Shrob, Ill., May 7,1859.
Dear Brother Beebe: I earnestly desire you to answer, through the SIGNS, the following questions: 1. Why do the Old School Baptists object to their members joining secret and oath-bound orders, as the Free Masons and Odd Fellows? 2. What course should a gospel church take with members who join these orders and attend their lodges? For one, I feel deeply the importance that the Baptists should be well nformed on these points, for numbers of them are joining these orders. I mourn that it is so. Please answer early. Affectionately your unworthy brother,
Reply: In replying to the inquiries of brother Bartley, it is not necessary for us to attempt to show what are the merits or demerits of the societies or orders of which he speaks, and we frankly confess our utter inability to do so from our own knowledge. We have never been connected with any of them, either directly or indirectly. Like most of the modern self-styled religious societies of the present age, these orders claim to be benevolent, moral and philanthropic, and to possess some valuable secret, which their philanthropy does not lead them to divulge without money and without price. Our soul has never come, or sought to come, into their secrets, with their assemblies we have had no inkling to be connected. As worldly, social or benevolent institutions, we shall not attempt to analyze them, nor to pronounce sentence of approval or condemnation on them. But the question of our brother calls for the reason of the course pursued by the Old School Baptists in regard to their own members, and we deem it proper that we should, so far as we are able, reply to his inquiries. Of course he does not expect us to answer for all the Old School Baptists, or to pledge all Old School Baptists to indorse what we may say on this or any other subject, but merely to give such reasons as have weight on our own mind on the subject.
The first reason we have to give why we do not join those institutions, or feel willing that our brethren should join them is, that whatever may be their excellence, even admitting them to be as pure and benevolent as their advocates claim that they are, we find in the gospel of Christ and in the organized church of the living God, a fullness which leaves no room to hanker for any of the leeks or onions of Egypt. In Christ, it has pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell, and if, as professed disciples of Jesus, we are found seeking for treasures or comforts which are not found in Zion, we imply by our conduct that there is not that fullness in our Father’s house which has been represented. Why should we go abroad for joys if we have a feast at home?
Second. Whatever may be the secrets held by Free Masons or Odd Fellows, we have a secret which is far more profound, more useful and important; for the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and God will show to them his covenant. As heaven is higher than earth, so does the Lord’s secret transcend all human mysteries. In Jesus our Lord are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. And this fact the apostle has declared to the saints, lest any man should beguile them with enticing words. (Col. ii. 3,4.) This wisdom and knowledge comprise all that can be profitable to the saints; for in him is given to them all things that pertain to life and godliness. (2 Peter i. 3.) This heavenly treasure, this divine secret of the Lord, which God has hidden from the wise and prudent of this world, and revealed unto babes, is far superior to any secret of the orders under consideration. First, because it is the free and sovereign gift of God; and cannot be bought with money. Secondly, it requires no oath, pledge or penalty to keep it, for none but God can reveal or show it, and none but those who are born of the Spirit of God can possibly learn it. Christians may talk freely about it before all men; ministers of the word may proclaim it unreservedly to Jews and Gentiles, without the fear that any of Adam’s race will ever know it unless it be to them revealed as it was to Simon Bar-jona, by our Father which is in heaven. To seek for a secret or mystery in any other fraternity or brotherhood than that of the household of faith is to depart from the greater to seek a less.
Third. Old School Baptists object to their members uniting with those orders, because the obligations assumed in doing so conflict with the obligations assumed in their allegiance to Christ, to be subject to the watchcare of one another. In visiting the lodges, they cannot be under the watchcare of their brethren, who are not permitted to accompany them in their secret conclaves. That which makes void the laws of Christ is incompatible with the christian profession.
Fourth. It is said an oath or affirmation, a solemn pledge, or profane imprecations, are exacted of those who become members of those orders. Presuming this to be the case, the Old School Baptists object to their members assuming such obligations, because the King of Zion has forbidden them to forswear themselves.
Fifth. To waive all other objections, it is certain that when members of the church unite with those institutions, it occasions grief and trouble to their brethren. This, of itself, is sufficient to render it highly improper and disorderly for any member of the church to join such orders. They have professed to prefer Jerusalem above their chief joys; and if they do not they certainly never ought to take on them the sacred name of Jesus, or profess before heaven and earth to be disciples of the Son of God. Those who name the name of Jesus should regard it as the business of their lives to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace; to follow after the things which tend to peace, and things whereby one may edify another. What can there be in our joining the secret orders of Free Masons or Odd Fellows that tends to the peace or edification of the saints of God? Churches have been thrown into disorder, distress, and, in some instances, have lost their visibility from this very cause. But who that sincerely loves our Lord, who is willing to deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow the Lamb, will persist in breaking the peace of the church, wounding the hearts of dear brethren, and in bringing reproach upon the sacred cause of God for this gratification of his fleshly mind? Who would, like Esau, for one morsel of meat, sell his birthright among the saints in the house of God? We have Christ and his apostles as our example, and until we can find them running into these connections, and disregarding the peace and comfort of the church, we are solemnly bound to abstain from them.
These are, at least, some of the reasons, as we apprehend, why Old School Baptists object to their members joining any of these societies, and they are some of the reasons why we could not consent ourself to join them, or feel satisfied with brethren who do join them.
The second question of brother Bartley is, “What course should a gospel church take with members who join those orders and attend their lodges?”
According to our understanding of the laws of the kingdom of Christ, a gospel church should labor faithfully, affectionately and prayerfully to reclaim such disorderly members. Point out to them the impropriety and wickedness of their course, and to restore them to the order of the church. But if after a gospel course of labor they cannot reclaim them, if they really prefer the society of Free Masons and Odd Fellows to that of the church of the living God, then the course of the church is very plain. Let them go to their own company; but let the church withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly, as Christ by his apostle has commanded. If they refuse to hear the church, let them be unto thee as heathen men and as publicans.
Before we close this article, we wish to say, that on all subjects of discipline, a hard, overbearing or domineering spirit should be studiously avoided. You that are spiritual should attempt the work of restoration in the spirit of meekness. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glorying, but with singleness of heart to the glory of God. We have doubted the propriety of requiring a brother who has joined any of these orders to come out and denounce them, or to divulge any of their secrets, which he has promised or pledged himself to keep secret. To satisfy our own mind, it is enough that the brother discontinues his connection with such institutions, come out from them, and walk no more with them.
One word more. We hold the same objections to our brethren or sisters joining any of the professedly religious or benevolent societies of the age, except the church of God, whether it be for religious, moral, social or political purposes. Whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever thing are honest, whatsoever things are of good report, may be pursued, without any unjustifiable confederacy or organization with any of these institutions. And we should never turn aside from the footsteps of the flock of Christ for any cause or pretext whatever. If, for instance, Mission, Tract or Sunday School societies do not require the forswearing of their members, yet they make more extravagant pretensions to religion than the order of Free Masons or Odd Fellows do, and are perhaps more likely to decoy the unsuspecting. Other institutions for the ostensible purpose of temperance or politics, have used pledges, if not oaths, which are very far from being harmonious with either the spirit or letter of the gospel. Concerning all these things then, we would reiterate the admonition of inspiration, “Touch not, taste not, handle not.” The man who attempted to go from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves, who stripped, and robbed, and wounded, and left him half dead. Let us take warning then, and remain in Jerusalem forever,
“Where our best friends and kindred are,
Where God our Savior dwells.”
August 15, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 259 - 263