Dr. Thomas as a Tutor
“What Ought to be Done at this Crisis?”
In the Herald for March, 1851, Dr. Thomas published an article, written by himself, in which he appeared in the role of a tutor, instructing students how to undertake a course of study. The article is too long for reproduction, but as it illustrates him in a new character, an epitome of it may be instructive. It commenced with a number of quotations, as follows. “A few First Principles. The just shall live by faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Faith works by love and purifies the heart. The One Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. These things are the Things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ.” There were others, but these are sufficient. Supporting texts were given for each of the statements made.
The Doctor then proceeded to define a Bible Christian. He “is one who understandingly believes the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ with the humble, affectionate, and obedient disposition of a little child; is immersed into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and henceforth walks in denial of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, in hope of the gift to be brought to him at the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ in his Kingdom.”
This was followed by a definition of the duties and privileges of an “Association of Bible Christians.” These were defined as observing all things Jesus commanded, advancing from the principles of Christ and going on to perfection, earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, continuing in the Apostles’ doctrine, the Breaking of Bread and prayers. Continuing in the Apostles’ doctrine was being assured by diligent investigation of the Scriptures, so that all the members of the Association should qualify themselves to speak with conviction, devotion, exhortation and comfort and by doing what the Scriptures command.
The next clause indicated the way in which the Scriptures might be successfully studied with facility. To assist in this Dr. Thomas divided the Scriptures under certain headings, such as the history of the fathers of Israel; the purpose of God to make Israel a great nation; the manifestation of a great ruler; the making of an everlasting covenant, noting how Isaac became “an allegorical representative of ‘Shiloh’ by his intended sacrifice and typical resurrection.” After this the faith of Abraham’s family was defined. His descendants were to become a great nation, at which time Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were to be in the land of the living and be witnesses of it. They and the people would be possessors of the land to the utmost limits defined in the promise made to Abraham. There would be a great king who would be the heir of all things. He would be descended from Judah, and would be slain, but afterwards be raised from the dead, and that through him faith would be accounted for righteousness to all to whom Abraham had become the father.
Having become acquainted with the promises and their implications the student should make himself conversant with the history of the people descended from Abraham. The long record of this the Doctor divided into a number of sections, ranging over the period from the Exodus from Egypt to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. (The exact divisions suggested are comparatively unimportant.) The history is of importance, particularly in relation to the times of King David. He was told that a son, or descendant of his should build a temple for Jehovah, that his throne should be everlasting, that he would be the Son of God as well as the son of David. Also that he would suffer for the iniquity of men, but God’s mercy would not forsake him. David was also assured that his throne would be established for ever before David himself and be the subject of an everlasting covenant. David therefore would be raised from the dead and be given eternal life.
Any one who is familiar with the Old Testament will see that in this brief summary the “Tutor” made plain to his readers most of the essentials set forth in the historical Scriptures. To advance further in the apostles’ doctrine however, the student must know more. He must make himself acquainted with the Psalms and the writings of the prophets in their plain meaning. Dr. Thomas summed these up in various aspects in an historical perspective, and with regard to their fulfilment in Jesus, including his millennial reign as king and priest after the order of Melchisedek.
By a course of study on the lines indicated the student would be well grounded in the basic truths taught in the Old Testament, and be able to appreciate the message of the New. With this groundwork the teaching and testimony of the Apostles could be considered with proper understanding, while their statements on behalf of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth would be made clear, including his position as the Messiah in its “regal, imperial, and pontifical aspects,” and in relation to all mankind. Jesus was Son of God as well as Son of man; that without the shedding of his blood there could have been no remission of sin, for the blood of animals could never have secured it. That to be an efficient sacrifice it was not only necessary for the sacrifice to be slain, it must also be the subject of resurrection. Jesus was raised so that his blood, the blood of the new Institution, was shed for many for remission of sins. He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and will return even as he went. To participate in the sacrifice of Christ men must believe in the name of Jesus, be baptised and walk worthily of their calling.
There followed a description of the Apostles’ fellowship. “To have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, men must have fellowship with the Apostles. This is accomplished only by believing and doing the truth promulgated by them. This is styled ‘walking in the light as God is in the light,’ by which we have fellowship one with the other. A man might be in fellowship with all Christendom, papal and protestant, church and dissent, and have no fellowship with God, for ‘if we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness (ignorance) we lie and do not the Truth’.”
The whole composition finished with an allusion to “the Lamb’s wife.” “She must be sanctified and cleansed in the laver of water by the Word that she may be holy and without blemish. Such a body must edify itself in love, and meet every Lord’s day to commemorate his death and resurrection, to show forth the praises of God, to make united requests known to Him through Jesus Christ, to proclaim His goodness to the children of men, and to convince them of the judgment which has to come upon the world at last.”
It will be appreciated that there is in this condensed account of what Dr. Thomas wrote in 1851 an indication of how far he had advanced since his first introduction to the Campbellite body. Later controversies have brought out various matters not mentioned in this summary, but apart from them, the foregoing is an excellent synopsis of the first principles of the Oracles of God.
The things concerning the name of Jesus Christ might have been stressed more definitely, yet they are indicated in passing. It must be borne in mind that, at that time, Dr. Thomas’ mind was particularly exercised by the teaching of the Scriptures concerning the Kingdom; hence the name of his periodical The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to come.”
It would not be easy to lay down a course of reading and study better designed to lead to a realisation of the fundamentals of Bible teaching concerning the Kingdom of God. It may be regarded as the advice of a tutor “instructed unto the kingdom of God,” who brings “out of his treasure things new and old.”
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