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Why Providence and Independence of Mind Equipped John Thomas to Rediscover the Truth

The following passages are taken from, “Dr Thomas, His Life and Work,” by Robert Roberts:


“But for Alexander Campbell, the human probability is there would have been no John Thomas; and, so far as we can see, but for John Thomas, those who now rejoice in the truth, would have been sitting, like the rest of the world, in “darkness and the shadow of death.”

The connection between Campbellism and the career that led Dr. Thomas to the discovery of the truth, accounts for the prominence of the former in this narrative.  That will not be regretted by those who desire to see the chain of circumstances that led the Doctor to the result for which Campbellism paved the way.  The interesting and instructive story of the truth’s revival cannot be told without a recital of the history of Campbellism, in so far as it bore upon the career of the man through whom that revival was effected – a man at first welcomed by the leaders of Campbellism as a “chosen vessel,” but soon bitterly discarded and maligned.

Dr Thomas was naturally qualified for his great work.  His intellect was a fine balance between perception and reflection, adapting him for accurate observation and reasoning, while a scientific education increased those powers.  On the other hand.  His independence and fidelity to conviction, fitted him to advocate the results of study without compromise.  Yet, left to himself, those qualifications must have taken a different direction.  It required the circumstances to which he was subjected to bring him into the path of Biblical discovery.  This discovery was not a result upon which he had set his mind.  He had no idea that discovery in this department was possible.  He supposed theology was as much a settled branch of knowledge as any other, and, as a young man, he took no special interest in it…

The pressure of circumstances alone forced him into a religious path.  His theological career was emphatically a providential development.  He neither designed nor inclined it.  It was the result of special circumstance, operating upon his peculiarly constituted mind.”


“The Doctor was a remarkable man, and was the instrument of a remarkable work, which required strongly-marked characteristics for its accomplishment.  The work is patent to all who know and love the truth.  He performed the work of an apostle, and lived long enough to see that work placed upon a permanent basis.  The peculiarities necessary to do the work were:- firstly, a clear, well-balanced, scientific intellect, and a non-emotional, executive nature, enabling him to reason accurately, and perceive and embrace conclusions in the face of prejudice and sentiment; secondly, self-reliance and an independence almost to the point of eccentricity, disposing him to think and act without reference to any second person, and if need be, in opposition to friend as foe; thirdly, a predominating conscientiousness impelling him in the direction of right and duty; and fourthly, great boldness and fluency of speech which qualified him for the enunciation of the truth discovered in the face of the world in arms.

These qualities fitted him to follow the pursuit of truth, uninfluenced by the social forces that are all-powerful with ordinary men.  Without them he would have been liable, at all stages of his career, to be turned off track.  Veneration for antiquated opinions and a prevailing sympathy with his kind, would have embarrassed him in the acceptance of conclusions adverse to those of religious society, and, probably, deterred him from pursuing his researches to a sufficient length even to percieve these conclusions.  They would certainly have interfered with their effective promulgation.  Mildness of speech would have been incompatible with that pronounced and definite expression of conviction which was necessary at a time of universal self-complacency.

Yet the qualities that fitted him for the work in hand made him appear to a disadvantage in other relations, and, undoubtedly, unsuited him for other kinds of good work.  Like a tool shaped and tempered for a specific purpose, he was out of place away from that purpose, and this negativeness.  Under such circumstances, has given his enemies occasion for cavil.  The part of friends has been rather to hide than expose infirmity.  Gratitude threw the fold of protection over what may have been deemed the faults of an otherwise great, and noble, and extraordinary character.  Good sense has looked at the entire situation, and acted accordingly.  What was wanted was a man to break the clods:  to open war against the world; to do the rough work connected with the nineteenth-century resowing of the good seed of the kingdom, and these qualities were such as to unfit him for some others.”