Local difficulties in churches, or among brethren, should, as far as possible, be confined to their own localities. Publishing them abroad, and especially to the world, can be of no avail to the parties involved; but such injudicious publication will certainly inflict a severe trial on brethren abroad, and bring unnecessary reproach on the cause of truth and righteousness. When brethren become aggrieved with brethren, the gospel points out the course to be pursued, and if we adhere strictly to the order dictated by the Head of the church, however much we may have to suffer for the present, we shall however enjoy the approving smiles of our heavenly Father. Any step which we may take to expose an erring brother, however aggravating the circumstances seem to us, will have the effect to make us appear in the wrong, in the eyes of those who are disinterested in the immediate cause of the difficulty. Meekness and humility becomes those who profess to be the followers of the lowly Lamb of God. After having labored faithfully, and in the spirit of the gospel, to reclaim an erring brother, if unsuccessful, we are to take the next step in the order of discipline. In all this labor the grand object should not be so much to set ourselves in an approved position, as to gain our brother or sister who have erred. If we feel a consciousness that in the whole matter we have been blameless, we should ascribe it all to the restraining grace of God; and consider ourselves, lest we also be tempted. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. Nothing is better calculated to secure the esteem and fellowship of the children of God, than a spirit of meekness, patience and long-suffering. Nor can we in any other course so much conform to the example and precepts of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should not suffer sin to rest on a fellow-member of the kingdom. We are to watch over them for their good, and when we have admonished them in love, and with a prayerful desire to reclaim them, when every previous effort warranted by the laws of Christ has failed, then are we to tell it to the church, and there submit the matter. The church, if in gospel order, will make a righteous decision, and to that decision we should quietly submit. It does not become us in any stage of the difficulty, or investigation of it, to spread the matter abroad, or act as though we desired to let everybody know how badly our brother, or brethren, as the case may be, have acted. “Tell it not in Gath. Publish it not in Askelon,” for that would only cause the uncircumcised to triumph and rejoice.
We have now on our table several communications written for publication in the SIGNS, setting forth matter of local difficulties. Some from a distance of more than a thousand miles from this place, others from regions not so remote, but all complaining of troubles which cannot be mitigated by any such publications. Why then should the hearts of God’s dear children be made sad in every part of our widely spread country by such publications? The more public we make our difficulties, the more difficult it will be to reconcile them. An offending brother will not be more easily reclaimed by our letting all the world know how bad he is.
Churches, as well as individuals, may sometimes be at fault, in regard to their treatment of members who have offended. The church, no more than individual members, has a right to depart from the divine rule. We are, and have long been, a stickler for the independence of churches. We hold that a gospel church is the highest court under heaven, and that no orderly member can disrespect her authority. But, as before remarked, even the church has no right to do wrong. Her independence does not make her infallible, nor give her the right to depart from the letter or spirit of the gospel, in faith or practice. If therefore any church shall transcend her authority in administering the discipline of the gospel, by departing from the rule of discipline which Christ has given, she makes herself a transgressor, and her sister churches are not, in such a case, to regard such administration valid. The churches are, as branches of the common kingdom of our Lord, not vested with authority to administer any other than the laws of her King. When she acts in her true sphere, and administers the laws of Christ, no other church or council has a right to question her authority, or to attempt to make void her decisions.
But to return to the particular subject on which we commenced this article. We are receiving correspondence continually, from every state and territory of our great Republic, and even from other countries, and should we open our columns for the publication of local difficulties of brethren, churches, or even associations, the grand object of our paper would be defeated. It cannot be expected that we, at so great a distance from the places where the difficulty exists, can be competent to judge of the merits of the cases, on exparte testimony. If the brethren or churches involved, desire counsel, it is better for them to call on brethren or churches nearer by, who can counsel them advisedly, having a better knowledge of all the circumstances of the cases in which their counsel is required. Thus proceeding we avoid the making of our local difficulty the subject of general grief to all the saints scattered abroad, who, as a general thing, have trials enough of their own to sufficiently weigh them down.
Another reason that we may urge for declining to publish such difficulties is, that the course would involve endless controversies in our paper. An aggrieved party relates its complaint in the SIGNS, the other party then claims, as matter of course, a right to make a defense, and there is no knowing when or where the matter will end.
We believe the Old School Baptists are the most orderly people on earth, and that there is as little cause for complaint among them, as among any people in this vale of tears; but still we have found that “offenses will come among them.” Let us not publish our distresses to the world; the world has no sympathy for the children of God, but let us strive together for the things whereby one may edify another, and let us ask counsel of God, who giveth liberally unto all men, and upbraideth not. While feeling aggrieved with others, let us see to it that we are not occasioning grief to those whom we love in the Lord. Finally, brethren, be of one mind, love as brethren, keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace, and may our God bruise Satan under our feet shortly, Amen.
Middletown, N. Y.
Nov. 1, 1854.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 142 - 145