The Legacy Of The Leadership
Bishop Charles Harrison Mason was born on September 8, 1866 on
the Prior Farm just north of Memphis, Tennessee, which today is the
town of Bartlett, Tennessee. Mason's parents, Jerry and Eliza Mason, were former slaves, and devout members of the Missionary Baptist Church.
They suffered the widespread, devastating poverty affecting
blacks following the Civil War. Mason's mother prayed fervently
for her son that he would be dedicated to God.
As a boy Mason prayed with his mother, asking "above all things for
God to give him a religion like the one he had heard about from the old slaves and had seen demonstrated in their lives."
This yearning for the God of his forbears underlies the dynamic of
his life. C. H. Mason was converted as a young boy of twelve
in November 1878.
It was also at the age of twelve that a yellow fever epidemic forced
the Mason family to leave the Memphis area for Plumersville, Arkansas.
This plague claimed Mason's father's life in 1879. During those
fearful and difficult days the young Mason worked hard with little
chance for schooling.
In 1880, just before his fourteenth birthday, Mason fell ill with chills and fever. His mother despaired of his life, but in an astounding
turn of events, Mason was miraculously healed on the first
Sunday in September 1880. He and his mother went to the
Mt. Olive Baptist Church near Plumersville, Arkansas where the pastor, Mason's half brother, (the Reverend I. S. Nelson), baptised him
in an atmosphere of praise
and thanksgiving. Mason went
throughout Southern Arkansas as a lay preacher, giving his testimony and
working with souls on the mourner's bench, especially
during the summer camp meetings.
C. H. Mason accepted his ministerial license from the Mt. Gale Missionary Baptist Church in Preston, Arkansas.
Despite being licensed and ordained to preach in 1891
at Preston, Arkansas, Mason held back from full time ministry
to marry Alice Saxton, a daughter of his Mother's best friend.
To his great disappointment and distress, Alice bitterly opposed his ministerial plans and divorced him after two years, and later remarried.
Mason fell into such grief and despair that at times Satan tempted him to take his own life. Mason remained unmarried while Alice was alive.
C. H. Mason read the autobiography of Amanda Smith (a black
washerwoman who had been greatly used by God), and who began
teaching the "doctrine of santification." She was brought up as a Methodist (1837 - 1915), rose from poverty and slavery
to become a world famous Methodist Evangelist. As a matter of fact,
Amanda Smith became one of the greatest, widely traveled and respected
holiness evangelists of the 19th century. Her life story, which included how the Lord sanctified her, swept many blacks into the holiness
movement. And, of course, after reading Amanda Smith's autobiography, Mason was also greatly influenced, and began believing and studying this doctrine of sanctification, and through the word of God he
experienced sanctification in 1893 and subsequently preached
his first sermon in "Holiness" from II Timothy 2:1-3; "Thou therefore
endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
Following his heart rending divorce, Mason resolved to get an education.
On November 1, 1893 Mason entered the Arkansas Baptist College, but
since he had both hermenutical and cultural suspicions of the
methods, philosophy, and curriculum set forth by the college, Mason left
the college in January 1894.
He then returned to the streets and to every pulpit open to him
declaring Christ by the word, example and precept.
Mason met with Charles Price Jones in late 1885, who was the newly
elected pastor of the Mt. Helms Baptist Church at Jackson, Mississippi.
Jones was a graduate of Arkansas Baptist College, and who, like
Mason, came under under the Holiness movement, and in 1894
claimed the experience of sanctification. Elder C. P. Jones, and his
friends, J. A. Jeter, and Elder W. S. Pleasant subsequently became C. H.
Mason's closest companions in the ministry. Jointly, these militant
preachers conducted a revival in 1896, in Jackson, Mississippi, which had
far reaching effects on the city. The anointed manifestations of
the revival, which included the large numbers that were converted,
sanctified, and healed by the power of faith and by the dynamic
teachings of Mason on the doctrine of sanctification caused the
church doors within the Baptist association to be closed to him and
to all those who believed and supported his teachings.
Also in 1896 C. P. Jones sent Elder Mason to preach at the Asia Baptist Church in Natchez, Mississippi. The entire week that Mason preached, only one soul was saved. That soul was Charles Pleas, who later became
the Bishop of Kansas for 55 years. Bishop Pleas was also known to have
a photographic mind and God also gave him a keen "foresight in prophecy".
From 1896 - 1899, the holiness conventions, revivals, and periodicals
inspired by Mason and Jones split the Baptists, and in a few cases, the Methodists churches, birthing the development of independent "sanctified" or "holiness" congregations and associations. The minutes of the General Missionary Baptist Convention accused C. P. Jones, W. S. Pleasant and C. H. Mason of preaching pernicious, heretical doctrines among the "most ignorant classes of our people, leading off individuals and corrupting our churches." Mt. Helm, the church where C. P. Jones was pastor, said that the minutes had become the hot-bed of corrupt doctrines,
and Mt. Helm leaders had taken steps to uproot this evil. The minutes were signed by Reverends Scott, Rollins, Wright, Bell, Newman and Thompson. President of the National Baptist Convention, E. C. Morris, was forced to deal with this issue in his Presidential address of 1897. On July 23, 1897, C. P. Jones, C. H. Mason and all of their colleagues and followers were vehemently opposed and were expelled from the Baptist church via the National Convention.