A Visit to New York, 1846
In October, 1846, Dr. Thomas paid his first visit to New York. The visit helped to precipitate a crisis in his mind, to which the studies of fourteen years had been gradually tending. It was brought about by a conversation with a friend one moonlight night, in the square of the Capitol at Richmond. He and his friend were promenading the square to the strains of a military band, when, after talking of the kingdom and age to come, the Doctor observed, “Brother, it will indeed be a glorious day when our king shall judge among the nations, surrounded by his ancients, and all drums and trumpets shall sound his praise. Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed when the Lord of Hosts shall reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. Is it not deplorable that men should turn away their ears from these glowing truths, and be turned aside to fables?” “Yes,” said his friend, “if you could only pay a visit to New York—that is the place where you would get a hearing on these topics.” The Doctor’s friend had been acquainted with New York, and was aware of sympathy on the part of some for the things of the kingdom of which Dr. Thomas wrote. He was about to visit New York, and suggested that the Doctor should accompany him, stating that he would be able to get an introduction for him. Dr. Thomas acceded, and the two set out on October 8th, 1846, for New York, which they reached on the third day.
The Doctor’s friend found matters greatly changed since his former visit; and their reception was very cold. However, application was made to the Executive Council of the congregation for the use of the Disciples’ Meeting-House, for some lectures by Dr. Thomas on “The Deep Things of God.” Three out of the five elders composing the council thereupon waited upon the Doctor to know “if he had been excommunicated from any church to which he had belonged in fellowship with the Reformation.” “To this question,” says the Doctor, “we replied, emphatically, “No!”: but continued to observe that we would candidly confess that in not being excommunicated, it was not because the leaders of the reformation had not the will, but that they had not been able to devise the way. They had not been able to get at us. We were in connection with the reformation on the same principle that Mr. C. claimed to be with the Baptist denomination. He had never been excommunicated, though denounced. This was precisely our position; we had been denounced and persecuted with great bitterness, but we had yet to be the subject of a denominational excommunication. They declared themselves satisfied; they had only to do with the fact, and that being as stated, and having been introduced to them by one who was formerly a worthy member of their body, the only obstacle to our use of their house was taken out of the way. Thus the conference ended and they withdrew.
Having received the use of the meeting-house, Dr. Thomas lectured ten times, as the result of which an interest was enkindled in the hearts of a goodly number in relation to the things of the kingdom of God and of His anointed King, “which,” says the Doctor, “no amount of opposition can extinguish. They no longer revel in the fancy sketches of wild and vain imaginings; they look for the realisation of the promises made to the fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David; when the heavens shall open, and David’s Son shall be manifested to the eyes of all nations, from the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens; when he shall descend to the Mount of Olives, and thence make his triumphant entry through the everlasting gates of Jerusalem, the city of the great King. They can no longer sing
‘With thee we’ll reign,
With thee we’ll rise,
And kingdoms gain
Beyond the skies!’”
“But, with the saints gathered unto Jesus, they hope to sing the new song, saying, —
‘Thou, Lamb of God, wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign ON EARTH’ (Rev. 5:9).’”
As the themes of his discourses were stigmatised as “chaffy,” a taunt which led to important results, a summary of them, which the Doctor published in the Herald of the Future Age, is given below: -
1. –“That the Spirit of God formed man in the image and likeness of the Elohim, ‘very good,’ but without character, susceptible of mortality or of immortality, but then actually in possession of neither.
2. –“That the subsequent state of Adam upon the earth was predicated on the character he should develop, that is, upon his obedience or disobedience of the Eden law.
3. –“That by transgression, he came under the sentence of death, and all his posterity in him, by which when 930 years old, he was demolished, and became as he was before his formation, leaving only his character behind written in the remembrance of God.
4. –“That he was driven out of the garden that he might not become immortal.
5. –“That immortality is deathlessness, and consists in life manifested through an incorruptible body.
6. –“That inasmuch as immortality is no inherent principle of the nature of the animal or natural man, it must be sought for as a ‘gift from God,’ ‘who only hath it’ as the ‘fountain of life.’
7. –“That God purposed in Himself before the world began, to set up a kingdom, the attributes of which should be ‘glory, honour, incorruptibility, and life’ to all who should possess it; that these things, therefore, are to be manifested through and in connection with it alone.
8. –“That this kingdom is terrestrial and has a territory, a king, subjects, constitution, laws, and an executive administration.
9. –“That the kingdom is David’s kingdom, at present non-existent, but soon to be restored.
10. –“That the territory of this kingdom is the 3,000,000 square miles of country promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their seed, or descendant, the Messiah; and these are all to possess it coetaneously and for ever; that none of them either did or expected to possess it in his corruptible lifetime, and therefore that in the covenant of territory, there is a veiled promise of a resurrection to eternal life; and of the coming of Abraham’s Seed to take possession of it as the inheritance willed and confirmed to him by his Father in Heaven.
11. –“That God promised that David’s throne and kingdom should endure throughout all generations; that he should never want a man to sit upon his throne; and that David should witness the fulfilment of these things.
12. –“That God has promised to give the Messiah these promises made to his father David, after he should have been first raised from the dead, but not immediately after.
13. –“That David’s throne and kingdom have had no existence since the dethronement of Zedekiah, upwards of 2,400 years ago; hence for the promises concerning the kingdom to be fulfilled, the Messiah must come and re-establish David’s kingdom, and raise David from the dead.
14. –“That the fulfilment of these things is the regeneration, restoration, or restitution of all things spoken of by all the prophets since the days of Moses.
15. –“That all who would inherit this kingdom must become the ‘seed of Abraham’ and ‘joint heirs with the Messiah.’
16. –“That the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, in the line of Jacob are the saints of the law; but that ‘the People OF the Saints,’ are those Jews who walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham, and those Gentiles who become citizens of the commonwealth of Israel and Abraham’s seed, by becoming Christ’s: that these are the true Jews who shall possess the empire of the world, exercising sovereignty over Jews and Gentiles in the flesh.
17. –“That for Jews and Gentiles living in the times of the Gentiles to become heirs of this kingdom, they must become the subjects of repentance and remission of sins through the name of Jesus.
18. –“That repentance is the gift of God, and consists in that state of mind in which the disposition of the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, obtains possession of the affections, and turns men to the obedience and wisdom of just persons; that this Abrahamic disposition, which is childlike, humble, believing, and teachable, is appointed and accepted as repentance, consequent on belief of the gospel of the kingdom, and baptism in the name of the king: that the fruits meet for repentance are the fruits of the Spirit, which evince the indwelling of the disposition of these fathers in the heart.”
19. –“That they who hope for the things of the kingdom of God, may become the subjects of repentance and remission of sins, by believing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah foretold in the law and the prophets, both Son of David and Son of God; that his blood cleanses from all sin, and that he rose from the dead; and by being baptised into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
20. –“That we are sinners by constitution and actual transgression, being destitute of all inherent holiness and righteousness; so that to become holy and righteous, we must be constituted the righteousness of God in Christ.”
21. –“That Matthew gives the genealogy of Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, from Abraham in the line of David, Solomon, and Zorobabel; by which lineage it is demonstrated that Jacob and Joseph were descendants of Abraham in the royal line.”
22. –“That Luke gives the genealogy of Heli, the father of Mary, from Adam and Abraham in the line royal of David, Nathan, and Zorobabel: thus the families of Jacob and Heli were two branches of the royal house.”
23. –“That David’s throne and kingdom were decreed to the heirs male as proved by 2 Sam. 7. A daughter of the Princess Mary, derived from her father Heli of the elder branch, would consequently give way to those of Joseph son of Jacob, though descended from the younger son of David.”
24. –“That the families of Nathan the elder, and of Solomon the younger, of the sons of David by Bathsheba, united in Zorobabel, governor of Judah under the Persians; from Zorobabel the family again divided into the branches terminating in Jacob and Heli.”
25. –“That by the marriage of Joseph, son of Jacob, with Mary, daughter of Heli, the two branches from Zorobabel were again united; so that all right and title to the throne and kingdom of David concentrated in Mary’s First Born. He, therefore, became the head and hope of the family and nation. Hence he is styled the BRANCH; but, dying without issue, the royal house in the direct line became extinct.”
26. –“Jesus, the grandson of Heli, being born of Joseph’s wife, was born hereditary king of the Jews. Heli married the sister of the father of Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, and mother of John the Baptiser, who was, therefore, second cousin to Jesus. Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron; consequently Mary, daughter of Heli and mother of Jesus, was of the house of David by her father, and of the house of Aaron by her mother: so that in her son Jesus was not only vested, by his birth and the marriage of his mother, all kingly rights, but all rego-pontifical as well. In Jesus, therefore, is united the combined kingly and high-priestly offices of the nation of Israel: so that when the government shall be upon his shoulders he will sit as a priest upon his throne, after the order of Melchizedec, being without predecessor or successor in the united office of king and priest.”
27. –“From all which it is evident that if there lives any one who has a right to David’s throne, it can only be Jesus; and therefore he must have been raised from the dead; that if the Jews of this age were to agree to restore David’s throne, they could not effect it, though all other things might favour, because they could not find a son of David to occupy it. Hence there is no one can re-establish it but God, who retains at His right hand the only descendant of David who is alive.”
28. –“That the period occupied by the kingdom of God and of David’s son is ‘the dispensation of the fullness of times,’ which lasts 1,000 years. That this is the day of judgment, when Messiah shall sit upon David’s throne, judging the living and them that were dead in his kingdom. That this periodic-day is the world to come, or future age, of which Paul speaks in Hebrews, when the saints judge the world, and the unjust are punished according to their works.”
29. –“That the Scriptures classify mankind according to the times and circumstances under which they live; that these are times of ignorance and times of knowledge; that under the former, they are ‘alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them,’ being permitted to walk in their own ways, and ‘receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.’ That this class, though in part accountable, are irresponsible, and therefore not the subjects of a resurrection to judgment or to life: that this class is composed of two orders of beings, the one accountable, the other not being able to give an account, but both from circumstances peculiar to their case, irresponsible, and the heirs, therefore, only of what the constitution of the kingdom of sin, under which the human race has been involuntarily placed, can give them a title to.”
--“That it is light or knowledge which makes men responsible. That by this light, accountable and responsible men are subdivided into three orders: first, those who would not receive the light; second, those who receive and continue in it; and third, those who having once received it, turn from it. That ‘sinners,’ ‘wicked,’ ‘unjust,’ and ‘just,’ are terms indicative of these orders of men: that the third order is composed of ‘cursed children,’ who awake from the dust to everlasting shame and contempt,’ while the ‘wicked,’ or ‘rest of the dead live not again till the 1,000 years are ended.’ That the second order is composed of ‘blessed children,’ who are to inherit the kingdom prepared for them.”
30. —“That the dispensation of 1,000 years is the state intermediate between the times of the Gentiles and the eternal state. That to enter the eternal world we must pass through the intermediate dispensation of the future age.”
The New York congregation made an unsuccessful “call” to a certain preacher. A member of the congregation then wrote to the Doctor (having heard his lectures) and asked if, in a certain contingency, he should propose the Doctor. On this the Doctor remarks: “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 faithfully teach the rich 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.”
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