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“Elpis Israel”


While Elpis Israel was in the hands of the printer, Dr. Thomas made another tour of Britain, visiting places to which he had been before, and, in addition Aberdeen and Dundee. The visit to Aberdeen was undertaken because a friend from the States was there, and through him the Doctor was able to speak at a Campbellite meeting in the city. The outcome of the visit was the baptism of some of those who heard him. Among his audience was a boy named Robert Roberts, who was more interested in the Doctor’s appearance than in his words; indeed, it is said that he was asleep during a part of the address. It is not surprising that he should fall asleep, as he was young, and the Doctor sometimes spoke for as much as two hours! Later on Robert Roberts became one of the most devoted advocates of the doctrines of Dr. Thomas, and more will be heard of him before the end of our story.


            After Aberdeen, Dr. Thomas visited Dundee on the invitation of some who heard him speak at the Campbellite Convention in Glasgow. He also paid visits to Plymouth and Liverpool.


            When Elpis Israel was published many who had been friendly became hostile. They had not apprehended the fundamental truths on which the addresses had been based. They had subscribed for the book because of their interest in one feature of Dr Thomas’ addresses. The times were exciting, and the lectures were largely concerned with the light prophecy threw upon them. Interested in that aspect, they had not realised the end to which they were intended to lead. Their subscriptions, however, enabled Elpis Israel to be published, with the result of announcing to that generation the first principles of the oracles of God.


            Elpis Israel (The Hope of Israel) was divided into three sections—I, The Rudiments of the World; II, The Things of the Kingdom of God; and, III, The Kingdoms of the World in their relation to the Kingdom of God. The dissatisfied purchasers were interested in section III; they were not prepared to accept what was said in sections I and II. It is one of the ironies of the matter that time has shown that what errors Dr. Thomas made in the book were in the third section, in which some of his conclusions have had to be modified. Parts I and II have stood the test of time and detailed study.


            In a very real sense the book was written to make known the teachings contained in Parts I and II. As the Doctor wrote: “I made the gospel of the Kingdom a primary subject of my discourses in my third tour. It may be said that ‘being crafty I caught them with guile.’ Be it so. You must angle to catch trout. I was fishing for men for the Kingdom of God, and baited my hook with its gospel things. Some swallowed the bait, but their struggles not being exhausted, they have not yet come quietly to shore. Hence one of those who believes, but struggles against obedience to the new faith, writes ‘What has tended greatly to deaden the interest felt in the Herald’s exposition of the Kingdom and Age to come in Edinburgh is, in my opinion, the position you have taken up in respect of the ground of a sinner’s justification; the faith by which a sinner may be justified, etc. You will be aware, of course, that secessions have taken place from some of the churches, owing, I believe to differences on this point; and in some cases, to the unwillingness of the church to hear the expositions of those who have received your views. I hope it will be to their advantage, but I fear not’.”


            When Elpis Israel was published, Dr. Thomas did something characteristic of him. He endeavoured to send a copy to the Tsar of Russia. His first idea was to send it privately. A friend offered to hand the package containing the book to the captain of one of the ships trading through Russian ports. This attempt failed; none of the captains would undertake to handle it; they seem to have been afraid they might get into trouble. There was, however, a second way that would perhaps be more successful—that was to send the book to the Russian ambassador in England, requesting him to see that it was forwarded to Russia so that it might reach the Tsar. He wrote to the ambassador, but this also failed; the ambassador intimated that he could not do as the Doctor desired. The correspondence that took place with the Russian ambassador can be read in the preface to the second edition of Elpis Israel.


            Dr. Thomas was more successful with the British government. He sent a copy of the book to Lord Palmerston, who was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at the time. In this case he did not suffer a rebuff, for he received the following communication from Lord Palmerston’s secretary:


“Foreign Office, February 15th, 1850.

            Sir, —Viscount Palmerston desires me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th inst., and to express to you his thanks for the very interesting work which you have been so good as to send him. I am, Sir, Your most obedient servant,

Spencer Ponsonby.”


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