Reproduced from The Writings of S.A. Paine by Banner of Love Press.
Unity in the house of God is one of the most adorning graces with which she can possibly be clothed. With this powerful virtue abounding, she towers in glory above every earthly pinnacle; emits her full light in brilliant rays as a warmth to our hearts and a brightness to our pathway. By it, kindred spirits are bound and are strengthened and encouraged that they may mutually drink the cup of peace and rejoicing in the face of any, and are rendered impregnable in the face of any and every foe.
So profound and heart-cheering is the scene, that David under it’s impulse declared: “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
“God hath built this house.” “Wisdom hath builded her house; she hath hewn out her seven pillars; she hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.” So we have a basis for union. As long as we occupy on the foundation laid, and as David said: “Satisfied with the goodness of the Lord’s house” there will be peace and unity.
It is asked by the pen of prophecy and inspiration: “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” Disagreement and walking together are incompatible. Like clashing waves they destroy each other.
Doctrinally and practically, the inhabitants of Zion must be agreed, else she can never represent her original peace and purity. These are vital factors that cannot be honorably sacrificed. But where they exist, other differences which may be personal, arising from so many sources, all of which may be traceable to animal passion or motive, should be modified to a point of satisfaction of all concerned. Though it may be with difficulty and sacrifice that it is done, still it is honorable. In fact could it be honorable without difficulty?
The cause we represent is too sublime and noble to allow some individual petty notion arising from human impulse to blur her glowing banner and to pierce her proud and anxious inmates with suspense and sorrow.
I desire to especially refer to some of the sacred relations and obligations of the ministry. The man who is a subject of the divine call to the ministry is clothed with the highest honor ever conferred upon man, our Savior excepted. His responsibilities are also greater in the same proportion as the cause he represents is greater than any earthly cause. With these facts before us, and remembering that he, as other men, is possessed with human weakness, that he is frail, that he is dust, how guarded and prayerful he should be? Oh how greatful he needs sustaining grace to warm his heart with fervent love; to check and modify selfish and all sinful motives; to guide his feet in the path of truth and light, and his tongue that its words be truth-spoken with grace and seasoned with salt.
Envy, jealousy, revenge etc. produce spasmodic action and spasmodic results. It may exalt one for a moment, until it in its working defines itself, when reaction claims its victim and lays such a one so low in the trench of abasement that if he ever rises, it will be through many tears and much penitence.
I know men today that at one time were in the holy precincts fighting under the flag of our great Captain, whose apparent earnestness and valor commanded utmost truth and confidence of their fellow soldiers, but by giving over to their lust in a rage for leadership, in heeding seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, they have driven the dagger to the very vitals of confidence and fellowship, and have fettered themselves with chains in outer darkness where there is indeed weeping and gnashing of teeth. Such men could by proper steps and fruits of repentance be restored. But I doubt very much whether they could ever again, in this life, rise to that confidence and unsuspicious attitude or plane they once occupied. How important that we “rise honorably if we rise at all” for in that way only will the result be lasting.
I know that among the flashes and vicissitudes and friction of life, it is hard to maintain deliberation and to govern animal passion, in its proudness of self, that it speculate not on the aims of others and thereby mistake their motives, resulting in unholy wars of revenge.
It is right and binding upon God’s ministers to be first established in truth, and then unyielding upon any part of the ground; but we should oppose measures and not men, only to the extent that they relate to the measures that are hurtful.
God’s servants are said to be soldiers, witnesses, lights, ambassadors; yes, they are called by many names that indicate importance attached to their office. A soldier is one of a number whose interests are common, mutual. His qualifications, if a good one, are many. Patriotism is the first and most important. A love and devotion for the cause shapes his motives and contributes largely in giving vigor and endurance to the mechanical part. A soldier of Jesus Christ must first be overwhelmed with devotion to the cause of Christ. This enables him to endure hardness as a good soldier, bravely and vigorously facing the missiles of death, “counting not this life dear unto himself” until the shout of victory is heard. What a feeling of rapture must have pervaded the heart of the apostle when in the late evening of his conflict on earth he could feel and speak in the presence of God and men: “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith. I am ready to be offered up.”
Such integrity as a soldier more beautifully adorned his life than any earthly dowry, more beautiful his grave than the most pathetic epitaph or the richest hues and perfumes of roses. Such striking examples inspire me with the sentiment of David: “Oh, let me die the death of the righteousness.” He who is “called to be a soldier” has received into his trust a priceless gem. Shall he give it up stained and mutilated? Shall he grasp it a pearl and give it up a stone? Shall he exercise such little discretion and appreciation of this unalloyed treasure as to mingle it with the dust and filth of human pride and ambition?
Dear brethren in the ministry, I feel unworthy to thus address you, but if I am what I profess to be, I am one among you, though I often think the very least. We who are allied in doctrine and practice, bound together by the sacred principles of the gospel, should we not be ensamples to the flock? If so, can we afford to hold aught against each other, at the same time piercing the hearts of our brethren with sorrow and suspense? Should we not rather be contributing to each other in the mutual struggle that is so fraught with severity? Can we afford to indulge envy or revenge when matters do not go all the way we think they ought? Shall I hold malice against you because we differ in a process but not in principle? Shall I persist in a notion of mine when pronounced wrong by a vast and overwhelming majority of my brethren, especially when nothing very vital could be lost in my defeat? Is variance and retaliation on our part letting our light shine? Is it not rather blurring that light and causing many feeble ones to stumble and even fall?
My imperfections are great, and I greatly fear that I have many times in many ways made myself repulsive to my yoke-fellows, but I can truly say, calling upon God as my witness, that in my heart I hold nothing against any of God’s servants that are among us for any wrong they may have ever done me. In fact I feel determined that no personal difficulty with my brethren shall ever cause the churches trouble at my expense.
“In union there is strength.”