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An Article from the Reformation Advocate Magazine on Voluntary Associations

James Dodson

VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS. 


[from THE REFORMATION ADVOCATE, March 1875] 
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Are they lawful? and if not, why? 1. Because not commanded. And all voluntary associations for moral or religious purposes are prohibited, because not either expressly or impliedly commanded. 2. They are unlawful, because they are a human, and not a divine institution: because their constitution has the same origin. 3. All their officers are appointed by man, and not by Jesus Christ, and all their authority comes from the former and not the latter. 4. The so-called duties of their teachers are prescribed by human, and not by divine wisdom. 5. They have received, and are animated not by the spirit of God, but by the spirit of the world. God will, most certainly, give his spirit to all the institutions and officers of his own appointment, but not to those institutions and officers appointed by man, "out of blind zeal or any pretence of good intent." 6. He will, most assuredly, give the graces of his spirit—love, joy, peace, &c., to all the officers of his own appointment, both in church and state; but not to those appointed by man. 7. Christ has given to all the officers of his own appointment [i.e. those in both church and state—associations outside of these institutions are not God’s appointment], the promise of the spirit, and power of witnesses. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth," Acts 1:8. "And I will give power unto my two witnesses [i.e. for scriptural ministry and magistracy; cf. Zech. 3&4, Joshua and Zerubbabel]," Rev. 11:3; but he does not give this power to the officers of man’s appointment. Voluntary associations have the spirit of the world—a spirit of hostility to the testimony of Jesus Christ—to his crown and covenant. It is because Christ and his pure and holy religion, his covenanted and witnessing society, are abhorred by the corrupt masses that compose voluntary societies, and because they have a strong sympathy for false teachers, false prophets, false witnesses, and an ungodly world, that they have rejected God’s plan of reforming and saving sinners, and have adopted a plan of their own. 8. It is because corrupt churches and an ungodly world, constituting voluntary associations, are most determinedly opposed to maintaining Christian friendship (or communion) with the faithful witnesses, and never will agree to "feel and act as one of them;" and because they can with their whole heart, covenant and agree to maintain Christian friendship—or communion—with pious men of every name, that is, with so-called pious Papists, Prelates, Unitarians, Universalists—no name being excepted—with pious heretics, schismatics, backsliders, and covenant breakers—with pious incendiaries, malignants and evil instruments, who hinder the reformation of religion—with moral ungodly sinners, outside of the church, not excepting "fornicators, idolators, adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners." Then these associations have their origin in a dislike to Christ and his cause, and in a love to an ungodly world, and so-called churches, that are conformed to the world.

If we incorporate with these ungodly associations, we can help them to do evil, but not to do good: and they can help us do evil, and hinder us from doing good. By this carnal alliance we become so entangled with the yoke of bondage, that Christ will profit us nothing: for when we are walking with them, we are walking after the flesh, and not after the spirit; we are serving in the oldness of the letter, and not in the newness of the spirit; we are bringing forth fruit unto death, and not unto God; we are servants of sin, and not of righteousness; we are under the law, and not under grace. And if we are saved at all, we must be saved from this yoke of bondage; for we cannot be saved wearing the yoke of bondage. No, if saved at all, we must be saved wearing the yoke of Christ—holding fast his covenants.

If the servants of sin and the servants of righteousness work together, they must both serve sin, for it is impossible that they should both serve righteousness. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. And on the same principle, if the children of God, and the children of the devil serve together, they must both serve the devil, the one being in covenant with God, and the other in league with the devil. "What concord hath Christ with Belial? and what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" We might as well speak of pious or moral devils, as of pious and moral unbelievers, and pious carnal professors. "I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice"—which unbelievers and carnal professors acting on carnal principles sacrifice—"they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and the table of devils." 1 Cor. 11:20; Deut. 32:17; 2 Chron. 11:15; Ps. 106:37.—A.