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Written by R. Anna Phillips   

 

CHAPTER XI—MASONRY

Besides, these people opposed Masonry. My husband was a Mason, my brothers were Masons, many of my dearest friends were Masons; and I, though not a Mason, was very favorable to it.

About this time Elder Thomas Trice, of Pike CO., Ga., and of the Toweliga Association: (which by-the-way was cut off from the Primitive Western, in the bounds of which I lived, and from all Primitive Associations, I believe, upon charge of fellowshipping Masonry and moral institutions) came to spend a few days with us. Almost his entire conversation was relative to churches and church matters. I told him all my difficulties and dissatisfaction connected with the Missionary Baptists; my husband also. We were free to express ourselves as opposing religious institutions, but favoring institutions, especially Masonry: and the only objection to the Primitive Baptists was their opposition to Masonry. He told us to hold still, the day was close at hand when the Toweliga principles would prevail, and a church after our like, and as perfectly corresponding with the church of Jesus Christ, rejecting religious, but embracing moral institutions, would be at our door.
 
This gave me much comfort and satisfaction for a long while, in which meantime I tried to stand still and wait patiently. But, like all human-based hopes, it finally failed me; and I was led to search the grounds of objection to Masonry by the Primitive Baptists.

What a nice thing it is to be a Christian! One can be a child of God, and yet not a Christian. One must have the birth and walk--faith and practice--of Jesus Christ to be a Christian. And how hard to renounce all the world and follow the meek, lowly, worldly-hated Jesus? to count all things loss for his sake? When one has renounced much, and been made willing--for they must be a willing people--to give up the public gods. and think he is now about ready for the militant kingdom of God, behold when he looks close about him, indoors, as it were, he is almost sure to find one or more household gods, that, so used to, he had scarcely known, and that often gives him more trouble to dethrone, more heart-lacerations and flesh-wounds, than those of more apparent magnitude.

Thus, when I had dethroned all religious “institutions of the day” as unscriptural, and was thrown back upon the primitive basis of the Primitive Baptists, “moral institutions” presented their claims. and stood full in my way; more particularly, and most prominent among which was, Masonry: indeed all that I cared at all for. Not that I was, or wished to be one; but the principle! the principle of excluding a man when orthodox, and orderly otherwise, for being a Mason. I suppose I was as familiar with the principles and practices of Masonry as any one not a Mason; and I regarded them as highly honorable and commendable.

My idea was that a church transcended her limit of church authority to exclude a man merely for being a Mason. I regarded Missionaries as too expansive, and the Primitives as too contracted.

The question was, if a man is orthodox and orderly, has the church the right to exclude him simply because a Mason? I thought not. A religious institution, compromising religious principles, was quite a different thing from a moral institution making no religious pretensions whatever. This was my study and research for a time.

But Elder Trice had told me to be still, that there was inevitably to be a split in the Primitive Baptists. And I did wait, but all the time would come up “if ye love me keep my commandments.” And in the interval of waiting I was still searching. And then would try to wait patiently again; then become restless and often very miserable indeed.

Ah yes, waiting! Waiting for what? Waiting for a man to do something. Elder Trice had told me their work was progressing and a church of the Toweliga order would be at my door: “cursed is the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm, whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert and shall not see when good cometh: but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, whose hope the Lord is.” This was, then, enough. My hope had been in man and not in the Lord, altogether. I was sick of parched places in the wilderness. I wanted a quiet habitation: for I desired to see when good came. O that the Lord would enable me to look away from man and arms of flesh, and cause me to look alone to him! I did so earnestly crave that he would take me as nothing at all and show his way, and lead me in it and instruct me. Like the poor helpless leper—“Lord, thou canst, if thou wilt.”

For months I wearied here; while also greatly suffering from bodily disease. Often in bodily prostration’s, my tears brimming from a bitter fountain were as my sole sorrowful meat. But amidst all trials of soul and body the sweet abiding hope of God never entirely left me. Often it was my only but sure support and strong stay, and whispered to me soothingly “if in this life only we have hope we are miserable; but in this life only are your sorrows.” Often in this day I look back over my pilgrimage amid parched places in the wilderness, the desert sands burning my weary feet and parching thirst, when by the river of Babylon I wept to remember Zion, when as struggling over mountains and rocks, and fighting, hungry, thirsty, weak and lonely, I remember my hope as the friend never forsaking, always abiding, and hug it the closer and closer as my unspeakably precious jewel.

About this time, my husband, to my great surprise, joined the Missionary Baptists. I felt that he had done so on account of Masonry. And, somehow, a feeling of blame came over me: that in waiting for and looking to a man I had failed to comprehend the Scriptures. But I was sorry Masonry stood between us and the Primitive Baptists. The next day I gave back my church letter with a feeling of determination to live with them under the surrounding circumstances. Nothing but my love and sympathy for my husband caused me to do so. And very soon, in scanning my motives, I surely repented it: I had made a light thing of the name of Christ. A convenience to and servant of the flesh, and reproached that sacred, ever precious name: for fellowship, there was none with that people, except Christian fellowship for some. The next regular conference we called for and obtained letters with the idea of moving west, and declining to go they still claimed us. And I knew they had the right; letters did not release from tacit endorsements to them and all their works.

That winter, on Saturdays, they preached sound doctrine. I spoke to them about it, and asked why not ever preach it? “Oh,” they said, “it would do to preach sound Baptist doctrine on Saturday to the old well established members; but it was ruinous to Sunday congregations; and killed summer revivals; and drove away mourners.”

Ah, my soul! would I never be convinced ? Was the doctrine of Jesus Christ killing to revivals of his spirit and religion? Did the offer of his free and sovereign grace drive away mourners indeed? Could I live with a people, forever, in all things, denying and reproaching my Savior! Could I live where they made void the doctrine so dear to my heart, the grace that had saved me, the only doctrine that could reach me as a poor lost empty-handed sinner, and was still my only hope and joy? and that accused of driving away mourners! What spirit was this professing Christ and denying Himself in his gospel? What spirit was this professing grace and denying and dodging its power and presence? I was so hurt, so hurt, that I called it “anti-christ, openly avowed.” Did I call it wrong?

I was fully convinced I could never again live with them. But what should I do? I would stay at home, and have no church connection, and read my Bible. I rarely ever went to hear the Primitive Baptists, for there was something that followed going that caused a peculiar unrest and disquiet within, and a renewed longing for something pure, abiding, and eternal, that seemed to be in their Possession; and a sensation as of a poor, hungry, weary wanderer seeking rest and finding none, came over me. They reminded me of a resting place my spirit vaguely pictured and was groaning for, and not comforted.

But, notwithstanding, I often entered deep dark places and moods of mind, when hidden sorrows of soul so overwhelmed me that words were idle to tell of enduring all in silence. I learned valuable things I learned ‘the emptiness of earth and the vanity of created things, and the fallacy of human help; and to some considerable extent the true appreciation of the everlasting arms; ah, these everlasting arms of God! For here in this awful ordeal none but God can reach you. Indeed I wanted no other help than his; my whole desire intensified to the LIVING GOD. I wished every arm of flesh to let and leave me alone; and for the living God to help me.

Ah! proof after proof have I had of his very pitiful mercy at such times; and time after time have I again doubted, and murmured, and proven rebellions, ungrateful, and forgetful of all his tender mercies.

I had been in one of those deep awful places for a time; when one day an Old Baptist deacon came to see me. I had known him a long while; and as one of those old-fashioned pure men; indeed as a man and as a Christian he was one of the best and purest I ever knew. And I loved him as a faithful servant of Christ. As he entered with his pure white hair, and that venerable appearance that a well-spent life and age give, it did seem to me the light of a better world beamed in almost visible radiance from his countenance. Most company, at such times with me, was a real annoyance--even the customary demand for conversation by my family, was--but just then I was so glad to see that old man! his conversation was always about Christ and his kingdom. He talked of these things an hour or so; and then, in a very impressively solemn manner and tone, he called me by my first name, and said I would one day join the Primitive Baptists, and then added with emphasis “I shall not see it.” He soon after left; but those last words remained as sweet food for thought, for a long while: they seemed to partake of the prophetic; they called my mind from its bitterness then: and often afterwards my spirit found comfort in recalling them.

Ah! should I?--should I at last overcome all, and anchor there in peace?

I now began in earnest to make the principles of authority as practiced by the Primitive Baptists, in excluding Masonry from church fellowship, a special question; and that as praying to God--not man--for light and help. And soon--for how easy to understand when the Lord shows--I found the great and truly necessary ordeal of counting all things loss for Christ, covered the whole contested ground. And that the Primitives in thus excluding Masonry and all like orders, only faithfully applied and executed the laws of Christ in the practice. And with this knowledge came the test of purity from fleshly defilements, and resulted in the purity of the church: it severed the church and the world and fleshly lusts. It preserved just what nothing else could preserve. It tested just what nothing else could test. And this accounts for the life-time devotion of Primitive Baptists to their profession.

I found that ties dearer, and obligations stronger than Masonry, were made subject to this law guarding as it were the portals of the church of God. The law-giver said “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; he that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life, for my sake, shall find it.” Mat. 10:37. Also, “if any man come to me and hate not his father and mother and sister, and his own life also he cannot be my disciple. Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14. What is closer, or dearer or holden in stronger bonds of obligation, than these? How dear to man is father, mother, sister, wife and children? How dearer is his own life? Who doubts his right to life? What will a man not give in exchange for his own soul? And what great and strong obligations are brought to bear in life and blood relationships? How far below falls Masonry? How readily would it be forsaken for these? What a flimsy and fast failing plea would it be, to forsake these for? And yet those dearer, closer, stronger things, if conflicting, must give way to the law of Christ; must be forsaken, aye, hated for Christ’s and gospel’s sake. “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way and few there be who go in thereat,”--into the kingdom of God in earth.

Not that one must, in the literal sense, hate his flesh, or forsake his blood: “no man ever yet hated his own flesh,” but as a feature of that principle of the flesh, or natural men or mind, in opposition to Christ and his church in spirit. We may, by right God’s own law regulating natural ties and obligations, respecting father, mother, wife, &c., love them dearly, naturally; and yet at the same time, finding a principle there opposing Christ, hate it; even as all Christians do hate their own life, in natural, sinful, corrupt propensity, opposing Christ. We hate this principle wherever found; it is the same in a beloved mother, as in one we care not for; it is the same in our own hearts, leading us after the world, forbidding obedience to Christ. For whether in father, mother, wife, self, the world, flesh, or the devil, the carnal mind is enmity to God, not subject to his laws, contrary to Christ, and we hate it, who love the opposite, or Christ, and everything in fellowship with the world, and pleasing to the carnal mind, is enmity to Christ; and hence hated by his contrary spirit, and excluded as finding no agreement in the spirit.

So the great heart-sifting, soul-filtering process of legal searching and testing, guarding the door of the church, I now came to look upon, as it were, face to face, and meet hand to hand. The place of self-abasement and abject poverty--where one must sell all that he hath--is the contested door-way. And where the spirit-porter stands with the two-edged sword, the word of God, cutting either way, whether as at natural visible, or spiritual, invisible enemies, dividing asunder joints and marrow, or the more subtle substance of soul and spirit; and discerning the thought and intents of the heart. No subject enters except as bereft of all he has, as divided from all the world, as cut from all the lusts of the flesh. The man born of God may enter; the rest, as hated, must be disowned and left, lost. And the royal law of love wielding the weapon of faith in the name of Jesus Christ, stands as the overcoming victor, without which no man shall enter except as a nominal feature, a loose, uncemented drift-wood, wearing the external beauty, perchance, but never spoiling the true spiritual symmetry of the house.

And, in proportion as one feels this power (love born of God) he feels the urgings, promptings, and propellings, to contend. for and win Christ: and as he feels this so is he brought to the severing strokes of this sword dividing him--aye, dividing him; and then dividing him from the world--from all things contrary. And as this power strikes deeper and deeper into his soul; so the strokes sink deeper and deeper into his heart; and death ravages till crucified with Christ to the world. This is the Refiner’s fire of refining silver and gold by burning the dross.

And to be crucified with Christ is to die to sin once; to be crucified to the world is to die to the things of the world. Christ died to the world and sin once, and to be his disciple is to follow. And this is not as some seem to think--a mystical sort of unseen dying, hid altogether away in metaphysical mazes as a kind of spiritual losing; but it is an actual, open, outward dying, seen and read of all men. True there is a spiritual dying; but just as a natural man dying; or giving up the ghost in the spirit of life within, causes outward physical pain and death; so this dying is accompanied with an outward dying, or actual renouncing of the things of the world literally. The effect is first inward, but so surely gives outward actual demonstration, so tangible as to break the literal natural life ties of fellowship as it were of blood-affinity, with the world, binding itself, as the body to the carnal mind, to all things partaking of that mind by right of organic laws constituting it a whole; that is the world stands as body, flesh and blood and physical force, to the carnal mind, completing the organism. The spirit of this organism is the “prince of the power of the air,” and he has infused this pernicious principle of sin and evil into every natural ma,, father, mother, sister, wife, self and all. And when the opposite principle of good comes into a man that is born again, a war begins naturally, so to speak: the new man hates this evil principle as directly antagonistic, and God, in behalf of his own born Son,. will break the bonds, and purge the house, and win for Christ.

So when these divine, holy promptings begin for Christ, and for entrance into the kingdom, a strange hot war begins with fire and sword, burning and slaying; amidst the elements of which, as blinded by the smoke, and confused by the din of battle, the new man often stands bewildered and dismayed. But Christ--the conquering king--is there in the promptings begotten of him; and be fights the way to victory: you suffer, but his arm conquers as in vengeance he goes forth conquering and to conquer, “clothed ~n~ a vesture dipped in blood, and his name [in this conflict] is called the Word of God;” and out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should “smite the nations.” A child of God has more than one nation to overcome.

And to show those fearful ones of today, that in meeting and battling with these set systems of opposition to Christ, that no “strange thing has happened” to them in it, I will pause awhile and apply the war as with “nations” by referring to those nations national Israel encountered. For this travel of Israel from Egypt to Canaan is the ever established figure of the travel of the gospel Church, and of an individual Christian through all after time.

And remember, that after Israel was delivered from Pharaoh and had passed the fearful Red Sea [figure of the new birth]; and had gone on and passed burning Sinai; and had endured the “terrible wilderness,” encountering many, apparently, incidental trials and dangers; and even now near the brink of Jordan; (figure of baptism into the gospel militant church); they had just here to meet and overcome strong and great nations headed by their kings, before passing over to Canaan.

A nation we know is an established system of principles, backed by king and subject; and to despoil it is a conquest of power. I will recapitulate my own experience to some extent, to simplify.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 05 October 2006 )
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