Harvest Highlights


1874 to 1916


Mt 13:24-30: "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up and brought forth fruit then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, an enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."


In many ways this parable of the wheat and the tares speaks to us of the history of the Harvest Church. If it were not for the harvesting of the wheat at this end of the Gospel Age, none of us would be here now enjoying the fellowship that we are having at this convention.


As the time drew near for the Harvest of the Gospel Age, our Lord began to direct his attention toward the earth, and specifically toward the northeastern portion of the United States. Here we witness the cleansing of the sanctuary class, the stirring of the virgins and the preparatory work of William Miller and others paving the way for one of the most important works of the Divine Plan of the Ages-the harvesting of the true Church.


How would you have accomplished this work if it were given to you? What would you have done to accomplish the gathering of the true wheat from the tare field of Christian denominations that existed at the time of our Lordís return? Letís look at this phenomenon of the gathering of the harvest Church at the end of the Gospel Age.


A clear understanding of the reality of what happened between 1874 and 1916 is often lost in the string of events that we have come to talk about in our fellowship together. The joys, the trials, the blessings, the disappointments-all of these have blended together into a blur of what the harvest experience truly has been.


However, there are themes which do exist in the narrative of the harvest events.


These themes have been a hallmark of our "Harvest Highlights." In fact it is because these themes are prevalent today that we can recognize them in the record of yesterday. In many ways the first 42 years of the harvest-the years from 1874 to 1916-are inseparably linked to the life and activities of the messenger to the Harvest Church: Charles Russell.


As we review the events of this period, we would like to keep in mind a series of thoughts. We would like to state these points one by one so that as we go through the events of the period we can better understand what has been taking place.


The Major Characteristics of the Harvest Period


*††† Point number 1: The Bible Student movement has never been a large movement. Even at its peak it was a movement of tens of thousands rather than the hundreds of thousands of many other denominations. Yet even though it was not a large movement, it was a movement of large influence.


*††† Point number 2: Brother Russell did not exert a controlling influence over the brethren individually, but, as we shall see, he did exert a compelling influence on the Church as a while. It was a compelling influence on the Church as a whole. It was a compelling influence because of the ideals which he set forth and because of the truths that unified the brethren in their activities.


*††† Point number 3: The Bible Students are an old movement, but the movement was culturally and technologically in tune with its time. In fact, the movement was in advance of its time.


*††† Point number 4: The underlying direction of the movement was rigid and uncompromising in Christian values and essential truths, but it was flexible and broadminded in matters of individual style.


*††† Point number 5: Although the pages of the Watchtower were used as a channel of divinely revealed truth, they were also, and more often, used as an effective tool in pastoring a geographically diverse flock.


*††† Point number 6: Although headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, for the last seven years, the first 35 years of that 42-year period when the Church was privileged to have the messenger with them were spent in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. It was not a cosmopolitan movement; it was a movement of small towns and small ecclesias.


*††† Point number 7: Although today we often refer with certainty to the way things were done "in the Pastorís day," there was not a firm tradition established back then. In fact tradition was avoided at all cost.


*††† Point number 8: Although the general call ended in 1881, the bulk of the harvest work was accomplished after 1881.


*††† Point number 9: Although chronological reckoning has pinpointed the focal point of specific messages such as the Lordís return in 1874, the call to come out of Babylon and the casting off of its nominal systems in 1878, and the ending of the general call in 1881, these messages grew in crescendo well beyond their appointed dates up to and including 1916. Brother Russellís view and vision were that they would grow even further beyond that point.


*††† Point number 10: Although most of our photographs show Brother Russell as an older man, the six volumes were the work of a young man. The first three volumes were written while Brother Russell was still in his thirties. Tabernacle Shadows was written when he was in his twenties.


*††† Point number 11: Although there were controversies, dissensions, and even deceit in many affairs of the Harvest Church, the brethren were markedly joyous. They were full of blessed experiences. They were open, good natured, optimistic, and even humorous.


*††† Point number 12: Although Brother Russell was the Lordís appointed messenger, those who survived the siftings and testings of that time were not the followers of the man, or even of the organization. They were the followers of the Truth.


*††† Finally, point number 13: Although there was a tremendous work encouraged and accomplished, it was not accomplished because of organic unity, because the brethren were united in one organization. It was accomplished because of the promulgation of the thought that every believer was independent. It was accomplished because of the insistence by Brother Russell and those who were following and working with him that each believer stands alone in Christ.


Brother Russellís Early Years


Letís turn our attention back to the field that was left at the time when our Lord was about to return. At about the time of the stirring of the virgins in preparation for the return of the bridegroom, the attention of our Lord was centered in Allegheny, near the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


In 1852 Charles Taze Russell was born, the second son of Joseph L. and Ann Eliza [Birney] Russell.


In 1861 when Brother Russell was nine years old, his mother died. From that point forward, his father took the responsibility of being both parents and continued to raise Charles as a devoted Christian.


In 1865, at the age of 13, Brother Russell would have heard of the assassination of the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. The year 1867 was very important in the life of Brother Russell. It was then, at the age of 15, in a doctrinal discussion with an infidel on the fate of those who are not saved, that Brother Russell was routed. In this discussion the infidel brought to light scriptures and reasonings based upon the character of God that shook his faith in Christianity as it was taught in the creeds. He was shaken to such an extent that he became a skeptic of Christianity and began to investigate the oriental religions. He also began to devote his energies and keen reasoning to the pursuit of his mercantile activities.


In 1868, when Brother Russell was 16, Benjamin Disraeli was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain. Brother Russell, finding nothing worthy of pursuit in the oriental religions, began to look again at the Bible. However, instead of looking at it from the perspective of the Christian sects, he discarded these and let the Bible speak for itself.


On an old side street in Allegheny, in a dingy old hall, he met a man named Jonas Wendel, an Adventist, one who had been a follower of William Miller. The study in this hall stirred Brother Russellís interest in the subject of our Lordís return. If our Lord was to return, WHY was he to return? Brother Russell began to look for an answer to this question, not in the Christian creeds, but in the pages of the Bible.


When Brother Russell turned 18 in 1870, Franceís third republic was proclaimed, Rome became the capitol of Italy, and Nikolai Lenin was born. In that year Brother Russell began to study with the small Bible class in Allegheny. He began a systematic study of the scriptures which resulted in an understanding of the major features of the Divine Plan of the Ages.


During this time, Brother Russell had increasing success in his mercantile activities. He opened a chain of clothing stores and because of mass purchasing, could offer quality goods at lower cost.


1872: Brother Russell was 20 years old. In their studies regarding our Lordís return, Brother Russell learned that the object of the return is the "restitution of all things." This expanded understanding of our Lordís work at his second advent broadened Brother Russellís appreciation for the redemptive work accomplished at our Lordís first advent.


1874: This was the year of our Lordís return. N.H. Barber, the editor of "Herald of the Morning" was disappointed by his unrealized expectations regarding our Lordís return. Barber had the correct understanding of the time features associated with the return, but he misunderstood both the object and the manner of our Lordís return. However, a Bible Student with a Diaglott examined Mt 24:3 and recognized that the Greek word parousia means "presence" and not "coming" as translated in the English King James version of the Bible. During this time the revivals of Moody result in large numbers of people renewing their devotion to the Lord.


1875: Brother Russell was now 23 years old. In this year he wrote and distributed 50,000 copies of "The Object and Manner of our Lordís Return at his own expense.


1876: The telephone was invented. Brother Russell at the age of 24 asked N.H. Barber to come to Allegheny to discuss matters relating to our Lordís presence and the 1874 date. He felt that a proper understanding of Matthew 24:3 might shed light o the chronological reckonings which Barber had developed. It was at this meeting that Brother Russell was made the assistant editor of the "Herald of the Morning." Barber saw in Brother Russell not only a keen young mind that was thoroughly devoted to the Lord, but also a ready source of financial support for his publication.


During this year Brother Russell was elected pastor of the Bible class in Allegheny, and he remained in this position until his death in 1916. Recognizing from his studies that the Lord had returned invisibly in 1874, he began to vigorously herald this truth in the vicinity of Pittsburgh.


1877: At the age of 25, Brother Russell called a meeting of all the ministers in the area to speak to them on the subject of the second presence. All of them rejected his message. He gave up his secular work, leaving his several stores in the hands of his workers so he could devote all his time to preaching Godís word. He began to travel extensively throughout the eastern portions of the United States and Canada, speaking to both large and small groups on the subject of our Lordís return and the restitution of all things promised in the Bible. Mr. Barber who was left behind to produce the "Herald of the Morning," began to deviate in his understanding of the truth.


1878: The brethren, through a study of the parallels which existed between our Lordís first and second presence, expected that they would witness the resurrection of the "sleeping saints" and would themselves be "changed" to spirit nature. Although the resurrection of the sleeping saints did occur in the spring of that year, the brethren were somewhat disappointed that they had been left behind. This was the year when Mr. Barber changed his views on the ransom merit of Jesus. The dispute that developed in the pages of the "Herald of the Morning" between Brother Russell and Mr. Barber resulted in the departure of Mr. Barber with the type and office equipment that Brother Russell had purchased. Brother Russell realized that he could better serve the Lord and the Truth by curtailing his travels and devoting his time to the establishment of a new journal. He was, however, delayed in his plan to start the journal until July of 1879. During that time he conducted a series of public meetings in the Pittsburgh area. One of those who attended was Maria Francis Actley. She attended one evening and within three months, she and Brother Russell were married. Seventeen years later their marriage ended in separation. Brother Russell testified that they had 13 years of happy wedded life during which time Sister Russell served as a devoted and loving wife.


The Watchtower


1879: The Watchtower magazine was founded with an initial circulation of 6,000 copies. It was always sent free to the "Lordís poor." Brother Russell stated in his articles that he would always strive to be faithful to the truth contained in the scriptures, but advised his readers that they should not simply accept what was written in the Watchtower. Rather they should "sift" it and search the scriptures to be sure it was true.


1880: Brother Russell was 28 years old. The first official "Bastille Day" celebration occurred in France. The "Bible Examiner," a periodical published by George Storrs, ceased publication and Storrs began to support Brother Russellís activities. After reading Mr. Barberís erroneous views on the tabernacle sacrifices, Brother Russell began a study of the tabernacle. He came to the proper understanding of the tabernacle types and shadows based mainly upon a clearer understanding of Hebrews, chapter 13.


1881: This was the year when the general call ended. Rumania was declared a kingdom. Again the brethren, based upon their understanding of the parallels between our Lordís first and second advents, expected to experience their change of nature to the spirit condition. Brother Russell, now 29 years old, published and distributed 1,400,000 copies of "Food for Thinking Christians."


These books were distributed to believers at the very doors of their church congregations. A notice appeared in the Watchtower: "1,000 Preachers Wanted."


1882: The memorial celebrations in Newark, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, each had 60 brethren in attendance. In this year the British House of Commons recommended "home rule" for all its colonies in West Africa.


1883: Brother Russell was 31 years old. A notice appeared in the Watchtower that the book "Millennial Day Dawn" was not yet ready. (He had expected to benefit from the popularity of another book in circulation entitled "Day Dawn," but was unable to do so.) In the Watchtower article entitled "Church Government," Brother Russell indicated that he felt elders and deacons were not necessary because of the independent nature of the brethren and the shortness of the time.


1884: Zionís Watchtower and Tract Society was legally incorporated. Every $10 donation to it bought one voting share in the society.


1885: Brother Russell was 33 years old. Tabernacle Shadows was distributed as a Watchtower issue.


1886: Volume one, at that time entitled "Millennial Dawn," was published with an initial press run of 4,500 copies. Brother Russell indicated it would be necessary to publish more than that one volume to outline Godís plan. The first volume presented the basics of the Plan of the Ages; the second would give the details of its times and seasons. The first volume was also distributed as the November and December Watchtower issues.


1887: The memorial celebration in Pittsburgh was attended by 150. The brethren in these early years all gathered together in Pittsburgh to celebrate the memorial.


The Watchtower contained another appeal for workers in the vineyard. Articles such as "How to Preach to Those of Jewish Heritage" and "Come Out of Her My People" appeared in its pages.


1888: Volume one had 70,000 copies in circulation. For the first time the term "colporteur" was used to describe those who sold these books to the public.


Volume two was not yet ready. It would be entitled "The Time is at Hand." It was distributed in 1889 as the April and May issues of the Watchtower.


1890: Brother Russell, at the age of 38, moved the Watchtower organization into bigger and better facilities. Poems of Dawn and Hymns f Dawn were printed.


Luxembourg separated from Holland and became a separate country.


1891: The third volume entitled "Thy Kingdom Come" was distributed as the June Watchtower issue. Brother and Sister Russell made a journey to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Russia. While in Russia, he met a Jewish Christian named Joseph Rabinowitz at his home in Kishnair, Russia.


1892: Brother Russell was 40 years old. There were 400 brethren at the memorial gathering in Pittsburgh. A Watchtower article entitled "Our Critical Readers appeared. It seems that Watchtower readers were so careful in their reading that they questioned Brother Russell and asked for clarification even in the case of typographical errors. The brethren were not docile followers but keen students heeding Brother Russellís suggestion that they "prove all things" by the scriptures.


1893: Joseph Rabinowitz travels from Russia to visit Brother Russell in Allegheny. There were 114 colporteurs in active service.


During this year, some objected to Brother Russellís role and prominence in the work. This led to Sister Russellís pilgrim trip in defense of Brother Russell which ultimately resulted in her being led astray in connection with the womanís role in the Church and her personal desire for more influence in editing the Watchtower.


1894: Brother Russell was 42. He wrote in the Watchtower of our personal liberty and responsibility to continue to prove things by the word of the Lord if we are to protect our liberty as Christians. The memorial celebration in Pittsburgh was attended by 160; 85 attended in New York. Sister Russell began her tour defending Brother Russell. Pilgrim brethren were sent out with a letter of introduction. Later the letter was withdrawn because some of the brethren thought it was a letter of endorsement for the pilgrims. Brother Russell did not want this to be the case. The pilgrims were sent forth simply as brethren of exceptional moral character, polished in the Truth, large in meekness and in their understanding of the Lordís plan, of good ability to impart the Truth to others, of known fidelity to the doctrine of the ransom in its true sense, of a humble mind, seeking to preach not self, but Christ, who did not put forth their own knowledge but presented Godís word in its purity and simplicity.


1895: Brother McPhail was given special duties in connection with his role as a pilgrim. At this time Brother Russell recognized the need for electing elders and deacons in the ecclesias.


1896: At the age of 44 Brother Russell separated from Maria Francis Russell. He suggested that chart talks be introduced so that brethren who were serving locally as elders could go into their communities and spread the Truth through discourses on the chart.


1897: A series of articles began to appear on the topic of Godís covenants.


During this year Volume four entitled "The Day of Vengeance" was distributed as a Watchtower subscription. We now know it as "The Battle of Armageddon." The title was changed to benefit from statements appearing in the public press.


1898: Joseph Russell, Brother Russellís earthly father, died at the age of 84.


Nearly one million volumes had been distributed by the colporteurs. They were going out at the rate of 1,000 per day. A special donation of $186,000 was made that year to the society for the buildings, the books, the press, the publications, etc. Although there is no specific mention of it, it is certain this was a donation by Brother Russell himself.


1899: The memorial celebration in Pittsburgh was attended by 250. There were only 2,501 reported t have partaken of it worldwide even though a special request was made in the pages of the Watchtower for the brethren to report how many in their ecclesias partook of the memorial symbols. Volume five entitled "The Atonement Between God and Man" was distributed as a Watchtower issue.


Great personal trials began to develop as a result of Brother Russellís separation from his wife.


1900: Brother Russell suggested that the brethren avoid flattery in connection with the pilgrims who had been sent out. The memorial celebration worldwide had 2,600 participants. An admonition to Watchtower readers appeared: "We have recently learned of some of this journalís subscribers who have not read the "Millennial Dawn" volumes entirely. It is a great mistake. None can rightly understand or appreciate the precious truth presented herein unless he first have.a clearly outlined view of the great Divine Plan of the Ages. Hence we urge upon all that they begin this study at once."


1901: Lenin forms the Bolshevik party in Russia. Brother McPhail begins to deviate on the doctrine of the new covenant, stating that it had already started.


1902: The memorial celebration saw 4,725 who were partaking of the emblems in 175 ecclesias.


1903: Wilbur and Orville Wright make the first manned, powered flight in an airplane. Brother Russell took a European journey and wrote in the Watchtower that the true sheep "fold" is not a "pen." He thus encouraged the independence and personal growth of the brethren. The Russell-Eaton debates took place in that year.


1904: Volume six entitled "The New Creation" was distributed, but not as a Watchtower issue. Brother Russell suggested that the brethren put notices in local newspapers advising "Millennial Dawn" readers to meet locally so Watchtower subscribers would know of the existence of local ecclesias. As soon as volume six was published, critical remarks were received about the clarity of Brother Russellís views on the position of the Ancient Worthies in the resurrection.


1906: The memorial was celebrated by 6,267. There were 500 colporteurs in the field.


1908: The number partaking of the memorial reached 8,397. In response to a letter from Brother Horace Hollister, the "Vow Unto the Lord" was developed. It was printed in the Watchtower and Brother Russell suggested it would be profitable for the brethren to take it.


1909: Brother Russell was now 57 years old. The Watchtower organization moved to Brooklyn, New York, but Brother Russell remained the pastor of the Allegheny ecclesia. There were 9,245 brethren who partook of the memorial that year and there were 625 colporteurs in the field. Brother Russell published articles on Godís three great covenants. Objections were raised to the use of Brother Russellís photograph in the newspapers. Divisions among brethren occurred over the Vow. Brother Russell came into a clearer understanding regarding justification and the covenants.


1910: Japan annexed Korea. There were 9,600 who partook of the memorial.


Brother Russell suggested that the term International Bible Students Association be used. 4,000 Jews gathered to hear Brother Russellís address in the Hippodrome auditorium in New York City. 1911: Brother Russell took both a world tour and a trans-continental trip across North America. The memorial was celebrated by 10,570 brethren. Articles bean to appear on the topic "The Churchís Share in the Sin Offering."


1912: The worldís largest ocean liner, the Titanic, hit an iceberg off the North American coast on its maiden voyage and 1,513 passengers are drowned. A question published in the Watchtower asked whether or not one should marry because of the shortness of the time.


1913: The count of those partaking of the memorial was 7,944, including a large ecclesia in Glasgow, Scotland. There were over 1,100 ecclesias in the United States and Canada. Testimony meetings were encouraged. Brother Russell wrote that punctuality was a mark of character development. The "Morning Resolve" was presented to the brethren.


1914: Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary is assassinated at Sarajevo. Shortly after, World War I began. The "Photodrama of Creation" was presented for the first time. This important witnessing effort consisted of hand-tinted frames of motion picture film projected together with sound from phonograph records. It was widely viewed during the next two years.


1915: Because of the disappointment of the brethren that 1914 did not end the harvest and bring the "change" to the spirit nature, funds flowing into the Watchtower began to sharply diminish. This required Brother Russell to dismiss many workers from the Brooklyn headquarters. After doing this he wrote an article in the Watchtower stating that this action should not be misunderstood because the general work was not being interrupted. Brother Russell began to study the work of Elijah in more detail and he suggested the antitypical significance of the Elijah work. The colporteurs wanted to know if it was still appropriate for them to continue to sell the volumes seeing that 1914 had passed.


1916: Brother Russell was 64 years old. The Elijah type and the smiting of the River Jordan were very much on his mind. The harvest work was going grandly on. His last trip was to the western United States. He was afflicted with any physical ailments; on October 31 st he died and passed to his reward. His writings were translated and published in English, German, French, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Welsh, Polish, Hungarian, Hollandish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Russian, Armenian, Arabic, Tamil, Malayan, Zulu, Esperanto, Maori, Gujarati, Marathi, Telegu, Urdu, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.


He and those associated with him during those years of 1874 to 916 have left us with a wonderful heritage in the truth and an encouraging example of full consecration.


Let us use our heritage wisely so that we may be found faithful and changed to the spirit nature when our work is finished.