People who love to see opponents combat, may clamour for discussion. Others, who have a desire to hear the evidences on both sides, may urge discussion in all honesty of motive; but whenever discussions can be avoided, they should be. They generally strengthen combativeness and weaken that pure love and sacred sympathy which should ever exist in the hearts of Christians although they may differ in opinions.
Discussions in this age of the world are not real evidences of earnest desire on the part of the people to investigate the truth, but come through the love of novelty and the excitement which generally attends discussions. God is seldom glorified or the truth advanced in these combats. Truth is too solemn, too momentous in its results, to make it a small matter whether it is received or rejected. To discuss truth for the sake of showing opponents the skill of the combatants is ever poor policy, for it does but very little to advance the truth.
Opponents to the truth will show skill in misstating their opponent. They will make the most solemn, sacred truths the subject of ridicule. They will generally sport and deride precious, sacred truth, and place it in so false a light before the people that minds that are darkened by error and polluted by
sin do not discern the motives and objects of these designing men in thus covering up and falsifying precious and important truth. Because of the men who engage in them, there are but few discussions that it is possible to conduct upon right principles. Sharp thrusts are too frequently given by both parties, personalities are indulged in, and frequently both parties descend to sarcasm and witticism. The love of souls is lost in the greater desire for the mastery. Prejudice, deep and bitter, is often the result of discussions.
I have beheld angels grieved as the most precious jewels of truth have been brought before men utterly incapable of appreciating the evidences in favour of the truth. Their entire being was at war with the principles of truth; their natures were at enmity with it. Their object in discussing was not that they might get hold of the evidences of the truth themselves or that the people might have a fair understanding of our true position, but that they might confuse the understanding by placing the truth in a perverted light before the people. There are men who have educated themselves as combatants. It is their policy to misstate an opponent and to cover up clear arguments with dishonest quibbles. They have devoted their God-given powers to this dishonest work, for there is nothing in their hearts in harmony with the pure principles of truth. They seize any argument they can get with which to tear down the advocates of truth, when they themselves do not believe the things they urge against them. They bolster themselves up in their chosen position, irrespective of justice and truth. They do not consider that before them is the judgement, and that then their ill-gotten triumph, with all its disastrous results, will appear in its true character. Error, with all its deceptive policies, its windings and twistings and turnings to change the truth into a lie, will then appear in all its deformity. No victory will stand in the day of God, except that which truth, pure, elevated, sacred truth, shall win to the glory of God.
Angels weep to see the precious truth of heavenly origin cast before swine, to be seized by them and trampled with
the mire and dirt. Cast not "your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." These are the words of the world's Redeemer.
God's ministers should not count the opportunity of engaging in discussion a great privilege. All points of our faith are not to be borne to the front and presented before the prejudiced crowds. Jesus spoke before the Pharisees and Sadducees in parables, hiding the clearness of truth under symbols and figures because they would make a wrong use of the truths He presented before them; but to His disciples He spoke plainly. We should learn from Christ's method of teaching and be careful not to cut off the ears of the people by presenting truths which, not being fully explained, they are in no way prepared to receive.
The truths that we hold in common should be dwelt upon first and the confidence of the hearers obtained; then, as the people can be brought along, we can advance slowly with the matter presented. Great wisdom is needed to present unpopular truth before a prejudiced people in the most cautious manner, that access may be gained to their hearts. Discussions place before the people, who are unenlightened in regard to our position and who are ignorant of Bible truth, a set of arguments skilfully gotten up and carefully arranged to cover over the clear points of truth. Some men have made it their business to cover up plain statements of facts in the word of God by their deceptive theories, which they make plausible to those who have not investigated for themselves.
These agents of Satan are hard to meet, and it is difficult to have patience with them. But calmness, patience, and self-control are elements which every minister of Christ should cultivate. The combatants of the truth have educated themselves for intellectual battle. They are prepared to present on the surface sophistry and assertions as the word of God. They confuse unsuspecting minds and place the truth in obscurity, while pleasing fables are presented to the people in the place of pure Bible truth.
Many choose darkness rather than light because their
deeds are evil. But there are those who, if the truth could have been presented in a different manner, under different circumstances, giving them a fair chance to weigh the arguments for themselves and to compare scripture with scripture, would have been charmed by its clearness and would have taken hold upon it.
It has been very indiscreet for our ministers to publish to the world the wily sophistry of error, furnished by designing men to cover up and make of none effect the solemn, sacred truth of Jehovah. These crafty men who lie in wait to deceive the unwary give their strength of intellect to perverting the word of God. The inexperienced and unsuspecting are deceived to their ruin. It has been a great error to publish to all the arguments wherewith opponents battle the truth of God, for in so doing minds of every class are furnished with arguments which many of them had never thought of. Someone must render an account for this unwise generalship.
Arguments against the sacred truth, subtle in their influence, affect minds that are not well informed in regard to the strength of the truth. The moral sensibilities of the community at large are blunted by familiarity with sin. Selfishness, dishonesty, and the varied sins which prevail in this degenerate age have blunted the senses to eternal things so that God's truth is not discerned. In giving publicity to the erroneous arguments of our opponents, truth and error are placed upon a level in their minds, when, if they could have the truth before them in its clearness long enough to see and realize its sacredness and importance, they would be convinced of the strong arguments in its favour and would then be prepared to meet the arguments urged by opposers.
Those who are seeking to know the truth and to understand the will of God, who are faithful to the light and zealous in the performance of their daily duties, will surely know of the doctrine, for they will be guided into all truth. God does not promise, by the masterly acts of His providence, to
irresistibly bring men to the knowledge of His truth, when they do not seek for truth and have no desire to know the truth. Men have the power to quench the Spirit of God; the power of choosing is left with them. They are allowed freedom of action. They may be obedient through the name and grace of our Redeemer, or they may be disobedient, and realize the consequences. Man is responsible for receiving or rejecting sacred and eternal truth. The Spirit of God is continually convicting, and souls are deciding for or against the truth. The deportment, the words, the actions, of the minister of Christ may balance a soul for or against the truth. How important that every act of the life be such that it need not be repented of. Especially is this important among the ambassadors of Christ, who are acting in the place of Christ.