CHAPTER 16

 

“Tell It Unto The Church”

 

From an article appearing in the Apostolic Advocate, entitled “LATEST NEWS FROM BETHANY,” it would appear that Mr. Campbell considered it necessary to justify his declaration of disfellowship. Having no access to the Harbinger, we are unable to give extracts; but the general character of his remarks is apparent from the Doctor’s rejoinder, in the following words.

 

                “The justification of the ‘bull’ is as unjustifiable as the ‘bull’ itself. It contains but little that deserves anything more from me than a mere passing comment; and many of its parts not even that. Brother Campbell may understand himself, but I am convinced he does not understand me. The reader who is really desirous of knowing my sentiments, will consult my writings, and not brother Campbell’s version of them. The man whose conscientiousness or sense of justice is faint, will take it for granted that all he says of me is true; and will, therefore, search no further. I care nothing for the opinions of such persons: their judgment with me is worth not the value of a straw. I respect only the sentiments of those who read and examine both sides before they decide. I do not expect that the exclusive readers of brother Campbell’s paper will be permitted to hear me in my own behalf. It will be useless, therefore, for me to elaborate a formal refutation of the unjustifiable justification of the ‘bull.’ The readers of the Advocate well know how far to credit the assertions it contains; a serious reply is, therefore, unnecessary to set us right with them. One thing we will offer a few words upon.”

 

                “Brother C. says that ‘immortality’ and ‘eternal life’ are not used by him and his contemporaries as equivalent to endless being or perpetual existence. He says that in Biblical language, immortality and eternal life in hell is nonsense; but perpetual existence in hell or in any place, is quite another thought. By this I understand him to mean that ‘immortality and eternal life’ are applicable only to the saved, while ‘endless being or perpetual existence’ are applicable to the lost. If this is correctly apprehended by me, I should like to know where the Scriptures teach such a distinction? If this distinction cannot be clearly shown, then the phraseology, as applicable to the lost, is a part only of the spiritual jargon of Ashdod. I understand ‘immortality’ in the language of Canaan to denote imperishability; or, if the reader prefer it, incorruptibility. This is necessary to an ‘endless being,’ or to a ‘perpetual existence;’ for anything which is perishable cannot perpetually exist, or endlessly be. Imperishability is the very nucleus or kernel, if I may so speak, of ‘eternal life.’ There is foetal life, infantile life, and adult life, animal, moral, or intellectual, or all combined. To any of these, imperishability is essential before it can be eternal life. The eternal life of the Scriptures is imperishable, intellectual, moral, and corporeal faculties in active exercise. An imperishable foetal, or infantile life, though incongruous, is possible to Him with whom all things are possible; but it is not probable, and is nowhere taught in the sacred word. ‘Perpetual existence in hell,’ is imperishability in hell, the place of perdition! And as adults are the subjects of hell, the perpetual existence in hell of adults is nothing less than the exercise of imperishable, intellectual, moral, and corporeal faculties in the same person in hell; a doctrine for which we have searched the Bible, but in vain.”

 

                “To exist perpetually in hell is one thing; and to be the subject of eternal punishment is another, and quite a different thing. We believe in eternal punishment, but we neither believe nor teach the dogma of perpetual existence in hell. By existence in this connection, I understand, intellectual, moral, and corporeal consciousness. We will leave our brother to speculate upon this at his leisure. We would hint to him that to be eternally punished, and to be eternally punishing, are very distinct ideas. The reader can now turn to Bro. C.’s first example, and when he has read what I have here written, and what is there printed, then, whether I be right or wrong in my conclusions, let him say candidly if Br. C. has not misunderstood, and consequently misinterpreted, me upon this point? From one instance, learn a multitude.”

 

                “We refer our readers to the forthcoming debate as an antidote to this justification of the bull. Our time is so much occupied in preparing this, that we cannot devote longer time to the document before us. We have no apprehension for the result. I shall not flinch from defending what I believe to be the truth, and the whole truth, though Bro. Campbell should excommunicate me thirteen times per annum. He may justify as much as he pleases, but neither his bulls nor his justifications will shake me. If he would subdue me, he must do it by conviction; and this must be, can only be, by argument and not by bulls, justifications, and human authority. If the doctrine I plead be true, there is no man who can extinguish it, for the whole truth will be established sooner or later; if it be false it will infallibly come to nought. For peace or war, prosperity or adversity, life or death, I fearlessly abide the issue. That the Lord may give Bro. Campbell repentance for having seated himself on His throne, and for having usurped His prerogative of excommunication in relation to one in whose heart lies hid neither guile, scepticism, infidelity, nor atheism, and whose life is irreproachable, is the cordial and sincere hope of his friend and brother,

The Editor.”

Liberty, Amelia, Virginia, Dec. 22, 1837.

 

            In Mr. Campbell’s notice of exclusion of Dr. Thomas from fellowship, the following words occurred: —“It therefore belongs to the church of which he is a member to consider whether he (Dr. Thomas) is not of the same genus with that of Hymenaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-17), and then for sister churches to act upon their approbation or disapprobation of her decision upon this question.” In consequence of this, the church at Paineville, with which the Doctor was connected, investigated the matter, and published the following address to the body generally: -

 

“The Congregation of God at Painesville, Virginia, to the Brethren in Christ Jesus.

                “Dearly beloved, —We deem it our duty, when any brother prefers a charge against any member of our body, to act upon that charge as though it had been made by a member of our own immediate congregation. And whereas Bro. A. Campbell has brought certain charges against Bro. John Thomas, and requested us to take them under consideration, we have done so, and after much deliberation among ourselves, have come to the following results in relation to the charge which our Bro. A. Campbell has felt himself bound to allege against one of our body (J. Thomas), who is esteemed by us as an excellent man and an exemplary Christian. We very much regret to see the breach between brethren C. and T., that instead of uniting their talents, their energies, and their efforts in dissipating the clouds of that darkness and ignorance which now brood over all the countries of Christendom, they should direct them, at least in part, against each other, and thus give occasion to the prince of darkness still to triumph. We did once fondly hope that this reformation, like the body of Christ, founded upon the principles of forbearance and unity, would steadily move onward in its course, adding light to light and knowledge to knowledge, until it would have stood forth, in the midst of an apostate age, in all the beauty, simplicity, and purity of the ancient apostolic gospel. But, alas, how grieved we are to behold it about to be split asunder, and that, too, by those who ought to be its foster mother and its conservators! For when we look at the course pursued by the Advocate and the Harbinger in this behalf towards each other, we are bound to attribute the cause to one or both of these periodicals. But without stopping here to inquire who was first or last to blame in this matter, or whether one or both are at fault, let us direct our attention more immediately to the call that has been made upon us through the Harbinger. And what is that call?”

 

                “It is to consider whether the case of Bro. Thomas is not of the same genus with that of Hymenaeus and Philetus, recorded 2 Tim. 2:16-18, viz.: ‘Shun profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more ungodliness, and their words will eat as doth a canker, of whom are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is passed already; and overthrow the faith of some.’ The heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus here spoken of, was that the resurrection had passed already: consequently they denied that there was to be any resurrection hereafter.”

 

                “Now we understand Bro. Thomas to believe and teach that there will be a literal resurrection of the dead bodies of the saints at the coming of Messiah, and that there will also be a literal resurrection of the dead bodies of saints and sinners at the general judgment. We do not, therefore, see how the two cases can be identified; unless, indeed, it be contended that because Br. Thomas believes that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone that believes it, and that the secrets of men are to be judged according to the Gospel, and that therefore those to whom the Gospel has never been offered, can neither believe it and be saved by it, nor reject it and be condemned by it; and hence they are not to be the subjects of that resurrection mentioned init; and that therefore he denies the resurrection of those whom he considers wholly out of the purview of the Gospel. If this be speculative or untaught, is it such a heresy as merits such a sentence of condemnation as that which Bro. C. has pronounced, and which he asks us to confirm against Bro. T., and that upon the first, or rather before any admonition, at least from us, the proper tribunal? Now we understand the Scripture rule in this behalf to be this: the congregation that has charge of the person accused must judge him to be a heretic, then admonish him twice, and then reject him after the second admonition has proved ineffectual.”

 

                “But why does Bro. C. call on us to take the case of Bro. T. under consideration, now that he has publicly condemned him? If we, too, condemn him, he will still hold the same relation to Bro. C. that he does now; if we acquit him, his relative situation to Bro. C. will be the same; that is, of one as unfit for Christian communion as a deluded Mormonite. Again, why does Bro. C. wish to hold the rod of terror over our heads while we are sitting in judgment upon Bro. T.’s case, by calling upon sister churches to act upon our decision, and by placing us conditionally upon the same footing with Br. T.? so that if we would retain the fellowship of Bro. C., we have but one course left us, and that is to renounce Bro. T. either with or without the formality of a trial. It will therefore be perceived that Bro. C. has tied our hands, and placed us in a dilemma in which we must either forfeit his fellowship or renounce one of our congregation that we look upon as an exemplary disciple of Christ.”

 

                “We, therefore conclude that Bro. C. has been premature in passing sentence on Bro. T. and all who believe and teach with him, before he and they had been dealt with according to the laws in such cases. Again, the terms which Bro. C. has thought proper to prescribe to us, upon which Bro. T. can alone be retained among us, we think oppressive in their character, and immoral in their tendency. He says, page 514 Millennial Harbinger, vol. 1, new series, ‘I will only add that in a case of this sort, an explicit renunciation of these (new) doctrines, not merely a promise to suppress them, or to hold them as private property as though they were unoperative opinions, would be indispensable to Christian communion.’ This rule is high-handed and oppressive, because it takes from one the right even of thinking for himself; it is immoral, because it tends to make one say he does not entertain certain opinions deemed heretical, lest he may thereby incur the censure of his brethren. No one ought to be induced to declare his disbelief in any opinion till he has first been convinced of the error of that opinion. We cannot, come what will, offer any inducement to Bro. T. by appealing to his hopes, or his fears, to disavow those sentiments, so long as he remains unconvinced of the erroneousness of them. For this would be to tempt him to declare falsely. We do not feel ourselves called on to answer all the questions separately which appeared in the article under consideration, they being addressed to the brethren in general, and not to us in particular. It, therefore, remains for them to consider of those several matters, and adopt such conclusions as the premises may seem to them to warrant. And since they are called upon to adopt or reject our decision, and of course ourselves along with that decision, we would, in view of that glorious hope set before us in the Gospel, the hope of a resurrection from among the dead, and an entrance upon the enjoyment of that life which is hid with Christ in God, most devoutly pray and ardently beseech them first to search well the Scriptures to see whether these things are so, and then compare the Scripture doctrine with what Bro. T. believes and teaches as contained in his own writings, and not in the reports of others; and especially his remarks on Hunnicutt’s report of the debate and his letter to Bro. C., No. 2.”

 

                “If after a full, fair, and candid examination and comparison, they can find it in their hearts and consciences to renounce both him and us, be it so, we should most seriously regret it, while we should endeavour, by the help of the Lord, to bear it with all Christian fortitude.”

 

                “And, although we may hazard the loss of fellowship with many, yet we feel bound to risk that loss; rather tan sever from our communion one whose walk is so exemplary, and whose devotion to the truth is so ardent as that of Bro. Thomas. We feel bound by the sacred Scriptures to continue to treat him as a Christian so long as he continues to walk as such, and we trust that the brethren, after maturely considering this important matter, will duly appreciate our motives and ratify our decision, and that Bro. Campbell, in particular, whose influence is great, and whose responsibility is proportionately great, would reconsider the whole matter, and so act to avoid that schism in this reformation which must otherwise result from the course which, no doubt, he has felt himself called on to pursue; for, although we have censured Bro. T.’s manner in some respects, and although some among us regard some of his views as speculative and untaught, yet as he has thus far manifested a disposition to amend, and has, in fact, amended his manners; and, if convinced of error, would, we think, change his matter too—we cannot consent to interdict him from proving or attempting to prove what he may consider truth upon any subject of revelation. We have too much confidence in the power of truth, and in the heads and pens engaged in this reformation, to fear that any error fatal to the cause of truth can be successfully propagated and sustained.”

 

                “May favour, peace, and mercy be multiplied to all the faithful in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

“Signed, by order of the Church,

Jesse Smith,

A.      B. Walthall

Elders.”

 

On this report Dr. Thomas made the following comments: -

 

“I have pleaded pro nor con before the church, but unreservedly surrendered my case into their hands to dispose of it as they should think fit. Convinced that they were righteous and impartial men, I feared not but that they would decide according to truth. For myself, I am satisfied with their decision; and whether ‘sister churches’ approve or disapprove of it, I cannot but feel gratified at the straightforward, ‘independent, and unbiased vindication of my reputation and character from the attacks of inimical or mistaken opponents, as set forth in the report.”

 

“I have been twice the object at which have been hurled anathemas of excommunications by ‘editorial reformers.’ ‘Plain Dealing’ and Bro. A. Campbell, both ‘well acquainted with sceptical intricacies,’ consigned me to the infidel herd of men; a prophecy had gone before ‘that I should become an avowed infidel in twelve months.’ But little more than this period had elapsed ere the Bethany decree denounces me as subverted from the faith. Can the fulminator of this edict have been the prophet to whom ‘Plain Dealing’ referred as a brother of more than ordinary intelligence? If so, is it possible that in him ‘the wish could have been the father to the thought?’ The decree would have come with better grace, if grace it contain at all, from any other man than from him who refuses me the communion of Christians. He has failed to sustain his position by the force of argument; and now he wheels about to prostrate me, if he can, by the argument of force; but it is an old ruse de guerre, which has invariably recoiled upon the strategist when manoeuvred against the truth. ‘Plain Dealing’ and the Decretist of Bethany have both signally failed. The brethren refuse to ratify their edicts; they will not separate me from their fellowship; and they have too much candour and veracity constructively to metamorphose a true believer into an apostate from the faith.”

 

“But the denunciations of certain of my brethren, and of sectarian leaders, affect me no more than the listless breeze. If I contend for the truth, for which men, of whom the world was not worthy, lost their lives, I expect and deserve no better treatment. ‘He that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted;’ and it is ‘through much tribulation we are to enter the kingdom.’ I rejoice that I am counted worthy to suffer infamy for Christ. He knows what is in man, and he knows that my object is the disenthralment of the faith and hope of the gospel from the rubbish of sectarian legends and traditions; and that the recompense I seek is not from men, but from ‘the rewarder of them who diligently seek Him’.”

 

Another congregation, assembled at Bethel, Jetersville, Amelia Co., Va., responded to Mr. Campbell’s challenge, in a long letter from which the following extracts are taken.

 

“The congregation of Christ at Bethel, Jetersville, Amelia, Virginia, to the congregations of Christ in all places. Favour, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.”

 

“Brother A. Campbell and the congregation in Philadelphia, having published to you and the world, their renunciation of John Thomas, of this county, and all who recognise the said John Thomas to be a Christian, as unworthy of Christian fellowship with them; we have thought it right, and not to be judged out of place or time, to present ourselves before you, craving your patient attention, whilst we attempt to lay before you a simple, concise, and we trust, faithful account of some of the views we have taken of those matters which agitate and distract ‘this reformation’.”

 

“A short review of his (brother Thomas’s) alleged ‘abominable’ doctrines, we ask first to be allowed to take. To our minds, the grand foundation question with which all the rest are more or less remotely connected, for holding and promulgating the negative of which, brother t. has been reprobated as a materialist, branded as an infidel, and denounced as unworthy of the name of Christian; we say, to our minds, the main fundamental question is this: was there at the beginning, when the ‘Lord God formed man of the dust of the earth, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul,’ a substance created, which was not matter, annexed to an organised body composed of dust of the ground, and which was from the moment of its creation to be necessarily, essentially, absolutely, and unconditionally, immortal and indestructible, and which should subsist for a time, independent of the organised matter to which it had been annexed, in a disembodied state?”

 

“This we hold to be a point, revelation aside, which reason could never determine. But the word of the Lord is truth, sure, steadfast and everlasting. Show us a single ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ or a ‘Thus it is written,’ in affirmation of the question; and we say, Amen. We have been taught by some of the prominent actors in this reformation to call ‘Bible things by Bible names,’ and that as words represent ideas, if the words are not in the book, neither are the ideas. The inspired Moses records the simple account above of man’s beginning, the sentence pronounced upon him for his transgression—‘dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return’ —and its execution, 930 years from his creation: ‘he died.’ Nowhere in Moses’ history of Adam’s creation and death can we find a ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ which taught him that he had an immortal spirit within him, that would, when his body should return to the dust, exist for ages in a disembodied, conscious state . . ..”

 

“Neither in Genesis, nor to the end of Revelation, can we find such a ‘Thus it is written’ or ‘Thus saith the Lord’ as that man is composed of matter and spirit; that matter shall return to the dust of the ground, whence it was taken; but the spirit being immortal, immaterial and indestructible, shall necessarily live in a conscious state for ever. Can there be found in all the book a ‘Thus it is written,’ or ‘Saith the Lord,’ for the re-union of body and ‘disembodied spirits’?”

 

“In the absence of such authority, brother T. feels himself bound to hold the position he does, which is the negative, and from which it follows, as an inseparable consequence, that man, without Jesus Christ, the resurrection, and the life, perishes as the brute.”

 

“Though, what is all important, a ‘Thus saith the Lord, or, it is written,’ it will be yielded, cannot be found in affirmation of the question; yet it is contended, there are scattered throughout the writings of prophets and apostles, numerous passages, which imply that the doctrine of disembodied human spirits, in a conscious state, imperishable and indestructible, was always held and universally received and believed as true by the holy men of God. But it may well be questioned whether God would leave man to find out such a truth from bewildering implications. Is it so with the truth of the doctrine of a resurrection?”

 

“Since the appearance to man of ‘the way, the truth, and the life,’ the writings and sayings of evangelists and apostles do, indeed, abound with numerous incidental allusions to a resurrection from among the dead; and these allusions do most clearly imply that the evangelists and apostles believed the doctrine of a resurrection of the body to be true. But, unlike those in the preceding case, these incidental allusions and implications rest on the everlasting and immutable basis of a ‘Thus saith the Lord’.”

 

“Now, out of this parent question have arisen many and various others, many of which are, according to our judgment, of a purely speculative character. A discussion of some of them has occupied prominent places in the Harbinger and Advocate for some months past, and finally eventuated in the expulsion of brother T. from the fellowship of certain brethren.”

 

“Paul contemplates man as a being composed of ‘body, soul, and spirit;’ but, upon neither of these component parts does he pretend to theorise or speculate, he pretends not to consider either abstractedly. We, therefore, with our brethren in Philadelphia, ‘disapprove and disallow’ all brother T.’s speculations; and hold what he and Brother Walthall have written and said, to show that the ‘blood of man was his soul, and his breath, the spirit,’ as speculative, ‘untaught,’ and unprofitable; and so we hold much that has been spoken and published by other brethren, upon the subject of abstract spirit. Yet we cannot, on this account, treat them as ‘Pagans and publicans’.”

 

“We understand brother Thomas as maintaining the opinion, inferentially drawn from what he advocates as the truth of the fundamental question already stated, in connection with his views of the gospel of Christ, that none but those who hear the gospel, believe and obey it, and, by a perseverance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, can have eternal life; that infants, idiots, and pagans, who die such, are not embraced within the salvation of the gospel. For, according to Paul, this ‘gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to all who believe.’ Now if there be a power of God for the salvation of those who cannot believe, it must be some other than the gospel . . . It may not be as clear to our minds as it is to that of brother T., therefore we do not agree with him in the opinion which he so strongly expresses, that ‘God has as certainly revealed to us the future destiny of infants as He has the way of eternal life.’ Yet, for this difference of opinion, we cannot disclaim fellowship with him, for, to us, it does not seem to involve any principle of a practical tendency.”

 

“We invite the serious and unprejudiced attention of all to what brother Campbell has written in his Extra, commencing at page 582 of the Millennial Harbinger, vol. 1, No. 12, new series. He there sets forth ‘the evidences of brother T’s departure from two cardinal articles of the Christian faith,’ and considers the practical tendency of (what he alleges to be) ‘the new theory of man and of the future state’ . . . To hear brother C. roundly assert that brother T. had denied the ‘resurrection of the dead,’ might well make one, who had not examined for himself, think brother Thomas had denied that ‘hope and resurrection of the dead,’ which once clad Paul with such majesty, and power, and strength, before kings and councils. But not so. Brother C. charges him with denying the ‘resurrection and the judgment of the world’.”

 

“What says brother Thomas? He contemplates the human race under two great divisions: those who have the word of life, and those who have it not. The latter division embraces pagans, infants, and idiots; the former comprehends those who not only have the word of life, but have purified their hearts by obeying it, denominated the ‘just,’ and those who will not obey it, these are the ‘unjust.’ He further holds that the ‘just and the unjust’ will be the only persons raised from the dead; the former to enjoy eternal life, and the latter to suffer the ‘second death;’ and that all others, including idiots, pagans, and infants, shall die, and sink into a state of endless insensibility. Thus, we find brother T. denying a resurrection in brother C.’s sense, but maintaining a resurrection, according to what he, brother T., conceives to be the scriptural sense.”

 

“Brother C. argues, as a denial of ‘the resurrection’ implies a denial of a ‘judgment of the world,’ it would be needless to make more than one article of it, that is, a denial of the ‘resurrection,’ which charge, he thinks, we suppose, he has proven upon him. If a denial of the resurrection implies a denial of the judgment of the world, then the affirmation of the resurrection of all the dead implies a judgment of all, not excluding infants and idiots.”

 

“Shall we reckon infants and idiots among those ‘at the last day,’ who shall be judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works? In what sense shall we understand our Saviour when he shall say in a coming day to infants and idiots, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant; I was hungry, naked, sick, and you fed, clothed, and administered unto me’?”

 

“Whether brother T.’s views, limiting the ‘unjust’ to those who hear and will not receive the Gospel, be false or true, we are not prepared to give clear and decided opinion. But, assuming them to be false, we do not think that perversion and misrepresentation of them are necessary to their refutation. The truth disdains such auxiliaries, and indignantly frowns upon their interference . . . Hear brother C.! ‘He (Dr. T.) denies perpetual existence to any human being in virtue of his descent from Adam. He (Dr. T.) also teaches the unjust shall be for ever punished. Now the question is, whence this perpetual existence to the unjust? Neither from Adam nor Christ, says Dr. T.’. Thus brother C.’s misapprehension misrepresents brother T., and concludes by fixing on him this triumphant absurdity, ‘unbelief gives them endless being’.”

 

“Before such an absurdity can be fixed on brother T., it must first be shown that the idea of an everlasting punishment necessarily implies the endless conscious existence of its subject, and that a person can, at one and the same time, be the subject of the eternal or ‘second death,’ and of an endless conscious being. And before the last proposition can be shown to be true, it will be necessary, first, to prove that the ‘second death’ is a figurative expression, and not the antithesis of ‘eternal life’ in point of being.”

 

“So much for that absurdity, in the noticing of which we have anticipated another perversion, growing out of the same misapprehension, where, in considering the practical tendency of the doctrine, he says, ‘it would be cruel to send such a gospel to the heathen, and that it is more malevolent than benevolent, because, forsooth, the greatest part of them would be made unjust by it, and thus made for ever miserable, whereas without it they would only have an eternal rest in the bosom of undisturbed unconsciousness.’ Brother C. ‘puts it to the understanding and conscience of every reader to say if this is not cruel.’ But we would respectfully submit it to brother C. to say if the cruelty (if it be cruelty) is not on the other side. For does not brother C. teach there are degrees of future punishment, and that those who hear the glad tidings of mercy and reject them, are more worthy of punishment than those who have never heard them? And does he not admit the number who hear and reject greatly exceeds that of those who hear and accept? Admitting so much, must he not allow, on his own principle of arguing, that it would be cruel to send the gospel to persons when it will be the ‘occasion’ of an aggravation of their misery for ever?”

 

“The gospel makes men unjust! We have thought the proper meaning would be better expressed, ‘the rejection of it makes them so’—at any rate, aggravates their guilt and condemnation. What did our Saviour mean when he said to certain of the Jews, ‘If I had not spoken to you, you had not sinned’?”

 

“We understand brother Thomas to hold and maintain that ‘hope and resurrection of the dead,’ about which Paul writes simply, yet so sublimely, in 1 Cor. 15. Suppose someone now should ask, with that idle curiosity and speculative inquisitiveness which prompted some at Corinth in the days of Paul, ‘How can the unjust dead be raised up, and with what kind of body do they come?’ Who would answer the question in Paul’s language? ‘Simpleton—it is sown in corruption—it is raised in glory, &c.’ No one: as the Scriptures give no answer, there is none to be found among men. If it be clear that Paul is here writing of the resurrection of the righteous, is it not, in some degree, evident that the 22nd verse must be taken in a limited sense?”

 

“Under the most enlarged view that we are capable of taking of this whole matter, and after the most anxious and impartial investigation that we are able to bestow upon it, in reference to the ‘great end of morality and religion,’ whether in this life or the future, we are brought to the conclusion that there are not, in its practical tendencies, those dangers which seem to excite and alarm the apprehension of many.”

 

“Bear with us a little longer, while we advert to some things which many of us have learned from brother C. He says, ‘It is presumed the momentous changes already accomplished in English society—are the legitimate consequences of a single maxim—“manly nature is, and of right ought to be, a thinking being,”—he ought not only to think, but to think for himself.’ To those of the most enlarged conceptions of human affairs, and of the natural tendencies of things, we imagine it will appear most evident that it is safer and happier for society, that the mind should be permitted to rest with full assurance only upon its own investigation, and that perfect freedom of inquiry should be guaranteed to every man to reason, examine, and judge for himself, on all subjects in the least involving his own present or future destiny, or that of society. Happy is it for the general interest of all science and all society, that when men begin to think and reason and decide for themselves, on any one subject, unrestrained by the proscription, and unawed by the authority of past ages, it is not within their own power, nor within the grasp of any extrinsic authority on earth to restrain their speculations’ . .”

 

“We have had personal intercourse with brother Thomas. We have seen him in private and in public, and we have seen nothing but the exemplary Christian; his morals unexceptionable; his life rigidly self-denying. As to his style and manner of advocating what he conceives to be the truth, we say there has been too much pungency—too much bluntness—too much roughness, and a seeming disregard for the feelings of others, which a love and zeal for the truth do not require, and we do not approve.”

 

“We moreover declare, that we differ from him in the interpretation which he gives certain passages of the Scriptures, illustrative of his alleged obnoxious tenets.”

 

“Thus have we freely expressed ourselves about this brother and his principles, having in our poor way, and in as brief a manner as we could well, set forth an exposition of the reasons which have determined us in the course we have taken. After much anxious reflection, and we think, mature deliberation, we are constrained to give it as the candid and honest conviction of our minds, that the congregation in Philadelphia have, in the rejection of brother T. from Christian fellowship, put aside New Testament precedent and precept, and therefore have done wrong.”

 

“Have they proceeded according to the authority of the Bible?”

 

“Was the 18th chapter of Matthew consulted and acted upon by them?”

 

“Does the parable of the wheat and the darnel afford no practical instruction by which a different decision might have been made?”

 

“Can a discrimination between brother T. and a Christian be made with more accuracy and precision, than between the wheat and darnel? If there be not a greater dissimilarity between him and a Christian, than there is between darnel and wheat, we ask Why should the advice given by our Saviour in that parable be condemned?”

 

“We will even put his case upon the extreme ground, that he is darnel among the wheat (which, however we deny), that the precipitancy and unwarrantable procedure of the Philadelphia congregation may be most apparent to all. We cannot but learn from this parable, in what an exceedingly delicate and tender manner our Saviour regarded the excision of members of the church. But all these teachings are thrown aside, and brother Thomas numbered amongst the ‘Pagans and publicans.’ We do now by the weightiest considerations of brotherly love, harmony, peace, and unity of spirit, seriously and earnestly implore our brethren in Philadelphia, to reflect upon what they have done, resolve the consequences, and, if they find as we really think, they have done wrong, rescind their resolution. We solemnly and affectionately call upon all the congregations which may not have gone so far, to pause, and weigh the whole matter deliberately, cautiously and thoroughly, before they resort to the harsh means of the Philadelphia congregation. We pray you may be governed in what you do, by the wisdom which comes from God, our Saviour, to whom be glory and honour for ever. Amen.”

 

“Let us not be alienated in our affections and driven asunder by man’s vain speculations and unprofitable abstract questions upon the essence of things. Let those who will, investigate and pursue such vanities, till they are lost amid the murky fogs of mysticism, but let us betake ourselves to the higher and nobler business of endeavouring to pursue the unity of spirit by the bonds of peace; let us rejoice with our Saviour’s beloved disciple, in the assurance that ‘though it does not yet appear what we shall be, yet when he, (our Lord) appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.’ The apostle John does not stop to contemplate an ‘intermediate state,’ nor to speak of the happiness of his ‘disembodied’ spirit in that state, nor does he speculate upon what he should be, whether ‘flesh or bones,’ or anything else, but his eyes are fixed in an enraptured gaze upon the glorious appearing of the Lord.”

 

“By order of the whole congregation at Bethel, with the exception of one member whose objection lay not against the matter of the letter, but arose from an opinion that its publication now would be premature.

Thomas E. Jeter.

John H. Jackson. Elders.

March 10th, 1838.”

 

On publishing this document Dr. Thomas remarked: -

“When I review the past, I am inclined to say with Milton, ‘best are all things as the will of God ordains them.’ I know from Scriptures that ‘all things shall work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to His purpose.’ In my own experience, I have verified the truth of this. For my own sake I do not regret that I have been the subject of misrepresentation, slander, and ecclesiastical vengeance; I regret it for the sake of those who have so far forgot themselves as gentlemen and Christians as to have recourse to such unworthy proceedings, to stop the mouth of one whose rights and privileges are equal to their own. It is a pity for them that they should so far have miscalculated their own power and authority as to suppose that they could veto the free discussion of any point whatever. They have brought up their reserves. They have struck the last, and therefore their most potent blow; but happily, thanks to the temper of our breastplate, shield, and helmet, without effect. David’s sling and stone were a match for Goliath’s spear, though massive as a weaver’s beam! So truth will ever be proved to be too strong for error, though marshalled under the patronage of the Goliaths of the literary world.”

 

“By this time, I suspect, my opponents will have concluded that they have been too precipitate in the steps they have taken against me. Crooked policy generally defeats itself. I have never had recourse to it, but have always been straightforward and above board, which, in the long run, will be found to be the best policy, for it is honest. I confess to have not laboured so elaborately as I might have done in sustaining the positions I have set forth. I have adapted my defence to the nature of the attack I have had to bear. This has been, as far as argument is concerned, so feeble and so pointless, that I have ranged much that could have been advanced, in the rearguard as a corps de reserve, or body of reserve. We have thrown a few bombs, congreves, and hand grenades into our opponent’s trenches, which have done their works much damage; but as our garrison has been straightened neither for water, provisions, nor forage, we have contented ourselves with posting the watch for the look out, while we have reserved our main forces for time of need. But, from all appearances, we do not think that our reserve of defence will be needed; we shall, therefore, at some future day, convert it into a reserve of offence, and carry the war into the hostile territory.”

 

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