We have been hearing a great deal the last years of the sect known as Jehovah’s witnesses. In many parts of the country they have been jailed, or attacked by mobs and stoned out of town. They have been denounced as fifth columnists, fascists, saboteurs, and the like.
Undoubtedly, most us, at one time or another, have met them. For it is quite a common experience to have them to come to your door, and to find them handing you a tract or a book with the slogan, “Millions now living will never die.” Sometimes they will park a sound-truck outside your house, with a sermon issuing therefrom that can be heard all up and down the block. Then again they will have a small Victrola and will ask you if you would like to have them play a record for you, which record is usually a sermon by the late Judge Rutherford,
The sect which this movement represents has had several different names. Once they were known as Russellites. More recently they went under the name of the International Bible Students Association. But at present they are generally spoken of as Jehovah’s witnesses. And they insist that Jehovah’s witnesses have existed for 5000 years and claim that even the Bible makes mention of them. One of the passages they refer to in order to prove this is, which reads in part: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.”
However, more conservative accounts record that the society was founded by Pastor Charles T. Russell of Pittsburgh about 1876, when he and “a few Christian persons met together in a little town in Pennsylvania to consider the Scriptures relative to the coming of Christ Jesus and His Kingdom.” Russell began to preach in 1878. His title of “Pastor” was won, not by the laying on of hands but by leg work. His zeal, so his followers boasted, took him farther than the journeying’s of St. Paul and Bishop Ashbury combined. It is said that his writings were “more extensive than the combined works of St. Paul, St. John, Arius, Waldo, Wycliffe and Martin Luther—the six messengers to the Church who preceded him.” Up to the time of his death, his six major books had had a total distribution of nearly 15,000,000 copies. And his followers declared, “the place next to St. Paul in the gallery of fame as expounder of the Gospel of the Great Master will be occupied by Charles Taze Russell.” The body of his beliefs came to be known as Russellism, and has been accepted as the truth by the organization and been the basis of its teaching ever since. Upon his death in 1916, Russell was succeeded by Judge Rutherford, the son of a farmer, who for a time practiced law in Boonsville, Missouri. Rutherford, who according to his opponents adopted his title of “Judge” after serving as a temporary judge for four days in a county circuit court, had complete charge of the organization until he died recently in his $75,000 Spanish home in San Diego, California.
The size and scope of this organization must not be underestimated. It would require a colossal asylum to house all its members. The records show that two years ago the organization already had 45,000 active members, and 200,000 followers in the United States alone. And it was estimated that there were about 1,000,000, more throughout the world. Among these were thousands of natives in South Africa. In Brooklyn, N. Y., the witnesses own a seven-story apartment house and an eight-story printing plant, together worth more than $1,000,000, where they turn out tons of literature every year. In this printing plant besides the linotypes they have huge rotary presses and a bookbinding plant which can turn out 20,000 bound books and 150,000 booklets daily. They have an assembly plant that turns out portable phonographs and sound car equipment. And their busy shipping room sends out publications in eighty different languages. Some of their books have passed the 2,500,000 mark. Then, too, the society owns radio station WBBR in Brooklyn, where its orchestra and singers entertain between recorded lectures by Judge Rutherford. Once they had a nation-wide hookup of 53 stations at a reputed cost of $50,000 per week, but their fierce attacks on religion brought so many complaints that the stations cut them off.
However, though they are a mighty organization, Jehovah’s witnesses nevertheless are unpopular, and to many they are even obnoxious, There are various reasons for this. Firstly, they all condemn religion. With religion they mean the organized religions of the Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, whom they call religionists. And it is their belief that, “Religionists have an ambitious desire to rule the world in the place and stead of God and Christ. Religion is therefore a snare and racket, and the Lord’s Kingdom will do away with religion and all fraudulent schemes.” Organized religion according to them, “is the highest development of and the most seductive form of Satan’s visible organization.” It is spiritual Babylon. Hence they denounce all religion and shout, “Religion is a racket.” They attack especially the Roman Catholic church. This church they believe will one day give rise to Antichrist. It is therefore not surprising that they are most severely persecuted in Catholic communities.
Moreover, they are also offensive because of their refusal to salute the flag, an act which they brand as being idolatry. They believe that the flag is only a symbol, and that to salute a symbol is the same as worshipping an image. They therefore refuse to salute any flag whether it be American, Communist, Nazi or Fascist. And they are so strongly opposed to it that they instruct their children to make the same refusal in school. Because of this Jehovah’s witnesses are exile in Russia and in concentration camps in Germany, and in our own country, where the Supreme Court has ruled that the public schools have a right to demand the salute to the flag, they are hated and despised and often accused of being pro-Nazi.
Furthermore, they are absolute pacifists, and refuse to bear arms even in self-defense. They believe that all government today is of the Prince of darkness and that therefore all wars between these worldly governments are evil on both sides. Hence the only citizenship they acknowledge is in a heavenly country, and they refuse to participate in an ungodly war of an earthly country. Because of this stand many of the sect’s members are now serving prison terms. For often they fail to go through the trouble of finding out what their rights are under the law, and what procedure they should follow to secure them. Consequently, before they know it they find themselves lawbreakers, subject to punishment. Moreover because of their strong denunciation of other faiths they are very unpopular, especially in communities where religious loyalties are strong, and therefore in doubtful cases they do not get the breaks given to the more respectable pacifist sects.
For all these reasons they are an obnoxious sect, which is the object of contempt and violence, and must endure much suffering and hardship. However they bear these with joy and gladness. In them they think to see the sure proof of the genuineness of their faith and the certain evidence that they are walking in the footsteps of the Fathers. Yet, when we delve a little deeper into the object of their faith, one can only fear the worst. Then there is every reason to believe that all their suffering is vain and foolish. But first of all, they deny the Trinity. No mention is made of the Holy Spirit. And Christ, though He is the first begotten of the Father, is not God but merely one who is higher than the angels and is now only a spiritual influence. He was a created spirit and in His incarnation was only a perfect man. After His crucifixion He ceased to be human and became again a spirit. He did not rise from the tomb; the disposition of His body is not known, though it probably was dissolved into gasses or was supernaturally slipped away and is being preserved as a corpse until God chooses to produce it. Hence they have no Gospel.
Then, too, they have an unscriptural view of the return of Christ and of the life that is to follow. According to them Christ already returned in the year 1914. Up to that time the world was Satan’s and he ruled it. Everything made by man, from that date back to Noah, was not God’s but Satan’s handiwork. But 1914 ushered in a new era. Invisibly in that year Christ returned to earth. Satan, for the first time since the flood, was challenged. To date, to be sure, he has not been dislodged, but Christ is doing His best and Satan’s ousting is at hand. They came to this peculiar view through the prediction of Chas. Russell that in that year Christ would surely return. But since the year ended without a visible return of Christ, Rutherford concluded that Russell must have meant an invisible return. In 1920 Rutherford also turned prophet and predicted that Abraham, Isaac and other prophets would return in 1925. Since then no dates were set, but Rutherford said merely that Judgment Day is coming very soon and that King David, Isaac, Samuel and the other prophets may be expected to come any day to assist the Lord in establishing His Kingdom. With this in view he had the $75,000 Spanish home built in Calif. Thoughtfully he had the grounds landscaped with date and palm trees so that these princes will feel right at home.
And they maintain that when Christ finally comes all will be destroyed in the terrible battle of Armageddon except Jehovah’s witnesses. However, after the battle has ceased all will be brought back to life and the wicked will then have “a second chance to choose righteousness.” Those who reject it will then be destroyed by the “second death” with which they mean total annihilation. But those who expect it will then live forever, although their glory will be inferior to that of Jehovah’s witnesses. Heaven will ‘then be on earth and its joys will consist in this that we will have heavenly automobiles, airplanes and all the other necessities and luxuries of the temporal world.
And in order to be able to apparently somewhat maintain all this they have their own revised version of the Bible supplied them by Judge Rutherford. Their Bible is called the diaglot, which means two languages. On the one side is the Greek and on the other the translation of Rutherford. All passages contrary to their belief are brazenly omitted.
Surely they are a sign of the times. Watch then and be sober.