Soft, Sour or Sound?
Bancroft, Ontario - Canada
SOFT: What is usually meant when we say someone has gotten soft is that they have mellowed considerably from a once tightly held position. Both the young as well as the old can get soft. Now of course we all need to season a bit and have our senses exercised to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:14). However, none of us can afford to digress from the "old paths" of the gospel of Christ and become soft (Jer. 6:16; 2 Jno. 9). Some become soft concerning the truth of God because they allow sentimentalism to seep in and let a mushy-mood mature to the place where human feelings have more influence on them than the word of God. Emotions for old friends still in the world, loved ones in certain denominations and erring-digressive brethren in Christ simply "choke out the word" and make it of "none effect" (Matt. 13:22; Mark 7:13). At this point they exclaim "Leave the denominations alone and just preach the truth." We begin to hear "Don't be so hard in your preaching ... don't call names, etc. etc." Bearing down with the truth on sinners in New Testament style becomes repulsive to them. To say "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears..." (Acts 7:51) is, to them, far too hard. To say, "we have tried" the so-called faith healers prevalent today with God's measuring reed, the Bible, "and have found them liars" would make them squirm in their seats uncomfortably and give them sufficient reason to run to their friends and apologize for "that unnecessarily stern sermon." But see Rev. 2:2 and John 6:60, 66. This silly softie spirit is spreading and no doubt will always prevail to some degree in the brotherhood at large. Preachers are not immune from contracting this sickening, sweet-spirit and are sometimes solely responsible for its spread. Brother Whiteside told of a preacher that did so much "suggesting" in his sermons that he began to say "Paul suggests" and "Jesus suggests." He said, "It sounds bad when preachers soften God's commands to mere suggestions" (Doctrinal Discourses, Pg. 373). Faithful preachers need not honey-coat the truth before delivery. Neither should they try to "win friends and influence people" by telling them how "nice" they are or by going overboard to prove how "sweet I am." Of course we need to use tact, be meek, kind, considerate, compassionate, longsuffering as well as being wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, for the Bible teaches this. But we must not become compromising, mealy-mouthed or a softie. Paul said concerning certain false brethren that, "we gave place subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you."
SOUR: When we talk of someone being sour we mean that he has taken on a disgruntled disposition and his mannerism is mean and miserable. We do have a few of this kind around, whether we like it or not. Perhaps he has not gotten his way on something and is now completely fed up with everyone and everything. He continues to "come to the services" for the sake of the public worship but he is having a real putting up with his brethren present and that are, of course, to bear him tell it, "all wrong." He has lived "for years and years and for years" and "knows all about it." He will not listen to anyone on anything any longer. He is sour on his brethren (probably one or two fellow-cranks) and "that's it!" It is possible that he has been a real fighting warrior of the cross and has taken his undue share of vicious attacks from mean men, denominational devotees or belligerent brethren. True enough, they have picked away at his person bringing false accusation against him, but all this is supposed to "work patience" and cause Christians to "rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." It doesn't seem right to excuse a brother for ugliness because "what he has had to take" or "what he been through." A fellow that has gone completely sour will finally shrivel up by sitting in his own sour sauce. Let us pray that he sickens himself soon and sorrows unto repentance before he leavens some of the lump. One thing for sure, "every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge" (Jer. 31:30).
SOUND: To be sound is to be healthy (Vine) and in the Scriptures soundness is frequently used to figuratively denote wholesome, healthy teaching. So we have "sound doctrine, "-"sound words," "sound speech," - "sound in faith" and "sound in the faith" (I Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 2: 1; 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:13; Tit. 2:8; 2:2; 1:13). The one "sound" is well balanced, stable and sure. This person turns not to the right hand or to the left hand from the law of the Lord (Joshua 1: 17). He is not "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). The sound Christian does not jump at every so called "good work" mentioned by some zealous novice or even by those "of reputation" but "walks circumspectly" (carefully) (Eph. 5:15). Being on guard and watching, he nips sin, error and digression before it gets out of control, or, at least attempts to before the wolves get to the whole flock (Acts 20:28-32). Far from being a softie, he has to be firm. He does not allow sentimentalism to sweep away the force and consequences of such verses as Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. Regardless of what others do, he stands pat. He will not tolerate standing idle while brethren wear skimpy, immodest apparel, have improper actions or unveil unscriptural, innovations. Instead of turning sour, his righteous indignation is stirred and he preaches the truth in love and with boldness (Eph. 4:15; Acts 4:29). So, then, let us all strive to be "sound in faith" and "rebuke them sharply (those that are soft and those who are sour) that they may also be "sound in the faith." All conservative Christians need to be sound, without a one of us being soft or sour. Are you Soft, Sour or are you striving to be Sound?
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 20, pp. 12-13