Brother F has had the cause of God at heart, but he has felt too deeply, and has taken on many burdens which he should not have borne. He has suffered in health in this way. He has sometimes viewed matters in a strong light, and has been too earnest and anxious to have all see them just as he did; and because they were backward in doing so, he has felt nearly crushed. He feels to the depths, and is in danger of urging his views of things too strongly.
Sister F wants to be a Christian, but she has not cultivated discretion and true courtesy. She is of a very sanguine turn of mind, ardent and self-confident. She shows the rough part of her character, and has not appeared to advantage. She has moved from impulse, acting just as she felt, and sometimes her feelings have been much excited and strong. She has strong likes and dislikes, and has permitted this unfortunate trait in her character to develop itself, greatly to the detriment of her own spiritual advancement and to the injury of the church. She has talked too much and unwisely, just as she felt. This has had a strong influence upon her husband, and has at times led him to move from excitement of feeling, when if he had
waited and looked at matters calmly and weighed them properly, it would have been better for himself and for the church. Nothing is gained by moving hurriedly, moving from impulse, or from strong feeling.
Sister F moves from impulse, and finds fault, and has had too much to say against her brethren and sisters. This will cause confusion in any church. If she could control her own spirit, a great victory would be gained. If she would seek the heavenly adorning, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, calls of great price, she would then be a real help to the church. If she would cherish the spirit of Christ, and become a peacemaker, her own soul would flourish, and she would be a blessing to the church wherever she might be located. Unless she is converted and an entire change is wrought in her, unless she educates herself to be slow to speak and slow to wrath, and cultivates true Christian courtesy, her influence will prove injurious, and the happiness of others connected with her will suffer. She manifests an independence which is a damage to her and alienates her friends. This independence has caused her much trouble and has wounded her best friends.
If those who had means were close in their deal with her husband, and did not favor him more than worldlings in business transactions, she has felt and talked, and aroused feelings of dissatisfaction where none previously existed. This is a selfish world at best. Many of those who profess the truth are not sanctified by it, and may not have a heart to make even a trifling variation in the prices of produce when dealing with a poor brother, sooner than they would with an able worldling. They do not love their neighbors as themselves. It would be more pleasing to God were there less selfishness and more disinterested benevolence.
As Sister F has seen a selfish spirit manifest in deal, she has
committed a greater sin by feeling and talking in regard to the matter as she has. She has erred in expecting too much. The tongue has been truly an unruly member, a world of iniquity, set on fire of hell, untamed and untamable. Sister F has had a spirit of retaliation, manifesting by her deportment that she was offended. This was all wrong. She has cherished bitter feelings, which are foreign to the spirit of Christ. Anger, resentment, and all kinds of unkind tempers are indulged by speaking against those with whom we are displeased, and by reciting the errors and failings and sins of neighbors. The lustful desires are gratified.
Sister F, if you are grieved because your neighbors or friends are doing wrong to their own hurt, if they are overtaken in fault, follow the Bible rule. "Tell him his fault between thee and him alone." As you go to the one you suppose to be in error, see that you speak in a meek and lowly spirit; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. The erring can be restored in no other way than in the spirit of meekness, gentleness, and tender love. Be careful in your manner. Avoid anything in look or gesture, word or tone, that savors of pride or self-sufficiency. Guard yourself against a word or look that would exalt yourself, or place your goodness and righteousness in contrast with their failings. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With care avoid every appearance of anger; and though you use plainness of speech, let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of warmth but that of earnest love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or ill will, no bitterness or sourness of expression. Nothing but kindness and gentleness can flow from a heart of love. Yet all these precious fruits need not hinder you from speaking in the most serious, solemn manner, as though angels were directing their eyes upon you, and you were acting in reference to the
coming judgment. Bear in mind that the success of reproof depends greatly upon the spirit in which it is given. Do not neglect earnest prayer that you may possess a lowly mind, and that angels of God may go before you to work upon the hearts you are trying to reach, and so soften them by heavenly impressions that your efforts may avail. If any good is accomplished, take no credit to yourself. God alone should be exalted. God alone has done it all.
You have excused yourself for speaking evil of your brother or sister or neighbor to others before going to him and taking the steps which God has absolutely commanded. You say: "Why, I did not speak to anyone until I was so burdened that I could not refrain." What burdened you? Was it not a plain neglect of your own duty, of a thus saith the Lord? You were under the guilt of sin because you did not go and tell the offender his fault between you and him alone. If you did not do this, if you disobeyed God, how could you be otherwise than burdened unless your heart was hardened while you were trampling the command of God underfoot, and in your heart hating your brother or neighbor? And what way have you found to unburden yourself? God reproves you for a sin of omission in not telling your brother his fault, and you excuse and comfort yourself by a sin of commission by telling your brother's faults to another person! Is this the right way to purchase ease--by committing sin?
All your efforts to save the erring may be unavailing. They may repay you evil for good. They may be enraged rather than convinced. What if they hear to no good purpose, and pursue the evil course they have begun? This will frequently occur. Sometimes the mildest and tenderest reproof will have no good effect. In that case the blessing you wanted another to receive by pursuing a course of righteousness, ceasing to do evil and learning to do well, will return into your own bosom.
If the erring persist in sin, treat them kindly, and leave them with your heavenly Father. You have delivered your soul; their sin no longer rests upon you; you are not now partaker of their sin. But if they perish, their blood is upon their own head.
Dear friend, an entire transformation must take place in you, or you will be weighed in the balance and found wanting. The church at -----, especially talking women, have a lesson to learn. "If any man [or woman] among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." Many will be weighed in the balance and found wanting in this matter of so great importance. Where are the Christians who walk by this rule? who will take God's part against the evilspeaker? who will please God, and set a watch, a continual watch, before the mouth, and keep the door of the lips? Speak evil of no man. Hear evil of no man. If there be no hearers, there will be no speakers of evil. If anyone speaks evil in your presence, check him. Refuse to hear him, though his manner be ever so soft and his accents mild. He may profess attachment, and yet throw out covert hints and stab the character in the dark.
Resolutely refuse to hear, though the whisperer complains of being burdened till he speak. Burdened indeed! with a cursed secret which separateth very friends. Go, burdened ones, and free yourselves from your burden in God's appointed way. First go tell your brother his fault between you and him alone. If this fail, next take with you one or two friends, and tell him in their presence. If these steps fail, then tell it to the church. Not an unbeliever is to be made acquainted with the slightest particular of the matter. Telling it to the church is the last step to be taken. Publish it not to the enemies of our faith. They have no right to the knowledge of church matters, lest the weakness and errors of Christ's followers be exposed.
Those who are preparing for the coming of Christ should
be sober and watch unto prayer, for our adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; whom we are to resist steadfast in the faith. "He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers."