CHAPTER 59

 

Conclusion and Reflections

 

The story that has been told in the preceding pages is an unusual one, and is worthy of being recorded for the information of those who have benefited from the work and writings of Dr. Thomas. In essence it is the story of a great religious development which carried the work that commenced with the Reformation under Martin Luther to its logical conclusion.

 

            In the second volume of Eureka Dr. Thomas traced the gradual revival of Scriptural truth among men through the Baptists and others to the days of Alexander Campbell. This book has continued the story. From his resolve made in the dangers of shipwreck, a providential series of events led to the consummation. To a man of different characteristics, the work would probably have been impossible. Dr. Thomas possessed a combination of traits that enabled him to persevere in his course whatever difficulties had to be faced. He learned to take the Bible as the only solver of questions, and as a result, the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ have become known to an ever increasing circle of people.

 

            Of Dr. Thomas’s association with Campbellism he writes:

 

            “The legends of this new sect, which it afterwards refused to practise, were: ‘Prove all things, and hod fast that which is good’; and, on the obverse of its medal, ‘Style no man on earth your father; for He alone is your Father who is in heaven; and all ye are brethren.’.”

 

            “In those days, the author of this exposition of the apocalypse, then a young man of about thirty years of age, found himself among them, before he understood their theory in detail. He adopted with great zest and zeal the sentiment of their legend. He proceeded to ‘prove all things,’ and to ‘hold fast what’ he believed to be ‘good’; and to call no man father, teacher, or leader, but Christ, the TRUTH (John 14:6). In doing this, he devoted himself to the study of the prophetic and apostolic writings, under the impression that he was engaged in a good work; and, as he was then publishing a periodical entitled The Apostolic Advocate, he would from time to time report to his brethren for their benefit what he found taught therein. In pursuing this study, he found many of their principles to be at variance with ‘the word,’ which was made void by them. Perceiving this, and supposing that the spirit of their legend was the spirit of their body, he did not hesitate to lay his convictions before them that they might prove them, and hold them, or reject them, according to the testimony. This raised quite a storm among them, the thunderbolts of which were aimed at him by the thunderer of their sect. This uproar caused the author to discover that he had made a mistake in his reading of their legends; and that their reading of Paul’s words was, ‘Prove all things which we have proved; and hod fast what we believe to be good’; and of Jesus, ‘Call no man father, teacher, or leader, but Alexander Campbell’.”

 

            “But, after all, good was done. The influence of the clergy over the multitude was vastly diminished; and great numbers were stirred up to read the Scriptures, and to think for themselves. The author and many of his friends were of this ‘very small remnant.’ Under the inspiration of the word believed, he could not be silent, whatever consequences might arise. Hence, in October, 1834, he raised his voice against the system in an article upon baptism. He maintained that before immersion could be scripturally recognised as the ‘one baptism,’ the subject thereof must be possessed of the ‘one faith.’ This was a hard blow upon the baptistic Scotto-campbellite ‘evangelists,’ and they felt it. It also condemned the author’s immersion, which, however, he did not discover till twelve years after. He maintained:

 

“1. —That belief, built on the testimony of the prophets and apostles concerning the Christ; confession that Jesus of Nazareth is that Christ, the Son of the Living God; and immersion into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for repentance and remission, are part and parcel of, and necessary to, the ordinance of purification of sin, styled by Paul, the ‘ONE BAPTISM’.”

 

“2. —That mere immersion is not baptism; but that a man cannot be aqueously baptised without being immersed in water.”

 

“3. —That they whose immersion is predicated upon ‘a certificate of former good character,’ and a tale of sights and sounds, frames and feelings, called ‘experience,’ with no more faith than amounts to a belief that ‘the word of God is a dead letter,’ and that ‘if they don’t get religion they’ll be damned’—that an immersion in the name of the Father, etc., predicated on such premises, is not Christian baptism.”

 

“4. —That the subjects of any baptism not predicated upon the ‘good confession,’ are not entitled to the spiritual blessings consequent on the ‘one baptism’.”

 

“5. —That the Deity, having placed His name in His institutions, all communicable blessings flow through those institutions, of which Christian baptism is one.”

 

“6. —That every immersed person who is not immersed on ‘the good confession,’ is not founded upon THE ROCK; and consequently forms no part of the Church of Christ.”

 

“7. —That the re-immersion of such a believer is not a re-baptism, and therefore justifiable—such re-immersion being his first scriptural baptism.”

 

            “Such was the testimony of A.D. 1834. In the course of the year following, he called in question their speculations and traditions concerning the soul, heaven, hell, eternal torment, the Devil, their salvation without faith, and so forth. He was not quite clear upon these topics himself; but their violent attacks threw him upon the defensive, and compelled him to fortify. By a closer study of the word he attained to full assurance of faith, which was only confirmed by the feebleness of their argument in debate. He maintained”:

 

“1. —That ‘a living soul’ was not an ‘immortal soul,’ but a Body of Life, exemplified by the first Adam.”

 

“2. —That immortality was not an abstract essence, but life endlessly developed through incorruptible organic substance, or body.”

 

            “3. —That ‘the Deity only hath immortality’ underived.”

 

“4. —That incorruptibility and life, or immortality, are a part of the reward promised only to the righteous, on condition of their patient continuance in well-doing.”

 

            “5. —That they only are the righteous who believe the truth and obey it.”

 

“6. —That ‘the dead know not anything.’

 

“7. —That the just and unjust are rewarded at their resurrection from among the dead, and not before.”

 

“8. —That the ‘righteous shall be recompensed in the earth,’ when the meek will inherit it.”

 

“9. —That the wicked and the sinner will also be ‘recompensed in the earth,’ from which they will ‘be cut off and rooted out,’ as unfit to inhabit it: for being without understanding of the word, they are like the beasts that perish.”

 

“10. —That the clerical devil is a mythological fiction.”

 

“11. —That the devil of Scripture is, first, sin manifested individually in and through our common nature; second, sin in ecclesiastical and political manifestation. Hence the powers of the world are styled ‘the devil and his angels’.”

 

“12. —That without faith there is no salvation.”

 

“The statement of these propositions stirred up the devil on every side, and made him

roar like a devouring lion; but the truth of them turned his wrath into great bitterness. He denounced the author as ‘a moon-stricken speculator,’ ‘a materialist,’ ‘an infidel,’ ‘an atheist, fit only for the society of Tom Paine, Voltaire, and that herd.’ These were the weapons, endorsed with all the influence and power of the sect for evil, against one man, whom he contemptuously spurned as ‘a stripling,’ and classed with the unclean beasts of the ark!”

 

            “But ‘the earth that helps the woman’ being in power, these ravings and roarings were permitted to break no bones. Great efforts were made to suppress both the author and his writings, till at length they so far succeeded as to prevent their flocks from reading them and listening to his discourse.”

 

            “By the year 1847, he had illustrated and proved the following propositions, to the conviction of increasing numbers: -

 

“1. —That the gospel preached by the apostles was originally preached to Abraham, announcing blessedness for all nations in him and in his seed, when he should ‘possess the gate of his enemies’.”

 

“2. —That this gospel promised Abraham and his seed that they should be heirs of the world, which they should possess for ever.”

 

“3. —That Abraham, ‘hoping against hope,’ was fully persuaded that what the Deity had promised He was also able to perform, and therefore it was counted to him for righteousness.”

 

“4. —That the land in which he sojourned, and kept his flocks and herds, and in Scripture styled the Holy Land, and Yahweh’s Land, was promised to him for an everlasting possession.”

 

“5. —That this promise of the land became a confirmed covenant 430 years before the Mosaic Law was added.”

 

“6. —That the seed of Abraham, whose day he rejoiced to see, was to descend from the tribe of Judah, in the line of David; and was to be at once both Son of David and Son of God.”

 

“7. —That a covenant was made with David, ordered in all things and sure, promising that the seed should descend from him; that he should possess a kingdom in a future age; that he should be Son of the Eternal Father; that he should be afflicted unto death; that he should rise again; that the throne of his kingdom should be David’s throne; that Christ should occupy the throne in his presence; that he shall reign over the house of Jacob, in the covenanted land during the age; and that of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

 

“8. —That these covenants made with Abraham and with David are styled by Paul ‘the Covenants of Promise,’ and that they contain ‘the things concerning the Kingdom of God,’ which must be believed as a part of the faith that justifies.”

 

“9. —That the Christ is the Eternal Father by His Spirit manifested in the seed of David, and that Jesus of Nazareth is he.”

 

“10. —That in his crucifixion, sin was condemned in the same flesh that had transgressed in Paradise, so that in the crucified body he bore the sins of his people upon the tree, that they, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness.”

 

“11. —That he was raised from the dead by the power of the Father, for the justification or pardon of those who believe the covenanted promises, and the things concerning him.”

 

“12. —That the things concerning the Christ as a sufferer, and fulfilled in Jesus, are ‘the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ,’ which must also be believed as the other part of the faith which justifies.”

 

“13. —That repentance is a change of mind and disposition, produced by ‘the exceeding great and precious promises’ lovingly believed, and resulting in ‘the obedience of faith’.”

 

“14. —That repentance, remission of sins, and eternal life are granted in the name of Jesus Christ.”

 

“15. —That the obedience of faith consists in believing the gospel preached to Abraham, the preaching of Jesus Christ, and the revealed mystery of his name, and in being immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

“16. —That repentance, remission of sins, and a right to incorruptibility and life are institutionally granted to believers of the truth as outlined above, in being buried with Christ by immersion into death to sin, from whence they rise with Christ to walk in newness of life.”

 

“17. —That Abraham, the prophets, and the brethren under the Mosaic Law, are justified by the belief of the promises covenanted to Abraham and David, which covenants were brought into force by the death of the Testator, or Deity in flesh-manifestation, called Jesus Christ; and that the immersed, and they only, whether Jews or Gentiles, from the Day of Pentecost to the return of the Ancient of Days, are justified by belief of the same covenanted promises and of the things concerning the name of Jesus Christ, as specified above. Thus, there is one Deity who shall justify the circumcision ek pisteos, by, from, or out of faith; and the uncircumcision dia tes pisteos, ‘through the faith’; for whether under the law or since the law, ‘the just shall live by faith,’ without which it is impossible to please God’.”

 

“18. —That ‘the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ is equivalent to ‘the name of Jesus Christ’; and expresses ‘the great mystery of godliness,’ the Deity manifested in flesh: that this manifestation was first an individual unity, and then a multitudinous unity, in flesh and blood nature; that the individual divine unity was ‘justified by the Spirit’ when Jesus was glorified; and that the multitudinous unity, consisting of all saints will be made like him when he shall appear in power. Hence, when this consummation shall be complete, ‘THE NAME’ will be the Eternal Father by Spirit manifested in a multitude of immortals, whom no man can number. The scriptural designation of this DIVINE UNITY is Yahweh echad—the ONE WHO SHALL BE.”

 

“19. —That this name exists in two states—the present and the future—which states are separated by the resurrection. In the present state, the name is apocalyptically symbolised by ‘the Sealed,’ ‘the Golden Altar,’ ‘the Holy City trampled,’ ‘ the woman and the remnant of her seed’; and in the future state, by ‘the four living ones full of eyes,’ and ‘the four and twenty elders’; by the rainbowed angel; by the nave; by the 144,000 on Mount Zion; by harpists and singers; by the Lamb’s wife arrayed in white; by the armies in the heaven; and by that great city, the Holy Jerusalem, as a bride adorned for her husband.”

 

“20. —That the gospel is glad tidings, inviting men and women to become constituents of this divine name, and therefore heirs of the world with Abraham, on condition of believing the truth as it is in Jesus, being immersed, and walking in the newness of life as shown above.”

 

 

On this the original writer of the work commented: -

 

            Such is the system of the truth in outline, elaborated by the Doctor from the word, as the result of an earnest contention for the faith, over a period of nearly forty years. Its beauties are apparent to those who understand, while its contrast to popular faith in all its elements, is palpable to all. Its elaboration required patience, keen-sightedness, and reverence for the word. These were Dr. Thomas’ characteristics pre-eminently. He was not what is understood by a man of genius. His work has been no work of self-evolution. It has been a work of finding out what the Bible teaches, without taking account of orthodox standards or popular beliefs. For such a work, “genius,” so-called, would have been unsuitable. Its tendency to self-development would have unfitted it ti receive that full and faithful impress of Bible teaching in all its details, at a time when it could only be acquired by patient and original study.

 

            But though not a genius, Dr. Thomas, as the work required, was gifted as few men are. There was a full development and rare blending of the powers of exact observation, clear thought, correct reasoning, strong memory, forcible diction, fluent speech, and uncompromising fidelity to conviction. Born of an intellectual family, educated scientifically, forced into emigration at 27, bent in a religious direction by the terrors of a storm at sea, brought into contact with the leaders of the American Reformation, inoculated with their feelings of disregard for human authority, and reverence for the Bible as the supreme standard in religion; brought out by Campbell as a speaker; by circumstances put into the position of an editor at 30, compelled thus to give large attention to Bible study: launched into controversy with his superiors; impelled by their opposition to deeper study and larger discovery, and finally led into a wider field of public activity, as the single-handed advocate, by mouth and pen, of a system of faith and practice condemnatory and disowned of all, though demonstrable from the book acknowledged as the standard by all: such, in brief, is the history of that application of his mental powers to Scripture study and polemics which, in the wisdom of God, has uncovered the oracles of divine truth from the mass of ignorance and misinterpretation which for centuries overlaid and obscured them.

 

            There is one matter in which time is considered to have disproved his reliability as a Bible teacher. In common with most prophetic expositors, Dr. Thomas looked with great expectation to 1866-8 for the second advent of Christ. The ground of this expectation was the fact that about that time the period allotted for the ascendancy of the Papal power, would expire. It was naturally supposed the Lord would come immediately that expiry was reached; but time has shown this was not to be the order of events. The expiry of the period has but precipitated the consumption of the Papal horn, and introduced in a signal sense “the time of the end,” during which the saints wait daily for the Son of Man, ignorant of “the day or the hour”; but in which they nevertheless discern many unmistakable “signs” that his coming is at the door. Unfriendly critics, however, understand not this, but see only the non-occurrence of the advent in the year when the Doctor expected it. From this they illogically argue the nullification of his whole teaching. The Doctor himself was prepared for failure in the dates. In 1862, the writer of this narrative asked him how it would affect him if the time he was expecting the Lord should pass without his coming? He said it would make no difference to his general position. He should simply conclude he was mistaken in some historical element of the reckoning. The possibility of such a thing will be best appreciated by those who know the state of revelation on this point. It is peculiar in the form in which it was communicated. It was necessary to conceal the information from those who lived at the time it was given, because of the discouraging effect on them of the knowledge that many ages would elapse before the kingdom of God would come. At the same time, it was needful that without special revelation, of which there was to be none, it should be intelligible to those contemporary with the end, that they knowing the time in a general sense, if not exactly, should be in a state of intelligent expectancy with regard to the second coming of the Lord. These objects were realised by expressing the years in days, and leaving their commencement to be gathered generally from the broad developments of history rather than from particular events; though doubtless, their beginning is connected with particular events in the Divine mind: and on these events we may fix rightly. There can be no doubt that Dr. Thomas’s calculations are substantially correct, and may prove to be so even in particulars.

 

            There can be no doubt about our being in the end of the prophetic periods, although the precise beginning being a little uncertain, the precise endings cannot be otherwise.

 

            But right or wrong, a theory of the times and seasons does not affect the other subjects upon which the Doctor has written. These stand by themselves on a foundation that cannot be shaken. That man is mortal: that the promised inheritance to Abraham and his seed is the earth, with the land of Israel as the royal centre; that the salvation offered to man is a participation in that inheritance, and consequent resurrection to incorruptibility, and a place of honour and power in the kingdom of God to be established on the earth when Christ personally returns; and that the conditions of inheritance are belief and obedience of the gospel: are propositions as irrefragable as the truth of the Bible itself, and as powerful to give joy and holiness a thousand years before their occurrence as a thousand days. If Dr. Thomas were proved entirely mistaken in his chronological calculations, the conclusions he has established in those other matters would remain in all their strength, both as to the evidence of their truth, and their power to influence those who believe them. Doubtless the idea of the nearness of their realisation has a charm for most minds; but the loss of this idea would be no loss of practical power to enlightened minds, for the salvation of God can never be farther off than the length of a man’s life, because death is an unconscious interval, however prolonged.

 

            That the writer and readers alike may be permitted to stand with Dr. Thomas in that day, accepted in the presence of the Lord of Glory, shall be a concluding prayer, with ascription of all praise, and blessing, and honour, and dominion, and glory for ever, to the Eternal Father, of whom are all things: and His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, world without end, AMEN.

 

Berean Home Page