« הקודםהמשך »
a messenger as you can confide in? If this be really the case, it theu only remains, to Write. And there may be some circumstances which make this the most advisable way of speaking. One of these circumstances is, when the person with whom we have to do is of so warm and impetuous a temper, as does }}'t easily bear reproof, especially from an equal or inferior. But it may be so introduced and softened in writing, as to make it far more tolerable. Besides, many will read the very same words, which they could not bear to hear. It does not give so violent a shock to their pride, nor so scnsibly touch their honour. And suppose it makes little impression at first, they will, perhaps, give it a second reading, and, upon farther consideration, lay to heart what before they disregarded. If you add your name, this is nearly the same thing as going to him, and speaking in person. And this should always be done, uuless it be rendered improper by some very particular reason.
5. It should be well observed, not only that this is a step which our Lord absolutely commands us to take, but that he commands us to take this step first, before we attempt any other. No alternative is allowed, no choice of any thing else : This is the way; walk thou in it. It is truc, he enjoius is, if need rcquire, to take two other steps; but they arc to be taken successively after this step, and neither of them before it : Much less are we to take any other step, either before, or beside this. To do any thing else, or not to do this, is, therefore, cqually inexcusable.
6. Do not think to excuse yourself for taking an entirely different step, by saying, “Why, I did not speak to any one, till I was so burdened, that I could not refrain. You was burdened. It was no wonder you should, unless your conscience was scared ; for you was under the guilt of sin, of disobeying a plain coummandment of God! You ought immediately to bare gouc, and told “your brother of his fault between you and him alone.” If you did not, how should you be other than burdened, (unless your heart was utterly hardened, while you was trampling the command of God under foot, and “ hating your brother in your lieart ? ” And what a way have you found to unburden yourself? God reproves you for a sin of omission, for not telling your brother of his fault; and you comfort yourself, under his reproof, by a sin of commission, by telling your brother's fault to another person! Ease bought by sin is a dcar purciase! I trust in God, you will bave no case, but will
be burdened so much the more, till you “ go to your brother, and tell him,” and no one else!
7. I know but of one exception to this rule: There may be a peculiar case, wherein it is necessary to accuse the guilty, though absent, in order to preserve the innocent. For instance: You are acquainted with the design which a man has against the property or life of his neighbour. Now the case may be so circumstanced, that there is no other way of bindering that design from taking effect, but the making it known, without delay, to bim against whom it is laid. In this case, therefore, this rule is set aside, as is that of the Apostle; “ Speak evil of no man ;” and it is lawful, yea, it is our bounden duty, to speak evil of an absent person, in order to prevent his doing evil to others and himself at the same time. But remember, meanwhile, that all evil-speaking is, in its own nature, deadly poison. Therefore if you are sometimes constrained to use it as a medicine, yet use it with fear and trembling; seeing it is so dangerous a medicine, that nothing but absolute necessity can excuse your using it at all. Accordingly, use it as seldom as possible; never but when there is such a necessity : and even then use as little of it as is possible ; only so much as is necessary for the end proposed. At all o‘her times, “go and tell him of his fault between thee and him alone.”
II. 1. But what “if he will not hear ? ” If he repay evil for good ? If he be enraged rather than convinced? What if he hear to no purpose, and go on still in the evil of his way? We must expect this will frequently be the case; the mildest and tenderest reproof will have no effect ; but the blessing we wished for another, will return into our own bosom. And what are we to do then ? Our Lord has given us a clear and full direction. Then “ take with thee one or two more:” This is the second step. Take one or two whom you know to be of a loving spirit, lovers of God, and of their neigbbour. See, likewise, that they be of a lowly spirit, and “ clothed with humility.” Let them also be such as are meek and gentle, patient and longsuffering ; not apt to “ return evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing.” Let them be men of understanding, such as are endued with wisdom from above; and men unbiassed, free from partiality, free from prejudice of any kind. Care should likewise be taken, that both the persons and their characters be well known to him. And let those that are acceptable to him be chosen preferable to any others,
2. Love will dietate the manner wherein they should proceed, according to the nature of the case. Nor can any one particular manner be prescribed for all cases. But perhaps, in general, one might advise, before they enter upon the thing itself, let them mildly and affectionately declare that they have no anger or prejudice toward him, and that it is merely from a principle of good will that they how come, or at all concern themselves with his affairs. To make this the more apparent, they might then calmly attend to your repetition of your former conversation wit! him, and to what he said in his own defence, before they attempted to determine any thing. After this they would be better able to judye in hat manner to proceed, “ that by the mouth of tiro or three witnesses every word might be established ;” that whatever you have said, may have its full force, by the aduitional weight of their authority.
3. In order to this, may they not, (1.) Briefly repeat what you spoke, and what he answered ? (2.) Enlarge upon, open, and confirm the reasons which you had given ? (3.) Give weight in your reproof, showing how just, how kind, and how seasonable it was? Arid, lastly, Euforce the advices and persuasions which you had annexeel to it? And these may likewise herealier, il ned should recure, bear witness of what was spoken.
4. With regard to this, as well as the preceding rule, we may obserre, that our Lord gives us no choice, leaves us no alternative, but expressly commands us to do this, and nothing cise in the place of it. He likewise directs is when to do this; ucitier sooner vor later; ranels, after we have taken the first, and inefore we have taken the third step. It is tlich only that We are allthorized to relate the evil another has done, to those whow we desire to bear a part with us in this great instance of brotherly love. Butkitus have a cure how we rclate it to any other persoll, uil both these steps bave been taken. If we neglect to take these', or if we take any others, what wonder illveare burdened suill? For we are sinners against God, and against our neighbour; and how fairly soever we may colour it, yet, it we have any conscience, our sin will find us out, and bring a burden upon our soul.
III. 1. That we may be thoroughly instructed in this weighty allall, our Lord has given us a still farther direction. “If he will not bear then, ther, and not till then, “ tell it to the Church." Tuis is the third step). All the question is, How Luis word, só une chreti,' is bicre to be understood ? But the very halllic of the thing will determine this, beyond al!
reasonable doubt. You cannot tell it to the national Church, the whole body of men termed “ the Church of England.” Neither would it answer any christian end, if you could; this, therefore, is not the meaning of the word. Neither can you tell it to that whole body of people in England, with whom you have a more immediate connexion. Nor, indeed, would this answer any good end: the word, therefore, is not to be understood thus. It would not answer any valuable end, to tell the faults of every particular member to the Church, (if you would so term it,) the congregation or society united together in London. It remains that you tell it to the elder, or elders of the Church, to those who are overseers of that flock of Christ, to which you both belong, who watch over yours and his soul, “ as they that must give account.” And this should be done, if it conveniently càn, in the presence of the person concerned, and, though plainly, yet with all the tenderness and love, which the nature of the thing will admit. It properly belongs to their office, to determine concerning the behaviour of those under their care, and to rebuke, according to the demerit of the offence, “ with all authority.” When therefore you have done this, you have done all which the Word of God, or the law of love, requireth of you : You are not now partaker of his sin; but if he perish, his blood is on his own head.
2. Here, also, let it be observed, that this, and no other, is the third step which we are to take; and that we are to take it in its order after the other two; not before the second, much less the first, unless in some very particular circumstance. Indeed, in one case, the second step may coincide with this : they may be, in a manner, one and the same. The elder or elders of the Church may be so connected with the offending brother, that they may set aside the necessity, and supply the place, of the one or two witnesses ; so that it may suffice to tell it to them, after you have told it to your brother, “between you and him alone.
3. When you have done this, you have delivered your own soul. “ If he will not hear the Church,” if he persist in his sin, “ let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican.” You are under no obligation to think of him any more; only when you commend him to God in prayer. You need not speak of him any more, but leave him to his own Master. Indeed, you still owe to him, as to all other heatheus, carnest, tender good will. You owe him courtesy, and, as occasion offers, all the offices of humanity. But hare no friendship, no familiarity with him; no other intercourse than with an open heathen.
4. But if this be the rule by which Christians walk, which is the land where the Christians live ? A few you may possibly find scattered up and down, who make a conscience of observing it. But how very few! How tbinly scattered upon the face of the carth! And where is there any body of men, that universally walk thereby? Can we find them in Europe ? Or, to go no farther, in Great Britain or Ireland ? I fear not: 1 fear we may search these kingdoms throughout, and yet search in vain. Alas for the Christian world! Alas for Protestants, for reformed Christians ! 0, “who will rise up with me against thic wicked ?” “Who will take God's part” against the evilspeakers ? Art thou the man? By the grace of God wilt thou be onc, who art not carried away by the torrent ? Art thou fully determined, God being thy helper, from this very hour, to set a watch, a continual “watch, before thy mouth, and keep the door of thy lips ? " From this hour wilt thou walk by this rule, “ speaking evil of no mau ?” If thou seest thy brother do evil, wilt thou “ tell him of his fault between thee and him alone?” Afterwards, “ take one or two” witnesses, and then only “tell it to the Church?” If this be the full purpose of thy heart, then learn one lesson well, • Hear evil of no mar.' If there were no hearers, there would be po speakers, of evil. And is not (according to the vulgar proverb) the receiver as bad as the thief? If then any begin to speak evil in thy hearing, check him immediately. Refuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so succtly; let hiin use ever so soft a manner, so mild an accent, ever so many professions of good will for him whom he is stabbing in tlic dark, whom he smiteth under the fifth rib! Resolutely refuse to hear, though the whisperer complain of being 'burdened till he speak.' Lurdened! thou fool ! dost thou travail with thy cursed secret, as a woman travaileth with child ? Go then, and be delivered of thy burden in the way the Lord hath ordained! First, “ Go and tell thy brother of his fault between thee and bin alone :” Next, “take with thee one or two” common friends, and tell him in their presence: If neither of these steps take effect, then “tell it to the Church.” But, at the peril of thy soul, tell it to no one clse, either before or after, mless in that one exempt case', when it is absolutely needful to preserve the innocent! Why