A NARRATIVE OF PROCEEDINGS IN THE BANK STREET CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA
RELATIVE TO THE RECEPTION OF AN ADHERING FREE MASON;
WITH AN EXAMINATION OF MASONIC OATHS, AND OF THE PRINCIPLES OF DISCIPLINE ADOPTED BY SAID CHURCH,
BY HENRY GREW
MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL
“O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united! for in their anger THEY SLEW A MAN!....! Ge 49:6.
“For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace.” Isa 62:1.
The law of love admits of no retaliation. “Overcome evil with good,”is its unalterable mandate. Its reward is peace: peace to the bosom of its possessor, though wave after wave of trouble may roll over it.
The object of the following pages is the honor of Zion’s King. It is the exposure, not of persons, but of principles. Principles, which are believed to be subversive of the purity and true peace of the holy kingdom.
The excellent reputation of individuals, who advance and maintain corrupt principles, which are admitted as the basis of practice, in the christian church, so far from presenting an adequate reason for refraining from opposing such principles, affords an additional just cause for their exposure. In such a case, the influence of character gives currency to the principles, and greater extent to their evil consequences.
As there is an important connection between the character of every of every minister of Jesus Christ, however humble the sphere of his service, and the honor of his Master; I am desirous that the true cause of my exclusion from the fellowship of the church in Bank Street should be known. As the acting Elders have fully sanctioned, in their printed publication the principles communicated by the late senior Elder of the church-as a majority of the church “sustain their elders”in the same, and as the elders have proclaimed need to their “brethren at a distance,”that on these principles they have determined to act, and to receive others; the duty of bringing their principles to light and test of eternal truth, must be obvious to every candid mind. More especially is such duty obligatory, in the case of a community which professes to be an example of reformation, worthy of the imitation of every other religious denomination.
Whatever evil purposes may be included in the arts or mysteries of the fraternity, this oath requires secrecy, on penalty of having the “throat cut and the “tongue torn our by the roots,”and the “body buried in the rough sands of the sea,”&c.
From the Fellow Craft oath.
“Furthermore, do I promise and swear, that I will support the constitution of the Grand Lodge of the U.S., and of the Grand Lodge of this State, under which this lodge is held, and confirm to all the By-laws, rules and regulations of this or any other lodge, of which I may hereafter become a member, as far as in my power.”
However inconsistent these laws, &c., may be with the rights of God and man, without knowing what they are, he swears, on penalty of death, to obey them.
From the Master Mason’s oath, in which single oath the candidate swears sixteen times.
“Furthermore, do I promise and swear, that a Master Mason’s secrets, given to me in charge as such, and I knowing them to be such, shall remain as secure and inviolable in my breast, as in his own, when communicated to me, murder and treason excepted, and they left to my own election.”
Thus, if a Master Mason knows that his brother mason purposes to burn his neighbors house, or to violate the chastity of his neighbor’s wife, or to ruin his reputation, he cannot prevent any of these evils by exposing such wicked designs, or by putting his neighbor, in any manner, on his guard against them.
“Furthermore do I promise and swear, that I will aid and assist a companion Royal Arch Mason, when engaged in any difficulty, and espouse his cause, so far as to extricate him from the same, if in my power, whether he be right or wrong.”“ Furthermore I do promise and swear, that a companion Royal Arch Mason’s secrets, given me in charge as such, and I knowing them to be such, shall remain as secure and inviolable in my breast as in his own, murder and treason not excepted. (Or, which is the same, ‘all the secrets of a companion without exception.’) All which I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, with a firm and steadfast resolution to perform the same, without any equivocation, mental reservation, or self-evasion of mind in me whatever: binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my skull smote off, and my brains exposed to the scorching rays of the sun, should I ever knowingly or willfully transgress any part of this, my solemn oath or obligation of a Royal Arch Mason. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the performance of the same.”
Among innumerable abominations in which such unrighteous obligations may involve a man, the following may be considered:
A. and B. are Royal Arch Masons. A. is a professor of religion. B. is an infidel. C. is a member of the same church with A., undefiled by Free Masonry, except by continuing in the church with A. B. injures C. and purposes to murder him. He reveals his design to his companion, A., who by his oath, is obliged to keep the wicked design secret, and to espouse the “wrong”cause of an infidel, even to the death of one whom he acknowledges as a christian brother! He has blasphemously called upon the holy Majesty of the Universe to help him to do these abominations.
Illustrious Knight of the Cross.
“You further sear, that should you know another to violate any essential part of this obligation, you will use your most decided endeavors, by the blessing of God, to bring such persons to the strictest and most condign punishment, agreeably to the rules and usages of our ancient fraternity; and this, by pointing him out to the world as an unworthy vagabond; by opposing his interest, by deranging his business, by transferring his character after him wherever he may go, and by exposing him to the contempt of the whole fraternity and the world, but of our illustrious order more especially, during his whole natural life.”
Knight of the Cross! what Cross? Not that surely, on which the merciful Saviour prayed and died for his enemies! Behold the pretended “handmaid to religion,”pursuing her victim with relentless fury to the very verge of this mortal state! Praise to the reasoner of wrath, after he hath killed the body, she hath no more that she can do.
Knights adepts of the Eagle or Sun.
“By the man you saw peeping, and who was discovered and seized, and conducted to death, is an emblem of those who come to be initiated into our sacred mysteries through a motive of curiosity; and, if so indiscreet as to divulge their obligation, we are bound to cause their death and take vengeance on the treason by the destruction of the traitor.”
Thus, it is evident that Morgan was abducted and murdered in accordance with Masonic principles and obligations. “A Knight Templar, being present at a Lodge in Covington, boldly asserted, that if Morgan had been writing masonry, and his throat was cut from ear to ear, his tongue torn out by the roots, and his body buried beneath the rough sands of the sea, at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, he could not complain in not having justice done him. Amen, Amen, Amen, was the audible response around the room.”
Free Masons swear to violate the laws of their country, and act accordingly.
Mr. John R. Mulford says, “I have seen a Grand Jury selected by a Masonic sheriff, with an express view to prevent an indictment against a Brother Mason, and was told by the foreman of the jury, that had it not been the case of a brother that was coming before them, he should not have been there. I have seen a Mason brought up to be tried on an indictment, and observed him make the Masonic signal of distress, and another sign to the jury, which latter sign of the hand drawn across the throat, two or three jurors answered; and these same jurors, when out, refused to convict on a clear case of guilt. I have also seen Masonic signs exchanged between the Bar and the Bench. I have also seen its influence in the Lodge that such a brother was to be run for assemblyman, by which I understood that we, the brethren, were to support him, and he was run and elected.”
Free Masonry is guilty of abominable profanation of sacred things.
The Lodge-room, which sometimes exhibits scenes of confusion, revelry and intemperance, is represented to be the “sanctum sanctorum, or holy of holies.”In the mock ceremony of the burning bush, a worm of the dust personates the Most High. Another, to the question, “Are you a Royal Arch Mason?”replies, “I am that I am.”The opening of the seven seals and the sounding of the seven trumpets is a mockery of similar character. Before the former, the candidate is thus addressed: “They are those who came here, after passing through great tribulation, and having washed their robes in their own blood.” The latter is thus explained: “The seven trumpets signify that masonry is extended over the surface of the earth on the wings of fame, and supports itself with honor.”I give here only a specimen. The reader is referred to the book from which these quotations are taken.
In the lecture of the degree of the Knight of the Sun is the following:
“Q. What signifies the cross, surrounded by two serpents, on the top of the globe? A. It represents to us not to repeat the vulgar prejucices; to be prudent, and to know the bottom of the heart. In matters of religion to be always prepared; not to be of the sentiments with sots, idiots, and the lovers of the mysteries of religion; to avoid such, and not in the least to hold any conversation with them Q. What signifies the book, with the word Bible written in it? A. As the Bible is differently interpreted by the different sects who divide the different parts of the earth: Thus the true sons of light, or children of truth, ought to doubt of every thing at present, as mysteries or metaphysics: Thus all the decisions of theology and philosophy, teach not to admit that, which is not demonstrated as clearly, as that 2 and 2 are equal to 4.”&c.
Whether a christian church, or an infidel club, is the most appropriate association for the adherents of an institution of such principles, the reader may judge. Whether the fellowshipping of the members of such an institution, and the classing of such principles with matters of mere opinion, which are no subjects of church discipline, is a proper course to sustain the high claim of being a reformed church, may also be worthy of consideration.
But, is there no redeeming quality? Free Masonry, it is said, is a charitable institution. “the following document which was thrown out of a lodge at Boston when it was destroyed by fire,”may enable the impartial to judge whether CHARITY, or “serving divers lusts and pleasures,” is the real object of “this vain boasting institution.”
Lodge Dr. Dolls. Cts.
For monies received at lodge nights for makings,
memberships, visitors fees, and quarterage, 1,992.41
By amounts of several items paid on the different
lodge nights, for refreshments, wines, liquors, 984.93
For aprons, gloves, printing, secretary’s fees, &c..... 804.73
For tylers fees, crafting, &c....... 166. 75
For CHARITY!....... 36.00
The above are the receipts and expenditures of the lodge for eighteen years.
Where now is the boasted affinity between Free Masonry and Christianity?
Christianity says, “Above all things-swear not.”“Swear not at all.” Free Masonry says, swear innumerable oaths. Swear to do evil. Christianity says, “Walk in the light.”Free Masonry says, walk in darkness, not knowing whither you go. Christianity says, “what I say unto you in secret proclaim ye on the house top.”Free Masonry says, what I say unto you in secret, keep secret on the penalty of death. Christianity says, “Do good unto all men, especially unto the household of faith.” Free Masonry says, do good especially to Free Masons. Christianity says, “love your enemies.”Free Masonry says, oppose their interests, derange their business and point them out to the world as worthless and vicious vagabonds, and that during the whole of their natural lives! The motto of Christianity is FORGIVENESS, that of Masonry “VENGEANCE.”
The question whether or not these things are “evil deeds incompatible with the commandments and ordinances of the Saviour”is respectfully submitted to the candid determination of the Elders of Bank Street church, and all others.
It is an undeniable fact, that a great portion of the virtuous class of the community, who have examined the evidence presented to the public in relation to the principles of the Masonic institution, consider these principles as a violation of the equitable laws of the land. What must such persons think of our pretensions to reformation and purity, if we fellowship the adherents of such an institution, and thereby sanction their continued disobedience to the positive command of the word of God, to be subject to the powers that be?
On the next Sunday, I requested permission to read the following communication to the church, signed by myself and four members of my family. My request was refused.
To the Congregation worshipping in Bank Street, Philadelphia.
Out of the depths of affliction we now address those with whom we have taken sweet counsel and gone to the house of God in company.
When, in the course of divine providence, we removed to this city, we sought fellowship with such as determined, by the favor of God, to worship him, according to his holy will, in spirit and in truth. Our hearts rejoiced and confided in your assurances of reverential attachment to the divine word; and of holy opposition, not only to those traditions of carnal devotion which make void the commandments of God, but to all the unfruitful works of darkness.
Our union with you has not been a mere profession. In brotherly love, our hearts have been knit to yours in the bonds of holy truth. Blessed be God our Father, for the precious fellowship our souls have enjoyed with you in the Gospel of his Son Jesus Christ.
Alas! Alas! for the dark cloud that is now over us! God is our witness, that we verily believe, on the evidence of testimony, which, with the faculties we at present possess, it is impossible for us to reject, that the spirit, the oaths, the requisitions and the practices of the Masonic Fraternity, are, in may particulars, profane violations of the laws both of God and man. How then can we possibly have fellowship therewith?
We respectfully entreat you to consider, supposing our views of the Masonic institution to be incorrect, whether the course pursued by the individual and the church in relation to this lamentable case, is according to the law of Christ. If we are weak or erroneous; as the individual does not pretend to be bound by his conscience to continue visiting Masonic lodges; does not the law, 1Co 8:9, apply? “But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to them that are weak.”12 th. verse, “When we sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.”Ought not the church to maintain and enforce this law?
It is impossible, however, for us to admit that this is a just view of the subject. To admit that Masonic oaths, in which men swear to conceal the worst of crimes, are to be classed with matters of indifference, or of mere opinion, would, in our estimation, involve an entire destruction of the distinctive character of that holy community of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of truth.
We submit to your candid consideration, whether the purity and honor of the christian church, can ever admit the principle, that the church has no authority over the conduct of its members, in respect to uniting with other associations. If such associations are of a vicious character, (and we all know that there are associations of such character) is not the church disgraced by allowing of such alliances? If this principle be admitted, may not the purest communion become, in time, a synagogue of Satan? “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,”is a solemn and imperative command, binding on every church and on every disciple; nor can a thousand baptisms cleanse or remit sins which are unconfessed and unforsaken
Who is the blamable cause of our present unhappy division, is a question which concerns us all solemnly and candidly to consider. It will be righteously determined by Him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead at his appearing. Jesus Christ opposed sin and maintained the truth. In this sense, he was the cause of division between the mother and daughter-in-law; but the blamable cause belonged to her who opposed the truth. So now, whoever opposes the truth, is the blamable cause of our grievous dissention. Woe unto him by whom the offence cometh: not woe unto him by whom the truth cometh, which gives occasion for the offence. It is opposition to the truth which constitutes for the offence; and on the opposer of the truth, whoever he is, the woe falls.
The manner in which some of our brethren have treated our conscientious objections has deeply grieved us. It does not appear to us to be compatible with christian love. We ask for no sacrifice of principle, but we ask, and we did hope, that the burdened soul may receive the sympathy of christian tenderness. To those who feel this sympathy, and we are assured that are such, we tender our grateful love. To those who have manifested a contrary spirit, and thereby increased the sorrow of the soul, we say we have not so learned Christ.
We have endeavored to commit the cause to him who judgeth righteously. We again commit it to our brethren, beseeching them to have a single eye to the glory of the King. We desire to possess the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Far be it that we should cherish one unkind emotion towards any. We beseech our brethren to maintain the purity of God’s house, that we may unite with them in keeping the feast, with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
The following letter from the senior Elder was read to the Church
“Camden, N.J., December 5th., 1835.
To the Congregation assembling in Bank Street, Philadelphia.
DEARLY BELOVED BRETHREN:-
In my protracted and very painful affliction, your prosperity lies near my heart night and day. I know the many snares with which you are surrounded, to entangle your feet in running the way of our Lord’s gracious commandments. Speculation with which this age abounds, besets you around. Masonic questions-anti-Masonic questions-slavery and anti-slavery agitations-the dogmas of the Sects, Catholic, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, &c., all, through the devices of Satan, might turn your feet from the holy commandment delivered unto you.
But I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you remain firm in your holy profession, a mighty oak amidst the mountain storm, whose roots in the storm dig even deeper into the soil, and do not swerve from your place amidst any convulsive throes. You know Brethren, there is only one thing to do-to keep the two great commandments, which is first, to love the Lord thy God with all they soul, and mind, and strength-and the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On which two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets. In keeping these commandments you observe as disciples of Jesus, on the first day of the week, Jesus’ death in our stead, and his resurrection from the dead for our justification before his heavenly Father. On these facts of the gospel we have confidence before our God for the remission of sins, and hope of an immortal life. Now, beloved Brethren, exercise yourselves in these things, waiting for the coming of the Lord. If any man agitate you with questions contrary to these commandments and facts of the Gospel-do not listen to him as individuals, or as a church for one moment. He can only agitate your minds with untaught questions which he never learned from the Master or from his apostles.”
Very good. The question now is, whether objecting to a person’s admission into the Christian church, because he is sworn to violate, in numerous particulars, the command of love his neighbor as himself; and because he determines to adhere to an institution, which requires the grossest violations of the law of love; is agitating the church “with untaught questions which he never learned from the Master of his apostles?”Are we not clearly taught this law of love? Does not my respected brother B. himself, in this very letter, exhort the church “to keep the two great commandments?”On whom then, I ask, for the truth’s sake, does the charge rest of agitating the church “with questions contrary to these commandments?”Will it rest on those who in the fear of the Lord, determine to maintain these commandments, by withholding fellowship from those who break them; or on those who make light of them by receiving transgressors? Elder B. continues:
“Look into the book and see for yourselves-when the Saviour tabernacled on earth the men of his generation were an assembly of treacherous and adulterous men. They had multiplied divorces to a great degree, and consequently were great polygamists, but he neither involved himself, nor his disciples with their controversies on that subject, he only taught, as you know, from the original creation of one man and one woman, the will of his Father on that subject. Nor did his apostle Paul meddle at all with the subject of polygamy, except by asserting that the elder of a christian church must be the husband of one wife. The slave question was left by Jesus and his apostles in the very same state. The word translated servant, in King James’ translation of the New Testament, is invariably in the original, slave. This you may convince yourselves of, by consulting all the passages where the word occurs. All the admonitions which Paul gives to servants, according to our translation, were given to slaves. Nor does he at all intermeddle with their state as slaves. He had no commandment from his master on this subject. Read with care his beautiful epistle to Philemon. Does he command, or even exhort Philemon to manumit Onesimus. This is left to Philemon himself. Nor does Paul say one word about manumission or non-manumission.
Now, if Jesus Christ “taught” from the original creation of one man and one woman, the will of the Father on that subject, how can this subject be classed with “untaught questions?”And if he has taught us his Father’s will, are we not bound to conform to that will? Is not disobedience to that will matter of discipline in the holy kingdom, whatever political law on the subject may be? It is admitted that this will is opposed to polygamy. The Apostle Paul has said something more than “that the elder of a christian church must be the husband only of one wife.”“Let every man have his own wife (not wives) and every woman her own husband.” And if “the slave question was left by Jesus and his Apostles in the very same state,” how can that be classed with “untaught questions?”It is admitted that the spirit and precepts of christianity require its disciples humbly and patiently to endure the evils of prevailing customs, although those customs are not founded in equity. See Mt 17:25-27. Christians are to submit to the powers that be. This however is not proof that the word of God has not taught and enjoined those principles of righteousness and benevolence which, if obeyed, as they immediately ought to be, would expel all injustice and oppression from the earth. Where would have been found the cruelty and oppression of Nero’s government, had he and his associates submitted to the influence of christianity as they ought to have done? And where, I ask, would be found the cruelty and oppression of American slavery, if all our citizens should submit, as is their immediate and indispensable duty, to the same influence? How long would they hold property in the bodies and souls of their fellow beings, and, for sordid gold, pour agony into the bosoms of parting families, if they were willing to do unto others as they would have others to do unto them? How long, I ask once more, will the system of American slavery endure the test of that law of love which worketh no ill to his neighbor? Not a moment. Only submit it to that test, and it must sink into its merited obloquy and non-entity. Is it not an odious system of fraud, of oppression, of cruelty and of whoredom?
Our venerable brother, after all his remarks of the beautiful epistle to Philemon, is found with the fanatical abolitionists, so are as to rank slavery with “the evils of the present age.”Consequently, he must either admit that the “beautiful epistle”sanctions and “evil,” or that it does not sanction slavery. Be it observed, however, that the subject of slavery was no subject of disputation between me and the church; nor is it to be at all considered, in determining the merits of our unhappy controversy. I have indeed expressed my views on the subject to individuals and dissented from theirs. But, with the church, I have had no controversy on this matter. Elder B. proceeds:
“I say these things not as if I abetted polygamy or slavery, or any of the evils of the present age, but these questions, and many others of the same kind are all political. The men of the world are left to settle them. They do not belong to our kingdom. If they are not settled till the King comes, he will put all to rights. But I say these things that you may not be involved in untaught questions, but earnestly pursue the path of the Master and his apostles; not turning to the right hand or to the left. If we follow the opinions of men we are lost in mazes of error-if we follow the Lamb we are safe.
You will carefully observe, brethren, that our Lord and Master, was not cut off because of his opposition to any dogmas or questions among the Jews, but simply because he asserted that he was the Messiah promised to their fathers. Nor did Paul or any other of the apostles suffer martyrdom because they opposed the opinions of the Jewish church, but because they asserted that Jesus of Nazareth was the true Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. This speaks volumes against all the contradictory and contested opinions of the sects contending about questions to no profit.
Beloved brethren-these things I have written to you amidst much uneasiness and pain, but I thought they were necessary. I commend you to God and to the word of his grace. May you still enjoy in his commandments and ordinances more and more of his divine presence. Brethren, pray for me, that patience may have its perfect work. In hope of immortality,
I am yours,
Philadelphia, Dec. 9th, 1835.
BELOVED BROTHER BALLANTINE-
It affords us unfeigned pleasure to be able to assure you that your colleagues in the elder’s office, are of one mind with you in reference to those untaught and much vexed questions that have so long, and so woefully agitated Christendom. The justness and force of your lucid remarks, and the excellence of your fatherly admonition, is duly appreciated by the Bank street congregation of believers, who nobly sustain their elders in refusing to have any question discussed that is not clearly taught by Jesus and the apostles.
Our brethren at a distance who have obeyed the Lord will be happy to learn that we stand fast in the liberty of God’s dear children, unengaged with any yoke of bondage; and that when they come among us they may be assured of receiving the right hand of fellowship as fellow-citizens of the household of faith, without any regard to Masonry or Anti-Masonry, Slavery or Anti-slavery, or any other untaught question.
We deeply sympathize with you in your protracted illness, and while we praise the Lord that he has sustained you thus far, we will continue to pray that patience may have her perfect work, and that you may be kept perfect and entire, waiting for his eternal kingdom and glory.
In the blessed hope,
J. L. RHEES.
What is the position assumed in these letters? Is it not that Polygamy, Slavery, Free Masonry, and other “evils,”are not matters of church discipline, because they are political? But may not a matter be political and immoral? And if it is immoral, is it no subject of discipline in that holy kingdom in which the workers of iniquity have no inheritance. Are the political principles, practices and associations of men of this world “undefiled and separate from sinners?”Why then did Jesus Christ choose his disciples “out of” the world? The position is untenable. It is subversive of the holy distinctive character, and divine excellency of the everlasting kingdom. We reject it, though an angel from heaven preach it. Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord for ever. “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists shall inherit the kingdom of God,” 1Co 6:9,10. The kingdom of God is his church on earth, set up in the reign of the Cæ sars, predicted by his holy prophets. “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom,”&c. Da 2:41. Thus our Lord directs that the impenitent transgressor is to be unto us “as an heathen man and a publican.”And the Apostle directed the Corinthian church to “put away” the “wicked person.”The church of Ephesus was commended because it could “not bear them which are evil.”That of Pergamos was rebuked for having “them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I (Jesus Christ) hate.”Did the King allow these “evils”to be tolerated in his church until he “comes?”Hear him. “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” Re 2:15,16 . Every member of the heavenly community is most solemnly commanded to COME OUT from the unclean, to be separate. On this condition he is to be received into the divine favor. See 2Co 6:17. We are to “shine as lights in the world: holding forth the word of life”in all our temper, conversation and practice: having our fruit unto holiness and our end eternal life.
The respected author of the letter remarks, “I say these things not as if I abetted polygamy or slavery, or any of the evils of the present age.”But the question demands our impartial and solemn consideration; whether every church that continues to fellowship persons whose conduct is immoral, is not justly chargeable with dishonoring the Son of God, by giving a false representation of the character of his church, making light of sin, encouraging the workers of iniquity, and withholding from them that discipline, which is the appointed means for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord? The reception of the “weak in the faith,”whom “God hath received,” is altogether a different matter.
Is it consistent with the word of the Lord, to tolerate, in his holy kingdom, any of “the evils of the present age;”and say, “if they are not settled till the King comes, he will put all to rights?”If this is the doctrine of the reformed church; surely, the friends of Zion have need to pray most fervently, Lord Jesus, come quickly. “Be not deceived.”Let us hear the word of the Master. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God,”“If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away, behold all things are become new.”The workers of iniquity have no part now in the holy kingdom. They never have had according to the king’s law. Every admission or retention of such is a violation of that law. It is inconsistent with the sacred character of the divine community. The perfection of Zion’s beauty is to be consummated, when the King comes, not by the promulgation of new laws, but by our perfect conformity to those we now have, and which are now binding upon us, by the authority of the King and the penalty of his displeasure at his coming, if we disregard them. “And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. “Look to yourselves, that we lost not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.”“Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.”“Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing:”i.e., doing his will, “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder,”&c.
Is it true that our blessed Lord was cut off “simply because he asserted that he was the Messiah promised to their fathers?”Had he come in the carnal manner of earthly princes, as they desired, would they have rejected his claim to be the Messiah? Was it not his faithful witness to the truth against them which excited their utmost rage? Let us hear him. “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil.” Joh 7:7. “And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.” Joh 8:45.
In the course of the week several brethren accompanied me to the house of the individual who had been received into the church contrary to my request. We conversed with him relative to his abusive treatment of me, and on the subject of masonry. On the following Sunday, one of the brethren above mentioned, declared to the church the result of that interview. No satisfaction was obtained. His approbation of Masonry, and determination to attend the lodges whenever he pleased, was also expressed in strong and decided terms.
The church appointed a committee to visit him.
Elder R. publicly admonished me for refraining from uniting in the ordinances of the church. I assured my brethren that I acted in the fear of the Lord, and was bound in conscience to do as I had done: that I had no desire to rule the church; if I had I should probably have accepted the eldership which had been offered to me some time since.
Elder R. proposed to me to withdraw from the church. I told him that I was not then prepared to do so; that I had trials with other individuals which I considered it duty to attend to
The subject of the church withdrawing their fellowship from me was then proposed. Some objected. A postponement was moved and seconded. Some objected. A postponement was moved and seconded. It was rejected by a small majority; some not voting at all. The question of withdrawing was then put and carried by a small majority. The church consists of about eighty members. About fourteen voted for the act of withdrawing fellowship. My dear Lord fulfilled his word, and gave me peace. I considered it an honor to suffer shame for his name. “If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
To the substantial correctness of the foregoing statement of facts, &c. I have the written attestation of a number of the members of the church.
In the afternoon four members withdrew from the church, presenting their reasons in the following communication, which they requested might be read. This request was not granted.
“To the Church worshipping in Bank street, Philadelphia.
The undersigned, acknowledging the supreme authority of the word of the Lord, and submitting their cause to him who judgeth righteously, consider themselves obliged, by the authority of the King of Zion, to withdraw from the church for the following reasons.
I. Because a majority of the church determined to receive and actually received to their fellowship, to the grief of a number of the members, a person charged with an immoral act, in persisting to adhere to an immoral institution, after his immersion; thereby sanctioning and encouraging his disobedience to the King’s commandments, “Have no fellowship with the unfaithful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph 5:11. “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.”&c. 2Co 6:17 2 . Because, after it was denied that the Masonic institution was of an immoral nature, and it was proposed to adduce, what was considered conclusive evidence, that such is its character, it was not allowed; by which the positive command of the Lord to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good,”was violated. 1Th 5:21 3 . Because a majority of the church have sustained their elders, in establishing a principle, which in our opinion, is subversive of the holy distinctive character of the church of Christ. This principle, we understand to be contained in the communication of the senior elder to the church. It is that the union of the professed disciples of Christ with various associations, and their conforming to sundry practices, are not to be considered as subjects of church discipline, because they are political. If this principle is correct, then acts of the grossest immorality are not subjects of discipline, if they happen to be political. Now, in the fear of the Lord, we protest against this principle, which, in our view, implies that the church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, may have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness until the Lord comes.
4.Because a majority of the church have withdrawn their fellowship from a brother on account of his faithful holy testimony against, what we believe to be, a violation of the laws of God and man.”
A week or two afterwards one of the brethren read the following address to the church.
“The reason why I forsook the society of the Baptists, my brethren, to join with you, was because they did not acknowledge the sufficiency of the word of God to guide them in all things; but added what they thought to be expedient, and substituted, in a measure, a confession of faith, dictated by man, for the living Word, dictated by the Holy Spirit. But you professed to lay aside all the traditions and commandments of men, and submit to the authority of the word of God to guide you in all things. This profession was the bond that united me with you at first, and this is the only bond that can keep us united now.
It rests upon my mind, my brethren, that you have forsaken this holy principle, in the part you have taken in relation to brother Grew; in which you acted not by the word of God, but according to your own will, thereby forsaking the example of Him, who never did anything because it was his own will or pleasure to do it, but because it was the will and pleasure of his heavenly Father. To illustrate this more plainly, so that no one may say that I have made assertion without proof, I ask, was it your own will or the will of the Supreme and only Head of the church, which caused you to propose to brother Grew to withdraw himself from you, or otherwise you would withdraw from him? Did you learn this from the writings of the Apostles? No. Go to them and they will tell you, if a brother be overtaken in a fault, let him who is spiritual restore such an one, in the spirit of meekness. But never, never did they teach the church to separate any from them, whose delight it was to do the will of God and to be like Jesus, separate from sinners, and to come out fully from all the unfruitful works of darkness, which was and is the case with our brother Grew. Again, was ever such a proposition made, by any of the apostles, in any of the churches, to any individual? I answer no. If then, you had neither precept nor example from the word of God, for the part you acted, in relation to brother Grew, I ask, was it done according to your own will, or the will of God? Most assuredly it was done according to your own will. And suffer me further to say, that he who exalted his own will, in the church of the living God, above the will of the living God himself, in that instance, acted the part of antichrist, the man of sin; and, in so doing, he became blamable in the sight of God, and before his people, and thus proved himself unworthy of the office of one, whom the Lord had decreed must be blameless.
Do not think that I want to raise dissension and strife. This be far from me. But I want rather to heal the breach that is already made. And believing, as I do, that he who walks in the midst of the churches, and whose eyes are like a flame of fire, and who has observed this whole affair, from first to last, is displeased at the dishonor you have done him, by exalting your own will above his; I want to induce you to let us unite in confessing our faults, and humbling ourselves under his mighty hand, with fasting and prayer, retracing at the same time all the wrong steps we have taken, lest he come suddenly in his anger, and remove our candlestick out of his place; to which we are encouraged by the word of the Apostle, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
“We the undersigned, elders of the church meeting in Bank Street, Philadelphia, hereby certify, that notwithstanding the approbation, by the church, of the moral and religious character of brother Henry Grew, the majority of the church, considering that, as a church, they have no concern with masonry or anti-masonry; have withdrawn their fellowship from him, on account of his continued refusal to observe the ordinances of the church, because a majority of the church have received a member of an engagement not to visit Masonic Lodges: which conduct was considered disorderly and schismatic by a majority of the church, tending to dishonor the cause of the King, by making a breach in his body, the church.
J. L. RHEES,
Phila. Dec. 14, 1835.
Whether we, who in the fear of the Lord, refuse to hold fellowship in the church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth; with men who swear to do evil, and will not repent of it; or those who do so, are justly chargeable with pursuing a course “tending to dishonor the cause of our King,”is solemnly submitted to Him, who commands his disciples to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
I entreat the church t consider, in the view of Him, “who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;”who knows our works, and whose eyes are as “a flame of fire,”whether they have pleased him, in receiving the individual and excluding me.
Is not the character of the Masonic institution anti-christian? Is this denied? Then the next question is, Is it an institution which christians are obligated by the command of the Master to join; or one which they may lawfully decline joining, in tender regard to the conscience of weak brethren, who consider it unlawful? If the latter, is not the church bound to maintain the law referred to before, 1Co 8:9,12? Is there any refuge for the church, but in the position, that the individual was bound, by the law of Christ, to adhere to Free Masonry? Will the church assume this position? I think not.
Why then, I ask, have they excluded me? In a letter to the Sansom Street church, Elder Ballantine remarks, “Exclusion from the assemblies of the saints, is one of the dread and awful awards of the reign of the Messiah. We are well assured that what the brethren of Christ do according to his will in this awful award, is approved by him in his equitable reign-but give us leave to examine this your conduct (the exclusion of several members) by the laws of the reign of the Messiah, our great Master, sent from heaven to teach us all things commanded by his heavenly Father. His own teaching, and the teaching of his holy apostles, must be our guide in this and all things in the kingdom. No one can dispute, that feels the authority of our Lord, that he, from the kingdom of God on earth, is in certain cases, an important duty. But we must bring this matter to the laws of the kingdom, and not to please ourselves. It is notorious that the corrupted systems of christianity, from the most corrupt of those systems to the meanest sect of the christian name, have led them to conceive that they have a right to make laws and by-laws according to their own pleasure, and to receive members into their communities, or to eject persons from their communities, as may suit their advantage, convenience or pleasure. There cannot be a more eiident infraction of the laws of the kingdom of heaven. This is indeed to sit in the temple of God, as essentially as ever has been done by the Romish Pontiff. The communities acting in the manner here condemned, ought deeply to weigh the words of our great Master, Mt 18:6, “Whoso shall offend one of those little ones [cause one of these little ones to offend or to stumble] that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea.”The admission of the believers in Jesus into the house of God, or their ejection from it, does not belong to us. It is at our peril if we refuse them admission into the house of God, or eject them from it, but according to the laws of the kingdom of God. How dare we interpose between Jesus and his disciples? -have they believed that he is the Messiah? Have they repented of their unbelieving state, and reformed their lives, CEASING TO DO EVIL, and learning to do well? Have they been immersed, to wash away all the sins of their uncoverted state? Have they been added to the church of the living God, and have they walked as his people, in his commandments and ordinances, and shall we, from some freak, or error, or pleasure of our own, put them away from that kingdom of which they form a part? No-it is impossible. They are the Savior’s little ones-he has put them into a kingdom which cannot be moved, and nothing can separate them from his love but their own ignorance, folly and wickedness to pretend to cut them off from Christ.”
“There are, however,”Elder B. remarks, “two great evils, into which, if any professed believer falls, most explicitly excludes him from the kingdom of God. These are, first, a departure from the faith of the Gospel; and secondly, a continuance in evil deeds incompatible with the commandments and ordinances of the Saviour.”
Page 6, he remarks: “Now we bring you to the test of the important Scripture truth we have just stated. -You have excluded from your fellowship brothers Davis and Winfield, and sisters Davis, Winfield and Redman. For what? It is because of their departure from the faith-the hope, or the practice of Christianity?”
Now brethren, let us come ourselves to the test to which we bring others. All I ask is an impartial application of the above correct principle, first, to my act of objecting to the reception of adhering Masons; and secondly, to the act of the church in withdrawing their fellowship in the kingdom of God from me.
If swearing to do evil, is “ceasing to do evil”-if, after having thus sworn, an impenitent adherence to the institution which requires it, is ceasing to do evil-if such adherence is not “a continuance in evil deeds incompatible with the commandments and ordinances of the Saviour then am I condemned. But if commending, and determining to adhere to, an institution, the principles or which require men to conceal the worst of crimes, “murder and treason not excepted,”and to maintain each other “right or wrong,”is “incompatible with the commandments and ordinances of the Saviour,”then am I justified, and the church condemned by these principles. Any concessions which the individual has subsequently made to others who have presumed to “agitate your minds with taught questions,” or any engagement he made to the committee, has no bearing on the case between me and the church. It is well known, that when I objected to his reception, he persisted in his adherence, and that Brother Caldwell testified on the morning the church excluded me, that he had declared to him and others his determination to visit the lodges whenever he pleased.
Now let me “bring you to the test of the important scripture truth”our respected brother Ballantine has stated. “You have excluded [me] from your fellowship. For what? Is it because of [my] departure from the faith-the hope, or practice of Christianity? Can you say [I] have returned back to the world, yourselves being judges? And yet you have cut [me] off from your fellowship. It is for you to say why you have excluded [me;] not only to men, but to the Messiah, who reigns in his kingdom. Nothing will do in his kingdom, but the words of the King by which his kingdom is governed.”
Permit me to ask, for what purpose was the committee appointed to visit the individual? Not for my sake, certainly, for your immediately proceeded to exclude me. Was it because brethren Davis and Caldwell signified to some, as I had done to all, that they could not commune with the individual, if he adhered to Free Masonry and visited the lodges? Why did not the church appoint such a committee to attempt to heal the breach between me and the individual before receiving him, to the grief of a number of the members? Why did you not comply with my urgent and affectionate request to postpone the reception of the individual one week? Can you find the law which requires you to appoint such a committee for C. and D. but not for G.? Have you or have you not violated the King’s commandment to do all things without partiality? Why did you not wait the result of the visit of the committee before you excluded me? Did you not exclude me for doing the very same thing which other brethren declared they must do if the individual would not do the very thing which I required? Brother Caldwen has informed me, substantially, that he considered the obtaining of the engagement I required, to be one object of your committee. Was not the matter settled, in part, by the individual stating, with some reserve, that he would not visit the lodges?
I submit it to the consciences of my brethren whether or not in these things they have made straight paths for their feet. I submit it to the consciences of several individuals, who, on the occasion of my exclusion, manifested such impatience for its accomplishment, whether they possessed the spirit of the good Shepherd, who careth for the sheep; or the spirit of Diotrephes, who would neither receive the brethren himself nor suffer them that would, but cast them out of the church.
Another fact demands the serious attention of the church. It is known that the individual (after the elders and others opposed me and sustained him by receiving him into their fellowship) abused me with revilings at several different times. Twice in the meeting house, in presence and hearing of some members; the second time, in presence and hearing of others also; the third time, at the house, in presence of several brethren. Of his sin in this matter, the elders and others, who did not hear him, have been informed.
He has never made a syllable of acknowledgement to me. I pity and pray for him, and, from my heart forgive him, as much as I can forgive, before he confesses his fault to me. But the matter involves the character of the church, and the honor of the Master; therefore I publish it. If I had no personal concern in the case, as one set for the defense of the Gospel, and an humble advocate for the maintenance of the holy discipline of the King’s house, I must solemnly protest against the act of the church in retaining in their fellowship a person who has been guilty of repeated railings, who has made no confession to the person He has abused. If the person thus abused were an infidel, I must consider such conduct of the church, as a gross violation, not only of the law of Jesus Christ, but of common justice and common civility, which require acknowledgment to the person maltreated. If the offender was truly penitent, would he not hasten to make it? I submit it to the consciences of all the members of the church to determine whether or not, until he makes sincere confession to me, he ought to be considered as a railer who has no “inheritance in the kingdom of God.”
The elders have exhorted us most excellently, “keep to the book; keep to the book.”We desire to do as they say, but “not after their works” in the case before us. Have they kept to the book? Have the majority of the church kept to the book? What saith the book? “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that they brother hath aught against thee, leave there they gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”Do we “keep to the book,”if we fellowship one who continues to violate this law? Again, “Thou shalt in any wise rebuke they neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.”“Them that sin, rebuke before all.”Do we keep to the book if we fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness;”excusing ourselves by saying that Free Masonry, &c., are “political” and “untaught questions?”Once more, permit me, for Christ’s sake, to ask, do we “keep to the book”when we heal the hurt of the daughter of God’s people slightly; neglecting to require confession of sin, trifling with the conscientious scruples of those who desire to maintain the truth, and casting them out of the church?
Elder B. Has rebuked the Sansom street church, for what he considers, unscriptural exclusion. Have you not judged that censure to be just? If so, must it not fall with accumulated weight on the Bank Street Church in the present case? We must not think that we, who judge others which do such things, and do the same, that we shall escape the judgment of God. I pray God to grant you repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth.
Suffer me, brethren, to appeal to you in the presence of the searcher of hearts who will bring all these things into judgment. Have I not been with you as one desirous of serving you in love and faithfulness, for Jesus’ sake? Have I not preached unto you freely, the Gospel of the grace of God? Have I not served you day and night, seeking not yours, but you? If I have occasionally expressed some different view of some points of scripture doctrine from that of others, have I, in this matter, done more than others have done? Have I been dogmatic or censorious? Have not the plainest and most important truths of God’s holy word been the theme of my general proclamation to all characters? Have I not labored for your spiritual edification. Why then have you treated me as an enemy? Is this your kindness to your brother? Why have you refused to unite with me in maintaining eternal truth to the honor of the King? I beseech you to consider whether your treatment of me is an appropriate example for a reformed church to set before all professing christians in the city of brotherly love.
Without the least ill will towards the elders, I solemnly appeal to their own consciences, and, for Zion’s sake, ask them, if it is possible for them to persuade themselves, that either the Master, or his intelligent and impartial disciples, will count they “worthy of double honor,”for ruling well in the case between me and the church?
Extracts from two Letters from one of the aggrieved sisters, to one of the Elders.
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 3, 1935
Dear Brother: -
Permit me to entreat your attention to the burdens of an afflicted sister. When I came to his place and found the disciples meeting in Bank street, I felt willing to cast in all my interest with them, and I have never been disposed to find fault, but have often fund my mind inclined to cast the mantle of love over many things that I thought were not quite right; but the proceedings of last Lord’s day must, I think, be distressing to every pious mind.
If a man does not esteem the peace and union of a church of consequence sufficient for him to give up the Masonic institution, what advantage will such a member be to a church that has come out on the avowed principles of reformation? Now my dear brother, I think that truth requires investigation, at proper times; and if it is put down by the church, I think there will be an end of reformation. If our union is to be maintained at the expense of investigation, we shall be entitled to no more credit for our union than the Romish church.
Here you have my burdens before you; if they can be removed in a gospel manner, I will thank God and take courage. If not, I can only sue my brethren at the court of heaven, and wait the decision of that tribunal, for which there is no appeal.
Your sister in tribulation.”
“PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 15, 1835.
I have been perusing my communication to you, and can see no cause to regret that I made it; but I do regret, and am grieved that your love of Jesus, and to me, as a follower of the Lamb, did not prompt you, being an elder in the church, to endeavor to heal the breach. I am more surprised to find that you could note to withdraw the hand of fellowship from a brother, on account of his conscientious objection to commune with a man who vindicates the corrupt system of Masonry; and who, in addition to this, could make use of abusive language to Mr. Grew, in presence of a number of the church.
The accusation which, I am told, was brought against Mr. G. concerning his doctrinal views, will have no influence in the mind of any judicious person, because it is opposed to the avowed principle of the church. If any should say that he troubles the church with his views, it would be no justification of their proceedings; for surely you will not say, that the first step in such case, is to withdraw fellowship. Therefore, I think that the church have placed themselves in a difficulty, from which they cannot easily extricate themselves consistently with the word of God.
I presume you will acknowledge the propriety of my addressing my communications to individuals, as the church have positively refused to hear any complaint from the tired members. A church of Christ is compared to a body with all its members; but a body without ears is surely defective. My brother, are such proceedings consistent with the precepts and example of the blessed Jesus? I must believe, from the testimony of the word of God. that our Lord and Master must look upon such things with abhorrence; and angels, if they are permitted to take cognizance of what is done on earth, would be astonished. Upon a retrospective view of the proceedings of the church in Bank street, do you think it comports with the exhortation of Paul, Php 4:8,9, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you.”
“Union in the truth, and for the truth’s sake, has been my ardent prayer for many years, but aside from this, I would not give one cent for the name of fellowship. I believe that faith, repentance, and immersion are essential t building a church upon the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles; but reformation does not stop here, but must extend to all our conduct, our spirit, our conversation and the company that we keep.” Let me ask you, for the honor of truth, the honor of him who died on Mount Calvary for sinners; how could a christian church treat a brother as this church has treated Mr. G. who has walked in love and fellowship with them, for more than a year, proving by practice his willingness to serve them in all things according to his ability?
“What wait I for? my help is in God.”
Your sincere friend.”
How infatuating is the influence of custom! How inconsistent is poor erring man! How blind and insensible to palpable sin? In the revolutionary war, at the battle of Bennington, the same christian brethren who, a few days before, had mingled their vows and their love at the same table of the Prince of peace, were found in murderous hostility, seeking each others’ blood. One day the precept issues from their lips, “Love your enemies.”The next, their practice is to destroy both them and their friends. But hush! Not a word. This is “political.”Behold that devout professor! He comes to join the assembly of the saints in praising God for ransoming them from the slavery of sin and from everlasting death. But who has he left at home? A sister of the same church, writhing in mental agony, because this same professor has sold her husband, who has departed in chains, whose face she will see not again, until the heavens be no more. Hush! Not a word This is “political.” There is another at the sacred feast. Who is He? One who is sworn to violate the laws of God and man. Sworn to conceal crimes. An inmate, advocate and upholder of an institution, stained with blood, and justly chargeable with profanity and murder. But hush? Not a word. This is “political.”An English bishop, notorious for licentiousness, was once reproved. He excused himself by remarking that those acts, for which he was censured, he did as a man, not as a bishop. His reprover solemnly asked him, when the man is sent to hell for his sins, what will become of the bishop? So we seriously ask, when ungodly professors, for political sins, unforsaken and consequently unforgiven, are doomed to perdition, what will become of their christian hope and profession?
When shall we awake from our fatal delusion? When shall we believe the Almighty who assures us that he is “not mocked?”When shall we understand the nature, the genius, of that holy religion which requires us to abstain from even the “appearance of evil?”When shall we perceive that its heaven born and glorious design is to imbue its favored disciples with its holy spirit in ALL the relations of life? Is it not a libel on the Son of the blessed, to suppose that his religion requires a man to act like an angel in one relation, and allows him to act like a demon in another? Far be it. In every relation, the christian is required to hold forth the word of life; i.e., to exhibit the true spirit, the holy, the humble, forgiving, forbearing and righteous spirit of that word. He is to hold forth to the view of all men, by his temper, conversation and practice, the true excellency of that word, that others may see his good works and glorify his Father in heaven. In every step of his path in this world of sin; in every relation, whether of the family, the church, or the state, he is commanded, by infinite authority, to let this holy light shine. Herein consist the excellency, the power, the efficiency, the saving effect of our holy religion. Volume after volume against infidelity’s host will be written in vain, unless this practice demonstration of the purifying character of christianity is presented to a dying world. It is this that honors God and saves the soul. It is this that tells on the consciences of the ungodly who are hastening to the eternal judgment. Then are they made to tremble; then is it an evident token of perdition to them, except they repent, when by our perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord, in all our ways, they can clearly discern between those that serve God and those that serve him not.
How awful then, brethren, is the responsibility resting upon us! Suffer, I beseech you, the world of exhortation. Think not that I am become your enemy because I tell you the truth. Maintain the holy truth and ye shall be in my heart to live and die with you. If I plead for myself, I desire to plead chiefly for Zion and for your true prosperity, which can be promoted only by your obedience to the word of the Lord. I sincerely desire to adopt the expression of faithful love to the Sansom street church, by our late venerated elder, now mingling his hallelujahs with those of the spirits of the just made perfect. “If I have found fault, it is not because it is pleasing to me, but because I love you, and would rejoice with exceeding joy, that in all things you kept the ordinances, as the apostles have delivered them. Cease not, I beseech you, from giving up every unscriptural sentiment and anti-christian practice, and dare to believe all that Jesus has taught, and to do all that he has commanded,” &c.
The act of separating me from your fellowship, calls forth this appeal, because, in my view, it was the result of a corrupt principle, adopted as the basis of continued action in the church. A principle containing the seeds of your spiritual dissolution. Abandon it, I beseech you. No correct opinions; no belief of recorded facts; no immersion; no conformity of our external order of worship to the holy pattern in the word, important as all these are, will ever be admitted as a substitute for obedience to the imperative command to come out from the unclean.
Like the prophet of the Lord, of old, to whom I am not worthy to be compared, I have been considered as a troubler of Israel. The Lord is judge. It is a small thing to be judged of man’s judgment. Let our concern be, to receive the approbation of the chief shepherd, who will soon appear.
One of Satan’s subtle devices, to prevent the disciples of Christ from coming out from corrupt churches, is the erroneous impression, that it is proper to submit to the will of the majority. We are indeed to be subject one to another, and comply with the judgment of the majority, in cases which are not determined by plain and positive law of the word of the Lord. To submit to the majority in violation of such law, is to obey man rather than God. No enlightened and tender conscience can be satisfied with such a plea. Had Luther and his associates adopted it, they would have died in the Romish church. I would respectfully ask those members of the Bank Street Church, who consider the late proceedings of the majority a violation of the law of Jesus Christ; how they can remain, in the church, in submission to the will of the majority, any more than they could remain, in submission to the will of the majority, in these Baptist Churches from which they have separated?
In conclusion, we would humbly remark, that we desire to know no man or association of men, after the flesh. We have confidence towards God, that the same holy principle of regard to his truth, which induced us to unite with the disciples in Bank Street, obliged us to bear that testimony against evil which has led to our separation. We dare not be silent when we believe that “truth is fallen”and when “equity cannot enter.”This would be building again the very things we have professed to destroy. Hastening to “the judgment seat of Christ,”we tremble at his word, and pray God to incline our hearts to keep his law, though few in number, consoled by the Master’s assurance, that where two or three are assembled in his name, he is with them. It is a REFORMATION not in name, but “in deed and in truth,”we would humbly advocate and advance; assured that any other is unworthy the attention of the jarring sects of professing christians; and must expose us to the rebuke of our Lord; “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in they brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
As I have been charged with opposed to the reformation which is advocated by my much respected brother Campbell and his associates; I entreat the candid review of this charge, by such as have been pleased to prefer it. I ask, if this charge has not originated in prejudice, occasioned by my dissent from some opinions of my brethren? I ask, if such prejudice is not itself a violation of one great and glorious principle of the Reformation? The principle of Christian forbearance, in relation to those who are united in the “one Lord,”the “one faith,”the “one immersion,”and in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ? Is not the unhappy division in the one body, to be traced, in some degree, to the violation of this important principle of love?
Twenty-four years ago, a few disciples, myself among the number, adopted, and acted upon the principles of the Reformation. Perceiving the evil consequences of the union of Christians with the men of the world, in the things of the holy kingdom, in influencing to a corrupt violation of the positive commands of the word of the Lord; and failing in our efforts to produce a reformation in the religious community with which we were connected; in the fear of the Lord, we separated from it and united on the following principles:
1. That the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever, is the only law to be acknowledged in Zion. That no human creed, or system, or practice, however sanctioned by age or saint, is of any authority in the church of Jesus Christ.
2. That Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. That it is of heavenly origin, spiritual and holy in its nature, its doctrine, precepts, promises and ordinances; consequently none but such as are born of God have any part therein. That, while it is the duty of every man who hears the glad tidings of salvation by the cross of Jesus Christ, to enter this kingdom in the appointed way; the duties, privileges and regulations IN the kingdom belong entirely and exclusively to the holy subjects thereof. Even the temporal things thereof are to be attended to by men “full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.”See Ac 6:3. Consequently, the union of believers and unbelievers in ecclesiastical societies, or in any ordinances of worship, is incompatible, and a false representation of the holy kingdom of God. Yet the truth of the Gospel and all the ordinances of the church, as the appointed means of salvation, are to be publicly observed, that any, who came in to see and hear, may be convinced and obey the truth.
3. That although Jesus Christ himself, with all the matchless blessings of the new and eternal covenant of love, is the substance of all the preceding shadows of offerings, sacrifices and Sabbaths; the first day of the week is the appointed time for the ransomed disciples of the risen and glorified Messiah, to assemble to break the loaf, in commemoration of his love, his triumph and his coming. Continuing in the apostle’s doctrine, in the fellowship or contribution, in breaking of bread and in prayers, exhorting one another; they are to build up each other on their most holy faith, keeping the ordinances as the apostles delivered them to the holy communities.
4. That by the love of Christ which was stronger than death-by the authority of the Infinite-by compassion for a dying world, and by all the solemnities of eternal judgment, to which we hasten, we are to abstain from all appearance of evil, in every relation, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.
If the adopting of such principles, and by the favor of God, a humble desire to walk accordingly, is to be opposed to the reformation, then am I opposed.
A writer in the Millennial Harbinger has well remarked, “The theory of reformation has gone its length; the practical part must follow, or it will soon go the way of all living.”