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My Days and My Ways

An Autobiography

Robert Roberts



CHAPTER SEVEN:  Working with Dr. Thomas


I ought to have mentioned that before leaving Edinburgh, I tried to bring about a visit of Dr. Thomas to Britain, in conjunction with three others who felt as I did in the matter.  He had not been in the country for eight years, and the work of which he laid the foundations in 1848-9 seemed to require a fostering hand.  Our endeavour was a failure, through the apathy of those of whom it seemed natural to us to expect the same interest that we took in the matter.  It was not, however, altogether without result.  We had collected a small sum of money which we decided to send to the Doctor to strengthen his hand.  It was left me to do this.  I brought the money with me to Huddersfield and forwarded it to Dr. Thomas along with the following letter, which the Doctor published in the Herald at the time.


                DEAR BROTHER THOMAS, -- We send you L15 5s., to help you in the good work in which you are engaged.  Would God it were L1,500; you should be heartily welcome to it: for we consider it an honour to spend and be spent in God’s service in this degenerate age of Gentile domination.  But, unfortunately (?) we are all poor – compelled to toil and sweat for “the meat which perisheth,” and can only manage by a stretch to “provide things honest in the sight of all men;” so we have little to give “to him the needeth.”  Moreover, the late commercial distress of the country has materially reduced the means of many in whose hearts it is to give willingly: therefore, our THANK OFFERING is small, but comprises many widow’s mites.  We give it heartily and of a willing mind: and hope it will be blessed to the strengthening of your arm in your noble strife for God and truth.


The sum is the aggregate ability of the willing-hearted in Britain, who, “though poor in this world” are “rich in faith,” giving glory to God.  A few months ago, it occurred to one or two of the brethren in Edinburgh, Scotland, that something more than we were doing should be done for the promulgation of the Word of Life: and while giving due attention to personal effort, we thought it not amiss to “consecrate our gain also to the Lord.”  As the best way of doing this, it was proposed to write for the purpose of bringing you to this country to lecture.  But numerous objections were started to this, and the idea was ultimately abandoned, chiefly because it was found that a sufficiency of funds could not be raised.  As the best alternative, it was next recommended that we should collect what we could, and forward it to you, as our share, in one form of the general duty of “holding forth the Word of life;” besides being an expression of our sympathy with you in the struggle in which you have spent the best part of your life.


With this view, four brethren formed themselves into a committee, and set to work.  They commenced in their own circle; but failing to meet that amount of encouragement which they had a right to expect, they extended their efforts to


the churches throughout England and Scotland, most of whom responded warmly, and undertook by a certain time to have somewhat in readiness.  The promise was kept.  By the middle of August, each forwarded what they could, accompanied with the sincerest regrets that it was not more….  The sum in only small, but will doubtless be acceptable in these days of ignorance and unbelief.  And we would hope that another season may find us better able to assist you yet further, or to bring you here, where we feel sure you would do much good.


The truth meets with small success here as elsewhere.  The people’s ears are dull of hearing, and possibly the voice of the teacher is low.  The churches do no seem to possess that fervency and zeal which they ought; while error rears its head at every corner.  The voice of wisdom to the simple ones is, alas, feeble and ineffectual; and much more so that it might be, for if the brethren would cease to hide their light under a bushel, men might be attracted by the glimmering, and drawn to the blessed light of life.  As  it is, they sit with folded arms in complacent quietude; and instead of “sounding forth the Word of the Lord” like the brethren of old, they are content to enjoy the truth in silence; while multitudes – the good and honest-hearted too – are perishing for lack of knowledge!


Would you be so kind, dear brother, as to let us have the advantage of your enlarged scriptural knowledge on this matter.  What is the duty of brethren in relation to the proclamation of the truth?  Those with whom the writer is now connected have no doubt on the matter.  We hold most unanimously and sincerely, that all who have heard the Word of Life should, in some shape or form, say “Come!” to the ignorant and unlearned; and, because of this our conviction, we have issued the following handbill to the people of Halifax.  It runs thus –


                                                TO THE PEOPLE OF HALIFAX.

                “The teaching of the Bible is opposed to the popular doctrine of the ‘Immortality of the Soul,’

               and its concomitant notions of shy-kingdom rewards and hell-fire punishment at death.  The

               Bible sets forth God’s purpose to set us a visible kingdom on earth, corporeal incorruptibility

              (therefore immortality) on those who now conform to certain Divine requisitions, which purpose

               being ‘GLAD TIDDINGS’ constitutes the ‘Gospel’ which Jesus preached.  The clergy do not

               preach this gospel, but teach what is opposed both to common sense and revelation.


                “The people of Halifax are requested to attend the large schoolroom adjoining the Temperance

                Hall, Great Albion Street, on Sabbath nights, at half-past six o’clock, to hear discourses in

                Proof of the above propositions, when open discussion in invited at the end of each discourse.


                “N.B. – No collections – the object being to set the truth before the people!!”


But many enlightened brethren, overlooking the duty, question the usefulness of public discussion, and discountenance, or at least refrain from all effort in that or in any other direction.  We, therefore, request a word from your lucid pen on this subject … The brethren, generally, are anxiously awaiting the appearance of your Exposition of the Apocalypse, and hope it will not be much longer delayed.  To those unacquainted with the sure prophetic Word, the Revelation is a book of impenetrable mystery: and even to those not altogether unskilled in the word of righteousness, it presents many difficulties.  The former look upon it as the great authority for the unfathomable abyss with its hideous company of spirits and “goblins damned;” and the latter sometimes are found fabricating theories therefrom strangely at variance with the written word.  In these circumstances, your “exposition” will be looked for with eagerness, as judging from your own writings, it is likely to be, at least, coherent and logical….


We have to thank you for much benefit derived from your writings.  Some well-meaning brethren are afraid to confess their obligations in this respect from motives which can hardly be divined.  But what is the use of mincing the matter?  There is the fact; we have been shown the way of life through your straightforward and self-denying labours for the truth; and why be ashamed to own it?  Why afraid to esteem the man by whose manly independence they have been redeemed from a worse than Egyptian slavery?  Something is to be heard now and then of “hard,” “uncharitable writings,” and we all think your writings would give less umbrage were they more free of irony and personalities; but still, we also think that objections on this score savour of Gentilism.  Why be so fastidious about mere style?  Who could be more harsh and ironical than Jesus or Paul?  And who more fierce in their denunciations than the prophets?  It


May be objected, that they had an unction which does not pertain to the generality of mortals.  Granted; but if we most surely believe the things of the Kingdom of God, would it not be inconsistency to use other than boldness of speech?  Why pander to the vitiated tastes of modern infidelity by conforming to its smooth and uncertain phraseology – that oily and deceitful way of beating about the bush, instead of honestly declaring the truth, whatever sectarian sanctity may say?  Better far have the “harsh,” “uncharitable” truthfulness of Dr. Thomas, than the deceitful embellishments of pulpit oratory.  Brethren judge wrongly when they charge us with “hero worship,” for esteeming a man highly for the truth’s sake.  It is one of the exhortations of Paul; and it is simple necessity so long as our mental constitutions remain as they are.


Before concluding, it is but becoming to notice the death of a brother who was much respected and beloved by all, and one whom you have looked in the face.  John Forman, of Edinburgh, was one of the committee in the matter which forms the occasion of this letter, but fell asleep before he saw the completion of what he took so much interest in.  He was a man such as one does not meet with every day.  Even in his appearance he differed from the rest of his brethren.   He was of delicate build, and of a highly nervous temperament, and his features, which were sharp and long, were of a classical mould, and did not bear a trace of their Scotch extraction.  His character was a model of zeal and personal purity.  His soul was absorbed in the things of the coming age, of which he spoke in public and private continually.  He was instant in season and out of season, teaching the ignorant the way of righteousness, and exhorting his brethren to steadfastness and holiness at all times and all places, and could not tolerate the frivolous indifference of many.


He was sometimes thought too stern and devoted; but he would reply, “Do brethren expect to get the Kingdom if they do nothing, and live like other men?”  He was esteemed and revered by all, and looked up to as a guide and father.  And now he is gone, slain by the cursed law of sin and death that works in all of us.  O, how one feels the bitterness of death, when noble and upright manliness is thus rudely torn from our embrace, and consigned to that cold grave wherein is nought but darkness and silence.  Alas! Alas! Many noble hearts have ceased to beat.  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the good Kings of Judah; Jeremiah, Daniel, and the prophets who suffered so nobly for the truth’s sake; and those brave and manly apostles, who feared not the wrath and violence of man – these are all sleeping in the dust of the earth, while defiant Gentilism proudly holds its head in the world, despising righteousness, and contemning the God of Israel.  Awake, why sleepest  thou, O Jehovah?  Arise, cast us not off for ever.  Wherefore hidest thou Thy face?  Arise for our help, and redeem us for They mercies’ sake.  “We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet, neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.”  Thanks be to God!  His watchful eye slumbers not.  He will yet lift up His holy arm in the eyes of all nations, and teach the world righteousness by His judgments.  He will yet avenge the blood of His servants, and bring them again from the hand of death and will punish the arrogance of the mighty.  He will yet rule the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath appointed, whereof He hath given all men assurance in that He hath raised Him from the dead.  God speed the day!  Even so!  Come, Lord Jesus.


In behalf of the brethren who join me in the most fervent prayers for your continued health and usefulness,

                                                                                I remain,

                                                                Yours affectionately in Israel’s Hope,

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

   Huddersfield, England, Sept. 1,  1858




The Doctor responded in some characteristic remarks, published in the Herald of the Kingdom, from which the following extract will be interesting:




“The contribution forwarded with the above is truly gratifying to us, and not us only, but to all, doubtless, interested in the work in which we are engaged – in that namely, of opening the eyes of our contemporaries, turning them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.  It is gratifying because it is purely spontaneous – the result of a conviction that we are so engaged, and of an affectionate appreciation of our labours.  Though the amount may be small,


it is none the less acceptable on that account, seeing that it is the aggregate ability of the brethren of the Poor and Needy Man, who, though rich, became poor for our sakes.  It reminds one of the ecclesias of Macedonia:  ‘How that in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and of their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality, by which also the proved the sincerity of their love.’  The amount is nothing: it is the willingness of mind to spend and be spent in the service of the truth: for it is accepted of God according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.  If a poor man give a mite of his extreme poverty, it is more than a hundred pounds out of the abundance of riches.


“As to the duty of the brethren, in relation to the proclamation of the truth … though much may not be effected yet, as we do not know how much and when, it is our common duty ‘to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints,’ and with as much energy as though we were going to hurl all the ecclesiastical potentates of Gentiledom from their crumbling and tottering thrones.  We do not believe in any of Christ’s brethren purchasing exemption from this laborious duty.  It they be rich, or flush of means, it is their privilege to give as well as to do;  if they be poor, to do and to receive, which is less blessed than to give, that an equality may obtain.


“Brethren, whether rich or poor, should all remember that when they are redeemed from the sins of the past, in putting o the Christ-robe of righteousness, through the obedience of faith, they are ‘a purchased people;’ and that when so purchased, the purchaser bought all they possess; so that they are no longer their own, but the property of another.  Now, when a man purchases a servant, he does not buy him to sit all his days with a bushel on his head in complacent quietude.  A slave owns nothing, neither himself, nor anything belonging to self before he became a slave.  Such is the relation of brethren to Christ, their Lord and Master.  A complacently quiescent Christian is one who will never inherit the kingdom, though his faith be ever so valid.  He is an unprofitable concealer of his Master’s property in a napkin.  He is the napkin, and the property the truth he has received and concealed within himself.  Woe be to the Christian brother who presents himself at the tribunal of Christ, with nothing else to offer than a hidden truth.  Ill-starred will he be  who can only say, ‘I received the truth, and was immersed, and henceforth enjoyed myself in silence!’  Quietude and silence are not the prerogatives of the Saints in this present evil world.  Their duty is to ‘cry aloud and spare not; to lift up their voice like a trumpet and show the people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.’  They have nothing to do with results and consequences – let them make the truth known, and leave the rest to Him who gives the increase.  Every one can do something for the extension of the truth; if it be only trying to extend it among his acquaintance, and as an element of ‘the Bride,’ through whom the Spirit operates, ‘say Come.’


“The Bride is the community of the Saints, a community anointed with, and the pillar and support of, the truth.  ‘The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!’  Is this done without means?  Is it done by complacent quietude and silence?  By each individual of the community exhausting his energies upon the secular affairs of life?  Surely, if there is one thing more than another we have to guard against in this age, it is against being docketed as slothful, unprofitable, parsimonious do-nothings – lavish of time, labour and riches in the service of the flesh; but covetous of all in the extension of the truth. It is the duty of the Bride to sustain the truth by the press and oral proclamation, individually and collectively.  Let her voice be heard in reverberating echoes amid the hills and mountains of the world till the isles break forth in song, and forests clap their hands.  True this consummation will not obtain till the Grand Master be apocalypsed; nevertheless, when He comes, let Him find us so doing ….  In our experience of men and things, we have found, for the most part, that they make the most outcry about ‘hard’ and ‘uncharitable writings’ who have the most sympathy with error, or are least enlightened in the truth.  Their faith and comprehension of the truth are so faint and feeble that they cannot discern the braod distinctive line of demarcation, or great gulf, rather, that divides Immanuel’s ground from Satan’s.  When error is wounded they wince, and become hysterical at the sight of blood.  We have not found such equally sensitive at the throes and agonisings of the truth; and as far as their efforts are concerned, it might be consumed of its own anguish, so that their quietude and silence were not disturbed.  But what do such outcries effect in this world?  What mark do they leaven upon their generation for good?  Compare the results of our hard uncharitable course, with their soft and oily display.  ‘By the fruit the tree is known.’  Many are now rejoicing in this truth by our means; but who ever hears of them or theirs?  They are too soft and unctuous to hew the men of this perverse and wicked generation into a living image of the truth.  The ‘style’ of popular religious writing is too insipid – the little salt in it has too completely lost its savour – to be received without disgust.  We write with ‘the spirit of faith’ which endures no compromise with error in matter or style.  ‘I believed,’ says David, ‘and therefore have I spoken.’  ‘We also believe,’ says Paul, ‘and therefore speak.’   To which, ‘Amen’ is heartily acclaimed by this Editor.”




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