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Written by R. Anna Phillips   


 
CHAPTER XV—RE-BAPTISM

I turned back and searched the will and way of God concerning Jordan. Again I was tempted to find out God by searching; I failed. Then searched again, and God by revelation of Jesus Christ. But in the meantime one of those times of gross darkness came over me, outer darkness. That old peculiar anguish of spirit and bitterness of soul, the pervading spirit of which by its unfathomable power of unseen presence, commands silence and voiceless enduring within. and that so overpowers, and so surely subdues that we sink obedient and strongly and strangely, recognizing the fitness of the command that we too would fain whisper abroad, “let all created things keep silence.” And it brings a vague fear and full astonishment and a felt nearness of one’s self, as fearfully and wonderfully made, to the presence of the master-hand of make; and this presence as pavilioned in black clouds of fearful majesty; and that as beholding the insignificant, yet responsible atom of wonderful make--so shrunk and so voiceless, so far below--and that as in need of all good circumstances and condition to be looked so upon; and yet, lo! amid all unfavorable surroundings, within and without, as when everything is against one I felt this search at my heart-reins.

Yes, everything against me. I had fought with the demon kings of the power of the air, and had conquered and taken all their cities; and had rested and feasted a day in the beautiful valley of Achor, from whence I beheld the glory of God resting as a golden flood rests upon Mt. Zion afar, and yet so apparently near. I arose to go to her, to inquire of the Lord in her court, and lo, as a mirage,--a delusion, she is gone. Re-baptism impedes me.

Trials of an earthly nature just then were pressing me sore and heavy; and all together it did seem more than I could bear, and live. One night, when sorrows of soul intensify as physical powers exacerbate, I felt that I must sink, or find quick relief My family--always kept ignorant of my mental distresses as much as possible--were all retired and sleeping; and I was walking my room back and forth forgetful of my feeble bodily powers in my strong inward contentions. I walked till after midnight, when my physical powers suddenly gave way, and I leaned against the wall in misery intensified; just then a strange feeling came over me, and an inward confirmation, strong as spoken words could have made it though not spoken--mastered my. mind: and was so verified by spirit-assurances in faith, that I was then, in all this, filling the purpose of God, and had been; that I spoke aloud and said “the hand of the Lord is upon me, and I did not know it” I then knew it. I cannot describe how--it was in the knowledge of faith. In a moment I remembered all the way I had been led. My trials were the rod of judgment, and were just. I felt keenly the poisoned arrows winged from the bow of disobedience. I felt the strength of sin. I felt the rebounding bolts from using lightness with, and mocking, God. And oh, I was crushed, and ready to say, I will lay my hand upon my mouth, for lo, I am vile.”

But, instantly my mental turbulence abated, and “whom he loveth he chasteneth,” swept over me in a consoling tide. A son and not a bastard, receives the rod. The rod was as Aaron’s budding and bearing fruits to me, in sweet assuring consolation. But how utterly desolate and destitute must one be to welcome the rod as not utterly alone and forgotten ? But oh, my FATHER? My heavenly Father!  The rod of chastening confirmed my right to say so. Oh, that he would just simply forgive me and make me to will and to do! only be Thou with me.

This caused a very great change in me every way. I now looked at all my past, and future, acknowledging the hand of the Lord. I had acknowledged it heretofore in my spiritual joy, but never in my sorrows and difficulties. But now all--winter and summer, night and day, darkness arid light, sorrow and joy—linked together in his all-wise connecting purpose and grace, tending to his glory and the good of his sons. I may say without boasting, linking me with the kingdom of Christ by suffering for it. Words can never express what I felt; nor, despite the fear and trembling of soul, what I experienced in the lingering whispering of support, in the voices flowing out to me from the unseen presence--”no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.” ( I testify to it, today).

I pondered all these things so much that more than ever I longed for the courts of Zion. The weary of my moving tent, pitching here and there, without the cloudy pillow to guide me as pilgrim and stranger in a strange land, became almost insupportable. And the longing caused me to look within so much, that a miniature house, so to speak, seemed to be within me; wherein I often entered and shut the door, to examine if fit to agree with God’s holy temple. I sometimes rummaged about promiscuously; then looked minutely over, and recounted my treasures of evidence of acceptance, communed with some sweet taken of assurance long gone, examined some word or deed in motive, or wept over some defilement, and asked the blood of cleansing, tried to solve some problem hid in metaphysical mazes; but now, in entering there the question meeting me, and pressing me, and would not be denied was re-baptism. I must attend.

So I went to work, as under the hand of the Lord, as under the promise of support, for this was against me, shall it prosper? When baptized by the Missionaries I received the answer of a good conscience; there was no doubt about that: and this was one of the strong reasons that I clung to it as surely valid. But, I was almost. startled at the recollection of receiving the same answer in relating my experience to them; and in my determination to assist in those wonderful works (?) of theirs; which I was now convinced were wrong. The answer of a good conscience had sprung like it did to Paul in persecuting the church of God: he verily thought he ought to do may things against Jesus of Nazareth, which things he did; making havoc of the churches: he believed lie was doing God service, and this was the base of a good conscience. And also brethren of Ephesus whom Paul found so easy and complacent in John’s baptism.

But still, in the scriptural examples, there appeared to my holden vision no clear example of re-baptism. I saw where Paul baptized those at Ephesus. Acts 19. That was afterward shown as sufficient. For no doubt those were baptized by the same mode and ceremony as that of Jesus himself, and that had, till very recently, been the valid baptism; even as the Jewish ceremonies had so lately been valid. But, when the gospel kingdom was set up by the risen Savior, all authority, rule, dominion and power was transferred to her as making valid all ordinances, &c. All elsewhere ceased. And these at Ephesus, having been baptized after this, the gospel church could not receive it as gospel baptism. The disciples could once eat the law Passover, but now never again. So those baptized by the baptism once valid, can be, never again by it, because annulled, and made void by the gospel church as now established. Nothing, however once lawful, is any more so. but by her authority and act.

This was, no doubt., the work of Apollos before being “taught the way of God more perfectly” by Priscilla and Aquilla. So Paul found them resting with the answer of a good conscience, in John’s baptism. But teaching them and showing their error, then they were, not re-baptized, but baptized according to the gospel. And this shows that none but the gospel church can administer gospel baptism. And this baptism they had received so like, so close, so near akin, to the true, more so than any ever can be again, should, by its rejection, forever silence the demands for recognition, by all so-called churches.

I was taking--and had done for years--the Tennessee Baptist, a Missionary paper published by J. R. Graves at Nashville. To that paper J. M. Pendleton was a contributor: in an article of his, showing the inconsistency of recognizing Methodist immersion as valid gospel baptism, I first caught a clear view of gospel baptism. I had studied the Scriptures till I could readily recall about every passage bearing upon any given point. In studying his views, a solution harmonizing with the Scriptures, and confirmed by a peculiar inward conviction of truth, that strangely came to me (and which I never dare doubt) I was led to a perfectly satisfactory view: the Scriptures came confirmingly; a flood, as of noon-day light, seemed to burst upon me; the instance at Ephesus came clear and establishing; I saw clearly! I knew what gospel baptism was! I thought of the author of that article as a Missionary invalidating Methodist immersion and in the attempt had invalidated his own: and with a mental gladness I exclaimed “Saul has fallen upon his own sword! I will cut off the head of Goliath [like David] with his own weapon!”

The illustration by a marriage is clear to the point. Suppose I had been married by a man whom I believed--but in truth was not--vested with the legal authority of state; he repeats the legal ceremony word for word, and we all go through the legal form perfectly; and the marriage (supposed to be) is consummated according to law. I, of course, receive the answer of a good conscience, believing the marriage legal; and also in leaving all, and living with my supposed husband; and our children we suppose “holy unto the Lord.” This comes alone from believing the marriage legal, and not from the fact; and should convince us that the answer of a good conscience is no perfect, infallible criterion of right.

But, sooner or later, I discover the administrator had no legal authority to perform the ceremony: the state of Georgia does not know him as her officer, or vested servant. Shall I now say, because I have received the answer of a good conscience, the marriage was valid? Shall I now say, because the form of ceremony was according to the letter of the law--the mode was legal--that I am married ? and that my children, just as naturally formed, just as naturally mine, are legitimate No indeed; I should say no such things. But should I be re-married? No, how could I, when I had never been married ? I should hasten to one properly authorized and be married for the first time.

Then with the authority of state rests the validity of official civil acts. And no party may claim executive or legislative prerogatives independent of the state as already established. All else is usurped, and hence null and void in effect, nor recognized at all by the state. But a civil party, to set up independent of the state authority, and perform so-called official acts according to the state formula would be no more usurpers, nor their acts more spurious and void than those so-called churches setting up independent of Jesus Christ’s authority, and claiming validity for official acts.

Gospel baptism is an ordinance of the church of Jesus Christ; no other party in heaven or earth can administer it. For to this church alone is given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” to shut and open, to bind and loose. Matt. 28. These keys are the laws of Christ (rather the interpretation and application of these laws) regulating the internal affairs of the church. With her then only is vested the sole prerogative to make legal any or all official acts touching her ordinances. By this authority from Jesus Christ; to her, she is executor and administrator: and she alone looses a man to preach the word, and to administer the ordinances. And by virtue alone of this authority, in him vested by the church, are his official acts valid. The moment she recalls it, he is deposed, and his acts--as any other man’s never known to her–invalid. The validity rests in the authority, the authority in the church, and not in the act itself.

It takes these legal parts to constitute gospel baptism: (I told you the triune principle must run through all)--a legal mode, subject, and administrator: any one wanting makes void the whole. Now let us apply the test in my own case, supposing I am a believer. I had been immersed; so much, good and legal as to mode. I was a believer; two parts legal: but the administrator was not vested with the legal authority of the gospel church; a necessary part is wanting, and so the whole is void; it is not gospel baptism. It was as though I had been married by a man officiating without the civil authority of state. There is but the one church, and state authority. The Primitive Baptist is the church of Jesus Christ. But if the Missionary Baptist was the church, then my baptism was gospel; and in which case all official acts of all other so-called churches were invalid, nor to be recognized by her. But I had proven her spurious; I had proven the Primitive true.

Then I had never been baptized in the gospel sense, no more than married under the first supposition. But [ have been asked “suppose you had been baptized by a man ordained in the Primitive church, but who, in the division, went off with the Missionaries?” It would be just as illegal, invalid, as to have been married by a deposed justice of the peace. That civil officer, during his legal term of office, could legally perform official acts: but when his term of office expires he can do so no more. But an exact illustration is had in the supposition that he, for malpractice or crime, has been deposed before his given term expires: he cannot now, no more than the man that never held office, perform the legal ceremony of marriage, nor any other: the state knows him as her officer no more. So the Missionary preacher ordained in the Primitive church stands deposed, excluded, for the Primitive church knows him no longer as her servant or vested officer. That he claims to practice the same old modes and ceremonies by authority of another party, is no more to here than it would be to the state, for that deposed civil officer to rely on al other party for authority to continue his services, according to the same letter and law.

But the question arose--would I be more respectful to the civil than divine?--to the laws of the state than to the laws of Christ? Shall the state rise above the church? In case of illegal marriage, how soon, how eagerly, would I act in reparation? Because the world would condemn me and justice would magnify the civil laws, and law itself would act in behalf of law. Because this criminal case was hid in spiritual darkness, shall I not be tried and sent to prison? Let the disobedient spirits in prison answer. Because the Primitive Baptists require it and will not receive me without it, shall I submit to baptism their hands? No indeed--it is the command of Jesus--it is to follow him. If the Primitive Baptists were willing to receive me without it, I should have demanded it--not re-baptism, but gospel baptism.

Oh, how my heart goes out to those “dissatisfied, Missionary Baptists--to those spirit tried, condemn and in prison; who would fain come to the Primitives but for a re-baptism! Ah could you accept membership without gospel baptism; could you thus do violence to the laws of Jesus Christ, and connive at disobedience in the church of God? Surely not when you rightly consider. We love the church too well to neglect her faithful administration of the laws her king. If you love the Lord and his church, take up the cross and follow him; if there were no cross in it you might well hesitate.

When this, with all obstacles, was removed, my own vileness and unworthiness that seemed to gather weight and blackness from my long blind obstinacy and as contrasted with the clear shining of Zion came full again upon me. Oh now, if I was only fit to go to them--only worthy to live with them! I looked back over my life. the, way was so crooked and dark, so inscrutable and beset and ensnared, and I have become so hardened and soiled; how could I ever presume upon fellowship--oh sweet gospel fellowship in spirit, with this pure, peaceful people? I could see how one in the first freshness and purity of peace and pardon, could be embosomed in their love; but what had not befallen me, that ever did befall any poor, weak. blind mortal? Had I not mocked the Lord and his people in the princely palaces at Babylon? Was I not defiled with the filth of Chebar in weeping prostrate on the ground? Was I not smitten from the tents of Kedar? What was I not in defilement and unfitness? And so uncomely that I felt they would. in right hold me at arms’ length, if at all. But while my heart acknowledged it would be better than I deserved, my spirit craved to come close into her arms and live: aye this desire was intense from believing it fellowship with the Father and the Son. Could I presume upon that sacred fellowship? I was now so willing and anxious, but so fearful I should reproach that sacred cause; I was so unlike a Christian, so unlike a true-born child of God, so unlike what I considered one as taught of the Lord.

All along, while so closely engaged with my investigations, I had not examined myself so closely, nor do I think I could ever have seen so closely my unworthiness, as now beholding the church so pure and holy: the contrast was fearful: so pure, so beautiful, so God-like as I had found her, covered with the robe of Jesus, receiving the crown of life and glory, who in the life and spirit of her Maker and Husband, stood spotless and faithful unto death, overcoming all things--a few--found worthy to suffer and to reign with Jesus Christ. My personal evidences of acceptance and right to enter there dwindled to idle dreams; how could I ever have based a hope upon such vain delusions? I was no child of God. I groveled in the dust., nor dared call the Lord my God. The dazzling glory of Zion, reflecting her sun of righteousness, cast a shadow full upon me, all the blacker by her brightness.

“The weapons of your warfare are not, carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” So preached Elder Mitchell, “in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.” Ah, that “fullness” nothing else could have raised me from the low places of despair. And that man of God, he whom my spirit had claimed to guide me in the name of Jesus--he could tell me of the fullness of that blessing in which Jesus was my fitness and worthiness, and could place me pure and clear in the beautiful building of God. I had been looking to carnal weapons. Spiritual weapons in a man’s hand had discovered my miserable foes, had routed, and vanquished them. And my evidences, so late as idle dreams, arose in actual majesty and strength, crying “my Lord and my God.”

Though even here I think I experienced a weight that Thomas did, when he so exclaimed: no doubt he felt a weight of the mild reproach when Jesus said “reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing.” Must he pierce the wounds to believe? He doubtless felt a weight, and that while rejoicing in belief. And I was ready to say “remove thy hand from me in mercy, I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant, for I do not forget thy commandments. But do thou for me, O God the Lord, for thy name’s sake, for I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.”

My mastering desire was to know and do what the Lord would have me. I knew I should fail if left alone--”hold thou me up, then shall I be safe.” I saw when I was weak, then was I strong; when nothing, then was I everything.

Now in times of gloom and disquiet something would whisper “why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him for the health of his countenance.” And that my way was not accidental--was not happened to me--that the purpose of God was in it, and would be accomplished in his own good time.

I felt this so then, but had no thought as to what purpose. But I believe the purpose was to show to those concerned, those issues between the denominations, from experimental realization, and how the unerring word of God, as a sword in the human heart, may cut and divide them asunder from the church of God, as well as the individual Christians. Who else, than one thus so closely interested, and one with the stern, heart-weighing necessity laid upon them, would or could have trailed them out as I have? How often have I envied the calm, peaceful sister, who having been baptized, calmly attended her regular meetings and apparently lives in peace, and hope, and joy, never thinking of all these troubles that come upon me? How often would I have recalled to memory these issues no more, but for the heart-pressing necessity laid upon me? How often have I sighed for rest, and groaned in spirit in my nightly vigils for that sweet slumber closing the eyes and shutting out cares of all those around me? Then I concluded this the purpose of God; and if one of God’s little ones receives instruction or comfort, or his cause the least defended, then thanks be to the Lord for my lessons of experience, and for the ability and privilege of writing them herewith!

But “he had delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me;” and now what wait I for? I greatly desired to live with the church of God, but I had rather have died than bring reproach upon her: the cold, silent grave was more welcome to me than would be the knowledge that I had brought shame upon the dear name of Jesus Christ.

But what wait I for? Surely not to get better, when every day but adds one to my sin of omission. One never had a desire to join the church of God, and that when counting all things loss, but when God has sealed and given the right. It is the faith of the Son of God that overcomes the world, and who has faith has the right to the church. The world and all its small vain things was nothing to me; most willingly could I count them loss. My strong, intense longing was to find the living God in Zion, and come with a clear conscience before him there in his body. So I began to look forward to the regular meetings of the Primitive Baptist church at the nearest places around me. But. even in this thing I found a cross. I was drawn in heart to one church, and in judgment to another. Where my heart went several were relatives and all were acquaintances and friends; and I was afraid they might be prejudiced in my favor, and would not give me the impartial verdict I wanted. So my judgment led me to another, a little farther off, where all were strangers, and would be more apt to judge me strictly and faithfully. I did not wish to be received even to “doubtful disputation “much less upon false principles.

I know it will look foolish to some to hear me say so, but I desired a sign from the Lord to decide me in which place to go and apply for membership: this sign (and it was not foolish to me) decided me in favor of providence--where my heart had gone and my judgment forbade--and I was perfectly satisfied. This church consisted of a few a aged members. It was said to have been, until that year, fourteen years since one joined here by experience.

When the next regular meeting time came, I went, a little wavering in my mind, however by this time When the door of the church for reception of members was opened, and the pastor, Elder Brittan, was exhorting to duty those who had a hope and tarried without; the great beauty and glory of the church chosen of God to obtain salvation through Jesus Christ was again most forcibly presented to my view, together with the blessed privilege of those chosen to this salvation to enter in: while the fearful responsibilities of entering without this came also to view, causing me to fear and tremble and falter, and almost conclude to wait and examine my claim closer, ere I made the attempt. And from some cause I became powerless upon my seat, I could not rise up to go. But next conference Elder Brittan said, in closing his remarks, that “so long’ as one having a little hope neglected to obey the Lord, to such an one it was a sin.” How this cut me: had I not sinned enough? I bated it: with a perfect hatred. Then he proposed a song while they waited, and began to read as if from my own soul--

In all my Lord’s appointed ways
My journey I’ll pursue;
Hinder me not ye much-loved saints,
For I must go with you.
Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,
I’ll follow where he goes,
Hinder me not shall be my cry,
Though earth and hell oppose.
Through duty and through trials too
I’ll go at his command--

The next thing I knew I was giving Elder Brittan my hand; he gave me a seat beside him. But in a moment the whole fearful weight of responsibility rolled upon me, as I felt and feared I was just where 1 had no right to be. The church looked as pure as heaven --without spot--and 1 felt that I was defiling her sanctuary: the ground was holy, and my unhallowed feet had touched it. I was not, fit to sit there among them. The thought was too much for me, and I was dumb: my tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth, as it were, and, I could not speak for, perhaps (so it seemed to me) half an hour, Elder B., in the meantime, gently urging me. He told me I was among my friends, and to speak to them. I tried, but could not speak at all. After waiting awhile he would gently and so kindly in tone, insist again; but to no avail. At last he seemed to think to help me to a starting point, and told me to begin just where I hoped the Lord began with me: but I could not speak; no, I, a poor sinful creature of dust, standing; upon holy ground, face to face, as it were, with the great God who dwells in Zion! The whole house was still as death, except the stifled sobs on either side; and I had sat with my head down, tearless, and rigid, myself, almost as death. I thought I would look around upon the church, and when I did those old gray heads were all bowed down, and most of the members seemed given to tears, as if they forgot. I sat there dumb before them. As I looked I was drawn to them in strong love for bearing the image of Jesus, as I viewed them in spirit, and just then I grasped the relieving thought and belief that, by my love for them, Christ was my worthiness; it was with his spirit I loved them. My mouth was opened, and I told them the reason of my hope within; and I begged them to question and deal faithfully me. I was immediately received, and the next day was baptized. At the water two others joined by experience: and within four meetings from, and including that, between thirty and forty--my husband among them--were baptized.

And sure enough, there was the vacant seat of that venerable and beloved old deacon who had told me years before I would one day join the Primitive Baptists, but he would not see it: he had passed the bourne from whence none return. I had not thought of his words in a long time; but how forcibly remembered now.

I could now say “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Lord: I will pay my vows unto the Lord in the presence of all the people. I was brought low and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. This is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it.”

I now enjoyed that solid comfort and consolation in Christ abounding, as based upon a rock, a sure foundation that withstands beating storms and rains; yes, upon the sure word of God were set the church ordinances, and established “all good works,” Jesus Christ himself, and not money and means, was the chief corner-stone to all the building, immovable world without end. A mere belief, giving out the fluctuating, evanescent answer of a good conscience, was no more a base to anything.

I cannot better describe my feelings, and sum the whole situation, than by a figure of a galley with oars, which had put to sea nearly ten years before; and for all that long time had struggled with storms, and battled with blackness, and fury, and tempest, amid the surging billows: meantime, perchance. in some treacherous calm, rising upon some vain signal from some phantom of hope crying “peace, peace,” and which allured but to thicker fogs and greater breakers. Until at last, with every oar broken and lost, and every arm fallen, tattered, torn, drifting wreck, the ship of mercy lays to and tows me up the beautiful river that flows through the city of God--the Zion of peace--wherein “no galley with oars” may come; and I am safely moored in the haven of rest; the anchor drops within the veil, and lo, tie wall of Zion is around me: Zion, whose walls are immovable, whose towers are strength, and whose bulwarks are refuge and peace forever. And the wanderer finds home and friends food and rest. And with a heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and body washed in pure water, and dressed in the spotless robe of Jesus’ righteousness, she looks abroad with a heart expanding and soul drinking in the inspiration of this, her Sabbath day, wherein she ceased from work and entered into rest and sang aloud, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them which dreamed, then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing. The Lord hath done great things, whereof we are glad. The Lord hath triumphed gloriously for Zion; Zion, the city of God! and they shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces! for my brethren’s and companion’s sake, I will now say peace be with thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good.”

All the way of my captivity did now appear as a dream: and each day for a long time after I joined the Primitive Baptists my heart swelled with joy and gratitude, and uttered like the above in joy of overflowing soul. That I sat by the river and wept to remember Zion, and that I had so long sought her, amid all trials, made me appreciate and love her all the better. All my afflictions looked as a troubled dream, fraught with experience, from whence cometh wisdom, and was good for me. I feel it so today.

And if it should be so to another--to some one or more of the weak and tempted!-- I have often thought of the good and comfort derived from a glimpse of the natural and divine life of Paul; that he had great legal riches and worldly gain, and by being struck blind to the ground, and hearing that voice from heaven, laid it all down joyfully for Jesus: and that notwithstanding he was filled with the Holy Ghost, in his flesh was no good thing, and he did the things he would not, and left undone the things he would; and by so struggling with sin, he cried out, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” How many saints, so tried, has this passage comforted since written? And that he was weak, and fearing and trembling, and had thorns in the flesh, &c., how many have drawn the milk of consolation and strength from his expressions of afflictions? Thus I have thought his life was ordered in all things for good to those who are the called. If mine be so--as a drop in the bucket--then I am glad. If it be the same spirit teaching strongly in him, and feebly on me; it is none the less correct in me, nor to be despised.

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.