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Written by W.M.Mitchell   

 

The Gospel Messenger--March 1882

EQUAL RIGHTS AND SECRET SOCIETIES.

Forasmuch as Primitive Baptists are misunderstood and misrepresented, and sometimes taunted because of their peculiar views of doctrine and order, we feel inclined at this time to say a few things in their defense. It is true, that Primitive Baptists are a separate and distinct denomination, having no connection with any religious sect, secret society, fraternity or institution, save the church of Christ—which church, they believe, is “thoroughly furnished” in the Scriptures “unto all good works.”—2 Tim. 3. They hold that there is not a duty that they owe to either God or man, nor an evil that they should shun, but what is already binding upon them as members of the church, without going out to unite with any of the, so called, benevolent institutions of men. When They observe these duties, and shun these evils, which are binding upon them by the authority of Jesus Christ, as the great Head of the church and the only Law giver in Zion, they honor God thereby, and not man. They believe that, as disciples of Christ, they are to deny themselves and forsake all to follow him; and that they are positively forbidden to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers" and that where any have become entangled with such yoke of bondage that God commands them to “come out from among them, and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” —2 Cor. 1.7. Every one of those, so called, religious, moral or benevolent institutions, which are based alone upon the wisdom and authority of men, claiming to be helping societies to the church of Christ, are an “unclean thing” in the sight of God. Any thing which the Lord prohibited Israel of old to eat, or to touch, was unclean for them. And if they should eat or touch that which the Lord had declared to be unclean to them, they sinned, and were so defiled that they had to be put out of the camp of Israel for a certain time, and then go through a round of ceremonial washings and cleansings, besides offerings and sacrifices, before they could again he admitted into the full privileges of their brethren. So, also, in the visible church organization. Whatever our God has not authorized, or whatever he has forbidden, is an unclean thing for Christians to be connected with. It is a worldly spot, and will defile the garment of their Christian profession.

Some time ago, a very worthy gentleman and friend said to US: “If your denomination would modify a little, and change the rules of your church so as to receive the baptism of other sects as valid, and admit Masonry, it would be a great help to your people. Many very influential and intelligent persons are kept from uniting with you because of your rigid rules in these particulars.” After having some reflection upon these things, we have concluded to offer a few remarks in this connection upon...

EQUAL RIGHTS.

Every sect, denomination, fraternity, institution, or society, whether secret or otherwise, claims the right to receive, retain or expel its own members, according to its own rules. this is precisely what is claimed by Baptists of the Primitive faith and order, and what they freely grant to all other religious sects, moral institutes or societies. We are aware that it is said and believed by many, that our rules are rigid, and that many good and influential persons are kept from uniting with us in consequence of them; but is not the same true with regard to all other sects? Are not all who differ with them kept from uniting with them because of their rules? If members and worldly influence were the scriptural marks of the church of Christ, then Primitive Baptists certainly are far from these marks. None can unite with any sect or society unless it be upon qualifications adopted by such society. Can any join the Masons, Odd Fellows, Good Templars, or any other except upon terms which each have adopted best calculated to promote the object and best interest of the society? Do Primitive Baptists claim any thing more than this? Do they ask or exercise any greater privilege than others do? Are they not entitled to equal rights with others? or must they be forever singled out, hunted down, and stigmatized by all classes, sects and societies, because they quietly exercise the identical privilege that is exercised by all other institutions and denominations?

Primitive Baptists regard the Scriptures as their only standard of faith and practice, and they do not pretend or claim the right to sit in judgment as a church to judge those outside of their own membership, nor hold any others amenable to them. They do not keep any one from uniting with them, whom they consider to be scripturally qualified, and who are willing to do so upon the rules by which they receive members. If any person desires membership with them according to what they understand to be gospel principles, let them come along, and they will assuredly be received. All ranks and conditions, sects and societies, may come. Presbyterians, Methodists, Missionaries and Masons may come; the rich, the poor, the old, the young, the intelligent and influential, may come; the learned and the unlearned, the wise and the ignorant, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the lame, and the pauper—all may come and be received freely among Baptists if they come upon the terms which they understand to be necessary respecting membership in the church of Christ. Is this illiberal? Does this look like bigotry and intolerance? If so, let others free themselves from such things before they attempt to dictate to, or complain against Primitive Baptists. “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”

I wish now to say a few things as to the position of Primitive Baptists concerning...

SECRET SOCIETIES.

First—The man of God is thoroughly furnished by the. Scriptures unto all good works; and the church of Christ, being complete in him in doctrine and order, as well as in every spiritual gift, they cannot need the aid of any society formed by man as a help to the beauty and perfection of her organic structure. The church of God is spoken of by inspired writers as the “perfection of beauty,” “the joy of the whole earth,” “the city of the Great King.” It would, therefore, be degrading to the principles and profession of her members for any of them to mar her beauty, or defile their garments by uniting with, or conforming to, any of the institutions, doctrines or commandments of men, not authorized by the Scriptures.

Second—Christ, the Head of the church, ever taught openly, and in secret said nothing: and he commanded his apostles to. proclaim his gospel upon the house-tops, or publicly to the world. Secrecy, therefore, is inconsistent with the nature and principle of the Christian religion, and with the character of the organized church as “the flight of the world,” or as “a city set on a hill, whose light can not be hid.”—Mat. 5; 14.

Third-"secrecy” is inconsistent with gospel order; as each member of a secret society takes a solemn oath to keep certain things secret from his brethren in the church who are not members of such society, and the church is thereby deprived of her right to judge of the conduct and order of her members as required in 1 Cor. 5; 12.

Fourth—Christian and church fellowship is the strongest bond of communion and fellowship that can possibly exist; even requiring, if need be, to forsake father and mother, wife and children, with every earthly tie and interest, to maintain that fellowship that will honor Christ and glorify God in our body and spirit, which belong to God. The relation in the church is so near that the members are said to be “members one of another.”—Rom 12;5. As such, therefore, they are entitled to the strongest confidence and closest communion such as no other society can ever claim without usurpation. Whatever may be said as to the good or evil of secret societies, one thing is certain and cannot be denied except by infidels: That “he that doeth evil, hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved;” and, on the other hand, "He that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest that they are wrought in God.”—John 3;20.

Fifth—In uniting with a secret, oath-bound society, a church member takes upon himself voluntarily a solemn obligation to do or not do some unknown thing is a profound secret from both church and state—and the oath, whatever it binds upon the member, is a voluntary oath, not required by church or state. There are, therefore, certain good reasons for believing that such voluntary path is in direct violation of the command of Christ to his disciples to “Swear not at all; but let your communication be Yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” —Mat. 5; 37. No oath of office, nor as a witness, is required in the church of Christ; but, to the contrary is positively forbidden to her members; as the bond of union and fellowship is to regulated by principles of truth, and justice, which God has written in the heart of each subject of his gospel kingdom, that to require a further obligation by an oath would be to deny that these holy principles are written it the heart, and place the church of Christ on a level, or beneath, a mere human institution.

Sixth—No member of any gospel church has the right, according to the law of Christ, to become a self-constituted judge of his own conduct, nor of the conduct of any other member. But it has frequently been the case that when one unites with any secret, oath-bound society, and his conduct in that particular is called in question by the church, he generally seeks to shield himself, not by openly telling what he has sworn to do or not do, but by saying: “There is no harm in it.” And he seems to think the church ought to be satisfied with this simple declaration, and take his judgment and decision in his own case as final. If a church should proceed in this manner in other matters where there are charges and complaints against members, and be satisfied to let the censured member decide his own case, it would destroy every thing like gospel discipline and make each member a proper judge to his own case.

Seventh—Another objection to Primitive Baptists uniting with these secret, oath-bound societies is from the fact that some of them claim to be promoters of morality, benevolence and charity, they carefully guard against all liability to acts of charity by utterly refusing membership to any man who is properly a subject of charitable contributions. Charity is an ever living and abiding principle—being even greater than faith or hope. It is the bond of perfectness in the church, by which all things are to be done. To voluntarily, therefore, bind ourselves by an oath to keep out of our fraternal love and fellowship all proper subjects upon which to manifest and bestow our deeds of charity, would seem to us like a violation of the principles of either morality, benevolence or charity. The poor in spirit, whom the Lord Jesus Christ has blessed, and who are entitled to all the privileges and ordinances of the gospel kingdom, cannot obtain membership in any well regulated Masonic Lodge upon his morality, nor piety, if he is a poor pauper; or if he is blind, or deaf and dumb; or if he has but one arm, or but one leg; or in any way crippled or maimed for life—unable to walk or support himself. He may be a real object of charitable assistance, yet, if we are correctly informed, he would be rejected because of these very things which render him a real and proper subject of charity. Is it right for a Baptist of the Primitive faith and order to take such a solemn obligation to reject such from fellowship? Is it according to any principle of gospel order?

Eighth—It is believed by many that when a member of the true church of Christ unites with any of these worldly institutions that he thereby violates the command of God to “be not conformed to this world.”—Rom. 12; 2. When members have thus become ensnared, they can only be relieved by obeying the command of God to “come out from among them, and ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”—2 Cor. 6; 17, 18. What a precious promise to erring Christians!

These institutions certainly are of the world—adapted to the views and business interests of the world; and, as the world will hear and love its own, it will foster, nourish, cherish and love any professed Baptist who will be identified with these institutions better than one who does not, though he may have denied his religious faith to unite with them.

We now close for the present upon this subject, an only wish to say in conclusion, that the Old order of Baptists have no “Aggressive Raid" to make upon any sect, society, fraternity or denomination. Our position as Primitive Baptists is not aggressive but defensive; and what we have said in this article of other sects, or societies, is only mentioned as facts that exist and not as a charge or complaint against them for attending to their own business in their own way. If our denomination is reviled and ridiculed for what they consider to be the truth of God and their steadfastness to that truth, or any of the members are being ensnared by the devices and “cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive,” we deem it an imperative duty to lift a warning voice and speak in defense of the truth; but not to go outside to hunt up trouble, nor invade the rights of others. “Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem!"—Psa, 122; 2. If our feet stand within the sacred precincts of Zion, we shall find enough to do without meddling with other people’s business. If any one be a member of any society or institution, let him strive to make a good member, and honor the society by conforming to its laws; and if he is not satisfied to do this, or believes the institution to be wrong, let him come away from it. So also, we would admonish church members to make good and useful members by obedience to the law of Christ, which regulates fellowship among Christians; and if they prefer the privileges and fellowship of any society or fraternity outside of the church, Primitive Baptist churches will always relieve them of all church responsibility by excluding them from church fellowship. Then the church is no longer responsible for their conduct, whether secret or public, and such members can have the full enjoyment of their choice and preference without being amenable to the church or encumbered with its laws.—M.

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.