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Saturday, August 30, 2008


Additional Reading:


The debates are past history now--ending last evening. Every night the auditorium was packed, with probably more turned away than got in. The total attendance was approximately 12,000 persons. Except for the great amount of enthusiasm manifested by the audience everything was very orderly, and a good spirit prevailed throughout. Certainly the Lord's favor was with us, and the prayers of the many friends were answered. Many messages of encouragement came from different parts of the country, among them two cablegrams from Europe. The friends are all happy. This morning (Sunday) I spoke to the friends for 30 minutes at The Temple, and this was followed by a testimony meeting for one hour. It would have done your dear heart good to see the joy manifested by the friends, and to hear the many expressions of love for all. If the debates have accomplished no other good, I feel sure they have greatly strengthened the saints here, many testifying that the striking contrast between Truth and error has given them new zeal for service.

I must tell you how the Adversary did not succeed for once. My opponent was well prepared to assault you personally. I judged so from the interviews he had given the press two days before the debate. I said nothing then, but waited my time. About three minutes before we went on the platform for the first night's discussion I called Brother Troy, my opponent, and two of his friends and two of our friends into a side room. You will recall that we had entered into a thousand-dollar obligation, with securities, that we would refrain from personalities. I then said: "Brother Troy, I desire to be absolutely frank with you and therefore I say this to you before we go on the platform. From your interviews with the press I judge that you intend to assault Pastor Russell from the platform. Of course, you can pursue that course if you wish, but the first time you attempt it I am going to have your bond forfeited."

His reply was, "May I not mention his name?" "No," I said, "not one time. I signed this agreement with you to discuss the Bible, and by that contract I am going to abide, and I shall expect you to do the same." He said, "All right; I am ready." We went on the platform. Not once did he mention your name throughout the four nights, but it was an awfully bitter pill for him to refrain therefrom. Having prepared along that line and being taken down so suddenly he was much disturbed and labored under much stress, as I could observe, during his first argument. I am confident the Lord directed this matter, and thus saved the debate from being an occasion for personal assault upon you.

When the debate closed last night many persons came to me, quite a number saying, "I have been a Baptist for years, but I have had my eyes opened here. You have brought me the light"; and similar expressions.

Quite a large number of cards were turned in on each night. I have not the total here just now. I received a real blessing in the whole matter and am indeed grateful to the Lord that He has been pleased to give me this opportunity to bear witness to His great Plan.

This (Sunday) afternoon at the Shrine Auditorium we had a very good public meeting. The friends say there were about 3500 in attendance, 992 of whom turned in their addresses. This afternoon my subject was, "Babylon Before the Great Court"; and I took occasion to tell the people about the assaults the ministers were making against you personally. Several preachers were in the audience, and I stated that I would be glad to furnish a printed reply to each one of such charges. Sorry we did not have the booklet ready, but we will get it to many here when it does arrive. I hope that by the time you come the people will be more anxious to hear you than ever before. I think there are still some of the Lord's people in this place.

I must take this occasion to say that the success of the publicity for the debates and meetings following here is due to the untiring and faithful work of our dear Brother Page Noll. He made himself very agreeable to the reporters "covering" the debates, and they were favorable to us in every way they could be. A full report of each day's debate was published by the Express and the Tribune, and I am advised that about 75,000 extra copies were mailed out each day by the newspaper company to various parts of the world. The paper printed cards and distributed them all over the city, calling the attention of the people to the fact that verbatim copies of the debate would be in certain issues of the paper; and doubtless this sold many papers. Brother Noll had gone after the matter in a systematic manner, and the Lord surely blessed his efforts and his faithfulness. If a copy of the debates comes to your notice you will see that more space is given to my argument than to my opponent's. That is due to the fact that I spoke with much more rapidity than did my opponent. Profiting by your experience at Cincinnati, I crowded in all that I could.

I enclose a clipping from one of the morning papers, wherein you will see that at yesterday's meeting I spoke of the booklet I am getting out answering the slanderous charges against you. Quite a number are anxious to have these pamphlets, and I hope they may be ready soon.

Never before have I realized so fully the blessed privilege the Lord's dear children have of praying for each other. I am sure that the prayers of the dear friends throughout the world had much to do with the success of these debates. I wish I might express to every one of our brethren my great appreciation of their fervent prayers on my behalf. Hourly I felt that these were a strength to me. I shall never be able to thank you as I would like for the letter which was signed by yourself and all the Bethel family, assuring me of your united and continued prayers in my behalf. The Lord reward all of you. This is but a reminder of the unity of the body and the sweet relationship we are privileged to enjoy here. How much sweeter it will be in the Kingdom! Brother Woodworth suggested that there must be great interest in Heaven in this debate. The Lord be praised for it all. I am thankful indeed that He was pleased to use me to glorify His dear name in any manner. Brothers Woodworth and MacMillan sat with me on the platform as counsel, and my son was by my side to take anything quickly that I desired and to prepare the copy for me without delay. All rendered valuable service. The Lord arranged it all. There was never a moment after the debate began that we did not have the sympathy of a majority of the great audience; and when the debate concluded, there could be no doubt about the fact that a large majority of the audience was with us.

My room in this hotel looks out facing the main entrance to Trinity Auditorium, and each evening I could see the crowds gather. For more than two hours before the debate began the people were standing at the door waiting to get in. Each evening the gates were closed and locked by 7 o'clock, and after that hundreds were turned away. It is estimated that from 10,000 to 15,000 persons were turned away during the four nights, unable to gain entrance. Over the entrance to the Trinity Auditorium appear these words cut in the stone: "The Gates Shall Never Be Closed"; but they had to close for the four sessions of the debate.

Please express my love to all the dear Bethel family, reserving a large portion for yourself. Please continue to remember me at the Throne of Heavenly Grace.

Yours in the service of the dear Redeemer,

* * *

[We rejoice greatly that the blessing of the Lord was so richly with our dear Brother Rutherford on the occasion of the debates referred to above. Apparently the Lord guided these debates and blessed the outcome. However, we still feel a prejudice against public debates of religious questions, and have elsewhere expressed our reasons.]

- May 1, 1915, Watchtower, WTB&TS


Although the Lord's providence did seem to open up the way for the "Eaton-Russell Debate" and later, for the "White-Russell Debate," and through these Debates led the way on to the publication of the Sermons in hundreds of newspapers throughout the world, nevertheless the Editor is not, and never was, much of a believer in the advantages of debating. The Debates mentioned were valuable chiefly as entering-wedges for the newspaper work. On the surface, it might at first appear as though a debate would be an excellent method of presenting the Truth to the public. Let it not, however, be forgotten that it is also an excellent method of presenting the error to the public. While it is true that Truth is mighty and will prevail, nevertheless "the god of this world" has blinded the eyes of men for eighteen centuries so thoroughly that remarkably few even yet see the beauty and force of the great Divine Plan of Salvation as presented by Jesus and the Apostles. On the contrary, the great mass of mankind have had thoroughly drilled into them heathen philosophy--carefully concocted theories and superstitions--and these are well riveted and fastened from childhood's hour.

An audience hearing a debate have the same difficulty that a jury has when hearing the opposing attorneys discussing the merits of a case. Each speaker has certain talent and ability, and each makes a certain amount of impression. It is the same with the general readers when these debates go before them. Those who have the Truth will enjoy the presentation of it, while those who have been schooled and prejudiced in favor of the error from childhood will rejoice in its presentation.

Added to this is the fact that the debates in general are in the nature of a war of words, the disputants each seeking to undo the other's arguments and to prove his own. In such a war of words the Truth is at a disadvantage. Why, do you ask? We answer, Because those who are of the Truth are bound by the Golden Rule, not only in its letter, but also in its spirit; and their presentations of the Truth must be along absolutely fair lines that take in the context and the spirit thereof. On the other hand, our opponents seem to have no restrictions nor restraints. Any kind of argument, regardless of the context, regardless of the Golden Rule, regardless of everything, is considered permissible. Indeed they do not even stop to consider such a trifling (?) matter as the Golden Rule or to exact allegiance to the letter and spirit of the inspired Word. Thus our opponents always have the advantage, not because they are intellectually brighter, but because they can and do use means to bamboozle the minds of the hearers and readers. This the advocates of the Truth dare not do-- have not the desire to do, so surely as they have the Spirit of Christ.

So far as the Editor is concerned, he has no desire for further debates. He does not favor debating, believing that it rarely accomplishes good and often arouses anger, malice, bitterness, etc., in both speakers and hearers. Rather he sets before those who desire to hear it, orally and in print, the Message of the Lord's Word and leaves to opponents such presentations of the error as they see fit to make and find opportunity to exploit.--`Hebrews 4:12`.

This should not be understood to mean that the Editor would never again engage in a public debate, but merely that in order to induce him to debate, his opponent would need to be a person of so great prominence as to bring the matter to the attention of everybody. Only such a consideration would be a proper offset to the wide presentation of error thus accomplished. Otherwise we prefer merely to present the Truth as the Lord opens the way and to leave the presentation of error and its circulation entirely in the hands of others.

- May 1st, 1915 Watchtower, WTB&TS

In 1894 Rutherford bought three volumes of Charles Taze Russell's Millennial Dawn series of Bible study textbooks from two colporteurs who visited his office. Rutherford, who then viewed all religions as insincere, shallow and hypocritical, was struck by Russell's sincerity and his sentiments towards religion, which mirrored his own view. Rutherford immediately wrote to the Watch Tower Society to express appreciation for the books. He was baptized twelve years later, and he and his wife began holding Bible classes in their home. In 1907, he became legal counsel for the Watch Tower Society at its Pittsburgh headquarters, and from around that time began to give public talks as a "pilgrim" representative of the Society. As Russell's health deteriorated, Rutherford represented him on trips to Europe and in April 1915 he was deputized to speak at a major debate with Baptist preacher J. H. Troy over four nights in Los Angeles before an audience of 12,000, debating various subjects, including the state of the dead, hellfire and Christ's Second Coming. Rutherford wrote a pamphlet, A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, in defense of Russell and served as chairman of the Bible Students' Los Angeles convention in September 1916.

- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia