The following is taken from the Millennial Harbinger (Vol V, no IV, 1834, pages 187-188). It was edited by Alexander Campbell who was a leader in the Restoration Movement that the founder of the Christadelphians, John Thomas, joined initially.
At the time he was given high commendation by the movement and was proposing a new magazine. This was to be called “The Advocate” and he was to be the independent investigator and defender of truth.
It is worth noting in particular number 2 of his aims, which was “the defense of the Holy Scriptures against all creeds, ‘Confessions of Faith,’ Commentators and System Makers.” The promotion of independence of thought was a significant feature of the preaching of John Thomas to explain why his views could be both unique and right. His claim was human influence through systems of religion were responsible for limiting people’s knowledge and formulating their views for them and was why the apostolic faith had been lost.
This emphasis on the need for independence of thought stands in marked contrast to the high creedal basis of the Christadelphians today and the system of church authority now in place. It raises interesting questions about how a group can be sure it alone has correct interpretation, on what basis it can claim divine validity for church authority as well as what limitations to independence of thought and therefore full freewill we all may have.
By John Thomas, M. D. of Philadelphia, for publishing by Subscription, a Monthly Periodical, to be titled THE APOSTOLIC ADVOCATE.
“WE (the Apostles) are of God: be who knows God, hearkens to us; he who knows not God, hearkens not to us. By this we know the Spirit of Truth, and the Spirit of Error.”—1 John iv. 8. Macknight’s Translation.
“Be mindful of the words before spoken by the Holy Prophets, and of the Commandment of us, the Apostles of the Lord and Saviour.”—2 Pet. iii. 2.—Macknigkt.
THIS work shall be devoted to the Ancient Gospel and the Original Constitution of Things as proclaimed and appointed by the Apostles. Never was there a time since the days of William Penn, that this and adjacent cities required such an “Advocate” as at this present. The voice of the Apostles is stifled by the clamor of sectarian declamation. It is true, indeed, they are talked about, and their statues adorn cathedral parapets and steepled walls—it is also true, that the commercial marts of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York abound in religious establishments, each and every of them amply furnished with all the gorgeousness and splendid trappings of Temple Worship:—they can boast, too, of an erudite, courtly, eloquent and right reverend priesthood—the depositories of wisdom and sacred knowledge—whose fertile ingenuity illustrates, sustains, and fulminates the Dogmas of Creeds for the deglutition of an unsuspecting and too-confiding Laity. But all these things, however adored, may be easily unmasked, and resolved in their ultimate constituents—the devices, traditions, commandments of men; and will be proved to be no part of the Religion Of Christ, or of the Traditions and Teachings of the Holy Apostles. The Advocate, therefore, will unrol his brief against these corruptions of Christianity; and, while he pays all respect to persons that is due, he will use every honorable and scriptural means to disabuse the minds of his fellow citizens of the philosophical Dogmas and christianized Orientalism palmed upon them for the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God.
In subserviency to this end, the following, among other subjects, will be attended to:—
1. The Non-Identity of all Popular Religion with the Religion of Christ.
2. The defence of the Holy Scriptures against all creeds, ‘Confessions of Faith,’ Commentators and System Makers.
3. The objects proposed by the proselyting Spirit of the Age as developed in the so styled “benevolent institutions of the day,” incompatible with, and contrary to the predictions of the Ancient Prophets.
4. The modern dogmas of physical and spiritual operations, not the doctrines of the Holy Spirit taught by the Apostles.
5. The Fates and Fortunes of the Kingdoms of the World foreshown by prophecy.
6. Religious, Moral, and Literary varieties; with Essays on various interesting and important subjects in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.
“The Advocate” will glean from the fields of Christian Literature whatever is calculated to illustrate the magnificent and sublime politics of Messiah’s Reign. He will endeavor to do justly to all who may oppose and differ from him; his object being to convince, not to condemn. Audi alteram partem, hear the other side,—shall always vibrate in his ear;—for, having neither sympathies nor antipathies to gratify—having no gift or “sacred office” of pecuniary emolument to blind his eyes, to pervert his judgment, or to distort his mental vision—being interested in upholding no religious dogmas, in sustaining no sect, in pleading for no sectarian creed—The Advocate will strive to exemplify the apothem—fiat justitia ruat caelum, let justice be done though the heavens fall.—Let the opponents of the Ancient Gospel go and do likewise.
1. Each number to be published the beginning of every month and to contain 24 pages doudecimo.
2. The subscription will be One Dollar a year exclusive of postage, payable in advance, on receiving the first number. If not paid within three months One Dollar and Fifty Cents; and no subscriptions for a less period than aforesaid.
4. Postmasters, who act as agents, shall have ten per cent for obtaining subscribers, and for collecting and remitting the amount of their subscriptions. All other persons, who obtain and pay for five subscribers within three months from subscribing, shall have one copy gratis. But to those who do not guaranty and pay within that period, ten per cent upon all subscribers, for whom they make payment shall be allowed.
5. All Communications to the Advocate must be directed to the Editor, 130 Arch Street, opposite the Theatre, Philadelphia; and also Post Paid or they will be returned.
P. S. It is respectfully submitted, that all desirous of the downfall of the Apostacy; and interrested in the re-establishment of the Ancient Gospel, and Restoration of the Apostolic Order of Things over the Ruins of the Man of Sin in all his subtle and specious forms in these Eastern Cities, will exert their influence in sustaining the endeavors of the Editor to that end.
N. B. Let all persons be careful to name the post office to which they wish their papers sent.
To be published at T. Brindley’s, 63 Chesnut Street.
BROTHER Thomas is already known to many of our readers from his able review of the Catholic controversy, and to myself he is so well known as a talented, devoted, and zealous disciple of the Messiah—as an honorable and independent advocate of the truth, who has, through his veneration and affection for the apostolic institution, sacrificed his temporal and professional interests and honors, that I cannot but announce with pleasure his project as above developed. This pleasure is heightened from the consideration, that the city of Philadelphia is to be the theatre of his editorial labors, and the eastern cities the special object of his attention. My late visit to these cities has confirmed the representations that were made to me of their deplorable situation as regards religious instructions. Because of the literary, political, and commercial eminence and standing of these great marts of American commerce, many associate with this pre-eminence an idea of their superior opportunities and attainments in religious knowledge. But this is a fatal error. From more than twenty years intimate acquaintance with the religious world, East and West, I have not a doubt that the western country generally, deficient as it is, is greatly in advance, of not only the sea board, but of the Atlantic cities, in the heavenly science and practice of the Christian institution, and in general religious information and instruction. I say this is a fatal error—fatal for the country that looks up to these cities for that eminence in the knowledge of God which they possess in the knowledge of Mammon; and fatal to the citizens themselves, because of their imaginary religious advantages, and their consequent disdain for the attainments of others. An aristocracy of wealth, of learning, of talent, there may be, but an aristocracy of religious information, and of the knowledge of revelation, there is not—there cannot be. I mean no inviduous distinctions, nor generic classifications of one part of our population against another. They are all needy enough, but the greatest need lor evangelical, or what some call missionary labors, appear to exist in the eastern cities.
This new periodical furnishes another occasion for the liberality of the brethren. Those who need these aids least, are called upon to contribute most, for the sake of others. Just as we value the benefits we have received from the increase of Christian knowledge and enjoyment from the labors of others, will we contribute to the diffusion of the same blessings to our destitute neighbors. It is owing to the press that light has been so generally diffused among the people; and that the reformation has spread so far and wide in so short a time. The last ten years furnish facts and documents on this subject better than theory or analogical reasonings. The tongue, as far as it can be heard, is first and chief of all the moral instruments bestowed on man; but the pen, because of the permanancy and greater indelibility of its operations, commands a wider and a more lasting influence, while the press gives to it wings and strength, which, as yet, transcend all our calculations.
This is our palladium against the incursions and attacks of the rulers of the darkness of this world—this the chariot of that moral war for truth and virtue, which, notwithstanding all adverse fates and fortunes, must ultimate gloriously and triumphantly.
The brethren and friends of reformation principles, it is hoped, will sustain this effort, until a fair trial shall have been made for the eastern cities. This new Advocate will have to succeed by the force of truth alone; for against it will be arrayed the sectarian powers that be in all the formidable artillery of defamation, misrepresentation, and of that hideous power of “censure and expulsion” which has been vouchsafed to all children of the hierarchies of the old world.
I once thought that the Christian Baptist would itself have sufficed for the developement of the great principles of the restoration of the apostolic institutions, and that these once laid before the public, we might cease our operations in the editorial department. But we calculated too much upon the number and the sincerity of those who prayed earnestly that they might know and stand perfect and complete in all the revealed will of God. Alas! our experince has taught us that still “the called are many, but the choice spirits are few,” and that the distortions, and inquisitions, and racks, and tortures, to which our sentiments have been submitted, call for a perpetual advocacy. Apologies for the Apostles’ doctrine and defence of it are as necessary now as in the time Nero and Domitian. And if there were not a new idea to communicate, the illustration and defence of those already offered, calls for unremitting exertion on the part of all who have a tongue to plead, or a hand to wield the pen for God. Much of the volume called the New Testament was occasioned by opposition to the gospel, and had the Apostles lived longer they would have found it as necessary to write as to speak against error and errorisis.
Moreover, there are communities and large districts of country which the doctrine of the ancient institutions has not yet reached. To such the republication and defence of the principles of reformation are as necessary as they formerly were to those who now best understand them. The labors of the press, then, must not only continue, but increase as the emergencies require. All that is necessary to the triumph of the cause we plead is a candid and fair hearing. Wherever this has been obtained it has always triumphed. This our opponents now fully understand. Their experience teaches them, however slow to learn other things, that they can only retain their dominion by keeping “the bad leaven” at a distance, and by “censure and expulsion” of all the affected members. The positive prohibition of reading our writings, now so fashionable among the orthodox, is positive and undeniable proof of the estimate in which they are held by the wisest of our opponents. May the good Lord speed and prosper the labors of the press and the tongues that plead his cause, that Christians may be emancipated, and that sinners may be saved from the impending vengeance!
Editor Mill. Harbinger