PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH
First Travels in the Truth’s Service
With the issue of his Confession and Abjuration, and his submission to re-immersion, the first phase of the life of Doctor Thomas closed; he was now dedicated to the Truth he had rediscovered, and with which his name has become associated. In the chapters that follow he appears in a new, but related, role. He is no longer a seeker for truth, asking questions with a desire to obtain information. He is a pioneer in the work of proclaiming the things concerning the Kingdom of God and of the Name of Jesus Christ. His work was to widen out in two ways. The area affected by it was to be extended, and the subject of search was to be widened far beyond the first principles of the Oracles of God. In this part of his life the story to be told will be as interesting as that already recorded.
He decided to make a tour, visiting three places where the Campbellites had meetings, and to make an effort to disseminate his new convictions among them; the three chosen were Baltimore, New York, and Buffalo. In each of these cities he was known, and he hoped that with the assistance of friends he would find an open door.
With the definiteness that characterised him, he did not trust to letter writing, but went to Baltimore where he called upon an old friend, Richard Lemmon, hoping to be given an opportunity to use the Campbellite meeting place. He asked for an immediate reply, as, if he could not be given the use of the hall he proposed to return at once to Richmond, and the train left very soon. Mr. Lemmon very naturally would not take the sole responsibility of giving the use of the room, and the two waited on one of the deacons. He concurred in granting use of the meeting place, and the necessary arrangements, including advertising, were made.
When Sunday arrived, Dr. Thomas and Mr. Lemmon went to the place. The meeting opened in the usual way, but when the time came for the Doctor to speak, an individual rose and protested against his being allowed to speak in the hall. Some commotion ensued, which was ended when another person proposed that a vote should be taken. This was agreed to, and on the question being put to the vote, the only hand held up against allowing Dr. Thomas to speak was that of the original objector.
In the afternoon and evening the Doctor gave addresses on the gospel of the Kingdom. The effect varied; some were favourably impressed; others opposed; some were interested but by no means convinced. The outcome was that one or two finally expressed their agreement with the things put forward.
From Baltimore the Doctor went to New York where he obtained the use of a hall in which he had spoken before. Lectures were given on the Kingdom of God and various prophetic subjects. Several took up the teaching, but, as it turned out later, too perfunctorily for real believers, making it the subject of discussion and agitation rather than of belief. It appealed to them because of its novelty, not as a matter of fundamental truth.
There were, of course, others of a better class, who accepted the truth in sincerity and love.
The result of the lectures was a great disturbance in the Campbellite congregation. Those who were favourably affected by them, broached the new views in the meeting. This gave great offence, and ended in a resolution that such should no more speak of these things. This caused the withdrawal of the Doctor’s friends, who started a meeting of their own in the house of George B. Stacey, the leader of the party. This was the origin of the Christadelphian ecclesia of New York.
From New York Dr. Thomas went to Buffalo, where he was granted the use of a hall belonging to the Millerites. Here, however, his efforts met with little success. The stumbling block seems to have been the doctrine of the return of the Jews to Palestine; those who attended the meetings seemed to be more favourable to the idea of a “glorious conflagration”—the burning up of the earth and all its inhabitants.
Finally, the Doctor tried to find a vehicle for the promulgation of his ideas in the pages of a paper published in Rochester, N.Y., and by speaking in a meeting house there. The numbers who attended, however, were small, and the results no better than those at Buffalo. The Doctor returned to Richmond, thus ending his first tour for the proclamation of the things concerning the Kingdom of God in the new relationship they had come to occupy in his mind.
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