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A Suggested Armistice


Some of the more moderate Campbellites were scandalised at this outbreak of strife, and sought to find a means of putting an end to it. A mutual friend proposed an armistice between Mr. Campbell and Dr. Thomas, observing that it might “lead to a favourable termination of the war, without the death of either of the belligerents.” Mr. Campbell being favourable to it, the Doctor agreed to the suggestion, guarding himself, however, against the inference that he had abandoned his position. He said: “I am entirely agreed that an ‘armistice,’ as to ‘tone, temper, and manner,’ would be attended with the happiest results to both ‘belligerents.’ I did not begin ‘the war’ with brother Campbell. I wrote on subjects which I believe I was free to do if I pleased. He attacked my ‘matter and manner;’ I did not assail him. On my part, the campaign has been throughout defensive. If he should continue the same style, which I have hitherto been unable to regard otherwise than as supercilious and dictatorial, I will endeavour not to see it. Human nature is apt to view such a style, when allied to popular influence or power, moral or physical, as oppressive. I am human. I have felt, but I will endeavour to feel no more. I will remember that to forget is human, to forgive, divine. The ‘armistice,’ then, with me is a cessation of ‘the war’ in this respect. Let me not be misunderstood, however; the matter is still at issue between me and all opponents. I agree to no ‘armistice’ upon this for a moment. The conditionality of eternal life, and all pertaining to it, I shall still maintain. I believe it to be part and parcel of the apostolic doctrine, and shall, therefore, not cease to plead for it as long as I have the means of doing so.”


            The armistice was of very short duration. Mr. Campbell broke silence by publishing an article on Dr. Thomas’ replies to his articles on “Materialism,” which seem to have galled him very greatly. On the appearance of Mr. Campbell’s article the Doctor addressed a letter to Mr. Campbell, from which the following are extracts: -


                “Dear Brother, --With my fifth article on ‘Materialism,’ the discussion of the topics so termed, as far as the Harbinger is concerned, is closed. For myself, as to feelings, all the past is as though it had never been. With the conclusion of the third volume your paper would have ceased to be named in connection with the material or immaterial questions which have been thrown up in the revolutions of the last two years. The present volume would have commenced without any reference to the positions or the oppositions which have appeared in yours. But you know all things are conditional. As you have published your ‘Extracts from Private Letters,’ your ‘Conversations,’ and your Essays on ‘Materialism, Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4,’ according to your judgment of propriety, I supposed I was equally privileged to do the same things. Having put in my rejoinders, it remained with you to continue or not the controversy. Until your intentions were elicited, all I had to do was to pursue the course I supposed correct, --in perfect silence, however, as regarded you. This was the condition of the armistice. But, though you have retired from the old field of battle, you have broken new ground in flank. Having, therefore, no opposition to contend against in the van, you have compelled me to face to the left and to encounter a slight skirmishing you have opened upon me in that direction. A skirmish is but a small affair in the estimation of military chiefs; and I dare say this will prove to be of little moment between you and me.”


                “But to speak plainly, and without a figure. You have, my dear brother, published, in your March number, an article concerning me, which I think claims some little attention on my part. In this piece you say you have ‘hastily read’ over certain portions of the November, December and January numbers of the Advocate, relating to yourself. ‘The first impression,’ you admit, ‘may not always be the best, yet persons are apt to utter it, and others are curious to know it.’ You then proceed to inform us of your first impressions, which I suppose would be a very appropriate title to the whole article; that is, Brother Campbell’s First, but not Best, Impressions of Certain Numbers of the ‘Apostolic Advocate.’”


                “Now, I would venture to suggest that when you give the public first impressions upon any subject, it would be well to read or consider what is said or written, not hastily but deliberately. The first impressions would then be more likely to be lasting, and not so evanescent as they generally are. Now, when first impressions are acquired hastily, we should be cautious how we publish them, lest they should become the subject of recantation: and especially, lest they should lead us to do injustice to our neighbour . . .”


                “I learned a lesson under this head upon a certain occasion, which I have never forgotten. I was subpoenaed as a witness in a medical case in which my testimony was demanded as to the character of a certain surgical operation, which terminated fatally. Unused to the technicalities of Westminster Hall, or perhaps speaking ‘hastily,’ I observed my impression was so-and-so. Lord Tenterden immediately corrected me by saying that the court did not ask me for my impressions, but for the facts of the case. Ever since this incident I have made it a rule not to trouble the public with my impressions, first, second or third; but if I have anything to say to them, to do it not ‘hastily’ but deliberately; not according to impressions, but according to the ‘I saw’—‘I heard—or ‘Thus it is written.’ Now charity hopeth all things; it would even hope that the first impression was possibly incorrect; and it would suggest the importance of not gratifying the curiosity of the world at the expense of one who is called a brother. These are a few of the ideas which present themselves to my mind as to the propriety or otherwise of publishing first impressions, hastily made, for the curiosity of the public. I trust they will be received as they are offered in the spirit of benevolence.”       


“Again you say, ‘If in the judgment of my brethren of Eastern Virginia, I merit such treatment, they certainly have mistaken me, or I have mistaken them.’ Now the phrase ‘such treatment’ is rather ambiguous. Have I, brother C., said anything of you which is not sustained by ‘the tone, temper, manner’ and matter of the extracts from private letters, conversations, and essays which have appeared in the Harbinger? If I have said anything which is sustained neither by the appearance nor the reality of things, let it be pointed out, and I will acknowledge, as far as conviction carries me, that I have misinterpreted you. My brother, be less general and more particular in your terms. The apostle says, in many things we all offend. This is true, and equally applicable to you and me. You have offended me, and it seems that I have offended you. But I have not intentionally offended you because you have offended me. However bad a spirit may be imputed to me, revenge is no part thereof. From the context, I suppose, the treatment complained of is summed up in what you term in your first impressions, ‘style of scurrility and abuse.’ Now, brother C., of all men in the world, you are the last that ought to speak of a scurrilous and abusive style. I was once reading from the Christian Baptist in the audience of a certain person for their conviction, when I was peremptorily requested to forbear on account of the style much in the same way that you make your friend Goodall command the Advocate to be closed. Brother C., there is such a thing as having motes and splinters in the eyes. Perhaps you and I have one in each of ours. If so, we cannot well restore each other’s sight to a healthy state. I will endeavour to extract mine, and may you be successful in the same operation upon yourself; for I perceive, that in the cases of spiritual ophthalmia, the most successful oculist is a man’s self. ‘Pull out,’ says Jesus, ‘the mote (beam) that is in thine own eye;’ an excellent prescription from the best of all physicians . . .”


                “You consider I have been scurrilous and abusive. This be far from me, my brother. My aim has been to use, not to abuse you. In some places I have treated some of your sayings jocularly. I have played with you in good humour. I have neither used you for my mirth nor my laughter when you were waspish; but when you have seemed disposed to play upon me, I have piped to you in return. You may term this levity; be it so. We are both guilty. Yet we need not be offended on this account; for neither your sayings nor mine are dictates of inspiration. But I perceive that on account of what you term my scurrility and abuse, you consider that any further notice of me, beyond these ‘first impressions’ would be to stoop, and to descend to a level with, the articles referred to; that is, to me their author. Now, my brother, does this sentiment indicate that you penned these first impressions in a Christian spirit? I hope I do no injustice when I say that I think not. You recollect that Jesus was subject to a great deal of scurrility and abuse. He was called a Samaritan and charged with having a devil. Did he tell his disciples that these sayings, as respected their authors, commanded his silence? That it would be stooping to a level with them to meet their style of scurrility and abuse by a rejoinder? No, though so much abused, so cruelly maltreated, he reasoned with them, and showed that they charged him falsely. He did not deliver to his disciples his first impressions, and then, appealing to his own dignity, put them under the ban of his profound silence for a year or two. Now all I ask is, that if you consider me as bad as a Samaritan diabolically possessed, you will yet condescend ‘in the spirit of meekness to restore such an one’ as myself. There would, my brother, be far more efficacy in this experiment than any you have yet instituted . . .”


                “Furthermore, you term my proceedings ‘a career of speculation which,’ say you, ‘I clearly foresaw would terminate in nullifying his usefulness to that cause which I plead.’ Brother C., this word speculation has a wonderful effect in scaring the ignorant. There was a time when all you wrote about baptism for remission of sins, &c., was termed ‘speculative’ and untaught,’ and your ‘career’ was then deemed one of speculation. Every doctrine of Scripture untaught in the theological systems of men, when first brought to light is denounced as a speculation. It was once a speculation that the earth moved round the sun; but it is now received as one of the incontestable truths of astronomy. In every age of the world I find, that when truths as old as nature are newly presented to public notice, they are termed ‘strange things,’ ‘speculations,’ ‘untaught questions,’ &c. my surprise is that a man of your intelligence should join in such a senseless cry; especially in the face of the motto of your Christian Baptist, ‘Prove all things and hold fast that which is good’” . . .


                “First I would enquire in the most friendly manner, what cause, my brother, is it that you do plead? As far as I can understand you, you plead for baptism for pardon or the remission of sins, by which baptism a man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, is adopted into the family of God.”


                “Though you plead for this, you maintain that man, or rather certain men under this dispensation, may attain to the resurrection of the just, though they have not been immersed into Christ. That this does not nullify baptism for remission; that eternal life is not conditional. This I infer from what you have written on ‘materialism,’ though you have not ventured to affirm it in so many words. And to sum up all the other items of your brief, you plead for PROTESTANTISM. This last item, you announced in the Catholic Debate, and in your letter to Mr. Hammond, in which you say, ‘I have for many years been seeking to unite all Protestant Christians in one great bond of union, as catholic as Protestant Christendom.’ And that baptism for remission is no great obstacle to this catholic experiment is obvious, seeing that, in effect, you tell Mr. Hammond that there are as great and as good men on the one as on the other side of that sin-purifying institution; for, speaking of baptism you say, ‘I regret only that (of it) which is sectarian, or held by a part of Christendom, because it is partisan, and not catholic, and because it alienates and divides as great and as good men as this or any other age has produced’.”


                “Now, my dear brother, as this is the avowed cause for which you plead, allow me to say in the best possible way, that I do not plead for such a cause. You plead for baptism for the remission of sins; and so do I, without any compromise or abatement. Here I go with you the whole length of your premisses, and farther than your conclusions. Some, perhaps, would like me at this crisis to sum up in brief the cause I plead as I have done yours. Candour and justice to all concerned, demand what we should be well understood in this matter. Well, then, I maintain: -


1.        –“That all, both Jews and Gentiles, without respect of persons called great and good, are, by the Scriptures, viewed as under sin; that is, are all sinners in the sight of God.”

2.        –“That being thus constituted sinners, they are therefore all, without exception, under sentence of the Second or Eternal Death.”

3.        –“That God being pure and holy, before they can be where God shall be, they must be released from sin and delivered from the sentence of death.”

4.        –“That the only way in which they can be released from sin is by believing and obeying THE GOSPEL.”

5.        –“That the gospel is a whole. That one item of the gospel is no more the gospel than that a part of anything is the whole of that thing.”

6.        –“That it is a truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; that this truth is the foundation corner-stone of the gospel; but that it is not THE GOSPEL any more than that the corner-stone of the foundation of a house is the house itself.”

7.        –“That the gospel is glad tidings of great joy to all people both Jews and Gentiles, and consists in the offer of a release from sin and of eternal life to all, who, believing in the sin-cleansing-efficacy of the blood of Jesus shall be immersed into the belief of his death and resurrection; and shall keep the faith to the end.”

8.        –“That all who will not conform to these conditions will be raised at the second resurrection to suffer the punishment of the second death; and that all who cannot, ‘will not see life’ eternal.”

9.        –“That Jesus will shortly return to the country from which he ascended; that he will then confer life eternal on the righteous dead and on the righteous living; and that he will then commence his reign as the absolute Monarch of the universal world.”

10.     –“That the outline of the Christian worship is that recorded in Acts 2:42.”

11.     –“That the Holy Scriptures are the only authorised standard of good and evil.”

12.     –“That under this dispensation, not one will be recognised by God as ‘great and good’ who has not obeyed THE GOSPEL; and whose subsequent conduct is not confirmed to the apostolic model.”

13.  –“That there is but one road to eternal life; and that is by obedience to the one only true and genuine gospel preached by the apostles of Christ; and that there are but two ways by which men can enter upon this life, which is by a resurrection or a transformation.”

14.  –“That Protestantism is not the religion of Jesus, but a horn of anti-Christ; and that it is, therefore, in its spirit and constitution subversive of, and inimical to pure and undefiled religion.”


“These are the prominent features of the cause I maintain by pen and speech. If I see eye to eye with others in these things, I rejoice; not because they agree with me, but because they acknowledge what I firmly believe to be the truth. I present them in the form in which they appear for the sake of order and perspicuity; and especially that I may be clearly and definitely understood.”


                There was much more on the subject of baptism and other matters, but on these the Doctor’s position has been made perfectly clear already. On the personal side, to which Mr. Campbell had referred, Dr. Thomas wrote,


“You complain of my tone, temper, and manner. No doubt these three are all susceptible of improvement. Perhaps we may both mend our manners with advantage. Let us, then, both begin, and see who can be more mannerly. Let this letter be my first effort, as contrasted with your ‘first impressions’.”


            No purpose would be served by reproducing other accusations of Campbell’s or the replies of Dr. Thomas. A paragraph near the end of the letter may, however, be reproduced.


                “The world needs, or rather the Lord Jesus requires, something more than a reformation of Protestantism. An entire and uncompromising return to first principles is what is needed. The grand object the Apostolic doctrine sets before us is not the conversation of the world at large, but a preparation of true disciples, the Lamb’s wife, to meet the Master, who is at the door. I will use my influence in behalf of this as Scripturally as I know how. Leave then, my good brother, the Catholics and Protestants to fight their own battles; and do you devote your acknowledged talents to the good work of preparing The Bride to meet her Lord. This is only worthy of your efforts; this is work enough for the remainder of your days.”


                The letter finished:


                “May the evil genius you speak of depart. May we respect each other’s rights. May we continue to love as brethren, though we cannot as yet coalesce in the several causes for which we plead. May we rise superior to those petty jealousies which are the plague-spots of little minds. If either of us inflict upon the other the appearance of evil, may we each endeavour to return good for evil. May past offences be forgotten by us both. That truth may prevail over self, and that it may be our mutual happiness to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, at the royal banquet in the everlasting kingdom of Immanuel, is the devout aspiration of, dear brother, your Fellow Citizen of Heaven,

John Thomas.”


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