THE purpose of God at the present time is to take out of the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15 : 14). The separating process indicated by the "taking out" is achieved by the preaching of the gospel. "Go into all the world", Jesus commanded the apostles before ascending into heaven, "and preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved". Thus commissioned and empowered by the Holy Spirit which was poured upon them at Pentecost, the apostles preached Christ and salvation in his name among the Jews. The response was immediate, and the number of believers grew quickly. But persecution arose, testing the sincerity of those who believed, but also, by scattering them abroad, enlarging the spheres of their labours.
The preaching in the first generation was supported by a divine witness in the bestowal of Spirit gifts. These varied in form and consequently in purpose, but Paul taught that those gifts were most important which enabled the brethren who received them to build up the ecclesia by doctrine and exhortation. During this period the books of the New Testament were written and given to the ecclesias, so that when the spirit gifts were withdrawn the New Testament was completed, and with the Old Testament, formed the authoritative revelation of God's purpose.
The preaching of the apostles, though guided by the Spirit, nevertheless largely consisted of reasoning out of the scriptures. They appealed to the Old Testament for the evidence of God's purpose as summarized in the phrase "the gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ". The New Testament was a complement to the Old Testament, and together they formed the source of any knowledge available of God's will. From the end of the first century the saving truth of God's purpose continued to be set forth by the diligent application of men and women to God's word written, and by their earnest contention for the faith once for all given to the, saints.
If we had no information we might think that those who knew God's purpose revealed in His word would so value it that it. would be preserved without corruption. But such a view ignores all the history of man's response to God's revelation. The Old Testament is a divine record of repeated human failure, and of degeneration. Again and again God made fresh beginnings-at the Flood, in the call of Abraham, and repeatedly in Israel's history-but always decline followed. We might therefore expect that history would repeat itself in the present dispensation. This expectation becomes a certainty when we look at the predictions of the apostles concerning the course of events after their death.
The apostles were urgent in pressing upon believers their duty to maintain sound doctrine. Warning was given of declension when fables would be substituted for truth, and when men would believe a lie. By a law of life this was inevitable ; men turn from truth, and the lie becomes a power that blinds them concerning its true nature. Paul puts it plainly : because they received not the love of the truth God would send them a strong delusion that they should believe a lie.
The context of this prophecy in the epistles to the Thessalonians is more particular than other references in setting forth the way the apostasy would develop. The day of Christ would not come until there had been a falling away, and "a man of sin" revealed who would claim divine honours. But this "man of sin" was hindered in his development in apostolic days and for some time afterwards. "He that hindereth will hinder until he be taken out of the way." That which hindered was the rule of pagan Caesars; and when they passed and Christianity became the State religion in the days of Constantine, by common consent of historians, if it could be said that paganism had become Christianized, Christianity had also become paganized.
The history of the "man of sin" is revealed in two books in the Bible which are distinguished by the form in which prophecy is given. Both record chronological prophecy Daniel in the Old and the Apocalypse in the New Testament. The simplest form of chronological prophecy is in the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his dream. The same theme is revealed in greater detail, and therefore with more complexity, in the vision of the four beasts seen by Daniel. The fourth beast -the Roman-covers the Christian era : and the details of its horns foretell the uprise of many kingdoms when the Roman Empire was broken up. One of the horns was conspicuous among the other horns. Its character, its arrogance, its blasphemy, its duration are all revealed. It would be a persecutor of God's saints for 1,260 years, a record covering the last half of the appointed times of the Gentiles. The loss of power would come at the time of the end; and the establishment of God's kingdom is associated in the prophecy with its fall. So closely connected do these events appear that the expectation of the Lord's return at the time when its predicted duration would close appeared a reasonable conclusion. The little horn was identified with the Papacy, and this lost its power at the expected time, but the idea that the Lord would return at that time proved to be premature. Looking back from the present time we see that other events had to transpire before the advent, but the fall of the Papacy as a temporal power with ability to persecute those it describes as heretics, at the time students of prophecy expected, is a well established landmark of the time of the end.
The fourth beast with its horns, and particularly "the little horn", are the basis of the symbolism in the Lord's last message. Here we find the fuller details of the conflicts between the upholders of truth and the apostasy during Christian times. We are given the same. period of time when God's people would be subject to persecution as in Daniel's prophecy; but we read also of a period when the witnesses were slain.
Taking a broad view of the history of Christianity with all the divisions, heresies, and conflicts that have arisen, it is pertinent to ask whether anything is revealed which indicates that truth would survive? An examination of the prophecy shows that there are reasons for believing a revival of witnessing of gospel truth would take place prior to the end of the age.
We have first the prediction that the witnesses would be revived in Rev. 11. Looking at the work of the witnesses and what is written concerning the "slaying" of them, we see that the term covers all who opposed Romish blasphemy. Some resisted by the sword; some by the word of God's testimony ; but all at the time when the witnesses were slain sealed their witness with their lives. The revival took place in the French Revolution when forces were liberated which have done much to restrain the Roman Church, and which have entered largely into the shaping of the events of the last 150 years. But coincident with the uprise of the political witnesses a revival also of the true witnesses might be expected. Such a view indeed receives specific endorsement from a warning of Jesus which is connected with his reappearance on the earth. "Behold, I come as a thief: blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." Such a prophecy requires that there shall be living at the second advent some who are waiting and looking for Christ, who know God's way of salvation and have been "clothed" with God's righteousness. The above is but the briefest of outlines of the prophecies that deal with the subject : a fuller treatment with a reasoned exposition may be found in Eureka , an exposition in three volumes of the Apocalypse, and in Elpis Israel .
The articles reprinted in this volume are a contribution to the evidence that the testimony concerning God's great salvation is again heard in the earth, and that for a century the truth of the second coming, the Kingdom of God, the promise of everlasting life, as revealed in God's word, have been faithfully proclaimed.
Introduction: The Preacher
(II) THE PREACHER
WE have seen that the prophecies of Scripture require that at the Lord's advent a people should be watching for him. A work then must develop during the closing period of Gentile times in preparing a people for the Lord. Such a work must take the form of preaching the gospel, a knowledge of which can only be obtained by careful and diligent study of the word of God. "The Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation and therefore Timothy was enjoined to" Preach the Word There must then be a preacher, for as Paul said, "How shall they hear without a preacher?" Hearing there must be, for faith comes by hearing, and a preacher then must be raised up.
Since the Spirit-gifts were withdrawn God has overruled the affairs of His people without visible indication of His power. But the hand of God has nevertheless been present, ruling in the Kingdoms of men, and controlling "all things" that they "work together for good" for those who earnestly seek to know His ways. We might expect, then, that for the revival of His truth God would so overrule the affairs of suitable men that their minds were directed to the study of His word ; and so doing, they would acquire a correct knowledge of that gospel which is God's power unto salvation. This book itself is evidence that the gospel has been revived : and to all who, through the work of the writer of these reprinted articles, rejoice in an understanding of God's revealed purpose, information concerning the man is of more than passing interest. A short outline of his life will therefore be given first, and then consideration of the circumstances and influences which fostered his study of the Bible which resulted in the gradual unfolding of the One Hope.
John Thomas was born in London on April 12, 1805. He died on March 5,1871. More than half of the 66 years of his life were spent in diligent study of God's word, in preaching and writing about the message of that Word. It was not an arrangement that was planned before; editing a religious journal and discoursing on religious subjects formed no part at all of his aims in life. While his father was trained as a minister of religion, he did not follow a settled life; for periods he was a clerk to the East India Company; he also kept a boarding school, and between the two he served as a preacher with Independent congregations in London, in Scotland for a year, and afterwards at Chorley in Lancashire. While in Chorley, John Thomas began medical studies with a private surgeon; and when his father left Chorley, he remained for some months to continue his studies. He then returned to London and studied for two years with a general practitioner; after which he became a student at St. Thomas's hospital, attending lectures for three years, when he took his diploma. Then followed a year as companion to a physician for whom he wrote a course of lectures on obstetrics; after which he practised as a physician on his own behalf for three years. This was in Hackney; and Dr. Thomas began to write a history of the parish which was so disapproved by the authorities that the unfinished manuscript was purchased and suppressed. During this period articles were contributed to the medical journal, The Lancet .
By training and education the natural qualities of his mind were developed. He had great powers of both perception and reflection, with earnestness and a capacity for application to study, with independence, and a courage to hold to conviction reached by careful study. The early life was a preparation for later developments.
The circumstances which changed the course of Dr. Thomas' life were arresting enough. His father, who had in the meantime joined the Baptists, decided to go to America, where many were at the time emigrating. This was in 1832. It was decided that the son, John, should go first to investigate conditions there. He therefore secured a post as surgeon on a passenger ship of about 500 tons carrying about ninety people in all. The whole voyage was stormy, and quite early a considerable amount of damage was done to the ship, to the alarm of the passengers. Nearing the American side the ship grounded, sprung a leak as the result of the beating with the waves, and for ten days the pumps had to be kept at work, until at the end of eight weeks from leaving England the ship reached New York. Several times the passengers were in a state of panic and fear of drowning. Dr. Thomas was much exercised by the experience; he realized that he had made no study of religion ; and, faced with the possibility of death, his sense of uncertainty was so borne upon him that lie resolved that if he reached land safely he would not rest until he had found out the truth about what lay beyond death.
The resolve was soon tested. A letter of introduction to a Baptist preacher was presented, and in the conversation the preacher asked the destination of his visitor. On being informed that he was going to Cincinnati, the Minister remarked on the hospitality of the people, but said they were much influenced by "the reformation". The reference was to the movement known today by the name "Disciples of Christ" in America and as "Churches of Christ" in Great Britain; but sometimes described as Campbellism from the important part played in the early history of the body by Alexander Campbell. This was the first intimation he had of the "reformation", but his life during many years became closely bound up with it.
Within a few days of arriving at Cincinnati Dr. Thomas had been immersed and become associated with the 11 reformation ". It came about in this way. Invited to the house of a Major Gano, who had espoused the teaching of Campbell with great earnestness, the subject of baptism was discussed, the Major pressing upon his visitor a pamphlet by Campbell. On another visit within an interval of few days, he was given a further pamphlet by Walter Scott, who was an important leader of the new movement particularly in formulating its teaching. Scott was due to preach on the following Sunday, and Gano invited him and the Doctor to his house. In the conversation during the evening, Scott pressed the need for baptism, and Dr. Thomas replied that if evidence could be produced from the New Testament of baptism being at once administered after belief he would no longer resist. The very challenge, as the Doctor later declared, only revealed his ignorance; for Scott at once pointed to Acts 8: 36,37 The citation proved the point, as Dr. Thomas immediately perceived; a decision was made and immersion in the canal that passed the house took place at 10 o'clock by the light of the moon.
An introduction soon followed with Alexander. Campbell, who pressed Dr. Thomas into speaking duties. As his services were more called for, so his studies of the Bible increased. But a greater impetus sprang from the decision to edit a small monthly magazine devoted to the extension of "the reformation". The work and study of preparing this magazine led to a progressive grasp of God's purpose, and as each point was perceived it was faithfully accepted.
The magazine was called the Apostolic Advocate, and the first issue appeared in May, 1834. The sixth number contained an article which may be regarded as the beginning of the troubles which led finally to the break with Campbellism. Discussion followed, provoking closer application to the Scriptures on the part of Dr. Thomas who in consequence published in December, 1835, thirty-four questions under the heading "Information Wanted". In this way the question of the nature of man was raised. While these questions were formulated to secure information, unfriendly critics regarded them as statements of opinions already held by their author.
The opposition caused Dr. Thomas to determine that he would seek to comprehend the Bible teaching on the questions raised; and his fearless acceptance of truth when perceived and its courageous advocacy broadened the breach with Alexander Campbell. Several times Campbell in scurrilous language attacked Dr. Thomas, who replied in a spirited manner. In 1839 the Advocate was suspended.
Efforts to earn a living by farming followed without much success, and in 1842 Dr. Thomas returned to literary work, publishing a weekly paper for a very short time, when the enterprise was disposed of; then a successor to the Advocate entitled The Investigator was begun which only reached one or possibly two volumes.
In 1844 Dr. Thomas started a new magazine, the title of which indicates the progress of his understanding in God's purpose. It was called the Herald of the Future Age . Its preparation intensified the study in which he had for years been engaged -- a study which quickly bore fruit. In 1847 a critical reference to some of the points of his teaching about the reign of Christ on David's throne and related doctrines, led to the penning of an article reproduced in this volume on "The Hope of the world and the Hope of Israel". While reasoning that any hope, to be of value, must be established on divine promises, he perceived that when he was baptized he was ignorant of the true hope of the Gospel. His baptism therefore was invalid. He at once published a "Confession and Declaration", and was baptized into the true Gospel Hope.
The next stage in development of the witness was connected with a visit to England in 1848. This year was one of great unrest throughout Europe, so important that during the centenary of it in 1948 practically all leading journals have recalled the remarkable events that then occurred. The most important development for those who rejoice in a knowledge of God's truth was the production of a book entitled Elpis Israel . Dr. Thomas lectured in Britain and Scotland to thousands of people, the current events leading to great interest in his lectures on prophecy. Following earnest requests to prolong his stay and put in writing what he had said in his addresses, he went to London, and in four months had written the book.
When he left U.S.A. copy for the Herald was left with friends who continued its publication to the ninth issue, but the volume was not completed until Dr. Thomas returned in 1850. The Herald dated 1848 thus contains the prospectus for Elpis Israel which was published at the beginning of 1850.
The publication of the Herald was resumed under the altered title of The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come , and this continued for eleven years during which expositional articles were poured out with amazing regularity. The selection in this volume is drawn largely from the work of this period. The difficulties created by the American Civil War led to the suspension of the Herald, and another visit was made to Britain in 1862. In 1864 a magazine, The Ambassador , was started in this country, approved by Dr. Thomas, and under the changed title which he suggested for it, continues still as The Christadelphian, and this took the place of the Herald as the medium of Dr. Thomas's communications.
I The first volume of Eureka, an exposition of the Apocalypse , was published in 1862, and the second and third volumes occupied the time of Dr. Thomas from his return to U.S.A. in 1863- In 1865 the name "Christadelphian" was adopted in order that representation for exemption from military service could be made, the authorities requiring some distinctive appellation by which the community could be known. The third volume of Eureka being completed at the close of 1868, in the next year another trip was made to Great Britain, visits being made to many towns where communities of believers were established.
A decision was reached at this time that Dr. Thomas would settle in this country, but this was not to be. He returned to America to settle up his affairs. He visited fellow believers in places in the States and Canada, fell sick and never fully recovered. He never left home again, and he died in the early months of 1871.
The Truth Re-Discovered
(III) THE TRUTH RE-DISCOVERED
REFERENCE has been made to the early contacts with the " Reformation " on Dr. Thomas's arrival in America. He had intended to keep free from any sectarian association, but contrary to inclination he found himself not only linked up with a religious movement but within two years involved in a controversy which continued for many years.
The "Reformation" had its roots in Scotch Presbyterianism. John Glas (1695 1773) was a minister who made an effort to return to New Testament principles, and was deposed in 1730 for opposing alliance with the State. His son-in-law, Robert Sandeman (1723-1771), espoused his views, and established a weekly breaking of bread, emphasized intellect as against emotion, and established a simple form of government for each church in which the work of teaching was extended to others outside the official ministry. Michael Faraday was a member of the Glasites.
The Baptist movement in Britain early in the sixteenth century sprang from the Anabaptists in Germany. In the early periods the Baptists, had a hard struggle for religious freedom, and one Roger Williams left England for America where he founded the State of Rhode Island and established the first Baptist Church in America. A member of the Glasite churches in Scotland, Archibald McLean (1733- 1812), renounced the practice of infant sprinkling, and in 1765 was immersed. McLean had considerable influence, the Scotch
Baptist Churches having their origin in his work. His influence extended to England and Wales. In Wales the uncle and foster-father of Mr. Lloyd George was an elder of a McLean Church, and thus a Prime Minister of Britain in early life was associated with that fellowship. William Jones, who became a minister of a Scotch Baptist Church in London, was also influenced by McLean; he later published two volumes of the Millennial Harbinger (1835-6) in which Alexander Campbell's writings were made familiar to English readers. As Campbell's views were modified Jones published a criticism of them. Another McLean Baptist was James Wallis, who founded a church in Nottingham and was associated with the publication of the Christian Messenger , which ran for 12 years (1837-45), and which was followed by the British Millennial Harbinger at first edited by Wallis. Both these magazines were designed to introduce the teaching of Alexander Campbell in this country. When Dr. Thomas visited Britain in 1848 Wallis strongly opposed him.
Thomas Campbell, the father of Alexander, was born in Ireland, but was educated at Glasgow University for the Presbyterian Ministry. He became a minister of a section of the Presbyterian Church which had sprung from the Seceders. The Seceders had withdrawn from the Presbyterian State Church because they claimed the right for each congregation to choose its own ministers. The Seceders later divided on the question of taking an oath which bound to certain beliefs and practices. The section which would not take the oath were known as Anti-Burghers; to this section Thomas Campbell belonged. Although much strife and bitterness. followed these divisions, Campbell, deeply grieved by the bigotry manifested, tried to bring about reunion in Ireland, but failed. In 1807 he went to America, followed two years later by his son.
The Campbells were both opposed to divisions arising out of doctrinal difference; yet through an effort by the father to overcome these differences by inviting people of all sections of the Presbyterians to partake of communion together, still another sect came into being. Opposition to his policy was so strong that he was compelled to withdraw from ' the Presbyterians; people of different denominations followed him, and in 18og an association was formed for which Campbell drew up the "Declaration and Address". This "Declaration" renounced all systems of theology as tests of fellowship, and this has remained a feature until today of the Churches founded by Campbell. Another revival movement similar in aim to that led by the Campbells was proceeding during this time in America under the leadership of Barton W. Stone. He also was forced out of the Presbyterian Church; he then founded churches known as "Christian", and in 1833 the followers of Stone and Campbell united to form one fellowship. Before this, in 1812, the Campbells were convinced that infant baptism was not scriptural, and both were then immersed on a public confession of the Lord Jesus. For a short time they found a home with the Baptists -- an association which was not happy and which was finally broken in 1832, when a separate organization was formed.
Walter Scott joined the Campbells in 1820. He had been educated in Edinburgh for the Presbyterian Ministry but emigrated. In 1827 he was chosen to be an evangelist, by his labours winning many converts. He appears to have had a logical method of preaching, and presented "the terms of salvation in their Biblical order". These terms were considered to be "Faith, repentance, confession, baptism, remission of sins, and the Holy Spirit", and in the words of the writer quoted: "Thomas and Alexander Campbell both gave him credit for restoring these to the church in a practical way".
In 1823 Alexander Campbell started the Christian Baptist , which ran into seven volumes, and in these Campbell's theology is worked out. In 1830 the Millennial Harbinger followed, and in this journal the contention with Dr. Thomas was waged. The movement started by Scott and Campbell has grown extensively. It is still marked by abhorrence of sectarianism, and an avoidance of a creed (although in general doctrines it in no way differs from other churches of Christendom). It claims to be a return to the faith and practice of early Christianity in the observance of adult baptism and breaking of bread. Its followers are called "Disciples of Christ" in America and number today about one and a half millions; in Britain the assemblies are called "Churches of Christ", and have about 13,000 members. Throughout the world there are two million adherents. These "Churches of Christ" are represented at the Conferences convened by the Protestant Churches; and the historian of the Baptist Churches, Dr. A. C. Underwood, writing in 1947, says: "Quite recently conversations have taken place between representatives of the 'Churches of Christ' and the Baptist Union, with a view to closer relations, not excluding the possibility of union".
We must add to this outline of the Campbellite movement a reference to the fact that the early decades of last century were marked by general religious confusion, mixed with wild enthusiasm. Sects abounded in America, with bitterness and hatred rife, with fantastic notions based on weird interpretations of a few texts. Claims to Holy Spirit guidance were often made ; wild scenes at such revivalist meetings, not free from immorality, were common. Religious discussion at that time was marked by blunt invective, and a harshness of speech was common, and must not be judged by present standards.
Against this background we will now briefly trace the development of Dr. Thomas's understanding of the Scriptures.
We have seen how Dr. Thomas was convinced by Walter Scott that he should be immersed; and also have noted the influence of Scott on the method of presenting the doctrine of the "Reformation": "Faith, repentance, confession, baptism". We have also noted the close connection of the "Reformation" and the Baptist Churches, a connection which led to many Baptists becoming associated with the new movement. They were accepted without any further immersion. In No. 6 of the Apostolic Advocate Dr. Thomas published an article entitled "Anabaptism". In it he points out that the word which signifies "baptized again" is wrongly used of those who were immersed who had previously only been sprinkled, and that while the term is to be deprecated, there are cases where re- immersion was necessary. He discusses the meaning of the word baptize , tracing its use by dyers. Only when there has been a change of colour of the article dipped would it be called baptism. To dip au infidel would avail nothing for salvation, the prerequisite faith, repentance, and confession being lacking. Quoting the process of salvation as set out by Walter Scott, but without mentioning his name, Dr. Thomas argued that an immersion of a Baptist or of a member of any other sect was lacking in understanding and was therefore invalid. The argument is logical and applies Campbell's own principles in a way that should have been approved by Campbell. The movement "began with a stressing of intellectual values" as Dr. William Robinson, the leading scholar of the "Churches of Christ", admits. In this emphasis it followed the method of McLean who was a reasoner on metaphysical lines. But the Baptist members of the "Reformation" resented the implications of Dr. Thomas's article, and Campbell himself was not pleased, as he saw it would hinder the numerical advance of the movement.
Discussion followed in which Dr. Thomas quoted in support of his position an earlier writing of Alexander Campbell. Dr. Thomas then addressed four letters to Campbell, published monthly in the Advocate. They are marked by close reasoning, and a courage to uphold what the writer saw to be truth. He concludes. "And now, brother Campbell, I have brought to a close my views upon this matter. You and my readers can judge whether the Word of God is for or against me. I write not for applause but for truth. An eternity of weal or woe is staked upon our uprightness or demerits here. In view of this, I have not calculated on the. approbation or displeasure that may accrue to me for the position I have maintained. I cannot but express my confidence that you will meet what has been said fairly in the Harbinger. You certainly owe me reparation for the unintentional misrepresentation of my practices, which you have published to the four winds of heaven."
In 1835 the series of 34 questions already mentioned were printed in the Advocate under the heading "Information Wanted". They concerned the nature of man, the purpose of God with the earth, the fulfilment of the promises to the fathers in an everlasting inheritance of the earth. Of the response to the request for information, Dr. Thomas, twelve months afterwards, wrote: "Instead, however, of some one condescending to instruct him, and to impart the information sought, he was forthwith beset on every side. A correspondent wrote putting certain questions to him. The letter containing these obliged him to investigate the subject alluded to more closely, and, unlike the course adopted towards him, he honestly and frankly replied to said querist, according to the light he had. Then began the din of war. The artillery of 'the present reformation', began to play from the heights of Bethany ... His Christian character was traduced; he was classed with 'the wits and the wags, the Paines, and the Voltaires, and all that herd'. Discharges of small arms were levelled at him from divers points; and discontinuances came in from various quarters, because he had the presumption to ask for information few had the courage to give him. But notwithstanding this fusilading he still lives at the service of his friends and readers."
All the clamour and denunciations and attacks on his character, as he declared later, failed in the desired effects. "Instead of intimidating us and putting us to silence it only roused our determination to comprehend the subject; if wrong, to get right; and when righted to defend the right, maintain the right, and overthrow the wrong or perish in the attempt."
In 1837 Dr. Thomas engaged in a debate with a Presbyterian clergyman on the immortality of the soul, the summary of it being published in a large pamphlet, The Apostacy Unvieled . In it Dr. Thomas shows the Bible teaching concerning the nature of man and the true hope of life by resurrection. The effect was virtually a bull of excommunication from Campbell, since Campbell disclaimed all fellowship with him unless he renounced the offending doctrines.
It would appear that the Churches of the "Reformation" were much exercised about Dr. Thomas. This is evident from the fact that the church in Virginia of which Dr. Thomas was a member issued a report about him following a suggestion made in the Harbinger that the church he attended should investigate his teaching. The report condemns as high handed the attitude of Campbell, indicates that some of the members regarded Dr. Thomas's views as speculative, but speaks highly of him as a man. "Although we may hazard the loss of fellowship with many, yet we feel bound to risk the loss rather than sever from our communion one whose walk is so exemplary, and whose devotion to truth is so ardent as that of Dr. Thomas." Another church in Virginia published to all churches a defence of Dr. Thomas personally while dissenting from his views "We have seen him in private and in public, and we have seen nothing but the exemplary Christian; his morals unexceptional, his life rigidly self denying."
Efforts were made by friends of the two disputants to effect a reconciliation, which closed the. breach for a time, but only for a time. Reopened again, no further effort was made to bridge it. Owing to Dr. Thomas's removal to another state the Advocate was suspended in 1839
The next short period, spent on the Investigator , can be passed over as it contributes no information on the development of Dr. Thomas's understanding of the Word. In 1844, however, we reach another stage in the work of reviving the Truth. In that year the first number of the Herald of the Future Age was published. During the first year of the magazine Dr. Thomas removed to Richmond, Va., and stayed with a friend named Malone. Together they visited a Campbellite church in a neighbouring town, with which the Doctor's friend was in fellowship. Dr. Thomas was known to the people and was invited to speak, to which he responded. There was objection to this which led to the expulsion of the Doctor's friend, and this in turn led to a few beginning to hold meetings independently of the Campbellite assemblies. Editing the Herald led to intensified study of God's Word, with a growing perception of its teaching. The progress may be seen from a published summary of "Things Elaborated from the Word during Ten Discourses at New York in 1846". The elaboration of these "things" would give to the New York listeners a good understanding of the first principles of the Truth. But up to this point it had not occurred to the Doctor that the increased understanding of God's purpose made applicable to himself the argument he had used against Baptists being received into fellowship without reimmersion, -- an argument which had begun the course of investigation now nearing its close.
A criticism of the New York lectures concerning Christ the heir to David's throne and the coming restoration of the Jews led to an enquiry on the value of these things as part of the divine revelation. Was any part of divine revelation of no value? He began an article on "The Hope of Israel and the Hope of the World". After his manner he examined passages dealing with hope, and found Paul said "We are saved by the Hope". What was this hope? A number of passages crowded into his mind, and with these scriptures came also a realization that when he was immersed by Walter Scott he was ignorant of this Hope that saves. His immersion then was of no avail; it was not an obedience to the form of doctrine which had been delivered by the apostles. At the time of his baptism he was ignorant of God's promises by which we might become partakers of the divine nature. The Campbellite claim to have restored "the ancient gospel" was not correct: all they had done was to restore the ordinances of apostolic times in their simplicity. With this recognition his duty became clear, and as throughout the controversy he had followed faithfully where the instruction of God's word led, so now he did not hesitate. He wrote a confession and abjuration, in which he reviewed briefly his early life and his contacts with Walter Scott; he gave reasons why he should "abjure the whole transaction, in which we once firmly thought we had believed and obeyed the one only true and apostolic gospel of Jesus Christ". The Confession was followed by a "Declaration" in which he set out what he now saw was the teaching of the Scriptures, and what therefore must be believed for a complete return to apostolic faith and practice.
With the outbreak of revolution in Europe in 1848, Dr. Thomas decided to visit Britain. The visit had important results, which must be noted in this short survey of the revival of Bible Truth. Dr. Thomas at once made contact with the Campbellites in this country, some of whom bitterly opposed him ; understandably so, the more firmly they adhered to the teaching of Alexander Campbell. But a much wider hearing was secured than the Campbell assemblies. This was particularly so in Glasgow where several thousands attended a series of lectures in the City Hall. At a soiree held at the close it was suggested that Dr. Thomas should write the substance of his lectures so that those who had heard them could continue their studies after his return to America. This proposal was approved ; Dr. Thomas decided to prolong his stay in this country, went to London, and wrote Elpis Israel . His own account of how he wrote the book must be here reproduced. He is speaking Of 1849, and says, " By the beginning of the new year I was enabled to commence the composition of Elpis Israel . I did not allow the grass to grow ; but worked while it was called today, and much of the night also. For six weeks the world without was a mere blank, except through a daily perusal of the London Times ; for during that period I had no use for hat, boots, or shoes, oscillating, as it were, like a pendulum between two points-the couch above, and the desk below. In about four months the manuscript was completed."
The publication of this volume might be regarded as the end of the journey begun 15 years before. The book is comprehensive, and its sufficiency to enlighten men and women concerning the great salvation is evident from the fact that it has been the means of very many being led to the Truth. For many years it was the one book which was available to introduce the Gospel. A few years later the same truths, in the form of chapters on items of the Faith, were made available in the book Twelve Lectures , later entitled Christendom Astray, by Robert Roberts, but Elpis Israel opens up a wide and comprehensive view of the whole Scriptures. The first two sections of the three into which the book is divided, will in the writer's judgment never be surpassed. Of the third, dealing with prophecy, some things made necessary by passing time will. be said on another page. The lectures by Dr. Thomas in Britain, and the book Elpis Israel , which was the outcome, led to the formation of ecclesias; and the work of preparing a people to be ready for the Lord has gone on for the last hundred years. The preaching of the coming of Jesus Christ to set up God's Kingdom on the earth, the restoration of the Jews, the Millennial reign and its purpose, the offer of everlasting life in Christ by resurrection at his coming, the unity of God and the divine sonship of Jesus, are doctrines which others during the last hundred years have taken up, but it belongs to the work of Dr. Thomas that all parts of the Truth were brought together into a complete presentation of God's purpose.
(IV) THE WORKER
DR. THOMAS had a remarkable capacity for applying his powers to any matter in hand. All his work is marked by intensity and earnestness. This is seen in the energetic way in which he investigated the Scriptures from the first association with the "Reformation". It is seen in the self-denying labours on behalf of the gospel in extensive travelling that he undertook. It is seen in the industry with which he plied his pen.
With his abilities he could doubtless have secured for himself a very comfortable if not a lucrative practice as a physician. Instead, he accepted toil and sacrifice in order that he might have time to devote himself to the work of the gospel. Repeatedly in the magazines he edited, circumstances caused Dr. Thomas to make references to personal affairs of a nature which would hardly be expected in a journal today. Nevertheless, looking back they afford a glimpse of the sincerity and self-sacrificing spirit he displayed. Explaining a delay in publishing an issue of the Advocate in 1837 he says: "The Advocate is not issued as early as we could wish. It is not our private affairs which cause this delay. We have devoted ourselves for life, at least as long as we possess health and means, to the dissemination of what we believe the Scriptures teach. We consider this the business of our life; our domestic affairs merely subordinate to it. Absence from home on the things of the Kingdom and a fracture of the rod by which the platen or impression plate of our press is suspended, are the cause of the late issue of our paper. Another cause of its late arrival at its destination is owing to. the irregularity and tardiness of the mails. The Advocate remains about a fortnight in the post office here before it car! get a fair start on its journey outwards. Ours being only a one horse mail, it requires several ladings before its monthly editions can get into their several routes." On one occasion when asked how he lived he replied that he reduced all his wants to bare necessities and then exercised every economy. When, before the final separation from the "Reformation" it was suggested that he became a regular minister of a community of believers, he answered: "With many thanks to our brother for his kind disposition, we answer emphatically No! We cannot afford to sell our independence for a mess of pottage. How could we teach the rich faithfully the unpalatable doctrine of Christ concerning the proper use of the mammon of unrighteousness, and be dependent upon them for the perishable pittance of a few hundreds per annum? We must be free if we would be faithful to the truth. We object not to receive contributions in aid of the cause we advocate; but they must be spontaneous, not extorted. We cannot preach for hire."
From the very early days of his connection with the Campbellites he appears to have been in demand as a speaker. When he was Editor of the Apostolic Advocate he undertook tours of churches involving frequent and lengthy addresses. He began with a definite disinclination for the work, and at any time he was only concerned with placing before his hearers the message of God's word, and had no interest in rhetorical effects. At the same time his style must have had a compelling interest or his audiences would not have grown night after night as often happened.
A brief recapitulation of a few of his journeys will give us some idea of his labours as a preacher. In the Herold for 1851, he describes the personal difficulties overcome in keeping an appointment and is led to make some reflections on the duty of all in spreading the Gospel. He had been ill, and in a week from getting up he left home against the advice of friends for a twenty- five mile journey to keep appointments, the first of which was a three day meeting. Others were expected to be there to take part, but did not arrive on the day expected. The Doctor thus speaks:
"We expected to meet two or three brethren at the meetings who would take upon themselves the labour of formally addressing the people, while we should have nothing else to do but to prove by our presence our willingness to speak to them, but our inability from extreme weakness to do it. Our dismay was considerable, however, when we found that they had not arrived, and that the work of faith and labour of love must be performed by us alone. Our principle is that difficulties which cannot be avoided must be met and overcome. It is bad policy to make appointments and not fulfil them. We therefore determined to do what we could, and to try to discourse even if we had to come to an abrupt and speedy conclusion, The first appointment was a three days meeting at Acquinton. A brother who accompanied us from Richmond attended to the preliminaries, after which, we, following the example of Jesus (not being able to stand) sat down and taught the people. At first our friends did not think we should be able to hold out fifteen minutes ; but though weak in body the subject was itself an inspiration, and to our own surprise we spoke with comparative ease on the Representative Men of the prophetic word for upwards of two hours.
"Encouraged by our success in this effort we did not doubt but we should be able to get along from day to day as the appointed times came round. We were strengthened by the consideration that sufficient to the day is the evil thereof ; so that it was quite unnecessary to assume the evil of many days and lay it all upon one. We experienced, however, some relief from the fact that one of the brethren announced to take part in the meetings arrived at Acquinton on Lord's day ; so that had we proved unable to occupy the time there was help at hand to supply our place and to make up our deficiencies. He remained with us all the week, and was no little assistance to us in conducting the worship, and leaving us only the pleasant labour of persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God, and of declaring all His counsel to the people. We spoke at Acquinton on three successive days; two days after at a school house; and on Saturday and Sunday at the old state-church house called West Point. At all these meetings put together we spoke about twelve hours and a half on things pertaining to the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ; and instead of increasing our debility, we recruited our physical energy every day. In our own person then we have proved that the truth is an inspiration which gives health to the soul, through which it operates nothing but good to the outward man."
Many of his yearly lecturing tours extended over weeks and involved very great inconvenience in travel. It was not unusual for two addresses, each of two or two and a half hours's duration, to be given on a Sunday, with addresses equally long night after night during the week. The extent of his work in building up small ecclesias and in preaching on these journeys can be best appreciated by a few short extracts from the accounts he published year by year in the Herald . When he was not travelling he practised his profession (although regular periods of absence would not help to build up a practice) and engaged in writing for the Herald , and gave frequent addresses to the meeting in the city where he lived.
Of the summer of 1846 he wrote: "During the season now numbered with the days bygone we have not consumed the bread of idleness nor of the hireling. From the early part of May to the end of August we have travelled between 950 and 1,000 miles in the Old Dominion and addressed the people forty-seven times on 'The things of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ', to say nothing of the time and labour bestowed upon the little flock in this idolatrous city".
The difficulty of travelling, much of it by river steamer since that was the means of transport which had been opened up the most in the '40s of last century, can be illustrated from the following statement: "Though assured by the skipper of the boat that it would leave the wharf at 10 a.m. we did not leave our mooring till 5.0 p.m. Cursing, lying and cheating are the boat characteristics of the Ohio and Mississippi. They will say anything for money. I have learned to discern the truth in the diametrics of their declarations. He knew well that we could not possibly get off at the time stated; for there were four steamers in the shallow ditch they call a canal, that connects Louisville with Portland below the Falls. But he lied to prevent us from leaving his boat and seeking another beyond the canal. If I could have come to a knowledge of the truth in the case, I might have spent some pleasant hours with some old friends in the City of the Falls; as it was, I was obliged to confine myself to the boat, not knowing when it might be off".
During this same tour he was fifty-seven hours on board a steam boat which had taken his passage money, the boat being jammed in by others at the landing, while cholera was rampant in the town, two hundred people dying each day.
He was absent in all six weeks and travelled 3,500 miles. On arriving home he found a large mail awaiting him with orders for three hundred copies of the book Anatolia , afterwards re-named Exposition of Daniel . "These", he says, despatched with all expedition".
Of a journey to the South in 1854 he says, "Thus then was brought to a close my visit to the South for 1854 after an absence of six weeks. I addressed the people some twenty-five times, and when I arrived in New York concluded my journeyings for the year, having travelled since the 1st June a distance of 5,500 miles".
In 1855 he visited Kentucky, and the following detail illustrates what travelling involved. He says, "We decided to return to New York city, issue the July and August numbers of the Herald , and then depart for Richmond. Accordingly we made two or three attempts to leave Henderson by steamer ; but the boats passed without attending to our signals. Not knowing how long we might be detained thus, we determined to go by land, and cross the Ohio to Evansville. Our friend very obligingly procured a buggy and sent us thither, with the expectation that we should take the cars at two o'clock. But on arriving there we found that they did not leave till six in the morning. It was now about twelve; so that there were eighteen hours for the exercise of patience. Evansville is a thriving town of 12,000 inhabitants on the right bank of the Ohio; but of no particular interest to a stranger having no business or other connections with it. We were glad, therefore, when we found ourselves in the car rushing onwards to Terre Haute with Evansville increasingly in the rear. At 8 p.m. we were at Dayton, Ohio, via Indianapolis; in the morning we arrived at Cleveland on Lake Eric, where we breakfasted. All that day we travelled the Lake Shore and New York and Erie railroads, and the following night also, after which we arrived, without accident, at New York city about 11a.m., having run 1,100 miles in 53 hours, stoppages included, a rate equal to the Parliamentary trains, the slowest in the British Isles; but fast enough at present for comparative safety."
We have referred to the work that he did in the town where he lived, in addition to these travels. In the Herald for 1853, in response to a request from a correspondent that he should give his readers some account of his journeyings, he reviewed his activities during the year. He explained that he had been busy writing articles to get a sufficient store to keep the printers busy while he was on his next journey. From December until June he had spoken sixty times in New York. When he arrived in December there were seven or eight people meeting in a private house but making no public effort. Led by the Doctor, lectures had been given, and he gives a short account of their experiences in the various ways they had employed in trying to interest people. In addition to this work in New York he had undertaken journeys of about 3,000 miles and in all had given 130 addresses. These references are but a bald narration of figures, but the record involved days of travelling and often nights also with not a little discomfort, and many journeys of upwards of 20 miles to the homes of the brethren after lectures had been given. As the imagination tries to fill in the details, one is struck by the Herculean efforts put out on behalf of the truth. There were giants in the earth in those days!
A reference to the lecturing work during his visit to Britain in 1848-9 throws light on the resources of Biblical knowledge the Doctor possessed and also his ability to present it in reasoned and logical form. This reference also shows that much of the time when not formally lecturing was spent in talking privately about the things of the Kingdom and in explaining difficulties: "Our audiences were drawn neither from the high nor low, but from the odds and ends of Edinburgh, who in every city are the most independent and Berean of the population. We addressed them some ten or a dozen times, mostly at the Waterloo Assembly Room in Princes Street, a spacious and elegant apartment, and capable of seating some thousand to fifteen hundred people. The impression made upon them was strong and, for the time, caused many to rejoice that providence had ever directed our steps to Edinburgh. Our expositions of the sure word of prophecy interested them greatly, causing our company to be sought for at the domestic hearth incessantly, to hear us talk of the things of the kingdom and name of Jesus, and to solve whatever doubts and difficulties previous indoctrination might originate in regard to the things we teach. Our new friends had but little mercy upon us in their demands upon our time. They seemed to think that premeditation was unnecessary; and that we had nothing to do but to open our mouth, and out would fly a speech! Of our two hundred and fifty addresses in, Britain, all were extemporized as delivered. There was no help for it, seeing we had to go oftener than otherwise from parlour conversation to the work before us in the lecture-room. Indeed, our nervous system was so wearied by unrest that we could not have studied a discourse. Present necessity was indispensable to set our brain to work. Certain subjects were advertised and had to be expounded. We knew, therefore, what was to be treated of ; and happily understanding the Word of the Kingdom, we had but to tell the people what it taught, and to sustain it by reason and testimony. In this way we got along independently of stationery and sermon-studying, which would have broke us down completely, and would have absorbed more time than our friends allowed us
This ability to extemporize addresses is evidence of the remarkable knowledge of the Bible stored away in Dr. Thomas's mind. It also shows that he had a good memory of his general reading. Reference is made in the preceding chapter to his writing EIpis Israel in four months. The mechanical writing of the book was heavy labour in so short a period, but what an amazing understanding of God's Word is revealed! There was no library at hand, no well marked reference books; out of the wealth of mature understanding he wrote the book.
There is a little sidelight on a practical matter which may be mentioned. The Doctor was mindful of any method by which the Gospel could be introduced to men. The following occurs in the context of his reference to the writing of Elpis Israel . "With the exception of two discourses at Camden Town, and two at a small lecture room near my residence, and an opposition speech at a Peace- Society meeting, I made no effort among the Londoners to gain their ears. I distributed printed bills, indeed; but a few hundreds or thousands of these among upwards of two millions of people, were but as the drops of a passing cloud to the ocean."
It is difficult to assess the amount of writing undertaken from 1834 to 1871. For at least twenty years he was editor of a magazine. Apart from the routine editorial work of reading manuscripts, proof reading and make-up, and attending to correspondence, a considerable proportion of what he printed was written by himself. Many articles are the fruit of much reading in history; all expository articles witness to constant study of the word of God. However great a man's native ability may be, to produce these articles much time and application must have been given. The output was not limited to an occasional article, or of one series even. It was constant for the whole period, and while some of it was essentially topical and related to the controversies in which he was involved, much is of a very high quality. Some of the contributions to the Herald , written as part of a monthly output, have been reprinted as pamphlets many times. Of these, What is Truth ?, How to Search the Scriptures , and The Revealed Mystery , may be particularly mentioned. In addition, occasional pamphlets were produced as well as those which had first appeared as articles in the magazine. Some dealt with current events in relation to prophecy; one written near the end of his life, entitled Anastasis , was a consideration of disputed points connected with resurrection; another was the outcome of a conversation in a train journey at the time of the Gorham controversy in this country during his visit in 1848 -- a controversy not quite dead, for an echo of it was recently heard in the ecclesiastical courts. This pamphlet was racily written but with the characteristic grasp of Scripture teaching.
Besides the regular work for the periodicals he edited, Dr. Thomas wrote three books which are still in active circulation: Elpis Israel , Exposition of Daniel , and Eureka , an exposition of the Apocalypse in three volumes of nearly 2,000 pages. The last two volumes of Eureka were fruit of the later years of his life, volume I appearing while he was still publishing the Herald .
If we put together the work of speaking and writing we see what an amazing amount of work was accomplished. Sixty addresses in one place in six months involves a wide range of topics and a corresponding ability on the part of the speaker. Long periods of travel, sometimes under difficult conditions, were a tax on both the mental and the physical man. But in addition, the numerous addresses and private talks undertaken on these journeys indicate both remarkable resources and a willing expenditure of them. Two hours appears to have been quite the normal time to be taken up in an address. Audiences as well as speakers of those days reveal either a stamina or a perseverance which are not manifest in present times.
The writing of books is usually accomplished by a man isolating himself and so devoting his powers to the work. Even so the production of three volumes the size of Eureka would be no mean achievement for most writers. By this standard we may judge the work of writing undertaken by Dr. Thomas. From 1862 he was not editing a magazine but from that date unto 1869 the second and third volumes of Eureka were written.
For something comparable in toil and in devotion to the gospel we look back to apostolic days. Then a full-hearted expenditure of heart, mind and strength on the part of the apostles carried the gospel throughout the Roman world. The work was divinely commanded and was visibly endorsed by miracles. The revival of the truth was a lesser work, but one nevertheless that called for similar courage, perseverance, and labour. By the test of work performed, gratitude and respect is due to the man through whom in God's providence the gospel of the Kingdom was again proclaimed.
(V) THE EXPOSITOR
WE have traced the process which had its origin in the activities connected with "reformation" in America, by which Dr. Thomas reached a knowledge of God's saving purpose revealed in the Scriptures. We have mentioned the chaotic condition of the religious world, the welter of religious opinion prevailing one hundred years ago, out of which emerged the selfstyled "Reformation". There is also another feature in the background which should be mentioned to get a complete picture. It is a less evident feature but nevertheless important it concerns the interpretation of prophecy.
There are three schools of interpretation of the prophecies of The Revelation; Preterists, Futurists, and what has been called the Continuous Historic. The first puts all the Apocalypse in the past, generally interpreting its symbols of the fall of Jerusalem. The second regards the whole Apocalypse as a prophecy of the future -- no part having been fulfilled. The last method of interpretation finds a correspondence between the "signs" of the Lord's last message and the outstanding events connected with the Mediterranean world from the day when the revelation was given unto the second advent, with information concerning events connected with the setting up of God's Kingdom, and a glimpse of beyond. The Apocalypse is seen as a sequel to Daniel's prophecies, being an expansion of matters connected with the fourth beast of Daniel chapter seven. This method of interpretation involves a number of things.
First the understanding of the prophecy must be progressive. A believer of the early centuries could have only a dim understanding, if any, of much of the Lord's last message. He might see that a long history lay between the first and second advents; that during this intervening period the affairs of God's truth would have varied fortunes -- its adherents being always in the minority, persecuted and oppressed bitterly at times, but through it all God's purpose would be worked out; and that at last God's Kingdom would prevail and righteousness triumph. But as the centuries went by the student would be able to trace out where the prophecy had been fulfilled : outstanding landmarks would fix the progress made along the chart : but always the unfulfilled portion would present problems, and interpretation would be marked by uncertainty. So it has been. During the centuries the understanding of the signs has become ever easier, and the analogy of the fulfilled has helped in a better interpretation of the unfulfilled part.
With the Revival of Learning in Europe which followed the taking of Constantinople, and the breaking of papal domination in Protestant Countries by the Reformation in which Luther played so conspicuous a part, the study of the Apocalypse progressed rapidly. Outstanding names of the early period are Mede, Jurieu, who saw that in the events of his own day the "witnesses" were slain, Vitringa, Daubuz, Sir Isaac Newton, Whiston (the translator of Josephus, and the successor of Newton as Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge), and Bishop Newton who was writing in the middle of the eighteenth century. Then followed, to mention the more important, Galloway, Bicheno, Faber, Cunninghame and Frere, Bickersteth, Habershon and Birks. During the early years of the nineteenth century Faber and Cunninghame with others engaged in warm controversy on some of the details of the Apocalypse. An Anglican magazine, The Christian Observer , founded in 1802, opened its columns to the controversialists and for 20 years articles appeared on the interpretation of the Revelation. An American edition was published in Boston month by month exactly corresponding to the English edition. William Jones, who edited the British Millennial Harbinger , previously mentioned, published Lectures on the Apocalypse in 1830, Miller in America and Irving in Britain about the same time were attracting attention to Bible chronology, the end of the Age, and the Coming Millennium. In 1831 and for five years a prophetic journal called The Investigator was devoted to exposition of prophecy. Many of these already named contributed, also Wolff, a missionary who travelled widely, mentioned by Dr. Thomas. Keith, in the past famous for his book on fulfilled prophecy, wrote an exposition of the Apocalypse under the title Signs of the Times . Gaussen, well known as the author of Theopneustia , wrote more than one book on the prophecies. The year 1844 saw the publication of Elliott's Horae Apocalypticae . The above sketch leaves unmentioned a great many who in the first four decades of the nineteenth century wrote books or tracts dealing with prophecy, the second advent and the Millennium.
A student of prophecy of the Continuous Historic school sees that the prophecy leads on to a great divine intervention in human affairs. Usually such a student tends to believe also in the Millennium. Another tendency is to link up a resurrection with the second advent, and some writers who studied other parts of scripture as well as prophecy held mortalist views. Whiston, for example, was a believer in conditional immortality. But this was not an invariable rule. Prophetic interpreters have held strange and curious beliefs that seemed to be incongruous with a reasonable attempt to interpret the chronological prophecies.
The object of this review is to show that the subject of prophecy was "in the air" during the time when Dr. Thomas was unearthing the Truth and then preaching it. How many of the works of the authors mentioned were known to him we are not aware. That some of them were is evident from references either to writers or to topics. But of greater importance is the fact that Dr. Thomas himself was a patient student of prophecy; many of his addresses touched upon prophecy and current events, and in this way attracted those who shared the interest which existed among many religious people at that time. It is interesting to note that on the first occasion he had to give a public address in connection with "the Reformation", being impressed into the service without much warning by Campbell himself, Dr. Thomas recalled reading about the four empires in Rollin's Ancient History , and for half an hour he spoke on Nebuchadnezzar's image. From the beginning of his literary work this interest in prophecy is found. The first issue of the Apostolic Advocate has an article on Rev. 17, and throughout the five volumes expositions of the Apocalypse appear. In fact Campbell made a cheap gibe at the Doctor's interest in the Apocalypse, evidently forgetting that it is the one book that contains a specific reference to a blessing on the one who "hears" the message. Throughout the volumes of the Herald also frequent expositions of particular, "signs" occur, but in articles generally in which the interpretation forms part of a discussion on current events. It has been affirmed by unfriendly critics that Eureka, Dr. Thomas's exposition of the Apocalypse, was largely indebted to Elliott. That the author of Eureka had read Elliott is evident; in his writings Dr. Thomas both commends and criticizes Elliott. But long before Elliott's Horae was published in 1844, in his magazines Dr. Thomas had considered most of the points which have been the subject of discussion by students. From the first issue of the Advocate it is evident that Dr. Thomas had a good knowledge of history. On several occasions he gives lists of important dates with summaries of the associated events. When discussing current affairs and tracing the light which prophecy throws upon events, he is seen to be well informed and accurate.
We may attempt briefly to assess the value of Dr. Thomas's contribution to Apocalyptic interpretation and to the exposition of other prophecies. Obviously every student in this field is the creature of his own day, and could not be otherwise. Writers contemporary with Napoleon gave him a larger place in their interpretations than later writers to whom passing time had given a clearer perspective. But one detail of interpretation powerfully influenced not only Dr. Thomas but all others who held the same view. There were many who expected that 1866-70 would see remarkable happenings in connection with the Papacy ; the appointed period of its ascendancy was then due to end. Some confirmation was rightly found for this view in the fact that there had been a preliminary fulfilment of a time period connected with the Papacy, also expected before it came to pass, at the French Revolution. But prophecy seemed to indicate that the period 1866-70 would not only see the loss of temporal power by the Papacy, but would witness also the Lord's appearing on the earth again. Although it appeared a reasonable view, it was mistaken -- not as concerns the fortunes of the Papacy, but in the then expected second advent. But this view influenced other interpretations. In 1848 only twenty years were to run to the expiring of the time, and in looking ahead in the interpretation of prophecy unfulfilled, everything had to be crushed within the twenty years. Actually much longer has been necessary for the fulfilment of many prophecies which were correctly interpreted, and the fulfilment of which was essential to produce the political situation which will bring the final clash of world forces divided into two camps.
Does the evident failure in the particular named so vitiate the Doctor's interpretation that its value is seriously impaired? We believe not. Dr. Thomas had a sound grasp of principles, and the study of his principles of interpretation enables, for example, the third part of Elpis Israel which is concerned with prophecy and the time of the end, to be read with both discernment and profit. Many things he expected have come to pass. Of outstanding importance may be mentioned Jewish restoration, Britain's connection with Jewish affairs and the near East, Britain's interest in Egypt: and the ascendancy of Russia and the part she will yet play are faithfully indicated. The events connected with the Papacy have been mentioned earlier.
When we turn from prophecy to the general exposition of Scripture very little reservation has been found necessary by the most careful Bible students. The most important proof may be found in the fact that a careful reader who checks Dr. Thomas's exposition by an examination of the Scriptures themselves, finds he has the key that opens up the Bible. Experience shows that such an one will continue through life reading the scriptures only to be more and more confirmed that he has rightly understood them. With this general experience may be contrasted the statement of Pastor Russell of Millennial Dawn that a man could understand the Bible only through reading his books that if he then read only the Bible he would lose the meaning but reading only Russell's writings he would retain the teaching of the Bible. Dr. Thomas's writings make his readers into Bible students, who while retaining a lively sense of indebtedness to him find confirmation in their own independent study.
How came Dr. Thomas to acquire such an understanding that has stood the test of a century? A few considerations will answer this question.
In a dialogue, in which one of the characters is only a thinly veiled representation of himself, and which in part is biographical, he writes: "As for my other friend of the Advocate , he has never been cursed (shall I say?) with the poison of a theological education. His early years were spent in a private boarding school in England, and from his seventeenth to his twenty-fifth year among physic bottles, lecture rooms, and dead bodies. He knew, and he counted it his happiness to know, nothing about the writings of popular divines ; nor did he ever trouble himself much about 'divinity' of any kind, till about 1832, three years and a half ago, when he obeyed the gospel of our Divine Master. Since that time, he has addicted himself to the incessant study of the Scriptures. Not having his mind perverted by human tradition, it just takes whatever impression the word may make upon it; like a blank sheet the impression of the printer's types. This is the true cause of the difference between them -- the teacher of the one is the word of God alone; the teacher of the other is compounded of popular divines and the word. You need not marvel then that they come to such different conclusions."
His educational and professional training combined to give him keen perception. His natural qualities of fearlessness and steadfastness led him to hold fast that which he perceived to be the Truth. Like Paul the apostle, he had one consuming purpose, to respond to God's commands. Such a strong motive is a unifying force in life, and it gave zest to the study of the Oracles, earnestness in preaching, endurance in opposition, courage in disappointment; it enabled him to put aside worldly gain, and to toil in bringing God's truth to others.
So fearless and outspoken a writer inevitably was charged with ambition for leadership. Dr. Thomas was not unaware of the charges : on one occasion he made the following reply: "A few brave hearts who understand, love, and practise the simplicity that is in Christ, are more desirable and efficient than a multitude who have a name to live while really dead in trespasses and sins. Our enterprise is not a pecuniary speculation, therefore numbers for lucrous purposes are not our aim. Our enterprise is to develop the truth formatively, that the truth as the incorruptible seed of God, may generate such a people for the Lord as he will not be ashamed of at his appearing. Our platform is this, and upon it there is no room for the old Adam and his traditions."
His whole aim in his work might be expressed in one of the last numbers of the Apostolic Advocate . "The work to be done now is not so much 'to convert the world' as to induce the people of God to come out of Babylon, and to prepare a people for the Lord to receive him at his appearing.... But how are 'the people of God', whether immersed or unimmersed professors of Christianity, to come out of Babylon? If this question were put to me, I should reply by returning to primitive institutions; by becoming obedient; and by obtaining the knowledge of salvation in the remission of sins. And, it may be asked, how is this to be done? To which I would reply, if you believe the gospel preached by the Apostles, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; observe the 'all things' enjoined in relation to the New Institution in the apostolic writings; deny yourselves of all ungodliness and worldly lusts; live soberly, and righteously, and religiously in this age; looking for the appearing of Messiah, who is our hope and our life. Let the people of God do this, and they are a prepared people; let such a sect be found on earth, and it will be the subject of the rejoicings and exultations of those who give glory to the Omnipotent because the Lamb's wife has prepared herself; and to whom it is given to be clothed in fine linen, pure and resplendent; which is the righteous actions of the saints. This is the reformation I have sought, but in no one instance have I found it in community as yet; but my confidence is that it will appear as the consummation of the present agitation in the religious world."
(VI) THE MAN
WE would like to get a glimpse of the man, but this is more difficult than finding out the external facts which, reveal the expositor and the worker. What was the man himself? Only two or three are still alive who saw Dr. Thomas, and any impressions they have must necessarily lie the impressions a child receives. The writings do not help very much -- in fact they may mislead in some particulars. The contributions to the Herald are either essentially expositional or controversial. The first only enables us to know the mind, the second, from one with the directness of speech that marked Dr. Thomas, can create an impression of a man who was merely a controversialist, and upon whose character the truth had left little impress.
We miss in the Herald the exhortational element which has been a regular feature in the Christadelphian almost from its beginning. Doubtless circumstances governed this; Dr. Thomas's work was that of a pioneer and the work of setting forth the true teaching of scripture predominated. When the Christadelphian took the place of the Herald more ecclesias had been established, a more regular form of memorial service adopted, and therefore the feature generally spoken of as "Sunday Morning" naturally found its place.
All the Doctor's writings, however, reveal a keen awareness of the need for living in harmony with God's commandments. Many pages of Elpis Israel can be cited as an example. There are occasional references in his travel records which show that he looked for the "fruits" among the brethren which should be produced when the truth is known. When his own character was slandered by his opponents, brethren and communities who knew him well were quick to declare the facts as they knew I him -- that he was a man of integrity who displayed the Christian graces in everyday life. From a man in love as he was with the Word of God such traits of character would be a natural result. The fact is, the very vigour of his advocacy for doctrine as taught in the Scriptures, together with pungency of style on occasion, has obscured the finer and gentler side.
Three quotations may be made bearing upon the spirit of the man. Many other extracts could be gathered up from scattered allusions, but these suffice. The first is the humble reference to his errors when he made his "confession and objuration":
"We admit, that we have not accepted the slanders and reproaches bestowed upon us with that gratitude the word inculcates. Born and educated in a country where character is more precious than gold, we have, in time past, felt like Ephraim unaccustomed to the yoke, when suffering under the galling imputations of reckless assailants. Experience, however, has taught us, that in this country, slander is the people's broadsword with which they seek to slay the reputations of all who aim to serve them otherwise than in subservience to their passions, in the things of time or eternity. But, blessed be our foes in their basket and store. We thank them for their persecution, and opposition with which they have encountered us. But for these, we should have been, perhaps, like them, 'in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity'. Their course has compelled us to study more diligently than we might have done the Holy Scriptures, that we might be better able to give an answer to every one that should ask a reason of the Hope that is in us. Had they let us alone, it is probable we should have been in good repute indeed with them and their leaders : and might even have been teaching the same fables; which, however, would have deprived us of the pleasure of confessing our errors and mistakes, and of thus publicly renouncing and bidding them adieu."
When he had been the subject of some very hostile comments he penned the following prayer:
"0 Lord God in heaven above, merciful and gracious Father, what can we render to Thee for Thy goodness? Thou hast appointed a day in which Thou wilt judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ! Blessed be Thy holy name. We shall all be judged before his tribunal and not man's. Then the hidden things of men shall be brought to light, and their secret thought shall be unveiled, to their justification or reproof! Thou God seest us all, for all hearts are open before Thee! If Thou beholdest any thing in me displeasing in Thy sight, let me fall into Thy hands, and not into the hands of those who thirst for my destruction! Grant me patience to endure their unrighteousness, and by fidelity and perseverance to overcome the iniquity of their doings; and may the word of the truth concerning the hope of the glorious gospel of Jesus be established in these countries; and may those who now oppose it, in ignorance and unbelief, find mercy of Thee, repenting of their waywardness, and purifying their hearts by faith, that they may be accepted when the Lord comes! 'Forgive them, for they know not what they do'; and may we all at length find an abundant entrance into the kingdom of the future age, to the glory of the great Immanuel's name! Amen! Amen!"
Our third quotation is from the pen of bro. R. Roberts, with whom Dr. Thomas found a home when he visited Huddersfield during 1862, and on his last visit near the end of his life, when bro. Roberts had removed to Birmingham. Bro. Roberts, meeting his guest at the station, says:
"At last a quiet, firmly-set, square-shouldered, literary looking gentleman, in frock coat and chimney-pot hat, with ruddy countenance and white beard, emerged from one of the carriages, and began to pick his way in the crowd, with one valise in his hand. I was quite timid about saluting him, because it might not be Dr. Thomas after all. After following him a little, I said to him with a palpitating heart, 'Mr. Thomas?' He said, 'Yes'. We then exchanged greetings, and I led him out of the station to a cab, and conveyed him to our apartments (by that time changed to 25, Albion Street, the house of brother Rhodes) where my sister companion awaited him in a state of excitement, which soon changed to comfort and joy, in the presence of the cordial and social dignity of a mature and venerable man whom we found so much more interested, if possible, than ourselves in the sublime matters that had engaged our efforts and attention for some years... It is impossible to exaggerate the charm of Dr. Thomas's company under our own roof (though it was but a lodging house roof). He was a totally different man from what his writings prepared us to expect. These writings were so pungent, so vigorous, so satirical, and had such a sledge-hammer force of argument and denunciation that we looked for a regular Boanerges -- a thunder-dealer, a man not only of robust intellect, but of a combative, energetic, self-assertive turn, whose converse would be largely spiced with explosive vocables.
"Instead of this, he was quiet, gentle, courteous, wellmannered, modest, absolutely devoid of affectation or trace of self-importance. His calm, lofty, cordial reverence for the Scriptures was very edifying to us, after several weary years of contact with drivellers and blasphemers; and his interest in all circumstances pertaining to the fortunes of the truth of which we had to tell him was very refreshing after a toilsome course of solitary labour in a cause that all our neighbours pitied us as fools for taking up. It was so gratifying and so strengthening, too, to have his fireside answers to the various scriptural questions we had to propound. 'Let me see', he would say, 'where is that passage?' and would turn it up, and then proceed in his dignified and incisive way to 'open to us the Scriptures'. Household matters and business shrunk into their proper smallness in his company. It was truly a 'little heaven below', the like of which we have rarely since experienced in the rugged journey of probation."
The following concerns the later visit, when Dr. Thomas was accompanied by his daughter:
"When the train drew up at the New Street platform, a white-bearded, military- looking gentleman, accompanied by a slim lady in black, became visible among the crowd that stepped out of the carriages. I quickly saluted Dr. Thomas, who was playfully disappointed. He said he had thought of going aside to an hotel, and not letting us know till he walked into the meeting on Sunday -- which he hoped he might do, unrecognized as a listener! I told him he had no idea of the state of feeling among the brethren, or he would never have dreamt of such a thing ... The Doctor stayed in Birmingham about four weeks. They were weeks of pure enjoyment to all the friends of the truth -- especially to those of us who had the privilege of intimate association with him. His lectures were interesting and powerful; in private he reminded us of Christ by a gravity of deportment that was mixed with urbanity, and a dignity that was sweetened by unfeigned humility, a quiet penetrating depth of intelligence, unweakened by the least approach to frivolity; a cordial interest that was free and natural in all things connected with the truth. It was a great change to us to have one in our midst who was, if possible, more interested in all our arrangements than we ourselves.
"The first meeting for the breaking of bread was a thrilling interest. We were meeting at the time at the Athenaeum Hall, at the corner of Temple Street and Temple Row West, a place capable of holding about 300. None of the brethren had seen the Doctor. They were in full muster to the number of 120 or thereabouts. None were late that morning except the Doctor himself, who came in after they had been all seated for about ten minutes. As he quietly walked in and was led forward to a front seat, there was a deep hush of attention. The meeting that followed was of the sort that goes deep into the memory. After hearty singing and preliminary exercises, the Doctor was called upon, and ascending the platform addressed the assembly. He made no personal allusions of the kind that are common with public speakers. He did not say how pleased he was to be there; how gratifying to his feelings for such interest to be taken in his work, nor how deeply moved he was by the appreciation that had been manifested, etc. He simply said, in dignified and sonorous voice; 'It is written in the prophets' (and proceeded to call our attention to the truth). I was a shorthand writer, but I was too deeply moved by the words of the speaker to take them down, and I am not aware that anyone else took notes of them. They were words of weight and power, such as we probably shall not hear again till we meet in the kingdom of God."