But what restitution can be made by one who throws the firebrands of error or stirs the coals of lust and sets the souls of men ablaze with the fire of hell? The guilt is beyond estimate, and the result is irretrievable. Even if such an offender is forgiven, he will still experience grief in recognizing that he cannot undo the effects of his foolish behavior! A bad example may kindle a flame that years of amended character cannot quench. To burn the harvest is bad enough, but how much worse to destroy the eternal harvest! It may be useful for us to consider how guilty we may have been in the past, and to consider whether, even in the present, there might not be evil in us that has a tendency to cause damage to the souls of our relatives, friends, or neighbors.
The fire of conflict is a terrible evil when it breaks out in a Christian church. Where there are converts, and God is glorified, you will discover jealousy and envy doing the devil's work most effectively. Where the golden grain of blessing was being stored to reward the work of the servants, the fire of enmity comes in and leaves little else but smoke and a heap of blackness. Woe to those by whom offenses come. May they never come through us, for although we cannot make restitution, we shall certainly be the chief sufferers if we are the chief offenders.
Those who feed the fire deserve fair criticism, but the one who first kindles it is most to blame. Discord usually takes hold first among the thorns; it is nurtured among the hypocrites and empty professors in the church and leaps among the righteous, blown by the winds of hell, until no one knows where it may end. O Lord, the giver of peace, make us peacemakers, and never let us aid and abet the men of strife, or even unintentionally cause the slightest division among Your people.
From Morning & Evening revised and edited by Alistair Begg copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.