The following letter from Bro John Thomas was published in The Christadelphian Magazine for 1865, and is reproduced for the benefit of our readers: All emphasis is ours.

Dear bro. Tait,

Yours of Jan. 17, is just received, conferring upon me a pleasure which is highly appreciated, and only surpassed by personal communion with the writer. I am always gratified at receiving letters from my friends, who, compared with my enemies are few and far between; but much more gratified when the letters come from those who are my friends for the truth’s sake. I am no man’s personal enemy. I have neither time nor inclination to trouble myself about persons, or their affairs. I have enough to do in this department to take care of my own personalia, without interfering in other people’s. But when they approach me on the premises of the truth, then they are either my friends or my foes, and I am theirs. I am their friend for the truth’s sake, or I am their foe for the truth’s sake. I would rather be the friend than the foe of any one upon any ground. This is the bent of my fleshly nature; and if men will not be friendly, I do not feel resentful, but my disposition is is to give them a wide berth or margin, because the world is wide; and if they are disposed to travel north, I will travel due south; or if they would go west, I will go due east; and think of them and theirs no more. This is the natural man.

But if they pretend to be the friends of the truth, and they are neither intelligent in, nor faithful to, what I believe to be the truth, and will not consent to be instructed, then I have a duty to perform as one of Christ’s Brethren, in obedience to apostolic injunction, and that is, to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” and in so doing, which is well-doing, “to put to silence the ignorance of foolish men,” that that their mouths being stopped, they may no longer subvert whole houses, and lead captive silly people laden with sins. In the performance of the duty common to all the faithful, I do not wait to be attacked. If no one will go with me to the assault, I go alone, with the determination to scatter them, or be demolished in the attempt; in which, however, I do not expect to succeed, because “the saints are prevailed against till the Ancient of Days comes.” Why then labour in expected failure? To obey the injunction, and to prove my own faith. In this spiritual warfare, whose weapons are neither lead nor steel, but more effective than either for putting to flight the aliens, there are neither truce, armistice, neutrality, nor peace. He that is not with us, is against us; and he that gathereth not with us, scattereth abroad. I for one, know no man in this warfare as a brother and friend who is neutral or not gathering. A man who is neutral stands by with arms folded and sees the enemy crushing me to death! He believes in the cause I am fighting for, but he calmly views my destruction without any sign of help. Is such a man my friend and brother? Is he not rather a sympathizer with the enemy? If he helped me, we might prove too strong for the foe; the enemy knowing this cannot look upon neutrals in any other light than his friends. And this is just where Christ puts all neutrals in the good fight of faith.

But, if this be the position of neutrals, what shall be said of those who either oppose or nullify what we believe to be the truth? Who not only so, but seek to destroy the influence of those who have, while they were mere heathens, proved themselves through evil and through good report, and when the truth had few to say a good word for it, faithful advocates of it—what shall be said of them? They may virtually acquiesce in the theory of the truth, but can we call them friends and brethren? Are they Christ’s Brethren? How can they be seeing Christ is the truth? If they were Christ’s Brethren, they would love the zealous and disinterested advocates of the truth, and would be careful to do nothing that would embarrass them. Shall I call such enemies of Christ, my friends and brethren? I tell you, nay; I will have none such, if I know it. They are my enemies, and it is my duty to make war upon them. If I belong to the Spirit’s witnessing prophets clothed in sackcloth, and any man will to injure me in my witnessing, it is my duty to devour him with the fire of my mouth—to torment him with my testimony. He may not feel very pleasant while under this fire: if he get wounded, it is his own fault; he should keep out of the way: but if he persist in storming our works, then “he must in this manner be killed.”

I have no sympathy with a yea-and-nay profession and advocacy of the truth. It does no good to the professor, to those who are associated with him, nor to those dwelling in outer darkness. “The whole world lieth in the evil one”—in Sin; and the only exception to this, are the untraditionized believers of the truth we believe and teach and have obeyed; and are walking as little children therein. If we are these scriptural exceptions, we have nothing to do but keep clear of this evil world, and to testify against all the traditions it would substitute for the truth, or by which it may seek to nullify it. The greatest and most dangerous enemies to Christ are those who pretend to be his friends, but are not faithful to his doctrine; and they are unfaithful who from any motives of personal interest would weaken the point of the doctrine, or soften it for the gratification of their natural feelings, or for fear of hurting the feelings of the enemy, and so affecting their popularity with him.

I trust that this is not the case with any of our friends in Calton Convening Rooms. They and all such in Britain have a great and important work before them in this country. It is to bring people to the understanding of the ancient apostolic doctrine and to the obedience of faith, in the form inculcated by them upon all believers. If our friends faithfully and intelligently execute this mission, they will be placed in opposition to all the world—they will find themselves in the position of the Spirit’s witnessing prophets, standing in the court of the Gentiles, and bearing testimony against “the God of the earth;” with all the power, learning, and influence of the Great Harlot, her State daughters, and dissenting abominations arrayed against them; and besides all this, the heartlessness and cowardice and treachery of professed neutrals and friends. To take up such a position, and to maintain it without surrender, requires knowledge and faith working by love of what is known. Hence, the necessity of meditation upon the word. This will develope faith, and the more an honest-hearted man understands of the word untraditionized by what is falsely called science, the more enlarged and the stronger will his faith become; and the more valiant will he be for the truth, and the more efficient for the work before him as a “witness” a “prophet,” a “lightstand,” and an “olive tree” “before the Deity of the earth.”

You can do nothing for the truth in the Modern Athens that will be recognized by the King at his appearing, if you follow your old ways when you used, as bro. Steel says, “to discuss everything, and settle nothing,” and call it exhortation and teaching. Such is mere twaddle, and will never make you appear before the enemy, the great Babylon around you, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” You will only be terrible to your friends. “Discussing every thing and settling nothing” is a weakness that will never grow into strength. No good can possibly come out of it; and will cause no one to wax valiant in the fight, or or “to turn to flight the armies of the aliens.” Some are always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Such may unprofitably occupy time, but they can edify no one. All their “discussions” and “investigations” amount to nothing. The light of truth must shine clearly in a man’s head, before he can speak critically or accurately upon “the Deep things of the Spirit;” and if you undertake to implant these in the brains of Modern Athenians, who, like their brethren of old time, are exceedingly fond of gossip, you must be bright and lucid in your irradiations, that you may shine away the darkness of the subtleties, and the vagaries of the inner consciousness, with which the cup of the Old Harlot has crazed and intoxicated them. And this you will find to be, if you have not already done so, no easy work to do. The traditions radiating infinitely and at all angles, form almost an impenetrablc cloud—a cloud which befogs every thing, and renders it impervious to “the simplicity that is in Christ.” But shall we despair? 

By no means. The work before us at present, is not to demolish Antichrist, and the tradition with which he is clothed as with a black and threatening cloud. This is beyond our power, as it is extra the mission of the saints against whom he has prevailed almost “forty and two months.” His demolition is their work, when joined therein by the Ancient of days. This is their patience and faith.—Rev. 13:10; 14:12. The real saints are waiting for this. In the meantime, they hold the position of the witnesses for Jesus; and it is required in witnesses, who are stewards of the testimony, that they be faithful after the example of Christ and Antipas—Rev. 1:5; 3:14; 2:13. At present, they have to show the truth in every way that will make the truth shine; that it may stand out in the foreground of the picture so distinctly from all surroundings, that observers at a glance may distinguish it in all its outlines. without any possibility of confounding it with the dark cloud of the things beyond, This is the work for us to do, that men’ seeing the photograph, Christ written upon their minds by the testimony which is light, may confess that it is a true, faithful, and beautiful picture; and embracing it with affectionate hearts, may so put it into their bosom, and become married, or rather betrothed unto the Lord. In this way an enlightened and affectionate, and valiant people will be prepared for him; who will not only be watching for him, but with garments kept, and lamps well trimmed with the golden oil of the good olive tree, be ready to enter in on the closing of the door against all the world.

But this bringing the truth out in striking contrast with the dark back ground of pious sinnerism, is exceedingly offensive to all the brethren of Demas; who forsook Paul, “having loved the present world” as he went to Thessalonica, where there were many faithful brethren. He did not perhaps forsake Paul’s theory. He may have held on to this; but he forsook Paul, doubtless, because he was “rude in speech,” and did not like his “plainness of speech” in which Paul seemed to delight. Perhaps, he thought, that to call brethren “false apostles, deceitfl workers,” and ministers of Satan; and to wish that they were cut off who troubled the faithful: and to anathematize such respectable professors of astrologic science, and Hebrew divinity, as the Rev. Mr. Barjoses; to apostrophize him as “full of all subtilty, and of all mischief, child of the devil, and enemy of all righteousness, perverting the right ways of the Lord”—was “reviling and threatening,” “the language of harsh denunciation,” and uttered in “a tone and gesture” which did not “manifest the compassionate spirit of Jesus,” but “a spirit entirely foreign to his heart of hearts.” At all events, there was something about the apostle that brother Demas did not like, and caused him to turn his back upon him. It could not be Paul’s moral character, for he was unblameable; nor unscriptural teaching, for he said none other things than what the prophets said before him; it could hardly be his want of personal attractions, for Christ himself had none of these; there remains then only his rude and vulgar speech, which was not conformed to the diplomatic and forensic generalities of Cæsar’s circle. Paul’s style was not compatible with the interests of fashionable professors, who “love the present world.” This is the secret of the outcry made by the brethren of Demas in all ages since. They love the present world, which makes it utterly impossible for Christ’s faithful witnesses to work with them, or to please them. If, when you are testifying against the perverters of the right ways of the Lord, you use the “tone and gesture” of earnest contention for the faith, and specify the blasphemies which pervert it in language which truly and unmistakably define them; they accuse you of rudeness and reviling.

They would have you adopt their style, as if you were pleading a case in court, in which you had no more interest than the fee you expected to obtain when you had got through your otherwise irksome task. They would reduce you to the cold, unimpassioned, style of a clerical reader of sermons, purchased in Paternoster Row, at so much per dozen. Whatever they may think, they dare not accuse Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and Christ of reviling; but they condemn their words in the mouths of Christ’s brethren. Oh say they, “Christ was inspired and infallible; but you are not, and have no right to do as he did.” But Peter exhorts us differently. He tells us, that Christ left us an example, that we should follow his steps: who did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again. Now, it is well to follow his steps in speaking,

as well as in action. No better model for style than his can be found. He was a guileless enunciation of the truth in word, tone and gesture, which left his hearers unmistakably impressed with his meaning. He has not left us to the dictionary for the definition of the word “revile.” Matt. 5:11, clearly shows, that to revile is “to say all manner of evil against a man falsely:” to say evil of a man, or body of men, truly is not reviling. All said against Jesus reproachfully, was false, and therefore reviling; but all he said of his foes was true, and therefore not reviling, else to earnestly declare the truth is reviling. Now, it is not necessary to be miraculously inspired, nor infallible, to qualify for discerning the truth in relation to modern teachers as surely as Jesus did in regard to the Scribes and Pharisees. He judged them by their fruits; and by the same rule, he said they should be known.

When, therefore, men ascend a pulpit, and proclaim themselves to be the “ministers of Christ,” and “successors of the apostles,” we are as infallibly certain that they are the ministers of Satan, as Jesus was, that the Scribes and Pharisees were a generation of serpents; because they neither know the gospel nor have they obeyed it; and it is not reviling to proclaim this truth upon the housetops. Christ does not employ men as his ministers who are ignorant of his truth. They who think he does, are either ignorant of it themselves, or sceptical concerning it. If a man say, I am infallibly certain, that two and two make four, does any one reproach him for presumption? Or accuse him of setting up for an arithmetical pope? Did not Christ say, “He that believes the gospel, and is baptized, shall be saved? Is not this the oracle of heaven? Is it then dogmatizing, or presumption, or setting up for a religious pope, to say, I am infallibly certain, that there is no salvation for Jew or Gentile since the great Pentecost, who does not believe and obey the gospel in immersion. If a man affirm the contrary, is he not speaking evil falsely, or reviling Christ. For in so saying, or so insinuating, he is accusing him of saying what he did not mean; in plain terms, of lying; and that too, on a subject affecting the best interests of men, and the honor of God.

I hope you have no brethren of Demas with you at Calton Convening Rooms. It is an evil thing to be in love with the present world. It destroys all valour for the truth, and undermines our faith; and it is only by faith we overcome the world. While Demas friends are twaddling about style, being, we may suppose very stylish people, let us leave the shadow to them, while we grasp the substance. Let us rejoice, that we know the truth, and they cannot deprive us of it. They may censure, and use all underhand means to alienate friends, and to bring us into disrepute; it all goes for nothing, and “passes by as the idle wind which we regard not.” For myself, I am absolutely independent of them in thought, word, and deed. I seek nothing they possess in the form of honor, approbation, substance, or any thing that is theirs; yet would I seek them, and were it possible, I would deliver them from their worldliness, their scepticism, and their traditions. I would show them a more excellent way in which they would do well to glory.

But, adieu to Demas and his brethren! Turn we now to more genial things. You may perhaps like to hear how our brethren have been getting along in the Confederate States during the past three years. In Richmond and Lunenburg County, Virginia, they are all well and prosperous. A son of one of them who has been three years in the army of the South, is a prisoner on parole, and residing with me till he can get something to do.

Believing it is wrong to be killing men, he put himself in a position to be captured. His captors sent him on North, and as I said, he is now with me. All I know of the brethren is from him. They hold their meetings regularly, and take no part in the war. The Confederate Congress passed an act, exempting them from military service, under the name of Nazarenes, on payment of 500 dollars. All are exempted who were members at the time of passing the act; but all who join them since, are liable to military conscription. My informant has four brothers in the army. One obeyed the gospel recently. He applied for his discharge, stating that he could not conscientiously use his weapons to destroy life. But his superiors reviled him. He appealed to his past service in twelve of the bloodiest battles of the war; and to his reputation with his comrades, in proof that it was not cowardice that caused his application. His valour was admitted, but conscience was ignored. He has often charged the enemy with his troop, but he will not kill. This course has arrested the notice of his captain, who has come to recognize the existence of conscience formed by the truth. On one occasion, he went into a charge in which all his company were killed or wounded except himself. His Captain said it was suicide, and he determined that he should expose himself no more. He was put therefore in a position in which he would not be called upon to fight. None of the brethren have lost any of their sons. How it may be if the war continues, who can tell? There was a motion made in the Confederate Congress, to drive them all out of the country! Had this been decreed, I should have despaired of Richmond and the South. But “the Earth helped the Woman.” An able speech was made on their defence, and the motion was lost.

A brother in Norfolk, Va. writes, “We have had some severe trials since I wrote to you, but the Lord delivered us out of them all. I had several interviews with the General commanding here, when finally he agreed to allow us to remain in this department upon the condition that he would not give us any protection; to which we agreed; asking of him, at the same time to keep the men off, and we should try to take care of ourselves. In reply to this he promised us, that they should not interfere with us. A word on the subject of protection. In order that one may be a recipient of all the good things promised in Ab. Lincoln’s proclamation, we are required to first of all take the oath of allegiance. After due compliance with this, the authorities give you a certificate of loyalty, upon the strength of which you can claim all the rights of a native born citizen; but without this certificate of loyalty, you can neither buy nor sell. Hence, you see that our operations under such restriction must necessarily be confined to a narrow compass; and that we are pretty closely hemmed in, at least for the present. We are consoled, however with the full assurance of faith and hope, that the God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will deliver us from the present evil world, and will translate us into the kingdom of his dear son.”

I am happy in being able to inform you, that I have nearly finished writing Eureka Vol. 2.  I think it will effectually explode the Glasgow “conviction that the fulfilment of what is written in the book of the Revelations, from ch. 4. inclusive, is still future”— Messrs. Dowie, Cameron, & Co’s Messenger, No. vi. Vol. iii. p. xxiii. Such a “conviction” is conclusive that those who formed it are not of the blessed, who understand the words of the prophecy, and keep those things that are written therein.” I trust, however, that it may yet be possible to shine into their understandings; and to convince them that their “conviction” is untenable, and rashly and presumptuously formed.

With kind regards to all the faithful who rejoice in the truth, and are devoted to it with a zeal according to knowledge.

I remain,

Faithfully and Affectionately Yours


THE CHRISTADELPHIAN 1865 page 155–159.