Dr. Thomas is immersed
The Doctor did not forget the resolution he had formed to seek for the truth. He had received a letter of introduction and recommendation to a Presbyterian divine in New York, and he thought he could not do better than begin his explorations by listening to him. He accordingly went on the following Sunday, but came to the conclusion from what he heard that it was no use hearing him any more. He next made use of letters of introduction which his father had brought, to the president of the Baptist Bible Society of New York, and to another Baptist preacher. The former asked him where he was going? The Doctor replied that he was going to Cincinnati, where he had a letter of introduction to a gentleman. He was told that the western people were very hospitable but “very much infected with Reformation.” The Doctor was struck with the remark, which was the first allusion to the system of Campbellism with which he was destined to have so much to do. The minister tried to induce him to remain in New York. As he adhered to his purpose of going to Cincinnati, he was given letters of introduction to a Baptist preacher there, and to the professor of surgery in the Ohio Medical College. His father resolved to accompany him, and they set out in the month of September. There were no railways at that time, and the route was rather tedious.
Arrived at their destination, they went to the house of a director of one of the Cincinnati banks, to whom they had a letter of introduction from his brother, Col. Brown of London. This indirectly resulted in the Doctor’s introduction to Campbellism. The day after their arrival, the fact became known to a gentleman living opposite, Major Daniel Gano, Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States, whose interest was excited by the announcement that a Baptist minister and family had arrived from England. Mr. Gano was a gentleman who as the result of presiding at a debate between the Rev. Alexander Campbell and a Mr. Owen, embraced the views of the former with a sincerity illustrated by the fact that he incurred a forfeit of 500 dollars lying upon a horse which he had entered for the races at Lexington, Kentucky. Mr. Gano gave Dr. Thomas and his father an invitation to dinner which they accepted, and the Doctor had not been an hour in this gentleman’s company when he called his attention to the New Testament, and commenced talking about what he styled “the ancient gospel and order of things.” The Doctor thought this a very strange, as well as unfashionable, proceeding, but supposed it was the custom of the country to talk about such things—a supposition in which he found he was greatly mistaken. The Doctor, out of respect to his entertainer, paid attention to his representations. Major Gano quoted the 38th verse of the 2nd chapter of the Acts in the course of conversation, and used the word “immersed” instead of “baptised.” Tis aroused the suspicions of the Doctor, who at once said that he had never heard of such a passage in the Bible before. Major Gano replied that truly the word “immersed” was not in the verse as rendered in the English version, but that the Doctor must know that “immersion” and “baptism” meant the same thing. The Doctor responded with the remark that he never did think anything of infant sprinkling, but that as to immersion, he considered it a matter of very little moment. On parting, Major Gano gave him a pamphlet on the remission of sins, published by Mr. Alexander Campbell, which, he said, would tell him all about the subject. The Doctor accepted the pamphlet, but determined not to read it, lest he should become biased in his search after the truth and get astray. In a few days the Doctor called again, and the Major gave him another pamphlet (subject, “The Holy Ghost”) written by Walter Scott, the original founder of Campbellism. The Doctor accepted it in the same spirit as the other, and on his return home, laid it with the other.
On the following Sunday, Mr. Walter Scott was to preach a funeral sermon, and the Major invited the Doctor to go and hear him. The Doctor replied that he was searching after truth, and intended to hear all the preachers in Cincinnati, and he would hear Mr. Scott in due time, but not just then. The Major replied that he might as well begin with Mr. Scott, which the Doctor consented to do.
When Sunday arrived, the crowd was so great (the place being a private house) that they could not get in. The Major, therefore, decided to invite Mr. Scott to go home with them, so that the Doctor might get the full benefit of the occasion. So, after the discourse, they all returned in a carriage together. A pleasant evening was spent at the Major’s house. Mr. Scott introduced religious topics, addressing himself particularly to the Doctor. He spoke of Daniel’s four empires, of which the Doctor only knew what he had read in Rollin’s Ancient History, and of which Mr. Scott, it struck the Doctor, knew no more. After a considerable amount of conversation, Mr. Scott remarked that they seemed to agree very well in the generals; “Now,” said he, “suppose we talk somewhat of the particulars. What hinders that you should be a Christian?” The Doctor replied that he did not know but that he was as good a Christian as anybody. “Well,” said the Major, “have you been baptised?” The Doctor answered that the only baptism of which he had been the subject was the baptism administered when he was a baby. Mr. Scott was then at some pains to show that that baptism did not avail anything; that, in fact, it was no baptism at all, but only a conventional and valueless ceremony, which had no foundation in Scripture.
At the conclusion of his argument Mr. Scott asked him if he believed in Jesus Christ. The Doctor answered that he could not tell the time when he did not believe in him, as he had been born and brought up in that belief. Mr. Scott asked what hindered, then, that he should be baptised? Oh, said the Doctor, that was a different thing; it was all very well for preachers to be baptised who had to baptise others, but he did not see any necessity for anybody else to be; “an answer which,” he said afterwards, “manifested my ignorance.” But he told Mr. Scott that he was seeking for the truth, and if he could show him a case from the Scriptures in which a man was baptised as soon as he believed, he should give up his opposition. Dr. Thomas, in his ignorance, thought himself well entrenched in that position. Mr. Scott at once accepted the issue, and directed his attention to the case of the eunuch (Acts 8:27-39). “There,” he remarked, “you see that, as soon as he believed, they went down into the water, and the eunuch was baptised. Now,” said he, “I would suggest that you do likewise.”
The Doctor, a little taken aback at the suddenness and strength of the issue, said that, to be candid, he must admit that Mr. Scott had established his point; but, as to being baptised, he had not come that evening to be immersed, nor was he prepared, as to change of raiment, and so on. “Oh,” said Mr. Scott, “that will be no obstacle in the way. Here is our friend, Major Gano, who will furnish us with everything requisite.” The Major chimed in very promptly with the assurance that he should be happy to facilitate the operation to the fullest extent of his power.
There was no escape, and the necessary arrangements being made, a move was made towards the Miami Canal, which passed the house, on the opposite side of the road, and there Dr.
Thomas was immersed by Mr. Walter Scott, “for the remission of sins,” in the presence of a number of witnesses, at ten o’clock at night, by the light of the moon.
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