committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

CHAPTER XVI.

The Societies of the Church--Their Membership--The Value of Their Property and Their Condition.

THE SOCIETIES OR PRAYER HOUSES OF THE CHURCH.

 

        East Savannah Society (prayer houses they are properly, but they are called "Societies ") is about three miles east of Savannah. It has about one hundred and fifty members. Mr. James Lawry is leader of this society. He is a faithful, earnest leader, and is very much beloved by the people. This humble man watches over the people of this society in love and keeps before them the duty they owe to the church. He takes monthly collections and turns them over to the church through Deacon P. A. Glenn, who visits them once a month. This is a strong liberal society. Their property is worth $900. Mr. L. J. Pettigrew and Miss Rebecca G. Houston keep up a flourishing Sunday school at this house of worship.

        Eastville Society is about two miles east of Savannah. It has 38 members. Mr. John Byrd is leader of this society. He is an humble, faithful, loving and God-fearing man. He is also a member of the choir of the church. He is very active and attentive. From this little society he brings in more money to the church than any other society connected with the church. He took a deep interest in the extension of the church, and enthused his people with the same burning zeal that was ablaze in his own bosom. He is a great help and comfort to the pastor. Mr. Byrd keeps this society peaceable and quiet and they give the church very little trouble. This society reflects credit upon the church and the church has just cause to be proud of it. The property is worth $350.

        The Thunderbolt Society is about four miles from Savannah. It has 125 members. Mr. Morris Pray is leader of this society. This is a quiet society and causes the church very little trouble. The people of this society have a very good house of worship, which is worth $1,000. It is in a beautiful location. They do well and come into church on communion days. They have a flourishing Sunday school. Misses Marion E. Houston and Rosa L. Brown go out on Sundays and assist Superintendent F. McIntosh in teaching.

        Lover's Lane Society is about two miles from Savannah. It has 60 members. Mr. Adam Houston is the leader of this society. He is a faithful, earnest man. He is very dutiful and attentive to the church. The society is lively and at times very troublesome to the church, the members (many of them) being often before the church for fighting. Mr. Houston is a good leader and faithful to both the society and to the church. This society has been of great service to the church in its work of extending the church edifice. Deacon F. M. Williams visits this society, and its monthly collections are turned over to the church through him.

        The Dittsmersville Society is about two and one-half miles south of Savannah. It has 50 members. Mr. John Morrel is leader of this society. It is a very earnest, energetic society. Mr. Morrel has proved a success as a leader. The success of this society is largely due to Deacon J. C. Habersham and Licentiate W. G. Clark, who very often visit it and exhort the people to active church work and pious lives. Mr. Clark also keeps up a flourishing Sunday school there.

        Sand Fly Station Society is six miles from Savannah. Mr. Tony Giles is leader of this society. This society has 13 members. It is a quiet, loving band and gives the church very little trouble. Deacon F. M. Williams visits this society, and its monthly collections are turned over to the church through him. The church is proud of this society. Mr. Giles, as leader, exercises a great influence over the members and is very much beloved by them. He is faithful and attentive to the church. The property is worth $150.

        Wheat Hill Society is four miles from Savannah. It has 20 members. Mr. A. Houston is leader of this society. Deacon J. H. Brown visits this society. It is a quiet society, and very seldom has any cases for church discipline. They send in their monthly collections through Deacon Brown. The property is worth $250.

        South Valley Society is fourteen miles from Savannah. Mr. David Solomon is leader of this society. It seldom, if ever, has any cases for discipline. They are few in number, and are quiet and loving. They don't give much money because they are very generally poor, but out of the little they make they give the church some. It has 35 members.

        Zion Hill Society is about six miles from Savannah. Mr. J. Jordan is leader here. The society numbers 65 members. They have but little trouble among themselves and are an earnest and faithful band. The property is worth $300. They are liberal and give money to the church quite often. In the work of church extension they aided nobly. Deacon F. M. Williams watches over this society as deacon, and also visits them occasionally. Mr. Jordan is an earnest man, and very much beloved by the members.

        Sabine Field Society is three miles from Savannah. Mr. Richard Gibbons is the leader. The old man is also a licensed preacher of the church. For years he has been a licensed preacher and leader of this society. He is a good man, and the members are devoted to him. This society numbers 150 members. It does not give very much money to the church, but it is a quiet, loving band. The property is worth $125.

        Brampton Society is three miles from Savannah. Mr. Isaac Charlton is leader of this society. It numbers 65 members. The property is worth $200. It was at this place, one hundred years ago, that the First African Baptist Church was organized. The old spot is very dear to the church. It has not been out of the possession of the church as a place of worship for one hundred years.

        Southville Society is two miles south of Savannah. It numbers about 50 members. Mr. Jack Jackson is the leader of this society. The property is worth $300. Deacon J. C. Habersham watches over it, and Licentiate W. G. Clark does great service out here also. The members here are very quiet and give the church very little trouble. They are liberal and did well in giving the church money during its efforts to extend its building. The money was reported through Deacon Habersham.

        Gibbons Society is seven miles from Savannah. Mr. January Mack is leader of this society. This society was famous for its noble deeds in the days of Rev. W. J. Campbell. These good people were captured by Rev. U. L. Houston, and without letters from the First African Baptist Church, were organized into a church during the troubles of the church, which began in 1877. They returned to the church in 1888, and upon dissolving the so-called church and making christian confession they were restored. They number about 200 members. The property is worth $900. Mr. Mack is a faithful man and is very much beloved by the church and the society.

        The Richmond Society is seven miles from Savannah. Mr. James Nial is leader of this society. This society numbers 15 members. The property is worth $75. Deacon Alexander Rannair visits this society and watches over it. It is a quiet, loving band and causes very little trouble. According to their means and number, they gave quite liberally to the church in its endeavor to extend its edifice.

        These societies are all members of the church, but are united simply to hold regularly prayer meeting, because of their distance from the church. The members are expected to come into the church on every first Sunday to communion, and on third Sunday to conference.

        The total worth of the property of these prayer houses is ($5,000) five thousand dollars.

        The First African Baptist Church, because of its liberality to the State work, was voted the banner church of Georgia. It was given a beautiful banner in token of the appreciation in which the church is held by the State.

 

CHRISTIAN BANNER.

Prepared by Rev. C. H. Lyon for the occasion of presentation of the
banner to the First African Baptist Church.

        Tune C. M.

                         This banner, love, is Christ the Lord's,
                         And in His name we hoist
                         Aloud the battle cry against
                         All hostile to our host.

                         This army terrible shall be
                         While under this banner led;
                         And in this sign shall christians prove
                         Triumphant through their head.

                         This blood-stained banner is unfurled,
                         Upheld by faithful hands,
                         In true defense and great display
                         Of the pure gospel band.

                         This mighty army of our God
                         Shall wave their banner high,
                         'Till Satan's army vanquished be
                         And christians' reign be wide.

        The following sermon by Rev. C. H. Lyons, corresponding secretary of the Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, on presenting the banner to the church, was very interesting and filled the church with great joy.

 

THE CHRISTIAN BANNER.

A Sermon Delivered on the Occasion of Presenting the Prize Banner to First (A.) Baptist Church, Savannah, Ga., Feb. 28th, 1888, by Rev. C. H. Lyons, Pastor Mount Olive Church, Atlanta, Georgia.

        There are three words of Hebrew origin of a kindred nature expressing different shades of meaning of a banner. Oth represents a small sign or banner; nes an ensign, a token of a thing; and degel a flag, a banner; a standard from the verbal form, dagal, to cover, to glitter and to shine, or lift up a banner; and the Latin vexillum is also expressive, which is rendered a military ensign, said to be a red flag placed in front of the general's tent, indicating to march forward.

        The important and emphatic stress placed upon our subject is brought out forcibly in the three significant passages here alluded to.

        "Lift ye up a banner upon the mountain."--Isa., xiii, 2. The wrath and fury of God threatened against Babylon are here indicated. God gives a banner to those who fear him to secure their triumph and betoken his approving presence with them.

        In the name of our God we will set up our banner as an inspiration to wage war in defence and in honor of the name and cause of God, and acknowledge that all possible success depends upon the name and power of God.

        The described nature of this banner evidently portrays divinity. His banner over me was love. God is love. Terrible as an army with banners, for the Lord thy God is among you; thy God is terrible.

        Each army must have its panoply, leaders and uniforms and flags or banners. Jesus Christ is all these to His army.

        I. Let us now consider the symbolical signification of the banner.

        'Tis not merely the indication of war.

        1. But 'tis a sign of distinction and protection of the army. We have defined the original to mean to cover. All under this banner, whether soldiers or caravans, are covered, defended, distinguished from other armies or dangers. The twelve tribes had each a small banner styled standard, owing to its smallness, but each three tribes had a banner, when combined, which defended and protected them both as a caravan and an army.

        When his banner was hoisted all soldiers and travelers of like color and aims assembled under it in loyalty to their commanding chief. In our late civil but bloody war the flags marked distinctions between the secessionists and unionists above anything else; and in our christian war Jesus Christ was His people's ensign; keeps the differentia intelligible from all other forms of religious creeds. All are known and distinguished as christians, not by their form or profession, but by their likeness and imitation of and their identity with Christ alone. For by their fruits ye shall know them. This army and caravan are covered and protected by Jesus.

        And any cause of distinction between any heterogeneous and homogeneous elements or classes is a virtual protection and defence of the merited parts. Distinction of colors and principles makes each more valuable and admirable. Therefore the distinctive doctrines and principles of the Bible should be more systematically taught and urged. The distinguishing of truth from error, wrong from right, is the great mental and moral project of this host, and all needed protection and distinction are found in a wise and proper assembling under this gospel banner.

        The Jewish army and caravan apprehended neither defeat nor danger as long as their Shekinah was visible over them. The christian army has no just fears while it trusts and owns Jesus, its loving and glorious ensign or banner.

        2. It means to illuminate and attract the army to the center or union. The significance of the word as alluded to means to glitter, to shine.

        The people of that day traveled mainly by night to avoid the fearful heat of the sun; therefore, had banners prepared to burn wood like a stove, to give light by which to travel, which burned and shone all night. The beacon lights were placed on hills and mountains to aid the caravans and armies. These lights were of vast importance to the physical eye. But this banner more effulgently reflects the divine light upon the path of heaven. 'Twas said of one of the banner-bearers that he was a burning and shining light. Jesus, our banner, is the light that lights every man that comes into this world; and His light is the life of men. Jesus said, as long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. What a glorious and luminous banner! It penetrates thick and repugnant darkness, and it cannot seize it. 'Tis incomprehensibly wonderful.

        Light naturally and officially attracts all tangible to it. The sun's light marshals the world by his brilliant beams by day and reflected rays by night. The revolution and vegetation of the earth are the resultant effects of his light. Our world is animated and influenced by light from the highest to the lowest order. Is it at all surprising that all in the mental, moral and religious world should be vastly more influenced and benefited by holy and divine light.

        Yea, however scattered and varied, all christians center their hopes and actions in Christ. When Moses beheld Jehovah in the burning bush, he drew to him. When the Magi saw the bright morning star, they came in diligent and immediate search of it. When the introducer of the christian dispensation preached repentance, faith, baptism and the remission of sins, all Judea, and adjacent countries came to him. Jesus, our banner, says: "If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me."

        Moses said unto Him, "Shall the gathering of the people be?" Let this Baptist army rally around this banner till every foe quits the field and Christ becomes Lord indeed. What a marvelous, attractive and brilliant banner.

        3. It is a sign of inspiration to war-like actions. A banner which distinguishes, protects, illuminates and attracts its army will doubtless serve as a most powerful incentive to aggressive actions. In the greatest vicissitudes it brings courage and prompts fortitude. It is a most effective dissuasion against all infidelity of the trust so sacredly committed, and a very predominating buoyance over all temptations to cowardice and relaxations of warlike gallantry. It was common for the Spartan mothers to exhort their sons going to war to bring home their shields or be brought home on them.

        A champion soldier said, if they could not fight in the sunshine that they would fight in the shade. Those who love and honor their banner die to prevent its trail in the dust or suffer defeat. Let us, O army of God, fight very mightily and manfully under our banner. If we can't contend earnestly and properly for that old, sacred and saving faith, once for all delivered to the saints under favorable circumstances, we will fight under unfavorable, for we will fight the good fight of faith. As long as the drum and bugle of war are heard, this spangled banner seen, the heroes will never yield their forts nor quit the field. We will wave this gospel banner high into victory grand, Satan and his host defy, and shout for Daniel's band.

        II. The banner awarded to this army.

        God gives a banner to them that fear him as a token of his love for his army!

        He brought me to His banquet house, and His banner over me was love. The prophet declared Jesus to be an ensign which should be set up for his people. Solomon described the banner of the church love, and the same to be chief among 10,000 and altogether lovely. John taught, in his sublime and safe instruction, that Christ was love, and they that dwell in love dwelt in him. How clearly and beautifully is Jesus declared the banner of the church. The banner over me is love. God loves His church, and with an everlasting love He draws it. He loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. The church is His peculiar and royal people; therefore he gave them Jesus as a banner. What incomprehensible love and grace bestowed upon those that reverence Him! Christ loves His church as a man his wife, and gave Himself for it that he might redeem it and wash it by His blood and word. Christ is the manifestation of God's love for his army, which cannot be misunderstood or over-estimated. He found His elect as of a hidden treasure and went and sold His heavenly pleasures and privileges and bought them. Paul says, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich." What interest, sympathy and love for us! Greater love have no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends, and no less maximum of love is displayed in giving the immaculate of heaven, the only begotten Son of God, to this army. What wondrous love is this!

        1. In token of his presence and identity with His army.

        The Bible is made increasingly mysterious in attempting to affirm and describe the intimate and indissoluble union between Christ and His people. "He that believes into me shall be saved."

        Christ says, "As I am in the Father and the Father in me, even so are you in me and I in you." "I am the vine, and ye are the branches." "Abide in me, and let my word abide in you; then ye shall ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you."

        Christ and His church are identified in suffering. For he that suffers with me shall reign with me. In His crucifixion we were crucified together with Christ. In His death and resurrection; for as we have been in the likeness of his death, even so shall we be in the likeness of His resurrection. Christ is all and in all for and to His army. The psalmist has this delightful description of His identity and interest in His church: "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early."

        The way and dealings of God are in His sanctuary. Jehovah promises never to leave nor forsake His people. Christ assured His disciples that where two or three gather together in His name, "I am in the midst of them." This army is aggrandized and made victorious and invincible by the omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence of Christ, our banner. God was with Adam prior to his fall and caused him to superabound in every imaginable felicity. His potent hand was visible in the history of Noah in the deluge. He manifested himself in Jacob and elevated Joseph to the second power of the Egyptian kingdom, and educated Moses in all the learning of that place and day to qualify him for the leadership of his people from captivity to freedom and the promised inheritance.

        And the stupendous exhibition and identity of himself in the fiery pillar by night and the cloudy pillar by day to lead and protect them. The apostles were sent to preach with this glorious guaranty, Lo, I am with you alway even to the end of the world. Christ is not merely identified with His people, but is their banner, implement of war, their panoply.

        2. To make His army terrible.

        Who is she that looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, and as clear as the sun, and as terrible as an army with banners? The progressive periods of the church have been aptly described in the above figures. She was of the vigor and brightness of the morning in the patriarchal periods. She was of the fairness of the moon in the typical and Mosaic dispensation, and in the christian dispensation was the clearness and brilliancy of the sun; when the sun of righteousness arose, when the scheme of redemption and benign designs of the gospel are consummated, she shall be terrible as an army with banners. Then shall she be beautiful and comely like Jerusalem and terrible as an army with banners. Then shall she become more than a conqueror through the defensive presence of Christ.

        The Jewish army with four banners looks appalling, but how much more vastly frightening shall the whole army of God, out of every nation, kindred and people, be when their white horses and riders will be both indicative of victory and innocence in achieving it.

        Her four chariots, hailing from between mountains of brass, with her horses colored in destructive and dreadful descriptions, how terrible! The enemy of this army captured, and their kingdom subdued and made loyal to this terrible army, all heretics and their books shall be priced and consumed.

        Before this army shall old Lucifer fall like lightning. Gog and Magog shall be conquered. The old dragon and his angels shall be cast into hell.

        The old harlot and all who bear her image will be judged and put into unquenchable fire, there to wail and gnash their teeth. This army is so terrible that it subdues kingdoms, wroughts righteousness, obtains promises, stops the mouths of lions, quenches the violence of fire, escapes the edge of the sword, out of weakness becomes strong, waxes valiant in fight, and turns to fight the armies of the aliens.

        III. The banner hoisted by this army.

        In the name of our God we will set up our banner, indicative of their aggressiveness to battle. There may be questions and problems of such nature and magnitude that neither our philanthropy nor our magnanimity can effect a satisfying solution without the force of war. Then our flags, declaring war, are raised; but our causes of conflict are always such as to render the christian war unavoidable and unceasing. There can be no retreat nor suspension of arms upon any compromise whatever.

        We shall have christian liberty and victory or death in pursuit of them. This trumpet of war has been heard with no less distinctness through all generations from the first assault till to-day. There are entreaties for peace and cessation of war, but our lifted banner declares there shall be neither peace nor cessation but as achieved through the defeat of the devil and destruction of his kingdom.

        The prophetic trumpet was engaged in arousing Zion to awake and put on her warlike dress and strength. The apostolical council was, acquit yourselves like men; be strong, fight. We are importuned to fight the good fight of faith and war a good warfare.

        As the seven nations preoccupied the land of Canaan, promised to Israel, so vice, immorality and demons in high places obstruct our prosperity; therefore the war is inevitable, for the stronger and greater must occupy.

        As Joshua, the champion warrior, led his army to victory and emancipation, much more completely will Jesus, our Joshua, lead this army into the defeat of Satan, destruction of sin, victory and everlasting freedom. The implements, ammunition and causes of war are the same. Let the war-cry be heard aloud: "To war! to war! ye army of the living God, to war!" Never think the victory won, nor lay thy armor down, for thy arduous work will not be done till you obtain your crown or prize.

        Then fight on, my soul, agonizingly till death relieve you from the field. What means this uncompromising outcry and excitement of battle and out-spread banner to be displayed because of the truth?

        A certain renowned man declared that in comparison with all things truth is the most weighty; in weight, therefore, all things are chaff compared with truth, and in nature, all things fiction; truth underlies every virtue, crowns all the worthy and is the chief constituent of every grandeur. God is truth; the infinite attribute of Deity is truth; the Bible is the revelation of divine truth; the christian church is the ground and pillar of the truth; Christ and the Holy Spirit are the prolific source and expounders of the truth; Paul teaches that we can do nothing against the truth, but all for the truth; therefore we have set our banner in defence of this glorious cause. A battle pitched under this banner is actuated by the greatest combination of inspirations. The raising of this banner means the exultant triumph of truth and the cause of the church, of the Bible and of God.

        The existence, handiwork and dealings of God have been so perfectly, confutingly established and acknowledged that the opponents of these doctrines have underrated themselves in the estimation of this progressive and religious world. It is claimed by this class of opposers that science so antagonizes religion that much of religious truth is false, scientifically considered. This is false in both theory and practice, for one poet has said, "For truth is truth to the end of reckoning."

        The divinity and mystery of religious truth may be classed preposterous when alone scanned through scientific medium.

        But this is a frank confession of the imperfection of the human mind to conceive or account for the actions of the divine. The truth of the Bible does not always nor essentially foreshadow visible phenomenon any more than positive precept presents their reasons for demands. All the ever-existing phenomenon for the deluge is now. But 'tis not for science to explain why the flood does not repeat itself.

        But the God of science has decreed and declared it in His word.

        In these and many other things the scientists overrate themselves and the philosophers are deluded with sophistry. All truth is truth whether discovered from a scientific or religious standpoint.

        And each scientific discovery will corroborate each religious doctrine in proportion to their designs and the perfection of man to draw correct conclusions from scientific phenomenon.

        The deluge is denied on so termed philosophical and scientific basis. But is this position supported scientifically and historically?

        Is there more scientific phenomenon for the swimming ax than for the deluge? Any more for the dry passage of the 3,000,000 through the Red Sea than for the deluge? Anymore for the water becoming wine without scientific means or fermenting operations than for the deluge?

        Are all these false because they are not your deduction from scientific phenomenon?

        Is it any part of erudition or wisdom to conceive everything false and absurd which we cannot understand the philosophy of? The great truth is, there be that intimate relation sustained by natural and religious science, that the better we understand pure science the better we appreciate religion and God.

        The Bible is the text and law book of the church. The unity, oneness and consistency of this church would be a foregone conclusion should its precepts and principles alone be adhered to. For the oneness, unity and victory of this church we have set up our banner, builded our fortification and sacrificed our lives and freedom to wage war till all come to their required combatableness.

        We claim that there is no want of fullness nor explicitness of Bible teaching on all subjects upon which we differ; that our difference on baptism is due to positive ignorance or disregard of divine authority on this subject, for there is no passage of Scripture, in fact or figure, taken in its proper connection, that either teaches or supports sprinkling or pouring as baptism.

        There is no text of sacred Scripture approving or authorizing the final apostacy of the saints.

        These doctrines are false, ruinous and insulting to the dignity of the army and of God. From one cause two opposing effects can't come. Therefore these unholy divisions among professing christians are the effects of heresy. For, says Herrick, 'twixt truth and error there is this difference known: error is fruitful, truth only one. Truth establishes, protects only one; therefore all the others are the children of error.

        Destroy the error permeating the heart and now adorning the profession of christianity, then the weight, beauty and efficiency of truth will result in the unity, oneness and harmony of the christian church; the widespread of the pure gospel, and the universal acknowledgment and predominance of the christian religion.

        Our banner opposes all false doctrine, character and colors.

        Our Captain warns the army to beware of the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharasees.

        Beware of the false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

        Beloved, believe not every spirit. Try the spirit by the spirit, whether they be of God. Because many false prophets are gone out into the world. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring on damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

        He that modifies the truth of the Bible, either by addition or diminution, shall have his name erased and plagues added. Because he is a transgressor and has not the doctrine of Christ John teaches that whosoever transgresseth and abides not in the doctrine of Christ has not God. He that abides in the doctrine hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you and bring not the doctrine, receive him not unto your house, neither bid him God-speed; for he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

        We can't succeed in destroying false doctrine nor the pernicious influence of Catholicism as long as we are partial toward their branches. Let this army cry out, as indicated on their banner, that by thy precepts I get understanding: therefore hate every false way.

        2. In the name of our God we have set up our banner; 'tis God's cause, God's army, God's banner. Therefore we have in honor of Him and hope through Him lifted up our banner. Whatever we do or say should be done in the name of God--the name of God is holy and is reverence. The things in His name must be holy and reverential. This name is, therefore, a safe defense and protection to this army. 'Tis a wonderful name; therefore wonderful will be the consequences through it. This name has God exalted above every name in heaven and earth. Therefore the army defended by this name shall be most triumphant. Before His name men and angels fall and devils fear and fly. David conquered Goliah through His name. The unsurpassed victories of Joshua were through His name. The holiness, invincibleness and superior excellence of his army are very astonishingly demonstrated in their dependence upon His mighty name for success. Through His name all miracles done by the prophets and apostles are wrought. The redemption and salvation of man effected, benedictions invoked and the churches' ordinances administered in this glorious name. 'Tis a grand, yea, peculiarly great display of recognition to be honored as the banner-bearer for more than 1,500 churches and more than 160,000 soldiers, and in recognition of deserving merit we regard it as a pleasure of no ordinary kind to present you this banner.

 
 
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