Berean Studies / Ber08 - Evil speaking and Evil Surmising
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Single Click a triangle below to see the references CT Russell selected for the associated question. The study questions (with the references) are also included as an attached Adobe PDF file at the bottom of this page.
1. What is evil speaking?
2. How prevalent is this fault among even those who profess to be Christians?
3. What is the power of the tongue?
4. What is meant by a ‘tongue set on fire of gehenna’?
5. What are the baneful influences of evil speaking, and what are some of the excuses and subterfuges offered by the fallen ...
6. What is evil surmising and what is its relation to evil speaking?
7. What are ‘secret faults,’ and of what two kinds are they?
8. Is an evil suggestion a sin, and how does it become a secret fault?
9. What is a ‘presumptuous sin,’ and when does a secret fault become a presumptuous sin?
10. What is the ‘great transgression’ to which these sins lead?
11. How may we purify and keep our hearts pure from these sins?
12. How is the Lord judging us?
13. Why should we render to God a daily account of any ‘idle’ (pernicious) words?
14. How are words the index of our hearts?
15. What does purity of heart signify?
16. What is the importance of a pure heart?
17. How may purity of heart be attained?
18. How do we know our motive is pure, since ‘the heart is deceitful above all things’?
19. What is the relation between our conscience and purity of heart?
20. Might telling the truth be evil speaking?
21. Is it always necessary to tell all we know about every affair?
22. Is an uncomplimentary remark evil speaking?
23. Would it be evil speaking to criticize doctrines publicly uttered?
24. What is a slanderer?
25. What is ‘false witness,’ and is it possible to bear false witness without uttering a word?
26. How should we deal with a brother or sister who begins to relate an evil report?
27. How should we deal with persons of the world who do evil speaking?
28. Is evil speaking against a brother in Christ more culpable than against one of the world?
29. In order to avoid gossip, slander and evil speaking, what is the only proper and Scriptural way of redress for grievanc...
Matthew 18:15-17 - Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (16) But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. (17) And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.
R3594 col. 2 ¶4 to 3595 col. 1 ¶6 - Evil speaking, backbiting and slandering are strictly forbidden to God's people, as wholly contrary to his spirit of love--even if the evil thing be true. As a preventive of anything of the nature of slander, the Scriptures very carefully mark out one only way of redress of grievances, in `Matt. 18:15-17`.
Even advanced Christians seem to be utterly in ignorance of this divine ruling, and hence professed Christians are often the most pronounced scandal-mongers. Yet this is one of the few special, specific commandments given by our Lord; and considered in connection with the statement, Ye are my disciples if ye do whatever I command you, its constant violation proves that many are not far advanced in discipleship.
FOLLOW THE LORD'S WAY.
Let us look carefully at this rule, which, if followed, would prevent gossip, "evil-speaking," "backbiting."
Its first provision, for a conference between the principals alone, implies candor on the part of the accuser who thinks that he has suffered; and whom here we will call A. It implies his thinking no evil of the accused, whom we will style B. They meet as "brethren," each thinking his own course the right one, to discuss the matter; to see whether they can come to the same view. If they agree, all is well; the matter is settled; peace prevails; the threatened break has been averted, and no one is the wiser.
If they cannot agree, A may not start a scandal by relating his version;--not even to confidential friends may he disclose the matter, saying, "Don't mention it; and especially don't say I told you." No; the matter is still "between thee and him [A and B] alone." If A considers the matter important, so as to wish to prosecute the subject further, he has but one way open to him, namely, to ask two or three others to go with him to B and hear the case from both sides and give their judgment respecting its right and wrong sides. These should be chosen (1) as persons in whose Christian character and good sense and spirit of a sound mind A himself would have confidence, peradventure they should favor B's view of the matter. (2) They should be chosen as with a view to B's appreciation of their advice, if they should give their judgment of the matter in A's favor.
It would, however, be wholly contrary to the spirit of justice as well as contrary to the spirit of the Master's instructions here, for A to "talk it over" with several friends from whom he desired to select these "two or three witnesses," to make sure that they favored his story (without hearing the other side) and would go to the conference prejudiced,--with their minds already determined against B. No; the matter is between A and B alone, until the two or three friends are brought in to hear both sides of the dispute in the presence of both parties.
TO ASSIST, NOT TO INJURE.
If the judgment of the "brethren" is against B, he should hear them, should accept their view of the matter as the just, reasonable one;--unless it involves some principle in which he cannot conscientiously acquiesce. If the "brethren" see the matter from B's standpoint, A should conclude that in all probability he had erred; and, unless conscience hindered, should accept the position and apologize to B and the brethren for the annoyance caused by his poor judgment. But none of the parties are at liberty to turn scandal-mongers and tell the matter, "confidentially," to others.
If the decision went against A, and he still felt that he was injured and had failed to get justice through a poor choice of advisers, he might (without violence to the principles laid down by our Lord) call other advisers and proceed as before. If their decision were against him, or if he felt that he could not trust to the judgment of any, fearing that all would favor B, he should realize that part at least of his trouble is self-conceit, and would do well to fast and pray and study lines and principles of justice more carefully. But A has gained no right to tell anything to the Church nor to anyone, either publicly or privately. If he does so, it marks him at once as disobedient to the Lord and exercised by a bad spirit, a carnal spirit,--contrary to the spirit of the truth, the spirit of love.
If the committee decide partly against B, and only partly in favor of A, the brethren (A and B) should endeavor to see the matter thus, and to arrange matters amicably. In this case there would be nothing respecting the matter to tell;--nothing that is anybody's business.
If the committee decide wholly against B and wholly in favor of A, and if B will not heed them and make reparation for the wrong or cease from injuring A, the latter is still not at liberty to become a scandal-monger; nor are the brethren of the committee. If A considers the matter of sufficient importance to justify further action, there is just one course open to him: he with the committee may lay the matter before the Church. Then the Church shall hear the matter, both sides, and whichever (A or B) shall refuse to recognize the advice of the Church shall be thereafter considered and treated by all as an outsider--as not of the Church, not to be fellowshipped; as dead, until such time as he may repent and reform.
The duties of one member cannot be undertaken by another,--each must act for himself according to the Lord's rule. But if in violation of the Lord's command a matter become a scandal and be troubling the Church and disgracing it as a whole, then the properly chosen representatives of the company should take the matter up. They should not only investigate the principals in the difficulty, but with equal diligence they should investigate the real troublers who had circulated the scandal and should reprove them.
But all reproofs should be in love, remembering that all are imperfect in some particulars. The object in every case should be to correct not to punish. The Lord alone has the authority to punish. At very most the Church may for a time withdraw fellowship with the unrepentant, and must as publicly restore it when repentance is manifest. Our love, joy, peace are the ends sought by the Lord, and these we must follow as his disciples. Any other course will surely work injury.
Thus did the Lord guard his true disciples from the insidious sin of slander, which leads onward to other and grosser works of the flesh and the devil, and stops growth in the truth and its spirit of love. And let us note, too, that those who hear slanders and thus encourage slanderers in their wrong course, are partakers of their evil deeds; guilty partners in the violation of the Master's commands. God's true people should refuse to listen to slanders and should point the offender to the Lord's Word and the only method therein authorized. "Are we wiser than God?" Experience teaches us that we cannot trust to our own judgments and are on safe ground only when following the voice of the Shepherd implicitly.
F414- 417 - "If Thy Brother Trespass Against Thee"
But is not this in conflict with our Lord's command, "Judge not that ye be not judged?" Must we not first judge the evildoer individually, and then talk, or gossip, about his evil deeds, or do "evil speaking" respecting him, so that the entire Church may know and repudiate the evildoer?
By no means: the divine arrangement is fully in harmony with itself when rightly understood. If A and B have a difference, and A believes himself to be defrauded by B, he must not judge B in the sense of condemning him. He may only say, "There is a difference between us, and I feel sure that I am right; though B may feel equally confident that he is right and that I have not been wronged." A may not disfellowship B on this account, for to do so would be to judge him--to condemn him. He may say, to himself, "The matter is trivial, anyway, as between brethren, and I will let it drop, believing that B, as a brother in the Lord, would not wrong me intentionally, and that it may be that my view and not his is the wrong one."
However, if he be not able to take this view he still must not judge, must not decide, that he is right and B wrong-- but must go to B and explain how the matter appears to him, and if possible reach a kind, brotherly agreement, perhaps by mutual concessions. But if they cannot agree, he may ask two or three of the wisest brethren of the Church, C and D (brethren in whose sincerity B as well as himself would have great confidence), to go with him to see B on the subject--not to condemn B, for even A himself must not have judged, or condemned, him; but to hear the matter in the presence of A and B and give their advice to both. This should result satisfactorily to all--especially if all have the spirit of love one for the other and the desire to do right toward one another as members of the anointed body. But if peace is not yet established, there still is to be no judging, no condemnation; for two or three brethren cannot "judge" but only the Church.
If when A took with him C and D, they gave their opinion against A and in favor of B, that should end the matter. Under such conditions A cannot take the question to the Church. He evidently would be quite self-opinionated and "heady" to carry the matter further. The Lord's instructions give him no further privilege (Matt. 18:15); but if he were still dissatisfied, we know of no principle that would be violated if he took two or three other able and unprejudiced brethren, E, F, G, to B, for a fresh hearing of the case and for their advice.
But if, when A took C and D to B, they all sided with A's contention that B had wronged him and refused to desist, and if B after a reasonable time refused or neglected to right the wrong, A would be privileged in conjunction with C and D to call a meeting of the Church, to whom the whole matter should be rehearsed by both A and B--for it is to be supposed that if B still associates with the Church he recognizes its counsel and authority, and it is to be presumed also that B is conscientious.
When the Church hears the matter, it is not to be forgotten that only the justified and sanctified constitute the Church, and that they are sitting in judgment in the name of their Lord and Head and to deliver his judgment. The matter is not to make a factional fight in the Church, but to preserve its unity in the bonds of peace. A and B, of course, should not vote, nor should anyone vote who felt any other than a desire to express the Lord's judgment in the matter. The decision should be unanimous, or practically so--even though this should require some modification of the extremes of sentiment. Let justice always be tempered with mercy, "Considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." Gal. 6:1
The Church's decision is to be accepted as final by all; and whoever refuses to accept and conform to its requirements in such a matter of morals (not of conscience) is to be unto the others "as an heathen man or a publican"--until such time as he shall cease to defy the Church--when, of course, he shall be forgiven and received fully into fellowship as before. The object is not to cast the brother off utterly; but merely to show disfavor toward his wrong course with a view to assisting him to its correction. To treat such an one "as an heathen man and a publican" would not mean to slander or dishonor him even after he had been cast off. The Lord's people are not to be slanderers or backbiters under any circumstances: the general command-- "Speak evil of no man," covers the case exactly. We are neither to speak ill of, nor to look cross at, publicans and sinners, nor to refuse to do business with them; but we are to withhold from them the special fellowship and courtesy appropriate to the brethren of the New Creation and possessed of the holy Spirit and its love, joy and peace.
Should B refuse to hear the Church and to desist from doing wrong to A, and then later repent and be received back into full fellowship, his contumacy should be remembered against him if at any time he were nominated for the duties of an Elder. He would need to manifest a decided change before being considered fit for that service; for even if he were thoroughly conscientious, his course would, at least, prove him rather obtuse as respected right where his personal interests were involved. Indeed, to refuse to heed the counsel of three brethren and to necessitate the bringing of the wrong to the Church for adjudication would be an unfavorable indication, even if he afterward heard the Church and obeyed it and made amends to A.
30. How should we deal in a matter of evil speaking against an Elder?
31. Why is ‘a bridled tongue’ a chief essential in an Elder?
32. How may we ask advice and not do evil speaking?
33. What is the relation between ‘busy- bodying’ and evil speaking?
34. How should the Golden Rule help us to overcome evil speaking and evil surmising?
35. What is the sole exception to this rule, ‘Speak evil of no man’?
36. What inspiration should we receive from Jesus’ example?
37. How can we overcome evil surmisings and evil speaking?
38. What additional thoughts are found in index of Heavenly Manna under ‘Evil’?
39. What special experiences and practices have helped you to overcome evil surmisings to some extent?
40. As we realize how insidious this foe of the ‘new creature,’ what should be our daily prayer?
Psalms 19:12-14 - Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. (13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. (14) Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.