Editor, Preacher and Printer


Mr. Campbell did not succeed in observing the strict silence upon which he had resolved with respect to the Doctor’s future proceedings. To use the Doctor’s expression, “though sent to Coventry for a year or two,” Mr. Campbell could not resist the temptation to notice what he said and did.


            In the Harbinger for July, Mr. Campbell wrote:


                “I am censured, reproved, and admonished, by a very sagacious gentleman in the east of the commonwealth, whose ‘candid opinions’ are not to be questioned, for having so far apostatised from him and myself, as to undertake to defend Protestantism. With him, Protestantism is clearly and infallibly one of the horns of the Beast. Not having read the discussion, the gentleman, of course, volunteers his censures in anticipation of public opinion, in order to strengthen his opposition to me on other grounds more obnoxious than even Protestantism.”


                “But that he, or anyone labouring under the same distemper, may understand something of Protestantism, as it has been defended by me, I shall give a mere sample of the principles as expressed centuries ago. (The list was printed in the Millennial Harbinger.)”


                “I would only add that in my latitude Protestantism is not identified with Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, Methodism, Congregationalism nor Baptistism, but everything in each and everyone of these opposed to Romanism.”


            On this the Doctor commented:


                “Brother Campbell’s Protestantism is certainly an ism of great latitude. If ‘the gentleman,’ as he facetiously terms me, mistook the kind of Protestantism of which he announced himself ‘the defendant,’ Brother C. is certainly alone to blame: for, assuredly, after his declaration to Mr. Hammond, every reader would conclude that, by Protestantism, he meant what is commonly understood by that term. ‘I have,’ says he, ‘for many years been seeking to unite all Protestant Christians in one great bond of union as catholic as Protestant Christendom.’ Here are ‘Protestant Christians’ and ‘Protestant Christendom,’ which certainly one would think, constitute the soul and body of Protestantism. Brother Campbell, if I mistake not, is indignant at the idea of ‘Protestant Christians’ not being saved as such. If they are salvable, it must be by Protestant institutions, which, I presume, make up Protestantism in the common and received acceptation of the word. This embraces all the isms, and more besides, enumerated by Brother Campbell, which, as he very well knows, is ‘as catholic as Protestant Christendom’.”


                “I was surprised that he should stand up as the defendant of such an ism; and am rejoiced to find that he rejects the identity of his Protestantism with that of the Protestantism of Christendom which it claims as peculiarly its own. I cannot but remark that it would be well if he would be more precise in his use of terms. It would prevent a misinterpretation of his sentiments. It appears to me, that the only tenable ground in opposition to Protestantism and Romanism, is the Christian religion. Had he proclaimed himself the defendant of Christianity instead of Protestantism, there would have been no danger of his being misunderstood . . .”


                “I am said to be labouring under a ‘distemper.’ This I do not exactly understand; for, in the beginning of the article, Brother C. terms me ‘a very sagacious gentleman.’ Well, well; be it so. Brother C, says I am a gentleman, therefore it must be so. Let no one after this say that I am not a gentleman. But he says I am ‘a very sagacious’ one. Perhaps this is my ‘distemper.’ Quick of thought, quick at making discoveries, quick of scent; for these are the significations of sagacious. But am I to blame for this? I am indebted to Brother Campbell for some of my sagacity alias distemper. I imbibed some of the infection from his writings, which insist upon our learning the truth from the writings of apostles, prophets, &c. I am doing so with all my might, according to the humble ability bestowed upon me. The truth makes a man both sagacious and a gentleman. Some call my distemper a mania; others, his ‘balderdash.’ Good. ‘Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and, on my account, accuse you falsely of every evil thing.’ ‘He hath a devil, and is mad, why hear ye him?’ ‘If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more his servants?’ Yea, I am content to bear all without repining, in the defence of what I believe to be the truth.”


            Towards the end of 1836, Dr. Thomas decided upon removing from Richmond to a farm in a district called Paineville, in Amelia Co., some 38 miles distant from Richmond. The reason for this was the growing incompatibility between the exercise of the medical profession and devotion to the word in writing and preaching. This decision was aided by a question of discipline, in which the Doctor took his stand on the side of purity of character, against a major in the Richmond artillery, and an elder in the church, who brought reproach on the church by his intemperance. The Doctor’s attitude on this matter made him obnoxious in Richmond. His professional practice had diminished through his attention to the truth, and it became necessary to decide upon his course of action, whether to give up editing and preaching or abandon the practice of physic. He found it impossible to carry on the two. He decided, after thorough consideration, that to give up editing and preaching would be abandoning the path of duty. He therefore decided in favour of a change which admitted of their continuance while providing his own livelihood. He purchased a farm, and devoted himself to the tilling of the soil, employing his leisure in writing and printing the Advocate. His remarks on the matter will be read with interest: -


                “The chief reason of this move is, that the business of interpreting the Scriptures to the people in remote places is incompatible with the practice of the medical profession in a city. I have, therefore, purchased a farm, which I am engaged in settling, in order that I may procure a maintenance for myself and family, more dependent on Providence indeed, but less dependent on human caprice. Riches are not the object of my desire. If I am enabled to live so as to die in the faith and owing no one anything but love, let my survivors remember that I die more wealthy than the ancient Croesus. The riches I desire here are liberty of speech, of action, and of opinion; the enjoyment of the right of free discussion in relation to things past, present, and to come. I desire food and raiment, and that with these I may be content. I desire to participate in the rich luxury of emancipating the human mind from the dogmata and traditions of men. The liberty I desire is that liberty which is chastened by the law of Christ. This liberty I cannot enjoy in a city and in the practice of a profession that depends upon the caprice of this singular world.”


                “In teaching the truth, which is opposed to the dearest opinions of the errorist, and to the malpractices of the worldling, and to the hypocrisy of the formalist, who thinks he can serve both God and Mammon—all these apply it more or less to themselves, and thus regard you as their enemy because you tell them the truth; and if they happen to be your patients you risk an immediate discharge. There remains, then, for me but one of two things: either I must, if I stay here, wink at what I believe to be wrong for the sake of bread, or I must derive my support elsewhere from other sources for the preservation of my Christian liberty, dearer to me than temporal life. There is much meaning in a maxim of William Penn: ‘Choose God’s trades,’ says he, ‘before men’s; Adam was a gardener, Cain a ploughman, and Abel a shepherd or grazier. When Cain became a murderer he turned a builder of cities and quitted his husbandry’.”


                “As to the continuance of the Advocate, I am now providing for it. Through the liberality of certain brethren in these parts, who are anxious that a free and independent press should be established among them, I shall be enabled shortly to purchase a press and types, and to continue the publication of our paper on my farm.”


            Just before leaving Richmond, Dr. Thomas had practical experience of the need of being independent in the matter of a printing press. The office at which the Advocate had been printed in Richmond, and which owed its being in the first instance to the Advocate, passed into the hands of an Episcopalian clergyman, who signalised his accession to the proprietorship, by refusing to print the Advocate. This embarrassed the Doctor for a time, and spurred on the new arrangement, which was completed by December, 1836, in which month he issued the first No.       (No. 8, vol. 3) from his new office on the farm. The publishing difficulties were considerable in such an isolated situation, as might be imagined. The “mail” to Richmond was a very primitive affair, consisting of a horse and two saddle bags, which required two or three journeys to carry the monthly despatch of the Advocate. The consequence was that the Advocate was always a fortnight getting a fair start after leaving the Doctor’s hands. Accidents happened once or twice to the printing machine, and this, in the absence of means of repair in a country district, caused additional delay. Any change in the printer who assisted him was also a cause of embarrassment because of the time required to fill the vacancy.


            An amusing instance of this is thus described in the fifth volume of the Advocate: -


                “The publication of our debate with the Presbyterian clergyman caused the Advocate to fall a month behind. We were in hopes of recovering lost ground by February; and should have done so but for the folly and bigotry of our printer. We hired a neat hand, as the execution of the November number sufficiently evinces. He was a convert to Methodism; nevertheless we harmonised in our affairs, and he expressed himself as perfectly satisfied and at home. But, unfortunately for the recovery of lost ground, he had to set up the following passage: ‘Who can be astonished, then, that camp meetings, revivals, forged and delusive tales, of sights unseen and sounds unheard, with all the “new measures of the age”—should all be pronounced and approved as the “means of grace” to men! By these inventions, etc.’. His Methodism could not stand this, so he packed up his kit and absconded by starlight to Richmond. This incident, illustrative both of Sectarianism and of the inconvenience of printing a periodical in the country at a distance from a city, has thrown us still more into arrears, for some twelve days elapsed before we could get to work again. Our readers will perceive that the present number contains only 24 pages instead of 36. We thought it best to issue these 24, that the patience of our friends might not be exhausted. The deficiency will be made up in our next.”


            “I am ever doing my best,” says the Doctor on the same page, “to surmount all these obstacles, and trust that we shall yet get all things straight, and keep them so.”



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