"There is nothing more essential to the success of any work of reform than that it be conducted in a manner which will recommend it to those whom it is seeking to influence. In other words, those who engage in such a work must do so with a proper spirit, in order to reap the result which is desired. This consideration is an important one, and especially so to us, engaged as we are in a great reform work which so vitally concerns the welfare of the human race.
What should be the spirit which should accompany the efforts of those engaged in the promulgation of the truths of the Plan of the Ages? From the nature of things, this work involves one in perpetual controversy with the ideas and forms of the theological world around him. It requires some discrimination and forbearance to confine the controversy to the ideas, and prevent its involving the persons who hold them. There is a strong tendency to forget that we are not combating persons, but the false beliefs which they teach. How easy under such circumstances to be led by the natural promptings of human nature, and fall into the error of the two disciples who wished to call down fire upon the ungrateful Samaritans, and to whom Christ rebukingly said, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of."
The true reform spirit is never anything but a Christian spirit, leading its possessor to ever take an inoffensive attitude toward those whose erroneous opinions he feels called upon to oppose. It does not lead him to make use of ridicule and contempt, or to indulge in sharp drives at an opponent for the mere sake of showing his acuteness. It never leads him to show a lack of respect for those in positions of authority, albeit their characters may not be of the best, nor to forget that degree of deference which is due those in every position of eminence; but with all men to render "honor to whom honor is due." Firm and uncompromising in its zeal for the truth, it combines with this a proper humility of self, and charity toward all. It is, in short, that spirit the possession of which will lead one to manifest "the fruits of the Spirit," among which are, "long-suffering, gentleness,...meekness."
It is a mistake to suppose, as many people evidently do, that absence of moral principle in an individual, however conspicuous and fraught with evil results, renders him a proper subject of hatred, ridicule and contempt. There is a certain respect which is due to all in positions of earthly eminence, regardless even of character. It may be seriously questioned whether Satan himself should ever be alluded to in other than terms of respect. Certainly if, as Jude has recorded, even "Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed concerning the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee," no mortal should venture to use language of such a nature in alluding to the same being; nor can it be proper to bring any railing accusation against an earthly opponent, whose motives we cannot judge, and with whom we stand upon a level as the recipients of God's unmerited favor. Such a course is not in keeping with Christian dignity and integrity of character, and the cause of truth has no need of such doubtful aids to its advancement.
The study of the spirit and methods of the Lord and the Apostles would doubtless be profitable to those who are actively engaged in an important work of reform at the present time. In their forbearance under great provocations and persecution, the moderate and respectful language in which they addressed those in positions of authority, their strict regard for the truth, and their carefulness against giving needless offense, they have left an example worthy of our imitation. With an uncompromising zeal for the truth, they combined that Christian charity which led them to abstain from judging the characters and motives even of their bitterest opponents. It is by such a spirit and by such methods that the truth can be best commended to thinking minds.