CHAPTER 56

 

How the News of Death was Received in Britain

 

The reception of the news at Birmingham is thus described in the letter of a correspondent:

 

                “On Sunday morning we had a very sad meeting. Brother Roberts intimated at the usual interval for fraternal announcements, that he had on the previous day received a letter from sister Lasius, announcing her father’s death. He intended to give some particulars, but he could go no further than the opening sentence. His grief was too fresh to be restrained. He sat down to weep, and we all wept with him; in audible sobs, the brethren and sisters gave vent to their unfeigned grief. This painful scene continued a few moments, when brother Turner calmly and solemnly invited us to join him in prayer. This soothed our broken hearts a little, but the exercise was mingled with the manifestations of our sorrow. Afterwards, before the breaking of bread, brother Roberts spoke at length on the mournful event, and on the as yet unappreciated career of him who now sleeps. He spoke with great difficulty, but his words were much suited to the state of our minds. I wish his address could have been taken down for the perusal of those who did not hear it, but the only brother present who could have used shorthand with the necessary celerity (brother Meakin), was too much bowed down and broken with sorrow to perform the mechanical part.”

 

                “Brother Roberts drew a beautiful parallel between Paul of the first century and Paul of the nineteenth century, as he said Dr. Thomas might truly be called. He said the Doctor’s death naturally led them to look back. Looking back they saw the apostles go forth on their work of taking out a people from the nations by the power of the word proclaimed and attested. They saw that work prosper in their hands to the development of a large community from Jews and Gentiles. Then, one by one, they saw the apostles die off. They saw the fulfilment of the prediction they made while they lived—that after their departure, there would be a falling away from the truth and a turning aside unto the fables, pleasantly told by the teachers they should heap to themselves. Then they saw the day grow dark, and the night prevail in the triumph of the apostasy throughout the world. They saw the night endure for centuries, with but a little truth hidden in the corners.”

 

                “By and by as it grew towards the dawn of the sun’s rising, light streaked the horizon. Dr. Thomas appeared, and in a providence-directed life, restored to view the forgotten gospel—the ancient faith that leads unto life which had been faithfully proclaimed by the apostles of the first age, but had been obscured and finally buried by the traditions of a state-supported apostasy. This he had done without miracle, without special message, without being a prophet. The application of a singularly-constituted brain to the study of the holy oracles, had recovered the long-lost treasure of gospel truth. We had, in the mercy of God, been thrown in the way of the discovery, and were rejoicing in the light, when suddenly the instrument of its exhibition was taken away. The blow was severe; the cup was bitter. All in the night of the times of the Gentiles, when God did not yet visibly show His hand or speak in audible words of guidance and comfort, we needed all the assistance we had. We should miss his clear indications of the signs of the times; his masterly disentanglement of the political skein would be no more available.”

 

                “Recurring to the parallel between Paul and Dr. Thomas, he spoke of their having laboured about the same length of time, and performed the same kind of work, and pointed out that in many respects Dr. Thomas’s experiences had been the same as Paul’s. False brethren had embittered his career, and, at one time, nearly succeeded in turning away the brotherhood from him; but latterly he had been better understood and more appreciated, and had lived to see the fruit of his labour. He was a man of strong peculiarities, fitting him for the peculiar work he had to do. His work had been to combine good sense with fervent faith. He appeared at a time, when through the power of the apostasy, the so-called Christian world was divided into two great parties—one without religion, and the other with a religion that was effeminate and superstitious.”

 

                “How rare to find childlike faith and robust-mindedness together! To develop this combination had been Dr. Thomas’s work; and to do it, he required to be a rough-spoken unsentimental man, blowing away the atmosphere of cant and hypocrisy and unmanliness, in which religion had been universally shrouded. Apparent harshness was a qualification for the work; but, for all this, though it might seem incredible to those who had not known him closely, he was a tender-hearted, conscience-controlled, and God-fearing man, in whom we had lost a father and a guide. Now he was at rest, and could he speak, he would, doubtless, say to us in our tears, as Jesus said to the women following him to the crucifixion, ‘Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves because of the days that shall come upon you’.

 

                “Like the people of that age, we were living on the verge of a time of great tribulation, and the Doctor’s removal was a calamity not to him but to us. Concerning him we were reminded of the words of the prophets: ‘The righteous is taken away from the evil to come.’ It might be that his removal would prove a blessing in some respects. We would all feel more drawn to the great hope in which we had learned from him to put our trust. An additional bond would bind us to the future, and we would feel an additional incentive to renewed and quickened diligence in the truth, persevering like him who had fallen asleep, alike through good and through evil report. Brother Roberts then reviewed the course of the ancient worthies from the time of Abraham, and incited us to the performance of the part that had fallen to us in the great scheme of the divine purpose which was being wrought out on the earth.”

 

                “Dear Sister, I have given you a long rehearsal, but not too long; I know I could have listened much longer to the delivery of the address: every word of it seemed so appropriate to the occasion. I feel that with us, at least, the Doctor’s influence will not be diminished by his death. The sad event will only make us feel more closely associated with him in the work to which his entire life was devoted. How truly may we say of him in his writings that ‘He being dead yet speaketh.’ His words seem all the more powerful and beautiful now that he has fallen asleep. May we study them to profit and meet him at last with joy.”

 

 

Berean Home Page