CHAPTER 25

 

Dr. Thomas Reaches a Crisis

 

In February, 1847, Dr. Thomas observed a communication in the Protestant Unionist, referring to his recent visit to New York. The writer (a Campbellite preacher, by the name of J. H. Jones) remarked that, on visiting New York, he “found the minds of the brethren confused and agitated about the reign of Christ on David’s throne, the restoration of the Jews to their own land, the millennium, the destiny of the wicked, the non-immortality of the soul, and other husks and useless speculations laid before them by Dr. Thomas.” This started a line of thought in the Doctor’s mind, which led to important results. He thus describes it: -

 

            “Is it possible, said we, that these things are useless which the Spirit hath revealed; and is it to ‘feats on husks,’ to dwell on the throne and kingdom of David, the future age, the glorious appearing of the saints, etc.; and doth the heart-warming and enlivening truth consist in the vain philosophy of Philetus? We will look further into this matter and see.”

 

                “Accordingly we resumed our pen, and commenced an article on the Hope of the World and the Hope of Israel. In elaborating this, the first principle that startled us on reviewing it, after we had penned it was, ‘that it matters not what a man hopes for if that hope be false or spurious, i.e., if it be not the hope promised in the covenants of the promise, he is repudiated as hopeless in the Scriptures of truth.’ Our hope of going to heaven somewhere, when the immortal vigour of our remains should spontaneously shoot them forth into new life, like the chrysalis into the nascent butterfly, was false or spurious, and therefore no part of the hope promised in the covenants of the promise. Still, though convicted of hopelessness while we held this notion, we had since acquired the knowledge and belief of the one hope, and we were not yet prepared to say that this subsequent acquisition would not be sufficient. It was a startling truth; but the chord had not yet been struck which was to vibrate on the conscience, saying, ‘examine thyself, and see if thou be in the faith’.”

 

                “As we progressed, we came to consider Paul’s definition of faith in Heb. 11:1. We pointed out its relation to hope, that it contained the belief of things to come; and that without this expectant faith, it was impossible to please God. Still, when we penned this, we possessed this expectant faith, and had been unfolding for several previous years the unseen things to come! Was not our faith then pleasing to God? Step by step we neared the precipice over which our profession was to be dashed to pieces. We continued our argument, showing that none other than this was a saving faith; ‘for we are saved by hope’ (Rom. 8:24).”

 

                “This was the turning point. ‘Saved by hope,’ said we. ‘What hope?’ Hope may comprehend a multitude of general matters—saved by hope of what? Did the apostle not express himself more definitely than this? We will look into this. Accordingly, we turned to the original, and found that he had said, ‘THE HOPE’; and not only so, but affirms this salvation by the hope in time past—WE WERE SAVED BY THE HOPE. This was very definite. A number of passages now crowded in upon us, and we perceived that the time when the Roman brethren were saved by the hope, was when ‘they obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine delivered unto them.’ They were then saved from sin, ‘being made free from it.’ The question immediately flashed within us, ‘When you were buried in baptism, were you saved by the hope?’ We had to confess we knew nothing then about the hope; that the covenants of promise were a hidden mystery to us, and that beyond what we have stated, we were entirely in the dark upon the subject.”

 

                “Our pleadings are two-fold; for some things, and against others. We plead against the immortality of the soul, and all the details resulting from it. Secondly, we plead for the indestructible Kingdom of God, and the glory, honour, incorruptibility, and life OF THOSE ONLY who shall inherit it, upon condition of believing and obeying the gospel CONCERNING IT AND THE NAME of Jesus, and of walking worthy of such a high calling—we plead for this, AND FOR ALL THINGS WHICH NECESSARILY FLOW FROM IT.”

 

                “Now, reader, mark this: We have never until comparatively recently perceived that the doctrine pleaded for concerning this kingdom, &c., ‘was the Gospel,’ and therefore we have never ventured to affirm that these things concerning the kingdom ‘were necessary’ to be believed in order ‘to salvation.’ ‘We have recently perceived the truth’ that the belief of the immortality of the soul, &c., is a ‘damnable heresy.’ We have only recently been prepared to show that he who believes this heathen ism cannot inherit the kingdom, because he believes traditions utterly subversive of it. Unless men believe the truth, they cannot be saved by the truth. The immortality of the soul is not of the truth, and therefore a lie; and no man can be saved by the belief of a lying or false hope. We are saved by hope—‘the one hope of the calling,’ which Plato knew nothing at all about.”

 

                “We have heretofore supposed that if a man believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that he died for sins, and ceased to do evil, and was baptised, &c., for remission of sins, he was in Christ; and would by patient continuance in well doing be saved, although he might believe in Plato’s Heathen Philosophy, that is, that he was born with immortality in him; that at death his congenital immortal soul would fly on angel’s wings to heaven; be with Christ there, and reign with him over kingdoms beyond the skies—that he might even resolve the first resurrection, or resurrection of the first fruits, into the restoration of the ancient gospel by Scott and Campbell (a tradition of one of the elders of the reformers in this city); the coming of the Lord into ‘a sort of providential invisible coming’ (Campbell’s dogma); and the Millennium into a diffusion of Protestant-Gospelism over the whole earth under clerical patronage—that he might hold to all these things and yet inherit the kingdom! But our eyes have been opened by the word to see that he who believes these Hymenean dogmas believes utter falsehoods; believes nothing as he ought to believe it, and is spoiled by a vain and deceitful philosophy to his own damnation.”

 

                “Does the reader enquire by what steps we were brought to the discovery of this truth? Listen. In looking over some old Christian Messengers and Reformers, published in England by Mr. Wallis, we found one dated July, 1839. On looking through it, an article arrested our attention entitled ‘The Hope of the Gospel.’ You will find a reprint of it in the Herald, vol. 2 page 170. In reading over it, the following passages struck us forcibly”: -

                “ ‘The light which must soon enlighten the Gentile Church, is the HOPE OF THE SECOND COMING OF OUR LORD, and no worship or ordinance can be considered acceptable unless this great event be held up in the very front of every Christian assembly. And in the same proportion as this hope be quickened will be the advances made in knowledge, in faith, in life, and in purity’.”

                “ ‘We are not to look for heaven in any other way than by the medium of A HEAVENLY KINGDOM’.”

                “ ‘WITHOUT THE PROCLAMATION OF THE ANCIENT HOPE, THERE CANNOT BE ANY PROCLAMATION OF THE ANCIENT GOSPEL’.”

 

                “Now for twelve years, we had delighted to dwell on the coming of the Lord in power and great glory, as visibly as he appeared to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration; we have held it up in the forefront of our discourses; yet we did not perceive that the belief of it was essential to acceptable worship or salvation. But we see it now.”

 

                “While for a less number of years we have spoken much about the kingdom which is to be set up, and believed that heaven would be on earth, we did not perceive its manifestation ‘through the medium of a heavenly kingdom.’ But we see it now most satisfactorily.”

 

                “Much as we have talked and written about the hope of the gospel, it never occurred to us, till we read this, that the ancient gospel could not be preached without it. This gave us pause. Queries crowded upon us thick and fast. The principle is doubtless true, most true. But if so, what shall we say of the ancient ‘gospel’ that Scott and Campbell were contesting the honour of having restored? Life and incorruptibility through a future kingdom on earth is no part of the gospel they preach! They oppose this as an untaught question and speculation, and in lieu thereof have substituted the Hymenean philosophy. These gentlemen believe not the hope, but subvert it by their traditions. What did we know about this hope before we heard Mr. Scott’s ancient gospel? Nothing. What did he teach us about it? Nothing. What did we know about it before we were immersed? Nothing.”

 

            Led by the convictions indicated in these remarks, Dr. Thomas came to the conclusion that he was an unbaptised man; that when he was immersed by Walter Scott, he was immersed into a sect, and not into Christ; that being ignorant at that time of the one faith and one hope, he was yet in his sins. Accordingly he asked a friend to accompany him to the water, and there addressed him in the following terms: “I desire you to immerse me. All I ask of you is to put me under the water, and pronounce the words over me, ‘Upon confession of your faith in the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, I baptise you into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.’ I don’t ask you for any prayer or any ceremony. All that is necessary I will do for myself, except the mechanical part of putting me under the water, and your utterance of these words.”

 

            With this understanding, the Doctor’s friend immersed him. He had not asked for re-immersion on the supposition that the administrator could add anything to its efficacy. “Thus,” he said, “after a journey of fourteen years, I had found the truth, which on the ocean I declared I would not rest till I had found, should I be permitted again to tread on terra firma; but, in all this journey, I had been directed in a corse very different from what I would have selected if I had been left to map it out for myself. I had been entangled into preaching and editing, and taking part in distasteful theological controversies, which, however, in their combined influence, brought me to a knowledge of the one faith, and the obedience which it demands.”

 

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