And here you will allow me to remark, before we proceed, that if Apostles, whose diocese was the world, had this abiding care for the continuous training of their converts in faith and holiness, that pastor and teacher of any particular congregation nowadays must have a very imperfect idea of the work assigned to him, whose great, perhaps his only, ambition is to swell the muster-roll of his so-called converts, and who, instead of ‘feeding them with knowledge and understanding,’ considers his duty toward them discharged, when he has succeeded in inoculating them with his own sectarian fanaticism, and then turns them loose upon the community as emissaries of rebellion in families, and robbers of other churches.
Such impudent tactics, under the guise of religious zeal, are not at all, I think, apostolic. They can at best but remind one of Samson’s style of warfare on a certain occasion, when he ‘went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.’
From all which sort of practice may the good Lord deliver this church, whether as an agent in it, or a sufferer from it. No man, indeed, who really knows the spiritual condition of any of our churches—
their prevailing worldliness of temper and life;
their great ignorance of, and slender interest in, the truth of God;
the faintness of their love to Christ, and Christ’s cause, and people, and glory;
their numberless little, unbrotherly, unsisterly jealousies and alienations;
their frequent paltry feuds and animosities—
no one, I say, that understands these things, to add no more, will deem the suggestion an uncharitable one, that we all ‘have need that one teach us again which be the first principles of the oracles of God,’ regarding duty as well as doctrine—the things to be done by us, as well as the things to be believed—or, as our Apostle expresses it, ‘how we ought to walk and please God.’
John Lillie, Lectures on the Epistles of Paul to the Thessalonians (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1860), 210-11.