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Written by R. Anna Phillips   


CHAPTER XIV—LIBERTY

“But my personal liberty!--it infringes upon my personal liberty for a church to say I may not belong to an outside institution,” says one. But remember--good works being their plea--that these in the scriptures are termed “fruits;” and these fruits are tested and illustrated as to legality by the metaphor of “children.” Rom. 6: 12. Children may be legitimate or illegitimate without changing their nature or blood-relationship to their father; the discrimination is in a legal sense. One becoming a member of the church is in this sense married to Christ. Rom. 7: 4; and gospel works are “fruits unto holiness,” or as it were, children unto God: while evil works from such an one, would be counted fruits unto the flesh or illegitimate children. Now tell me, you that cry for persona liberty, if you married a woman would it be all right if she had a living husband by right of her personal liberty? or would you grant her the personal liberty to marry another while you lived? Or to seek after other lovers if she pleased? Read I Cor. 6:15, 20. Would you be willing, on the plea of her personal liberty, to receive into your house as your own and as equal sharers with your own children in name and inheritance, the fruits of her body in unholy alliance. How would you christen them? Christian Masons or Masonic Christians? No indeed! You would rather receive or recognize them, nor retain her you would exclude her from heart and house. Neither you nor the law recognizes her plea of personal liberty. A wife is loosed from every former binding and allegiance; by the marriage contract and union she has lost herself in her husband together with every vestige of personal liberty in that they are no more twain, but one flesh--one body, over which the husband is the head. and preserver. Such a house will stand. But a house divided against itself--a house with schisms, foreign partnerships and unholy fellowships will fall. You would divorce such a wife; and yet murmur if Christ or the church should divorce you for the same offense.

For just so does the law direct the divorce,. “Wherefore my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body, of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God. No servant can serve two masters.”

But aside from this, and the law commanding the loss of all things, to take all the good works out of the hands of two kings of the Amorites, there is another point of view from which it becomes unlawful a contingent expediency amounting to law, forbidding Masonry (and all like things). Suppose it lawful in the first place to receive Masons into church fellowship. I found that all abstractly lawful things were not always expedient things: and that there are certain conditions under which things, otherwise lawful, become unlawful. And this condition was the giving offense to a weak brother’s conscience. A brother, too weak to grasp and comprehend the lawful propriety of a thing, condemns its practice; and becomes alarmed to see a brother partake, and offended to see him persist in its practice. That moment it becomes the dangerous power of sin to that strong brother, to which he is subject to be brought under. And to persist one moment after aware of offensiveness; or to take hold when aware it will prove an offense is a sin, a sin against Christ: it that moment becomes unlawful, though the principle and practice, otherwise than as giving offense, is lawful.

For instance, it was no sin for Paul to eat as ordinary food, meat offered unto idols, having knowledge (strength) that “an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one;” and he could, giving thanks, eat it as food; but then it was of a doubtful propriety, there was a risk of its becoming sin, and his being brought under its power as such; a weak brother’s conscience may be offended, or yet another brother, seeing him eat in the idol’s temple, may misconstrue, and suppose he eats to the idol: and so himself be emboldened to eat to the idol, hence, thought lawful, not expedient; he would not risk being brought under the power of any “test by any means,” either as offending, or emboldening another to sin, “lest this liberty [here was personal liberty] become a stumbling-block to them that are weak.”
Now these are the commandments and laws of Christ bearing upon the practice of the church, and nothing may change or repudiate them. And no strong brother need cry “why is my liberty judged of by another man’s conscience?” See 1st Cor. 10: 29. Take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block, or you destroy ]him for whom Christ died. Admitting Masonry to be lawful: a Mason having knowledge of the law of Christ, and of the principle of Masonry, and feeling they do not conflict, persists in visiting lodges with a clear conscience but he finds it gives offense to one or more weak brethren or sisters. That moment it is no more lawful, and he should renounce it, lest he be brought under its power as sin; for to persist is sin against Christ; and, as persisting, to him the apostle exclaims “through thy knowledge, ye shall the weak brother perish for whom Christ died? When ye sin so against the brethren and wound their weak consciences, ye sin against Christ; wherefore if meats make nay brother to offend, I will eat no more flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend. 1st Cor. 8:13.

For “to him that esteemeth anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Primitive Baptists esteem Masonry and all such things unclean. And now “if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now [by persisting] walkest thou not therefore charitably? Let not therefore your good be evil spoken of, for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink [such things as gratify carnal appetite and feed the natural man] but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost: for he that in these things [that make for peace and joy] serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men” (loved the mole in this proof of strengthened confidence in obedience to Christ by the brethren). The apostle says “follow the things which make for peace and edification; and shun any-thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended or made weak.” Rom. 14. This is done in leaving all things of doubtful propriety; and particularly those we know are offensive. For did not the law of Christ say “let the weak brother go learn and become strong, or yet suffer for his ignorance?” No, but just what relieves him and tests your love to Christ and the brotherhood. For if one member suffer the whole body suffer. If not found wanting in love to Christ and care for the brotherhood, you, Mason, will say “if the visiting of lodges causes my brother to offend, I will visit no more lodges while the world stands.”

The touchingly beautiful discourse of Jesus on the eve of his departure from the world, expresses what this love for one another, and causing self-sacrificings and denials for one another’s sake, is--”as the Father hath loved me so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love. This is my commandment that ye love one another as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15. How much dearer is life than visiting lodges?--of how much less value? Oh brother, joined to this idol, Jesus laid down his life for you: will you not lay down Masonry for him? In wounding the least one of these little weak ones, you wound him; and it is just as if to offend him in person to visit lodges offending a weak one. Ah, yes, for Jesus’ sake lay it down!

Since writing the forgoing the question of Granges has been pressed upon my attention, and, as some such things will always be in the world, I will give my views about them. Not to judge, them or anything without the churches---for be it understood, I make no quarrel with any institution or order of the world, as in and of the world. God judges those things without, but I judge a brother—a Primitive Baptist as connecting himself with them, and would say to him let no man deceive you by vain words. For just as well as our faith, which has not swerved for near two thousand years, so is the rule of walk or works which, as the faith, is clearly marked out and endorsed in set limits in plain words. And one of the strong features of this rule is to live as clear of the entanglements of the world as possible, consistent with living in the world, and yet not of the world. To have nothing to do with the world, an apostle says “one must needs go out of the world;” but the idea is as living in the world be subject to all its lawful demands, as sanctioned by Christ, but have no fellowship with its unfruitful works of darkness. Obey magistrates, and all civil laws not, directly conflicting, by abuse of the sanctioned power, with the law of Christ, as good faithful citizens; “for this is well-pleasing to God.” A national system of civil laws and government is, as “the powers that be,” of the Lord; they have the divine recognition and sanction, and should be respected and observed as unto the Lord. Men may abuse this power in establishing, or as established, in any given practice, for instance, as in marriage, or in tribute; but the church member is bound to obey in letter and spirit as under law to Christ, where this power of abuse does not conflict with the law of Christ in a religious sense. All the world he is to use as not abusing, as himself and these, in the world.

But all those societies, those institutions, particularly secret political societies, independent of the divinely sanctioned national system, are not only in the world, but of the world, in that abstract and compromising sense in which they can trace to no divine sanction for organism: and hence fellowship with them is forbidden, in that one obeying their law cannot do so as unto Christ, wherein a man is commanded in all he does.

A church member, obeying the civil law--in rendering unto Caesar the thing’s which are Caesar’s, obeys Christ; for he can trace the principle back to divine sanction. But these independent things, such as Grange lodges, are neither of God nor Caesar: they are of the world in that peculiar sense in which the world is called altogether unfruitful to the Lord, instituting without a shadow of his sanction. The law of Christ says “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.” A well and wisely established civil government bears fruit to Christ; and the church is commanded to make supplication for kings and rulers, senators, &c., that we may lead a peaceable life, &c.

But Grangers tell how to secure temporal good, how to secure, personally, political and commercial benefits: but, brother, you have received of the Lord how ye ought to walk. First seek ye the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. All things work together for good to those who are the called of God,” even the political or commercial disasters of today. The walk of the Lord’s children, both civil and religious, is ordained of God “that ye may approve things that are excellent, that ye may be sincere and without offense, filled [no room for else] with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God,” and not secret societies—not Granges.

But they promise a temporal good, the gratification of a worldly lust. Suppose you make a gain of lust, a worldly gain; I know it will be embittered by the wrath of God, by the harrowing unrest following every child of God through and after disobedience. But do you ask wherein the direct disobedience? That which is not for Christ is against him: we know if Granger’s were of Christ they would not spring from the world as classed in that sense in which he never recognized. Besides, a church member is particularly and emphatically told to provide things honest in the sight of all men. God never yet sanctioned a system or principle in secret conclave . If a man would provide political, economical, or any benefit, let it be proven honest; as in the sight of all men. The church of God can, hence, fellowship no secret societies. And this is one of her peculiar marks of identity.

Where else than with Primitive Baptists were they not in fellowship and sanction? Where else were unlawful latitudes not given to beneficiary systems, however conflicting with Christ? And where else was the steady, every day and life-time moral deportment so good and pure as among them? The simple law of Christ and royal law of love made them as a denomination, in moral deportment, far above that of any other, although helped and propped by all the outside systems. Among the Primitives the divine principles of love and faith were a power; and that bought, so to speak, life-membership in Christ. There among the Missionaries, money was the power that bought life-membership in human invented systems; aye, money bought church membership; had I not seen it almost impossible to exclude the monied man. the liberal paying man, however guilty of the meanest crimes? It was actually said on one such occasion of retainder, “his money is good and goes to save souls, if he is not!”

But for all, as looking to the Primitive Baptists in this new and beautiful light, at first I thought, because I grieved so over my loss of all things, that I should never overcome it: for I thought of my husband and brothers as Masons--what would they say? What would my friends say? What would the world say?  But there came an afterthought--they had not saved, it was Christ that died for me--it was Christ that required it: could I not do so for his sake who had died for me? If we deny him he will also deny us before his Father. How could I live in this sad world of sorrow and affliction and death with Christ denying my prayers before the Father? Oh I had rather all the world--husband, brothers, friends, all--should deny me and turn their faces from me forever, than Jesus Christ! What friendship is worthy to be compared to his? “Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you;” “if ye love me, keep my commandments.”

But sufferings and self-denials for Christ’s sake, I had thought a great privilege and a very beautiful work, in theory: in theory it was. One may think he would do thus and so for Jesus’ sake, and forsake all and follow him and that he could even do much better than Peter did under the circumstances; but let him come to the test, Peter did very well and faithful, when at one side of the world with Jesus by his side, untouched by the hand of persecution: and so we all do then, and like him say “I will die for thee. But soon wicked hands took Jesus away and brought him before all the world, as represented there at Pilate’s judgment hall, and all species of condemnation---political, religious--and social, and he stood as actually, literally, condemned by all. Peter began to follow afar off: then he comes closer where he can see the true situation: yes, the whole world was against him; the time for actual demonstration was come to prove the theory. He had so lately said he would die for him. And now, seeing him forsaken of all and condemned, and every prospect of immediate crucifixion, could he find it as easy to confess him and share the same fate? “I will die for thee.” Death now appeared as waiting a word for practical demonstration, “are ye for him?” Says a maiden, Poor Peter! It was so easy to own him out yonder alone with Jesus and his disciples, with danger in the dim distance! How hard to withstand all the world --suffer the loss of all things; and that while the tempter disturbs faith, and whispers upon an uncertainty. Peter was not certain Jesus would be delivered before or after death, and we poor, fearing, doubting ones are not certain we shall be delivered before or after death. if faith did not falter we could not be so tempted, but it does; and like Peter, we do and say. For self-denial and sufferings, however beautiful in theory, especially while thrilling with the love-inspiring words and presence of Jesus, in actual home-application and practical realization, how different?

But how could I suffer loss I had cared for the things to be lost? How could there be a cross and self-denial unless I had prized the things and grieved to lose them? If Peter had wanted to die there could have been no cross or loss in it. There can be no taking up a cross where no cross is.

Then I saw the gracious utility in caring for these things, and how and what it. was to suffer loss: and how it was a self-denial and how that God, to bring me in the way of Jesus, had given me the test bearing upon things I prized and persons I loved, to prove me worthy. Then I beheld the beautiful privilege of prizing worldly things in that I might count them loss for Christ. O brother, sister, prizing worldly things, what a blessed privilege is yours! What a sweet reward lies just before you!

 I was glad in heart while that almost visible hand of sweet, subduing power was bearing me up while applying the test. ‘Tis God’s grace alone can make one stand for Jesus against all the world; every man would fail, but for that marvelous grace. Oh my heart trembles today while I ask how many would stand before that which Peter fell? But I did notwithstanding all, crave to know Jesus in the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death. And all this brought the necessary material into play, without which I could not be his fire-tested disciple. And when one, by the grace of God, in the might of the Lord of lords has met and conquered all these nations as gathered together as “all the world,” and goes over Jordan, he has fought, the battle of Armageddon and is a disciple of Jesus; a disciple of Jesus! A great tumultuous glad springing-up flooded my soul at the thought, as confirmed by my willingness in this day of his power. For in following along after Jesus, step by step, I should finally come to him: there at his feet, looked on and loved, and receiving that welcome “well done my faithful one,” would be a weight of glory far exceeding all this world. Masonry became a thing light as air; and vanished away.

But then, after looking about me, I found a heavy clog bearing me to the dust, I was not fit or worthy to be so exalted in spirit as to suffer afflictions with the Primitive Baptists! yes, exalted to the people I had looked down upon. But I remembered Jesus, ah what should I do without him? In the name of Jesus I pray thee, let me go over and see the land beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain and Lebanon. But lo, Jordan was under a fog; I could see her borders, see her placid waters dimly; but in the midst was a voice crying aloud “re-baptism.” 

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.