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A Religious Controversy | Charles E. Orr

Conversation 5

Mrs. Wiseman (after next meeting)—Thank God! I’ve had the privilege of attending another meeting. I’m so glad to find you sitting up for me again, dear. I never heard such preaching in my life—so plain, so simple, so beautiful.

Mr. Wiseman—What did the preacher talk about that was so wonderful? I’ve heard good preaching all my days. I’m sure no man even if he is a saint, can preach like our bishop.

Mrs. W.—He preached on the subject of repentance.

Mr. W.—I suppose he thinks we’re all sinners around here.

Mrs. W.—Isn’t that what you profess to be? You say you sin every day. But I desire, dear, to tell you a few things he said. No man is truly penitent, he said, who doesn’t forgive all men all the injuries they have done him, and none such can have forgiveness from God.

Mr. W.—Well, you see, I wouldn’t sit and listen to such nonsense. I don’t believe a word of it.

Mrs. W.—You believe the Bible, do you not?

Mr. W.—I don’t believe their interpretation of the Bible. I’m sure.

Mrs. W.—I will read you what the Bible says and leave you to interpret it for yourself. “But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”* (Matthew 6:15)

Mr. W.—Well, I know I’m a Christian, and I don’t intend for those preachers to unchristianize me, either.

Mrs. W.—But you know, dear, that you haven’t forgiven Mr. Smith. Only a few days ago you told me that you hated him and that some day you would get even with him.

Mr. W.—Yes, but he treated me shamefully. Just because my cows got into his pasture for only a few minutes, he put them all into his lot and made me pay one dollar a head to get them out. God does not expect us to forgive so mean a man as that, and I’m not going to do it either, no matter what the saints’ preachers say. I do hate the man.

Mrs. W.—It isn’t what the preachers say; it’s what God says that we must heed, or we shall never gain heaven. This man belongs to our church, and the preacher calls him brother, and he partook of the sacrament at the communion altar with you last Sunday. You say you hate him. Oh, Husband! I do want you to see and know yourself. Listen while I talk to you a few minutes. You don’t want to miss heaven, do you?

Mr. W.—Certainly I do not, and I don’t expect to. I was converted forty years ago and I have been a church member in good standing ever since. You talk like a foolish woman.

Mrs. W.—You have said you believe the Bible.

Mr. W.—Yes, I do, and you can’t get me to say anything else. I believe it, but I don’t believe every preacher that comes along.

Mrs. W.—Never mind about the preacher just now; let us take the Bible. The Bible says that “all liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.”* (Revelation 21:8) Do you believe this?

Mr. W.—To be sure, woman, but I’m no liar.

Mrs. W.—What if the Bible should say you are one? “No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”* (1 John 3:15)

Mr. W.—You don’t look on me as a murderer, I hope. If you don’t stay away from those saint preachers, I fear I shall have a wife in the asylum.

Mrs. W.—Listen to what the Bible says. From what I’ve read we know that liars and murderers can not go to heaven. This is a plain settled truth set forth by the Bible. Now you say you love God?

Mr. W.—Of course I do. I love Him with all my heart.

Mrs. W.—You say you hate Mr. Smith?

Mr. W.—Who wouldn’t hate such a man? He beat me out of seven dollars, and I can’t love such a man. But I’ll get even with him the first chance I get.

Mrs. W.—Let me read you what the Bible says: “If a man say, I love God”—and you say you love God—

Mr. W.—Yes, I do.

Mrs. W.—“And hateth his brother”—and you say you hate Mr. Smith—“He is a liar.”* (1 John 4:20)

Mr. W.—But who is meant by “brother”? Old Smith is not my brother.

Mrs. W.—He belongs to the same church with you: your names are on the same class-book; you have the same class-leader, pastor, presiding elder, and bishop; the preacher calls you brother and calls him brother. But I admit that it is not because we belong to the same church that we are brothers. Joining church doesn’t make men brothers. The term “brother” as used in this text has reference to any man. We are all the children of Adam. As a human family we are one brotherhood. Every man is your brother. We are commanded to love our enemies. If you look on Mr. Smith as an enemy, you’re obliged to love him. If you hate him and say you love God you have just heard what the Bible says you are. But let me read you again from this book of truth: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer.”* (1 John 3:15) You say you hate Mr. Smith and the Bible says that you are a murderer, and that “no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”* (1 John 3:15) Oh, let us get right with God! I’m not saved, but I’m seeking God with my whole heart. I am getting nearer the kingdom. I have hope that Jesus will soon be mine. Oh, how blessed it will be! How sweet it would be to lay our heads upon our pillows tonight and know there is not a text in all the Bible that condemns us! I would rather have such an experience than be possessor of the entire world.

Another expression you made grieved me. You said Mr. Smith was a mean man and that you’d get even with him.

Mr. W.—Yes, I do say he’s a mean man. Don’t you say he is? Didn’t he do a mean thing?

Mrs. W.—Yes, I admit that he did wrong, and that it was mean.

Mr. W.—Well, if a man does a mean thing doesn’t that make him a mean man? According to your own reasoning, it does. You said if a man committed sin it made him a sinner; so if a man does a mean thing, it will make him a mean man.

Mrs. W.—But you said you’d get even with him. By that you mean if you find his cows outside you’ll pen them and make him pay to get them out.

Mr. W.—Indeed, I will, and do it quick.

Mrs. W.—Then you’ll be as mean a man as he is. You will have done the very same thing that he did; and the doing of the same thing will make you as mean as he is.

Mr. W.—But he did it first.

Mrs. W.—His having done it first doesn’t lessen the wrongness of the deed. Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit didn’t excuse Adam; he had to suffer the penalty of sin. Then you talk of getting even with him.

Mr. W.—Yes; I mean to get even with him the first chance I get.

Mrs. W.—To do what the Bible says is the best rule of life.“If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”* (Romans 12:20-21) Do a wrong to Mr. Smith and that will increase his anger, and he will seek to do you another wrong; so in that way you’ll continue doing each other wrong; trying to get even, but never getting even. Now, you had better forgive Mr. Smith. Begin by showing him love and kindness; do good to him, and he will become ashamed for the evil he has done to you and will come and ask forgiveness, and then you’ll be even. The Bible way is the only right way.

But I must go to bed, as I wish to go to meeting tomorrow night. I want to talk more with you tomorrow about what the preacher said about repentance. Goodnight.

Mr. W.—Good night. (Talking to himself) My wife is a dear, good woman; I can not deny it. I believe she is nearer right than I am; but I never will go the way of those saints. I’ll be more of a man than that. But those Scriptures about the liar and murderer being cast into the lake of fire make me uneasy. But I’ve belonged to church too long to acknowledge myself in the wrong, and I just won’t do it.