This edition of The Lampstand completes a two-part feature article by Brother Stephen Hill commenced in Volume 3, Number 6. In that edition Brother Stephen portrayed the varying circumstances surrounding the early life of Brother Thomas, all of which had a significant bearing on his character. These included his own father’s religious inclinations, the social conditions in a time of reformation and his early exchanges with Alexander Campbell.
In this edition Brother Thomas’ commitment to the apostolic faith, epitomised in our title taken from 1 Corinthians 15:58 and so persistently uncovered largely by his searching for Truth, is well described. It is perhaps the constant “care of the ecclesias” that so commends to us our brother’s love of the Truth. It is one thing to have a zeal for the Truth: it is another to persevere time and again, in frequent visits and correspondence to the brethren to confirm the faith “once delivered unto the saints”. Brother Thomas was disinterested in cultivating a following. He laboured
with extraordinary diligence and self-sacrifice to consolidate the new-found Faith, often in small groups of brethren, in the spirit of a latter day Paul and Timothy “naturally caring for your state”.

The baptism of Brother Thomas in 1847 commenced a life in Christ rarely paralleled in modern times. It was not known for its grand plans of leadership, but to the contrary, a humble and responsive compliance to the hand of providence in his life. He was ever ready to respond to emerging situations. Where an opening presented itself to give public lectures to disenchanted Campbellites or Millerites he unstintingly responded. Where newly established ecclesias sent a call for his ministrations he willingly gave his services, often at great cost to his personal health and well-being.

In this feature article Brother Stephen Hill traces the life of Brother Thomas over a twenty four year period from his baptism to his death. It is a remarkable story of dedicated service, of unwavering conviction of the Truth as it is in Christ and selfless nurturing of the same faith espoused by others. But it is the more remarkable if we remind ourselves that he largely performed his service for the cause of Christ alone and without the support of an ecclesial infrastructure.

Whilst in Britain from 1848 to 1850 Brother Thomas found the doors to Campbellite audiences frequently closed but others, like the Millerites of Nottingham, heard him gladly. In this Brother Thomas freely acknowledged the guiding hand of providence enabling him to speak and write of the apostolic faith and things pertaining to the Kingdom  of God. A door of utterance was opened, for example, to audiences of five or six thousand in Glasgow! The description of Brother Thomas’ labours in writing and rewriting Elpis Israel in 1849 at a time of mental and physical fatigue must impress us with his sense of purpose and persistence.

His return to America brought recurring bouts of physical disability often incurred by extensive travels of thousands of kilometres on his own and for several weeks at a time. A move to New York, “where he considered the prospects to be better for a hearing of the Truth”, reveals his priorities and the setting up of an agenda of worship for the “Royal Association of Believers” in 1854 demonstrates his remarkable foresight. His journeys at the invitation of new ecclesias all over the eastern States by river boat, stage coach, train and on foot, being ever ready to speak and to keep up with his writing commitments is nothing short of marvellous, especially when compared to the comparative comfort of our mode of travel. A man so dedicated was also deeply appreciative of the generosity of the brethren. It is well for us to recognise this thankfulness in Brother Thomas being so much the more heartfelt when, on the other hand, he was so frequently vilified by Campbellites or brethren of differing persuasions.

The description of Brother Thomas crossing the front line during the American Civil War—  “having a strong desire to see the brethren there, and to strengthen them in the faith, and to fortify them against the influences… we aimed more to strengthen the believers, than to add to their numbers”— often at great personal peril and hardship, is revealing as to the driving force of our brother. In 1864 he rallied to the aid of the brethren about to be conscripted into the army and in gaining their exemption, coined the name Christadelphian.

There is a delightfully whimsical touch of Brother Thomas a year before his death—attending to whitewashing the house, mowing the grass and digging the garden when preparing to sell  his house—a man disinterested in self image but attentive to responsibilities of home and, to a larger extent, to the household of God. His death close to the age of sixty seven has left an invaluable legacy of a man with a clear mission, despite many bouts of severe illness. Brother Stephen has served us well in painting a picture with fresh detail and insights into the life of a man raised up to perform an outstanding work in creating a people prepared for the coming of the Lord. Brother Thomas is truly a servant beloved.