Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Right Thing in the Wrong Way


J. B. Stoney

The wiser anything is, the more self-evident and convincing it is where there is any wisdom.  The very fact of a proposition being right carries weight with it where there is conscience.  When a right thing is proposed, it commends itself to everyone not destitute of moral sense.  To the mere conscience, there must be an immense charm in hearing and accepting what is right; and with such an one there could be no departure from the right thing if there were in man no will of the flesh, which, even when the right thing is accepted, spoils it by the manner in which it attempts to carry it out.  Thus the right thing is accepted and approved but, because of the flesh, it is hindered and damaged in expression; the good is evil spoken of.  If one is really conscientious, one can readily and gladly adopt the right counsel; but it is the act which is the result which declares the extent of the influence of the counsel.  If I am controlled by the word and counsel of God, my acts display correctly and proportionally the wisdom of it; I am myself the evidence of it — the body is light.

The first great fact to accept and understand is that though the heart may, through grace, approve and determine on the course or line of action proposed by the word of God, yet there is an antagonistic element in us; the carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.  When grace is in the soul, there is of necessity a nature which has an affinity for, and fellowship with, the mind of God, which would lead me into simple acquiescence and practical obedience, were it not for the working of the flesh, which cannot be subject to the law of God.  An immense point is reached when I am afraid of myself, because of the contrary principle that is in me.  "Happy is the man that feareth alway"; so that I am careful and exercised not to entertain or sanction any suggestion outside or apart from the word or way of God.  If I had no traitor in myself, all would go on quite smoothly, but here it is that the extent or measure of my real subjection to the word of God is disclosed.  Many a one readily accepts the word, like him who said, "I go, sir", and went not; but the one who refused, and afterwards repented and went, discovered, and in power overcame, the insubjection of the flesh.

The first and most pernicious form of this snare is accepting the word of God in a human sense.  Perhaps nothing has produced so much perversion of the word of God as the assumed interpretation of it by the natural mind.  No truth has been more overlooked than that the natural mind cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God.  The most elaborate and learned commentators extant have for this reason failed to reach the mind of the Spirit.  The attempt to understand and elucidate was right in itself, but the using of the intellect, undirected and uncontrolled by the Spirit of God, has flooded the world with a mere human solution of divine wisdom. 

... In ministering, and in any service, the right purpose has often been defeated by the ungraciousness of manner in which either has been presented.  Hence, charity is the more excellent way.  The gift, though undeniable, is often hindered or rendered ineffective from the lack of grace in the minister.  It is well known that when the minister seeks to inculcate what he has practically learned — that is, what has given its own effect to himself — his teaching is effective; otherwise, though the truth be clearly known and set forth, it lacks power.  When the teacher is unimpressed himself, how can it affect his hearers?  It is again the right thing in the wrong way.

In church discipline, or in essaying to wash one another's feet, there is continually a right or truly kind intention, which is not only frustrated because of the unskilful way it is done, but often the attempted remedy aggravates the evil.  Uzzah meant well, but he was not the man to steady the ark, and a great sorrow ensued.  It is too often considered sufficient for a man to have an honest and righteous purpose in his desire to set others right.  He may most deeply feel the dishonour done to the Lord, and happily he has His ear, but he may not be at all qualified to interfere personally.  A man, as we learn from the Lord's rebuke to Moses in Exodus 4:24, must be walking in circumcision in his own house, or he cannot be competent to take care of the assembly of God.  The miscarriage in cases of discipline and correction is, I am consciously persuaded, to be attributed more to one's own unfitness to undertake the responsibility than to the perverseness of those we attempt to serve.  At any rate we are taught painfully that the mere purpose, however right, is not enough if there be not the fitting vessel for carrying it out.  If there be "no part dark", then there will be a suited vessel; "the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light", Luke 11:36. 

From Ministry by J. B. Stoney, volume 10, pages 296, 302.

The Right Thing in the Wrong Way