“The Herald of the Future Age”
Dr. Thomas remained in Louisville about a year, residing alternately with the two elders of the Campbellite Church, who were his personal friends. By them, he was occasionally invited to speak in their meeting-house, which resulted in an intrigue in the congregation to prevent it. To shut the pulpit against him, they invited a man from Cincinnati, named Barnet, to be their hired shepherd. Just before the arrival of this man, the Doctor had a week’s debate with a Universalist preacher in the Campbellite meeting-house. The audience each night consisted of about twelve hundred persons, and considerable interest was excited, but in the Doctor’s then state of ignorance, little or no impression was made in favour of what he subsequently advocated as the great salvation. Something, however was done to modify the asperity existing toward himself, on account of his growing perception of the truth.
Residing this time with Mr. Craig, a Campbellite friend of Millerite tendencies, he was led to investigate the principles of that section of believers in the second advent. Mr. Craig took in the publications of the sect, so that the Doctor had access to them, and was thus introduced to the system of chronology drawn up by the Rev. W. Miller, the founder of the sect, and which was the basis of the prophetical calculations among them. These chronological tables were published in their principal magazine, with a note by the editor to the effect that Mr. Miller was willing to stake the accuracy of his calculations on the conclusion that the world would be 6,000 years old in 1843. This was a narrowing down of a controversy, of which it occurred to the Doctor to take advantage. He thought that if he were able to show that the world was younger than Mr. Miller’s theory assumed, it would be on Mr. Miller’s admission a complete refutation of his prophetic arithmetic. He accordingly set to work and wrote an article on the world’s age, in which he showed that several important mistakes had been made by Mr. Miller. The article appeared in the second and third numbers of the Herald of the Future Age. About the same time he wrote a letter to the editor of a leading millerite paper, which he afterwards republished in the Herald, with interesting prefatory remarks. As both will be read with interest, we reproduce them:
“It is well known that the editors of the periodicals of that section of the ecclesiastical community styled ‘Millerite’ (I use this term, not as a reproach, but to distinguish the party from other religious denominations) have very boldly challenged investigation into their premises and conclusions, no doubt feeling that they were based upon the rock of eternal truth; for it is a consciousness of this which inspires a man with a courage which knows no fear, and cannot be subdued. Taking for granted, in the present instance, that a sect had sprung up, whose principle of action was to prove all things, and to hold fast only what was good, because proved to be true, we could not find it in our heart to oppose them; although in much we believed them to be mistaken. We therefore coincided with them where we could agree, and concluded to await the arrival of the Ides of March, 1844, as an epoch which, in the disappointment of their expectations, would do more to open their eyes, than the most laboured argument we could elaborate against their hypothesis. Nevertheless, we were in hopes that, before the time expired, as the end of this dispensation, as Mr. Miller had expounded it, we might succeed in speaking to the understandings of his fellow believers. We were glad to see them take so much interest in the second coming of Jesus Christ, in the belief of whose near approach we fully coincide with them, though not so instantaneously as they imagine. But, we believe we could discern a very radical oversight in their policy with respect to the future age. It is well to believe in the approaching manifestation of Messiah, but it is better to believe that, and to be prepared for him too. We perceived that a belief that he will soon appear, accompanied by a moral (termed by some ‘a pious life,’ if the morality be mixed up with an attendance on preaching, prayers, &c.) deportment, made up the preparation for his coming; which, however, by no means reaches the standard of a scriptural preparation. We determined, therefore, to open a correspondence with the Western Midnight Cry, published in Cincinnati. Accordingly we forwarded the subjoined epistle, in hope that it would prepare the way for others, in which we should have directed the attention of its readers to the purification which can be derived only from a belief and obedience of the gospel preached by the apostles, and without which the belief of the coming of Jesus, instanter, however confident that belief may be, will be of no avail as a ground of acceptance with him; for ‘every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself (‘by obeying the truth’) even as He (the Lord) is pure’ ( 1 John 3:3). We mailed it to the editor, and waited patiently for two or three weeks, expecting its appearance, but it was never permitted to see the light.”
The following is the letter to the editor of the “Western Midnight Cry.”
“Louisville, Ky., February 13th, 1844.
“Mr Editor, --Your Midnight Cry, of February 10th, is before me. From it, I perceive you profess to be acting under a ‘commission’ to cry with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him,’ &c. This is good work. Obey the exhortation of the prophet, ‘Cry aloud, and spare not.’ But, first, ‘be sure you are right,’ and then ‘go ahead,’ courting neither the smiles, nor eschewing the frowns, of this faithless and disobedient generation.”
“Allow me, though not ‘a Millerite,’ to say that the great truth, to the propagation of which your appear professes to be devoted, is the grandest, most comforting, animating, and soul-stirring in the whole Scriptures of truth. The cry, ‘Behold! He cometh!’ when believed, is truly terrific; but to whom? To them who are unprepared; to them whose reassure, instead of being in heaven, is vested in stocks, merchandise, lands, houses, colleges, &c., &c., and whose hearts are where their treasure is; to them ‘who receive honour one of another,’ and who love to be called rabbi. To such worldly-minded professors as these, slaves as they are to ‘the world, the flesh, and the devil,’ to them, I say, the cry, ‘Behold! He cometh!’ falls on their ears as the death-knell of all they esteem great and good. But to him who has obtained ‘a right and title’ to eternal life, the cry is as ‘life from the dead.’ And why? Because he knows that his ‘life is hid with Christ in God; and that WHEN he who is our life shall appear, THEN shall we appear with him in glory’; because he knows that ‘WHEN he shall appear, we shall be like him’; because he knows that an unfading crown of righteousness will be given to him at his appearing. Yes, the cry ‘Behold! He cometh!’ is as life from the dead to the believers, because the day of his coming is the day of the world’s redemption from the tyranny of unrighteousness in church and world; and the grand era when all the obedient ‘in Christ’ will put on incorruptibility and life; when they will ‘be crowned with glory and honour,’ as the reward of a ‘patient continuance in well-doing’.”
“Though I differ with Mr.Miller in some of his conclusions, I sympathise with him, because he is traduced and misrepresented. I believe he is both candid and honest: * which is more, I think, than can be said of some of his opponents with whom I am acquainted. If ever so much mistaken, he deserves much credit for having aroused the attention of so many of this truly infidel generation of religionists to the study of the holy prophets. I have read both sides to a sufficient extent to be enabled to judge without prejudice; and I am perfectly satisfied that his main arguments are untouched by his opponents. No man who has any regard for his reputation for rationality and intelligence ought to deny that the Seventy Weeks are a part of the vision of 2300 days. This can be proved beyond a doubt, independently of all Greek and Hebrew. They must, therefore, have a common origin; and, therefore, the 2300 days must end in 1843, though it can be by no means proved that, because they end in that year, the world will, therefore, come to an end with them. This, however, by the way.”
“I would call your attention, further, to this; namely, that the data of Mr. Josiah Litch’s calculations are fallacious with respect to the Ottoman Power. He argues that ‘the hour, the day, the month, and the year,’ for which they were prepared ‘to slay the third part of men,’ were expended August 11, 1840. But the massacres of the Nestorians to the number of 50,000, in 1843, sufficiently refutes this. The 391 years and thirty days ought certainly to be calculated from the political death of the Greco-Roman Empire, which took place as signally by the capture of Constantinople, the Capital, and the death of Constantine XV., the last of the emperors, as did that of the Mosaic Kingdom, by the destruction of Jerusalem; or that of the Western Roman Empire by the dethronement of Augustalus and the capture of Old Rome by the Goths. I contend, therefore, that the 391 years and thirty days should be calculated from May 29th, A.D. 1453, which will cause them to end June 29th, 1844, which is only three months and eight days after the supposed termination of the 2300 years in March, though some say June. The time is near, so that you will soon be able to verify or confute this calculation by the facts in the case. But I affirm that, after June next, you may expect to hear of political movements on the part of the Great Powers, in connection with the Porte and its sovereignty over the sanctuary or Holy. This, in the journals of Europe, is styled the EASTERN QUESTION; and by Sir Robert Peel, ‘the question of questions’; and well he may say so, for upon the turn this may take rests the destiny of the British power in India, and consequently the fate of the Jews and of the world at large.”
“On the first column of page 66, you have given us a new translation and paraphrase, by Dr. Hales, of Daniel 9:27. How can the abomination of desolation be said to stand on the pinnacle or battlement of the temple, until the consummation of the 2300 days, seeing that the temple has been non-existent for the last 1774 years of that period? This translation is condemned, when tried in the court of common-sense, by the facts in the case. The original, without the points, is ‘uol caneph, shiutzim meshimem uod cale; unecharetze tathac ol sukmem,’ which is literally rendered, ‘and unto the extremity, abominations of desolation, even until the accomplishment; and then the decreed shall be poured out upon the desolator.’ The word ‘caneph,’ which Dr. Hales has rendered ‘pinnacle,’ ‘denotes,’ says Parkhurst, ‘extremity, outermost, or farthest from the middle’.”
“Now, the prophecy is speaking of the invasion of the Holy Land, and destruction of the Holy City and sanctuary, or temple; hence, the context sustains the version I have given, that the desolation would spread over the land, to the extremity, or ‘farthest from the middle,’ or metropolis, which is the mother city, and generally situated as near the middle of the country as circumstances will allow.”
*The Doctor’s favourable estimate was later confirmed by Mr. Miller’s unreserved confession of error and regret when time proved his strange calculation baseless.
“If you think it will tend to the illustration of the truth, or assist in confirming the faith of the genuine disciple of the Lord Jesus, you will, perhaps, insert this in your next; if not, you can return it to my friend, Major Gano, who will put it in my hand at some convenient season.”
“Yours truly, John Thomas.”
Dr. Thomas remained at Louisville several months. During his stay, a characteristic incident occurred. The Editor of the Louisville Tribune, with whom the Doctor was acquainted, being absent on a trip, the Doctor was requested to write a leading article for the paper. He agreed to do so out of consideration for the Editor. It was at the time of a Presidential election, which resulted in the election of Dallas as Vice-President. Riots were prevailing to an alarming extent in Philadelphia in consequence of the popular indignation against the Romanists. These riots suggested to the Doctor, as the subject of his article, the nature and tendency of Popery in a Democratic Republic. He showed that Popery was a venomous serpent, and that its patronage was fruitful of danger to a free country, and calculated to destroy the vitals of society. This excited the unmeasured indignation of the political factions, with whom it was an object to secure the support of the Jesuit influence, which was strong in the neighbourhood of Louisville, owing to the existence of a Jesuit College, at a place called Bardstown, not far off. One of the candidates for the State Legislature came into the office greatly excited, and asked what they were about? The foreman replied they were publishing the Tribune. “Oh,” said he, “I know that, but what are you publishing in it?” The foreman replied, “The truth, as far as we can get at it.” “Yes,” said the candidate, “but it does not do to preach the truth at all times. Your article on the Catholics has lost me 200 votes.” The candidate then asked if they would publish him some cards to counteract the impression. “Yes,” said the foreman, “if you pay for it.” The candidate then paid down his money and wrote his card, in which he highly complimented the Catholic priests, having known them, as he said, from his earliest days, and always found them gentlemen. He was getting on in such flowery terms about the excellencies of the Catholics, that he found it necessary to cut short, lest it should be thought by the Protestants that he was himself a Catholic. He, therefore, finished his card by saying “I am a Protestant,” which no one would have discovered from his card, if he had not said so. Torchlight processions were organised in glorification of the candidates, and when the procession came opposite the office of the Tribune, groans were given for the paper in consequence of the anti-Papal sentiments expressed in the leading article referred to.
At the end of several months, the Investigator being suspended, and having no particular work on hand, the Doctor favourably received a suggestion made by Dr. Bodenhamer, with whom he was residing, that he should re-commence the publication of a periodical. Acting on this suggestion, he started the Herald of the Future Age. He adopted this title because he had come to see that the truth of the gospel was identified with the approach of the age of Messiah’s reign on earth. After the issue of a few numbers, he decided to return to Richmond, Virginia, and continue the publication there. Carrying out this decision, he left his wife at Cincinnati, and with his daughter, took up his abode with the friend (Mr. R. Malone), who had invited him to share with him the accommodation of a large new house.
On the first Sunday after his arrival, Mr. Malone, who was in fellowship with the Campbellites at Richmond, took the Doctor to a Meeting-house at Bethesda, ten miles from Richmond, where a Campbellite congregation met. Being known among them, he was invited to address the people, very much to the annoyance of their preacher, who was known as “Parson Talley.” This old gentleman not only refused to stay to hear the Doctor, but gave vent to his aggrieved feelings in a very lugubrious style. “Dr. Thomas,” said he, in the presence of the company, “why do you come here to trouble us? We don’t want you, sir! We have no use for you, sir! We have no more fellowship with you than with an infidel!” Upon which he left the house. On their return to Richmond, the incident was made an accusation against Mr. Malone. It was noised abroad that he had gone out with Dr. Thomas to Bethesda, broken bread with him, and had procured speaking facilities for him. This offence, in process of time, was charged against him by the authorities of the Richmond church, and made the ground of his expulsion, and also of a resolution that any member having anything to do with Dr. Thomas in a friendly way should be excommunicated—the peculiarity of the situation being that the Doctor himself had never been excommunicated. This made little impression upon Dr. Thomas, who had been accustomed to that sort of thing for a considerable time; but it had the effect of causing him and a few others to commence a meeting on non-Campbellite principles.
This may be regarded as the first organic manifestation of the truth in the present age. Previous to this it had been germinating in the bosom of Campbellism, but had never taken form separately; now, through the force of circumstances, it became the basis of a distinct ecclesiastical organization, though not in its ultimate form. The Odd Fellows’ Hall was offered and accepted for the delivery of an introductory discourse. There was a considerable audience. Dr. Thomas laid the case before the meeting; he defined their principles, and explained their purpose, intimating that thenceforth a few of them would meet every first day in the week at Mr. Malone’s house. The number who did so was four or five. They went slowly for a while, till they resolved to come out more publicly by hiring the Temperance Hall for a meeting every Sunday. This step resulted favourably to the truth, along with other agencies at work.
The Doctor continued to publish the Herald of the Future Age, at his office in Richmond, subscriptions and contributions barely paying the expenses of publication. Though barren from a financial point of view, this period was rich in spiritual results to his mind. His editorial duties imposed upon him an amount of scriptural research which, otherwise, would not have been attempted; and being unencumbered by secular occupation, though not unburdened with the anxieties incident to the provision of food and raiment, those labours introduced him to many an undiscovered vein of treasure, and formed a link of no small importance in the chain of circumstances that led him from the darkness of the Apostasy to the full blaze of the light emanating from the oracles of God.
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