The sincere believers of truth are made sad, and their trials and sorrows greatly increased, by the elements among them which annoy, dishearten, and discourage them in their efforts. But the Lord would teach His servants a lesson of great carefulness in all their moves. "Let both grow together." Do not
forcibly pull up the tares, lest in rooting them up the precious blades will become loosened. Both ministers and church members should be very cautious, lest they get a zeal not according to knowledge. There is danger of doing too much to cure difficulties in the church, which, if let alone, will frequently work their own cure. It is bad policy to take hold of matters in any church prematurely. We shall have to exercise the greatest care, patience, and self-control to bear these things and not go to work in our own spirit to set them in order.
The work done in ----- was premature and caused an untimely separation in that little church. If the servants of God could have felt the force of our Saviour's lesson in the parable of the wheat and tares, they would not have undertaken the work they did. Before steps are taken which will give even those who are utterly unworthy the least occasion to complain of being separated from the church, the matter should always be made a subject of the most careful consideration and earnest prayer. Steps were taken in ----- which created an opposition party. Some were wayside hearers, others were stony-ground hearers, and still others were of that class who received the truth while the heart had a growth of thorns which choked the good seed--these would never have perfected Christian characters. But there were a few who might have been nourished and strengthened, and have become settled and established in the truth. But the positions taken by Brethren R and S brought a premature crisis, and then there was a lack of wisdom and judgement in managing the faction.
If persons are as deserving of being separated from the church as Satan was of being cast out of heaven, they will have sympathizers. There is always a class who are more influenced by individuals than they are by the Spirit of God and sound principles; and, in their unconsecrated state, these are ever ready to take sides with the wrong and give their pity and sympathy to the very ones who least deserve it. These sympathizers have a powerful influence with others; things are seen
in a perverted light, great harm is done, and many souls are ruined. Satan in his rebellion took a third part of the angels. They turned from the Father and from His Son, and united with the instigator of rebellion. With these facts before us we should move with the greatest caution. What can we expect but trial and perplexity in our connection with men and women of peculiar minds? We must bear this and avoid the necessity of rooting up the tares, lest the wheat be rooted up also.
"In the world ye shall have tribulation," says Christ; but in Me ye shall have peace. The trials to which Christians are subjected in sorrow, adversity, and reproach are the means appointed of God to separate the chaff from the wheat. Our pride, selfishness, evil passions, and love of worldly pleasure must all be overcome; therefore God sends us afflictions to test and prove us, and show us that these evils exist in our characters. We must overcome through His strength and grace, that we may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. "For our light affliction," says Paul, "which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." Afflictions, crosses, temptations, adversity, and our varied trials are God's workmen to refine us, sanctify us, and fit us for the heavenly garner.
The harm done to the cause of truth by premature moves can never be fully repaired. The cause of God in ----- has not advanced as it might, and will not stand in as favourable a light before the people as before this work was done. There are frequently persons among us whose influence seems to be but a cipher on the right side. Their lives seem to be useless; but let them become rebellious and combative, and they become zealous workmen for Satan. This work is more in accordance with the feelings of the natural heart. There is great need of self-examination and secret prayer. God has
promised wisdom to those who ask Him. Missionary labour is frequently entered upon by those unprepared for the work. Outward zeal is cultivated, while secret prayer is neglected. When this is the case, much harm is done, for these labourers seek to regulate the consciences of others by their own rule. Self-control is much needed. Hasty words stir up strife. Brother S is in danger of indulging a spirit of sharp criticism. This does not become ministers of righteousness.
Brother S, you have much to learn. You have been inclined to charge your failures and your discouragements to Brother W, but close investigation of your motives and of your course of action would reveal other causes which exist in yourself for these discouragements. Following the inclinations of your own natural heart brings you into bondage. The severe, torturing spirit in which you sometimes indulge cuts off your influence. My brother, you have a work to do for yourself which no other person can do for you. Each must give an account of himself to God. He has given us His law as a mirror into which we may look and discover the defects in our characters. We are not to look into this mirror for the purpose of seeing our neighbour's faults reflected, of watching to see if he comes up to the standard, but to see the defects in ourselves, that we may remove them. Knowledge is not all that we need; we must follow the light. We are not left to choose for ourselves and to obey that which is agreeable to us and to disobey when it best suits our convenience. Obedience is better than sacrifice.