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The Manner, Spirit, and Way of Speaking and Writing PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.H. Purifoy   

 

This subject of late is one of deep concern and thought with me, and the question arises are we as careful as we ought to be in this particular?  When the apostle Paul commanded Timothy to take heed unto himself he no doubt meant for him to take heed to the manner, spirit and way of speaking and acting among men in general and among the people of God in particular.  In proof of this he also said to him that “The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, etc.”  This is God’s rule by which His people, and more especially His ministering servants, are to govern themselves; and to lift them out of all littleness, bitterness and harshness of speech and conduct said: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit ye like men, be strong.  Let all your things be done with charity.”  Are we doing that?  Am I doing that way? is the awful solemn question with me.  I have learned by experience that I come far short of my best and utmost endeavor to speak, write and act so as to give needless offence that it has become a matter of the deepest moment and concern with me.  I know full well that the servant of God must be gentle, meek, patient, forbearing, and endure wrongs patiently, yet be firm, manly, and high-toned in all that he says and does in order to be useful in his calling and increase in that usefulness.  And I think I know, too, how quickly he can destroy or cripple that usefulness by disregarding these necessary qualifications.  The surprising part to me is to find that I sometimes give offence where none was intended, where my whole aim, desire and purpose was to defend the truth against perversion of it.  So I find that in defending the truth even the feelings of good brethren are sometimes hurt, for to them it seemed that my manner and spirit towards our opponents were tinged with harshness, bitterness and extreme severity, when such was not intended on my part.  With kindness and good sound reason, backed by the scriptures, we can hold the attention and respect of our strongest opponents, but the least seeming harshness towards them or the manifestation of an unkind spirit drives away their attention and their respect.  While we are not to preach to please men, yet we are not to give needless offence.  This is the particular point to keep in view both in writing and speaking.  We are strictly commanded to “Give none offence, neither to the Jews nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God;” and the apostle adds: “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit but, the profit of many, that they may be saved.”—1st Cor. x, 32, 33.  “Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed, etc.”—2nd Cor. vi, 3, and read down to the 11th verse.  We are to speak the truth in love, not of strife and envy.  If we would build up and not tear down, we must avoid giving needless offence to any.  Surely none can object to hearing us preach what we  believe, and I have thought if we would confine ourselves more to preaching what we believe and preach less of what we do not believe it would be productive of more good.  I do not mean by this that we are not to oppose the introduction of false doctrine or any other hurtful error among us, but do less of trying to point out and correct the errors of other people, and do more towards correcting our own errors and preach to the instruction, comfort and up-building of our own people.  Sometimes in speaking and writing against an opponent, more especially in our papers, the manner and spirit may be such—of which the writer may be ignorant—that he does himself and the cause of truth far more harm than he does the opponent, and causes his brethren to hang their heads in sorrow and regret.  This is doubtless the reason why our people generally are so much opposed to controversy in our papers.  True, open, and full discussion of disturbing issues, in the right spirit, is right and needful, and ought to be encouraged; for truth and right can never suffer by fair investigation.  The more light we throw upon a given point or object the more clearly it can be seen.  Throw the light of reason and the light of revelation upon it strong and clear with the sole object of eliciting truth and of finding the right way and the greatest good will result, but ridicule, sarcasm, and abuse, only obscures and darkens more and more, strengthens the enemy and wounds our friends.  What then?  Why, let us take heed to ourselves and never give needless offence.  “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

J. H. PURIFOY

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.