A subject and a difference which I feel needs to be studied out biblically and clearly understood both in our mind and in our heart...
The following was published in "LandMarks Magazine" May 1997
Evil-Surmising Versus Reproof in the Spirit of Prophecy
By Ellen G. White
"That which Satan plants in the heart—envy, jealousy, evil surmising, evil speaking, impatience, prejudice, selfishness, covetousness, and vanity—must be uprooted. If these evil things are allowed to remain in the soul, they will bear fruit by which many shall be defiled. Oh, how many cultivate the poisonous plants, that kill out the precious fruits of love and defile the soul!" My Life Today, 179.
What must happen before the latter rain can fall on God's people?
"When the latter rain is poured out, the church will be clothed with power for its work; but the church as a whole will never receive this until its members shall put away from among them, envy, evil-surmisings, and evil-speaking. Those who cherish these sins know not the blessed experience of love; they are not awake to the fact that the Lord is testing and proving their love for him by the attitude they assume toward one another. When this commandment is obeyed, envy, evil-speaking, evil-surmising, and evil-thinking will not be indulged; they will have no part in the formation of character." Review and Herald, October 6, 1896.
"The church will never as a whole receive the latter rain unless they shall put away all envy, evil surmising, and evil speaking. Those who have cherished hatred in the heart until it has strengthened and become part of their character, must have a different experience if they would share in the latter rain. Many are not awake to the fact that the Lord is testing and proving them to make it manifest whether or not they really love Jesus. The spirit and attitude manifested to their brethren, tells their spirit and attitude toward God." The Home Missionary, August 1, 1896.
What is the effect of evil-speaking?
"As the leaven spreads through the meal in which it is hidden, so will the leaven of evil-surmising and malice pervert the entire being—thoughts, actions, and character—where it is received. With the good leaven, the word of God, true goodness, righteousness, and peace are introduced. This brings the entire affections into conformity to the mind and will of God." The Home Missionary, July 1, 1897.
"I am filled with sorrow as I see finite men who claim to be the sons of God, filled with evil surmising, and ready to speak evil of their brethren in the truth, ready to weigh others in their own scales of human opinion, and place their estimate upon those of whom they really understand but little. The worst of it is that often those who ought to understand why such action is out of place, drink in the spirit of the accuser, go to the polluted fountain of suspicion and distrust, and turning from the course justice marks out, are guided by some one's hearsay of another's action or character. By this course God's Holy Spirit is grieved, and the churches are weakened by the influence of distrust and suspicion; for they are led to speak evil of those who stand far better in the sight of God than do their accusers. Are we to take reports, hearsay, as if they were verity and truth? Are we not to rebuke the talebearer who would make a condemned brother's course appear as bad as possible? The true brethren of Christ are those who guard the interests of their brethren and sisters. How inappropriate it is to condemn others, when every soul is to be saved, not on his own merits, but by the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour! We are all erring, finite creatures, accountable to God for our words, works, and influence." Review and Herald, October 24, 1893.
"There are those who cherish a spirit of envy and hatred against their brethren, calling it the Spirit of God. There are those who go up and down as talebearers, accusing and condemning, blackening character, inspiring hearts with maliciousness. They carry false reports to the doors of their neighbors, who, as they listen to the slander, lose the Spirit of God. Not even the messenger of God, who bears to the people His truth, is spared." Upward Look, 122.
Can God use those who are evil-surmising about others?
"I feel so saddened, so discouraged, by the thought that my brethren are willing to listen to and circulate hearsay. I know that the Spirit of God will not cooperate with those who, by their criticisms, their evil-surmising, and their hard-heartedness are helping Satan." Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, 198.
"To those who are inclined to suspect others of wrongdoing and to charge their brethren with evil, I would say, `Please read in the book Great Controversy the chapter entitled "The Origin of Evil." ' Bring home its truths to your individual hearts. Remember that it was the spirit of envy and evil surmising, cherished in the heart of the rebel angel, that began the evil work that opened the floodgates of woe upon our world." The Upward Look, 114.
What result does evil-surmising and criticism have on our ourselves?
"Closely connected with Christ's warning in regard to the sin against the Holy Spirit is a warning against idle and evil words. The words are an indication of that which is in the heart. `Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.' But the words are more than an indication of character; they have power to react on the character. Men are influenced by their own words. Often under a momentary impulse, prompted by Satan, they give utterance to jealousy or evil surmising, expressing that which they do not really believe; but the expression reacts on the thoughts. They are deceived by their words, and come to believe that true which was spoken at Satan's instigation. Having once expressed an opinion or decision, they are often too proud to retract it, and try to prove themselves in the right, until they come
to believe that they are. It is dangerous to utter a word of doubt, dangerous to question and criticize divine light. The habit of careless and irreverent criticism reacts upon the character, in fostering irreverence and unbelief. Many a man indulging this habit has gone on unconscious of danger, until he was ready to criticize and reject the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, `Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.' " The Desire of Ages, 323.
What is the atmosphere of our homes to be like?
"In the family the spirit of criticizing and faultfinding should have no place. The peace of the home is too sacred to be marred by this spirit. But how often, when seated at the meal table, the members of the family pass around a dish of criticism, faultfinding, and scandal.
"Should Christ come today, would He not find many of the families who profess to be Christians cherishing the spirit of criticism and unkindness? The members of such families are unready to unite with the family above. I am instructed to say to them, `Prepare to meet thy God.' Discord in families leads to discord in the church." Manuscript Releases, vol. 8, 410.
Are we to listen to gossip and evil-speaking?
"When you are tempted to speak unadvisedly, be on guard. If some one else approaches you with words of criticism regarding one of God's children, turn a deaf ear to every such word. If you are spoken to harshly, never retaliate. Utter not a word. When under provocation, remember that `silence is eloquence.' Silence is the greatest rebuke that you can possibly give to a faultfinder or one whose temper is irritated." Our High Calling, 293.
"Evil-speaking is a twofold curse, falling more heavily upon the speaker than upon the hearer. He who scatters the seeds of dissension and strife reaps in his own soul the deadly fruits. How miserable is the talebearer, the surmiser of evil! He is a stranger to true happiness. Testimonies, vol. 5, 176.
What should we do if we are guilty of evil speaking?
"My brethren, if you stand before God as true Christians, you will do in the year before us a work different from that which has been done in years past. Your wicked criticism is a sin in the sight of God. By it you are weakening the hands of God's servants. This criticism is as a root of bitterness, whereby many are defiled. Let us come to the Lord in penitence, and ask Him to forgive us for not keeping His law, for not obeying the command to love one another as Christ has loved us. He says to us, `You have left your first love, and, unless you repent, I will remove your candlestick out of his place.' `Be watchful,' He pleads, `and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God.' " The General Conference Bulletin, April 1, 1903.
What discipline did Mrs. White endorse for an evil-surmiser?
"Then I saw a faint hope for C. S. I saw that the course that had been taken toward her by disfellowshiping her had been right, for her jealous evil-surmising and self breaking out every little while were enough to drag down and oppress a whole meeting. Yet I saw she loved the truth and cause better than anything else, although she had often wounded it and caused it to be reproached. I saw she must make thorough work speedily, and confess humbly her errors and wrongs, to the children of God, and then she could be healed. I saw that the church in Fairhaven should not fellowship her unless she makes an entire reformation." Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 300.
Are we in danger of reaching the opposite extreme?
"While the servants of God are in constant danger of indulging a zeal that is wholly human, and while great harm is done by those who seem to be in their element in censuring, reproving, and condemning their brethren, there is fully as great danger of going to the opposite extreme, and making the sum and substance of Christian duty consist in love. The apostle Paul writes to his son Timothy, `Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.' This work is just as essential to the prosperity of the church as is the exercise of gentleness, forbearance and love. Those who are consecrated to God will be as faithful to reprove and rebuke sin with all long-suffering and doctrine, as to comfort and encourage the desponding, and strengthen the weak. All who love God will show their abhorrence of sin." The Signs of the Times, May 5, 1881.
"The history of Achan teaches the solemn lesson that for one man's sin the displeasure of God will rest upon a people or a nation till the transgression is searched out and punished. Sin is corrupting in its nature. One man infected with its deadly leprosy may communicate the taint to thousands. Those who occupy responsible positions as guardians of the people are false to their trust if they do not faithfully search out and reprove sin. Many dare not condemn iniquity, lest they shall thereby sacrifice position or popularity. And by some it is considered uncharitable to rebuke sin. The servant of God should never allow his own spirit to be mingled with the reproof which he is required to give; but he is under the most solemn obligation to present the Word of God, without fear or favor. He must call sin by its right name. Those who by their carelessness or indifference permit God's name to be dishonored by His professed people, are numbered with the transgressor— registered in the record of heaven as partakers in their evil deeds." S.D.A. Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 996.
What was the sin of Achan?
"There was a time when Israel could not prevail against their enemies. This was because of Achan's sin. God declared, `Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed thing from among you.' God is the same today. If defiling sins are cherished by those who claim to believe the truth, the displeasure of God rests upon the church, and He will not remove it until the members do all in their power to show their hatred for sin, and their determination to cast it out of the church. God is displeased with those who call evil good and good evil. If jealousy, evil surmising, and evil-speaking are allowed to have a place in the church, that church is under the frown of God. It will be spiritually unhealthy until it is cleansed from these sins, for till then God cannot reveal His power to strengthen and elevate His people and give them victory. God is not pleased with the slothful work done in the churches. He expects His stewards to be true and faithful in giving reproof and correction. They are to expel wrong after the rule God has given in His Word, not according to their own ideas and impulses. No harsh means must be used, no unfair, hasty, impulsive work done. The efforts made to cleanse the church from moral uncleanness must be made in God's way. There must be no partiality, no hypocrisy. There must be no favorites, whose sins are regarded as less sinful than those of others. Oh, how much we all need the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Then we shall always work with the mind of Christ, with kindness, compassion, and sympathy, showing love for the sinner while hating sin with a perfect hatred." 1888 Materials, 144.
How does God regard sin among us?
"I have been shown that God here illustrates how He regards sin among those who profess to be His commandment-keeping people. Those whom He has specially honored with witnessing the remarkable exhibitions of His power, as did ancient Israel, and who will even then venture to disregard His express directions, will be subjects of His wrath. He would teach His people that disobedience and sin are exceedingly offensive to Him and are not to be lightly regarded. He shows us that when His people are found in sin they should at once take decided measures to put that sin from them, that His frown may not rest upon them all. But if the sins of the people are passed over by those in responsible positions, His frown will be upon them, and the people of God, as a body, will be held responsible for those sins. In His dealings with His people in the past the Lord shows the necessity of purifying the church from wrongs. One sinner may diffuse darkness that will exclude the light of God from the entire congregation. When the people realize that darkness is settling upon them, and they do not know the cause, they should seek God earnestly, in great humility and self-abasement, until the wrongs which grieve His Spirit are searched out and put away. Testimonies, vol. 3, 265.
How does God look upon His servants if they do not reprove sin?
"The prejudice which has arisen against us because we have reproved the wrongs that God has shown me existed, and the cry that has been raised of harshness and severity, are unjust. God bids us speak, and we will not be silent. If wrongs are apparent among His people, and if the servants of God pass on indifferent to them, they virtually sustain and justify the sinner, and are alike guilty and will just as surely receive the displeasure of God; for they will be made responsible for the sins of the guilty. In vision I have been pointed to many instances where the displeasure of God has been incurred by a neglect on the part of His servants to deal with the wrongs and sins existing among them. Those who have excused these wrongs have been thought by the people to be very amiable and lovely in disposition, simply because they shunned to discharge a plain Scriptural duty. The task was not agreeable to their feelings; therefore they avoided it" Testimonies, vol. 3, 265, 266.
How will God's true people deal with sin?
"The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God's professed people. This is forcibly set forth by the prophet's illustration of the last work under the figure of the men each having a slaughter weapon in his hand. One man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side. `And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.'
"Who are standing in the counsel of God at this time? Is it those who virtually excuse wrongs among the professed people of God and who murmur in their hearts, if not openly, against those who would reprove sin? Is it those who take their stand against them and sympathize with those who commit wrong? No, indeed! Unless they repent, and leave the work of Satan in oppressing those who have the burden of the work and in holding up the hands of sinners in Zion, they will never receive the mark of God's sealing approval.
"But the general slaughter of all those who do not thus see the wide contrast between sin and righteousness, and do not feel as those do who stand in the counsel of God and receive the mark, is described in the order to the five men with slaughter weapons: `Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary.'
"In the case of Achan's sin God said to Joshua: `Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.' How does this instance compare with the course pursued by those who will not raise their voice against sin and wrong, but whose sympathies are ever found with those who trouble the camp of Israel with their sins? Said God to Joshua: `Thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.' He pronounced the punishment which would follow the transgression of His covenant." Testimonies, vol. 3, 266, 267.
"If our lives are filled with holy fragrance, if we honor God by having good thoughts toward others, and doing good deeds to bless others, it matters not whether we live in a cottage or a palace. Circumstances have but little to do with the experiences of the soul. It is the spirit cherished which gives coloring to all our actions. A man at peace with God and his fellow men cannot be made miserable. Envy will not be in his heart; evil surmising will find no room there; hatred cannot exist. The heart in harmony with God is lifted above the annoyances and trials of this life. But a heart where the peace of Christ is not, is unhappy, full of discontent; the person sees defects in everything, and he would bring discord into the most heavenly music. A life of selfishness is a life of evil. Those whose hearts are filled with love of self will store away evil thoughts of their brethren and will talk against God's instrumentalities. Passions kept warm and fierce by Satan's promptings are a bitter fountain, ever sending forth bitter streams to poison the life of others." Testimonies, vol. 5, 488.
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