This title is Brother John Carter’s summary of Brother John Thomas in “The Faith in the Last Days” (1949) page 42. It epitomizes the man and presents a superb example of commitment and dedication to God and His Word. Brother W H Boulton in the Third Edition of “Dr Thomas His Life and Work” (1954) page xii, wrote:
“I have learned to know Dr Thomas in a way I never did before. The reading of his own words recording his journeys and his doings, has revealed him in a light that was not shown in the original biography—which was the story of a work, rather than of a man. If readers also come to feel that they understand Dr Thomas better than they did before, I shall feel that my labours have been well spent.”
These words may well summarise the effect that the following Feature article is intended to have. It illustrates the providential hand of God in the discovery of the Truth and the establishment of His ecclesia in these last days.

This edition of The Lampstand commences a two-part feature article by Brother Stephen Hill on The Providential Discovery of the Truth in the Nineteenth Century. Brother Stephen has conducted an extensive research into the life of Brother John Thomas with a view to gaining an insight and appreciation of the character of the man raised up to perform a good work in the earth in the latter days. This research has been supplemented and enhanced by personal visits by Brother Stephen and his Sister wife to retrace much of the journeys made by Brother Thomas in his quest to find saving truth. Many interviews and visits to premises used by Brother Thomas for public lectures, including some of our earliest ecclesial halls, have lent this study an air of contextual relevance and accuracy. Much new material, not previously published, including illustrations, is woven into the article.

It is written to convey the tenacity of our brother in following uncharted goals in finding “the sure and certain hope” of salvation as well as to admire his endurance in overcoming frequent bouts of sickness often brought on by his exhausting labours in preaching, writing and travelling. It is perhaps this humanity of the man that is refreshing reading assuming a general knowledge with his life and works.

This present article spans Brother John Thomas’ early life to the culmination of his search for Truth at his baptism into Christ. It paints an interesting picture of his father and suggests that this domestic environment of religious debate may well have had a profound effect on young John Thomas. The article also presents a very helpful insight into the turbulent era of reformation and social change that in the providence of God set the scene for the rediscovery of the Truth. It is this coming together of many factors that enabled John Thomas, not without personal deprivation and exhaustion, to follow a course worked out by the providence of God. This remarkable young man was subject to so many unforeseen challenges and opportunities that he felt compelled to follow for fifteen years an ever-changing path to a full persuasion of the gospel expressed in baptism with a mature and full knowledge of essential truth.

We do well to mark the hand of God in his life through the natural interplay of career changes, contacts with Reformation leaders and redefining questions on what constituted Truth by enemies and friends alike. Out of this refining process the purity of Truth emerged and we, the beneficiaries of this work of God, would do well to render honour, double honour, to a man who laboured with honesty and integrity for the Word and doctrine. We should esteem these men of faith “very highly in love for their work’s sake”.

It is appropriate that we pause and consider the significance of the fact that 150 years have passed since 1 March 1847 when Brother John Thomas crystallized his thinking on what constituted the hope of Romans 8:24, when he wrote a twelve page article on “The Hope of the World, and the Gospel, or ‘Hope of Israel’”. He had said then, that the writing of this article “opened his eyes astonishingly”. With the passage of time and in particular in this 150th year, the searching question must be posed, do we as a community, so indebted to the labours and dedication of our brother, still have our eyes opened, wide open, to marvel at the power and uniqueness of the hope of Israel as the saving hope essential before baptism and essential for salvation? Or as a community and individually are we so many generations removed from our pioneers that we are indifferent and apathetic to the precious legacy of Truth so assiduously articulated for our reading and learning? It is a regrettable fact of human endeavour that subsequent generations invariably fall away from the faith of their forefathers.

Brother John Marshall, writing in the special centenary edition of The Christadelphian in 1964 wrote:

  “What then is to be our course in the future? What steps have we to take to avoid decay? We must constantly review and stress the fundamentals of our Faith; we must fearlessly preserve the ‘Hope of Israel’; and we must urgently proclaim the reality of the second advent of Jesus.”

 This feature article in two instalments may reactivate in its readers a profound sense of thankfulness to God for His blessing upon the labours of Brother John Thomas for unearthing the first principles of apostolic faith. That thankfulness is best expressed in a resolve to reverse the natural declension and consciously “strengthen the things that remain”. By God’s grace may there be a community of believers at the return of our Lord who share a kindred spirit with that of our brother and together with him will marvel at the joy and wonder of the Kingdom for which no present suffering or temporal loss will deter them.