When Brother S thinks a person is wrong, he is frequently too severe. He fails to exercise that compassion and consideration that he would have shown toward himself under like circumstances. He is also in great danger of misjudging and erring in dealing with minds. It is the nicest and most critical work ever given to mortals, to deal with minds. Those who engage in this work should have clear discernment and good powers of discrimination. True independence of mind is an element entirely different from rashness. That quality of independence which leads to a cautious, prayerful, deliberate
opinion should not be easily yielded, not until the evidence is sufficiently strong to make it certain that we are wrong. This independence will keep the mind calm and unchangeable amid the multitudinous errors which prevail, and will lead those in responsible positions to look carefully at the evidence on every side, and not be swayed by the influence of others, or by the surroundings, to form conclusions without intelligent, thorough knowledge of all the circumstances.
The investigation of cases in Battle Creek was very much after the order in which a lawyer criticizes a witness, and there was a decided absence of the Spirit of God. There were a few united in this work who were active and zealous. Some were self-righteous and self-sufficient, and their testimonies were relied upon, and their influence swayed the judgement of Brethren R and S. Because of some trivial deficiency, Sisters T and U were not received as members of the church. Brethren R and S should have had judgement and discrimination to see that these objections were not of sufficient weight to keep these sisters out of the church. Both of them had been long in the faith and had been true to the observance of the Sabbath for eighteen or twenty years.
Sister V, who brought up these things, should have urged against herself more weighty reasons why she should not have become a member of the church. Was she without sin? Were all her ways perfect before God? Was she perfect in patience, self-denial, gentleness, forbearance, and calmness of temper? If she were without the weaknesses of common women, then she could cast the first stone. Those sisters who were left out of the church were worthy of a place in it; they were beloved of God. But they were dealt with unwisely, without sufficient cause. There were others whose cases were handled with no more heavenly wisdom and without even sound judgement. Brother S's judgement and power of discrimination have been perverted for very many years through the influence of his wife, who has been a most effective medium of Satan. If he had possessed the genuine quality of independence he would have had proper self-respect and with becoming
dignity would have built up his own house. When he has started upon a course designed to command respect in his family he has generally carried the matter too far and has been severe and has talked harshly and overbearingly. Becoming conscious of this after a time, he would then go to the opposite extreme and come down from his independence.
In this state of mind he would receive reports from his wife, give up his judgement, and be easily deceived by her intrigues. She would sometimes feign to be a great sufferer and would relate what privations she had endured and what neglect from her brethren, in the absence of her husband. Her prevarications and cunning artifices to abuse the mind of her husband have been great. Brother S has not fully received the light which the Lord has given him in times past in regard to his wife or he would not have been deceived by her as he has been. He has been brought into bondage many times by her spirit because his own heart and life have not been fully consecrated to God. His feelings kindled against his brethren, and he oppressed them. Self has not been crucified. He should seek earnestly to bring all his thoughts and feelings into subjection to the obedience of Christ. Faith and self-denial would have been Brother S's strong helpers. If he had girded on the whole armour of God and chosen no other defence than that which the Spirit of God and the power of truth gives him, he would have been strong in the strength of God.
But Brother S is weak in many things. If God required him to expose and condemn a neighbour, to reprove and correct a brother, or to resist and destroy his enemies, it would be to him a comparatively natural and easy work. But a warfare against self, subduing the desires and affections of his own heart, and searching out and controlling the secret motives of the heart, is a more difficult warfare. How unwilling is he to be faithful in such a contest as this! The warfare against self is the greatest battle that was ever fought. The yielding of self, surrendering all to the will of God and being clothed with humility, possessing that love that is pure, peaceable, and easy to be
entreated, full of gentleness and good fruits, is not an easy attainment. And yet it is his privilege and his duty to be a perfect overcomer here. The soul must submit to God before it can be renewed in knowledge and true holiness. The holy life and character of Christ is a faithful example. His confidence in His heavenly Father was unlimited. His obedience and submission were unreserved and perfect. He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister to others. He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. In all things He submitted Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. From the lips of the Saviour of the world were heard these words: "I can of Mine own self do nothing."
He became poor, and made Himself of no reputation. He was hungry and frequently thirsty, and many times weary in His labours; but He had not where to lay His head. When the cold, damp shades of night gathered about Him, the earth was frequently His bed. Yet He blessed those who hated Him. What a life! what an experience! Can we, the professed followers of Christ, cheerfully endure privation and suffering as did our Lord, without murmuring? Can we drink of the cup and be baptised with the baptism? If so, we may share with Him His glory in His heavenly kingdom. If not, we shall have no part with Him.
Brother S has an experience to gain, without which his work will do positive injury. He is affected too much by what others tell him of the erring; he is apt to decide according to the impressions made upon his mind, and he deals with severity, when a milder course would be far better. He does not bear in mind his own weakness, and how hard it is for him to have his course questioned, even when he is wrong. When he decides that a brother or sister is wrong he is inclined to carry the matter through and press his censure, although in doing so he hurts his own soul and endangers the souls of others.
Brother S should shun church trials and should have nothing to do in settling difficulties, if he can possibly avoid it. He has a valuable gift, which is needed in the work of God. But
he should separate himself from influences which draw upon his sympathies, confuse his judgement, and lead him to move unwisely. This should not and need not be. He exercises too little faith in God. He dwells too much upon his bodily infirmities and strengthens unbelief by dwelling upon poor feelings. God has strength and wisdom in store for those who seek for it earnestly, in faith believing.
I was shown that Brother S is a strong man upon some points, while upon others he is as weak as a child. His course in dealing with the erring has had a scattering influence. He has confidence in his ability to labour in setting things in order where he thinks it is needed, but he does not view the matter aright. He weaves into his labours his own spirit, and he does not discriminate, but often deals without tenderness. There is such a thing as overdoing the matter in performing strict duty to individuals. "And of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."
Duty, stern duty, has a twin sister, which is kindness. If duty and kindness are blended, decided advantage will be gained; but if duty is separated from kindness, if tender love is not mingled with duty, there will be a failure, and much harm will be the result. Men and women will not be driven, but many can be won by kindness and love. Brother S has held aloft the gospel whip, and his own words have frequently been the snap to that whip. This has not had an influence to spur others to greater zeal and to provoke them to good works, but it has aroused their combativeness to repel his severity.
If Brother S had walked in the light, he would not have made so many serious failures. "If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." The path of obedience is the path of safety. "He that walketh uprightly walketh surely." Walk in the light, and "then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall
not stumble." Those who do not walk in the light will have a sickly, stunted religion. Brother S should feel the importance of walking in the light, however crucifying to self. It is earnest effort, prompted by love for souls, which strengthens the heart and develops the graces.
My brother, you are naturally independent and self-sufficient. You estimate your ability to do, more highly than it will bear. You pray for the Lord to humble you and fit you for His work, and when He answers your prayer and puts you under the course of discipline necessary for the accomplishment of the object, you frequently give way to doubts and despondency, and think you have reason for discouragement. When Brother W has cautioned and held you back from engaging in church difficulties, you have frequently felt that he was restraining you.
I was shown your labours in Iowa. There was a decided failure to gather with Christ. You distracted, confused, and scattered the poor sheep. You had a zeal, but it was not according to knowledge. Your labours were not in love, but in sternness and severity. You were exacting and overbearing. You did not strengthen the sick and bind up the lame. Your injudicious harshness pushed some out of the fold who can never be reached and brought back. Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Words unfitly spoken are the reverse. Your influence will be like desolating hail.
You have felt restless under restraint when Brother W has cautioned, advised, and reproved you. You have thought that if you could be free and act yourself, you could do a good and great work. But your wife's influence has greatly injured your usefulness. You have not ruled well your own house; you have failed to command your household after you. You have thought that you understood how to manage your home matters. But how have you been deceived! You have too often followed the promptings of your own spirit, which has resulted in perplexities and discouragements, and these have clouded
your discernment and weakened you spiritually so that your labours have been marked with great imperfection.
The labours of Brethren R and S in ----- were premature. These brethren had their past experience with its mistakes before them, which should have been sufficient to guard them from engaging in a work that they were not qualified to perform. There was enough that needed to be done. It was a hard place in which to raise up a church. Opposing influences surrounded them. Every move made should have been with due caution and prayerful consideration.
These two brethren had been warned and reproved repeatedly for moving injudiciously, and they should not have taken the responsibilities upon themselves that they did. Oh, how much better would it have been for the cause of God in _____ had they been labouring in new fields! Satan's seat is in -----, as well as in other wicked cities, and he is a wily foe to contend with. There were disorderly elements among the Sabbathkeepers in ----- that were hindrances to the cause. But there is a proper time to speak and act, a golden opportunity which will show the best results of labour put forth.
If things had been left to more fully develop before they were touched, there would have been a separation of the disorderly, unconsecrated ones, and there would not have been an opposition party. This should ever be saved if possible. The church might better suffer much annoyance, and exercise the more patience, than to get in a hurry, drive matters, and provoke a combative spirit. Those who really loved the truth for the truth's sake should have pursued their course with the glory of God in view and let the light of truth shine out before all.
They might expect that the elements of confusion and dissatisfaction among them would make them trouble. Satan would not remain quiet and see a company raised up in ----- to vindicate truth and to dispel sophistry and error. His ire would be kindled, and he would institute a war against those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony
of Jesus. But this should not have made the faithful believers impatient or discouraged. These things should have had an influence to make the true believer more guarded, watchful, and prayerful--more tender, pitiful, and loving to those who were making so great a mistake in regard to eternal things. As Christ has borne, and continues to bear, with our errors, our ingratitude, and our feeble love, so should we bear with those who test and try our patience. Shall the followers of the self-denying, self-sacrificing Jesus be unlike their Lord? Christians should have hearts of kindness and forbearance.