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Written by R. Anna Phillips   


PREFACE

Some twenty-five years since, Elder Gold published for me a little book pamphlet, called my “Experience and Reason for Leaving the Missionaries, and uniting with the Primitive Baptists,” &c. After the edition was entirely exhausted, I received many orders for it; which orders, though they gradually decreased, never entirely ceased occasionally to come in even during the last year I received several, though from a distance. And during these years Brethren and Sisters; who knew the edition was exhausted, have occasionally urged me to publish a second edition. But I hesitated; afraid of the flesh.

Not long since two dear brethren proposed to advance the money necessary, if I would consent. This money to me was like the wagons Joseph sent to Jacob; tangible proof of the expressed desire: and I consented, as hoping I gathered the mind of the Lord from his people. And so have revised and condensed the first edition, while yet enlarging it by additional articles on our doctrine.

I commit the work in secret spirit as unto the Lord, in thus submitting it to the brethren and the public.

THE AUTHOR.
Macon, Ga., March 1901.
 
CHAPTER I—PARENTAGE, EARLY-EFFORTS, ETC

To the Reader:

I have often been asked to write in detail my commonly called, “experience” for publication, and have as often declined, until last year while at the Ocmulgee Association, I yielded to solicitations, and herewith begin, with, I hope, a prayerful desire that it will do no harm, if no good. And I may say that, for some years past, I have, at times, had strong impressions to do so; but always a shrinking, fearing, trembling sensation has prevented me, besides other reasons herein to be given. Nor has this abated, but my impressions have grown stronger, and at last have overcome.

Since my childhood I have had serious thoughts of death, and after death the judgment. My greatest early troubles on this subject were an awful fear and dread of punishment. I did not then so much wish heaven as to escape punishment.

My truly faithful and beloved parents (P. P. and Nancy Clopton, of Meriwether county, Ga.), were Primitive Baptists before I could remember. They brought up their children the fear and admonition of the Lord; and when any of us have morally departed from it, it has been contrary to their instruction, stamped by their own daily walk and conversation. And today, while I say it with glad thanksgiving to the Lord in their behalf, I shame at my own different walk--they still move steadily along down the last declivity of life in the same good old way. None so well as their own children know the truth of their profession; none so well as their own children, who have been constantly and daily with them, and have seen and known them under trials, persecutions, distresses, temptations and bereavements, etc., know how that in all, and through all, they have exemplified the spiritual power of the gospel; and manifested the meek and humble life of Jesus in their mortal body. In all my retrospection’s and searching’s, as connected with my entire family, there is nothing in achievements of honor, titles or great accomplishments--nothing in beauty, excellency, grandeur or sublimity, to equal the lowly, devotional lives of my parents to Jesus Christ. There is no fact comes up to memory froth the past (as connected with my life while under their roof) so glorious and grand as this; no thought wings to mind from there that is so ever welcome or has sweeter food. The subdued prayer of my father uttered in tremulous words, broken by awe and reverential fear, while overwhelmed with devotional humiliation; the ever hushed trembling emotions of reverence of my mother as she took the great name of God upon her lips as the creator, preserver and Savior; this, coupled with their daily, self-denying, humble, devotional life, was my dear father and mother serving my dear Lord and Master!

So from earliest recollection I have thus been blessed with precept and example of the gospel of the Son of God; and the (now) glorious plan of salvation has been given me in detailed theory, from time to time all my life.

I wanted, and intended to be a Christian, but this doctrine of election and salvation by grace alone did not accord with my idea of justice and equity. And from this fact, I suppose, I regarded the Lord God as the stern, inflexible lawgiver--loving good and hating evil.

So I intended to do and become good, and gain his favor, notwithstanding my father’s doctrine; and notwithstanding I had implicit confidence in his words and views, yet, in this one point I thought him mistaken; at least, my mind would turn to seek another way. I must do good to inherit eternal life. I must mourn and repent for past sins, and amend my life, and then all would be well. I concluded I had no great thing to do after all--that is, no great effort --only to repent--pray regularly, and then the Lord would regard me, and help me to do and stay good. And then I had a way planned out; I expected a bright, unmistakable evidence of pardon and acceptance, which I had no thought of doubting.

Time and again I began the work, but no evidence came. Thus I passed some years, making greater and longer exertions, and becoming just a little more and more surprised and alarmed, while the necessity of my case bore a little more and more upon me. The first real alarming impression of my sins was caused by the experience (told to the church) of a girl I dearly loved and looked upon as almost perfection. In telling the church her experience, she told what a great and guilty sinner she had found herself. The question came up with me---if she, whom I had thought so good--so much better than myself—if she was so great a sinner, what was I? Then I concluded to make stronger effort to repent and do good, for my sins bore a little heavier upon me.

At last these littles, by constant accumulation, became a great thing; and great was my feeling of guilt and condemnation; I scarcely knew what was the matter; trouble and distress of mind almost imperceptibly stole upon me. I concluded I had missed the way, nor did I find any way so easy as I expected. I thought I had not mourned for my sins; and now this began, to be the great work absolutely necessary. Sometimes I would be free and easy from all this, and then for days I was given to extreme sadness and dejection. Why could I not grasp the necessary principle and mourn and repent? What was the unmanageable mysteries of my being? Why restless and disquieted in vain?  Why had God withheld the answer of peace? Why could I not mourn at will? What had staid my will, while my heart was growing more and more restless, and impatient at the delay in mourning of my, sins, which were fast gaining proportion, and turning, to scarlet? Oh, if I could but mourn, I had the words of Jesus for it, I should be conferred. What was I, and what my need? And what was God, and what his law? What was I?-a sinner, and my need was pardon. God was immutable and just; and his law a burning Sinai enfolded in tempest and darkness and blackness, and I had to flee the presence of God as he thundered in his law-character, from amidst its flaming summit. Now, I regarded Jesus as quite a different personage from God, and While I felt to flee the presence of God, I craved that I had lived while Jesus was on earth, so that I. might have sought and prostrated myself before him and begged for that help and mercy that was never refused to such. 

But where was Jesus now? A boundless and mysterious distance gave no response. Where was God? Was he not far and high above me? And why should I fear him? Ah, death--the wages of sin-death working in my body --death would even bring me before his awful judgment throne. And I was only a nearer, and scarcely less mystery. ‘Why---surrounded with everything in life to make me happy---why was I so wretched?  Why was my heart ever asking questions that I could not answer? Why were the pleasures of all the world becoming as ashes and my heart pleading for rest I could not find? Why was my soul grasping and guarding my continually increasing unrest, and with a strange vigilance hiding it from the outer world? Why were the faces and voices of my beloved friends an annoyance to me, and seclusion and solitude a most welcome and eagerly sought friend? Because there, undisturbed, my alarmed and questioning spirit could arise and measure, contrast; and compare her need and power to supply, and devise means of relief. But these moods would wear off, and I, would become comparatively cheerful but when they would return it was with double force.

Eventually, when about eighteen years old, I saw and felt I could do no good thing. I was a poor, undone, helpless, lost sinner, justly condemned by the righteous law of a. just and holy God. So great a sinner was I, that seeing, knowing and feeling, I could not so much as mourn for my sins. Oh, it was heartrending to see, and know, and feel myself such, so as to burden my oppressed heart with the bare fact of its exceeding sinfulness; and not to be able to mourn for it; this seemed to be the great impediment.

Many a time I have tried to believe the doctrine of election, and throw myself into the self-complacent attitude embraced by the oft repeated assertion---”if I am to be saved, I will be saved;” but my sense of present pressing need of assurance waived this question far away; it was like saying to a starving child, “you shall have bread in the far future.”

But still, when I read the Bible, the doctrine of election was presented in theory; I could not understand so as to make it accord with my notions; yet if it was true, oh what would I give to know it embraced me in its eternal immutable folds! But the Bible, generally, condemned me, When I read the precious promises of the gospel to the children of promise, how my soul would crave to appropriate them, so exactly suited were they to its felt need; but I, a child of wrath and of bondage, I dare not, I could not--my very attempts at prayer seemed as mere vain words falling to the ground--a mocking Sound of sin thrown from the solid mass. Sometimes, when I had gone off somewhere to try to pray, I felt so foolish and vain that the least noise startled me, and frightened me from my purpose; and what was to become of such a great sinner that could not so much as mourn for her sins, nor even find a suitable place and prepared heart to ask the Lord to help her to mourn?

The emergency of my case grew strong; and though when in company I managed to appear free and unconcerned, yet, when surrounded by others, I inwardly experienced a peculiar feeling of loneliness and desolation. I felt that earth held no joys for me; it was empty and void, and its pleasures and helps a meaningless farce, But sadder still, I found no friend or help in heaven. I really felt as one never remembered, or yet as forsaken of heaven and earth.

I read of the mission of Jesus into the world, but it did not appear to touch my case---my dealing was with the stern, just, immutable and holy God, and his holy law. Jesus seemed as another but oh, thought I, if Jesus was nigh, so that I might find him, I would kiss his feet in the dust and plead my case before him, and would he not command my peace?  I loved to dwell here in my thoughts--it was a momentary relief. Just what Jesus held in store for the poor, and blind, and helpless--just What he had ever given them, was just what I needed and craved, and the very delusion in my imagination of coming before him, and receiving tokens of love, pity and mercy and pardon from all my sins--as it were, aside from God and the law was so acceptable and soothing to my weary, hungry, heart, that, as I said, the very delusion was a momentary relief. But the necessities of my case would not let me linger long here; I must be up and meeting the true position; I must away from the merciful Jesus to the just God. I still held God and Jesus as two distinct beings. I thought if I could mourn for my sins, and get and keep good, that God would forgive me; and then I should, somehow, come near to Jesus, and receive comfort from him also. And then, I thought, I never would doubt the evidences I expected to receive in a miraculous manner, but forever claim, and joyfully bind to my soul, the blessed gospel promises my soul so much craved to call her own! --and that sweet, soothing idea of Jesus! I should realize it and call him my own. I had no knowledge of, or how to find the ascended Savior. I sought him, in thought, as when upon earth now he was far removed and hid in a great, mysterious, unfathomable distance. And instead of coming to God through Christ, I was looking to Christ through God. Oh, who can ever appreciate the rich treasures of grace stored in Christ as the MEDIATOR BETWEEN God and man, but those who have felt the great all-need of a daysman?

With all my fear of God I had come to love him in his pure, just and holy attributes. I felt a strong glow of love flowing out from my soul, that seemed to seek and find a place in heaven, without knowing how or why; and that, I felt, would continue loving these and hating Sin, though banished forever from them. And at last it appeared that Jesus himself had drawn and commanded this current, and upon himself it was lavished, and through him flowed out to all the heaven; when as yet I had no knowledge of God in Christ, as reconciling the world unto himself.

From a sense of its own bitterness and desolation, my soul, now, more than ever, appealed from the happy faces and cheerful scenes of creature life, and led me to seek the more apparent congeniality of feeling portrayed in the solemn, silent face of inanimate nature--nature that seemed to understand and to keep silence before the mighty struggle within me---that seemed to veil her face in woe, sympathy and unison with my sad, hidden and undone heart. And the apparent gloom and shadow of death--eternal death, that was engraved upon the tablets of stone within was mourned (so it looked to me) by her abroad and whispered a dirge upon every passing breeze. The pervading sorrow of my soul---mourning because it could not mourn--seemed partaken of by her, while her hand silently pointed, in assuring token of sympathy with me, to her sad drooping forest boughs. Her whole body did appear draped in mourning; and I felt a strong strange drawing out to her bosom, when, as if to deface the impress of doom written within, she would soothingly whisper, “see, God loves the world of man to give myself with my lap of ever renewing treasures to be poured as boundless stores at his feet- God loves the world and gave his Son to die, through which I, even I, do live.” Then something within would answer, “He that spared not his own Son, how will he not, with him freely give us all things?” Why could not I believe? Because, like the Syrian leper I must do some “great thing.” Simply to “wash and be clean” or believe and be saved! It was too small a thing; it could never meet the emergency of my outside case; there was such a great work to be done, in that I was such a great sinner, that not only my presents in silver and raiment, or self-righteousness, or good works must come in; but also a great and miraculous manifestation must be. I could not at all conceive of such a simple thing as to believe and be saved: I was willing and anxious to do “some great thing,” and then believe; and then I thought, I could believe, I would have some right to believe. But as it was, I could as well have made a world as to believe. Then what shall I do? Such a weight of sin that some great thing must be done, and yet, not so much could I feel, as a godly sorrow for sin. Alas! Mine was an outside case.

I went with my parents to their regular church meeting, and it was Communion and Feet-washing season. The service was inexpressibly touching. A feeling that I never felt before came over me; while preparing the table I felt an internal craving and lifting up of soul to God, to be prepared also; I felt a longing desire to be drawn into it, to be made a part with the broken elements.’’ When the bread was breaking to pieces I felt that I, in some spiritual hidden way, was broken to pieces for sin also and that my soul, in a sense of undefinable, mystical union with the wine (as a figure), was poured out unto death. (I wonder if anyone else ever felt this?) The great welling tears blinded me to the outward scene, but the inward view could not be hid. Oh that God would help me! Oh, that he would make me fit to touch and the partake of emblems of his suffering abode of death, and fit to wash a Christian’s feet. I had thought that Feet-Washing of itself was enough to drive most people from the Primitive Baptists; but not I saw a beauty in it as subscribing to Jesus in some way I did not then understand.

And, from my heart, I did believe the Primitive Baptists the best people on earth; and perhaps as near or nearer right than any others. But they were so unpopular, so low down in the estimation of the world; they also appeared cold and indifferent to the outside world; they loved one another, but were (I thought), illiberal, narrow-pathed and selfish in views and works; and besides, I had no idea of the one church of Jesus Christ; I considered every professing church, a church, and branch of Christians aiming for the same heaven. So, to me, there were many churches. And such as made the most outward showy of good deeds, and manifested their religion by outward appearances of its enjoyment, I was inclined to believe, were the nearest, practically, right.

I attended the meetings of all the different orders in the vicinity. The Methodists and Missionary Baptists seemed more concerned about sinners, and I liked this. And when among them seeing crowds of “mourners” bowed down weeping and sobbing in true contrition, as I thought, oh what would I have given to be such! Surely they were no greater sinners than I, but they could repent and mourn, I could not; they were in, the way of being saved--I was not. My unfeeling heart would be my ruin! I have gone to the seats tearless and unmoved, and with an aching heart at its own hardness, sat straight up, and complacently beheld the scene of apparent praying, mourning and weeping around me. I sought not pardon so much as to mourn in dust and ashes for my sins. Pardon would affect myself, but my sins were against a holy God. Oh my sins! how black and weighty if I could but just feel them! My condition --how ruined and wretched, if I could but just realize it! And seeing, and knowing and feeling this, I could not mourn! I would have given the world, yes, all worlds, if mine, for a true, godly sorrow for sin.

For days and weeks such a state had been mine. I would try to pray, to read, to work, to forget, to recall, to be happy, to be miserable. Eighteen years old, in the prime of girlhood, surrounded by everything in nature to make me happy, and yet how miserable. The joys of earth were as idle, mocking dreams that could never appease my soul’s deep hunger for bread, whereof one may eat and live forever. There was a continual craving for something pure, eternal and divine that I felt to know was not of the world. In fact, I hated the world myself, and all things that had part with sin.

I was looking forward, to a Missionary “protracted meeting” that was appointed in about two miles from my home, with great interest and hope of help. So, when the time came, I, together with my sister, was prepared to attend regularly. We both attended the “mourner’s seats” regularly; she seemed to be a true mourner, and her tears flowed unsparingly; there was hope for her--she was mourning and repentant; but I was seeking repentance. A certain preacher became much interested in us both; he seemed to understand my case fully. He was a shrewd, close observing man, of rare, argumental and oratorical powers, and to him I was strongly drawn in love and confidence. Most of the members of this church were our neighbors, and took, or appeared to take, great interest in my sister and myself. I drew hope from this source, and was encouraged to proceed in trying to find true and humble contrition of soul. This preacher would go home with us, and talk with and pray for us especially. But prayer after prayer, and day after day passed, but no relief came to me. My heart felt to grow harder and harder; I therefore felt to be a lost sinner, justly condemned; and that death, eternal death, was ever praying upon me, and would sooner or later separate me from all hope--from all that was good and pure. My great fear of punishment was now swallowed up in the greater dread of banishment from God and holiness--to be delivered from sin and made pure and holy was the pleading, earnest cry of my whole heart. But to see myself all sin, how could I help myself, as sin could not atone for, or deliver from sin. And if I should possibly mourn, would not my mourning be sin? How utterly lost and empty-handed was I! How helpless to help how hopeless to hope! Truly I felt to be without God and without hope in the world! Who knows the world of meaning and of force in this phrase? One day after morning service I concluded to leave the meeting ---it was no help to me---I wanted to be alone with my lost soul, alone to mourn because I could not mourn.  My sister was not inclined to go, and concluded to stay and spend the night with a friend; I could come or send for her at the meeting next day. So I was driven home alone. My mother seemed to wear a disturbed, sorrowful countenance, but said not a word to me about my feelings. I went up to my room with a feeling of such utter heart-desolation that I soon came down again, I shall never forget that evening, we lived in the country, Surrounded by a magnificent and extensive forces, which I dearly loved, and where I often wandered, especially if distressed or disturbed. As I wandered about this evening I felt just like I have felt in taking leave of loved faces and objects. Later I concluded to go further into the woods, and pray once more. I walked some distance--could find no exactly suitable place;--at last I stopped beneath a large tree and kneeled down--what mockery ! Oh if I could but prostrate my stubborn, unrelenting soul and with flooding tears of true contrition of heart, and thus humbly and in broken heart before God, pray, I thought he would hear me. But with not a tear—for the fountain was sealed--with not a vestige of dust and ashes, for my garment was scarlet, how could. I presume to prostrate my body and pray with any hope, while my soul, all guilty, with all eyes open to her pollution, stood up, as it were, unfeeling before her mighty emergency? But the case was, from this fact, but the more urgent; I felt to couple the want of feeling with the emergency, and throwing myself in one whole need I uttered the prayer; “God be merciful to me, a sinner,” That was all I said, that was all I wanted to say. I had tried to pray God to help ME to mourn, to help ME to perform this or that; but now I was removed from every question, but that of my one, all need as a helpless; sinner; I had thought of getting better, and of being a rather good sinner---but that hope was dead, and now even to this prayer there came no answer of peace, no assurance that God had even cognizance of me as an atom of sinful dust. I looked abroad upon the grand face of inanimate nature, and the whole aspect was presented as one of mourning in sympathy. The very leaves seemed to tremble with the dread of impending doom, The sinking sun, as if from sudden conviction of my doom, cast off her dazzling veil, and with subdued, open face, looked upon me a moment, as if for the last time, and then suddenly dropped behind a cloud, The darkness coming on moved as though brim-full of death.

But sad as was this scene, it was strangely wet come and soothing to my spirit by its corresponding semblance of settling gloom, and the annunciation of night cast by the coming shadows moving on as friendly forerunners; and which, as unalterable surety of, gave preparation and a calm waiting of events, by their irrevocable coming, I felt that the scene, though sad, was friendly, and I felt the want of friend in earth and heaven. The scene, however contemplated in poetical figures, had partially soothed me; still, how gladly would I have exchanged this for a life time of fierce, turbulent, agonizing pains of contrition cutting asunder soul and spirit, joints and marrow; for in the end God would have heard and Saved me.

From these reflections, but with my burden of condemnation, I turned in and to keep up appearances, I went to the supper table, but could not eat. I looked at my father and mother, and the shadows without, everywhere, rested upon them, The dark impending doom, settling down heavily within my soul, seemed to be reflecting upon all things; I told mother I was not well and would retire. Ah how wearily, and with what an undefinable weight, I ascended the stairs! How alone--how desolate and destitute I felt as I entered my room and shut the door! I felt now indeed cut off from all the world as I stood alone in my room; and cut off from God, as If stood alone in my helplessness of soul. I was also physically sick, my bodily powers were well nigh exhausted, and I was feverish. Oh I was sick and exhausted, and no remedy- no physician there! My need was a great present, pressing need and I no more reasoned of right or wrong, or sought a form of works, nor vet of words, or position of body, but with my breath went the unspoken cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.’’ This was as my breath as I mechanically undressed and went to bed. And there all alone, sick in body and mind, tearless and silent, writhing under a sense of death as the wages of sin, I unremittingly breathed in prayer, until exhausted nature sunk with unconscious sleep, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And when sleep was overpowering me, I remember making a. strong effort to remain awake and alive to my condition; but every faculty giving away, profound sleep held me for many hours

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2006 )
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