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Written by J.R. Respess   

The Gospel Messenger—December 1890


“Yet Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses durst not bring against him a railing accusation, butt said, The Lord rebuke thee.”—Jude 9.

What is railing? It is, in general terms, to speak injuriously, to reproach, and to scoff. And they that passed railed on him (Jesus on the cross), wagging their heads (Mark x. v.), and one of the malefactors railed on him, saying, It thou be the Christ, save thyself and us. (Luke xxiii).

Webster defines a railer as one who scoffs, insults, censures or reproaches with opprobrious language. A blasphemer is about the same. Railing is a sin classed with fornication, etc., and the church is commanded that if any man called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater or a RAILER or a drunkard or an extortioner, with such a one we are not to eat (or commune). 1 Cor. v. 

The archangel, contending with the devil even, was not allowed to bring against him a railing accusation; and if it was not allowed to rail against the devil contending for the truth, it is certainly not allowed brethren to rail against each other. No defense of the doctrine of Christ needs railing against anybody, saint or sinner, to sustain it ; and when it is done, even in defense of the truth, it cannot be said to be done in the spirit of God.

I am sure that I cannot be prompted by the spirit of Christ when I seek to belittle my brother because he does not see as I do about something neither of us understand.

And I should think that my brother who differs with me and speaks injuriously to my views even to the extent of railing against what I conceive to be the truth, that that should not license me to give railing for railing, to rail against him because he railed against me. Not at all. The command is not to do it—“Not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing.” Christ left us an example his own life that we should follow his steps; and he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judged righteously.”—1 Pet. ii.

When I am crucified with Christ I am concerned but little about what ever brethren may say of me. The more we are mortified or deadened to the world, the less we care for the world or the things of the world; and that is why we are charged not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to, for we may think too highly of ourselves to confess our faults and sins. If we do not have an over estimate of ourselves, why should we not confess our faults one to another and be healed of our disorders or sin ? Why should I continue in a wrong course when I see that I have been wrong? It may be that I have led others astray, and if so I am under the greater obligation to deliver them by turning away from it myself. The archangel was right, and in the right spirit too, and therefore he did not rail on the devil, he did not scoff at him, wagging his head as the people did at Jesus on the cross, but he committed it to the Lord a and said, “The Lord rebuke thee!” And when the Lord rebukes it is done right and not vaingloriously.

When I was a boy I frequently heard the Old Baptists called fatalists, and that they believed that “what is to be will be, even if it never happens,” or reproachful words to that effect. But I have never seen an Old Baptist that I know of who believed that God made him sin or made Adam sin, nor one who believed that God was waiting in suspense and uncertainty about what he would finally do; nor have I seen one that I believed in happen so’s or chance.

And I am sorry to hear one Old Baptist call another a fatalist, because I cannot think he speaks such injurious words in love to God or to his brother. That is what our religious enemies call us, and certainly we need not go to the world to get words out of its mouth to reproach our brethren with. And have any of us thoughtlessly given railing for railing If so, one error does not authorize or justify another.

In justice to the Signs of the Times, I give the following extract front the issue of October, 1890, and also in confirmation of what I wrote in the October MESSENGER, that, I understood the Signs to declare non-fellowship for railing and not predestination. Nor would I be understood in doing this as justifying the Signs in its act declaring non-fellowship for Eld. Rowe, for I do not believe there was any railing in the letter of Eld. Rowe published in the MESSENGER; and if there was, the church at Butler held that the Signs of the Times did wrong in taking the law into its own hands, and declaring non—fellowship for Eld. Rowe, one of our members; the church here should have been notified of it, and have been left to deal with him herself. This would have been treating the church here with the respect and confidence due her.

We, at Butler, therefore, thought it best, and some of our wisest brethren in other States thought with us that it would be best, to do as we did about it. And Eld. Rowe submitted the matter and himself also to the church, and should, therefore, have left the decision of the church undisturbed. It was safe for him to do so; because, if the church erred in it, it was not his sin.

We believed that to press the matter at that time would be to involve the brotherhood all over the United States in a furious wrangle over predestination, a doctrine about which there was no material difference in spirit, but was chiefly a difference about words only. That was the way we looked at it.

There were times when even David, the greatest king Israel ever had, could not put the letter of the law into execution. When Joab, his chief Captain, slew Abner, David said: “I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah,” (Joab, Abishai and Asehel,) “be too hard for me; the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.”—2 Sam. iii.

David would not execute the law at that time, because to do it would have been to involve the kingdom in worse troubles than those existing, and therefore, it was best to bear the present evils then to increase them, by a vain attempt to put them away.

Some of the strong ones may have sneered at David as a weak king, and a “policy” ruler for doing what he judged best for the whole kingdom. But his submission, after protesting against the wrong, was the prudence of a wise ruler acquainted with the infirmities of men, their prejudices and passions; of a ruler who cared for the whole kingdom, and felt the responsibility of the position to which God had called him. Saul, David’s predecessor on the throne, would have, in his haste and impatience, undertaken to do what David wisely forbore to do. Saul would have had all Israel, as he did, following him trembling or hid out in dens and caves.—1 Sam. xiii. As for Joab, he had no hesitation in pushing his own rash schemes, regardless of the consequences to the king or kingdom; and he had the affronters even to reprove the king for sending Abner away in peace; and the treachery to slay Abner in defiance of the king; and that, not for love of the king or kingdom, but to gratify his hatred and revenge.—2 Sam. iii.

For myself, I loved those brethren North; nor can I ever forget the peculiar and involuntary emotion of love I had for Bro. Benton Beebe, when at Middleton, about twenty years ago; and also, the same kind of feeling for Eld. Durand, at the Delaware Association. The last face my eyes fell upon when leaving Middleton, was the face of dear Eld. Hartwell (now in glory), as I saw him through the glass window, as the cars were about moving off. Those dear brethren, with others, Brethren Cook, Leigh, and many besides, I hope never to forget. Nor have I ceased to love Eld. Rowe, for we have spent the prime of our lives together, and he has seemed to me, in many respects, as a father and a strong man upon whom I have leaned, to whom I have deferred and with whom I have borne. I have even sinned for him. And now he is wrong again, as well as the Signs.

These brethren, and all of us, will bear long with our children, because we love them; and we will hush up trouble that would divide them, if we can; and as parents, we will humble ourselves for their sake. We would suffer wrong ourselves for them. This is what Christ did for us, because he loved us, and it is Christ like in us to do it for our brethren. Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness, but a faithful man who can find?—Prov  xx. How rarely it is that a man is faithful to confess his faults, and yet that sort of faithfulness is as acceptable to God, and perhaps more so than any other sort. We, no doubt, often deceive ourselves in boasting of our faithfulness to God, when it is in fact faithfulness to our vainglory. That brother who is sincerely at his brother’s feet, esteeming him better than himself, so that he can prefer his honor to his own, that man is blessed. And when brethren are in that meek and lowly spirit, there can be no discord.


It has been slanderously reported and is sincerely believed by many precious brethren that the Signs of the Times declared non­fellowship for all who do not believe in the doctrine of God’s predestination of all things. Neither the Signs nor any of its readers have expressed an such thing. With a view of so extending our circulation in that we may reach and disabuse the minds of many of the saints who misunderstand the position of the Signs, we have concluded to offer the paper actually below the cost of production. ‘Sign of the Times’ Middletown, N.Y.

I will add that I fear I have been guilty of railing myself in speaking of brethren and their views. God forgive tile, and I trust to do so no more.—R.

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