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Why Do We Neglect Our Duty PDF Print E-mail
Written by R.Anna Phillips   

 GOSPEL MESSENGER

Butler, Ga., Aug 1886

Dear Brother Landers:--I undertake to answer your questions relative to John x, 4; and especially "why so many of the household of faith do not readily discover and obey the Master or Shepherd," when Jesus has so positively asserted that his sheep shall hear his voice and shall follow him.

But my opinion is that the hearing and following referred to in this parable is directly applicable to the life of faith, instead of the walk, as you seem to think, of a child of God, and is hence fulfilled in following him in the regeneration instead of gospel obedience afterwards. And in this way Jesus, as the good Shepherd, putteth forth his own sheep to lead them from under the law, the legal kingdom or Jewish sheepfold, into the spiritual kingdom or gospel sheepfold. And herein they will hear his voice, and shall follow him, and shall enter in and be saved. Nothing shall hinder; none shall pluck one back or out of the .hands of the Father, whose power is pledged to save them.

Therefore, I will defer a letter on the parable referred to, and proceed to answer your question as to why so many of the household of faith delay baptism, as that seems to be your main question. It is because they are not assured in faith that they are truly born of God, and have the right to this privilege. The gospel always invites its subjects to do just what they want to do. Such want to, and would be baptized, but doubt their spiritual birth. Then the more immediate and important question arises, why are they so doubtful? My opinion, based upon a long and close observation, is that while they are partly to blame, especially the older ones, in that they have not sufficiently searched the will and word of God, as trying the spirits concerning them, yet that the membership, and more than all, the ministry are to blame. For unto them is committed the gospel, "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."

The eternal salvation of each child of God is secured in Jesus Christ from before the foundation of the world, and God looks to Jesus alone for that. But the timely salvation, and only effecting this time life, is to be worked out. And "God has ordained by the foolishness (to the world) of preaching to save them which believe," save them from error, from straying in ignorance and disobedience, etc.; and to spiritual life and blessings in heavenly places, etc. Therefore God's ministers are thoroughly furnished to instruct, correct, reprove, rebuke, etc.; hence is commanded to take heed to himself those that hear; save himself from reprehension and remissness in saving those that hear by rightly dividing and ministering the word of truth. In which he not only gives strong meat to the strong, and milk to the weak, in the visible fold, but will strive to find comfort, instruct and bring in the poor, bewildered lambs without.

And now, particularly in preaching and explaining, what we term "experience." "But we often tell our experience in preaching," you say; yes, but that is a preacher’s experience, and theirs are not. And, perchance, your telling of those brighter manifestations, without reference to, or explanation of, the usual experience of grace, has tended to weaken instead of strengthen the faith of such as have no such great manifestations. Still, tell your own, and no doubt to profit withal, but tell theirs, too, as by the same spirit to the same salvation, or life, yet as differing in operation, and in degree of spiritual evidences, as well as in the measure of faith. Teach them the "diversity of operations," and differing measures "of the grace of life." And that these are but two main essentials to our "experience of grace," or evidences of a spiritual birth and these, a cutting off and a grafting in, always proven by the abiding spirit of God that loves Jacob and hates Esau, or loves holiness and hates sin.

Pardon and peace are most usually spoken by the "small, still voice;" and such a voice is not accompanied by any great miraculous thing to hear or see; and as "still" is not heard by the natural ear, but only heard within. And so differing from what was expected—for such are always led "by a way they know not"—that if left long without gospel instruction and support, that the "if" always suggested by the spirit of evil, will soon be sorrowfully admitted and taken up in its most harassing form. How often have I met and battled with it? "If I had only been awake, but I was asleep when my burden of guilt left me. When I awoke, peace, and joy and lightness filled my heart; but had I been awake I think I would have been satisfied," said a brother to me. I told him it was the natural man asleep, and not the man changed; that that born of the spirit was spirit, and not flesh; that the dead and not the sleeping or waking man heard the voice of the Son of God and lived, etc. Before I had finished that brother was weeping and rejoicing; said he had never thought of it in that light before. I was reminded of our general remissness in regard to searching out and strengthening these bewildered, fearful lambs, and of the fact that if we accidentally find ourselves in their presence, the brethren generally still talk crops and politics, and the sisters domestic affairs and fashions.

A number have said to me: "If I just could point to some particular time and place where my burden of condemnation left me, and pardon came; but instead I only know it is gone—I know not where, how or whence. I often feel a sweet, secret gladness and—some how—hoping Jesus died for me; and I love Christians, and believe in salvation by grace; I see a beauty in the ordinance, and often feel a desire to be baptized, if I was only worthy," etc. Others have said: "If I had seen a light, or heard a voice; and had some particular scripture applied or spoken to me." Others: "If I had have understood the plan of salvation, the doctrine of election, etc.; but I knew nothing, save that Jesus died for sinners," etc. (As if a little new-born child could understand; knowledge comes with age.) Others: "If I had suffered more poignant grief for my sins," etc, etc. Yet, all these have the after-evidence of a spiritual birth in love, joy and peace, to a greater or less extent. They all love Christians, see a sacred beauty in the ordinances, and feel a drawing to the church. The difficulty is, they think their exercises lacking in some essential point.

The Bible requirements are, "repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ;" therefore, no matter what one has or has not suffered or felt, or understood, while under conviction, if he has felt to be condemned, and to have sorrowed as a sinner before a just and holy God—and some feel and suffer more than others—and at some time, known or unknown, and by some means, and from certain evidences, has felt to hope that God for the sake of Jesus Christ has pardoned their sins, in which their burden of condemnation is gone, and they feel to rejoice—whether to shout praises aloud, or feel a calm, restful gladness of soul, and a love for everybody, especially the Christ-like—why, they have passed from death to life.

But there is an infallible proof of a spiritual birth; that is as sure to those without special manifestations as to those with the most miraculous; and so true a witness is it that "you may know that you have passed from death to life because you love the brethren." It seems the Lord has given this especially to those who have nothing to tell; therefore, if one loves the brethren loves them regardless of natural attractions and advantages, and simply and wholly because they are Christ-like he may arise, without a tangible evidence also, and be baptized.

But for the instruction and comfort of such as can claim no particular time and place in my opinion, including the majority—I would notice some facts further in connection with the lepers cleansed by Jesus while on earth. One came first, nigh to Jesus and said: "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, and said, "I will; be thou clean;" and immediately he was cleansed. So that this one could claim a particular time and place of immediate or sudden cleansing, in which he felt the touch, heard the Voice, and saw and knew it was Jesus. Then ten came and stood afar off and cried to him for the same cleansing. Now comes a diverse operation of the same power and spirit to the same end. Jesus told them to go and offer that commanded by Moses, And they turned away, apparently, from the personal presence of Jesus, abiding in His church on earth, and "as they went they were cleansed;" not here while they prayed on this old log, or beneath that tree, or yet as they rested at the well, but—all along the way as they went; they started miserable, loathsome lepers; they stopped, and lo! they were cleansed—cured! Suppose they had said, "I heard no voice, nor felt his touch; I am not clean?" Or because I can point to no time and place of immediate cleansing as this other leper did, therefore I doubt if I am clean. The same effect proved the same effectiveness. So many feeling the sinfulness of sin, turn to deed of the law, and during weeks or months—here a little and there a little—they are gradually cleansed—relieved "as they went"—they know not how or when; but in proof they love the brotherhood—love Christians.

Another thought: of the ten who were cleansed "as they went," "but one returned to give God the glory."

No doubt the one who came near to Jesus before, and whom touching and speaking to Jesus cleansed "immediately," gave God the glory. So the one born again in our midst, so to speak, and who before had come and stood near the Truth, or was inclined to listen to the true gospel from the true church, and so by direct teaching is familiar with the Primitive Baptist faith, doctrine and requirements, is more than apt to give God the glory of his or her salvation by subscribing to the doctrine of salvation by grace, in joining the Primitive Baptist Church. While of the ten cleansed gradually and imperceptibly, as to "the operation of God by faith," and who before had "stood afar off," or who, as naturally inclined, and so taught to look and lean to principles and systems professing salvation by human works, and to avoid the Primitive Baptists as the way of truth and life; and so turning away from Jesus, (whose abode is in His church) as it were, to follow Moses, and in the way of seeking legal righteousness, are cleansed as they go; perhaps not more than one will return and give God the glory by joining the Primitive Baptist Church; and this one probably a "Samaritan and stranger;" or the one naturally the furthest off, as of a family that hate, nor will hear us; and the least expected, as the more stranger to our doctrine and ordinances; while those nearer by surrounding circumstances, and the more expected as drawn by natural familiarity and relationship—yes, even our very children—will go on and give human works the glory of their salvation by joining other sects.

Oh, this is so sad! so deplorable! In the sorrowfully rebuking words of Jesus I have been made to cry out, "Where are the nine?" Where are our children? Where our familiar friends? All naturally go from our doctrine and try human arms for salvation; but surely, when healed, they know "salvation is of the Lord," and they should have returned and given God the glory of their salvation. Did they think all the Primitive Baptists have had bright, "big experience?" Did they think they were all cleansed "immediately" and unmistakably? Did they think we required "some great thing" to be told before fellowship? And was it because they had nothing to tell that they did not return?

And, dear brethren and sisters, are we clear of their blame? Have we, in diligently following every good work, sought out these inquiring ones and explained to them the diverse operations and the essentials of an experience of pardoning, quickening grace in general? Have we told those trembling ones, who have nothing upon which to base a hope, save that their burden is mysteriously gone, and sometimes they feel a blessed restfulness of spirit, and love for everybody, especially the Christ-like, that this is but a diverse operation of the same quickening spirit that suddenly felled Paul blinded to the ground? that it is the same mighty power that awoke Lazarus from the dead, subdued to a "small, still voice," awakening "as they went;" that the gentle rustling of the leaves to-day is as good proof of the presence of the wind as the mighty roaring tempest, uprooting great trees to-morrow; that Jesus used this figure to teach us 'to look mainly to effect; that, therefore, notwithstanding all things else, if ye love the brethren, why tarriest thou? Return and give God the glory, and be baptized.

With great desire that we all glorify God,

R. ANNA PHILLIPS

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