1. Russell did not believe that 1914 marked the "beginning of the end" as do Jehovah's Witnesses. Rather, he pointed to 1799 for that (i.e., see Zion's Watch Tower for Nov. 7, 1893, page 24: In commenting on the discovery of the Rossetta stone he states: "[The point is that 1799 was the very year beginning the time of the End when many would run to and fro and knowledge be increased.' DAWN, Vol III, Chapter II--EDITOR]"
2. He did not believe that Christ came invisibly in 1914 as Jehovah's Witnesses do. Rather, he believed that the invisible presence occurred in 1874. Zion's Watch Tower (July 15, 1906) credits this teaching to Second Adventist N.H. Barbour. "But there were no books or other publications setting forth the time prophecies as then understood, so I paid Mr. Barbour's expenses to come to see me in Philadelphia (where I had business engagements during the summer of 1876), to show me fully and Scripturally, if he could, that the prophecies indicated 1874 as the date at which the Lord's presence and 'the harvest' began. He came, and the evidence satisfied me." In 1879 when Russell began his own publication, he named it Zion's Watch Tower and Hearld of Christ's Presence," a presence he believed had already begun in 1874.
So what exactly did Russell believe about 1914? And where did he get that date? Well, he said that the "Times of the Gentiles" ended in 1914. But, again, this is not unique to Russell. Barbour's paper "Herald of the Morning" on its July, 1878 cover indicates in the right hand corner that "the 'Times of the Gentiles' end in 1914." Remember that this is a full year before Russell began his own journal.
In 1889 Russell wrote a book entitled "The Time Is At Hand." Note what he says in the chapter "Times of the Gentiles, at the end of page 76 & on to 77: "In this chapter we present the Bible evidence proving that the full end of the times of the Gentiles, i.e., the full end of their lease of dominion, will be reached in A.D. 1914; and that that date will be the farthest limit of the rule of imperfect men." Continuing on pages 98 and 99: "True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved; but we are living in a special and peculiar time, the 'Day of Jehovah,' in which matters culminate quickly..." "In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished at the end of A.D. 1914. Then the prayer of the Church, ever since her Lord took his departure--'Thy Kingdom come' will be answered; and under that wise and just administration, the whole earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord--with knowledge, and righteousness, and peace (Psa. 72:19; Isa. 6:3; Hab. 2:14); and the will of God shall be done 'on earth, as it is done in heaven.' And finally, on page 101: "Be not surprised, then, when in subsequent chapters we present proofs that the setting up of the Kingdom of God is already begun, that it is pointed out in prophecy as due to begin the exercise of power in A.D. 1878, and that the "battle of the great day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth's present rulership, is already commenced."
In another book "Thy Kingdom Come" written in 1891, page 153 Russell states: "And, with the end of A.D. 1914, what God calls Babylon, and what men call Christendom, will have passed away, as already shown from prophecy."
But with the approach of 1914 Russell begins to vacillate. In Z.W.T. of Nov. 15, 1913 he writes an article entitled "What Course Should We Take?" Gone is the positive proof of Bible evidence that he has heretofore offered. "This means that, whether within one year or within ten or twenty years, the things which we are expecting will be accomplished. The Church will be gathered, the messianic Reign of Righteousness will begin, preceded, as foretold by the great Time of Trouble." At the end of the article he concludes that the statements made about 1914 through the years were only his opinions and theories and are not infallible. And theories they indeed were! For the year, the 10 and the 20 years have all come and gone, and none of the things he expected have come about.
However, in 1914 Russell seems to have regained some confidence. See ZWT July 1, 1914 under "Can It Be Delayed Until 1914?" "...Now in view of the recent labor troubles and threatened anarchy, our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They say they do not see how present conditions can last that long. We see no reason for changing the figures--nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the View presented in the Watch Tower of Jan. 15, '92. We advise that it be read again."
Indeed read it at http://www.ctrussell.us/ Dates backed up by God don't sound like opinion to me, do they?
In the Sermon Book, page 676 appears "Pseudo Apostles of the Present Day." Under "Armageddon Near--God's Kingdom To Follow" Russell writes: "The present great war in Europe is the beginning of the Armageddon of the Scriptures. (Rev. 16:16-20). It will eventuate in the complete overthrow of all the systems of error which have so long oppressed the people of God and deluded the world. The glorious Kingdom of Messiah is about to be set up in the earth, for the deliverance of the world and the establishment of permanent righteousness." Here Russell contradicts what he had previously written in ZWT, Jan. 15, 1892: "...The date of the close of that 'battle' is definitely marked in Scripture as October, 1914. It is already in progess, its beginning dating from October, 1874...the final struggle will be comparatively short, terrible and decisive--resulting in general anarchy In many respects the convictions of the world's great generals coincide with the predictions of God's Word. Then 'Woe to the man or nation who starts the next war in Europe; for it will be a war of extermination' and 'if not brought to an end by the establishment of God's kingdom in the hands of his elect and then glorified Church, it would exterminate the race.--Matt. 24:22.' " Whereas he had taught that Armageddon had already commenced in 1874, now he is originating it with World War I.
Can the use of terminology such as "established truth," "proving," "proofs," "definitely marked in Scripture," "it is already in progress," etc. be equated to opinion? Hardly. If one knows something to be so, it is no longer opinion, possibility or suggestion. Claiming not to be infallible compared to what is actually said are two different things!