C H R I S T A D E L P H I A N R E S E A R C H
Confession and Abjuration
The following is the “Confession and Abjuration” that John Thomas made of his former position when he was rebaptised. It can be found in “Dr Thomas His Life and Work,” chapter 26. Following this he toured Britain and wrote “Elpis Israel” which represents the “gospel of the kingdom” he believed was necessary for salvation and without which knowledge a person did not have the saving gospel:
“When we consider the nature of flesh and blood, and the constitution of the world to which it stands related, it seems impossible that a man should struggle for twelve long years in and with the darkness and evil by which he is surrounded, and have no errors to confess and abjure. There may be some immaculates who, being wise in their own conceit, consider themselves as free from these, and who regard with pious horror the possibility of ‘heresy’ being an ingredient of their religion. But it is not so with the Editor of the Herald of the Future Age. He admits he has erred ‘in many things’; and it affords him great and pleasant satisfaction to announce to his readers that by the profitable assistance of the Sacred Writings, he has discovered some mistakes, which, if not corrected, would prove fatal to his eternal well-being. His errors are of a positive and negative character—errors of omission, and errors of commission. While it may be a palliation to say he erred in sincerity, he considers such a plea no valid excuse or expiation. Paul committed many heinous offences ignorantly, therefore he found mercy; but he was not therefore pardoned. So, because we have erred ignorantly, and at the same time honestly contending for what we believed to be true, we have also ‘obtained mercy,’ in the forbearance of God towards us, seeing that we are still spared to the discovery of the sandiness of our foundation, and the correction and abjuration of our errors unto life.
“When we look back upon the past thirteen years, it is with mingled astonishment and satisfaction. But though in the course of that period we have had many regrets, yet from the position we now occupy in viewing ‘the landscape o’er,’ we cannot confess that our mingled feeling is disturbed by the bitterness of regret. Our barque has been buffeted and tossed by the winds and waves of an unfathomed and stormy course. It is true that its masts and spars have bent and creaked under a not infrequent press of sail; but her hull was tight, and her stays and halliards, though stretched, have not given way. She has always answered to her helm, and we rejoice to know that we have brought her to soundings tight and trim. But from the tropical, let us turn to plain, unvarnished details of matters and things.
“I.—First, we remark that our moral training at the hands of a kind and pious mother was the best her education in the Calvinism of the Scottish Kirk could enable her to give. She instilled into us a profound veneration for the Holy Scriptures, which we retain till this day. We had more veneration for the Book than accurate knowledge of its contents. Hence, while our youth was strictly moral, the hereditary principle of our flesh was strong and unsubdued. Pride and ambition, our ancestral sins, were the leading characteristics of our early manhood. These urged us on to ‘high things,’ as we then esteemed them. We sought distinction in politics and science, ‘the mean ambition and pride of men’; but God in His goodness foiled all our schemes, and we found ourselves an alien in a strange land.
“II.—With a very, very insufficient knowledge of The Word, amounting almost to nothing, we became a truth seeker. We sought truth as a worldly-minded, but otherwise moral young man might be supposed to seek it. We sought it at the lips of the world’s prophets and diviners. In the search we failed. Events introduced us to our worthy friend W.S., of the Protestant Unionist. We conversed on the Book of Daniel. We were acquainted with these prophecies then only so far as they were interpreted by Rollin, which we have elsewhere, by a different interpretation, proved to be fallacious. If therefore, the Kingdom of God was touched upon, and we think it was not, it is very certain we did not understand it. However, said our friend, “we agree very well as to generals, let us see if we cannot come to an understanding as to particulars.” ‘You believe that Jesus is the Christ.’ The truth is. in relation to this, we could not have told when we did not ‘believe’ it! we answered ‘yes’? ‘What hinders, then, that you should be a Christian’? You believe that christ died for sins, was buried, and rose again; why not be baptized’? Yes, we believed this, because it was so written; but we had also supposed ourselves as good a Christian as others, though, not in a Church. We had belonged to the Independents, when seventeen years old, for about six months, when we withdrew. We had always been a church-goer, and had officiated as a sort of Chaplain on board a ship. A Christian! Could we be more a Christian than we were? Such were the kind of thoughts flitting athwart the mind; but we replied that ‘we thought that being a stranger, he ought not to press us to do this; but that he should wait, and prove whether we were worthy; we might discredit our profession, which would be worse than none.’ He very politely expressed that he had no fears of that kind. We told him however, frankly, that we were seeking the truth, and if the course he recommended were Scriptural, we would comply. He cited the case of the Ethiopian officer, and in the conversation quoted Acts ii. 38, which proved an end to all controversy.
“Such are the leading facts of the case, as well as we can remember at this distance of time. We cast no blame on our friend, while we condemn ourselves. With the views he had then, and seems still to retain, and which for many years we have shared with him and others, we should, and doubtless have, pursued the same course; but the eyes of our understanding being enlightened, as we verily believe, we confess that the whole matter was a mistake, and as such make this public abjuration thereof:—
“1.—Because our ‘faith’ rested mainly, if not solely, upon the word of man.
“2.—Because that most excellent man, we think, did not then, neither does he now,
appear to know, nor did we, what the Gospel of God is concerning His Son.
“3.—Because we mistook the mystery of the Gospel for the Gospel itself.
“4.—Because the Editor was a stranger to the Abrahamic disposition, and mode of
thinking, which are the true type of ‘repentance unto life.’
“5.—Because being destitute of this childlike frame of mind, even had he known
and believed the Gospel of the Kingdom, his faith would not have been imputed
to him for righteousness.
“6.—Because that men are ‘saved by hope,’ being ignorant in toto of that hope,
he was not saved by it, and therefore, while he writes this, must be in his sins.
“These we consider, are sufficient reasons why we should abjure the whole
transaction, in which we once firmly thought we had believed and obeyed the
one only true Apostolic Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“III.—Having been immersed into what we now see is an erroneous system, an interest was then awakened in us to know more about it. Accordingly we devoured the Christian Baptist and Harbinger. For seven months we supposed we were studying the truth itself. We were but too faithful a student of these writings. We acquired a taste for theological gladiatorship, for which we have not been altogether unjustly blamed. If at this period we studied the Word otherwise than through these works, the impression thereof has faded from our remembrance.
“IV.—At the end of seven months an unforeseen and unwished-for change in our circumstances supervened. When we look back we are astonished. It was not, however, presumption, but a pressure from without, that placed us in the attitude of a religious instructor! Our friend W.S. could never induce us to attempt ‘to preach.’ We were concerned in relation to this matter by Mr. A. Campbell, who forced us most reluctantly into the position. We now found ourselves under an extraordinary obligation to study the Word. Accordingly we closed the other works and set about it in good earnest; and becoming an editor, a new impetus was communicated, which became irresistible. While the Christian Baptist maintained its ascendancy, our mind continually reverted to its author as the light of the age, and we wrote and spoke of him as such; but as the Word began to take root in our heart, and to enlighten the eyes of our understanding, in the same ratio that light became dim, and we began to discover the dense fog in which he and his system are embedded.
“V.—It has consumed many years to convince us thoroughly of this. This will explain how it is we have taught errors we are now under the necessity of abjuring. We taught these errors under the influence of human tradition; we have recently perceived the truth, aided only by the Prophets and Apostles; therefore, we do confess:
“1.—That we have taught that to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
that he died for sins, was buried, and rose again for our justification, and that to be immersed into the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the remission of
sins, is to believe and obey the Gospel.
“2.—That we have taught, that to be sorry for sin, cease to do evil, and learn to do
well, is repentance.
“3.—That the Kingdom of God was set up on the Day of Pentecost; that it consisted
of 3120 citizens; that the Apostles then sat upon their thrones; and we have sung
that we shall gain kingdom beyond the skies, etc.
“4.—That the Gospel was preached for the first time by Peter, on Pentecost, and that
it is contained in Acts ii. 38; and that the transactions therein detailed are a fulfillment
of Isaiah ii. 3.
“5.—That by immersion, a believer after the type of No. 1, is introduced into the
“6.—That, while we have always contended that the faith of the Sectarian World,
and the faith without which a man cannot please God, are essentially different
faiths, we have erroneously attributed that essential difference to not believing in
the remission of sins through immersion into the Name of Jesus, instead of to
their utter ignorance of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
“7.—That while formerly, with these errors, we taught, the truth as it opened up
before us from the Word, we have never, till comparatively recently, perceived
that it was the Gospel, and therefore, we have never ventured to affirm that these
things were necessary to salvation.
“8.—That, like all the rest of our contemporaries, we have taught unknowingly the conditions of the Gospel as a substitute for the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
“9.—That under the influence of human tradition and example, we have invited
persons to come forward on the spur of the moment, and be baptized for
remission of sins, when, from the nature of things it was impossible that they
could have been enlightened; had we been properly instructed we should not
now have had to make this confession and abjuration of our mistakes. Better late, however, than not at all.
“10.—We do not remember that we ever taught the existence of an immortal
soul in corruptible man, and the translation thereof to heaven or hell, at the
instant of death; if we have, so much the worse: no man can hold this dogma
and acceptably believe the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and His Christ; we
abjure it as ‘a damnable heresy.’
“The former nine of these items we confess to; there may be other things which
have escaped our recollection; whatever they be, let them all go into eternal
oblivion; we count them all but dross, and abjure them all, that we may enter
upon a new era, as the freedman of Christ and his truth.
“VI.—We erred in holding in abeyance the most trivial inference from the truth on any pretence whatever; we abjure all errors of this kind, and take this opportunity of declaring that no compromise with men or principles can hereafter be extracted from the Editor of this paper.
“VII.—We admit that we have not accepted the slanders and reproaches bestowed upon us with that gratitude the Word inculcated. Born and educated in a country where character is more precious than gold, we have, in time past, felt like Ephraim, unaccustomed to the yoke, when suffering under the galling imputations of reckless assailants. Experience, however, has taught us that, in this country, slander is the people’s broadsword, with which they seek to slay the reputations of all who aim to serve them otherwise than in subservience to their passions in the things of time or eternity. But, blessed be our foes in their basket and store. We thank them for their persecution and opposition with which they have encountered us. But for these, we should have been, perhaps, like them, ‘in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.’ Their course has compelled us to study more diligently than we might have done the Holy Scriptures, that we might be better able to give an answer to everyone that should ask a reason of the hope that is in us. Had they let us alone, it is probable we should have been in good repute indeed with them and their leaders, and might even have been teaching the same fables; which, however, would have deprived us of the pleasure of confessing our errors and mistakes, and of thus publicly renouncing and bidding them adieu.
“March 3rd, 1847.”
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PAGE VISITS FROM 16/09/13
THE TRINITY HURDLE
NOVEL: HOLY BIBLE
You lay a great stress upon facts throughout your letters, and are incessant in your demand that I should attend to them. This is good; but facts have to be rightly put together, and then you must have all the facts. I do not think you put the facts rightly together, and you leave out some, I am sure.
(Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian Pioneer, quoted
by Ruth McHaffie in Brethren Indeed)
The Spirit of liberty, based upon the law of faith, is the Spirit of Christ; and this spirit all the Sons of God are privileged to possess, and having it, to breathe. I claim the right of exercising this privilege, as well as my contemporaries; and I require of them that they should do to me as once they loudly required others to do to them…
(written by John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphians, when he was against creeds in
The Apostolic Advocate magazine, August 1836)
(John Thomas, from Apostacy Unveiled, p. 137,
quoted in The Christadelphian Magazine, January 1906)
Must a man never progress? If he discovers an error in his premises, must he for ever hold to it for the sake of consistency? May such a calamity never befall me! Rather let me change every day, till I get right at last.
(from a letter written by John Thomas in 1848, quoted by Robert Roberts, in Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work)
Do what is right; be valiant for the Truth; teach it without compromise, and all lovers of the Truth will approve you. For all others you need not care a rush!
(from a letter written by John Thomas to Robert Roberts and published in The Christadelphian magazine, February 1866)