Berean Studies / Ber08 - Evil speaking and Evil Surmising
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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?
R2517 col. 1 ¶6 to end - What course should be pursued by those who find themselves possessed of impure minds,--minds inclined to surmise evil rather than good, envious minds, selfish, resentful, bitter, unforgiving, minds which love only those that love and flatter them? Is there any hope for these? Would God not utterly reject such?
God is very pitiful; and it was while all were thus "in the very gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity" that he provided for our redemption. There is hope for all such who see their defilement and who desire to be cleansed.
"His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood avails for me."
But true repentance means both contrition and reformation: and for help in the latter we must go to the Great Physician who alone can cure such moral sickness; and of whom it is written, "Who healeth all thy diseases." All of his sanctified ones, it is safe to say, were at one time more or less diseased thus, and proportionately "worthless" for his service. True, it is worse for those who were once cleansed, if they "like the sow return to the wallowing in the mire" of sin,--but still there is hope, if the Good Physician's medicine be taken persistently the same as at first. The danger is that the conscience, becoming defiled, will so pervert the judgment that bitterness is esteemed to be sweetness, and envy and malice to be justice and duty, and the "mire" of sin to be beauty of holiness. Then only is the case practically a hopeless one.
SOME OF THE GOOD PHYSICIAN'S ANTIDOTES FOR HEART IMPURITY.
The Good Physician has pointed out antidotes for soul-poisoning,--medicines which if properly taken according to directions will sweeten the bitter heart. Instead of envy it will produce love; instead of malice and hatred and strife, love and concord; instead of evil-speaking and backbiting and scandal-mongering it will produce the love which thinketh no evil and which worketh no ill to his neighbor; which suffereth long and is kind, which vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, which never faileth and which is the spirit of the Lord and the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Let us all take these medicines, for they are good not only for the violently sick, but for the convalescing and the well. The following are some of the prescriptions:--
(1) "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he [the Lord] is pure."--`1 John 3:3`.
The hope mentioned is that we have been adopted as sons of God, with the promise that if faithful we shall be like him and see him as he is and share his glory. As our minds and hearts expand with this hope and we begin to measure its lengths and breadths, its heights and depths, it surely does set before us the Heavenly Father's love and the Redeemer's love in rainbow colors and we more and more love the Father and the Son because they first loved us. The divine form of love becomes more and more our ideal; and as we seek to reciprocate it and to copy it, the cleansing and purifying of our hearts follows: for looking into the perfect law of liberty--Love--we become more and more ashamed of all the meanness and selfishness which the fall brought to us. And, once seen in their true light as works of the flesh and of the devil, all anger, malice, wrath, envy, strife, evil-speaking, evil-surmising, backbiting and slander become more and more repulsive to us. And finally when we see that such as to any degree sympathize with these evil qualities are unfit for the Kingdom and to every good work worthless, we flee from these evils of the soul as from deadly contagion. Our hearts (wills, intentions) become pure at once and we set a guard not only upon our lips but also upon our thoughts-- that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts may be acceptable to the Lord.
(2) "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works."--`Titus 2:14`.
We might theorize much and very correctly upon how and when and by whom we were redeemed; but this all would avail little if we forgot why we were redeemed. The redemption was not merely a redemption from the power of the grave;--it was chiefly "from all iniquity." And the Lord is not merely seeking a peculiar people, but specially a people peculiarly cleansed, purified. This medicine will surely serve to purge us from iniquity if we are anxious to make our calling and election sure.
(3) "Pursue righteousness, fidelity, love, peace, with all who call upon the Lord with a pure heart." --`2 Tim. 2:22`.
We not only need to start right, but also to pursue a right course. We may not follow unrighteousness even for a moment; whatever it may cost, justice and righteousness must be followed. But here a difficulty arises with some: they do not know how to judge righteous judgment. They are too apt to judge according to rumor or appearances, or to accept the judgment of scribes and Pharisees, as did the multitude which cried, "Crucify him! His blood be upon us and upon our children." Had they followed righteousness they would have seen the Lord's character in his good works as well as in his wonderful words of life: they would have seen that so far from being a blasphemer he was "holy, harmless, separate from sinners:" they would have seen that his accusers were moved by envy and hatred.
And it is just as necessary as ever to follow the Lord's injunction, "Judge righteous judgment," and whoever neglects it brings down "blood" upon his own head and becomes a sharer in the penalty due to false accusers. For as the Lord was treated so will his "brethren" be treated. And the more pure our hearts the less will they be affected by slanders and backbitings and evil-speakings, and the more will we realize that those who have bitter hearts from which arise bitter words are impure fountains in which is the gall of bitterness and not the sweetness of love.
Next comes fidelity, that is, faithfulness. The Lord declares his own fidelity or faithfulness and declares himself a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. And even the worldly recognize fidelity as a grace: and by such it is often given first place; for many would commit theft or perjury through fidelity to a friend. But notice that God's Word puts righteousness first. Fidelity, love and peace can only be exercised in harmony with righteousness; but unrighteousness not being proven against a brother, our fidelity and love and peace toward him must continue, and indeed must increase in proportion as envy and slander and all the fiery darts of the Wicked One assail him "without a cause." This valuable prescription will help to keep our hearts free from the poison and bitterness of roots of bitterness which the Adversary keeps busily planting.
Justice is purity of heart,--freedom from injustice.
Righteousness is purity of heart,--freedom from unrighteousness.
Love is purity of heart,--freedom from selfishness.
(4) "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit [the spirit of the truth] unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart, fervently."-- `1 Pet. 1:22`.
This medicine is for those who have used the other prescriptions and gotten clean. It points out that the purity came not merely through hearing the truth, nor through believing the truth, but through obeying it. And not merely a formal obedience in outward ceremony and custom and polished manner, but through obedience to the spirit of the truth--its real import. All this brought you to the point where the love of the "brethren" of Christ was unfeigned, genuine. At first you treated all with courtesy, or at least without impoliteness; but many of them you did not like, much less did you love them: they were poor, or shabby, or ignorant, or peculiar. But obeying the spirit of the truth you recognized that all who trust in the precious blood and are consecrated to the dear Redeemer and seeking to follow his leadings are "brethren," regardless of race or color or education or poverty or homeliness. You reached the point where your heart is so free from envy and pride and selfishness, and so full of the spirit of the Master, that you can honestly say, I love all the "brethren" with a love that is sincere and not at all feigned.
Now having gotten thus far along in the good way, the Lord through the Apostle tells us what next --that we may preserve our hearts pure,--"See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently [intensely]." Ah, yes, the pure heart must not be forgotten, else it might be but a step from pure love into a snare of the Adversary, carnal love. But the pure love is not to be cold and indifferent: it is to be so warm and so strong that we would be willing to "lay down our lives for the brethren."--`1 John 3:16`.
With such a love as this burning as incense to God upon the altar of our hearts there will be no room there for any selfish, envious thoughts or words or deeds. Oh how blessed would all the gatherings of the "brethren" be, if such a spirit pervaded all of them! Can we doubt that, if it held sway in one-half or one-third or even one-fourth, it would speedily exercise a gracious influence upon all--for righteousness and fidelity and love and peace, and against envy, strife, malice, slanders and backbitings?
Let all the "brethren" more and more take these medicines which tend to sanctify and prepare us for the Master's service, here and hereafter.
R2249 col. 1 ¶1 to col. 2¶ 1 - It would appear then that every intelligent Christian would continually pray this inspired prayer, for cleansing from secret faults that he might thus be restrained from presumptuous sins; and thus praying heartily, he would also watch against these beginnings of sin and keep his heart in a cleansed and pure condition, by going continually to the fountain of grace for help in every time of need. He who seeks to live a life of holiness and nearness to the Lord by merely guarding and striving against outward or presumptuous sins, and who neglects the beginning of sin in the secrets of his own mind, is attempting a right thing in a very foolish and unreasonable way. As well might we seek to avert the smallpox by outward cleanliness, while permitting the germs of the disease to enter our systems. The bacteria or germs of presumptuous sins enter through the mind, and their antiseptics and bactericides of the truth and its spirit must meet them there and promptly kill the bacteria of sin before it germinates and leads us to such a condition of evil as will manifest itself in our outward conduct.
For instance, whenever the bacteria of pride and self-importance present themselves, let the antidote be promptly administered from the Lord's great medical laboratory for the healing of the soul: the proper dose to offset this species of bacteria is found in the words, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted;" and "Pride goeth before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."
If the thought presented to our minds be the bacteria of envy, then let us promptly apply the antidote which declares that envy is one of the works of the flesh and of the devil, and contrary to the spirit of Christ, which by our covenant we have adopted as ours. And let us remember that envy is closely related to and apt to be followed by malice, hatred and strife, which under some circumstances mean murder, according to the New Covenant and our Lord's interpretation.--`1 John 3:15`; `Matt. 5:21,22`.
If the bacteria which presents itself to our minds is avarice, with the suggestion of unjust methods for its gratification, let us promptly apply to it the medicine furnished in the Lord's Word, namely, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" "For the love of money is a root of all evil, which some, coveting after, have erred from the truth and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
The more attention we give to this subject, the more we will be convinced, from our own personal experiences, of the truth of the Scriptural declarations respecting the beginnings of sin as secret faults in the mind; and the more we will appreciate the statement of the Word, "Keep thy heart [mind, affections] with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."-- `Prov. 4:23`.
But we are not to wonder that God has so constituted us as to permit temptations to come to our minds, nor are we to pray that we may have no temptations; for if there were no such presentations, no such temptations, then there could be no victories on our part, no overcoming of sin and of the wicked One. But we know that for this very reason we are now in the school of Christ; not that we shall there be shielded from all temptation, but that we may learn of the great Teacher how to meet the Tempter, and by our Master's grace and help to come off conquerors, victors in the strife against sin. The degree of our success in this conflict will depend largely upon the keenness of our faith and trust in the great Teacher. If we feel confident in his wisdom, we will follow closely his instructions and keep our hearts [minds] with all diligence. Faith in the Lord's wisdom and in his help in every time of need is necessary to us in order that we may be thoroughly obedient to him; and hence it is written, "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith;" i.e., it will be by the exercise of faith and the obedience which flows therefrom that we will be enabled to "come off conquerors and more than conquerors through him that loved us and gave himself for us."
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...
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?
James 3:2 - For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.
R2447 col. 2 ¶2 - The public servants of the Church are to some extent specially its "tongues," and what an influence they wield for good or for evil, in the blessing and upbuilding of the Lord's people, or for their injury--cursing! How necessary that all the tongue-servants of the Lord's Body be such, and such only, as are of his spirit! Their influence not only extends to those who are in the Church, but in considerable measure they are mouthpieces heard outside. And the same principle applies to every individual member of the Church, in his use of his member, his tongue. He may use it wisely or unwisely, with heavenly wisdom or with earthly wisdom. He may use it for strife, and tearing down the faith and character of the brethren, in overthrowing love and confidence, or he may use it in building up these graces of the spirit. How many have proved the truth of the Apostle's words, that the tongue has great possibilities, either for defiling the whole body, the Church, and setting on fire the course of nature, by stirring up the evil poisons and propensities of the fallen nature! How few amongst the Lord's people have conquered the tongue to the extent of bringing it into subjection to the will of God, that they may minister good, and only good, to all with whom they come in contact! Let us, dearly beloved, be fully resolved that by divine grace (promised to assist us) the present year shall witness great progress in our control of this most important member of our bodies, bringing the same into full subjection and obedience and service to the King of kings and Lord of lords--to him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
R2157 col. 1 ¶1 - In the choice of leaders for meetings the "tongue" qualification, as here laid down should not be overlooked. The fiery tongued should not be chosen, but the meeker, the moderate, who "bridle" their tongues and endeavor carefully to "speak as the oracles of God" only. Such tongues constrain, while others more frequently wound and repel. The Word of the Lord is quick and powerful and sharp and cuts "to the heart" without bitter and acrimonious and uncharitable human expletives to enforce it. Hence the divine instruction that we "speak the truth in love."
F249 ¶2 - They should be generous men, men of pure lives, having no more than one wife; and if they have children it should be noticed to what extent the parent has exercised a wholesome influence in his own family--for it should reasonably be judged that if he has been derelict in his duty toward his children, he probably would be unwise or derelict in his counsels and his general ministries amongst the Lord's children in the Ecclesia, the Church. He is not to be double-tongued or deceptive, not to be a brawler or a contentious person. He should be one of good reputation amongst those outside the Church: not that the world will ever love or rightly appreciate the saints, but that the world should, at least, be unable to point to anything derogatory to their character as respects honesty, uprightness, morality, truthfulness. There is no limitation made respecting the number of elders in a Church or Ecclesia.
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.