up to- this great test among the Lord's people; nor shall we here consider the source and nature of any controversy, nor the acts and procedures of the various brethren involved. Much of this you have had fairly and truthfully brought to your attention in previous publications, with which several of the undersigned brothers have had to do. We would here state that any of these publications may still be had by sending, to the address hereinafter given.
Suffice it here to say that our dear Pastor, seeming to anticipate some great tests after his departure, sought to fortify the institution through which he had conducted the Harvest work against encroachments of the Adversary. As the Steward of the Lord's goods, Brother Russell realized that he had a right, not only to direct during his life, but also to control through the Charter of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society and also through his Will after his death. Additionally, the copyrights of the various books, etc., were his personal property; and before turning them over to the Society he required a promise from the directors to permit him to conduct the Society's work according to his wishes during his life, and as outlined in his writings, Charter and Will to dictate its policies after his death. The Divine Law and human obligations require that such an agreement be carried out faithfully. We deeply regret the course of the majority in approving and supporting, contrary to his wishes, another policy than his. Loyalty to truth and righteousness forbids that we submit to it; because it sanctions violation of God's arrangements as to the policy of the Society. (Acts 5:29.) This we say with loving hearts, which are grieved at the course of the majority; yet we say this, because we believe it to be the Lord's will in the interests of His faithful people.
From many brethren prominent and otherwise, and from Classes large and small nearly the world over, the undersigned brothers have received messages that tell in no uncertain tones how many of the Lord's dear sheep are in a state of bewilderment and confusion, because of the innovations of the past year. Many write us out of the fullness of their sorrow and distress, pleading for advice and assistance. How deeply do we sympathize with all concerned! Truly, the Master said that His sheep "follow Him, for they know His voice, and a stranger will they not follow"!
We are advised that many brethren have been practically cut off from service by being furnished for distribution new literature of which they cannot fully approve, because of its unsatisfactory character and because in most cases it has been prepared and published contrary to the Lord's instruction given in Brother Russell's Will and Charter and writings, and which, therefore, their conscience forbids distributing. From many we learn that the gravity of the situation has been intensified many fold by having had placed before them a book called "The Finished Mystery," and which purports to be the long looked for truthful exposition of Revelation and Ezekiel. Many faithful Bible Students tell us that as they have carefully and prayerfully investigated and examined this book, and as they fail to hear therein the voice of the Good Shepherd speaking to his faithful sheep, they refuse to follow its voice as being that of a stranger. These faithful brethren call our attention to the fact that-this book is sailing under false colors; for they say, and we believe, that the word "posthumous" is entirely out of place as applied to this book, for the reason that it does not contain one sentence of Brother Russell's writings which was not published before his death, and which, so far as is known, lie expected to have incorporated in his proposed Seventh Volume; therefore it could not be Brother Russell's Seventh Volume, either posthumous or otherwise.
Thus it is seen at once that on the one hand, by the claim that it is his posthumous work, and on the other hand by his being praised therein, even beyond his great deserts, the responsibility of praising himself with exaggeration, has been fixed upon him. Additionally, the faithful watchers point out to us that, induced thereto by the claim that it is his posthumous work, thousands have accepted a mediocre book as his, which thereby speaks with an authority which it does not possess; and which thereby has secured for itself and its authors and publishers an authority and a prestige with many, greatly above its and their deserts; an authority and prestige that are the result of Brother Russell's and not their achievements as "that Servant" in many years of most meritorious service. Moreover, consecrated brethren who have made a most sober investigation of this volume truly point out to us that it makes application to the Society of Biblical symbols which mean other things, and that thereby thousands are being led into believing that the Society has a standing before God greatly in excess of what it as such really has; and into a consequent yielding of a corresponding reverence and obedience to it and its officers. For example, the angel of Revelation 8:3-6 is interpreted as symbolizing the Society, whereas it is an exclusive function of the High Priest to offer incense. A business corporation like the Society cannot be in the Holy, much less offer incense there. Similarly, Revelation 14:18 has been misapplied. Suffice it here to say that many brethren are hoping that under the Lord's Providence the many errors and misapplications of Scripture in this volume will yet be pointed out, so that the truth may be more clearly discerned.
Again, our brethren, longing for and striving to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, are calling our attention to the fact that many friends are being grievously mistaught on the subject of the "channel" by the covert claim that the Society has practically all the authority and power that Brother Russell and it had while he was yet with us; whereas our brethren hold that his "channel" authority and power as the "faithful and wise Servant" to give meat to the household ceased to exist at his death, and were never transferred to another individual or to a corporation; and whereas the Society, according to its Charter and the Divine Providence, was and is nothing more than a channel of cooperation among its supporters in sending forth its messages.
Added thereto, and as a part of the present severe test, the argument is urged among the brethren in many Classes that the majority vote in the Church is the expression of the Lord's good pleasure, and thus many brethren have been persuaded into believing that the majority in the "straw vote" and the voting shares at the recent election expressed the Lord's good pleasure as binding for cooperation upon the whole Church; whereas faithful brethren, walking in the light of their lamp, call our attention to the fact that this majority-rule properly applies only among God's loyal and fully consecrated people who never were given right to dictate to the Lord how His work is to be done, much less set aside his arrangements; that if we are to apply this majority regulation unqualifiedly to all who name the Name of Christ, then it must needs be that we accept and endorse the doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, which represents the majority. It is urged further by our faithful brethren that early in the Gospel Age a great apostasy occurred, that the faithful saints of that tine soon found themselves far outnumbered by masses of the unconsecrated and of the partly consecrated; and that the minority, composed of the faithful, did not yield nor submit to the voice of the majority, but remained loyal to their Lord and to the principles of righteousness. Because of such fidelity to God they were branded as "heretics" and persecuted to death. Likewise the faithful people of God have been in the minority throughout all the centuries of the Gospel Age.
Dearly beloved in the Lord, the foregoing but partially and very mildly presents the present situation throughout the world among the Truth people who profess to have espoused the doctrines and teachings of the Bible as interpreted by Brother Russell. The inevitable crisis to which these circumstances and conditions have led is a most serious and world-wide division among the brethren. How deeply these things and their results have perplexed and grieved the hearts of the faithful, language cannot express; this, the Searcher of hearts knows. In many instances it involves the breaking of tender ties and signifies that we must part company with many whom we have greatly loved and with whom we "took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in company." Gladly would we help the brethren from this sad condition.
Asked by many as to who is responsible for the present existing state of affairs, we reply that in view of the foregoing, and in view of the many additional facts set forth in previous publications, we leave it for the careful reader to decide for himself, and pray for each and all Divine guidance in the same. There is One whose infinite wisdom enables Him to know all things, and whose judgment is just; and it is enough that we have the assurance that the judge of all the earth will do right.
For some months previous to the recent annual election many faithful brethren had been hoping and earnestly trusting that at this annual meeting full and complete arrangements would be made whereby all the brethren concerned might have a full hearing in the presence of the shareholders, and thus an amicable adjustment be ,made possible; for many individuals and Classes had been officially advised that at the shareholders' meeting, and not in the Classes, these things should and would be discussed. How unspeakably disappointed were these dear brethren, who, upon their attendance at the recent annual election, saw all efforts to explain the situation suppressed, and every opportunity denied in the direction of peace and harmony.
Still there are those who ask, should not we make every concession and sacrifice for the sake of being in harmony with the Society? The answer as given by thoughtful brethren is that of our Lord and of the Apostles as our examples and teachers. Yes; provided the sacrifice is of personal preference and not of principle. Of the Savior, himself, it was written, "Because Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows." Our Lord would have been spared His suffering, ignominy and shame had he chosen a compromising course; but having entered into a solemn engagement with the Heavenly Father to do His will at any cost, He allowed no person or earthly object to move Him from the path of duty and obedience even unto death. Similarly, the holy Prophets and Apostles, because of their great faith in God, exhibited this loyalty to Hint and to the principles of righteousness, counting not their lives dear unto themselves, caring not for the esteem and plaudits of men, but seeking wholly the approval of God. The "little flock" of faithful saints throughout the Gospel dispensation has likewise won the approval of God by proving their love for righteousness and truth and their hatred for iniquity. Dearly beloved, shall we who are living in the "last time" neglect or forget these solemn lessons that come down to us through the ages? Shall we not remember that God has ever expressed His special delight 'in those who love righteousness at all hazards?
Above all peoples of the earth, the footstep followers of the great founder of Christianity, have a true love for peace, but faithful students of sacred history well know that God has authorized some separations in the past, and that there are therefore some circumstances that make a separation an absolute necessity for those who remain loyal to the will of God. Thus we recognize in the Harvest of the Jewish Age our Lord's message caused a separation; during the Harvest of the Gospel Age, the message of the Lord has again caused and is still causing separations, divisions among various classes of people. As further examples of how the Scriptures authorize separations let us not be unmindful of the admonition of St. Paul, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you." Again hear the Revelator's warning: "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." The Master himself declares the necessity for a separation when Ile states that Ile will gather out of His Kingdom "all things that offend and them which do iniquity." Accordingly, earnest and faithful children of God at the present tune urge that the Scriptures and reason demonstrate that those who would be faithful to the Lord's arrangements are justified in accepting the present separation as a fact, in that it has been forced upon them by the application of arbitrary tests, never mentioned in the Scriptures nor recommended by our beloved Pastor; we leave the responsibility for present conditions for the Lord to make manifest, and we believe that He is now most surely bringing it to light in this the "bright shining" of Christ's presence.
Thus on the one hand the division is manifest; and on the other hand, coincident with these facts and events, the brothers whose names are signed to this letter have received a very great number of letters and oral statements expressing a deep and genuine sense of need by those who are loyal to the Lord's ways given through Brother Russell. These needs cry out for spiritual food, holy service and new creature fellowship, which are denied them by the new turn in events, publications, activities and objects introduced during the past few months. These needs, manifest to our eyes and ears, appeal to us as Divine exhortations for relief. What shall be clone? Shall the satisfaction of these proper cravings be denied them? Should any brother in Christ shut up his bowels of compassion to such needs and calls for help?.
Upon the occasion of the recent annual election a considerable number of representative brethren from various parts, after being disappointed in not seeing harmony and peace prevail among all, decided to meet together for fellowship, prayer and conference, in all informal way Saturday evening, January 5, 1918. Others of like mind hearing of this came also; and, strange to say, undesignedly and spontaneously, this informal conference grew into a small Convention, held in one of the parlors of the Fort Pitt Hotel at Pittsburgh, Pa. The next clay three other sessions of this Convention were held and attended by representatives of a number of Churches. Those present said that they never had attended a mart spiritually refreshing Convention. Verily it was good to be there! Surely the Lord was there enlightening, guiding, strengthening and cheering His people! Among the testimonies many expressions of the need for spiritual food, work and fellowship were interspersed. Requests for help were made for themselves and their brethren in various classes. Finally a brother of his own accord introduced a resolution which passed unanimously, naming seven Brothers as a Committee (with authority later given, to fill vacancies) to seek to ascertain the Lord's will as to what steps, if any, should be taken to satisfy these needs, and to take; such steps as the Divine Providence might suggest to help the brethren.
Another resolution was unanimously passed, instructing this Committee to prepare a letter to be sent to the brethren throughout the world who stand for the Lord's arrangements given through Brother Russell, asking them to express what they believe to be the mind of the Lord, as to the supply of their needs for spiritual food, service and fellowship; and as to what kinds of service would commend themselves to their minds as being the Lord's will for their help. This resolution grew out of the conviction that the Lord would indicate His will through His people's voice on these matters. Not desiring to take any steps, unless they could be ascertained to be the Lord's will, the Committee felt grateful for this suggestion; and with the entire Convention prayed the Lord to manifest His will in this matter through the answers of His faithful people. Accordingly this letter is sent forth, in order that the Committee may be helped to ascertain the Lord's will, as to what, if anything, should be done to supply the needs of many faithful brethren. The Committee looks for His answer in the expressed voice of His people. May the gracious Heavenly Father grant that this expectation be realized! The Committee, therefore, entreats you, beloved brethren, to make this a matter of devout consideration and earnest prayer; and then to write to it your thought as to the Lord's will respecting the suggestions of this letter.
The Committee desires to suggest two ways of which at the Convention mention was made with general approval, and in which it thinks that some service, the Lord willing, may be rendered those who stand for the principles of truth and right as set forth in Brother Russell's teachings, arrangements, Charter and Will. We desire from you an expression of what you think of the establishment of the suggested lines of service. And if you think it to be the will of the Lord, will you cooperate with the Committee in furthering such services among the Lord's people?
It will doubtless interest you to know that a valuable house and lot have been offered as a gift to be used as headquarters for the work, if the Lord wills such work to be done. The Committee would suggest the following two ways, mentioned with general approval at the Convention, whereby, the Lord willing, the brethren may be helped:
(1) PILGRIM WORK
(2) A PERIODICAL
The Committee has at its disposal a number of experienced and able brothers for Pilgrim purposes. In addition to a number of brothers for an Editorial Committee, some of whom are named for that purpose in Brother Russell's Will, it will have for a periodical timely reprints from Brother Russell's published articles, other timely and helpful articles, answers to questions and letters of interest. The paper, of course, aril) not in any sense 6e used as an organ /or private speculations and hobbies.
If the Lord wills such a publication, it will be edited by a committee of five brothers in the way Brother Russell provided for "The Tower" in his Will. The Committee desires that these suggestions be not accepted simply because it offers them. It makes them merely to give definiteness to a tentative proposal of help. If any brethren think these not in harmony with the Lord's will, please let than so express themselves. The Committee will welcome for consideration other suggestions briefly given.
With whatever branches of service the Lord may will an honest and, we trust, a successful effort will be made to realize the ideals of Brother Russell as expressed on the second page of "The Watch Tower" as to its mission. The work will be for the comfort and support of the saints especially; and will most faithfully follow the teachings and principles that the Lord gave through "His steward:" The Committee pledges itself most heartily to follow according to its ability these teachings and principles, sustained therein by the Lord's assisting grace. Not oil its own initiative, bill in the Lord's Name, and by the appointment and commission of the brethren assembled in the above mentioned Convention, the undersigned Committee sends this letter to you with its fraternal greetings and fervent wishes of God's blessing, asking you, dearly beloved in the Lord, to give the matter of this letter your careful thought and heartfelt prayer; and then to let the Committee hear front you. May the Committee lie permitted to offer the following suggestions:
(1) The Committee requests replies froth those only who are its sympathy with its viewpoint. Letters coating from those who wish to support the innovations that have been introduced during the past year are not invited, as the Committee expects to find the Lord's will expressed on this matter in the voice of those only who are faithful to the Lord's ways, which we believe were given through that "faithful and wise servant."
(2) In the event that the majority (of those who view matters like the Convention) concludes that the Lord wills the publication of a periodical, work on it will go forward as expeditiously as possible. If a sufficient number of subscriptions for the paper are on hand, before the first number is mailed, second-class mailing rates, i. e., a cent a pound, can be obtained; otherwise it would cost a cent for two ounces. In the latter case the Committee might he obliged to pay several hundred dollars more than in the former case. This fact moves the Committee to suggest that all who desire such a periodical kindly at once send its their subscriptions, i. e., $1.00 a year. If it should not prove to be the Lord's will that a periodical be published, this money will be refunded. Additionally souse might desire to subscribe for the "Lord's Poor" or for others. This might 6e done while subscribing for themselves. Please write plainly the full address in each case.
Your communications may be addressed to
MR. I. F. HOSKINS, Secretary, Lock Box 13,
Brooklyn, N. Y.
The undersigned Committee, mindful that the Lord is the Head of the Church, desires, not its, but His will in this matter. Dear Brethren, the Committee, therefore, entreats you in the Lord's Name to join with it in prayer to the Lord for Him to indicate His will oil the subject presented to you in this letter. It is the subject of the thoughts and prayers of many saints the world over.
The Lord will not forget His sorely tried and faithful people. Most graciously has He bound Himself to them in the Sarah Covenant: "By Myself have I sworn it, . . . Thy Seed shall be as the stars of heaven; . . . Thy Seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 22:16-18.) Throughout the Scriptures are promises elaborative of this Oath-bound Covenant. For the comfort and encouragement of our hearts we quote some of these: "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee." (Josh 1:5.) "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Heb 13:5.) "They that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that Day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a mail spareth his own son that serveth him." (Map. 3:16, 17.) "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee, O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest and not comforted. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord; and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." (Isa. 54:10, 11, 17.) "God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Phil. 4:19.) "He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, He it is that loveth Me; and He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, . . . and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with hint." (John 14:21,22.) The Lord now appears in these blessed Scriptures for our comfort. He is, and will continue to remain with its, as we continue to remain His.
Dearly beloved brethren, partakers of the Heavenly Calling, let us give all diligence and heed to the Apostle's exhortation: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice;" and let its "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, compassionate sentiment, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering."
In conclusion, let its once more call to mind the last lines of the Will of our dear Pastor:
"I entreat you all that you continue to progress and to grow iii grace, in knowledge, and above all in love, the great fruit of the Spirit in its various diversified forms. I exhort to meekness, not only with the world, but with one another; to patience with one another and with all men, to gentleness with all, to brotherly kindness, t6 godliness, to purity. I remind you that all these things are necessary for its, necessary that we may attain the promised Kingdom, and that the Apostle has assured us that if we do these things we shall never fail, but that so an entrance shall be ministered unto its abundantly into the everlasting Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"My hope for myself, as for all the dear Israel of God, is that soon we shall meet to part no more, in the First Resurrection in the Master's Presence, where there is fullness of joy forevermore. We shall lie satisfied when we awake in His likeness-'Changed front glory unto glory."'
The Committee prays fur all of you the blessings of God as contained in the Apostolic benediction: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all! Amen."-2 Cor. 13:14.
With much fervent love to you in the Lord, we remain, Your brothers and fellow servants iii Christ,
-------Cut this out and send to Sec'y. Write plainly.
To facilitate matters the Committee submits some questions for answers. Please use the following form in answering
(1) Do you think it the Lord's will that there be some general service for the Lord's people?
(2) Do you favor Pilgrim work? ........................
(3) Do you favor a Periodical? ...................
(4) If you favor some general service, do you desire to cooperate to further the same?
(5) Do you favor some other forms of service? If so, what? .....................................................
Name .................................................. Street ..................................................
City ...................... State ......................
natural man, but it means the development of the new- creature. It means the progress of the work of salvation in the heart, which alone God recognizes; and the- new creature, thus making progress is ultimately to be perfected in salvation by a share in the "first resurrection."