THERE was a little trouble in the church, and the young minister was sad about it. He sought advice, and one who loved peace begged him to let the matter alone, and in a short time the evil would die of itself, for, as Solomon says, “Where no wood is the fire goeth out.” The brother was of a fretful spirit, and could not take things quite so easily; it worried him that there should be a single weed in his garden, and he felt he would sooner plough it all up than let that weed remain. His friend begged him to do nothing in a hurry, but take counsel of his pillow, and repeat the operation for one calendar month at least. This the young pastor found it as hard to do as it would be to wait quietly while a dog has his teeth in our leg, or a red-hot coal is finding its way down the inside of our waistcoat. He thought that the church pond was foul, and he longed to stir it to see how it would smell. This young man’s tastes and mine by no means agree, for I had rather run a mile any day than quarrel, and that is saying a good deal, for miles are long to legs which have the rheumatism. This energetic pastor wanted to be setting things to rights, and therefore quiet counsels were not very kindly taken. Young men will have their will, and our friend resolved to have his own way, even if he ran over everybody else.
Off he went to a hot-headed gentleman who was more of his own age, and stated the case to him. His new adviser at once told him never to give in, or consent to be put upon, and closed his oration by telling him to take the bull by the horns at once. This counsel was more to our friend’s liking, and therefore he applauded it as wise and straightforward, and resolved to carry it out. What came of the rash performance we will not stop to relate in so many words, but it may be guessed from the usual result of taking bulls by their horns.
Our woodcut represents Scene I.: the brave man, regardless of consequences, boldly confronting his foe. Hurrahs and cheers from persons on the other side of the hedge! Considerable excitement in the mind of the hero, who believes himself to be infallible and invincible, Hercules and the Pope rolled into one.
Scene II. we have not drawn on the wood because it is easy of imagination: the bold man is off his feet and off the ground, rising in his own consciousness, rising into the air like Sancho Panza from the blanket. Horns are pretty sure elevators when a bull applies his wrathful strength to a transaction of the lifting order. Persons who are violently assailed often become violent assailants. It is very wrong of them, but it is a way they have.
Scene III. would be too painful for a drawing. The rising man has come down again, not in peace, but almost in pieces. He is badly gored, and will probably be crippled for on term of his natural life. He says that he will never take bulls by the horns again.
MORAL.—Avoid strife, especially in a church. If the cause cannot prosper in quietude it certainly will not in an uproar. Tares are a trouble, but the rooting of them up may make worse trouble. Courage is a virtue, but a pugilistic tendency is not. It is well to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; but we must not wrestle with flesh and blood, nor fight the Lord’s battles with the devil’s weapons. “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1881 (1881), 260–261.