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Gospel Workers (1892/1893 ed.)

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    Love Among Brethren

    “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” [Philippians 4:8.]GW92 443.1

    The dealings of God with his people often appear mysterious. His ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. Many times his way of dealing is so contrary to our plans and expectations that we are amazed and confounded. We do not understand our perverse natures; and often when we are gratifying self, following our own inclinations, we flatter ourselves that we are carrying out the mind of God. And so we need to search the Scriptures, and be much in prayer, that, according to his promise, the Lord may give us wisdom.GW92 443.2

    Though we have an individual work and an individual responsibility before God, we are not to follow our own judgment, regardless of the opinions and feelings of our brethren; for this course would lead to disorder in the church. It is the duty of ministers to respect the judgment of their brethren; but their relations to one another, as well as the doctrines they teach, should be brought to the test of the law and the testimony; then, if hearts are teachable, there will be no divisions among us. Some are inclined to be disorderly, and are drifting away from the great landmarks of the faith; but God is moving upon his ministers to be one in doctrine and in spirit.GW92 443.3

    Brethren sometimes associate together for years, and think they can trust those they know so well, just as they would trust members of their own family. There is a freedom and confidence in this association which could not exist among those not of the same faith. This is very pleasant while brotherly love continues; but let the “accuser of the brethren” gain admittance to the heart of one of these men, controlling the mind and the imagination, and jealousies are created, suspicion and envy are harbored; and he who supposed himself secure in the love and friendship of his brother, finds himself mistrusted, and his motives misjudged. The false brother forgets his own human frailties, forgets his obligation to think and speak no evil lest he dishonor God and wound Christ in the person of his saints; and every defect that can be thought of or imagined is commented upon unmercifully, and the character of a brother is represented as dark and questionable.GW92 443.4

    There is a betrayal of sacred trust. The things spoken in brotherly confidence are repeated and misrepresented; and every word, every action, however innocent and well-meaning, is scrutinized by the cold, jealous criticism of those who were thought too noble, too honorable, to take the least advantage of friendly association or brotherly trust. Hearts are closed to mercy, judgment, and the love of God; and the cold, sneering, contemptuous spirit which Satan manifests toward his victim is revealed.GW92 444.1

    If Satan can employ professed believers to act as accusers of the brethren, he is greatly pleased; for those who do this are just as truly serving him as was Judas when he betrayed Christ, although they may be doing it ignorantly. Satan is no less active now than in Christ's day, and those who lend themselves to do his work will manifest his spirit.GW92 444.2

    Floating rumors are often the destroyers of unity among brethren. There are some who watch with open mind and ears to catch flying scandal. They gather up little incidents which may be trifling in themselves, but which are repeated and exaggerated until a man is made an offender for a word. Their motto seems to be, “Report, and we will report it.” These tale-bearers are doing Satan's work with surprising fidelity, little knowing how offensive their course is to God. If they would spend half the energy and zeal that is given to this unholy work in examining their own hearts, they would find so much to do to cleanse their souls from impurity that they would have no time or disposition to criticise their brethren, and they would not fall under the power of this temptation. The door of the mind should be closed against “They say” or “I have heard.” Why should we not, instead of allowing jealousy or evil surmising to come into our hearts, go to our brethren, and after frankly but kindly setting before them the things we have heard detrimental to their character and influence, pray with and for them? While we cannot fellowship those who are the bitter enemies of Christ, we should cultivate that spirit of meekness and love that characterized our Master,—a love that thinketh no evil, and is not easily provoked.GW92 444.3

    We are living amid the perils of the last days, and we should guard every avenue by which Satan can approach us with his temptations. A fatal delusion seizes those who have had great light and precious opportunities, but who have not walked in the light nor improved the opportunities which God has given them. Darkness comes upon them; and they fail to make Christ their strength, and fall an easy prey to the snares of the deceiver. A mere assent to the truth will never save a soul from death. We must be sanctified through the truth; every defect of character must be overcome, or it will overcome us and become a controlling power for evil.GW92 445.1

    Cultivate whatever in your character is in harmony with the character of Christ. Cherish those things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report; but put away whatever is unlike our Redeemer. Selfishness is cherished to an extent that few realize; guard against it at all times and in all places. Do not excuse yourself in any error. If you have one objectionable trait, which you find it difficult to subdue, do not talk of your weakness as something that others must bear with. Do not soothe your conscience with the thought that you cannot overcome the peculiarities that deform your character, nor listen to Satan's suggestion that they are not very grievous. There is no way by which you may be saved in sin. Every soul that gains eternal life must be like Christ, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” [Hebrews 7:26.] The followers of Christ must shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.GW92 445.2

    Some seek to control their surroundings, thinking that if they are placed in favorable positions, the bad traits in their character will not be developed. But God orders our surroundings, and he will place us where we shall have test after test, to prove us and to reveal what is in our hearts. Again and again we shall be brought into strait places, that it may be known whether we are indeed crucified with Christ or full of self-love. How will this testing process end with each of us? The prince of darkness will put forth all his power to retain us in his possession; but we have a mighty Helper.GW92 446.1

    Self-love will prompt to a much better opinion of self than the word of God will warrant; for “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” [Jeremiah 17:9.] God's word is the standard that we must all reach. It is unsafe to consult feeling or to trust to our own heart; the wise man declares, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” [Proverbs 28:26.]GW92 446.2

    Church membership will not guarantee us heaven. We must abide in Christ, and his love must abide in us. We must every day make advancement in the formation of symmetrical character. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48.] As God is perfect in his sphere, so are we required to be perfect in ours. There is a great work before us individually, to reach this high standard. Our attainments will be just in accordance with the effort we make, our character just what we choose to make it; for through the divine aid promised us, we can overcome. Jesus “knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” [Psalm 103:14.] In pitying tenderness he will give us the help and strength we need.GW92 446.3

    Let us diligently cultivate the pure principles of the gospel of Christ,—the religion, not of self-esteem, but of love, meekness, and lowliness of heart. Then we shall love our brethren, and esteem them better than ourselves. Our minds will not dwell on the dark side of their character; we shall not feast on scandal and flying reports. But “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise,” we shall “think on these things.” [Philippians 4:8.]GW92 447.1

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