Manuscript Releases, vol. 15 [Nos. 1136-1185]


Cases to Be Investigated Carefully; Patience and Kindness to Be Shown the Erring

But there is a class in the church who are a living contradiction of the name Christian—a class that have ruled at home with a sharp, dictatorial, unchristian spirit. Their ideas and opinions must bear sway; their hearts are filled with selfishness; they are constantly exalting self and finding fault with others who are better than themselves. They pass censure and harsh judgment upon others, while their own course appears right in their own eyes. They put their hands to a work which God has not given them, but leave undone the work he has left for them to do, which is to take heed to themselves lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble the church and defile it. 15MR 134.2

They turn their eyes outward to watch lest the character of others should not be right, when their eyes should be turned inward to scan and criticize their own actions, testing their feelings and motives by the law of God, the only standard of right, and emptying from the heart love of self, envy, evil surmising, jealousy, malice, unkindness, and self-esteem. When they do this, they will not be climbing upon the judgment seat and pronouncing sentence upon others who are in God's sight better than they. The simple reason of all the difficulty is, their religious life is not well built; there is not underlying godliness based on Jesus Christ; and the first gale of temptation sweeps their foundation from under them. This has caused all the difficulties in the church.... 15MR 135.1

At some appointed time the subject should be patiently considered, and in the fear of God, with much humility and sorrow for the erring who are the purchase of the blood of Christ, with earnest, humble prayer, the proper officers should deal with the offenders. How different has been the course when, with self-assumed authority and a hard, unfeeling spirit, accusations have been made, and souls have been thrust out of the church of Christ. 15MR 135.2

The matter should be thoroughly investigated before any action is taken. Let such questions as the following be carefully considered: What is the charge brought against the erring? Has the law of God been willfully transgressed? Has the offender been dishonest in his dealings with his brethren or the world? Has he been guilty of licentious conduct? Has he been untruthful? Has he practiced deception? Has he been severe, overbearing, and abusive in his family, with his neighbors, his brethren, or worldlings? Has he shown a spirit of penuriousness, selfishness, covetousness, of doubt, fault-finding, or talebearing? Has he talked of the faults of his brethren, magnifying their wrongs and cherishing a spirit of bitterness toward them, thus endangering the prosperity and unity of the church? 15MR 135.3

All these points require careful consideration, but the next question is, What course has been pursued toward the erring? Has the Bible rule been followed to the letter? Read before the church the rules given them by their Captain, and let the question be asked, Have they obeyed orders like faithful soldiers in the army? To go contrary to the positive orders of the Captain of our salvation is deserving of severest censure by those whom God has placed in authority.... 15MR 136.1

There is always danger and trouble in any church which is composed mostly of family connections. This is the course of the Ligonier church. Relatives who are unconsecrated sympathize with one another, and thus a sinful harmony exists among them. Jesus is united to His people by a love far greater and more enduring than ever bound together the hearts of human kindred; and this love, so deep, so unchanging, is a continual assurance of His faithfulness to support the weak, confirm the wavering, comfort the feeble-minded, and to bind up the bruises of the soul. Oh, wondrous love, that should lead the Saviour to yield up His honor, His glory, His royal throne and royal court, and for our sakes become poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich! ... 15MR 136.2

If a brother is supposed to err, his brethren and sisters should not whisper it among themselves and comment upon it, magnifying supposed errors and faults. Much of this work is done in the Ligonier church, and the result is, the displeasure of God is 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. 15MR 136.3

“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 neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth 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” [Psalm 15:1-5]. 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 neighbor can not receive the approval of God.... 15MR 137.1

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 labor of the minister, and many souls are lost as the result. 15MR 137.2

The minister also is placed in a most unenviable position; for, though he should decide ever so wisely, his decision must displease someone, and thus a party spirit is strengthened, when, had he refused to leave his work, his influence would have been preserved. 15MR 137.3

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 injunction 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 labored with him in tenderness, humility, and meekness, your heart throbbing in 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. 15MR 138.1

If these steps have not been taken, close the ear to their complaints, and thus refuse to take up a reproach against your neighbor. Listening to the reports of evil is taking up a reproach. If there were no brethren and sisters to do this, evil tongues would soon cease, for they would not find so fruitful a field in which to work in backbiting and devouring one another.... 15MR 138.2

Some precious souls that could not justify the unchristian course pursued toward Brother J and others, have been crowded until they have separated from the church. Others have been cut off for no cause except bitter enmity because they did not act in harmony with the wishes and ideas of the leaders. Such a spirit has taken possession of those leaders who have ever been determined to rule, that they have been controlled by Satan rather than by the spirit of Christ. Some who have been deprived of the fellowship of the church were far more worthy of a place in it than are those who with their longer experience have been so overbearing and so anxious to drive out their brethren. 15MR 138.3

The unreasonable, unchristian course of men and women who had more zeal than knowledge or piety, has displeased and dishonored God. He calls upon them to repent. Some have taken the position that those who use tobacco should be dealt with and turned out of the church at once; but with some who would engage in this work there are greater defilements of the soul-temple than tobacco can make. In all our experience for many years, not a case of this kind has been thus treated. We have borne for years with those in the slavery of habit, and unless there was some other cause for such action, we have not felt at liberty to deal with them or separate them from the church. We have prayed and labored with them, and in many cases have after a time succeeded in winning them fully. Those who did not reform, became lax in other things, and gave up their efforts to overcome, so that offenses of a grievous character occurred that required action on the part of the church. 15MR 139.1

The responsibility of dealing with the cases last mentioned was not assumed by the resident elder or deacon, or by any member of the church. For months, and sometimes for years, the church waited patiently for wise counselors; and every move was made with the greatest caution. Hasty decisions in such cases show greater zeal than wisdom or spirituality. They reveal a self-sufficient, self-important, bigoted spirit, which will injure, and, if tolerated, ruin any church.... 15MR 139.2

Men and women who had no connection with God themselves felt competent to instruct, reprove, and condemn those far above them in the scale of intelligence and moral worth.... It is their lack of the Spirit of God that leads them into their unquiet, censorious, condemning course.... 15MR 139.3

Although aware of the defiling nature and injurious effects of tobacco, the Doctor has indulged in its use for many years. This is a habit which is annoying to him, and which God would have him overcome. In the name of Jesus, the mighty Conqueror, he can triumph over this defiling practice, and at last wear the victor's crown. 15MR 140.1

Brother J has not submitted, with a good grace, to the treatment he has received; he has been harsh, severe, and unyielding. Human nature would not endure dictation from those whose character and deportment contradicted their profession. The course of these persons was uncourteous and unreasonable. Passion and prejudice bore sway, and the spirit of truth and holiness was driven out. While they were willing that Brother J's money should aid the church, many were not willing that he should have any voice in controlling its affairs. 15MR 140.2

Those who have been thus forward and officious, need to become acquainted with the dear Saviour; for they know Him not. He is the eternal guardian of justice. He can never be excluded from any transaction in which the rights of His followers are concerned. His hand is ever spread as a buckler over the humblest of His children, and none can harm them without smiting that hand.... 15MR 140.3

Many are partaking of the spirit indulged by Sister Q—a driving, censorious, dictatorial spirit. Oh, I would that it might be banished from the hearts of all who profess the faith! But if this cannot be, then it is necessary, for the salvation of the remaining members, that all who stir up strife be separated from the church.... 15MR 140.4

There may be in the church those who do not honor the cause of God, whose lives and characters reveal the deformity of sin. But we must bear long even with these, remembering how Jesus bears with us; how sinful we have been, and how He loves us still. Christ paid an infinite price to redeem us from ruin and despair, and with hearts filled with gratitude to God, we should manifest toward others the same love, tenderness, and forbearance, that we would have Him exercise toward us as sinful, erring mortals. While we need grace and mercy every moment, and forgiveness daily, how unbecoming for us to be so ready to criticize, censure, and condemn our brethren who are of like passions with ourselves. 15MR 140.5

The reproof given by our Redeemer condemns all this. Such conduct is the result of self-esteem and self-exaltation; persons strive for the supremacy, and become envious and jealous lest others shall come in and fill a higher place than they themselves occupy. But the teachings of Christ on this point are clear and decided: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” We must constantly cherish meekness and humility, if we would possess the spirit of Christ. 15MR 141.1

The parable of the lost sheep is a forcible illustration of the Saviour's love for the erring. The shepherd leaves the ninety and nine in the shelter of the fold, while he goes out to search for the one lost, perishing sheep; and when it is found, he places it upon his shoulder, and returns with rejoicing. He did not find fault with the straying sheep; he did not say, “Let him go if he will,” but he went forth amid frost and sleet and tempest, to save the one that was lost. And he patiently continued his search until the object of his solicitude was found. 15MR 141.2

Thus are we to treat the erring, wandering one. We should be ready to sacrifice our own ease and comfort when a soul for whom Christ died is in peril. Said Jesus, “Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more that over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance.” As joy was manifested at the recovery of the one lost sheep, so will exceeding joy and gratitude be manifested by the true servants of Christ when one soul is saved from death. 15MR 141.3

A reckless disregard for souls has been manifested by the church at Ligonier. Many cherish the spirit of the self-righteous Pharisees, who sought to be first in everything. They loved the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues; but they shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, neither going in themselves nor permitting others to enter. They for a pretense made long prayers, but secretly devoured widows’ houses. They paid tithes of mint and anise and cummin, but neglected the weightier matters of the law—judgment, mercy, and the love of God. They appeared to love the truth and to be very zealous for the cause of God, while their hearts were unsubdued, unsanctified, and unhumbled, open to envy, jealousy, hatred, and malice. 15MR 142.1

Christ teaches all who believe on His name, that instead of seeking their own glory they must humble themselves to bear the cross and to walk in His footsteps. He would reform others must first reform himself. He must obtain the spirit of his Master, and be willing like Him, to suffer reproach, and to practice self-denial. In comparison with the worth of one soul, the whole world sinks into insignificance. A desire to exercise authority, to lord it over God's heritage, will, if indulged, result in the loss of souls. Those who really love Jesus will seek to conform their own lives to the Pattern, and will labor in His spirit for the salvation of others. 15MR 142.2

Persons are attracted by sympathy and love, and many may thus be won to the ranks of Christ and reform; but they cannot be forced or driven. Christian forbearance, candor, consideration, and courtesy toward all who do not see the truth as we do, will exert a powerful influence for good. We must learn not to move too fast and require too much of those who are newly converted to the truth.... 15MR 143.1

We profess to be the depositaries of God's law; we claim to have greater light and to aim at a higher standard than any other people upon the earth; therefore we should show greater perfection of character and more earnest devotion. A most solemn message has been entrusted to those who have received the light of truth. Our light should shine forth to brighten the pathway of those who are in darkness. As members of the visible church, and workers in the vineyard of the Lord, all professed Christians should do their utmost to preserve peace, harmony, and love in the church. Mark the prayer of Christ: “That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” 15MR 143.2

The unity of the church is the convincing evidence that God has sent Jesus into the world as its Redeemer. This is an argument which worldlings can neither withstand nor controvert. Therefore Satan is constantly working to prevent this union and harmony, that unbelievers, by witnessing backbiting, dissension, and strife among professed Christians, may become disgusted with religion, and be confirmed in their impenitence. God is dishonored by those who profess the truth while they are at variance and enmity with one another. Satan is the great accuser of the brethren, and all who engage in this work are enlisted in his service. 15MR 143.3

We profess to have more truth than other denominations, yet if this does not lead to greater consecration, and purer and holier lives, of what benefit is the truth to us? It would be better for us never to have seen the light of truth, than to profess to accept it, and not be sanctified through it.... 15MR 144.1

The worth of a soul cannot be fully estimated by finite minds. How gratefully will the ransomed and glorified ones remember those who were instrumental in their salvation! No one will then regret his self-denying efforts and persevering labors, his patience, forbearance, and earnest heart-yearnings for souls that might have been lost had he neglected his duty or become weary in well doing.—Manuscript 1, 1878, pp. 4-11, 15-18, 20-25. (Written to the church at Ligonier, Indiana.) 15MR 144.2