If a brother is supposed to have erred, his brethren and sisters should not
whisper it among themselves and comment upon it, magnifying these supposed
errors and faults. Much of this work is done, and the result is that the
displeasure of God rests upon those who do it, and Satan exults that he can
weaken and annoy those who might be strong in the Lord. The world sees their
weakness and judges this class and the truth they profess to love, by the fruits
manifested in them.
"Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved." Here the backbiter is excluded from abiding in the tabernacle of God and dwelling in the holy hill of Zion. He that taketh up a reproach against his neighbour cannot receive the approval of God.
How many ministers, while engaged in a good work in which souls are turning to God and to the truth, are called away to settle some church trial among brethren who were wholly wrong themselves and who had a contentious and overbearing spirit?
This work of withdrawing men from their fields of labour has been repeated again and again in the progress of this cause. It is a device of the great adversary of man to hinder
the work of God. When souls that are upon the point of deciding in favour of the truth are thus left to unfavourable influences, they lose their interest, and it is very rarely that so powerful an impression can again be made upon them. Satan is ever seeking some device to call the minister from his field of labour at this critical point, that the results of his labours may be lost.
There are in the church unconsecrated, unconverted men and women who think more of maintaining their own dignity and their own opinions than they do of the salvation of their fellow creatures; and Satan works upon these to stir up difficulties that consume the time and labour of the minister, and many souls are lost as the result.
While the members of the church are in a divided state of feeling, their hearts are hard and unimpressible. The efforts of the minister are like blows upon cold iron, and each party becomes more set in his own way than before. The minister is placed in a most unenviable position; for, though he should decide ever so wisely, his decision must displease someone, and thus the party spirit is strengthened.
If the minister makes his home with some one family, others are sure to be jealous lest he shall receive impressions unfavourable to themselves. If he gives counsel, some will say, "Such a one has been talking with him," and his words have no weight with them. Thus their souls are armed with distrust and evil surmising, and the minister is left at the mercy of their prejudices and jealousies. Too often he leaves the matter worse than he found it. Had he utterly refused to listen to the coloured, one-sided statements of any, had he given words of advice in accordance with the Bible rule and said, like Nehemiah, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down," that church would have been in a far better condition.
Ministers and lay members of the church displease God when they allow individuals to tell them the errors and faults of their brethren. They should not listen to these
reports, but should inquire: Have you strictly followed the injunctions of your Saviour? Have you gone to the offender and told him his faults between you and him alone? And has he refused to hear you? "Have you carefully and prayerfully taken two or three others, and laboured with him in tenderness, humility, and meekness, your heart throbbing with love for his soul?" If the Captain's orders, in the rules given for the erring, have been strictly followed, then an advance step is to be taken-tell it to the church, and let action be taken in the case according to the Scriptures. Then it is that heaven will ratify the decision made by the church in cutting off the offending member if he does not repent. If these steps have not been taken, close the ear to complaints, and thus refuse to take up a reproach against your neighbour. If there were no brethren and sisters to do this, evil tongues would soon cease; for they would not find so favourable a field in which to work in biting and devouring one another.