A Campbellite Convention and a Visit to Glasgow
Another matter in which Dr. Thomas was blamed was his attendance at the Campbellite convention in Glasgow in the character of a British delegate. On this matter Dr. Thomas has recorded:
“While we were at Nottingham subsequent to our visit to Lincoln, we were informed by a friend that it was the intention of Mr. J. Wallis and his confederates to make an attack upon us at a convention of church delegates to be held in September, at Glasgow. Some resolutions were to be got up by which we were to be put under a sort of ban or interdict. We considered we had this information from good authority, as it afterwards proved to be. Were we to allow a body of men, from various parts of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, to assemble in Glasgow, where we were then at work, and to sit in judgment and pass decrees upon us, and have no right to open our mouth in defence of our position and the truth? We did not think it expedient to give Satan this advantage over us. We wished to have the right to speak if attacked. If nothing were said concerning us, we should take no part in the proceedings, as the establishment and extension of Campbellism in Britain was not at all in accordance with our views of the public good. The church at Lincoln was on the printed roll of the denomination. It stood fair with the leaders, who had till recently been venerated by them as saints of the calendar after a certain sort. This church did not intend to send a delegate to the convention on account of the expense; otherwise they would. We were aware of this before we left Lincoln. Now, being in good odour there, we concluded to offer our services as their representative without any cost to them. If they accepted them, they were to forward our credentials to Glasgow in time for us to take our seat. The offer was readily agreed to, and we were accredited by the following letter addressed:
“To the meeting of Delegates of the Churches of the Disciples convened at Glasgow by notice in the ‘Harbinger’ and ‘Gospel Banner.’
Dear Brethren, —We being a congregation of believers in ‘the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ into whom we have been immersed, desire to be represented in your meeting, which we understand is convened for the purpose of promoting the best interests of the Congregations of Disciples in Great Britain and Ireland. We do therefore hereby appoint our esteemed brother John Thomas, from the United States of America, as the delegate of the church in Lincoln, that he may unite with you in consultation upon the best measures to be adopted in promoting the object for which the meeting is convened. We know of no one more interested and competent than he. We have unanimously received him into our fellowship. 1s.t—On the ground of his well known writings in the Christian Messenger, and of the high commendation which has therein been given of him. 2nd. —His admission to fellowship by the church in London. 3rd. —Of letters from America in his favour from brethren with whom some of us are well acquainted. 4th. —Of the general approbation of those who have been favoured by hearing him since his arrival in this country; and lastly, on the ground of our personal acquaintance; and we having heard him ourselves. We hope, therefore, brethren, you will cordially receive him as our representative in your council.”
“Praying that you may abound in that wisdom which cometh from above, which is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and of good fruits, without partiality, &c. Thus may your deliberations be conducted in the letter and spirit of the truth, as in the presence and devout reverence of Him who is immortal, invisible, the only wise God; to whom be glory and dominion throughout all ages. —Amen. Signed on behalf of the church,
William Scott, Elder,
Lincoln, September 18th, 1848.”
These were the Doctor’s credentials and instructions, by virtue of which he proposed to take a seat among the “reformers,” and to speak, if need be, on “the promotion of the best interests” of the churches, and in defence of his own position if assailed.
After a chairman and secretary had been appointed, the delegates proceeded to present their credentials. When the letter from Lincoln was read one of the delegates moved that Dr. Thomas be refused a seat at the Conference. This was duly seconded, the ground of the motion being that he was not a member of any church adhering to the Reformation in England. The Doctor objected to the motion on the ground that such a point was no matter of theirs; the church in Lincoln could appoint whomsoever it liked to represent them; the only point with which the delegates might be concerned was whether the church was to be regarded as a reformation church. On that matter he pointed out that they had done so by inscribing it on their list of churches. He pointed out that he was there in the capacity of a representative of that church, and therefore he objected to any motion that made him the subject of personal criticism or examination. If, however, the motion was not withdrawn, he demanded a full and impartial investigation of his case. He was determined; if possible, to expose the machinations of those who sought to exclude him and to close the eyes and ears of people against the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
After much wrangling it was resolved to adjourn until the following day, when the question could be further discussed, and other matters considered.
“Next day (writes Dr. Thomas), we arrived at the hour appointed, when the Lincoln case was introduced. A delegate of the Glasgow church made some very pertinent remarks, and suggested the appointment of a committee to consider the matter, with the understanding, as afterwards explained, that we should be regarded in the meantime as its delegate pro tem. This suggestion gave rise to much dispute, in which Mr. Wallis figured conspicuously. As we could only be reached through the Lincoln church, it was thought expedient by him to make it contemptible in the estimation of ‘the collective wisdom’; so that if it could be made to appear that it was without ecclesiastical character or influence, it would not be difficult, nay all would desire, to be quit of so disreputable a constituent of the Denominational Sanhedrin, or ‘cooperation society,’ of Great Britain and Ireland; and being relieved of its unprofitable and inconvenient fellowship by a vote of excommunication, both church and representative would be conventionally annihilated. So to work he went to disaffect the minds of the delegates, and the people assembled to witness their proceedings. He left nothing unsaid that might subserve so benevolent and holy a purpose . . . In all he had said, he made no allusion to us. We were with him face to face; and though the real stone of stumbling and rock of offence in his way, he ventured no direct and open attack upon us! He reserved his ‘work of faith and labour of love’ for the absent and defenceless, safely calculating that intrigue and clamour would prevent us from saying a word in their behalf . . .”
“After this attack upon our constituents we very naturally requested to be heard in their behalf. The chairman thought it was no more than right we should. With his permission, therefore, we took the floor; with very uncouth utterances proceeding from the men of Fife.”
After further noisy scenes, Dr. Thomas offered to act as an observer and watch their proceedings. He invited them to be prompt, and if they could, get a vote of the majority to cut off the Lincoln church forthwith.
“They had,” he says, “evidently prejudged the case, and would hear nothing in its behalf. They might also pass a decree against us, likewise, if they could. Their decision would not affect our cause in any particular. We had left America with peace in our heart and with the firm conviction that the truth was with us. We offered it to them without money and without price; but, they put it away from them and refused it cooperation and a hearing. Be it so. Our course was onward if we even stood alone.”
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