‘The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.’ 1 Timothy 3:15
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 5:9–6:11
I remember a somewhat ludicrous incident which occurred to a church in which there were great quarrellings and bickerings. The minister and the deacons, and the people, were all at arm’s length, and daggers drawn. It was determined at last that the matter should come to a settlement, and it was by mutual consent given up to the judgment of a good Christian farmer, who lived in the neighbourhood. He was to hear the case, and write an answer to be read at the next church meeting. Our friend, the farmer, sat down to write his letter; at the same time he had a letter from a steward or tenant asking advice about his farm, and by a mistake, or rather by a blessed providence as God would have it, he put the wrong letters into the envelopes, so that the letter which was intended for the church went to the steward, and that which was intended for the steward went to the church. At the church meeting, when they were all assembled, this letter was read to the church; it ran thus: ‘Dear friend, mind you see to the hedges well. Keep them up as best you can, and take special care of the old black bull.’ Now that was a most extraordinary letter to write to a church. It had been sent by mistake, but the minister, thinking it was a bona fide piece of advice, said he could not comprehend it. Some brother got up and said it was plain enough; it was meant that they must be very watchful as to whom they should receive into the church. They must keep their hedges up and see there were no gaps. ‘And,’ said he, ‘by ‘the old black bull’ I have no doubt he means that spirit of Satan that would get in and trouble and divide us.’ So understanding it in that sense they made up their difference, repaired their hedges, and were careful of ‘the old black bull.’ Every church must do the same.
For meditation: A church that is badly divided (1 Corinthians 1:10–12; 3:3–4; 6:1,6–8; 11:18–19) is a church that is ignorant of the ways of Satan and badly in need of appropriate instruction about him and his followers (1 Corinthians 7:5; 10:20–21; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:3–4,14–15).
Sermon no. 393
19 May (1861)