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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      Dr. John Thomas was a minister residing in Virginia. For a long time he was very popular with the people and was a favorite with Mr. Campbell. In 1836 Mr. Thomas began to preach strange doctrines. Mr. Thomas was an English physician who had been baptized at Cincinnati by Walter Scott. He located in Virginia and began the publication of a paper called the Apostolic Adviser. He was a magnetic, attractive man, and became very popular with some people. Soon he began to teach a spirit of dogmatism and exalted his own opinions above other teachings. Among other teaching was that one coming into the church should be re-baptized; that immersion, as administered by Baptists or any other, was utterly invalid.

      A statement of Mr. Thomas' views was sent to Mr. Campbell, and finally Mr. Campbell was reluctantly compelled to reprove him in 1837.

      A correspondent writes as follows (vol. 1837, pp. 510, 511):--

      I think it due the church, and the community generally, to state, in a concise manner, some of the peculiar views of this man:--

      1st. If Adam had eaten of the fruit of the tree of life, after his expulsion from Paradise, he would have lived forever in a state of mortality, which state of existence would have been infinitely worse than eternal destruction or annihilation.

      2d. All infants, idiots, and heathens will sleep through endless duration--they never can rise.

      3d. All Methodists, Old Side Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and sinners, will be raised to the damnation of annihilation.

      4th. False religions, or the orthodox systems of the day, can not exist independently of infants--their priests must have infants, by which they excite the sympathies of the ladies--through them they [514] gain the influence of their husbands--the purse next in order--and thus it is that the credulous are imposed upon, and the people priest-ridden.

      5th. Adults believe that their infant or baby sprinkling will save them from hell (by which I understand the Protestant or orthodox place of punishment).

      6th. What glory can redound to God from the simple fact or circumstance of heaven being filled with babies or infants, volens vel nolens?

      7th. Eternal life or existence conditional, the condition being faith in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, reformation and baptism (according to and baptisma, I suppose). This proven from I. Cor. xv.; Acts iii.

      8th. Man has no soul nor existence separate, distinct, and independently of the body. Dr. Thomas observed that he felt encouraged to go forward in the way of truth, because, he remarked I have succeeded in convincing many in this congregation, from Scripture and reason, that they have no immortal souls within them.

      9th. That the Spirit of God does not operate on any person apart from the word written.

      10th. It is sinful for unconverted persons to pray to God.

      11th. Christ will reign in person upon the earth a thousand years, the seat of government being at Jerusalem.

      The above are a few of the many heterodox, antiscriptural, and infidel peculiarities and illogical absurdities of Dr. Thomas. And the paradox of paradoxes, and the enigma of enigmas, that this man, after all these absurdities, should profess to be an implicit believer in the Scriptures of divine truth. This is indeed something new under the sun, at least to me. If the visionary speculations of Dr. Thomas be correct, then all others are wrong; for things absolutely different in their nature can not be the same. If he is right, the Bible must be wrong; if he be right, the Bible is false production, which can be proven.


      Mr. Campbell answers the correspondent, and in addition to this he issues an Extra, in December, 1837, against Dr. Thomas' teachings, as follows:--

      All bodies, natural, political, and religious, are subject to various diseases and calamities. They are so in every period of their existence; but more especially when their growth is rapid and their system plethoric.

      All diseases, however, are not mortal. Unpleasant though they all are, many of them are remedial and salutary. Fevers, biles and ulcers have saved many a life; for whatever is feculent or deleterious in any system must finally destroy it or be destroyed.

      Religious communities are of very delicate constitutions, and consequently subject to frequent attacks of disease. Sometimes, indeed, the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint, and from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot it is one corrupt mass of wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. In such cases medicine is wholly [515] unavailing. At other times there is only a slight indisposition; but in this unfriendly climate slight indispositions in the Christian body often suddenly progress to serious maladies. Hence it is of importance that the first indications be immediately attended to, and that salutary remedies be timously administered.

      An important crisis has occurred in our community which calls for prompt and decisive measures. It is indeed favorable that it requires more courage than skill to apply a suitable remedy. It is easier to discuss a tumor or a bile on the surface, than to remove an imposthume from the liver or a cancer from the heart. Besides, the former diseases are more frequently the misfortunes of a good and healthy constitution than the latter.

      The spirit and soul of all reformations is free discussion. Every reformation in society has been the offspring of free investigation. Hence arose the difficulties which have generally checked their progress, or essentially impaired their strength and durability. To set the mind adrift, free from all human authority and control; to grant an almost illimitable indulgence to investigation; to invite all men to reason and decide for themselves on all matters--is always more or less a dangerous experiment, and requires very justifiable objects and ends to hazard all the consequences.

      Along with this, and kindred to it, is the doctrine of equal authority in all persons--of equal rights to speak and hear on all subjects. In religious agitations this too involves rights of conscience, which are always paramount rights. Hence it follows that this state of society is always favorable to ambitious and demagogical spirits, those everlasting troublers of Church and State! This class of licentious opinionists and agitators eulogize free discussion, liberty of speech, of conscience, and of the press, until their objects are gained; while generally they are themselves the veriest tyrants in the world. Now to withstand such gentry, who have so much philosophy and common feeling along with them, is no very pleasant task; and, indeed, to inhibit this spirit in certain states of society would be not only impolitic, but unjust; and yet not to restrain it would be to keep a community perpetually in a state of revolution.

      Foreseeing these tendencies and results, or rather learning from the history of past ages what had always happened in certain circumstances, in commencing the present reformation it was fully argued and submitted that opinions upon all subjects not revealed were private property, and that no citizen of Christ's kingdom had either a right to demand or propound them with any authority whatever. The faith is common to all and necessary to all; for all must walk by it; but no Christian is obliged to walk by the opinion of any man on earth. [516]

      We have indeed met with some two or three infallible, or rather indomitable spirits, who, while they admitted the propriety of this course in reference to others, would not be governed by it themselves. Of this class was Sidney Rigdon, of Mormon memory. Exceedingly fond of new ideas, and always boasting of originality, he sought distinction by his lucubrations on the Prophecies. He became a flaming literalist of the school of Elias (Smith), a Millenarian of the first water; and becoming more and more restive and ambitious, he dealt out his new and untaught discoveries with an enthusiasm worthy of a better cause. Finally, having discovered the Golden Bible, he and Joseph Smith covenanted for a new religion, and delivered us from a great calamity.

      And now I fear we are about to find, or rather have found, in the person of Dr. Thomas, another of these infallible dogmatists, so supremely devoted to his own opinions, and his own glory in defending them--so confident in asserting them--so diligent in propagating them, that, to oppose him is, as he avers, to call the doctrine of the conditionality of eternal life, materialism.

      Like Elias Smith, from whom he has quoted, but not borrowed anything, he has run into the grossest materialism, and become a factionist of the most indomitable spirit. I pray he may not run with Elias into universal scepticism, from which that unfortunate old gentleman had not yet fully recovered when I saw him last year in Boston.

      But I have now come to the business of this Extra. In the November number we republished Dr. Thomas' account of a discussion which he held with a Mr. Watt on some of his opinions, and also Mr. Hunnicutt's notice of it; and then followed these notices with some remarks and a declaration of my non-fellowship with him on account of his having become a factionist and having departed, in part at least, from the faith of the New Testament. I knew what I hazarded from various sources when I decided on my duty in the case. But I found myself fully authorized to take the ground on which I have placed myself before the whole community, not merely from the documents quoted in that article, but from a more careful examination of the pages of the Apostolic Advocate.

      That I should be compelled to place myself in such an attitude to Dr. Thomas, is to me no ordinary regret; but when forced to this alternative, I choose it with the fullest conviction that it is a duty imposed on me by the Doctor, and with the most unwavering confidence in my ability to justify my course to every candid and impartial professor of Christianity in the whole community.

      That I may place this matter in a proper light before my readers, I propose to give in the following order:-- [517]

      1st. A brief narrative of the respective courses of the Harbinger and the Advocate in reference to each other, dawn to the present time.

      2d. The evidence on which we allege his departure from a cardinal article of the Christian faith.

      3d. The practical tendency of the new theory of man, and the future state.

      4th. An exposition of his sophistry in interpreting and applying Scripture in support of the new theory, and in his general seasonings.

      5th. The schismatic character of the Advocate.

      6th. The duty of the Christian communities on the whole premises.

      To proceed with the greatest brevity, I narrate as follows:--Dr. Thomas called on me at Bethany on his way Eastward, I think in the summer of 1832. He was recommended to me by the brethren in Cincinnati. While he sojourned a few weeks with me, I formed a very favorable opinion of his devotion to the truth, his zeal, and general talents; insomuch that I strongly urged him to give himself to the study of the Word in order to general usefulness, and gave him some directions as to the proper field he should occupy. He seemed to acquiesce with me, and finally set out in pursuit of a favorable location. I advised him to go to eastern Virginia, not as an editor, but as a physician and a preacher of the Word, or to serve the brethren as they might choose.

      He went to Philadelphia. I saw him there in December, 1833. The brethren in that city in general gave him a good character--said that he improved in the knowledge of the Scriptures; but was too self-opinionated and dogmatical. I apologized for his youth and inexperience, and advised a kind and courteous treatment of him, alleging that his infirmity would wear off in time.

      The next I heard from him was his review of the Hughes and Breckinridge debate on Romanism. I commended it. This was followed by a Prospectus for the Apostolic Advocate. I published it in May, 1834, with friendly recommendations. He went to Richmond--commenced the Advocate--and in the first number, May, 1834, vaults right into the center of the Apocalypse. He had written to me some of his speculations on Prophecy shortly after his baptism, designed for publication; but in my mercy for him and myself, they yet lie upon my files. They are as good, however, as much that he has published on that subject.

      In the sixth number, Robinson's views of baptism for dyeing, a more curious than learned or instructive distinction, of which the New Testament knows nothing, is fully stated and illustrated with [518] an eye to an unmeaning and confounding distinction between baptism and immersion. Robinson's distinction is a whim. Baptizo NEVER WAS USED BY ANY GREEK WRITER FOR dyeing. Bapto is metaphorically so used: baptizo, NEVER. Robinson had little faith in washing away sins through Christ's blood, and consequently less in water; and would rather have turned the bath into a vat. I regretted to see Dr. Thomas adopt his reasonings, and make an unclassic, unscriptural, and unwise difference between immersion and baptism. He was deceived by Robinson.

      He next appears, No. 7, in a profound critical disquisition with brother Walter Scott, of Carthage, and finishes by reforming the new version of Rev. i. 7. In seven months more, or in the third number, Vol, 2, he addresses the church in Baltimore, telling them that his "conviction is, that all who from this time forth may wish to join us from the Baptist denomination (a few excepted who can show just and Scriptural cause of exception) be required to make an intelligent confession and to be reimmersed." The Doctor himself, having begun to reimmerse in Richmond, thought good to volunteer very gratuitously this advice to the brethren in Baltimore.

      The first offense I gave the Doctor was in my apology for this unprecedented measure, by calling him a "young" and "ardent" brother. Had he only turned over to my letter to him, published February, 1834, he would have seen that in it I addressed him as "ardent" by way of commendation. But on this occasion he regarded it as deducting from the manhood of his advice and the wisdom of his reimmersion. He was kind enough, however, in return for this favor, to continue to address me from moon to moon on the meaning of baptism and its relations to the world and the church. I think these illuminations amounted in all to eighteen brevier pages.

      His thirty-four speculative questions, full of latent scepticism, on some very important points, were propounded "for information" in the December following. And in two months more Mr. Flippo appears on disembodied spirits.

      Thus the Doctor succeeded in obtaining a commencement on his thirty-four speculations. He is instantly engrossed in new theories of man--a future state--the spirits of just men--the original mortality of man--animal and spiritual bodies--future judgment--thief on the cross--Stephen--souls, spirits, blood--the gases--reimmersion, and the Apocalypse, he rises upon us full-orbed--a new and strange light--challenging two worlds, both the Old and the New, to disprove his gospel.

      Meanwhile we looked on in mute astonishment, till the Doctor appeared in good earnest determined on proving his new theory, [519] and till we learned that some persons who can feast only on new ideas, (for whose Athenian taste the gospel of life becomes insipid as soon as its novelty is over,) were actually holding forth these views as a part of the doctrine of reform.

      Painful though it was, it became my duty to take special notice of one branch of the new theory, with a feeble hope that, by a gentle reprimand or exposure of his unscriptural speculations, he would reflect and retrace his wandering steps. But, no! the Doctor had "the truth"--was "sincere, honest," and could argue too, and forsooth was right, and was armed cap-a-pie in the field, from which he would be driven only by the point of the sword.

      But worse than all, he seeks to attach to himself a party from sympathy as a persecuted man. Exclaiming at my injustice to him in not republishing his speculations--I could republish the words of Lord Brougham, Mr. Meredith, Mr. Waterman, and every body; but only the words of Dr. Thomas were proscribed! What could be the reason of this? His words were so scorching, so searching, so illuminating, that I could not endure them; I was afraid of him, or disliked him, and was jealous of his genius! Some, I learned, told the Doctor that he was the only person who could successfully oppose me; while others pitied the injured man--the persecuted brother! Often, very often, were his readers reminded of my injustice to him in not republishing his pieces; and yet, strange as it may appear, he never printed one of my replies! ! ! Nevertheless, while he was crying out "Injustice!" I was mercifully laboring to save him from himself and a few mistaken partizans. Yes, while I permitted him to speak of me and to me in a style uncourteous and unchristian without seeming to feel it, and sparing him, he and some others were representing me as unable to defend my views or to disprove his opinions, and rather through conscious imbecility evading the discussion of his new theories.

      All this was patiently endured in hope that I might save him from his suicidal course, till his reply to my essays on Materialism extinguished the last lingering ray. More barefaced perversion of Scripture and reason, more unblushing sophistry, and, when all the circumstances and relations are considered, more insolent treatment, has not fallen in my way during my editorial career.

      I resolved on silence for a time, and so intimated. But this was immediately perverted into "a very convenient way of evading very inconvenient arguments"--"a violation of the Christian spirit." And after admonishing me on the sinfulness of defending Protestantism against Roman Catholic accusations, and advising me to leave Catholics and Protestants to fight their own battles, he tauntingly says to his "dear brother," 'Will you allow the brethren's minds [520] to be poisoned by my errors--to be perverted by my wild and untaught speculations? Will you calmly look on and see the truth damaged, perhaps destroyed, and not make a continuous effort to silence me, instead of silencing yourself?"

      My silence, then, only emboldened the Doctor to propagate his opinions with more determination, and to treat me with still more disrespect. So far as I was personally concerned, all this would not have provoked a single remark, had not the Doctor appeared on the arena as a public disputant in support of his theory, proposing again to print his arguments against what he is pleased to call "the Platonic doctrine of an immortal soul," in favor of "the conditionality of eternal life, and phrenology the true philosophy of mind," etc. These are phrases which, in Dr. Thomas' sense, we now understand.

      The report of this publication and the solicitation for subscribers for the discussion were only the occasion of my breaking silence. My complaint is not based on these reports as evidence of the doctrine of the new theory (misprinted in my last number "nine" instead of new doctrines, as appears upon the cover). They were but the occasion of my new notice of the Doctor's theory.

      Having given this narrative of matters and things, I now proceed to my second task, viz.--The evidences on which we allege his departure from two cardinal articles of the Christian faith.

      The articles denied are "the resurrection of the dead" and "the judgment of the world." The New Testament asserts the resurrection of all mankind and the judgment of the world by Jesus Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Judge of all mankind. It is scarcely necessary to make two articles of these, for one necessarily implies the other; for if a large portion of human kind are not raised from the dead, but forever remain as the brutes that perish, there is of course no future day of judgment for them, contrary to many Scriptures which teach as Paul spoke to the Athenians--that God has appointed a day in which he will righteously judge the world by Jesus Christ, of which he has given assurance to all mankind by his resurrection from the dead.

      The new theory is, that none shall be made alive again but those who have heard the gospel. Such as have obeyed it are just; such as have disobeyed it are unjust; therefore, all infants, idiots, insane persons, and Pagans are neither just nor unjust, and shall of course neither be raised to life again nor judged.

      Proof: Brother Winans quotes I. Cor. xv. 22 in proof that the dead shall be raised. To which Dr. Thomas replies, "I. Cor. xv. 22 does not sustain the dogma that Pagans, idiots, and infants are all to be raised again" (vol. ii. p. 224). "Hence Pagans who have never heard the [521] gospel, idiots who can not understand it, and infants who can not obey, can not therefore be constituted righteous; and consequently upon them the sentence to justification of life can not be executed without a violation of the mediatorial institution." "Some persons," he adds, "may call this speculation, or pronounce it an untaught question; but we affirm, and shall hereafter offer, many proofs that the position is true; and if so, we say more, that it is the most sweeping argument against infant baptism that has ever been adduced since that superstitious rite was introduced: for granting that sprinkling is baptism, it is manifestly useless if babes and idiots never rise again" (vol. ii. p. 225).

      All this was propounded in the thirty-four speculative points on which "information" was sought in December, 1835. Question 17 thus presents the matter: "Does not the resurrection of 'the just' and of 'the unjust' exclude Pagans who have never heard the messages of God, infants, idiots, and insane?--i. e., do not these at death fall into a state of unconsciousness from which they will never be delivered?" The last two volumes have been furnishing a Yes to this question; so that in July last it comes out upon the authority of a revelation. "God," says he, "has as certainly revealed the destiny of infants and of Julius Cesar, as he has plainly made known the way of eternal life." And what is the oracle concerning infants? "Infants will be raised neither to suffer punishment nor to enjoy a life of which they were never conscious" (vol. iv. p. 99). Again--"Antichrist has conjured up a salvation and a damnation of infants, and so far hoodwinked the world as to cajole the most of it into its reception" (vol. iv. p. 101). As to the resurrection of Pagans--Even Mr. Watt in the debate failed to convince him that all Pagans shall be raised. "Such of them will not sleep through endless duration who have rejected the gospel" (vol. iv. p. 179).

      Thus have we proved that it is a fixed and fully established point of revealed doctrine with Dr. Thomas that the dead shall not be raised, but only that small portion of them that have heard the gospel.

      Now if one-half of the human race die in infancy, and if seven-eighths of the adult nations, the other half, have not heard the gospel, as is commonly believed, not more than one in sixteen of the present inhabitants of the earth shall be raised from the dead; and in past ages not one in ten thousand. "The just and the unjust" added together are scarcely in all time a fiftieth part of mankind; and as those that are neither just nor unjust are forty-nine parts of the human race, the faith of Christians in "the resurrection of the dead" must be a rank delusion. This evidence, if it need farther [522] confirmation, will be still farther corroborated as we proceed; but I presume neither the Doctor nor any of his readers will demur to this view of the matter.

      The theory of man on which these views are based, is sufficiently simple. It is all contained in a few plain sentences:--1. "Man is but organized and animated dust" (vol. iii. p. 216). 2. "His living soul is his animal body"--for they are the same thing, proved by I. Cor. xv. "The brain designs, the hand executes." He is himself overwhelmed with the simplicity of his theory, and exclaims, "Admirable ingenuity of the Creator in constructing from the dust a reflector of his attributes" (vol. iii. p. 227). 3. Again--"The brain secretes thoughts." Here, again, he exclaims at the brilliancy of his theory, "What a wonderful organ is the brain? How admirable the Creator who organized the dust of the ground so exquisitely as to enable it to perceive, compare, judge and discriminate, and to enjoy the beauties of the surrounding universe" (vol. iii. p. 218). 4. "It takes body, blood and breath to make a whole living man" (vol. iii. 219).

      Now the Doctor declares he believes in angels and such spirits as possessed persons in the days of the Messiah, but refuses to man anything of the nature of those spirits. He is, then, only a materialist as far as man is concerned--but half a Sadducee: for he confesses angels, but not human spirits, distinct from breath; whereas the Sadducees denied both angels and spirits. Man, therefore, is "an animal body, and no more."

      The Doctor differs from his contemporary metaphysicians in one very prominent point. They are seeking fame in making a new theory of man, while the Doctor is employed in making a new man for his theory. His man differs from the monkey and the ourangoutang in his stature, weight, color, and superior ingenuity; because he has a few more folds of brain--some half pound of cerebral matter more than any of them in the region of hope, conscientiousness, and veneration. What Moses has said about the counsels of Jehovah in the original formation of man, after the image and likeness of God, is but an Eastern metaphor, designed indeed to give man a high opinion of himself; whereas in truth he was little more worth redeeming than any other mortal beings around him. Moreover, if forty-nine fiftieths of our race perish in all respects as the brutes, philosophy will never be able to justify the perpetuation of our race, rather than the immediate extinction of Adam and Eve on their transgression, and the creation of a new pair. But I hasten to--

      3. The practical tendency of the new theory of man and of the future state. [523]

      If man be perishable in all respects as the beasts that perish, and if all infants and Pagans who have not heard the gospel shall never awaken to life more than the insects of a day or the animalculæ of a minute, it is a doctrine of immense practical importance, and certainly ought to be extensively divulged to prevent the eternal ruin of millions of our race.

      It would indeed be cruel, inexpressibly cruel, to send the gospel to China, Japan, or Tartary; because it could not be expected to be more successfully plead in those countries than in Europe or America. And what proportion of the Europeans and Americans shall be eternally damned by it; for without it there is a simple extinction of life as the extinguishing of a lamp, and when man is unconscious he feels no loss: for having lost himself he can find no pain in the universe. Fifty are damned eternally by the gospel for one that is saved, Dr. Thomas himself being judge. Now I put it to the understanding and conscience of every reader, whether it would not be more cruel and unkind to send the gospel to China to be the occasion of making unjust forty-nine in every fifty, and consequently subject the forty-nine to eternal punishment for the one it saves. And again, he that is saved by it is not saved from hell, from sin; for he was no sinner till the gospel came; and he was only saved from an eternal sleep! What a glorious new gospel is the new theory of man's destiny!

      Indeed, the new gospel effectually vacates the old, for the old gospel proposes to save sinners, and there are no sinners now but such as the old gospel makes according to the new gospel. The gospel makes those who obey it just, and those who reject it unjust; hence it condemns many more than it saves; and promises to all mankind who can not hear it an eternal rest in the bosom of undisturbed unconsciousness.

      I shall expose its folly no further than to say--if the new gospel be true, the mediation of Christ and his sufferings and death are much more malevolent than benevolent; inasmuch as without his interposition, not one would have been forever miserable. But if all mankind are in danger of eternal death, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is worthy of proclamation and acceptation, and reflects upon its author an exceeding and eternal weight of glory, beyond all thought and beyond all expression.

      4. An exposition of his sophistry in interpreting and applying Scripture in support of the new theory and in his general reasonings, is the fourth item in our order.

      The Doctor's talent for reasoning is not, in my apprehension, such as I once thought it was. He has an admirable talent for finding [524] fault and for saying some fine things, and for saying them handsomely; but he is too precipitate and headstrong always to reason well. As a specimen of his reasoning I can only give a few scraps out of hundreds.

      He speaks as though "immortality" and "eternal life" were terms used by us or our contemporaries as equivalent to endless being or perpetual existence. They are not so used by any man of sense. In Biblical language immortality or eternal life in hell is nonsense; but perpetual existence in hell, or in any place, is quite another thought. Now, had I inclination or time, I could select many sophisms from the pages of the Advocate in the use of these terms. But in the meantime I only want a few palpable examples:--

      1st. He denies perpetual existence to any human being in virtue of his descent from Adam. He also teaches that the unjust, or those who disobey the gospel, shall be forever punished. Now the question is, whence this perpetual existence to the unjust? From Adam they have it not, says Dr. Thomas; from Christ they have it not, for they are out of him! Whence, then, have they it, Doctor? Unbelief gives them endless being!!

      2d. In proof of the utter extinction of all infants, he asks, "What honor or glory could accrue to God by a world of such inhabitants? And what loss would the extinction of their being be to them?" (vol. iv. p. 98). If there is any sense in these questions, they apply as pertinently to Dr. Thomas and myself as to infants. It is as possible for the grace of God through the blood of Christ to make a world of infants born of the degenerate race of Adam as honorable to God, though it may not be done in the terms of the new covenant on earth; as it is by the new covenant to make such poor wretches as we have been, an honor to God and heaven. And according to my modes of reasoning, the extinction of my being would be no more loss to me than the extinction of an infant's being would be to it. For being that is extinguished can neither perceive nor feel any loss.1 But since it is written, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise," and the "Lord took up infants in his arms and blessed them," I doubt not but as on earth babes in the Temple shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David," they will treble out their hallelujahs in the skies to him that sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.

      He reasons as loosely on the appointment of Elders by the Holy Spirit. Those elected in the ordinary way are merely the incarnation of a majority of votes. To prevent this, he recommends two to be [525] elected by the people for every one they want, and then cast lots which of these shall be the Elder. This compels the Spirit to call one of two which a majority has placed before him. And yet the Doctor does not see that this divinely appointed Bishop is still the incarnation of the vote of a majority only once removed!

      But it is in quoting and applying sacred Scriptures that this rash, inconsiderate, and sophistical mode of reasoning is most dangerous; and therefore I shall be more careful in exemplifying it.

      It will be remembered that we published four essays on one branch of the Materialism of the Doctor in vol. vii., first series. Some seventeen arguments on passages of Scripture were advanced by me in those essays. The Advocate replies to them, and, as he says (vol. iv. p. 23), has "driven from the field these false witnesses of a spurious theology."

      A few samples of how these "false witnesses were driven from the field" must suffice:--

      1. One of the seventeen was, Heb. xii. 19: "We have had 'fathers of our flesh' who chastened us. Shall we not be in subjection to the 'Father of our spirits,' and live?" The witness or argument here was, that, as "fathers of our flesh," or bodies, was contrasted with "Father of our spirits," the spirits of men were different from their bodies as much as the parentage of each differed. But the Doctor "drives this from the field" by asserting that spirits mean moral dispositions or consciences. "The Father of our spirits," says he, "means the begetter of holy dispositions" (vol. iii. p. 88). No living man can show a single instance in Scripture or any other book where spirits mean consciences or moral dispositions. It is a sheer fabrication. Necessity is the mother of Invention! "The spirits in prison," mentioned by Peter, must also, I presume, mean the consciences or moral dispositions in prison! If any man can show a single instance in the Bible where spirits, mind me, not spirit, must mean dispositions or consciences, I will make him a present of one complete set of the first series of the Harbinger. The spirit of Christ in Noah preached repentance to the moral dispositions in prison who had been disobedient when the Ark was preparing!! etc. "The spirits of just men made perfect" is moral dispositions made perfect.2 But worse, if possible, this assertion makes Paul speak nonsense; for our earthly parents are generally as much the parents of our dispositions and sentiments as they are of our bodies. They are so phrenologically and educationally. [526]

      2. "But though indeed our outward man is impaired, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." This was advanced in evidence of an inward man; but it is "driven from the field" by the magic wand of the new vocabulary of assertion. "Inward man means fortitude"! (vol. iii. p. 32). Then, in the new interpretation, "though the outward man [cowardice] is impaired, the inward man [courage] is renewed day by day." This is equal to the Baron Swedenborg!

      3. I also argued from Paul's words, "when we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord," etc. But the new dictionary here again "drives me from the field." The interpreter tells me that "the body" here means the church--"at home in the body means at home in the church" (vol. iii. p. 32). Persons in the church are therefore absent from the Lord. Fool that I was, to think that words in the Bible were to be understood by the same rules of interpretation applied to other books!

      4. Peter's tabernacle was Peter himself, but Paul's tabernacle was this temporal state; and the mansion or house from heaven, means the new heavens or the new earth (vol. iii. pp. 31, 32).

      5. Once more--I argue from "Fear him that can destroy soul and body in hell." But says the new dictionary, "Body here means animal life and soul eternal life" (vol. iii. p. 227). Then it means, He can destroy your animal life and your eternal life in hell!

      6. I might add a hundred more instances of the same sort: such as, "Into thy hands I commend my spirit"--"my life." "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit"--"my life!" (What an improvement for a disprovement of spirit! The lives of just men made perfect! Father of lives! The lives in prison!) "Animal body"--"a body composed of flesh, blood, and bones." "A spiritual body"--"a body composed of flesh and bones." "A living soul" means an animal body." "A vivifying spirit" means "a spiritual body." "Third heaven" means "the New Jerusalem age; for the three heavens means three ages." "Paradise" (also II. Cor. xii.) means "the New Jerusalem age." "Carried by angels into Abraham's bosom" means "carried to the grave by servants" (vol. iii. pp. 100, 273, 279, etc., etc., etc.).

      Such a system of interpretation drives both myself, all commentators, dictionaries, and the twelve apostles out of the field. Rules of logic, laws of languages, criticism, to such a reasoner, are as straws to Leviathan.

      "That immortality is conditional," is a sort of prove-all with the Advocate. This reaches not within ten thousand leagues of the points at issue. The controversy is not about immortality and eternal life; for these are terms which in Scripture are not always used as synonyms with simple being or endless existence. The Advocate himself [527] admits that some of the dead shall be raised to condemnation, and that this everlasting condemnation is not a loss of consciousness like those who sleep forever, but a positive participation with the devil and his angels in everlasting punishment. Does the Doctor call this immortality? If not, then where is the logic of this oft-repeated saying, "If immortality be conditional, then the dogma of abstract disembodied ghosts vanishes into thin air"? (p. 186).

      I wish I had room to expose the sophistry of his whole phraseology on this subject. But I have not, and shall only notice another instance of another category. He argues from such places as "Come see where the Lord lay," "I will go and awake Lazarus," etc., etc., that the whole body, soul, and spirit lie in the grave. He might as well argue that Newton thought that the sun ascended and descended in the heavens, because he uses these words. It is a perfect sophism. The person of man is what we see; hence the reason of associating the idea of personality with the human body. But when matters are described not as they appear, but as they are, what saith the Scriptures?--"The body shall return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it." Thus when Elijah raised to life the dead son of the widow of Zidon, he says, "O Lord, my God, I pray thee let this child's soul come into him again; and the Lord heard him, and the soul of the child came into him again; and he revived" (I. Kings xvii. 21, 22). And when the Lord raised the ruler's daughter, "he took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise; and her spirit came again, and she arose straightway" (Luke viii. 54, 55). Thus Elijah and Jesus, while they address the body as the person, show that it is only the tabernacle of the spirit.

      The deathless nature of spirits may be argued from many sources, but it is proved from such considerations as these:--Jesus says angels cannot die (Luke ii. 36). Why? Not because they are angels, but because they are spirits. Hence "unclean spirits" live; Satan lives; the antediluvian spirits in prison live; the devil's angels or ministering spirits also live in chains until the judgment of the great day. "Art thou come to torment us before the time?' etc., etc.

      But Dr. Thomas says his "teacher is the word of God alone." and my teacher is "the popular Divines and the Word" (vol. iii. p. 294). He ought to have made himself even and not odd, by saying, the Bible and the French Physiologists are his teachers. That school has much more to do with Dr. Thomas' materialism than either Paul or Peter.

      5. A word or two on the schismatic character of the Advocate.

      1st. Leaving out of sight the items of Christian faith denied by the Advocate, the opinionative character of the work and the [528] dogmatical and pertinacious manner in which opinions are stated and adhered to, renders the publication essentially and necessarily schismatical. Thirty-four volumes would not settle the opinions broached in a single volume of it. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," and I suppose the pen writeth; therefore the Doctor is surcharged with curious speculations which a lifetime would not dispose of.

      2d. He has not only broached those speculations, but he has challenged the discussion of them; and if I remember right, has defied two worlds to disprove his allegations. "There exists not," says he, "the individual in the Old or New World who can show that we have not successfully maintained it"--his own theory (vol. iv. p. 23). If this be not a challenge, or a banter, or a gasconade, I should like to hear one.

      3d. The Advocate has been seeking to attach brethren to himself and to alienate from me by ad captandum appeals to their sympathy as a proscribed and persecuted man. Many a time have my merciful efforts to save him from himself been perverted into cowardice or dislike, etc. And the fact that a few brethren have been made to feel something of a partizan spirit for or against those speculations, is itself sufficient evidence of their factional tendencies.

      4th. In seeking to attach to himself a party, the Doctor has not confined himself to the opinions which he sought to establish by his paper, but has even sought out of our pages and our labors occasion to prejudice against me and to strengthen his hands. For example, his various censures on my defence of Protestantism before he read the book or knew any thing about it; his attempts to represent us as falling into measures dangerous and sectarian--such as co-operative meetings, meetings for those who labor in preaching the word for mutual improvement, and colleges for the education of our youth, which he has called "incipient measures to a new sectarian establishment" (vol. iii. p. 46).

      5th. His reimmersion for the Baptists, and his no-prayer system of preaching the Word, together with his representing all those immersed among the Baptists as immersed in Antichrist, are strong indications of the schismatical drift of our Apostolic Advocate.

      6th, and last of all. The small space which the love of God, the grace of the Messiah, and the great work of man's redemption have occupied on his pages; the little said on the responsibilities, duties, and obligations of Christians, show that the love of the curious and the new greatly transcends the love of the useful and the practical it the writings of the Advocate. [529]

      6. The duty of the Christian community on the whole premises. On this matter we may suggest a few thoughts, but can not dictate. This miniature view of the Apostolic Advocate has been sketched with much examination, though with considerable despatch. I have read the work more fully than ever before, and am sorry to say that its redeeming qualities have greatly depreciated in my view on this more full and careful perusal of its contents. The Doctor has talents, if he had patience to apply them, which might be useful if they were turned into proper channels. But, unfortunately, he seems greatly to overrate himself and his acquisitions, and therefore there is not much hope in his case.

      Some of our good friends have injured the Doctor by telling him of the exceeding novelty and rarity of his doctrines, and of his singular ability to manage those who oppose him in a way peculiar to himself. Some have spoken of his "noble and independent spirit," and of "the friends of reformation in Old Virginia sustaining him so long as he maintains this noble and independent spirit." Thus my efforts to correct his wanderings have all been neutralized by such sayings. "To charge the Doctor with Materialism and Anabaptism is unjust and illiberal, when he has publicly disclaimed them" (vol. iii. p. 233). Another excellent brother in Alabama now says of his late discussion, "I now beg that you collect and collate all your defense on this subject as materials for your next Extra. I will take fifty additional copies. Do comply" (vol. iv. p. 212). I know these brethren are excellent men--liberal, noble-minded men. Their motto is, "Free discussion, no matter what the subject be"--"Free trade and sailors' rights." But I venture to say they have not considered the tendency of this course. Suppose one of the editorial corps takes it into his head that the Spirit of God is merely an attribute of God, and avows that the Spirit of a Spirit is to him inconceivable, and that he will go on to maintain his opinion in despite of every remonstrance; will they say to him, Go on, sir? Another doubts the true and proper divinity of the only begotten Son--or takes Sabellian ground and dogmatizes ever and anon on these opinions; will the brethren say to him that opposes such speculations, "You ought not to oppose free discussion?" and to him that agitates them and the community, "Go on, sir--we will sustain you--send me fifty copies!!" Concede the right of dogmatizing on speculative points to one and you must be impartial and concede it to all.

      Liberty of speech and of the press is not with me licentious extravagance nor disregard for the opinions of others; nor is the proper rise of our rights the sustaining of every restless demagogical spirit who will be conspicuous for something--for any thing. On all Bible [530] facts, precepts, promises, and declarations--on all its various documents, ordinances, and statutes, we go for free, and full, and satisfactory discussion; but we say that it is abhorrent to the reformation for which we plead, to propagate mere opinions and speculations; and that it is entirely off the ground we occupy to favor those who devote their tongues or their pens to build up any theory, ancient or modern, original or borrowed.

      The moment any one becomes a factionist, or even a dogmatist, to encourage him is to oppose the written law, and to summon every true citizen to Christ's kingdom to the walls of Zion to defend the city of our God. We are commanded to "mark them which cause divisions" and offences contrary to the Apostles' doctrine, and to avoid them, because they serve not our Master. This case is as plain one; and seeing we must have a case of this sort, I am glad that it is a plain one. Opinionism must be put down, and kept down, or we have apostatized from the ground on which we commenced. A little bad feeling in a few individuals has been, I learn, evinced already, although not a single preacher in Virginia has embraced the views of Dr. Thomas. This proves to be a bitter root. The answer I gave to the sister of Lunenburg, I gave with a reference to this discussion. I saw the hand of the Advocate in those questions, and answered them accordingly: and for this reason have dedicated this Extra to all who were startled at said answer.

      The Doctor complains of being named invidiously in the course of my remarks. I never intended it; for it is wrong: and if I have even indirectly done so, I am sorry for it. Still were it so he ought not to complain. He has dubbed more of the mighty dead and of his contemporaries than any college in the land during his editorship. To Calvin's honors he has superadded that of "the Arch Perverter of the faith of Christ." Calvin never meddled with the faith!! He was laborious in doctrines and opinions (vol. iv. p. 99). Lord Brougham, and Mr. Taylor, author of the "Natural History of Enthusiasm" and of various most splendid and excellent works, he has classed with "the gods of this world, whose minds are blinded by the master of evil" (vol. iii. p. 187). Some of the Methodistic clergy he has dubbed "Draconic Lambs," in honor of the Old Serpent, I presume. And all the Protestant churches and sects are elevated to the rank of "Synagogues of Satan." And even abstract "Protestantism is one of the horns of the two-horned beast of the Apocalypse." I myself have become with the Doctor "a mere theologian," ignorant of human nature in the anatomical, physiological, and pathological departments; "Mr. Human Tradition," and my critique "ecclesiastical thunder," etc., etc., etc. [531]

      I am pained to have to use the lancet and the blister in the Doctor's case. His system demands depletion. I stimulated him when he did not need it; and nothing now can save his life but violent means. He greatly mistakes me, and himself too, in this delirium. Let him give up his dogmatism, retrace his steps, be content with what is written, and he may yet recover what he has lost. I do assure him and my readers, that I have transcribed this article and made it exceedingly mild in comparison of what the case demands. I have given only a few samples of the ease, the perfect ease, with which the Doctor's whole system of speculation can be scattered to the four winds; yet I have never tried my hand seriously to disprove it. I have never called him a materialist of the school of Priestly. He is only half Sadducee; he admits angels and unclean spirits, but denies human spirits in the popular sense. Priestly materialism is more consistent. The Doctor does not understand his own theory. It is suicidal. May the Lord grant him repentance!

A. C.      

      This was afterwards followed by so-called reconciliation in which Dr. Thomas agreed to the following resolution:--

      "Resolved, That whereas certain things believed propagated by Dr. Thomas, in relation to the mortality of man, the resurrection of the dead, and the final destiny of the wicked, having given offence to many brethren, and being likely to produce a division among us; and believing the said views to be of no practical benefit, we recommend to brother Thomas to discontinue the discussion of them, unless in his defence when misrepresented" (Memoirs, vol ii. p. 448).

      It was agreed that Dr. Thomas would abandon his speculation, but he went to England, and then afterwards removed to Illinois and began the publication of a paper called the Investigator. He endeavored to form a new party in Illinois, but the attempt was an utter failure.

      He removed to Virginia and failed to receive any support from the churches.


      1 Where there is no loser, there can be no loss. It is a gross sophism to ask what loss would the extinction of being be to them? To whom?--! The being lost!! A lost being can suffer no loss. [525]
      2 Still more unfortunately for our interpreter, the original "teteleioomenoon, made perfect," applies not to pneumasi, spirits, native plural; but to dikaoon, genitive--just men!!! So that it is "just men," not merely "spirits made perfect." [526]

      1. James W. Hunnicutt. Extract from "Public Discussion." The Millennial Harbinger 8 (November 1837):
      2. Alexander Campbell. "Extra No. I.--New Series." The Millennial Harbinger 8 (December 1837): 575-588.
      3. Robert Richardson. Memoirs of Alexander Campbell. Vol. 2. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott and
Company, 1869.
Pp. 448-449.


[MHA2 514-532]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)