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    January 1, 1892

    Treatment of the Erring


    The Scriptures speak plainly in regard to the course to be pursued toward the erring: “Ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”HM January 1, 1892, par. 1

    To convince one of his errors is a most delicate work; for through constant exercise, certain modes of acting or thinking become second nature; through habit a moral taste is created, and it is very hard for those who err to see their errors. Many are blind to faults in themselves which are plainly discerned by others. There is always hope of repentance and reformation in one who recognizes his faults. But some are too proud to confess that they are in the wrong, even when their errors are plainly pointed out, and they see them. In a general way they will admit that they are human, liable to err; but they expect others to treat them as if they were unerring; such confessions count for nothing with God.HM January 1, 1892, par. 2

    It is very discouraging to labor for this class. If their wrong course is pointed out to them as being dangerous both to themselves and to others, they seek to excuse it by laying the blame on circumstances, or casting it upon their brethren, leaving others to suffer the censure which justly belongs to themselves. They are filled with indignation that any one should regard them as sinners. The one who reproves them is looked upon as having done them a personal injury.HM January 1, 1892, par. 3

    And yet these very ones who are so blind to their own faults are often quick to perceive the faults of another, quick to criticise his words, and condemn him for something he did or neglected to do. They do not realize that their own errors may be much more grievous in the sight of God. They are like the man represented by Christ as seeking to pull a mote out of his brother's eye while he had a beam in his own eye. The Spirit of God makes manifest and reproves the sins that lie hidden, concealed in darkness; sins which, if cherished, will increase, and ruin the soul; but those who think themselves above reproof, resist the influence of the Spirit of God. In their efforts to correct others, they do not manifest patience, kindness, and respect. They do not show an unselfish spirit, the tenderness and love of Jesus. They are sharp, rasping, and positively wicked in their words and spirit.HM January 1, 1892, par. 4

    Every unkind criticism of others, every thought of self-esteem, is “the putting forth of the finger and speaking vanity.” This lifting up of self in pride, as if you were faultless, and magnifying the faults of others, is offensive to God. It is breaking his law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” “Be kindly affectioned one toward another.” We have no right to withdraw our confidence from a brother because of some evil report, some accusation or supposition of wrong. Frequently the report is made by those who are at enmity with God, those who are doing the enemy's work as accusers of the brethren.HM January 1, 1892, par. 5

    Some one not so mindful as he should have been of Christ's words, “Take heed how ye hear,” allowed his unsanctified ears to hear wrong, his perverted senses to imagine wrong, and his evil tongue to report wrong. Many a man will not come openly to talk with the one he thinks in error, but will go to others, and under the mask of friendship and sympathy for the erring, he will cast reflections. Sometimes he openly agrees with the one whom he covertly seeks to injure. Suppositions are stated as facts, without giving the person charged with wrong, a clear, definite statement of his supposed errors, and without giving him a chance to answer the charges. This is all contrary to the teaching of Christ. It is the subtle way in which Satan always works. Those who do such things have set themselves up as judges, through admitting evil thoughts. One who engages in this work, communicates to his hearers a measure of his own spirit of darkness and unbelief; his evil surmisings sow in their minds the seeds of bitterness and suspicion toward one whom God has delegated to do a certain work. If he makes a mistake, it is seized upon, magnified, and reported to others, and thus many are led to take up the reproach against their neighbor. They watch eagerly for all that is wrong, and close their eyes to all that is commendable and righteous.HM January 1, 1892, par. 6

    When an effort is made to ascertain the truth in regard to matters that have been represented as wrong, those who have been the accusers are frequently unwilling even to grant the accused the benefit of a doubt as to the reliability of the evil reports. They seem determined that things shall be just as they have stated them, and they treat the accused as guilty, without giving them a chance to explain. When there is manifested a spirit of such fierce determination to make a brother or sister an offender, and the accusers cannot be made to see or feel that their own course has been wrong, what does this show?—That the transforming power of the enemy has been upon them, and their character reflects his attributes.HM January 1, 1892, par. 7

    Satan well knows that all his strength, together with that of his angels and evil men, is but weakness when opposed to the faithful, united servants of the Great King, even though they may be few. In order to overcome the people of God, Satan will work upon elements in the character which have not been transformed by the grace of Christ; he will make these the controlling power of the life. Unless these persons are converted, their own souls will be lost, and others who regarded them as men led of God, will be destroyed with them, because they become guilty with them. Satan endeavors to create suspicion, envy, and jealousy, leading men to question those things that it would be to their soul's interest to believe. The suspicious ones will misconstrue everything. They will call an atom a world, and a world an atom. If this spirit is allowed to prevail, it will demoralize our churches and institutions.HM January 1, 1892, par. 8

    To speak evil of another secretly, leaving the one accused in ignorance of the wrong attributed to him, is an offense in the sight of God. Let those who have been drawn into this work repent before God, confess their sin, and then nourish the tender plant of love. Cultivate the graces of the spirit, cultivate tenderness, compassion for one another, and do not longer work on the enemy's side of the question.HM January 1, 1892, par. 9

    Before giving credence to an evil report, we should go to the one reported to be in error, and ask, with all the tenderness of a Christian, if these statements are true. A few words spoken in brotherly kindness may show the inquirer that the reports were wholly without foundation, or that the evil was greatly magnified.HM January 1, 1892, par. 10

    And before passing unfavorable judgment upon another, you should go to the one whom you think has erred, tell him your fears, with your own souls subdued by the pitying love of Jesus, and see if some explanation cannot be made that will remove your unfavorable impressions.HM January 1, 1892, par. 11

    Christ prayed that his disciples might be one, even as he is one with the Father. Then every one who claims to be a child of God should labor for this oneness. When it exists, the followers of Christ will be a holy, powerful people, united in love. But if you let love die out of the soul, and accept the accusations of Satan's agents against the children of God, you become servants of sin, and are helping the devil in his work.HM January 1, 1892, par. 12

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”HM January 1, 1892, par. 13

    Nowhere is the duty of forgiveness so plainly taught and so impressively enforced as in the lessons of Christ. Study the parable of the two debtors: “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents.” Here was one man in high position who had been intrusted with a vast amount of property. But upon an examination of his accounts he was found unfaithful; he owed his lord ten thousand talents. This, at the lowest computation, amounts to nearly ten million dollars. When the king saw the evidence of his servant's unfaithfulness, he commanded him to be sold, with his wife and children, his houses, his lands, and all that he had, that payment might be made. Alarm seized the unfaithful man, as he saw ruin before him, and he pleaded for delay: “Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” But his lord knew that he could never pay the debt. While the servant acknowledged the justice of the sentence against him, he begged for mercy. “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” What joy was this, what relief from the shadow of his wrong course, which surrounded him like a cloud! He went forth from the presence of his lord with the whole debt canceled. But circumstances occurred which tested the true spirit of this man,—whether he would manifest the same forgiveness and mercy that had been shown toward him, or whether his joy and gratitude were of a selfish nature, and his heart not softened.HM January 1, 1892, par. 14

    “The same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him a hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.”HM January 1, 1892, par. 15

    Here Christ illustrates the spirit of selfishness and severity which brother exercises toward brother. Both are human, both are in need of mercy, patience, and forbearance. But one whom God has forgiven much, will not forgive a small offense in his fellow-man. Too many professed Christians regard one whom they deem in error with an unfeeling, relentless spirit, which is the fruit of pride, self-sufficiency, and hardness of heart; thus they show that God's great love for them is not appreciated; for it has not softened their hearts.HM January 1, 1892, par. 16

    When this man, whose great debt had been forgiven, met another, inferior to him in position and office, who owed him but a small sum, he was filled with anger, and with threats and violence claimed the money due him. Then when the poor debtor fell at his feet and used the very same prayer which he himself had uttered before his lord, he was merciless. He accused the man of not meaning to pay him, and disregarded his prayers and tears. He who had been forgiven so much would himself forgive nothing. He claimed his rights, and taking advantage of the law, afflicted the distressed debtor by casting him into prison.HM January 1, 1892, par. 17

    This conduct grieved those who witnessed it, for they knew the whole story of his pardon, and they carried a complaint to the king. Then the king's anger was stirred, and he ordered the man to come before him. “Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?” And his lord delivered him to the jailer till he should pay all that was due.HM January 1, 1892, par. 18

    Will those whose names are upon the church books, who claim to be sons and daughters of God, consider their relation to God and to their fellow-men? While we must depend so entirely upon the mercy of a sin-pardoning Saviour, shall our hearts remain hard and unsympathizing? Can any provocation authorize unkind feelings, or should it cause us to harbor resentment or seek revenge? Can we cast the first stone in condemnation of a brother, when God is extending his mercy to us, and forgiving our trespasses against him? Should God enter into judgment with us, our debt would be found to be immense, yet our heavenly Father forgives the debt. Men will be dealt with by God, not according to their opinion of themselves, not according to their self-confidence, but according to the spirit they reveal toward their erring brethren. We are not forgiven because we forgive, but as we forgive.HM January 1, 1892, par. 19

    “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” Treat him and his errors as you wish God to treat you when you offend him. You should not say, as some have said, who ought to know better, “I do not think he feels humble enough. I do not think he feels his confession.” What right have you to judge him, as if you could read the heart? The word of God says, “If he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” And not only seven times, but seventy times seven, should you forgive him,—just as often as Christ forgives you.HM January 1, 1892, par. 20

    Mrs. E. G. White

    (To be concluded next month.)

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