Taken and adapted from the “United Presbyterian Magazine”
Written by, John D. Ker, D.D., January 1, 1883
Edited for thought and sense
If in Christian or social intercourse we wish to deliver any man from what we think error…
…we must do so by putting him in the way of convincing himself. To beat him down by unreasoning opposition or even by irresistible argument may please us, but is not likely to gain him. There is a great chasm between achieving a victory and making a conquest, and the completeness of the first often prevents the last. To respect a man’s freedom, never to press him so hard as to humiliate him, to give him the clue that may help him to guide himself to the right, is according to the divine model, and would aid us in serving, at the same time, both our fellow-men and the truth. How much this is needed in the Christian Church every one can perceive who looks around.
Again, it is often painful to see minds that, from their strength of character, are fitted to influence all around them for good, losing the power through the over-assertion of self.
Authority must exist, but influence may have its opportunity to do its work; and when authority makes itself felt at every turn and pushes itself into every little act, freedom is gone and influence vanishes with it. Firm law on certain great essentials, but freedom within this to grow up according to taste and temperament. If those with strong natures, and with deep convictions, could only be made to see this, and could learn to control themselves, their end would be sooner gained. Power of character and steadfast example have an assimilating influence which seldom fails.
It should be considered further, that if we wish those we are influencing to become valuable for anything, it must be by permitting them to be themselves. They will do very little if they turn out dead transcripts of us. If any man is to have power either in the world or the Church, he must have independent life, and for independent life liberty is indispensable. We can never sanction liberty in the way of sin, but there are a thousand little daily acts, where it will demand to be left to itself, and where we should take pleasure in recognizing it. Those are the very signs and safeguards of the personality which God has bestowed upon His creatures, and it is only by seeking to enter it, as He does, freely and kindly, respecting it and conforming to it, that we can guide it to a right end and make it a real power for good.