an Exposition of the
KINGDOM OF GOD
with reference to
THE TIME OF THE END
and THE AGE TO COME
By JOHN THOMAS, M.D.
“For the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”—Paul
THE RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD
THE NECESSITY OF A REVELATION
The necessity of a Revelation to make known the origin, reason, and tendency of things in relation to man and the world around him.—An intelligible mystery, and the only source of true wisdom; but practically repudiated by the Moderns—The study of the Bible urged, to facilitate and promote which is the object of this volume.
THE CREATION OF THE EARTH AND MAN
The earth before the creation of Adam the habitation of the angels who kept not their first estate—A geological error corrected—The Sabbath day and the Lord’s day—The formation of man and woman—The “great mystery” of her formation out of man explained—Eden—The Garden of Eden—The original and future paradises considered—Man’s primitive dominion confined to the inferior creatures and his own immediate family—Of the two trees of the garden—And man in his original estate.
GOD’S LAW, AND HOW SIN ENTERED INTO THE WORLD
Probation before exaltation, the law of the moral universe of God—The temptation of the Lord Jesus by Satan, the trial of his faith by the Father—The Temptation explained—God’s foreknowledge does not necessitate; nor does He justify, or condemn, by anticipation—The Serpent an intellectual animal, but not a moral agent, nor inspired—He deceives the woman—The nature of the transgression—Eve becomes the tempter to Adam—The transgression consummated in the conception of Cain—A good conscience, and an evil conscience, defined—Man cannot cover his own sin—The carnal mind illustrated by the reasoning of the Serpent—It is metaphorically the Serpent in the flesh—God’s truth the only rule of right and wrong—The Serpent in the flesh is manifested in the wickedness of individuals; and in the spiritual and temporal institutions of the world—Serpentsin in the flesh identified with “the Wicked One”—the Prince of the World—The Kingdom of Satan and the World identical—The Wiles of the Devil—The “Prince” shown to be sin, working and reigning in all sinners—How he was “cast out” by Jesus—“The works of the Devil”—“Bound of Satan”; delivering to Satan—The Great Dragon—The Devil and Satan—The Man of Sin.
THE SENTENCE OF DEATH—THE RUIN OF THE OLD WORLD AND THE PRESERVATION OF A REMNANT
The Trial of the Transgressors—Of the Literal and the Allegorical—The sentence upon the Serpent particularized—The “Peace and Safety” cry—Jesus came not to send peace, but a sword—The Peace Society the enemy of God—Cain, Abel, and Seth—Atheism defined—Cain rejected as the progenitor of the Woman’s Seed, and Seth appointed—The Antediluvian apostasy—The Cainites and Sethites distinct Societies—Their union the ruin of the old world, of which eight sons of Seth only survive—The Foundation of the World—The sentence upon Woman—Her social position defined—The sentence upon Adam—The Constitution of Sin—Of sin as a physical quality of the flesh—Of the hereditary nature of Jesus—Of “original sin”—Men, sinners in a two-fold sense—The constitution of Righteousness—Men become saints by adoption—The Three Witnesses—The “new birth” explained—The Two Principles—Of “the light within”—The scripture revelation the divine principle of illumination—The awful condition of “the church”—Of the Hidden Man of the Heart.
IMMORTALITY—RELIGION—“CLERGY” AND “LAITY”
Immortality in the present state a positive evil—Immortality in misery unscriptural—The professing world religious from fear—The world’s religions useful as a system of Ecclesiastical Police—The Religion of Christ destitute of all worldly goods till his return, when it will possess all things—The doctrine of immortality a divine revelation—The Heathens baffled in their endeavours to discover it—The Mosaic Cherubim God’s throne in Israel—The Cherubim of Ezekiel and John—The Cherubic Veil—The Faces of the Lord—The Flaming Sword—Illustrated by Ezekiel’s description of the glory of the God of Israel—The brightness of the Spiritual Body—The Way of the Tree of Life—The etymology of the word religion—False religion based upon the idea of appeasing the wrath of God—God already reconciled to the world—The “Word of Reconciliation” committed to the apostles in the beginning—The apostles the only ambassadors of Christ—“The word” preached by the apostles entrusted to the disciples of Christ—“Clergy” and “Laity” distinctions of the apostasy—Religion defined—Its grand desideratum—No true religion without belief of the truth—The word “faith” scripturally defined—How faith comes—The “religious world” infidel of “the faith”—“Love” scripturally defined by “obedience”—The religious world destitute of the Spirit of God—Religion contemporary only with sin—Summary of principles.
THE PRESENT WORLD IN RELATION TO THE WORLD TO COME
God the builder of all things—Nothing elaborated by chance, but all things the result of divine premeditation—Whatever exists He created for His own pleasure and glory—The purpose of God in the work of creation and providence, revealed in the scriptures—The present order of things merely provisional—The economy of the fulness of appointed times the true “Intermediate State” of a thousand years’ duration—The tower of Babel builders, peace-men, and socialists—The principle upon which men attain to the angelic nature and dignity defined—God’s two-fold purpose in the foundation of the world stated—The means by which it is accomplishing—Dissertation on the Elohim.
THE THINGS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM IN RELATION TO ISRAEL AND THE GENTILES
The truth indicated—None but the believers of the truth can inherit the Kingdom of God—Abraham “the Heir of the World”—To inherit with him, men must believe what he believed; and become his children by adoption through Jesus Christ—The gospel and the things of the Kingdom one and the same—It was preached to Abraham, Israel, and the Gentiles, by the Lord God, by Moses, by Jesus, and by the Apostles—Gospel things susceptible of a threefold classification—The Keys of the Kingdom—Entrusted only to Peter—The Mystery of the Kingdom—The Fellowship of the Mystery—“Apostolic Succession”—Qualifications of an apostle of Christ—Import of the phrase “the end of the world”—“The sign” of its approach—The Gospel preached to every creature by the Apostles—Modern missionaryism inadequate to the end proposed.
THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO ABRAHAM: HIS FAITH AND WORKS
Five points of prophetic testimony—The general elements of a kingdom constituents of the kingdom of Christ—The promise made of God to the fathers, the hope of Israel, and the gospel, the same—Who the fathers are—Abraham originally from Babel, and an idolater—The Lord preaches the gospel to him in Mesopotamia—He believes it, and emigrates westward in consequence—Becomes a wanderer in the land of Canaan, which is promised to him and Christ for ever—His faith counted to him for righteousness—The promise of a resurrection to eternal life—Confirmation of the covenant of promise—The extent of the land defined in the covenant—The personal reappearance of Christ necessitated by the nature of things—The phrases “in thee”, “in him”, and “in thy seed”, explained—The nations God’s people in no sense—Abraham, Christ, and the saints, “heirs of the world”—The token of the covenant—The signification of circumcision—Modern israel under the curse of the law—Circumcision of the heart—The Allegory—The two seeds—Parable of the Seed—Summary of Abraham’s faith.
THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO ISAAC AND JACOB: THE SCRIPTURE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION
The gospel preached to Isaac—The election of Jacob—The scripture doctrine of election—Not according to popular tradition—How men are elected, and how they may know it—Esau hated—Vision of Jacob’s Ladder—Jacob’s care for his body after death—Joseph’s anxiety about his bones—Jacob’s prophecy of the Last Days—Summary of “the faith” at Joseph’s death—Things established—Chronology of the age before the Law.
THE GOSPEL, IN RELATION TO THE MOSAIC ECONOMY
State of Egypt and Israel before the exodus—The time of the promises arrives—Call of Moses—God’s everlasting memorial—Moses is sent to Israel—He is accepted as a ruler and deliverer—He declares glad tidings to them; but they refuse to listen—The Exodus—Israel baptized unto Moses—The song of victory—They are fed with angel’s food—The Lord’s passover—How to be fulfilled in the kingdom of God—The Lord’s supper—The Twelve Tribes constituted the kingdom of God—The Gospel preached to Israel—They reject it—Of the Rest—The Royal House of the Kingdom—“The sure mercies of David”—The kingdom and throne of David—David’s kingdom also God’s kingdom under its first constitution.
THINGS CONCERNING THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST
Israel unable to redeem themselves; and the nations equally powerless to their own regeneration—The reconstruction of the social fabric the work of Omnipotence by the hand of the Lord Jesus at his approaching manifestation—He will re-establish the kingdom and throne of David—The priesthood of Shiloh—The Ezekiel temple to be built by Christ—Of the Name of Jesus—Of repentance, remission of sins, and eternal life—Death-bed, and gaol, repentance.
THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD IN THEIR RELATION TO THE KINGDOM OF GOD
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S IMAGE—THE HAND OF GOD IN HUMAN HISTORY
The pandemonianism of the world—The Press, its organ to a great extent—Its conductors greatly deficient in political prevision—A divine agency the real source of the world’s revolutions—God hath revealed what shall come to pass—Nebuchadnezzar’s Image explained—It represents an autocracy to be manifested in these Latter Days—The Toe-Kingdoms enumerated—The Vision of the Four Beasts—Of the Saints and the two Witnesses.
ROMAN BABYLON AND THE RESURRECTION OF THE WITNESSES
The Sin-power in its war against the seed of the woman in the West, symbolized by the Beasts and their Image—God will surely avenge His saints—The crimes for which the nations are to be judged, stated—The geography of the “Lake of Fire” where the judgment sis—The saints the executioners of the Little Horn—They are raised from political death for this purpose—Events connected with their resurrection—The three days and a half of the unburied state, explained—Their ascension—End of 1,260 years—Of the time of the Beast.
THE “VIALS OF THE WRATH OF GOD”—ARMAGEDDON
Doings of the Witnesses when invested with power—They execute justice on their enemies—A great earthquake—The seventh trumpet—Divided into seven vial-periods—The third, fourth, and fifth vials, and Napoleon—England and the second vial—Turkey and the sixth vial —All Europe and the seventh vial—The prophecy of the Frogs explained—The mission of the unclean spirits—Their operation the sign of Christ’s stealthy and sudden return—The great desideratum in view of the Advent.
THE EASTERN QUESTION BEFORE CHRIST
The vision and prophecy of the East—Of the Ram and the Unicorn—The Four Horns of the Goat—Of the Fifth, or Little, Horn—Of the Seventy Weeks—Of the 1,290 years—Summary of the eleventh of Daniel—Paraphrase of the first thirty-five verses of Dan. 11—Of the king and the strange god—Mahuzzim-Bazaars.
THE EASTERN QUESTION IN “THE TIME OF THE END”
It is impossible that the Holy Land can be for ever subject to the Gentiles—It is to be wrested from them in the crisis of “the time of the end”—Of Daniel’s 2,400 days—Of the beginning of “the time of the end”—Of the king of the south at that time—The Autocrat of Russia the king of the north in “the time of the end”—England and the Jews—Of Gogue and Magogue—Ezekiel’s and John’s two different and remote confederacies—Daniel’s king of the north of “the time of the end”, and Gogue of “the latter days”. the same—The Gogue of Ezekiel proved to be Emperor of Germany and Autocrat of all the Russias—Gomer and the French—Sheba. Dedan, the Merchants of Tarshish and its young lions, identified as the British power.
THE RESURRECTION OF ISRAEL—THE SECOND EXODUS—THE MILLENNIUM—“THE END”
The restoration of Israel indispensable to the setting up of the kingdom of God—Israel to be grafted into their own olive on a principle of faith—Not by Gentile agency, but by Jesus Christ, will God graft them in again—Britain, the protector of the Jews, as indicated by Isaiah 18.—The British power in the south, the Moab, etc., of “the latter days”—The second exodus of Israel—The nations of the Image to be subdued by Israel to the dominion of their king—The New Covenant delivered to Judah, and the kingdom of God set up in Judea—The returning of the Ten Tribes to Canaan will occupy forty years—Elijah’s Mission—Israel re-assembled in Egypt—They cross the Nile, and pass through the Red Sea, on foot—They march into Canaan, receive the New Covenant, and, re-united to Judah, form one nation and kingdom under Christ for 1,000 years—The blessedness of the nations, and their loyalty to Israel’s king—Of the end of the thousand years.
JOHN THOMAS was born in Hoxton Square, London, on April 12th, 1805. Information concerning his ancestry is meagre, and interest centres more in his work than in his extraction. He studied medicine at an early age in Chorley and London, and contributed to The Lancet occasionally as far back as 1830. His English degree, of that year’s date, is M.R.C.S., his M.D. being an American degree of date 1848. Some insinuations of unfriendly critics have been met by the brief statement of facts that appears in The Christadelphian for April, 1886, 152.
In 1832 Dr. Thomas emigrated to America, making the passage as surgeon to the ship Marquis of Wellesley. The vessel ran ashore on Sable Island, and it was supposed she would be lost with all hands. Dr. Thomas was naturally exercised as to the future state, and finding himself in a state of hopeless ignorance on the matter, resolved, if his life should be spared, that he would end the uncertainty and search out the truth upon the matter.
On getting safely ashore he did not forget this resolution; and in the course of his travels, having been introduced to Mr. Walter Scott, of “Campbellite” associations, and by him convinced of the necessity of baptism, he submitted to immersion as an ordinance appointed of God. From this time onward he became involved with Campbellism and theological expositions and discussions which were altogether distasteful to him, and from which he would fain have escaped. But it was not to be. At Wellsburg, Va., in 1833, he made the acquaintance of Alexander Campbell, and was by him constrained to speak in his meeting-place; which he did, on Daniel’s prophecies, and on the subject of The Apostasy spoken of by Paul.
From this time forth wherever he went he was in demand in this connection. At Baltimore, Md., and at Philadelphia, Pa., he was likewise constrained to set forth what he then believed to be the truth. At Philadelphia he set up as a medical practitioner; but his practice was somewhat hampered by the Biblical studies and speaking in which he had become involved.
In 1834 Dr. Thomas started a monthly magazine called The Apostolic Advocate, in the pages of which he manifested an understanding of the Scriptures, and especially of the Apocalypse, that was rare in those times (and, indeed, in any), and gave promise of the fruit of after years, of which Elpis Israel is a good sample.
About this time, by the growing influence of “the Word”, Dr. Thomas was rapidly becoming “wiser than his teachers”, and trouble ensued. He perceived that the knowledge and belief of the gospel must in God’s appointments precede baptism, and was thereupon re-immersed upon the belief of what he then supposed to be the gospel, and which was certainly much nearer to it than the very rudimentary belief with which he had been immersed a few years previously. Upon this there naturally arose a cry against what Alexander Campbell and his followers called “Anabaptism”. Mr. Campbell controverted Dr. Thomas in The Millennial Harbinger, and he replied vigorously in The Apostolic Advocate, in which, in December, 1835, he published an article in all good faith under the heading, “Information Wanted”, putting forward a series of 34 questions intended to elucidate the Scriptural doctrines of eternal life, the Kingdom of God, and related topics.
This was treated by Campbellism as heretical speculation, and a rupture followed which was never healed.
In 1839, becoming tired of theological strife, Dr. Thomas migrated westward into the State of Illinois, and settled at Longrove upon some 300 acres of land and took to farming, with experiences of an arduous and sometimes amusing character. 1841 found him editing a weekly newspaper at St. Charles, and in 1842 a monthly magazine called The Investigator.
About this time a taste of Job’s experience befell him, for, having removed to Louisville, Va., and determined to sell the farm in Illinois, he intrusted the sale to an agent who absconded with the proceeds, leaving Dr. Thomas not only minus the price but saddled with debt as well.
In 1844 he started a monthly magazine called The Herald of the Future Age, and settled at Richmond, Va., and soon after finally broke with Campbellism, the oppositions of which had done so much to force his attention to the accurate and thorough study of the Scriptures.
In 1847 he had elaborated from the Scriptures the doctrines that find such lucid and ample exhibition in Elpis Israel; and, perceiving that he had after all only just arrived at “the truth of the gospel”, he published in March, 1847, “A Confession and Abjuration” of past erroneous belief and contentions, and was re-immersed for “the hope of Israel”, which Paul preached to the Jews at Rome. About this time also he paid a visit to New York, where afterwards he was to settle. Also about this time he proposed to Alexander Campbell a full and exhaustive written discussion upon the immortality of the soul and related topics. The proposal, however, met with so contemptuous a refusal that several of Mr. Campbell’s friends were alienated by his manner.
An interesting episode occurred also about this time, namely, the phrenological examination of both Alexander Campbell and John Thomas by Mr. L. N. Fowler, of New York. It was a quite independent examination and interestingly illustrated the natural tendencies of the disputants, and is strikingly borne out by the portraits of each.
In 1848 Dr. Thomas visited Britain. He was deeply stirred by the revolutionary upheavals of the time, and before Iris departure wrote on the subject to the New York Star, which, in publishing his letter, spoke of him as “A Missionary for Europe”, which indeed he was, but of an unusual type. Arriving at Liverpool in June, 1848, he made his way South: and by a series of providences a door of utterance was opened for him by the interactions of Campbellite rivalries. He travelled through Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham, Plymouth, Lincoln, Newark, and other places, speaking upon the gospel of the Kingdom of God as occasion offered. Afterwards he made his way to Glasgow, and lectured there, and at Paisley, attracting much attention by his expositions of the prophetic word in its bearings upon the signs of the times.
Elpis Israel itself came out of this visit, as is explained by Dr. Thomas himself in the subjoined PREFACE.
Returning to London, he occupied some months in writing Elpis Israel, and during the time attended a Peace meeting in the British Institution, Cowper Street, at which he moved an amendment to the effect that war was a divine institution in this age of sin and death, and that the coming years were by the prophetic word defined to be “a time of war”, and not “a time of peace”. The amendment was derisively rejected; but the past hundred years have only too sadly well attested the soundness of Dr. Thomas’ views.
Having completed Elpis Israel, Dr. Thomas made a second journey through England and Scotland, among other things contributing a pamphlet to “the Gorham controversy”, under the title Clerical Theology Unscriptural, now out of print; and, in a breezy dialogue between “Boanerges” and “Heresian”, exhibits the Bible truth concerning “original sin”, “remission of sins”, etc., as graphically set forth in other style in Elpis Israel.
After over two years’ absence from America, Dr. Thomas returned, and resumed the publication of The Herald of the Kingdom, which he continued for eleven years, until the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1860–61 brought about its suspension.
In 1862 Dr. Thomas revisited Britain and found that, notwithstanding the fact that Elpis Israel had in many cases been burnt in disgust upon its receipt by subscribers, some small communities of believers of the gospel had arisen. For the edification of these, he travelled and lectured through the country once more, returning to America shortly afterwards.
His next, and greatest and last work, was Eureka, an exposition of the Apocalypse, in three volumes (over 2,000 pages), published by subscription, of which the first volume was published in 1862, and the third in 1868. It is a work which none of “the servants of God” should fail to possess.
In 1864, as The Herald of the Kingdom had been suspended, and Dr. Thomas was engaged upon Eureka, at his suggestion The Ambassador of the Coming Age was started under the editorship of the late Robert Roberts, of Birmingham, England, who continued it (as The Christadelphian) to the day of his death in September, 1898.
The progress of the American Civil War bore hardly upon the brethren of Christ, who were found in both the opposing camps, and who abhorred the taking of the sword as a thing forbidden by their Lord and Master, whose dictum is, “All they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword”. In their extremity they desired Dr. Thomas to formulate some appeal to the authorities for exemption from military service on account of their conscientious objections, and subject to such conditions as might be thought fit to be imposed. To save his friends from being called Thomasites, it was necessary to adopt some distinctive name. The name Christian, as Dr. Thomas pointed out, had been appropriated by every Anti-Christian thing under the sun, and was no longer distinctive as it was in the first century. So Dr. Thomas hit upon the name CHRISTADELPHIAN, which, after many years’ “earnest contention for the faith”, conquered for itself a recognition in the allotment of about three inches of space in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, after this manner:—
“CHRISTADELPHIANS (Χριστου̂ ἀδελφοί), a community founded by John Thomas (1848), who studied medicine in London and then migrated to America. There he first joined the ‘Campbellites’, but afterwards struck out independently, preaching largely on the application of Hebrew prophecy and of the language of the Apocalypse to current and future political events. In America and in Great Britain he gathered a number of adherents, and formed a community which is said to have extended to most English speaking countries. It consists of exclusive ‘Ecclesias’, with neither ministry nor organization. The members meet on Sundays to ‘break bread’ and discuss the Bible. Their theology is strongly Millenarian, centring in the hope of a world-wide theocracy, with its seat at Jerusalem. They believe that theY alone have the true exegesis of Scripture, and that the ‘faith of Christendom’ is ‘compounded of the fables predicted by Paul’. No statistics are published.”
In 1869, after the completion of Eureka, Dr. Thomas visited Britain for the last time. He found that the truth had taken root through his labours, and decided to transfer his residence to England for the rest of his days. But it was not to be. Upon his advice the name of The Ambassador was changed to The Christadelphian, which it still bears. After travelling and lecturing among the people created by “the truth” illustrated by his writings, Dr. Thomas returned to New York, but was soon afterwards attacked by illness, and died March 5th, 1871. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, where, by a remarkable coincidence, the late Robert Roberts, who for many years continued his work, was laid beside him in September, 1898.
Of the correctness of Dr. Thomas’ political anticipations from the prophets, the following is offered as proof, in addition to what may be found in the text and footnotes of this edition of Elpis Israel. The subjoined extract is from Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work, a biography by the late Robert Roberts, with copious extracts from Dr. Thomas’ letters and articles.
“Dr. Thomas’ political prognostications, based on prophecy, have been too signally realized to admit of the supposition that he was radically mistaken in his chronological scheme. He predicted the failure of the Hungarian revolt (Herald of the Kingdom, vol. i., p. 98); the uprise of Napoleon III, without mentioning his name (Herald of the Future Age, vol. iv., p. 48); the political and war-developing ascendancy of France under him for a series of years (Herald of the Kingdom, vol. ii., p. 37; vol. iii., p. 16); his interference in the affairs of Italy (Herald of the Future Age, vol. iii., p. 262); his expulsion of the Austrians from that country (vol. v., p. 205); the war between Austria and Italy, resulting in Austria losing her hold on Italy (vol. iii., p. 262); the dismemberment of the Austrian Empire by France (ibid., p. 263); the downfall of the French Empire (Herald of the Kingdom, vol. iii., p. 17); the co-existence of the Pope and King of Italy in Rome (Herald of the Future Age, vol. iii., p. 238) and a number of other things, such as the efforts of Egypt for independence, the attempt of Russia on Turkey in 1854, etc., etc.”—Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work, 316.
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(Condensed from the four Prefaces appearing in the Fourth Edition, and covering a period of eighteen years, 1848–1866)
The year 1848 has been well and truly styled the “Annus Mirabilis”, or Wonderful Year. So, indeed, it proved itself in Europe; for though this division of the globe was overspread with numerous large, well-appointed, and highly-disciplined armies, maintained to uphold what remained of the work of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and to prevent the rising of the people against their destroyers, yet did the wild and ill-armed Democracy of Europe break their bonds asunder as a rotten thread, and shake its kingdoms to their foundations.
Great excitement was produced in the United States by the news of what was going on in Europe. Many who had for years before been predicting “the end of all things” were now persuaded that it had come at last. Others came to a different conclusion, and rejoiced in the supposition that the kingdoms of the world were about to become republics, after the model of the United States. Both these imaginations, however, serve to show how little the “sure word of prophecy” was understood or heeded by the people. The author endeavoured, as far as he could obtain the ears of the public, to disabuse it of these vain conceits. He opposed to them “the testimony of God”, which testifies the continuance of “the times of the Gentiles” until Nebuchadnezzar’s Image be broken to pieces upon the mountains of Israel; and the perpetuity of the kingdoms until after this event, when Christ shall encounter their kings in battle, and annex their realms to his kingdom by conquest; for, by his kingdom, and not by popular violence, will he break in pieces and consume them all. But the author was as one that spoke parables in the ears of the deaf. Time, however, has verified his interpretation in part. Though terribly shaken, the kingdoms still exist, and republics are at a discount; and the “Order”, in which God’s enemies rejoice, has been provisionally re-established.
The events in 1848 caused many in the United States to revisit their native lands. Among these was the author of this volume. Believing he could irradiate the light of the prophetic word upon the political tragedies of the time, and, by so doing, be of use to those who desire to know the truth, he determined to intermit his labours in America, where he had been operating for about sixteen years in the same vocation, and to see if “a door of utterance” might not be opened in England for the same purpose. He was the more induced to take this step by a desire to be nearer the scene of action, that he might avail himself of the more frequent and copious details furnished by the British than the American Press, to the end that he might as speedily as possible obtain a comprehensive view of the crisis; which is the most important that has yet happened to the world, because it is pregnant of consequences for good and evil, which will leave their mark upon society for a thousand years.
Having made his arrangements accordingly, he arrived in London, June 28th, 1848; and in July following he received an invitation to visit Nottingham, and to deliver a course of lectures upon the times, in connection with the prophetic word. The interest created during his short stay was great and encouraging, and became the occasion of invitation to visit other towns and cities also. During this tour he visited Derby, Belper, Lincoln, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Paisley, and addressed thousands of the people, who heard him gladly. Those who opened the way for him were neither the rich nor the noble, but intelligent men of industrious and steady habits, who desired to know and disseminate the truth according to their means. As the author’s labours were gratuitous, they were the better able to afford him facilities; and he would add here the testimony of his experience, that not only is the gospel, when preached, “preached to the poor”, and received by them, but it is the poor also who devote themselves to its proclamation, and who do most for its support. If it had not been for the poor and humble during the last 1,849 years, the gospel whould have perished from the earth; for the rich have not been the persons to leave the comforts of their homes, and to go forth, without fee or reward, to enlighten their fellow men, for the truth’s sake.
It is a gratification to the author to be able to say that he has left his home, 4,000 miles in the south-west; that he has travelled twice through Britain; delivered 170 addresses to the people; sat up early and late conversing with them on the things of the kingdom, and written this work, that he may leave a testimony behind him, and as yet has received no more than four shillings over his travelling expenses. He mentions this that the reader may be able to acquit him of being a trader in religion; and that what he says in this book concerning “spiritual merchants” may not lose its point, under the supposition that he is also one of the wealthy and thriving firm. Rich men have not yet learned to “make themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when they fail, they may receive them into everlasting habitations”. All the opposition the author has had to contend against since his arrival in Britain has proceeded from them: but he is gratified in being able to state, that they have failed to obstruct him, and their waywardness has recoiled on their own pates.
The interest created in the thousands who listened to the author’s discourses has originated the work now offered to the world. A request was publicly made to him in Edinburgh and Glasgow, that what had been spoken should be printed; and that, as it was not to be expected that he should publish at a mere venture, committees would be formed to promote a subscription. Although the author had concluded to return to America in October or November, he could not find it in his heart to leave his work unfinished, seeing that such a volume was now desired. Trusting, therefore, to the good faith of those who had become interested in the truth, he acceded to their request, and on his return to London entered upon the labour, which has proved sufficiently laborious by the close application required to do much in a limited time.
Having at length finished the manuscript, the author made a second tour in June, 1849. In addition to the former places, he visited Birmingham, Newark, Dundee, Aberdeen and Liverpool. The result of his labours was a list of upwards of a thousand subscribers, which encouraged him to go to press on his return to London in September. But on revising the manuscript, he found some things omitted, others touched too lightly, and other parts too diffuse; so that, upon the whole, he condemned it as unsuitable, and imposed upon himself the task of writing it over again—which, after four months he has accomplished, and now offers it to the public for its “edification, exhortation, and comfort.”
The nature of the work is indicated on the title-page. It is a work showing what the Bible teaches as a whole, and not the elaboration of a new or fantastical theological theory, or the new vamping of an old one. It demonstrates the great subject of the Scriptures, namely: “the Kingdom of God and of His Anointed”, without which they would be as a nut whose kernel had perished. It is a book for all classes, lay and clerical, without respect of persons, for all are concluded under sin, being all ignorant of “the gospel of the kingdom”. Judging from the lucubrations of public writers of the ministerial class, the nature of the times demands something out of the ordinary periodical and public routine to awake “the churches” to spiritual life, lest they sleep the sleep of death. They are truly in a Laodicean state, and already spued out of the mouth of the Lord. They say they are “rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing”; but some of their doctors have discernment enough to see that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”. But, alas for them, they know not how to remedy the evil! They do not perceive that the fault is in their systems, which have made them what they are, and which they are pledged to support on pain of “suffering the loss of all things.”
The great desideratum of the crisis is the Gospel of the Kingdom. The State-clergy and the Dissenting-ministry are ignorant of the Gospel; and “like priest like people”. “The churches” are full of darkness, for the Gospel doth not shine into them being neither believed nor preached among them. Here, then, is a book peculiarly adapted to the times. It will show the people what the gospel is—what is the obedience it requires—and enable them to discern the times; that the Lord may not come upon them at unawares, and take them unprepared. It is a book, not for these times only, but for all the years preceding “the time of the end”, and thence to the epoch of the restoration of the kingdom and throne of David. It is named ELPIS ISRAEL, or Israel’s Hope: for the kingdom of which it treats is that which is longed for by all intelligent Israelites, and for which, said Paul, “I am bound with this chain.”
Elpis Israel’s subject-matter is national, not sectarian. It treats of a nation, and of its civil and ecclesiastical institutions in a past and future age. It is designed to enlighten both Jews and Gentiles in Israel’s Hope, that by conforming to the proclamation of their King, they may be prepared for the administration of its affairs in concert with him, when all nations shall be as politically subject to his dominion, as Hindostan and Britain are to Queen Victoria’s. It is designed to show men how they may attain to eternal life in this theocracy, and obtain a crown which shall never fade away. To accomplish this, the reader must, in justice to himself and the truth, study it with the Bible at his right hand, for he will find but few pages in which frequent reference is not made to its authority, and without which nothing can or ought to be determined.
A copy of this work has been ordered for presentation to the Autocrat of All the Russias. He will find in it much concerning his dominions. The high priest of the Jews showed Alexander the Great the prophecy in Daniel concerning himself; and although it spoke of his power being broken, the knowledge of it did not deter him from endeavouring to found a universal dominion. So it will be with the Autocrat. He will, doubtless, receive all that speaks of the extension of his empire over Europe and Turkey, because his ambition will be flattered by it; but being impressed with the idea of his being God’s Vicegerent upon earth, he will probably disregard what relates to the breaking of his power on the Mountains of Israel by the Lord from heaven; arguing, as a natural man, that it is not likely that God will destroy His Grand Vizier among the nations. But whatever the Autocrat may think of the destiny marked out for him, the reader’s attention is particularly invited to what is said respecting it in this volume. The future movements of Russia are notable signs of the times, because they are predicted in the Scriptures of truth. The Russian Autocracy in its plenitude, and on the verge of dissolution, is the Image of Nebuchadnezzar standing upon the Mountains of Israel, ready to be smitten by the Stone. When Russia makes its grand move for the building-up of its Image-empire then let the reader know that the end of all things, as at present constituted, is at hand. The long-expected, but stealthy, advent of the King of Israel will be on the eve of becoming a fact; and salvation will be to those who not only looked for it, but have trimmed their lamps by believing the gospel of the kingdom unto the obedience of faith, and the perfection thereof in “fruits meet for repentance”.
As to the reviewers, the author presents his compliments to them, and respectfully invites them to examine this work impartially. While he has no wish to propitiate them, it would afford him great pleasure to turn them to what he believes to be “the truth as it is in Jesus”, as opposed to the dogmas of their creeds. It is not to be expected that they can approve the work, seeing-that, if the things exhibited be received, Sectarianism is dethroned, at least in the hearts of those who receive the principles inculcated. By Sectarianism the author means everything professedly Christian, not according to “the law and the testimony”. He therefore uses the word as representative of all state religions, as well as of the forms opposed to them. Being the echo of no living sect, but the advocate only of what is written in the oracles of God, of the faith and practice of that “sect” which in Paul’s time “was everywhere spoken against” he has shown no favour to the Heresies (αἱορέσεις) which destroy it, and therefore he expects none. The perils to which he is exposed are only to be despised by those whose houses are founded upon the rock. The author is free to admit his weakness and inferiority in every respect that can be imagined. In one thing, however, he feels strong, and armed at all points for a conflict with the giants—he knows what is written in “the law and the testimony”, and lie understands the meaning of it. If they undertake to review this work, they must put it through the evolutions of the Spirit; and if they enter into combat with it, he would advise them to throw away their wooden swords, and encounter it with “the two-edged sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”: for no other weapon can do more than raise the Author’s mirth.
But perhaps prudence, which is sometimes the better part of valour, may dictate the expediency of saying nothing about it. This might be very good policy if Elpis Israel were born from the press only to gasp and die. But editors must remember that, before a single copy reaches them, it will be in the hands of upwards of a thousand people. This is a fact not to be despised. Such a number of intelligent persons is calculated to make a troublesome impression upon the public mind; and if the press do not check it, there is no telling whereunto the evil may grow! Let “the Ministry” be up and doing. It is not the “infidel” their influence hath to fear; but the Word of the Living God understood by the people. The author has some of them among his subscribers. He trusts that for their own sakes they will read this work with candour, impartiality, and tranquillity of mind. As individuals, he has no controversy with them. His opposition is to their systems, which he trusts they will abandon for the gospel of the kingdom. If Elpis Israel convinces them of error, then, like the apostle, may they esteem their worldly honours and profits as mere dross for the excellency of the truth. Let them leave the fat things of the apostasy to those who “mind earthly things”; and let them put on the whole armour of God, and go forth among the people with the two-edged sword of the Spirit, and do battle for the truth.
In conclusion, then, the author respectfully hands over to the subscribers this work, as an ample fulfilment of his part of the covenant between them. They can now form their own judgment of its merits or defects, according to the evidence a candid perusal may afford. And, may God Almighty bless their honest endeavours to know and understand His truth, which is intrinsically invincible, and needs only to come in contact with “good and honest hearts”, to become triumphantly defiant of all the wiles and “power of the enemy”. May the spirit of the truth enter into them, and lead them into its liberty and fraternity; that at the coining of the Son of Man in celestial majesty and power, they may share with him in his joy, and inherit the kingdom of God with eternal glory.
London, January 1, 1850.
In the Preface to the first edition I stated that “a copy of this work had been ordered for presentation to the Autocrat of all the Russias”. This was the fact. It was ordered by a friend in Dundee, in Scotland, whence a great trade is carried on with the Emperor’s dominions. Now, what I have to add, is rendered necessary, that the reader may not be misled. He will probably have concluded that the Autocrat is in possession of Elpis Israel, and acquainted with its contents. This however is not the case, as far as I am at present informed. My friend in Dundee did his best to get the work transmitted. He applied to several captains of vessels trading to St. Petersburg, but they all declined to take it, lest it might bring them into trouble there.
[Then Dr. Thomas tried Baron Brunnow, the Russian Ambassador. He retained the book sixteen days, and then returned it, with a polite letter in French explaining that “the rules of the service” forbade its transmission. The rest of this preface contains Dr. Thomas’ letters to Baron Brunnow and Czar Nicholas. It is dated Richmond, Va., June, 1851.]
Nearly ten years have elapsed since this work was originally published in London, England. A year after, an edition was published in New York, the two editions collectively consisting of two thousand three hundred copies. These have all been disposed of, so that for the past three years the author has been unable to supply a considerable additional demand for the work. He has been urged by many who have read the book to publish a new edition.… A friend writes: “Apart from all other considerations than the real merit of the book, you have nothing to fear as to its success. I would recommend you to give at once a public announcement of your intention to issue a new edition, and invite orders; you may find a larger edition wanted than you anticipate.” Encouraged, therefore, by many similar assurances from others, I have published this third edition of Elpis Israel.
When the work was written, the times were of a highly exciting and stirring character. Nor have they materially changed to the present hour. During the past ten years a succession of events has demonstrated that a fixed and predetermined purpose is in process of development, unknown, indeed, to “the Powers that be”, but known of God, revealed in His word, and guided by His hand. That purpose is the gathering together of the hosts of the nations against Jerusalem to war; that the Eternal Spirit, by Jesus, the King of kings, may smite them upon the mountains of Israel; and in concert with resurrected and living saints, at the head of the armies of Israel, re-establish the throne and kingdom of David and subjugate all other kingdoms to this New Power in the earth. If the reader desire to assure himself of the verity of this purpose, he may consult the following testimonies: Isaiah 14:24–27; 27:1–6; Joel 3:1, 2, 9–17; Micah 5:1–6; Zechariah 12:1–9; 14:1–11; Daniel 11:40–45; 12:1, 2; Revelation 19:11–16; 17:14; 11:15–17; 5:9, 10; 2:26, 27; Acts 15:16; Amos 9:11–15; Isaiah 9:6, 7; Luke 1:31–33—and so forth. The past history of Israel, of Jesus and the Saints, and of the world at large, all prove that this purpose has never yet been fulfilled; so that the reader has no alternative but to believe the purpose, or reject the truth of the Bible, and write himself an infidel. There is no neutral ground. Every man in “Christendom”, falsely so-called, is on the side of the purpose or against it. Jesus and his apostles preached that “Salvation is of the Jews”—a salvation dependent upon the development of the purpose defined. Hence, “when ye see certain things coming to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”—a saying which intimates that the approach of redemption, whatever it may consist in, may be known by a current fulfilment of predicted things, shortly preceding its manifestation.
We may remark here, that on p. 139, second paragraph, we are supposed to say, that “the work of the law was written upon the hearts” of Gentiles who had heard nothing of it. This was not our meaning. We there endeavour to account for the moral difference between the mere savage and the peoples of the four empires; that the little light they had came from the law through their intercourse with Israel; it came “from without”: but where there was no intercourse with this peculiar people, the darkness was total; and there was no accusing or excusing, no conscience; but a blind, impulsive instinct, unsentimental as that of the beasts that perish. We agree entirely with our intelligent friend whose letter has been already quoted from at the beginning, that “Paul, in Romans 2:15, is labouring to check the presumption of the Jews who were claiming pre-eminence in the congregation at Rome, because of their superior knowledge of the law of Moses, by showing their pretensions vain because they had not kept the law; whereas the Gentiles in the Church, who never were under the law of Moses, showed that the work of the law was written in their hearts by the word of the truth of the gospel by faith, and therefore they kept the righteousness of the law; and by so doing they proved that they were the true circumcision, all of which is clearly and beautifully argued out to the close of the chapter.”
MOTT HAVEN, WESTCHESTER, N.Y., May 6, 1859.
Seven years have elapsed since the issue of the third edition of this work. For a considerable time there have been no copies of it for sale, being, as the phrase is, “out of print”. A fourth edition has been called for both in Britain and America. To this call the author has reluctantly responded; not that he did not think it desirable; but because of the additional labour it would append to that already on hand in the preparation of the manuscript of the third volume of the Exposition of the Apocalypse, styled EUREKA. The earnest request, however, of many acquainted with Elpis Israel; and the commencement of a subscription in Britain and the States to induce compliance, at length overcame this reluctance. For the first time since correcting the proof of the first edition in 1849, he has read the work again. He knew what ought to be there; but memory after seventeen years did not serve him with the assurance that he would so find it. It was reasonable to suppose that a longer and maturer study of “The Word” might render him dissatisfied with much originally written; and that he would have to strike out many pages that could not now be endorsed.
But on reviewing the original, the author was agreeably surprised on finding he had so few corrections to make. He has made about half-a-dozen in the first part; and less than that number in the second. In the third part he found it necessary to make the most. If he were to re-write the book, he might go more into detail upon some points; while other parts, perhaps, he might retrench; but upon the whole, considering that it is designed for an elementary work, he does not know that it would thereby be much improved. The emendations made will place this revise in accord with the author’s latest work; so that he considers this revised edition is the best.
The most important correction has been that emendatory of allusions to the resurrection. The understanding of this “element of the beginning of the oracles of the Deity”—στοιχει̂α τῃ̂ς ἀρξῃ̂ τω̂ν λογίον τοΰ Θ ου̂—Heb. 5:12; 6:2—has been enlarged in the author’s mind since 1849. The question was not then the resurrection in its detail; but the necessity of resurrection and judgment at all in view of the immortality of the soul and its instantaneous translation to heaven or hell at the death of the body. Such a dogma as this is a logical denial of both resurrection and judgment. It makes them both superfluous, and absolutely unnecessary. It was, therefore, met at that time by a testimony, pure and simple, for resurrection of the body, as indispensable to the incorruptibility and immortality of the dead. But the times are now changed. The Laodiceanism of the Clerical Apostasy has been fully exposed and refuted; and the resurrection and judgment are just at hand. The time had therefore overtaken us in which the author found it necessary, in Eureka, to expound more in detail so important a consequence of the speedy and thief-like advent of Christ. Some, who have no objection to resurrection in general, are very much dissatisfied with it in its particulars. The resurrection ordained of the Deity does not suit them; and, therefore, they loudly disapprove it! They contend,
1. That the judgment of the righteous, in which they are giving account of themselves to God, is in the present life, after which they will have no account to give.
2. That resurrection of an imperfect body is not taught directly or indirectly in the word.
3. That the righteous are not brought to judgment.
4. That the Scriptures teach positively and without reservation, that the righteous are raised incorruptible.
With such theorists it is judgment first, and resurrection afterwards! This is an inversion of the divine order, by which the whole subject is confused. The author believes that the divine order is the best; and he believes, too, that the righteous are raised incorruptible; but also, that the raising is not one instantaneous event like the lightning’s flash, but an order of development, initiated in the dust, and ultimating after judgment in incorruptibility and deathlessness of body.
[The rest of this Preface has to do with the progress of the world to date, namely, to December, 1866].
The Publisher has not hesitated to make such emendations as he believes the Author will approve on his reappearance in the land of the living.
These emendations and changes are, however, very slight, and are here mentioned only for the information of the community that so justly values Elpis Israel and its Author; and also “to cut off occasion” from some who would not be slow to accuse the publisher of “tampering” with the work of the deceased.
The changes made, in the main range themselves round two or three heads as follows:—Improved translations; improved expositions due to increased knowledge; expunged errors; notes on the Author’s wonderful political prevision.
With regard to TRANSLATIONS, it must be admitted that Dr. Thomas sometimes altered “the Authorized Version”, as it is called, without improving matters, illustrating somewhat the remark of Mr. Fowler, the phrenologist; who said that he would sometimes “use rather extravagant language” in his expositions. The present edition of Elpis Israel restores the A.V. rendering of 2 Tim. 3:16 (p. 5 and elsewhere). “All Scripture is given by inspiration.” The R.V. rendering will not be defended by those who know the truth of the matter. On p. 9, “word” has been substituted for “will and testament”, as defining the Lord’s purpose, the reason for which appears in another note. On p. 65, the A.V. translation of Rom. 13:1–5 has been restored. On p. 69, the Hebrew idiom should not be lifted into the English. The footnote illustrates the matter. Some mistaken expositions have arisen out of this; hence it is here mentioned. On pages 132–3 “justification” has been restored, and “pardon” deleted; also “in” has been restored, and “by” deleted in the expressions “in the name of Jesus”, etc. On p. 181, the usage of Elohim in the singular is referred to in the footnote, and the suggestion that it should be rendered “gods” throughout Genesis is deleted. Other changes in translation are very few and are too unimportant to mention. The publisher is indebted to an esteemed fellow-labourer for valued help in the revisions here noted.
With regard to IMPROVED EXPOSITIONS due to increased knowledge the following notes may suffice. In the section on “The Sabbath”, the author speaks of “the first day of the week” as “the Lord’s day”. But it is never so styled in the scriptures, and the author in Eureka, Vol. I, p. 159 (a later writing), himself more forcibly draws the true distinction between “Sunday” and “the Lord’s day”. The latter phrase has therefore been deleted from this edition of Elpis Israel.
On p. 50, the reference to the nature of the resurrection-body on its emergence from the grave is corrected, in harmony with the author’s preface to the fourth edition, and Anastasis, a later work on Resurrection and Judgment.
On p. 167, the publisher has ventured to suggest in a footnote that the scriptures do here and there suggest reasons for the expression of God’s will in His appointed “principles of religion”. He believes that his impressions on this matter are derived from Dr. Thomas’ other expositions.
On p. 234, the author speaks of the Lord’s “covenant with Abraham”; and a footnote gives the publisher’s reasons for retaining this scriptural term and rejecting “will” and “testament” in the argument following. For the expression “substitutional testator” (239), the publisher has substituted the term “Mediator”, which is the true equivalent of the inspired original. Those who choose to compare closely the old and new editions of Elpis Israel in these pages, will see that the author’s argument gains in lucidity and force by the change.
On pages 357, 358, paragraphs indicated which were either lacking in clearness, or rendered erroneous by lapse of time, have been re-written on the basis of later expositions by the author.
There are very few EXPUNGED ERRORS. Among these is the erroneous paraphrase of Christ’s reply to the thief on the cross (omitted in this edition from the exposition on p. 60), and mentioned here only because it has, unfortunately, gained considerable currency.
On p. 294, the erroneous supposition that Ex. 17 and Num. 20 refer to one and the same incident (the smiting of the rook by Noses), is corrected by a slight change in the wording. The first incident was before the giving of the law, in Horeb, and the smiting was in obedience to a command of God. The second incident was nearly forty years later, at Kadesh, about 150 miles north of Horeb, and smiting was not commanded—only speaking to the rock.
From pages 361, 414 and 416, some erroneous anticipations that the efflux of time has manifested concerning the end of the age, have been omitted as a matter of course.
A more agreeable class of notes is that referring to the author’s wonderful POLITICAL PREVISION on the basis of the prophecies. A mere reference to some of the footnotes in this edition will suffice for illustration. See pages 115, 333, 374, 376, 382, 383, etc. Also the paragraph at the end of the preceding “Biographical Notes.”
C. C. Walker, Birmingham, July, 1924.
The present edition (reset) is a reprint of that of 1924, with minor verbal revisions.
THE RUDIMENTS OF THE WORLD
THE NECESSITY OF A REVELATION.
The necessity of a Revelation to make known the origin, reason, and tendency of things in relation to man and the world around him—An intelligible Mystery, and the only source of true wisdom; but practically repudiated by the Moderns—The study of the Bible urged, to facilitate and promote which is the object of this volume.
Revolving upon its own axis, and describing an ample circuit through the boundless fields of space, is a planet of the solar system bearing upon its surface a population of over a thousand millions subject to sin, disease, and death. This orb of the starry heavens shines with a glory similar to that of its kindred spheres. Viewed from them, it is seen sparkling “like a diamond in the sky”; and with the rest of the heavens, declares the glory of God, and shows forth the handiwork of Him that did create it.
This celestial orb, which is a world or system of itself, is styled THE EARTH. It is the habitation of races of animals which graze its fields, lurk in its forests, soar through its atmosphere, and pass through the paths of its seas. At the head of all these is a creature like themselves, animal, sensual and mortal. He is called Man. He has replenished the earth and subdued it, and filled it with his renown. His crimes, however, rather than his virtues, have illustrated and distinguished him with an unhappy pre-eminence above all other created things. His heart is evil; and, left to its uncontrolled impulses, he becomes licentious, merciless, and more cruel than the fiercest beast of prey.
Such is the being that claims the independent sovereignty of the globe. He has founded dominions, principalities, and powers; he has built great cities, and vaunted himself in the works of his hands, saying, “Are not these by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” He repudiates all lordship over him, and claims the inalienable and inherent right of self-government, and of establishing whatever civil and ecclesiastical institutions are best suited to his sensuality and caprice. Hence, at successive periods, the earth has become the arena of fierce and pandemoniac conflicts; its tragedies have baptized its soil in blood, and the mingled cries of the oppressor and the victim have ascended to the throne of the Most High.
Skilled in the wisdom which comes from beneath, he is by nature ignorant of that which is “first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy”. This is a disposition to which the animal man under the guidance of his fleshly mind has no affinity. His propensity is to obey the lust of his nature; and to do its evil works, “which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, sects, envying, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like”. All these make up the character of the world, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life”, upon which is enstamped the seal of God’s eternal reprobation. “They who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” but “they shall die”.
Such is the world of human kind! The great and impious enemy of God upon the earth. Its mind is not subject to His law, neither indeed can it be. What shall we say to these things? Is the world as we behold it a finality? Are generations of men, rebellious against God, and destroyers of the earth, to occupy it successively through an endless series of ages? Are men to repeat the history of the past for ever? Is the earth always to be cursed, and sin and death to reign victorious? Who can answer these inquiries? If we survey the starry canopy, thence no sign or voice is given expressive of the truth. They declare the eternal power and divinity of their Creator, but they speak not of the destiny of the earth or of man upon it. If we question the mountains and hills, the plains and valleys, the rivers, seas, and oceans of the earth, and demand their origin, why they were produced, to what end they were created; their rocks, their strata, their fossils, or deposits, afford us no response. Turn we to man and ask him, “Whence comest thou, and what is thy destiny? Whence all tile evil of thy nature, why art thou mortal, who made thee, who involved thee in the wide-spread ruin and calamity on every side?”
Ask an infant of days the history of the past, and he can as well detail it, as man can answer these inquiries without a revelation from Him who is before all, and to whom is known from the beginning all He intends shall come to pass. So true is it, that, unaided by light from heaven, “since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what is prepared for him that waiteth for him”; but, adds the apostle in his comment upon these words of the prophet, “God hath revealed these things unto us by his spirit … which things we (apostles) speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the holy spirit teacheth; interpreting spiritual things in spiritual words.”
To the Bible, then, all must come at last if they would be truly wise in spiritual things. This is a great truth which few of the sons of men have learned to appreciate according to its importance. A man may be a theologian profoundly skilled in all questions of “divinity”; he may be well versed in the mythology of the heathen world; be able to speak all languages of the nations; compute the distances of orb from orb, and weigh them in the scales of rigid calculation; he may know all science and be able to solve all mysteries,—but if, with all this, he be ignorant of “the things of the spirit”; if he know not the true meaning of the Bible; he seemeth only to be wise, while he is, in fact, a fool. Therefore, the apostle saith, “let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, the Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men”. If our contemporaries could only attain to the adoption of this great precept, “let no man glory in men”, they would have overleaped a barrier which as a fatal obstacle prevents myriads from understanding and obeying the truth.
But while God lightly esteems the wisdom of the reputed wise, there is a wisdom which He invites all men to embrace. This is styled “the wisdom of God in a mystery”; it is also termed “the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world which none of the princes of this world knew”. It is said to be hidden in a mystery, because until the apostolic age, it was not clearly made known. This will appear from the following texts: “Now to him that is of power to establish you according to the revelation of THE MYSTERY, which was kept secret (χρόνοις αἰωνίοις) in the times of the ages, but now (in the time, or age, of the apostles) is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” “By revelation God made known unto me, Paul, THE MYSTERY, which in other ages (former ages under the law of Moses) was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.”
Here is “the knowledge of God”, in which are contained “exceeding great and precious promises”, the understanding of which is able to make a man wise, and “a partaker of the divine nature”. Now, although these hidden things have been clearly made known, they still continued to be styled the mystery; not because of their unintelligibility, but became they were once secret. Hence, the things preached unto the Gentiles, and by them believed, are styled by Paul, “the mystery of the faith”, and “the mystery of godliness”, some of the items of which he enumerates; such as, “God manifest in the flesh, justified by the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory”. Thus an intelligible mystery characterizes the once hidden wisdom of God, and becomes the subject matter of an enlightened faith. This, however, is not the case with regard to religious systems which are not of the truth. Unintelligible mystery is the ultima ratio for all difficulties which are insoluble by the symbols of ecclesiastical communities, whose text of universal application is, that “secret things belong to God, but the things which are revealed, to us and to our children”. This is true; but, then, these things which were secret in the days of Moses, have been revealed by God to the apostles and prophets for our information.
No one has any right to set up his own ignorance as the limit of what God hath revealed. A thing may be unknown to such a man, but it doth not therefore follow that it is either absolutely unintelligible or a secret. He may not know of it, or, if explained to him, he may not have intellect enough to comprehend it, or his prejudices, or sectarian bias may darken his understanding—this by no means makes the thing unintelligible or mysterious to other people. All that such persons have a right to say is, “We do not know anything about it”. They may confess their own ignorance, and resolve to look into the matter, or not; but they are presumptuously overstepping the bounds of propriety to venture to do more. Those who have no secondary interests to subserve apart from the truth only desire to know that they may believe and do. But where to know more would jeopardize the “vested interests” of a sect, and extort the confessions of its leaders and members that they were in error and knew not the truth, investigation is discouraged, and the things proscribed as too speculative and mysterious for comprehension, or, if understood, of no practical utility. In this way mankind infold themselves as in the mantle of their self-esteem. They repress all progress, and glorify their own ignorance by detracting from things which they fear to look into, or apprehend are far above their reach.
Beside glorying in men, this unfortunate peculiarity of the human mind has developed the organization of a system of things impiously hostile to the institutions and wisdom of Jehovah. It is a system of many subordinate parts. It is animated by one spirit which, under various modifications, pervades and actuates the whole. It is an evil spirit, and may be detected wherever the dogma of unintelligible mystery is at work. The name of this system is “MYSTERY”. Its baneful effects began to be visible in the apostolic age. It was then styled, “the Mystery of iniquity”, which, as was predicted, has, like a cancer, eaten out the truth, and submitted in place thereof a civil and ecclesiastical constitution, styled “Harlots and the Abominations of the Earth”, such as we behold on every side.
“Wisdom”, say the scriptures, “is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thy head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” If thou wouldst, O reader, get this wisdom, happy art thou if thou findest it. “For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all things thou canst desire are not to be compared to her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is A TREE OF LIFE to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her.”
Before the Son of God sent forth his apostles to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom in his name, “He opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures”. If thou wouldst gain the knowledge of the wisdom of God which is so inestimable, and which is contained in the word they preached, thou must also be the subject of the same illumination. This is indispensable; for there is no obtaining of this commodity except through the scriptures of truth. These “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. For all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works”. What more dost thou want than perfection, and a crown of life and glory in the age to come? Search the scriptures with the teachableness of a little child, and thy labour will not be in vain. Cast away to the owls and to the bats the traditions of men, and the prejudices indoctrinated into thy mind by their means; make a whole burnt offering of their creeds, confessions, catechisms, and articles of religion; and, after the example of the Ephesian disciples, hand over your books of curious theological arts, and burn them before all. These mountains of rubbish have served the purpose of a dark and barbarous age; the word, the word of the living God alone, can meet the necessities of the times.
Let the example of the noble-minded Bereans be ours. They searched the scriptures daily to see if the things taught by the apostles were worthy of belief; “therefore they believed”. If, then, not even the preaching of an apostle was credited unaccompanied by scriptural investigation, is it not infinitely more incumbent on us that we should bring to a like test the opinions and precepts of the uninspired and fallible professional theologists of our day? Let us believe nothing that comes from “the pulpit”, “the altar”, or the press, not demonstrated by the grammatical sense of the scriptures. Let us be contented with nothing less than a “thus it is written”, and a “thus saith the Lord”; for He has laid it down in His law, that no one is worthy of belief who does not speak after His rule. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” If then their light be darkness, how great is that darkness.
The scriptures can do everything for us in relation to the light. This is known, felt, and keenly appreciated by all interested in the support of error. Hence, in the days of Diocletian, one of the pagan predecessors of Constantine, a decree was issued commanding the surrender of all copies of the Holy Scriptures: for it was found that so long as they obtained circulation the Christian doctrine could never be suppressed. The Popes, as deadly, and more insidious, enemies of the truth than the pagan Roman emperors, followed the example of Diocletian. The Bible and popery are as mutually hostile as the light of the sun and the thick darkness of Egypt that might be felt. But it is not paganism and popery alone that are practically hostile to a free and untrammelled investigation of the word of God. The Protestant world, while it deludes itself with the conceit that “the Bible, the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants”—while it spends its thousands for its circulation among the nations in their native tongues—is itself hostile to the belief and practice of what it proclaims. The “Bible alone” is not its religion; for if it were, why encumber its professors with the “Common Prayer”, Thirty-nine Articles, and all the other “notions” of a similar kind? To believe and practise the Bible alone would be a sufficient ground of exclusion from all “orthodox churches”. When Chillingworth uttered the sentiment, there was more truth in it than at this day; but now it is as far from the fact as that Protestantism is the religion of Christ.
To protest against an error, such as Romanism, and to affirm that every man has a right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, is a very different thing to believing and obeying the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and walking in all the institutions of the Lord blameless. To do this would unchristianize a man in the estimation of State churches and sectarian denominations; for the Bible religion requires a man to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints”, which in these times cannot be done without upheaving the very foundations of the self-complacent, self-glorifying, and self-laudatory communions of the antipapal constitution of things. It is true that no man or power has a right to interfere between God and the conscience; but it is also true that no man has a right to worship God as he pleases. This is a Protestant fallacy. Man has a right to worship God only in the way God has Himself appointed. “In vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” This is the judgment pronounced by the wisdom of God upon all worship which He has not instituted. He declares it to be vain worship; concerning which the apostle to the Gentiles says: “Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath; let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels. Be not subject to dogmatisms (δογματίζεσθε) after the commandments and traditions of men; which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship and humility.”
These exhortations apply to all faith and worship, Papal and Protestant. If Popery judges men in meats, Protestantism doth the same in drinks, and in the Sabbath; they both judge men in holy-days and “movable feasts”; and though Protestantism repudiates the worshipping of angels, it proclaims in its “fasts”, “preparations”, “concerts”, etc. a voluntary humility, anti celebration of “saints and martyrs”, renowned in legendary tales for “the pride that apes humility”. Let the reader search the scriptures from beginning to end, and he will nowhere find such systems of faith and worship as those comprehended in the Papal and Protestant systems. The gospel of the Kingdom of God in the name of Jesus is not preached among them; they are communions which are uncircumcised of heart; theological dissertations on texts, called “sermons”, are substituted for “reasoning out of the scriptures”—for “expounding and testifying the Kingdom of God, and persuading men concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets”. Puseyism, Swedenborgianism, and all sorts of isms, to which in apostolic times the world was a total stranger, run riot among them; the lusts of the flesh, of the eye, and of the pride of life have extinguished even the energy and zeal of the antipapal rebellion out of which they have arisen; they are dead, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, and therefore the time is come to cut them off as a rotten branch from the good olive tree. Let therefore every man that would eschew the wrath which is begun, and who would become an heir of the kingdom of God, save himself from the unholy, lifeless, and effete denominations of these “Latter Days”. By remaining in them, a man partakes of their evil deeds, and subjects himself to their evil influences. The word of man has silenced the word of God in their midst; and religion has degenerated into a professional commodity sold for cash according to the taste which most prevails in the soul-makers of the world.
Let us then “cease from men, whose breath is in their nostrils; for wherein are they to be accounted of?” “They be blind leaders of the blind”, in whom is no light, because they speak not according to the law and the testimony of God. Let us repudiate their dogmatisms; let us renounce their mysteries; and let us declare our independence of all human authority in matters of faith and practice outside the word of God. The scriptures are able to make us wise, which the traditions of “divines” are not. Let us then come to these scriptures, for we have the assurance that he who seeks shall find. But we must seek by the fight of scripture, and not permit that fight to be obscured by high thoughts and vain imaginations which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. Great is the consolation that “the wise shall understand”, and “shall shine as the brightness of the firmament”. Be this then our happiness, to understand, believe, and do, that we may be blessed in our deed, and attain to the glorious liberty and manifestation of the sons of God.
To the Bible then let us turn, as to “a light shining in a dark place”, and, with humility, teachableness, and independence of mind, let us diligently inquire into the things which it reveals for the obedience and confirmation of faith. The object before us then will be, to present such a connected view of this truthful and wonderful book as will open the reader’s eyes, and enable him to understand it, and expound it to others, that he may become “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”; and be able intelligently to “contend for the faith”; and by “turning many to righteousness, to shine as the stars for ever and ever”.
In effecting this purpose, we must proceed as we would with any other book, or in teaching any of the arts and sciences; namely, begin at the beginning, or with the elements of things. This was the method adopted by the spirit of God in the instruction of the Israelites by Moses. He began His revelations by giving them, and us through them, an account of the creation of the heavens and the earth; of animals; and of man. This then would seem to be the proper place for us to start from; and as we have the system completely revealed, which they had not, we may extend our enquiries into the reason, or philosophy of things farther than they. Be this, then, our commencement; and may the Lord himself prosper our endeavours to decipher and understand His word, and to disentangle it from the crude traditions and dogmatisms of contemporary theologies, useful in their beginnings as “oppositions” to the Mystery of Iniquity, but now “waxed old and ready to vanish away” with the thing they have antagonized; but which, though consumptive of the civil and ecclesiastical tyranny of the Image of the Beast, have by their glosses in effect taken from the people “the Key of Knowledge”, and thus shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men. Our endeavour will be to restore this “Key”, that they may understand “the mysteries of the kingdom”, and “have right, to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city”. And this we will do if God permit.