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Written by R. Anna Phillips   

 

CHAPTER VI—TOSSING ON THE SEA

Who can fathom or control the human mind? Who knows its limit looking to the things of God? Who knows the exact point where it ceases and the mind of Christ begins? When I have done something according to the letter of the law of Christ, can I tell whether the natural or the spiritual ruled? When I have felt or believed a thing concerning Christ, can I tell whether, or to what extent, the carnal mind had to do in it? I cannot. But one thing I did know and that was, I had never even thought of writing for Christ or his kingdom. I had thought of many things, even dying, that I thought I would do if demanded. But why not do this when he had said my strength is made perfect in weakness? Alas! mine was no ordinary weakness and this extraordinary work. Besides, while I cared not for the vain glory of the world I--can I who had said I will die for thee say it?--I shrank from her scorn and pity.

Ah, we are willing to show our devotion to the Lord in works according with our will; let us plot and plan the work and we will perform it. And these would rarely bring us a cross or a self-denial. But let the Lord devise the work conformable to his death, to the crucifying of our lusts and fleshly preferences--and we--although we wisely thought we were ready--are as far from it as from slaying our literal body. How long it does take us to learn that if we would be his disciples we must deny ourselves--take up our cross and follow him; to obey Christ--which is to follow him--is to crucify the flesh. I could now see I wanted to serve my flesh, or at least not deny it in serving Christ. Still, I would contend for myself and say, mentally, or to myself, “if I knew this was God requiring me to write, nothing should hinder me from doing it.” Just as if this would accord with the faith in which only we can please God that goes out at the command of God not by sight, not as knowing the work and the consequences but not knowing, nor whither. And however the work commanded as fulfilled may appear ruinous to our hopes and to contradict God’s word of promise to us otherwise, as no doubt the command of to offer up Isaac appeared to the natural mind of Abraham, still true faith staggers not at seeming impossibilities but overcoming all things to the contrary, goes out obedient to God’s word. Then looking at the consequences--suppose Abraham had said, “Why, if I slay Isaac it will be ruinous to God’s own promise and plans he had said in Isaac should his seed be called.” It did seem so. Thus I look at consequences and imagined I heard some brethren saying there was no Scriptural authority for a woman to write: and they together with some sisters would denounce me as following false impression, or as trying to make myself conspicuous. Besides it might reproach the Cause and shame good brethren. And, worst of all, I might find when too late the Lord had never required it of me. Of all things, for a woman thus to write seemed to hold and threaten the most dire consequences. I know now that it is our duty simply to obey, leaving the Lord, who has promised, to care for the consequences. But then, and in this extremity, with what a burdened and bewildered heart I threw myself upon God’s mercy and compassion, as for his young inexperienced little one thus burdened and bewildered above measure; for dismiss it I could not, and admit it as of God, I dare not. And I believe God heard and had mercy on me; not that he removed this impression, but assured it for the future; and the intensity of these thoughts and fears passed off. Meantime I could search the Missionary field and if I found an opening for the pen I could use it, as thousands of women had done, in behalf of some Mission, and thus tacitly obey God if indeed he required it, and save myself also, for I had not condemned all Mission systems then. But would I use craftiness with God? I repeat, this led me to search the Scriptures, but my mind becoming more composed, I turned to my first object or to find the commandments of Christ for Missionary works. And after searching through and through time and again, I found not only that the law of Christ did not sustain, but condemned these missions and institutions; but also, the church itself, so called, as such. In thus searching the Scriptures I learned many things beside the fact that these institutions were unscriptural for plainer and plainer appeared the fact that they had not the true Bible evidences of being the true church. For I, had learned also, that there was but one true visible gospel church on earth. And it was a grief to me in a sense.

I confess it now with shame--for I had desired with all my heart to be a Missionary in the full sense of the term. And these institutions even as appended to the church (?) seemed plausible and commendable, and were congenial with my idea of means to advance the kingdom; which ideas were formed and established in my mind before I obtained a hope: since which time I had scarcely thought of them till forced, first by that voice “If ye love,” &c.--which still comes to me occasionally. But, while I failed to find the commandments I was looking for, I found many others, one of which said “come out from among them, or else be, partakers of their errors.” And thus learned that to remained identified with them as a church member, though believing not in these institutions, was just as though I did, so far as being partaker of their evils and errors. So: within four months after joining I called for and obtained my church letter, determined to make a more thorough and separate search of-their institutions; as also, of their claims to be the church of Christ, and find the true if possible.

It was not long before I was convinced--satisfied--that this was not the true church, and that all their institutions and inventions were based on money; and that in these and in the doctrine as preached they denied the doctrine of election of salvation .by grace through faith, and had substituted salvation by money through a Missionary Board. And this plan and doctrine was contrary to my experience.
And what was I? How greatly I feared I was no child of God as So easily to be left into, and liking, such errors, I reasoned thus---if I had been a child of God I would have been under tutors and governors and the unerring spirit would have led me in the right way: but being deceived at the start I was misled throughout. And now what a miserable wretch just awakened from a long sweet delusive dream to a fearful reality.

I had however a good evidence, but did not know it, in that I loved Jesus, and no matter what .I wasp my desire was unto him: no matter what came to me, I wanted his name loved and honored, And oh, my soul! had I no more the right to love him as my Savior--no more the right to go to him in the fullness of-my need?--no more to say--to whisper in the secret depth of my soul--for I was afraid to say it out loud --My Beloved is mine and I am his?” It was as a sword through my heart to think of Christ as cut off from him!

I had read, the Lord’s, people were led and taught: by him and had great peace. I had strayed to those denying him; I had peace no more. And for a time it did appear to me that my evidence of: being born again rested with the evidences of the Missionaries as the true church. If I had found these true then with consistency I might claim mine true. So when compelled to denounce them I felt all the bitterness of confirmation that I, alas! was not born again –to denounce myself. And made more so by the thought that I had no legal or spiritual right to pour out these sorrows before God as my God and savior.

But God had mercy on me in that he made my knowledge of the letter of the Scriptures a wonderful source of comfort and hope to me, and thus led me to consider how many Christians anciently went astray--how many since--how many were in Babylon at that very time; and how erroneous church relations could never cut off from the spiritual life and kingdom of Christ. How soothing and sustaining ! Tears of joy and thankfulness were mingled with the cry of bitterness now poured out before God! How precious was the privilege to thus pour out my soul pleading for his hand to hold--to leave me not alone for a moment!

But as often as I admitted my hope and faith as born of God as often would that impression to write press in. Why could I not take the one and leave the other? Because the very same voice that spake to me in the silent hush of that early morning saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sin, hers.” I knew and felt it to be the same that spake to me amid the roaring sounds afterwards; and both engaging and affecting the same inner being. Therefore, to reject the one was to reject the other, in which case I was left without God and hope. I had, by deprivation; just-been shown how dear was this hope, and was, hence, made in a sense to endure the one to secure the other.

And yet how I mocked the idea I--what, you? --you so foolish and ignorant that you know not your own self P-so blind that you have stumbled and fallen down a bound captive --could you be so presumptive as to put such an idea into operation?--to thus shame the doctrine and name you profess to love, &c.? Yet, I must confess, there were times when a light and joy broke in upon me and gave vent to unspoken expressions like these how glorifying to God? whew known of his spirit for a weak, blind, ignorant woman to confound the wise and prudent in things pertaining to God? Anything from the pen of such an one would be more manifestly .to the glory of God in displaying his power and grace, than that from a great Wise man naturally; for the Weaker and baser the earthen vessel, the brighter shines the jewel of truth, and the plainer the source divine whence comes the power. How brighter shine the jewels of truth, and known the power of God as exhibited by the pen of a woman too weak in herself to find and formulate them; than if by the pen of a great, worldly wise man. My consolation then was that these impressions looked to the future. But the same power that stamped these impressions stamped their consummation--their fulfillment--with persecutions, and from brethren, and what a thorn this was, and is! I might expect this from the world. Nevertheless, the same power assured me:, no weapon formed against me should ultimately prosper. And by a revelation I will not now describe. I was shown among other things that I would drag an aged mortal body with me to my last and most important writing.

Still I have gone bound down from this hidden cause till no satisfaction to  myself and from my family. For about fifteen years I never had the moral courage and spiritual presumption to tell any mortal of these peculiar troubles. Why should I keep, it a secret when the telling might be to share it? Because if not of God--and I did not know---would it not be to commit that fearful sin--sin against the Holy Ghost? Would it not be tacitly ascribing to God .the works of an opposite spirit? And then--the thought that thus I should say the great almighty holy God had thus spoken to me--me, so poor, so weak, so insignificant, and least of all the flock; and strayed away besides!
Once I determined to throw all away and go back, to the world, enjoy it and perchance find a new start in religious matters. And for a short time I appeared to do so. But alas! the world Seemed changed,,-insipid, empty and vain;--moth, dust and ashes were all it gave me, nor satisfied my soul’s deep hunger for bread whereof one may eat and live forever hunger no more. My gain was a wounded conscience, condemnation and looking for of judgments. What I sought was not in, or of, the World I sought the living among the dead. My health failed, and I began to find sore trials of an earthly kind. At times, under the pressure of all these combined, I have felt that I must sink to rise no more. But always in the moment of extremity Jesus had appeared a present help; and though I felt so mean and sinful, some word of the sorrowful suffering of Jesus would come tome, once or twice with peculiar power as to a fellow-partaker, and lift my soul far above this world to see the glories that shall be revealed in us who know him in the fellowship of his sufferings; after which--I cannot tell how--my mind caught the surprising inspiration as from the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ that shone upon me in this dark hour causing me to see the hand of my Father leading me, and not in vain were my sorrows, and therefore to count them all joy. I do believe that if any poor mortal ever did desire with all their heart and soul, strength and mind, to know and do the Master’s will, that was I; and yet I felt that of all who professed to love him, I was the farthest from it. For even now, while convinced the Missionary was not, and strongly persuaded the Primitive Baptist was, the true church, I could not get my consent to leave the one and go to the other. I knew the price, and my pride--greater than I realized--whispered me not to exchange an honorable position in church and society for worse than nothing--shame and reproach.

I well knew that “institutions of the day”--the main issues were popular and plausible with all fashionable religious sects, and with the world; that the world to these and a.11 men-instituted and regulated systems was a friend. So these were all in agreement. None but the Primitive Baptist opposed them. Also great men upheld them; why should I set myself up against such great, wise men as Judson and Fuller? Why, indeed? Because “if ye love me keep my commandments,” still sweetly and persuasively echoed in my heart. And I read “the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God”--that the world by wisdom can never know him. Yet that potent voice of pride holding affinity in congeniality with the principles of all these popular things, was also whispering within telling me to maintain my high position in the world. I saw by observation and that not strained- that not only did religious partialities and prejudices penetrate and run through every department and channel in life, but also that to belong to a popular religious sect, or church, so-called, was to gain, not only social prestige and worldly favor, but that it gave first-class efficacy--was a first-class recommendation to all secular business. All were popular and thus armed but the Primitive Baptist. And counting all the cost of renouncing all the popular gods, I faltered and hesitated at the high price of this renunciation. Why could not I, like other sisters, let the preachers look after our faith and practice and be at peace? Because I was gone in a way I chose not.

 I had learned from the Testament that the Primitive Baptists had all the internal and external evidences of being the church: yet how strong the conflict, how severe the contest between Christ and the world! The sin of pride by w hick-Satan fell is his strong weapon to bring down others. It makes me shudder to remember how I clung to the friendship of the world and regarded the dear people of God as beneath me. Yet I secretly loved them; and was offended to hear them defamed. During all this time of conflict, Jesus was ever presented as and lowly. Sorrowful and suffering; the cross was ever in view with him. Had I not said he was beneath me?  Had I not gone with the pharisaical world and denied him?

But since I began these letters, I have received several private letters asking me to be more minute in detail on the particular issues dividing the Missionary and Primitive Baptists: so I will begin with the church itself.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2006 )
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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.