Elpis Israel/Author's Preface

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Elpis Israel by John Thomas
Author's Preface

(Condensed from the four Prefaces appearing in the Fourth Edition, and covering a period of eighteen years, 1848-1866)

THE year 1848 has been well and truly styled the “Annus Mirabilis”, or Wonderful Year. So, indeed, it proved itself in Europe; for though this division of the globe was overspread with numerous large, well-appointed, and highly-disciplined armies, maintained to uphold what remained of the work of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and to prevent the rising of the people against their destroyers, yet did the wild and ill-armed Democracy of Europe break their bonds asunder as a rotten thread, and shake its kingdoms to their foundations.

Great excitement was produced in the United States by the news of what was going on in Europe. Many who had for years before been predicting “the end of all things” were now persuaded that it had come at last. Others came to a different conclusion, and rejoiced in the supposition that the kingdoms of the world were about to become republics, after the model of the United States. Both these imaginations, however, serve to show how little the “sure word of prophecy” was understood or heeded by the people. The author endeavoured, as far as he could obtain the ears of the public, to disabuse it of these vain conceits. He opposed to them “the testimony of God”, which testifies the continuance of “the times of the Gentiles” until Nebuchadnezzar’s Image be broken to pieces upon the mountains of Israel; and the perpetuity of the kingdoms until after this event, when Christ shall encounter their kings in battle, and annex their realms to his kingdom by conquest; for, by his kingdom, and not by popular violence, will he break in pieces and consume them all. But the author was as one that spoke parables in the ears of the deaf. Time, however, has verified his interpretation in part. Though terribly shaken, the kingdoms still exist, and republics are at a discount and the “Order”, in which God’s enemies rejoice, has been provisionally re-established.

The events in 1848 caused many in the United States to revisit their native lands. Among these was the author of this volume. Believing he could irradiate the light of the prophetic word upon the political tragedies of the time, and, by so doing, be of use to those who desire to know the truth, he determined to intermit his labours in America, where he had been operating for about sixteen years in the same vocation, and to see if “a door of utterance” might not be opened in England for the same purpose. He was the more induced to take this step by a desire to be nearer the scene of action, that he might avail himself of the more frequent and copious details furnished by the British than the American Press, to the end that he might as speedily as possible obtain a comprehensive view of the crisis; which is the most important that has yet happened to the world, because it is pregnant of consequences for good and evil, which will leave their mark upon society for a thousand years.

Having made his arrangements accordingly, he arrived in London, June 28th, 1848; and in July following he received an invitation to visit Nottingham, and to deliver a course of lectures upon the times, in connection with the prophetic word. The interest created during his short stay was great and encouraging, and became the occasion of invitation to visit other towns and cities also. During this tour he visited Derby, Belper, Lincoln, Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Paisley, and addressed thousands of the people. who heard him gladly. Those who opened the way for him were neither the rich nor the noble, but intelligent men of industrious and steady habits, who desired to know and disseminate the truth according to their means. As the author’s labours were gratuitous, they were the better able to afford him facilities; and he would add here the testimony of his experience, that not only is the gospel, when preached, “preached to the poor”, and received by them, but it is the poor also who devote themselves to its proclamation, and who do most for its support. If it had not been for the poor and humble during the last 1,849 years, the gospel would have perished from the earth; for the rich have not been the persons to leave the comforts of their homes, and to go forth, without fee or reward, to enlighten their fellow men, for the truth’s sake.

It is a gratification to the author to be able to say that he has left his home, 4,000 miles in the south-west; that he has travelled twice through Britain; delivered 170 addresses to the people; sat up early and late conversing with them on the things of the kingdom, and written this work, that he may leave a testimony behind him, and as yet has received no more than four shillings over his travelling expenses. He mentions this that the reader may be able to acquit him of being a trader in religion; and that what he says in this book concerning “spiritual merchants” may not lose its point, under the supposition that he is also one of the wealthy and thriving firm. Rich men have not yet learned to “make themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when they fail, they may receive them into everlasting habitations”. All the opposition the author has had to contend against since his arrival in Britain has proceeded from them: but he is gratified in being able to state, that they have failed to obstruct him, and their waywardness has recoiled on their own pates.

The interest created in the thousands who listened to the author’s discourses has originated the work now offered to the world. A request was publicly made to him in Edinburgh and Glasgow, that what had been spoken should be printed; and that, as it was not to be expected that he should publish at a mere venture, committees would be formed to promote a subscription. Although the author had concluded to return to America in October or November, he could not find it in his heart to leave his work unfinished, seeing that such a volume was now desired. Trusting, therefore, to the good faith of those who had become interested in the truth, he acceded to their request, and on his return to London entered upon the labour, which has proved sufficiently laborious by the close application required to do much in a limited time.

Having at length finished the manuscript, the author made a second tour in June, 1849. In addition to the former places, he visited Birmingham, Newark, Dundee, Aberdeen and Liverpool. The result of his labours was a list of upwards of a thousand subscribers, which encouraged him to go to press on his return to London in September. But on revising the manuscript, he found some things omitted, others touched too lightly, and other parts too diffuse; so that, upon the whole, he condemned it as unsuitable, and imposed upon himself the task of writing it over again – which, after four months he has accomplished, and now offers it to the public for its “edification, exhortation, and comfort.”

The nature of the work is indicated on the title-page. It is a work showing what the Bible teaches as a whole, and not the elaboration of a new or fantastical theological theory, or the new vamping of an old one. It demonstrates the great subject of the Scriptures, namely: “the Kingdom of God and of His Anointed”, without which they would be as a nut whose kernel had perished. It is a book for all classes, lay and clerical, without respect of persons, for all are concluded under sin, being all ignorant of “the gospel of the kingdom”. Judging from the lucubrations of public writers of the ministerial class, the nature of the times demands something out of the ordinary periodical and public routine to awake “the churches” to spiritual life, lest they sleep the sleep of death. They are truly in a Laodicean state, and already spued out of the mouth of the Lord. They say they are “rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing”; but some of their doctors have discernment enough to see that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”. But, alas for them, they know not how to remedy the evil! They do not perceive that the fault is in their systems; which have made them what they are, and which they are pledged to support on pain of “suffering the loss of all things.”

The great desideratum of the crisis is the Gospel of the Kingdom. The State-clergy and the Dissenting-ministry are ignorant of the Gospel; and “like priest like people”. “The churches” are full of darkness, for the Gospel doth not shine into them being neither believed nor preached among them. Here, then, is a book peculiarly adapted to the times. It will show the people what the gospel is – what is the obedience it requires – and enable them to discern the times; that the Lord may not come upon them at unawares, and take them unprepared. It is a book, not for these times only, but for all the years preceding “the time of the end”, and thence to the epoch of the restoration of the kingdom and throne of David, It is named ELPIS ISRAEL, or Israel’s Hope: for the kingdom of which it treats is that which is longed for by all intelligent Israelites, and for which, said Paul, “I am bound with this chain.”

Elpis Israel’s subject-matter is national, not sectarian. It treats of a nation, and of its civil and ecclesiastical institutions in a past and future age. It is designed to enlighten both Jews and Gentiles in Israel’s Hope, that by conforming to the proclamation of their King, they may be prepared for the administration of its affairs in concert with him, when all nations shall be as politically subject to his dominion, as Hindostan and Britain are to Queen Victoria’s. It is designed to show men how they may attain to eternal life in this theocracy, and obtain a crown which shall never fade away. To accomplish this, the reader must, in justice to himself and the truth, study it with the Bible at his right hand, for he will find but few pages in which frequent reference is not made to its authority, and without which nothing can or ought to be determined.

A copy of this work has been ordered for presentation to the Autocrat of all the Russias. He will find in it much concerning his dominions. The high priest of the Jews showed Alexander the Great the prophecy in Daniel concerning himself; and although it spoke of his power being broken, the knowledge of it did not deter him from endeavouring to found a universal dominion. So it will be with the Autocrat. He will, doubtless, receive all that speaks of the extension of his empire over Europe and Turkey, because his ambition will be flattered by it; but being impressed with the idea of his being God’s Vicegerent upon earth, he will probably disregard what relates to the breaking of his power on the Mountains of Israel by the Lord from heaven; arguing, as a natural man, that it is not likely that God will destroy His Grand Vizier among the nations. But whatever the Autocrat may think of the destiny marked out for him, the reader’s attention is particularly invited to what is said respecting it in this volume. The future movements of Russia are notable signs of the times, because they are predicted in the Scriptures of truth. The Russian Autocracy in its plenitude, and on the verge of dissolution, is the Image of Nebuchadnezzar standing upon the Mountains of Israel, ready to be smitten by the Stone. When Russia makes its grand move for the building-up of its Image-empire then let the reader know that the end of all things, as at present constituted, is at hand, The long-expected, but stealthy, advent of the King of Israel will be on the eve of becoming a fact; and salvation will be to those who not only looked for it, but have trimmed their lamps by believing the gospel of the kingdom unto the obedience of faith, and the perfection thereof in “fruits meet for repentance”.

As to the reviewers, the author presents his compliments to them, and respectfully invites them to examine this work impartially. While he has no wish to propitiate them, it would afford him great pleasure to turn them to what he believes to be “the truth as it is in Jesus”, as opposed to the dogmas of their creeds. It is not to be expected that they can approve the work, seeing that, if the things exhibited be received, Sectarianism is dethroned, at least in the hearts of those who receive the principles inculcated. By Sectarianism the author means everything professedly Christian, not according to “the law and the testimony”. He therefore uses the word as representative of all state religions, as well as of the forms opposed to them. Being the echo of no living sect, but the advocate only of what is written in the oracles of God, of the faith and practice of that “sect” which in Paul’s time “was everywhere spoken against”, he has shown no favour to the Heresies which destroy it, and therefore he expects none. The perils to which he is exposed are only to be despised by those whose houses are founded upon the rock. The author is free to admit his weakness and inferiority in every respect that can be imagined. In one thing, however, he feels strong, and armed at all points for a conflict with the giants – he knows what is written in “the law and the testimony”, and he understands the meaning of it. If they undertake to review this work, they must put it through the evolutions of the Spirit; and if they enter into combat with it, he would advise them to throw away their wooden swords, and encounter it with “the two-edged sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”; for no other weapon can do more than raise the Author’s mirth.

But perhaps prudence, which is sometimes the better part of valour, may dictate the expediency of saying nothing about it. This might be very good policy if Elpis Israel were born from the press only to gasp and die. But editors must remember that, before a single copy reaches them, it will be in the hands of upwards of a thousand people. This is a fact not to be despised. Such a number of intelligent persons is calculated to make a troublesome impression upon the public mind; and if the press do not check it, there is no telling whereunto the evil may grow! Let “the Ministry” be up and doing. It is not the “infidel” their influence hath to fear; but the Word of the Living God understood by the people. The author has some of them among his subscribers. He trusts that for their own sakes they will read this work with candour, impartiality, and tranquillity of mind. As individuals. he has no controversy with them. His opposition is to their systems, which he trusts they will abandon for the gospel of the kingdom. If Elpis Israel convinces them of error, then, like the apostle, may they esteem their worldly honours and profits as mere dross for the excellency of the truth. Let them leave the fat things of the apostasy to those who mind “earthly things”; and let them put on the whole armour of God, and go forth among the people with the two-edged sword of the Spirit, and do battle for the truth.

In conclusion, then, the author respectfully hands over to the subscribers this work, as an ample fulfilment of his part of the covenant between them. They can now form their own judgment of its merits or defects, according to the evidence a candid perusal may afford. And, may God Almighty bless their honest endeavours to know and understand His truth, which is intrinsically invincible, and needs only to come in contact with “good and honest hearts”, to become triumphantly defiant of all the wiles and “power of the enemy”. May the spirit of the truth enter into them, and lead them into its liberty and fraternity; that at the coming of the Son of Man in celestial majesty and power, they may share with him in his joy, and inherit the kingdom of God with eternal glory.

London, January 1, 1850.


FROM THE PREFACE TO SECOND EDITION

IN the Preface to the first edition I stated that “a copy of this work had been ordered for presentation to the Autocrat of all the Russias This was the fact. It was ordered by a friend in Dundee, in Scotland, whence a great trade is carried on with the Emperor’s dominions. Now, what I have to add, is rendered necessary, that the reader may not be misled. He will probably have concluded that the Autocrat is in possession of Elpis Israel, and acquainted with its contents. This however is not the case, as far as I am at present informed. My friend in Dundee did his best to get the work transmitted. He applied to several captains of vessels trading to St Petersburg, but they all declined to take it, lest it might bring them into trouble there.

[Then Dr. Thomas tried Baron Brunnow, the Russian Ambassador. He retained the book sixteen days, and then returned it, with a polite letter in French explaining that “the rules of the service” forbade its transmission. The rest of this preface contains Dr. Thomas’s letters to Baron Brunnow and Czar Nicholas. It is dated Richmond, Va., June, 1851.]


FROM THE PREFACE TO THIRD EDITION

NEARLY ten years have elapsed since this work was originally published in London, England. A year after, an edition was published in New York, the two editions collectively consisting of two thousand three hundred copies. These have all been disposed of, so that for the past three years the author has been unable to supply a considerable additional demand for the work. He has been urged by many who have read the book to publish a new edition … A friend writes: “Apart from all other considerations than the real merit of the book, you have nothing to fear as to its success. I would recommend you to give at once a public announcement of your intention to issue a new edition, and invite orders; you may find a larger edition wanted than you anticipate.” Encouraged, therefore, by many similar assurances from others, I have published this third edition of Elpis Israel.

When the work was written, the times were of a highly exciting and stirring character. Nor have they materially changed to the present hour. During the past ten years a succession of events has demonstrated that a fixed and predetermined purpose is in process of development, unknown, indeed, to “the Powers that be”, but known of God, revealed in His word, and guided by His hand. That purpose is the gathering together of the hosts of the nations against Jerusalem to war; that the Eternal Spirit, by Jesus, the King of kings, may smite them upon the mountains of Israel; and in concert with resurrected and living saints, at the head of the armies of Israel, re-establish the throne and kingdom of David and subjugate all other kingdoms to this New Power in the earth. If the reader desire to assure himself of the verity of this purpose, he may consult the following testimonies: Isaiah 14:24-27; 27:1-6; Joel 3:1,2,9-17; Micah 5:1-6; Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-11; Daniel 11:40-45; 12:1,2; Revelation 19:11-16; 17:14; 11:15-17; 5:9, 10; 2:26,27; Acts 15:16; Amos 9:11-15; Isaiah 9:6,7; Luke 1:31-33 – and so forth. The past history of Israel, of Jesus and the Saints, and of the world at large, all prove that this purpose has never yet been fulfilled; so that the reader has no alternative but to believe the purpose, or reject the truth of the Bible, and write himself an infidel. There is no neutral ground. Every man in “Christendom”, falsely so-called, is on the side of the purpose or against it. Jesus and his apostles preached that “Salvation is of the Jews” – a salvation dependent upon the development of the purpose defined. Hence, “when ye see certain things coming to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” – a saying which intimates that the approach of redemption, whatever it may consist in, may be known by a current fulfilment of predicted things, shortly preceding its manifestation.

We may remark here, that on page 149, second paragraph, we are supposed to say, that “the work of the law was written upon the hearts” of Gentiles who had heard nothing of it. This was not our meaning. We there endeavour to account for the moral difference between the mere savage and the peoples of the four empires; that the little light they had came from the law through their intercourse with Israel; it came “from without”: but where there was no intercourse with this peculiar people, the darkness was total; and there was no accusing or excusing, no conscience; but a blind, impulsive instinct, unsentimental as that of the beasts that perish. We agree entirely with our intelligent friend whose letter has been already quoted from at the beginning, that “Paul, in Romans 2:15, is labouring to check the presumption of the Jews who were claiming pre-eminence in the congregation at Rome, because of their superior knowledge of the law of Moses, by showing their pretensions vain because they had not kept the law; whereas the Gentiles in the Church, who never were under the law of Moses, showed that the work of the law was written in their hearts by the word of the truth of the gospel by faith, and therefore they kept the righteousness of the law; and by so doing they proved that they were the true circumcision, all of which is clearly and beautifully argued out to the close of the chapter.”

Mott Haven, Westchester, N.Y., May 6, 1859


FROM THE PREFACE TO FOURTH EDITION

SEVEN years have elapsed since the issue of the third edition of this work. For a considerable time there have been no copies of it for sale, being, as the phrase is, “out of print”. A fourth edition has been called for both in Britain and America. To this call the author has reluctantly responded; not that he did not think it desirable; but because of the additional labour it would append to that already on hand in the preparation of the manuscript of the third volume of the Exposition of the Apocalypse, styled Eureka. The earnest request, however, of many acquainted with Elpis Israel; and the commencement of a subscription in Britain and the States to induce compliance, at length overcame this reluctance. For the first time since correcting the proof of the first edition in 1849, he has read the work again. He knew what ought. to be there; but memory after seventeen years did not serve him with the assurance that he would so find it. It was reasonable to suppose that a longer and maturer study of “The Word” might render him dissatisfied with much originally written; and that he would have to strike out many pages that could not now be endorsed.

But on reviewing the original, the author was agreeably surprised on finding he had so few corrections to make. He has made about half-a-dozen in the first part; and less than that number in the second. In the third part he found it necessary to make the most. If he were to re-write the book, he might go more into detail upon some points; while other parts, perhaps, he might retrench; but upon the whole, considering that it is designed for an elementary work, he does not know that it would thereby be much improved. The emendations made will place this revise in accord with the author’s latest work; so that he considers this revised edition is the best.

The most important correction has been that emendatory of allusions to the resurrection. The understanding of this “element of the beginning of the oracles of the Deity” Hebrews 5:12; 6:2 – has been enlarged in the author’s mind since 1849. The question was not then the resurrection in its detail; but the necessity of resurrection and judgment at all in view of the immortality of the soul and its instantaneous translation to heaven or hell at the death of the body. Such a dogma as this is a logical denial of both resurrection and judgment. It makes them both superfluous, and absolutely unnecessary. It was, therefore, met at that time by a testimony, pure and simple, for resurrection of the body, as indispensable to the incorruptibility and immortality of the dead. But the times are now changed. The Laodiceanism of the Clerical Apostasy has been fully exposed and refuted; and the resurrection and judgment are just at hand. The time had therefore overtaken us in which the author found it necessary, in Eureka, to expound more in detail so important a consequence of the speedy and thief-like advent of Christ. Some, who have no objection to resurrection in general, are very much dissatisfied with it in its particulars. The resurrection ordained of the Deity does not suit them; and, therefore, they loudly disapprove it! They contend,

1. That the judgment of the righteous, in which they are giving account of themselves to God, is in the present life, after which they will have no account to give. 2. That resurrection of an imperfect body is not taught directly or indirectly in the word. 3. That the righteous are not brought to judgment. 4. That the Scriptures teach positively and without reservation, that the righteous are raised incorruptible.

With such theorists it is judgment first, and resurrection afterwards! This is an inversion of the divine order, by which the whole subject is confused. The author believes that the divine order is the best; and he believes, too, that the righteous are raised incorruptible; but also, that the raising is not one instantaneous event like the lightning’s flash, but an order of development, initiated in the dust, and ultimating after judgment in incorruptibility and deathlessness of body.

[The rest of this Preface has to do with the progress of the world to date, namely, to December, 1866.]