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The Truth in Nottingham, 1848


The Gospel Banner was a Campbellite periodical willing to receive contributions from the Doctor’s pen. As soon as the unfavourable notice concerning his visit appeared on the cover of the British Millennial Harbinger, the Gospel Banner published the recommendatory letter to Mr. Tickle of Liverpool, together with the following remarks: -


            “We insert the above communications, as we believe many of our readers, in common with ourselves, feel anxious to know some particulars respecting Dr. Thomas. Candour forbids us to condemn any man exclusively on the testimony of his opponent, without having heard himself, or his friends, in his defence. We are happy to find that a testimonial of the Doctor can be produced from so respectable and highly intelligent an individual as our esteemed brother Beadman.”


                “We cannot at present pledge ourselves one way or other with respect to Dr. Thomas. To shut our pages against all who differ from us, would be to assume infallibility and perfection of knowledge in the mysteries of the kingdom, which we are by no means prepared to do. We shall, therefore, as heretofore, exercise our own judgment, with respect to the articles which we admit into the Banner, receiving those which we consider calculated to edify, to increase the knowledge, or excite the enquiry of our readers; and giving our brethren who differ from us an impartial hearing.”


            In accordance with the friendly disposition thus expressed, the Banner published the Doctor’s correspondence with Mr. Wallis, also with others who had asked him of his faith, articles from the Doctor’s pen, notices of his lectures, and so on, greatly to the mortification of Mr. Wallis, in Nottingham, and Mr. Campbell in the States, who had hoped to isolate Dr. Thomas from all connection with Campbellite friends in Britain. But that which was to their mortification was signally to the advancement of the truth, of which they were unwittingly the enemies.


            How was it that a Campbellite paper was willing to be Dr. Thomas’s mouthpiece to the very people which it was sought to prevent him getting into contact with, and which the Campbellite leaders considered it pre-eminently desirable he should not reach? The answer is that Providence was at work in the midst of the Doctor’s enemies, to foil their schemes, and to open the way for the promulgation of the glorious gospel of the blessed God. This is seen in the following extract from Dr. Thomas’ account of his visit to Britain: -


                “Some little while previous to Mr. Campbell’s visit to Britain, Mr. Wallis had induced a young man of his church to buy a press and types by promising to give him the Harbinger to print. It was being printed by this brother when Mr. Campbell was in England. Mr. Wallis was the proprietor of the periodical, and Mr. Hudston, of the office, in which he had the right, of course, to publish any other things he pleased without Mr. Wallis’s permission. He gave Mr. Campbell an order for all his works; paid for them, and had his consent to republish from them anything he pleased. He accordingly republished several articles from Mr. Campbell’s pen in the form of tracts. But this was a sacrifice of an ill savour in the nostrils of Mr. Wallis, who seemed to think that no one had a right to publish Campbellism but himself. Mr. Hudston objected to the monopoly, and contended that he had as much pecuniary interest in the ism as Mr. Wallis.”


                “The question of the right to publish Campbellism in tract form for the British became the ground of difficulty between them. Mr. Hudston had clearly as much right to publish as Mr. Wallis, and vice versa; but Mr. Wallis deemed it inexpedient, incompatible with his policy, that Campbellism should get at the public through any other printed medium than the Harbinger. Mr. Hudston, however, continued to exercise his right to issue tracts, which so incensed Mr. Wallis that he was determined to punish him by giving the Harbinger to some other printer in the town to publish. This originated the Gospel Banner, which created in Mr. Wallis a very evil eye towards his ‘young brother.’ It became an eye-sore, a prick in his eye, and a thorn in his flesh. The Banner became the impartial medium of both sides of all questions, ecclesiastical and theological; and presumed to allow us—the proscribed of Campbell, of Wallis, and others of like spirit—to speak for ourselves in its pages.”


            At the invitation of the Millerites, Dr. Thomas visited Nottingham in the beginning of August, 1848. By their arrangement he spoke several times in the Assembly Rooms, which were packed by eager and attentive audiences. Reporters attended from several journals published in the town, and full outlines of the lectures appeared. He spoke thirteen times, and a deep impression was made, which eventuated in the formation of a community on the basis of the truth, more or less clearly apprehended. Remarking on the circumstances, the Doctor says, “Providence does all things well. The Campbellite leaders in Britain are the enemies of God’s truth, even as they are in this country. They err probably through ignorance, and therefore some day or other may obtain mercy, but while they continue in hostility, they also cause the people to err in all sincerity of mind. Sincere ignorance, however, will not justify them unto life. The Second Adventists in Nottingham differed from Wallis’s party in being friendly to the truth. Even as we found them, they were more enlightened than the pure Campbellites. But though more enlightened, they were ignorant of the truth, as they have since confessed. They were disposed to hear. They had heard Mr. A. Campbell, and were satisfied that little as they might know aright, he understood less of the ‘sure word of prophecy’ than they. After hearing him, they concluded that his repudiation and proscription of a person and the doctrine he taught, though countersigned by Messrs. Hine and Wallis, and their party, were no guarantee of the heresy of the proscribed. They wished to hear us also, and had no mind to be baulked in their wishes by Mr. Wallis’s illiberality. When we review the past, we rejoice that providence opened this door for utterance, and closed that of Barker Gate against us.”


            The door thus opened, no man was able afterwards to shut. Millerism in Nottingham introduced Dr. Thomas to Millerism in Derby, Birmingham, and Plymouth, at each of which he was heard by large audiences; while Campbellism took him by the hand in Lincoln and Newark. “Our course,” says the Doctor, “was simple and straightforward, for without pledging ourselves to the opinions or partyism of any, we were prepared to lay the testimony of God before all.”


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