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SECRET, OATH-BOUND SOCIETIES

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Corinthians vi, 17,18.

“Touch not; taste not; handle not.” – Colossians ii, 27.

We yield to an impression that has continued with us for some time to write upon the subject at the head of this article. For the first time in the travel of the Church in this country, it has assumed the importance that it appears to us to demand. We, as the people of the living God are commanded to walk separate from the world; not to be entangled with them in things not necessary; and to be a peculiar people not “numbered with the nations.” As so many other things in this time of “falling away,” the clarity of this segregation is becoming blurred and the unity of our people is being dissolved by the infringement of the world upon the citizens of Zion. While in some localities the minds of brethren have remained clear, in others not much has been said upon this subject, and precedents have been established of a disorderly character, dangerous and destructive to the peace and harmony of a once-united people.

It would be vain to suppose that anything that we or even an angel from heaven might say, would be of any benefit to that class to whom God should send “strong delusions, that they should believe a lie; that they all might be damned who believe not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Without any disposition, therefore, to discuss this subject from a worldly standpoint, and entirely willing to leave the world to the enjoyment of the idols to which they are joined, we desire to discuss this matter from the exalted position of Gospel grace.

From the vast array of Scripture bearing directly upon the separation of Zion’s citizens from the other nations and peoples, we quote the Divine command at the head of this article, to which all His blessed subjects are to be in subjection. The remark frequently made by some parties that they know nothing in the Scriptures prohibiting a man from being a member of some secret order, and a member of a Gospel church at the same time, reminds us of the reply we once heard from a man who claimed to know a great deal about the Scriptures. He was asked whether or not there was anything said in the Scriptures that would clearly tell us who was the father of Zebedee's children. The fellow replied that he could not possibly answer the question, and that the Scriptures themselves were silent upon the subject!

Any who claim that the Scriptures are silent upon the subject which we desire now to discuss, either attempt to deceptively dodge the question, or else exhibits profound ignorance of the very first principles of the Divine testimony. In a discussion of this subject, like every other point of Gospel doctrine or order, we must come to the Scriptures of eternal Truth, which is our only and infallible guide, and leave every thing else behind.

“To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” – Isaiah viii, 20. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers,” is absolutely commanded in connection with our text. An unequal yoke is a yoke that binds us to the idolatrous worship and/or practices of the unbeliever. One may be connected with an unbeliever in a legitimate business transaction, and in other honorable relations of life that does not in any sense bind him to the unbeliever’s religious practices, or organize him into a society whose laws and regulations he is sworn to support. Most assuredly to be “yoked together” with unbelievers in men-made organizations, in midnight conclaves, sworn to uphold the principles of such orders, is to be “unequally yoked.” Many secret societies take on a religious form and creedalism, and no believer can imagine someone being a member of two different religious institutions at the same time.

There is not a “Secret Organization” in the United States but whose principles directly or remotely antagonizes the Truth of the Gospel of Free Grace. Whether religious or semi-religious they are all founded upon human effort, the principle that underlies all Arminian religions. They require obedience on the part of their members, which the disciples of Christ can not possibly render and continue loyal to the Church; for the Savior says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” – Luke xvi,13. Well indeed may the apostle ask the question: “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” – 2 Corinthians vi, 15.

Here certainly is an array of Scripture to gratify the desire of any who take the Scripture as their guide; and it is Scripture bearing directly upon the subject under discussion, and that speaks with more eloquence than any thing that we could see, enjoining upon believers a complete separation from all the works of men, showing the impossibility of assimilation between the light of the true Gospel and the darkness of the false. The connection shows us that the apostle is speaking of every form of earthly religion, or human wisdom sought to be substituted for Divine Truth.

“COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM.” The power of an endless life is made manifest in this command; while every other religious people are mixed with these worldly orders, the whole church is kept from every false way.

The effect of this absolute command to believers is realized in the experience of the child of grace. He has no disposition, as he feels the power of this testimony to be entangled in these worldly things – he feels no fellowship for them; and he feels an alienation from them. The Lord has formed this people for Himself; – “I am a jealous God.” They are to show forth His praise. Hence He would have them separate from every thing else, that they might cleave unto Him with full purpose of heart.

“And touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you.” Will any believer who claim to know by a previous experience the power of Gospel grace, claim that secret and otherwise worldly orders are “clean things,” religiously speaking, for the children of God to handle? Is it clean work from a Gospel standpoint for such orders to open their meetings in a form of prayer, and among some of them, a prayer in which the name of Jesus is not even allowed to be mentioned? Are such organizations religiously clean, with their pagan signs, pass-words, solemn oaths – forbidden by the Master – and regulations binding upon their membership to shield, protect, and defend each other, according to their own conceived and regulated standards of “right and justice,” and without any regard whatever to what the Holy Scriptures teach?

There can be but a negative answer to these inquiries by believers; most surely such orders are religiously unclean; impregnated with the foul elements of Antichrist, often of open and avowed infidelity.

“Touch not,” is the Divine command. Is it obeying this command to be initiated in their mysteries, to solemnly swear to be governed by their order: and this too in direct opposition to the absolute command: “But above all things my brethren, SWEAR NOT, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay: lest ye fall into condemnation.” – James 5:12. “And I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you.” Precious, assuring promise! What more do you need? With this, what is there lacking? In the manifestation of its power, saints have rejoiced, have realized happiness and contentment beyond mortal power to express. To share one’s precious fellowship with one’s fellow saints is commendable; to give it freely away to the world of unbelievers is an infringement upon their rights in the kingdom of God.

The visible church is a witness to Gospel Truth. The Lord declares that He will walk in the midst of His people. Their obedience to this command, is the outward manifestation of His power wrought in them, and their faithfulness to Him. Most surely will He ever have an orderly and obedient church of this character for He has decreed to keep it so; “And ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” It is vain for us to expect the Divine blessing only in obedience to the Divine command. The manifestations of His favor to the Church in her visible travel comes through the channel of obedience, the obedience of faith- which faith is of Him.

We are not now speaking of eternal choice, or eternal union with Him and the immortal salvation and glory revealed in it, but we are speaking of the blessing that falls upon the people of God, “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” in the travel of His visible church. More clearly perhaps we can put the matter by saying that this outward travel of obedience is the result and manifestation of the blessing that falls upon them; the blessing of grace and faith. “Ye are My friends,” said the Master, “if ye do whatsoever I command you.” – John xv, 14. When through an exhibition of this wonderful and glorious preserving grace the saints are strengthened to walk the ways of Truth and orderly deportment; when the Holy Presence of God is made manifest, this glory revealed in their midst, and Zion is made to appear “The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord; and thou shalt be called, Sought out, a city not forsaken.” In these holy courts, “Joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.” – Isaiah Li, 3. “Even unto them will I give in Mine house and within My walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.” – Isaiah Lv, 5.

In the gracious, spiritual enjoyment of the holy Sanctuary is found the only real pleasure of saints in their earthly pilgrimage. Blessed heavenly places! “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven,” observed Jacob. In its precious enjoyment, its heavenly communion, the glory of the Divine Presence; in all these divine things is a manifestation of the gracious promise, “And ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Elder William M. Smoot
March, 1901