Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1951

Little Evils -- Small Beginnings

David Lipscomb (Gospel Advocate, 1897)

All corruptions in religion are the results of small beginnings, of things that seemed insignificant and harmless in their inception. Romanism did not spring into existence full grown; it came from the introduction of a principle intended for the good of the churches and of the world. The churches in certain districts would meet together to consult for the common good of all, to encourage one another, and to cooperate in the conversion of their neighbors. This was a small beginning with a good purpose. The wrong principle injected into so commendable a work seemed so insignificant compared with the promised good that only the watchful eye and prophetic foresight of a Paul could see the evil. He warned them: "The mystery of lawlessness doth already work." It was small in its beginning. Its growth was gradual and imperceptible to the actors in it; it took hundreds of years to fully develop itself; but Romanism is the outgrowth of this small and innocent-looking beginning. It is now the great and overpowering tyranny of Christendom.

All denominations have grown out of the same seed. All the evils in the individual life of man or in the religious and political conditions of the world grow out of small and insignificant beginnings. The disease that undermines the constitution of the robust man and brings him to an untimely grave has its beginning in an insignificant disturbance of some of the small organs of the body. The part of wisdom is to oppose evils in their beginnings. We cannot be too guarded in watching ourselves closely and in keeping ourselves pure from the first tendency to depart from the first principles and practices of virtue and purity or from the slightest departure from the teachings and principles of the Bible. Paul watched himself that he might keep his body under, lest he should give way to the sinful propensities of the flesh, and himself become a castaway. He was equally cautious and watchful lest he should depart from the will of God. Departures would grow. He recognized the first steps in the consultations of men concerning ways to advance the cause of God as the germs of the "man of sin," and gave warning that this "man of sin" sitteth in the seat of God and exalteth himself above all that is worshipped, or that is called God.

It was the meat and drink of Jesus to do the will of God, to keep the commandment of his Father. If we would live with God, we must drink into the spirit of Christ and strive to do the will of God, even as Jesus did the will of him who sent him. Let us watch the beginnings of evil. Churches should be guarded lest the germs of evil creep into the teaching and practice. There is especial danger here. There is such an appeal to seek to be popular that we may reach and save more. We so often defeat our aims. In becoming popular that we may save, we lose the power to save. The salt loses its savor when we try to change it into sugar. God is wiser than we. A firm but kind presentation of truth in all its strength and exclusiveness is what Jesus and the apostles did. They never catered to error nor sought popularity as a means of reaching and saving people. They were wiser than we are. Elders have a special obligation here to guard against men who hold errors because they are popular. They do the church wrong, even if they do not teach the error. To put them forward when they hold it is to approve or ignore the wrong and commend it to the world. A high and holy trust is committed to the elders of the churches to guard against the beginnings of evil in the church. Evil grows.