For over forty years, the early Watchtower taught freedom of thought and liberty in Christ. After the death of C.T. Russell in 1916, everything changed. Here is what the Watchtower used to publish. The following quotes are taken from “The New Creation” book, Volume 6 of C.T. Russell’s Studies in the Scriptures series, starting on page 240: (Find the complete chapter by clicking here:)
Unity of faith is desirable; it is to be striven for–yet not the kind of unity that is generally aimed at. Unity is to be along the lines of “the faith once delivered unto the saints” in its purity and simplicity, and with full liberty to each member to take different views of minor points, and with no instruction whatever in respect to human speculations, theories, etc. The Scriptural idea of unity is upon the foundation principles of the Gospel. (1) Our redemption through the precious blood, and our justification by demonstrated faith therein. (2) Our sanctification, setting apart to the Lord, the Truth and their service–including the service of the brethren. (3) Aside from these essentials, upon which unity must be demanded, there can be no Scriptural fellowship; upon every other point fullest liberty is to be accorded, with, however, a desire to see, and to help others to see, the divine plan in its every feature and detail. Thus each member of the body of Christ, maintaining his own personal liberty, is so thoroughly devoted to the Head and to all the members that it will be his pleasure to lay down all, even life itself, on their behalf.
Jumping to page 326…
“Let Every Man Be Fully Persuaded in His Own Mind” –Rom. 14:5–
All logical minds delight in reaching a decision, if possible, respecting every item of truth; and this the Apostle declares should be striven for by each member of the Church for himself–“in his own mind.” It is a common mistake, however, to attempt to apply this personally good rule to a Church or to a class in Bible-study–to attempt to force all to decide on exactly the same conclusion respecting the meaning of the Lord’s Word. It is proper that we should wish that all might “see eye to eye”; but it is not reasonable to expect it when we know that all are fallen from perfection, not only of body, but also of mind… [pg 327] we have all need of patience with each other, and forbearance with each other’s peculiarities–and behind these must be love, increasing every grace of the Spirit as we attain more and more nearly to its fulness.
… Hence, too, after having expressed his own view, each is quietly to hear the views of others and not feel called to debate or restate his already stated position. Having used his opportunity, each is to trust to the Lord to guide and teach and show the truth, and should not insist that all must be made to see every item as he sees it, nor even as the majority view it. “On essentials, unity; on non-essentials, charity,” is the proper rule to be followed.
We agree, however, that every item of truth is important, and that the smallest item of error is injurious, and that the Lord’s people should pray and strive for unity in knowledge; [pg F328] but we must not hope to attain this by force. Unity of spirit on the first basic principles of truth is the important thing; and where this is maintained we may be confident that our Lord will guide all possessing it into all truth due and necessary to him. It is in this connection that the leaders of the Lord’s flock need special wisdom and love and force of character and clearness in the Truth, so that at the conclusion of each meeting he who has led may be able to summarize the Scriptural findings and leave all minds under their blessed influence–expressing himself clearly, positively, lovingly–but never dogmatically, except upon the foundation principles.