Thomas, John, Md
Thomas, John, M.D.
the founder of the Christadelphians (q.v.), was born at Hoxton Square, London, April 12, 1805. His father was a Dissenting clergyman while in England and a Baptist clergyman after coming to the United States in 1832. John was educated as a physician, beginning, at the age of sixteen, a medical course under a private physician, and continuing it for three years at St. Thomas's Hospital. He then assisted a London physician a year, and practiced medicine at Hackney three years. Although a member of his father's church from boyhood, his first attention to creeds was in 1830 or 1831, when he began the study of the subject of immortality, upon which he made contributions to The Lancet. Purely as a business venture he sailed for New York, May 1, 1832. Shortly after reaching Cincinnati he became acquainted with Walter Scott, the original founder of the "Christians," or Campbellites. Before he was aware of it, he had heard from Scott a full exposition of his doctrines, had assented to them as appearing rational and had been induced to indicate that assent by immersion at ten o'clock at night in the Miami canal. On a trip east, in 1833, he met and visited Alexander Campbell, was forced reluctantly into assisting him in public addresses, and was so well received by the people that, on reaching Baltimore, he made addresses every evening for a week upon religious topics. During 1834 and 1835 he practiced medicine in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Richmond, speaking to the Campbellite congregations on Sundays. In May 1834, he issued the first number of The Apostolic Advocate. a monthly magazine, of which five volumes were issued in all. His first opposition to the received views of the sect consisted in publishing, in No. 6 of his magazine, an article on Anabaptism, resulting in controversy between him and Mr. Campbell. The former insisted upon the reimmersion of persons coming to the sect from Baptist churches; the latter denied its necessity. On December 1, 1835, Dr. Thomas made another advance in free-thought by publishing thirty-four questions which hinted at materialism, annihilation of the wicked, a physical kingdom, etc. The chief outcry against him was for his materialistic tendencies. By 1836 Mr. Campbell denounced him openly. About this time Mr. Thomas moved to Amelia County, Virginia, abandoned the practice of medicine, set up a printing-office on his farm, and devoted himself largely to literary work. In August 1837, he engaged in a public discussion with a Presbyterian clergyman, Reverend Mr. Watt. In November he was publicly disfellowshipped by Mr. Campbell, while, in response to the demands of the latter, he was called to account by the churches at Painesville and Bethel for his views. They did not, however, see fit to discipline him, contenting themselves with some suggestions concerning the spirit in which he should carry on the discussion. In 1838 he made a preaching tour through the southern counties of Virginia, coming in conflict more or less with Mr. Campbell. In 1839 he removed to Longrove, Illinois, took up two hundred and eighty-eight acres of land, and for two years confined his attention to farming. After a brief residence at St. Charles, where his printing-office and physician's office were burned, he opened an office at Hennepin, and was appointed lecturer on chemistry in Franklin Medical College. The Advocate having now been suspended for nearly three years, he started, in 1842, a monthly called The Investigator, of which he issued twelve numbers. In 1843 he began The Herald of the Future Age, at Louisville, Kentucky, and continued it at Richmond. where, in 1844, he held his first meetings separately from the Campbellites. Collisions with the latter led to further study and to wider divergence of creed. He published his articles of belief at this time, and in October 1846, delivered a series of ten lectures in New York in defence thereof. Having still further perfected his declaration of belief, he decided, in February or March 1847, that he ought to be baptized into that belief; accordingly, he requested a friend to immerse him and to say over him, "Upon confession of your faith in the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, I baptize you into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." After fourteen years of search he was now satisfied that he had reached the truth. He began to advocate it more earnestly than ever, visiting Baltimore, where he was permitted to speak in the Campbellite meeting-house; Buffalo, where he was furnished with the Millerite place of worship, and New York, where he was received by the Campbellites. With letters from many Campbellites and other friends he sailed from New York in June 1848, for England. His enemies had communicated his peculiar doctrines to the Campbellites of Nottingham and other places. He was therefore refused audience by them, but he addressed the Millerites of Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham, and Plymouth. The London Campbellites denounced him officially. Those of Lincoln and Newark received him, and the former made him their delegate to the Church convention at Glasgow. An effort to prevent his sitting was unsuccessful, and he addressed large audiences in the City Hall. A call for the publication of his views, while at Glasgow, led to the preparation of Elpis Israel (478 pp. royal 8vo). At Edinburgh he delivered a course of ten lectures. Spending the winter of 1848-49 in London, upon his book, he made subsequent tours through England and Scotland lecturing and preaching. In November 1850, he came again to the United States, resumed The Herald of the Future Age in 1851, and published volume 1 of Eureka. He travelled and advocated his views through the States and Canada until 1862, when the war caused the cessation of his paper, and he sailed for Liverpool. He visited all the places where groups had been organized to advocate his views, and, returning to the United States, issued the second volume of Eureka. The third volume was published in 1868. A third trip to Great Britain was made in 1869, when he found that his Birmingham church had grown from twelve to one hundred and twenty-three members. Crossing to the United States for the fourth time, in May 1870, he began a tour of the country, but was prostrated at Worcester, Massachusetts, and compelled to give up his work. He died in New York, March 5, 1871. In addition to the periodicals and books mentioned above, he issued, The Apostasy Unveiled (1838, 148 pages): — Anatolia (1854, 102 pages): — Anastasis (46 pages): — Phanerois, and several tracts and lectures. (C.W.S.)