“But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which art written in the law and in the prophets;”
“And have hope toward God, which they themselves allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” Acts 24:14-16.
Many have requested me to write my experience and manner of life, but it has seemed to me that my life is so poor and sinful that it is unbecoming in me to make much personal reference. However, it is a fact that what each and every one writes reflects his own character and inner life. If a politician writes in bitter flings at the opposite party, it is because his heart is full of that strife. Should one’s writing or talk be of lewdness, it is because his soul is full of that filth, and if you could mirror his heart you would see the imagery of this bestiality ruling in him. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” according to scripture.
The prophets and apostles spoke and wrote as they were moved of the things of Christ Jesus. For they spoke and wrote not by the will of man, but that which they had seen and heard through the eye and ear of faith and their hands had handled of the word of life they have declared unto us. Notice how constantly Paul refers to his own experience in his writings. Indeed, what could we know of redemption were there no living epistles written by the Holy Ghost in our hearts, and known and read by all men. In that sense the apostles were them selves a savor of life unto life in them that are saved, that is those who are saved could and did behold in the apostles so sweet smelling a savor of Jesus that was delightful to them, and they glorified God for such gifts. So, the walk of every true called servant will be to so act and conduct himself in both word and deed that all that love the Lord Jesus will be captivated with his good conduct. No one should ever be ordained to preach that has a bad name among them without, (those that are in the world), that is that acts so badly that outsiders have a right to speak evil of him for his dishonest conduct. It is not persecution for one to be talked about because of his defaulting conduct. The enemies could find no fault in Daniel except concerning his religion. He could say like Paul, “I have defrauded no man, therefore receive us.” See 11 Cor. 7:2. It is the inner, real life of a child of God that you desire to know. Hence, the writers so often tell of their own joys and sorrows. The scriptures are made up in great part of the recital of the troubles and deliverances of God’s people. It is only in this way or by the fruits they bear that one can see the handwriting of Deity in the life of another. Nor is there any other way for you to have hope that you were saved by His grace only as the Lord works in you both to will and do of his good pleasure, also His working out and making manifest His salvation to others, as well as to your own cam fort, so that we will be ready always to give to every man that asks us a reason of the hope that is in us with meekness and fear. For one that loves the truth desires to hear you tell what great things the Lord has done for you, and had mercy on you. Hence, Jesus said to the one out of whom he had cast so many devils, go home to thy friends, and tell them, not what you have done, but what the Lord has done for you, and that is all that we hear of his doing afterward.
Notwithstanding my embarrassment to refer to myself so much, when an aged and much beloved Sister Percy Ham recently said to me she desired to read my experience before she died and earnestly requested me to write it out and publish it, there was a willingness of heart to do so. The text of Scripture at the head of this article occurred to me this morning as embodying the substance of what is in my mind to write.
I was born in what is called Cleveland County, N.C., (then it was in Rutherford County, N. C.) on the water of Sandy Run Creek, almost on a line equidistant between King’s Mountain and Gilberttown, (southwestern North Carolina), places made famous by important scenes and events of the Revolutionary War. When a youth, one of these old soldiers lived near, and this old man is about the only Revolutionary War soldier within my memory. The date of my birth was March 25, 1833, so that the great progress made in modern arts and sciences, such as application of steam to machinery has been done chiefly within my memory. Such a thing as telegraphy was not known then which has so revolutionized business. There was not a railroad in operation in all this country at that time. The name of my father was Milton Gold. My mother’s maiden name was Martha Fortune. My father was a farmer and a poor man that never owned a secant (slave), though it was common in the South for men to own slaves. He and my mother with their children did the farm and house work. It was not common for him to hire work done. From early morn to dewy eve it was labor, labor. Seldom did we have a Saturday afternoon even for rest or sport
Then it seemed hard to me not to be allowed to roam and play or frolic. For they did not allow their children to go to dances or parties. It was only a short while after crops were laid by that we went to school a few weeks. Our winters were spent chiefly in clearing up large new grounds for cultivation. That boys and girls of this day and generation may know how my time was spent in youth, this part is written.
Now the memory of my parents is dear to me for giving me this severe discipline while in my youth. I do appreciate it now!
What were my habits of life? While my morals were fairly good, as I thought, yet my nature was abominably corrupt. It is not my way of thinking to gloss over crime, nor blacken that which is good. While men in writing memoirs of life or obituaries of those gone on hide the faults and magnify the virtues of their subjects, this is not according to the pattern shown in the mount. The scriptures tell of our first father’s sin, and of our first mother’s nakedness. It does not keep back the drunkenness of Noah, nor the adultery of David, not the backsliding of his son, Solomon, nor the faults of God’s people. When the Bible records the ugly traits of one, it does not select an obscure person, but the king on his throne, as well as the humble and obscure, is selected. God causes the writers of His book to tell the truth. He is a God without partiality.
While I was never drunk with intoxicating liquor until I was grown, yet since then it has been shown to me that my thoughts were vile and every abomination dwelt in me. It was about the time of my birth and the division among Baptists began on the Mission question that Andrew Fuller and his aids devised in the preceding century, but the progress of Fuller’s methods did not spread so rapidly in that country. For in my youthful days there was not a salaried preacher, nor a Sunday School, nor any of the modern machinery of the Missionary Baptists in all that country.
My father and mother were mend hers of Sandy Run Church in my youthful days. Elder Drury Dobbins, “Uncle Drury” as many called him, was the pastor of that church. Not within my memory or observation either has ever a preacher been beloved or more deservedly so. His grave is dear to me now. Last summer it seemed to me his dust was precious to me as a friend and myself visited it. Elder Dobbins was a predestinarian Baptist by any standard, and preached the whole truth ably. He was wonderfully gifted and his conduct was exceptionally good. His manners were captivating, his wit without slur, his wisdom above guile, his eloquence burning, his speech sublime, his expositions of Scripture were indicted by the Holy Ghost. In the memory of the old people, he yet lives in that country.
It was as a youth that my days were passed under that wonderful preaching. Who can tell the power and influence of a Godly preacher on a community, county, state or nation?
Elder Dobbins opposed the new measures of Missions in full as long as he lived. He was not in favor of protracted meetings, and stood as a wall against Mission schools to teach people how to preach, money beggars, and all that hive of modern schemes to control the world so endorsed and practiced by modern missions. He kept those things out of the churches he served and out of the old Broad River Association as long as he lived. These things are remembered by me. Besides they are admitted in a history of the Broad River Association recently written by one of its leading Missionaries, J.R. Logan, Esq., a man that was personally known to me very well and an honorable man. Drury Scruggs preached the funeral of Elder Dobbins about the year 1845. This man lauded Elder Dobbins with all the force of his speech, (the writer was present). On the next day he went down to Sandy Run, at the church where Elder Dobbins had been pastor perhaps 40 years, and had preached election and predestination or grace so long, and this man Scruggs said at a protracted meeting they had commenced, “As for the doctrine of election and predestination, I stamp my foot upon it,” accompanying the remark with that action of his foot on the pulpit floor in a very boistrous, loud, angry manner.
Then Missionism began to sprout up and spread all over that country, and soon it had overrun the entire country and has deluged it ever since.
In my day after these things protracted meetings were common. After crops were cultivated in the leisure weeks of August and September, the preachers would hold their protracted meetings and frighten people with graveyard tales and old wives’ fables, and get them up to the mourner’s bench to get religion, as they called it
Such scenes as these have often frightened me, and to escape the awful doom they pictured, the young people generally, and myself among them, would kneel for prayer. Many made a profession of religion at such meetings, and many too that professed afterwards made it manifest that they knew nothing of the truth. What is the good of so reproaching the blessed worship of God by these desecrations? By the lawful and true preaching of the gospel all that are ordained to eternal life will believe. Much scandal is brought on that blessed name of Jesus by such unhallowed measures. It is good to have gospel preachings, and God will not leave himself without a witness. This gospel of the kingdom has already been preached to the end of the world, and the Jewish world has come to an end.
When attending these meetings many would be seized with paroxysms of such excitement that they would become quite excited and then sink into a semiconscious state for a while. After the excitement would pass off the reaction would bring a calm, which the preachers would tell them was religion. But to me there was no such feelings. Often my desire was to be made to feel my sins as others seemed to feel theirs, but my heart was as unfeeling as a stone. Satan or my evil nature would suggest to me to commit some sinful deed in order to bring on conviction, but still hardness of heart was my lot. What a gloomy state this has since appeared to me. There was no true fear of God, no life toward him, no knowledge of sins, or dreadful estate of a lost sinner. It was a state of delusion and deceitfulness when no truth was preached. If ever the true doctrine of truth was once preached in all that dreary time, it is unknown to me. It was held out by all their preachers that it is left with the sinner to deter mine about his salvation. The Lord has done all that He can do to save sinners, only He is standing, waiting and waiting, willing and ready, but He has no power over the sinner unless the sinner will step forward, meeting Him halfway, allowing Him to come in and save him. Such a thing, “All that a Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast,” (John 6:38), was never hinted. All exhortations were to the ungodly or chiefly so, and the dead sinner was represented as having the power of himself to accept, and if sinners did not accept these preachers would be swift and willing witnesses against them in the judgment.
When about 21 years of age at one of these meetings, some excitement seemed to get hold of me and my hope was that it was conviction of sin. A few tears were shed and on my way home one night a kind of relief came which appeared to me then as religion. The next day they received me and baptized me soon. But there was no change in my views of faith or doctrine. The same notion that was held by me in all my youthful days, that salvation is attainable as the result of creature effort, were still held by me, though my mother had often repeated these words in my hearing, “Salvation is of the Lord.” Nor was there any change in my inner and outward life or my affections. It may have been that more care was taken that my conduct should give no offense to others, for pride would prompt a young man of my views and aspirations to maintain a decent regard for good behavior.
The question has often been agitated in my mind whether such a system of religion, wherein preachers and their theories, and not the love and fear of God, controls the minds of the membership of such churches is any profit to mankind or not. That the converts of this system deny the power of God, yet maintaining a show and form of religion, is apparent. For if you will talk with one of them on the subject of religion, his idea of faith will be that it is first all up to the natural man, and the limit and test of self denial is to pay the preacher and give a few dimes to save the heathen, and maintain a decent behavior, claiming at the same time that money can send the gospel anywhere. He will tell you that unless the money is sent, the heathen are lost, but that if it is sent, they will be saved, while he may himself be worth his thousands, yet not give ten dollars a year for that pus pose. He will not tell you anything of personal experience, knows nothing of being a lost, ruined and condemned sinner, has never felt the power of Jesus in his soul, nor the comforts and guidance of the Holy Spirit, He thinks the doctrine held by the Old Baptists the most dangerous and horrible of any ever held. He cannot endure election and a life of faith. He thinks there is no kind of drunkenness but that of liquor. Education is absolutely indispensable to qualify one to preach the gospel he holds.
Such were my views before and after the time here spoken of. My glorying was in the Missionary Baptist denomination, nor once did ever the question arise in my mind, “Can they be wrong, or myself either” Occasionally in an encounter with a Primitive Baptist during the Civil War, as we would argue on subjects and differ, did it occur to me what a dangerous doctrine they do preach and hold, what ignorant, selfish and conceited people they must be.
Every part of my natural ambition, when a young man, was to be a lam yet. When between twenty and twenty-one years of age and just before joining the Missionary Baptists, my academic course at school began. As soon as they received me as a mom her it was remarked that there will be a preacher. This was very distasteful to me. For amid all my imaginings in my youthful days as to my occupation in after life, it never occurred to me at all that I would be made to carry the name of any kind of a preacher. There was nothing in it of any charm to me. My ambition was to be a lawyer. A few years found me with my legal diploma and damaged morals – damaged not because of the legal profession, but because it was in me before and began to rage. It is not good to charge one’s bad conduct to his associates or occupation. The source of the trouble is in the man. If he were right, he would choose good associates and pursue a righteous course of life. Man is weak, morally corrupt, totally depraved, having no margin or reserve force against temptation, and should not presume that he could weather any storm, whether small or violent Let him choose the safest craft he may and steer in the calmest waters, and even then he may make shipwreck.
Soon my soul was plunged into much trouble in consequence of reckless living. Then it occurred to me that the best way to do was to preach. This was decided upon as the antidote for my troubled conscience. But to be a great preacher was the next step. The Civil War in a few years came on before my course was complete, and I left school. There a new trouble confronted me. Debts to the amount of about $3000 were on my hands, and nothing with which to pay. For the first time this mountain of trouble stood towering and threatening at me. Such had been my thirst for education that this difficulty had not much embarrassed me until now. For one may be so absorbed in the pursuit of a Cherished object that he will quite forget or scarcely notice great dangers even imminent. After leaving school this debt matter greatly oppressed my feelings. My father had always advised me not to make debts, yet my lot so far had been to be in debt from the time of my majority.
During the war (1861-1865) in the town of Goldsboro (N.C.), my marry age occurred. The woman given me of the Lord possessed no worldly goods. In this respect we were equals. In purity of character she was and is yet far my superior. For the Lord has blessed me among many other things with a good wife. During the war and after my marriage a friend gave me $5000. The Confederate money was used as far as my creditors would receive it in payment of my debts contracted for my education and otherwise, and it liquidated nearly all of these debts which was a great relief to me.
After the war was over for about five years we lived in Halifax County, North Carolina. During the war my troubles began in another and severer form more than ever. While attending my usual course of service as a Missionary preacher and glorying in that denomination, in a manner wholly beyond my contraception or control, it appeared to me that my heart was completely full of sin, rendering me totally unfit to preach to anyone. The people were kind to me, the congregations large and prospects flattering outwardly, but there was no pleasure for me. It increased until it seemed that to be allowed to crawl under the house and not be seen, but merely suffered to hear someone preach, would far better benefit my desperate case. The thoughts of my heart were foolishness. Sin was an unbearable burden to me. My heart troubled and anguish of soul weighed down hard on me. For months this darkened state of feeling oppressed me. The justice of God appeared so clearly in my condemnation that the words, amen to my condemnation, seemed fittest God appeared so holy and my nature so vile that it looked to me that no place but hell could be suitable for such a sinner. Sin seemed as a tempest raging in me, and it looked to me that if a great stone were dropped in the atmosphere as it could have no power to resist its own fall, but its own weight would hurl it down, so my own sins were driving me justly to destruction, nor did it even enter my thoughts that this was conviction of sin that would end in salvation for me; for there was no hope for me. In the midst of these awful moments while riding on horseback, suddenly Jesus was revealed to me in a glorious appearance in the heavens, and these words were sounded out as plainly as if spoken to me, “if God give you Christ, how shall He not with Him also freely give you all things.” This occurred on the 15th of February, 1865.
It did not then occur to me that this is salvation. My mind seemed to be wholly absorbed in the contemplation of the glorious character of Jesus. The load of guilt and sin was gone, and peace reigned in my happy soul, and self was lost sight of for a time. The glorious character and kingdom of Jesus appeared to me as it had never done before. It seemed to me as a new world, but with my preaching it was difficult. At once Christ appear ed to me as the only way of truth . This in letter or words for years had been held by me, but now in a new spiritual and glorious form it appeared and possessed my spirit, and thus the character of my preaching was change ed; for from that time it was that Jesus is the Christ.
New views of the church and way of salvation opened up to me, so that questions arose concerning Christ and His kingdom in a manner so distinct and unmistakable that they were answered in my conscience only by preaching Christ as my righteousness and the righteousness of saints. Jesus appeared to me from that time in power and glory as the Head of the church, having all power both in heaven and earth. There was then nothing else for me to preach but Jesus. An else was excluded from my heart and conscience. Money, Sunday schools, Boards of men, Theological schools, human learning, the force and strength of combinations of men all disappeared, nor was it in my heart to preach them anymore. Jesus appear ed to me as the righteousness of saints, and ever since that time, more than twenty-five years ago, it seemed to me there is nothing else for me to speak of or attempt to preach We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to Greeks foolishness, but to them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God
The matter of preaching has been a grave and serious question to me for many years. It was the most offensive thing to my feelings, and never, if this nature of mine had been suffered to dictate my course of life, would this have been my lot. How it came to pass that I was made willing was the most soul-humbling. It was a crucifying of my nature and caused an immolation of my most cherished objects on earth. But to be made willing to swallow down all that I had endorsed and espoused, to renounce that which had been so dear, namely the institutions and doctrines of modern missionism, and discard all my former associates, and to worship after the way they call heresy was a sore trial, so much so that nothing but divine power could lead me to do this.
They at once began to reprove me for that sort of preaching, and to tell me it was not profitable, and would scatter the congregation of people, and wither the church; that while it would do to talk predestination around the chimney-corner to old women, or to serve old established Christians, it was not palatable to a general and mixed congregation composed in considerable part of unbelievers, and that the experience of their people was that in order to hold the congregations and win converts, the preaching must be adapted to the taste of the hearers. It may as well be remarked here that the more of such arguments as this were advanced the weaker their cause appeared to me. Out of ridicule, it was said that my facial appearance and the construction of my brain made me “a predestinarian,” and that my views would land me in the lap of “Hardshellism.”
Others said it is the disposition of some men to take this view of questions and see only the Lord’s work in operation. But not until recently had it so appeared to me. A great and radical change had passed over me. Once I had believed as they did, and encountered lovers of predesination with the same arguments they now assailed me, and that which once appeared to me as glorious had been stripped of its beauty. Now the Lord appeared to me as the great operator of all the powers and forces of the universe, and men are but as dust and ashes in His hand.
My search for the true church began, or to find people that held and. loved what had been revealed to me, and to find a people congenial to me, for what would the true church be to one that loved it not, nor had any of its truth hid in his inward parts. But if God is in one, then that spirit of truth will lead that soul to cry out for the true and living God, and to seek rest in His habitation, and as soon as that place of rest or the church of Jesus Christ is revealed, there will he see rest and there will he abide.
To suppose that such as God teaches will not love His people and doctrine is an absurdity. No sound of ax or iron tool is needed or heard to change a vessel of mercy brought into this temple to cause it to fit in the building.
Many and painful were my perplexities, and long and bitter were the trials that for about five years beset me in this search. I became thoroughly convinced that the people of my early choice and myself could not agree. They could not see things as they appeared to me, nor could I be in fellowship with them. My soul thirsted for a people of simple manners, that loved electing grace, that rejoiced in the power of Jesus, that lived in hope, that walked by faith, and contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, a people that worship God as the fathers did, relying alone on the word and power of God, and that believe that all things that God bath spoken by the Psalms, the law and the prophets or in the Scriptures, shall assuredly come to pass, or teaching none other things than the law and the prophets did say should come to pass, that Christ should suffer and should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people (Jews) and to the Gentiles, having hope toward God that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and unjust, which they themselves also ah low. For there are some things which all denominations of the world allow to be right
But the great questions is, “What think ye of Christ?” Of old they rejected Him in totality, but in modern days they preach a Christ, but not the Christ the Lord They preach a Christ that has no power until the sinner helps Him, or becomes willing for Him to save him. They preach a Christ that died for everybody and rose again for their justification, and still many will not be saved by reason of their own neglect for whom He died.
It appeared to me that Jesus is King in the holy hill of Zion, and that He has all power both in heaven and in earth, power over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as God has given him, and all the people of God are taught of God and, therefore, great shall be their peace.
When my affection was turning to the strangest people on earth that I had so opposed, I had an interview with Elder John Stamper, and in the conversation I said in substance, it appeared to me that the child of God is not under law but under grace, that if one is under the law of Moses as a rule of life, he must be under its penalty also, for a law without a penalty has no force, and, if one is no longer under its penalty which is death for any transgression, then there is an abounding love, abiding peace and salvation for a believer in Jesus; but He is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, and a believer is now under law to Christ who is our Law-giver, our Judge and our King who will save us; for He bath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. The old brother replied “that is our doctrine, that is what we believe.” How good it seemed to me to find a people that believed as I did, and my soul loved them.
But with the idea of going to that people, my pride rebelled. But the more my researchers were pursued the more the Primitive Baptists appeared to me as worshipping as the fathers of old did, or as God’s people had always worshipped and served God from time immemorial.
Entangled in the wilderness, what hard fare I had, no peace, no rest. The question between peace of conscience and self- interest, the fear of God or the snare of man, whether to fob sake all for and follow Jesus, or remain with those I was with and enjoy prosperity and wealth of the people I was then with, whether to unite, if they would have me with a poor people, few in number and despised, hated and evilly spoken of by all nations, and be ostracised by my former friends for renouncing all I had ever confessed, and contending for the doctrine that never will be popular with the world, or remain as I had been, was a most distressing question. For it is no easy matter for one to be made to change his church relations. One that has never traveled in this way can never know the sorrow and distress it will cause. You will have to experience it and those who have traveled this road well know what I am talking about.
It was said, “If you go to the Hardshells they will ram you down in a corner and not help you any, and you will starve for bread.” It did look that way. This Scripture was much on my mind:
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father or mother, or wife, or child ran, or lands for my sake, and the gospel’s shall receive an hundred fold now in this time, houses, and brethren and sisters, and mothers, and children and lands with persecutions and in the world to come eternal life.” (See Mark 1 0:29,30.), which has proven true in my case, and the God who begins to delight is able to finish the matter.
Another Scripture was on my mind for months whenever I would attempt to fill an appointment, yet I dared not use it as a text, for its meaning was too plain to me.
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.” II Cor. 6:17.
There was no agreement or fellowship between myself and those I was with. Many of them were dear to me and we were good friends, but on doctrine we would not see together. Was it right to them or me for me to stay with them? We could not walk together because we were not agreed; but how hard to leave them and give this offense. When I left them, they would have no more dealings with me, for they called it heresy. It often seems to me now that it would be a great pleasure for me to visit their congregations and preach to them, (if enabled) Jesus and the resurrection.
Then the question would arise, how do you know that you are right? The answer to this would rise up in my deliverance. How did you receive Christ? By works of the law, or the hearing of faith, or was Jesus revealed to you according to or for your works?
Then the question would arise, how will you live if you go? and the words in that Scripture, “I will be to you a Father, etc.,” would ring and sound as if He commanded the universe, and, therefore, would supply all my need.
The question would arise, “What about Sunday Schools? Are they not doing great good?” Look at the numbers that advocate them and how they get people into their organization that way when they are young and thus they mold and shape their lives as they please and bring them up as they wish. Are they not thus doing a great work? Without Sunday schools how can we get along, they would say. They are the greatest institutions in the world. Well it appeared to me if they were really so important as all this, would there not be some words in their favor in the Bible? For that is the book to decide all such questions, and the Bible thoroughly famishes the man of God unto all good worm But on looking into and searching that book it is seen that Sunday schools are not once named in that standard author ity, not even once named. So it was with other pet measures of this denomination. None of them are once named.
I asked Elder C.B. Hassell about feet-washing, for it was on my mind that it is right to wash feet. He said that Primitive Baptists washed feet – that some washed all together after the Lord’s supper and others did not wash at that time, but they would wash at sometime whenever it was on the mind of any member to wash and he would ask others if they would join in with him, and thus they would engage both in the spirit and in the literal act of feet-washing. I well remember the first opportunity offered for Christ’s given example after being received by the Primitive Baptists. It was at a brother’s house. He brought his basin and water and girded him self with a napkin at night at his own house, and washed my feet and I washed his feet. Since then I have a number of times washed feet with the church after the Lord’s supper, and to me there is no difference in the answer of peace in each and every case. Nor is there ever a sweeter feeling of peace received after my experience in the participation of Christ’s example of humility. If brethren have this humility in their hearts and are given to perform it, they are happy in the deed.
The question of reform has been much on my mind. What is true zeal? Jehu boasted of his zeal for the Lord, and asked one to come with him and look at his zeal. He was raised up to kill a wicked king and others, but ah, himself was wicked also in some things.
To not condemn another in that which you allow in yourself is moderation. To require in another more than you render yourself in anything while you offend at all is making yourself a judge of evil thoughts.
Whenever a brother pushes his zeal so far as to destroy churches for a point of order, beware of him. There are many things crooked that we cannot make straight. The great place for a reformation to commence is in one’s own life. Some would be great reformers, but alas, they do all their work on others, and see no fault in themselves. If you are with a people you cannot fellowship, withdraw from them and let them alone. If you say, I cannot leave them, there is no other place for me to go but to stay, then try to correct evils mercifully, not by teak ing up churches, or wringing the nose to force blood. Take care if you use violence and smite and tear up churches that you yourself are not smitten in turn.
I am satisfied to have forbearance and the spirit of feet-washing. If Jesus or any one of His disciples had ever said that a church must wash feet every time they commune, thus making feet-washing a test of fellowship among the brethren, or if there is a single example where the church in the days of the apostles observed feet-washing in connection with the Lord’s supper after the resurrection of Jesus, then we should require it thus done now; but as this does not appear in the scriptures, it is not wise to enforce this to the destruction of churches. The reason I engage in feet-washing at the Lord’s supper, or at other times, is because it is plainly taught that we should wash one another’s feet and the time or place is not so important as the act being done in the right spirit.
Washing feet is taught in such a way as to show and make manifest the very spirit of feet-washing or humility, and so it was impressed on me in those days of affliction and famine wherein the things ~ am recording were taught me by the Hand of God in the furnace of affliction, and my views were cast and molded in the molten sea of trouble, and searching inquiry, when deep called unto deep at the noise of His waterspouts. Do not tear up churches because they do not wash feet literally; may our God bless us to wait and show the spirit of forbearance and brotherly kindness by washing feet literally and long suffering towards our brethren, remembering God’s long suffering to you.
On the question of my rebaptism some trouble arose, but I felt that if the Primitive Baptists were the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, they were contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, and, therefore, they kept the ordinances and possessed the true baptism. For Christ is not divided. It is not, as believed by the world, that one denomination has one part of the ordinance of Christ, and another denomination has another part, or one denomination is the head and another the hands, and another the feet of the same body, and you have to get all those together to make on body. But the body of Christ (The Church of the true and living God ) is one and fitly framed together. All the members hold one and the same thing, for there is one Lord, one faith and one baptism, even as ye are calf ed in one hope of your calling.
Finally, all objections to the Primitive Baptists were removed. Myself was in the way – my unfitness, but still I loved them so that it was my desire almost every moment to be with them.
It was on Saturday before the second Sunday in March, 1870, at Old Kehukee Church, and at the old meeting house that I went and told them but little, for I have never been able to express my travail in full. They received me into that church, and on the next day Elder C.B. Hassell, a most precious brother to me, baptized me. It was in the same stream of water and the same place that I had baptized many when a Missionary Baptist, and many of them were present to behold the stoop, as they viewed it The time had been when this would have been an intolerable disgrace. But that day it appeared to me that I was a dead man, so quiet and peaceful and so restful. Glory was everywhere and peace and love. It was on that day that the words that had been burdening my mind so long “Wherefore come ye out from among them,” etc., were used by me as a text it did not seem to me as preaching, but it was the sweetest ease and relief, as the long pent up matter was emptied and I felt so refreshed. That text has never since burdened my mind.
After being received into the fellowship of the church, I visited my fathers section, and there was a little church of the Primitive Baptist faith in the neighborhood (back in Cleveland County, N.C. ) in which Elder Drury Dobbins had lived and died. A seed had been sown and a remnant was preserved. My mother heard me speak, though she and my father had both gone off with the New School or Missionary Baptists. When she heard me she said, “Son, you preach as they did when I was baptized, and I desire to live with you.” She was received there on a confession of faith and her former baptism. Some time after this, she and my father were in Wilson, N.C., and when he heard the preaching and saw the order of worship of the Primitive people here, he said it carried him back to the days when he was first baptized, for it was like that, and he desired fellowship with us and was also received on confession of faith. My grandfathers and grandmothers on each side of the family were also Primitive Baptists, and thus my fathers’ God is, I hope, my God. “My father’s God and I will exhalt Him.” Ex. 15:2. Who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Lord of our fathers? It is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, and the God of all comfort. Him only do I desire to worship and serve. What a blessed mystery to have that blessed hope that one is a child of God, born of God and identified with and related to the whole house of Israel.
There was then another matter that was unfolded in my experience. It was the case of what is called the prodigal son. I was that prodigal that had come home, been brought home, and, the fatted calf was slain, the ring of love was put on my hand, the garment of praise had covered me, then was feasting, music, and dancing in my soul. This lasted for months. Why cannot one remain in that blessed estate of love, feasting and obedience for life? What a sweet life it looks like it would be. But, alas, as we leave our first love, coldness, doubts, barrenness and trouble set in.
One very prominent question that much exercised my mind for years was the nature and extent of the atonement made by Jesus Christ. The Arminians claim an unlimited general atonement and say they preach free grace and free salvation which they charge the Primitive Baptists in not doing. The Primitive Baptists truly believe and preach an unlimited atonement, and the Arminians can scarcely be said to preach any atonement. God’s people here believe that no power on earth or in hell can prevent the salvation of the sheep for whom Christ shed His blood and laid down His precious life. For all power both in heaven and on earth is in His hands, and He has power over all flesh to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him. But those who preach that many for whom Christ died are eternally lost do certainly limit His atonement. While those that preach that Christ bath forever perfected them that are sanctified by the one offering of Himself once, do most certainly preach an unlimited atonement. That is, we hold that so effectual and perfect is the atonement of Jesus, the price that He paid down for the redemption of sinners, that nothing shall ever prevent the coming to Him of any or all these for whom Jesus died.
The Arminians preach what they call an universal atonement, that Christ died to save everybody, every human being or all mankind, but it is really no atonement at all. It is dependent on conditions to be performed by man that so fetter and clog their so called atonement of Jesus that many man-made things, controlled by man, as they say, may defeat it, or render it ineffectual and powerless. It is left with the creature entirely and altogether whether he will repent or not. If he does not, although Christ died as much for him as He did for any other person that was actually saved in the eternal covenant, that person never will be saved. They hold that Christ died as much for all that are finally lost as He did for any that are in His election with His Father before the world began, He died for all, they say. The man must act!
Whether the heathen are saved depends on many contingencies such as whether covetous man will give enough money to send the gospel here and there, and then whether any go to preach to them afterwards, and then whether the heathen will repent and believe, and, further, whether they will live a Godly life and none of these things are at all made certain by the death and resurrection of Jesus; but all are dependent on the creature (so called ) effort Now according to this belief, where is any guarantee or certainly in the atonement of Christ in the shedding of His Blood or the salvation of anyone? Is this not a most limited and uncertain atonement? Indeed, is it any atonement at all?
The Primitive Baptists preach it is the power of God that quickens the dead, and that Jesus, having all power, quickens whom He will, and makes sinners willing in the day of His power, and that He saves and calls them with a holy calling, and not according to their works; and that all that call on the name of the Lord shall be saved, and that everyone that thirsts shall be filled, and whosoever drawn by God’s Spirit will come to Jesus and shall be saved, and that all that are weary and heavy laden are among the redeemed; also, they believe that salvation is free and given without money or price or previous goodness of the creature; nor is it based on his good works foreseen, but contrariwise it causes the sinner to perform good works and lead a Godly life.
Salvation is a “gift” in every and all senses of the meaning of the word “gift.”
Preaching too is a gift, and those that the Lord calls to preach receive their qualifications and preparations of Him.
It is through much tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven. My trouble is not with the people my lot is cast among, nor with the doctrine they hold, as Ruth said, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee,” and the feeling of my desire and heart is “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16 ).
The Primitive Baptists have faults and know that they are sinners. Nor do we occupy the land or live as we should. The strength is decayed, and burden-bearers are weak. The strength and force of discipline is much wasted, and we have departed from the living God in many things. Still, they come nearer to the ancient landmarks than any people within my knowledge. They are blessed to know the truth and rest in Jesus alone in Him for salvation.
My trouble is concerning myself. My unbelief and disobedient conduct give me more trouble than anything, and yet it seems to me that it does not grieve me deeply enough or I would be given deeper repentance. Daily nothing but grace can reach my case. As I look back and can see my life, how abased I am made to feel. Persecuting the church, reckless in manners, and if called to preach, it is in such a way as to humble me for life, having been brought from the land of Moab. If a child of God at all, having only a fleshly experience, I was taught the depths of Satan by going through its cheats and practicing in its pretensions; if there is one that can truly say by the grace of God I am what I am, it is myself.
Still after so much that should humble me, I am yet a sinner, no better, but rather worse.
If others have whereof to glory in works, I have the Lord Jesus to glory in who had mercy on me and saved me. If others may seem to glory in salvation by works, it does seem that none could blame me for loving the doctrine of salvation by grace. For nothing else could save me.
I can never ascertain to a certainty that I am a child of God. We are saved by hope, and we walk by faith. In this faith is the giving of diligence to make our calling and election sure. The true calling of God is a life time matter, nor is it finished while we are in this mortal state.
As to the matter of preaching it has never been clear to my mind that I am called of God to preach, as we know things naturally. It appears to me if I could know that God had called me to serve thus in the gospel of His Son that it would, next to my own personal salvation, be the greatest thing to know; and if I could know my services thus rendered are of the Lord and to the profit of His people, then it would be the sweetest and best of all labor.
When I was received among the Primitive Baptists, I was made to lay my services at their feet, and said on the day that I was received that if my services were not of the Lord, my desire was to cease, and that if I could quit, I would like to do so.
But with me it is not a matter of choice, nor am I able to keep my mouth shut or hold my peace; yet, I am not able to decide fully without any fear that I am a gospel preacher, and still I am afraid to try to stop, nor dare I do so.
This is a soul-humbling life, a life of trial and straits. The question is never with me, “what money shall I receive, “ but it is “What will God bless me to give, if anything?” It is more blessed to give than to receive. Have I anything of the Lord to give? Has He blessed me with the truth to His people? I am poor in this world’s goods and expect to be as long as I live. Yet, the Lord supplies my need. He has cast my lot as an editor, and by my own labor I earn my bread for myself and those that are with me, and this is in harmony with my views of labor and natural obligation. For a preacher or an editor is in harmony with my views of labor than others, and labor is ennobling, and if by word of pen or writing I am blessed of the Lord to serve Him, it is enough for me. It does appear to me that money and the love of it is degrading and that the best employment of man is to seek nobler things than worldly gain. While some suppose that gain is Godliness, it does not occur to me that a soul is ever redeemed with money, or any such corruptible things as silver and gold, and, therefore, money nor the giving of money can ever atone for sin, nor save a soul, either in this land or in any other country or world for that matter.
The maintaining of these principles, or those that the Primitive Baptists hold, render one necessarily unpopular with the world. If ye were of the world, it would love its own. We must be crucified to the world, hated of all men for the sake of Jesus, and our names cast out as evil.
It was in 1871, contrary to any and all my expectations or thought that I was requested to move to Wilson, North Carolina, where my room has been ever since. A contract had been made for me to live elsewhere and teach school. This contract was cancelled by mutual consent.
Soon after moving to Wilson, Elder L I. Bodenheimer, who was then Editor of this paper, requested me to become Associate Editor, and pretty soon afterwards it came into my hand. All of this was unforeseen by me, unthought of and unsought, but as the way was opened, I found myself willing, if enabled of the Lord, to serve in this way. Though feeling incompetent, yet it seems impressed on me thus to serve, and if it is profitable to the household of faith, that is reward enough for me. This too seems to be the way Providence has prepared and opened for me to support my family and self with food and raiment together with the little help otherwise received. But it is mainly, indeed, nearly all, obtained in this way.
It has been the disposition of my mind or according to my feelings to serve churches. But seldom do I take any trip otherwise than as a pastor, visiting the same churches I’ve been endeavoring to serve for years, though it would be a pleasure to me to often visit other churches.
The brethren have borne surprisingly with me and my infirmities, while they are accused as sinners and selfish. I know there is one sinner among them and that one is myself. They are kind and loving people and have shown me much kindness.
For about twelve years my health was very poor and it was unusually much of an effort to keep going; but within the last year or two it is better. It was the Lord that healed me, for in Him we live and move and have our being. Having obtained mercy of the Lord, I continue to this present time, testifying repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ
My hope is toward God, if not a deceived soul. Many are my heart sinkings and heart searching at times. Heavy burdens of a sense of vileness and friendlessness pass over me; yet, the Lord delivers and I trust and hope He will yet deliver. There is hope that when our brief stay on earth has passed, then we shall be partakers of the glorious fruit of the resurrection.
To this end I press on, sincerely desiring to be found in Christ. To have a conscience void of offense toward God and man is the best of all living. There is no such living amid all the wealth and honors of earth. To be so exercised in the truth so that God will keep our bodies under subjection and live to Him in peace and in good will toward men is the best of all living.
If God be for us, who can be against us? If by the faith of Jesus I am enabled to live in truth, dwelling with Israel in peace, and having good will toward men, this is a good exercise.
May peace be upon Israel and the blessings of the Lord rest on and direct my labor and may it be to the Lord.
Brethren, pray for me that my faith fail not. To be dead to the world and all worldly institutions, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ, our Lord, and to live the life I now live in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, and be found unto praise and honor and glory at his appearing, is my desire.
Elder P.D. Gold wrote the above experience about the year 1895. Elder Gold died in the year 1920 at the age of 87 years. Editor.
(Reprint from Zions Landmark. June 1987).
Signs of the Times
Volume 155, No. 10