Many preachers spend their time to combat the sects, to expose their errors and show the mistakes they make. This is all right if this work is kept in its right place, and not permitted to crowd out other more important work. There is great danger that we let opposition to the sects and to error usurp the place of fidelity to God and the practice of truth. It is easier to fight error than it is to practice truth. It is more in harmony with our fleshly nature to fight error and errorists than to subdue the flesh and obey God. So we often substitute that for this. Much of our zeal is for party dogmas rather than for practice of the truth.
Much of the preaching consists in opposing and exposing the errors of others. This party zeal becomes a substitute for love of truth and the practice of godliness. Many preachers seem to think that the way to convert the world is to expose religious error. Hence the preaching to the world is chiefly opposition to the sects. If the sects were all destroyed, it might be easier to convert the world, but the work of converting the world would still have to be done.
The wisdom of the serpent, as well as the harmlessness of the dove, is needed in preaching the gospel. It is more important to preach the truth than to expose the error. This was the order of Jesus and the apostles. They first presented the truth of God, the working principles of the religion of Christ. Jesus first gave the sermon on the mount, the exhibit of the practical truths of the religion he came to establish. He then opposed error as it conflicted with these truths. If we would practice this order now, it would greatly help us in our work. We would do better work, and do it more effectively.
When we go to a new place especially to preach, it seems to me common sense, as well as divine wisdom, would prompt us to first present the truth of God concerning the way of salvation, and stir up opposition as little as possible until they had seen the truth as a connected whole. To stir up the prejudices of the people is to prevent their seeing the truth with impartiality and fairness. It does them a wrong and defeats the end in view. There is very great danger in making ourselves sectarians in opposing sectarians. When we go to a new place, let us present the truth in as kind and gentle, yet as earnest, spirit as is possible. Present the truth in the spirit of the truth, and oppose errors only as others bring them up to conflict with truth. Do it with earnestness, but do it in a spirit of kindness and love, and prove by experience that the order of Jesus and the apostles is the best for us and for the world. (Gospel Advocate, November 28, 1907, page 761.)
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