My Days and My Ways
The regular receipt of the Herald every month was a great educator to me, in conjunction with the daily reading of the Scriptures. My mind opened on a great variety of subjects, and I felt much drawn to the editor of the magazine. Letters from indebted readers used to appear in it pages; and I at last ventured to address him myself. In the Autumn of 1856 I wrote the following letter, which appeared in the Herald for 1857, page 43.
It now strikes me as being an inflated and raw production of the sort that usually comes from impetuous youth when permitted to air itself – interesting only as the premonition of a laborious and painful day. There was no one to control or check me, otherwise the letter would not have been written, or, being written, would never have gone across the Atlantic:
MY DEAR BROTHER, -- Although personally unknown to you, I have, nevertheless, in virtue of a unity and identity of “hope”, presumed thus far upon your forbearance. It has long been my intention to write you, but hitherto I have been deterred by various considerations. At last, however, I have got the pen in my hand, which I am resolutely determined not to relinquish till I shall have transferred my ideas (such as they are) to paper. My object in writing is more to encourage you in the struggle in which you are engaged, than to perplex (?) you with pointless questions and imaginary difficulties.
Allow me to remark then that to my mind you seem to be carrying forward the “good fight” to a successful termination, for I conceive that the capture of the “good and honest-hearted” (of which I painfully testify there are but few) by the truth, is the very highest point of success to which we could aspire. This, then, you are certainly accomplishing. True, in relation to the mass, the progress of the truth is slow and uncertain. While the state superstitions, and the most extravagant absurdities of the multifarious “sects and denominations” meet with respect, and command attention, “the truth”, even with the most “learned” and “intellectual” among them, meets with the bitterest opposition, and its adherents they treat with the most profound contempt. In fact, their “divines”, “philosophers, “fathers”, etc., do not deem it worthy of investigation. They summarily discard it as altogether unworthy even of notice, while they will gravely discuss such monstrous absurdities as Romanism, Campbellism, Mormonism, etc!!! But with the other class it is the reverse. When the “word of the kingdom” (Matt.) is sown in “good ground” it springs up and bears fruit, some an hundredfold, etc., a synonymous expression with the belief of the truth.
Therefore, my dear brother, although it may appear anomalous that a young, inexperienced youth such as I, should be encouraging a hardy veteran; still, I cannot but speak from the fullness of my heart, and encourage you to persevere. What, if by your faithful advocacy of the truth, you entail upon yourself the contempt and abuse of all Christendom! That’s nothing but what Paul experienced from the “philosophers” too! And it is nothing but what all must and do experience, who “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered in the saints.” But, after all, these considerations would afford little consolation, were it not for the “gracious promises.” “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”
You will bear with me if I should appear too minute in detailing a case illustrative of the illuminating influence of the truth, as set forth in Elpis Israel. The case is my own, and I can, therefore, speak with certainty. Previous to coming in contact with the above mentioned work, I was zealously affected for that I considered the truth, viz: The ideas propounded from the pulpit. I believed them, and so far as I am aware, walked consistently. I was sincere, quite in earnest, and my language mentally was, “Sirs, what shall I do to be saved?” On all hands, I invariably received the response, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” etc. Being in perfect ignorance, except of what I had received from maternal indoctrination, I accepted the generally received understanding of “Believe, etc.” as truth. I was just on the eve of being immersed on Baptist principles, when I fell in with a Herald. There was something so rational, so comprehensible, something which partook so much of common sense, that my attention was at once arrested. My curiosity was so much excited, that nothing short of an understanding of the whole matter, in some way or other, would satisfy me. I therefore procured a copy of Elpis Israel, and read it with intense interest. I then compared it with what the Scriptures actually said, and I was perfectly struck with the identity of the language. Without further hesitation, I renounced for ever the absolute blasphemies to which I had before adhered, viz., “immortality of the soul”, “heaven,” “hell,” an atmospherical recompense at death, etc., etc., etc.; and having become aware of the existence of a meeting of believers here, although then only in my fifteenth year, I identified myself with them by putting on Christ by immersion.
In following this course of action, it is almost needless to add that I experienced the most abusive misrepresentation, and utter contempt that vindictiveness could possibly devise. Former friends turned their backs and became sworn enemies; relations became cold; and all agreed to pity my infatuation. And yet, if you “reason with them from the Scriptures,” the very strength of the arguments, the very overpowering nature of the evidence, seems to confirm them in their unbelief: they therefore hesitate, stammer, sputter, and turn round and brand you as an “infidel,” “materialist,” etc., etc., reminding one forcibly of the words of Paul, “To the one it is a savour of death unto death,” etc. They will not reason, but resort to vociferous vituperations. Surely these are not sincere, surely they are not interested in the absorbing question “What is truth?” who will not reason. Their faith is certainly, as you express it, “An unreasoning assent to certain dogmas.”
Brother Thomas, my gratitude is unbounded. I cannot possibly give utterance to my feelings. What a great salvation has been revealed! What a book is the Bible !! What a God is Jehovah!!! My heart swells with grateful emotion when I contemplate these things. My thanksgiving knows no bounds, when I revert to the former contemptible, effeminate appearance which these things made, when reviewed through the medium of sectarian theology.
My efforts for the diffusion of the truth, I regret to say, can extend no further than contention, of which I have plenty. Being only seventeen years of age, I am, of course, poor in this world’s goods, or else, I can assure you, dear brother, the Herald should never go down for want of funds. As it is, however, my exertions in behalf of the truth must be confined exclusively to speaking: and, when the time comes, they will also be extended to co-operation in the way of funds; and then when Jesus returns, He will reward every man according to his work.
I am afraid I have trespassed on your forbearance, but then you know how to excuse one that is in earnest.
With an earnest desire that you may be spared until our Lord returns to Zion, I remain your affectionate brother in the hope of the promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
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October 8th, 1856
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