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The principal means to be employed in such a case, tionate expostulation, and reproof.
1. The text intimates that the reproof is to be faithfully administered.-To tell another of a fault, even if it be done in the mildest manner, constitutes reproof. Faults are not confined to practical matters, but extend also to doctrinal. Christian are exposed to both, and both are equally dangerous. Where our brethren have fallen into faults of one or both kinds, we are to endeavour to awaken them, by the application of reproof, to a sense of their danger. If it be practical, we are not to extenuate it, so as to weaken the moral impression of its wrong; nor on the other hand, with a view of awakening apprehension in the offender's mind, are we justified in aggravating it. If there be a vindication attempted, much care and discrimination will be required to discover the spirit in which it originates; and the reprover must be armed with the sword of God, and be faithful in the discharge of his important duty.
If it be an error of doctrine, the apostle elsewhere says, that a heretic is self-condemned ; and every Christian who is familiar with the word of God, will point out the error with care,
and bring back the offender to the paths of truth. You at once see the delicacy of this office, and that it requires no ordinary qualifications. Hence some evade the obligation of the duty. But if we really fear God, and love our brother, we shall seek to restore him when overtaken in a fault, in the spirit recommended in the text, considering thyself, fc.
It is to be done in the spirit of meekness. This is eminently necessary; because we undertake to restore our brother, we assume superior ground;-our conduct implies that we have avoided the fault we would reprove. This is not generally liked by those who are guilty of an offence. There is great danger of its exciting a feeling of resistance and pride. In order, therefore, to prepare the way, and to repress such feelings ere they arise, reproof should be administered in the spirit of meekness. He who inflicts pain willingly and intentionally is a monster. The skilful practitioner will probe the wound to the bottom, but he will do it as gently as possible. So we, when called to restore
a faulty brother, should aim to convince him by our conduct, that we have undertaken an unpleasant task from a sense of duty; and that we would rather at any time applaud than condemn.
A spirit of kindness pervaded the corrections which the Saviour so faithfully applied. Severity was employed when necessary; but in his severest admonitions, affection for the person reproved was eminently conspicuous. The apostle paved the way for rebuke by previously and frankly acknowledging the virtues of the church. If any one undertakes to reprove another, to gratify his own pride, he will expose faults in a coarse and unfeeling manner. But if his design be to do good, he will cheerfully commend virtue, and meekly, though firmly, rebuke sin. This will, most effectually, convince the offender that you have no other end in view but his welfare, while you discharge this Christian duty. It is one way of showing our love to a brother, to reprove him, when he is in fault; and if it be done with affection, it will generally be crowned with success. But if we show any other spirit—if we seek to gratify our own self-importance—if we desire to nourish our vanity and pride -we shall defeat the object we profess to have in view. Until we deeply feel the frailty of our own nature, and are sensible of our own deficiencies, we are not qualified for this important
We must never lose sight of our faults. We are equally liable to temptation. We are yet in the body; and we only stand because we are upheld by the hand of God. By remembering these things, we shall be able to approach our erring brother with feelings of tenderness and sympathy. I am fully aware of the difficulty of convincing a fellow Christian who sins; and on this account, as well as the extreme delicacy of the task, many shrink from it. But let me impress its importance on your minds; as well as the necessity of cultivating the spirit here enforced.
It must be obvious, from what has been already said, that if we see a brother overtaken in a fault, and leave him, without any attempt to restore him, we are guilty of serious neglect of a known Christian duty. This will appear even more forcibly,
if you consider what was enjoined under the Jewish economy. Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, nor suffer his sin upon him, but rebuke him. In this case, the people of God were united in one nation; and if it was binding on them to manifest love to each other, by reproving for faults, how much more so among the members of a Christian church, where the union is so close and intimate. We are bound in Christ, by ties of affection. Under the old dispensation, fear of God was the tie; but under the new, it is love. How can we love a brother, and see him in sin, without applying the remedies which the gospel affords for his correction!
The apostle, in Hebrews iii. 13, exhorts to reproof daily, lest the heart be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Oh! who can tell how deceitful sin is ? There is no being but God, who is adequately aware of it. We ought, therefore, to take the earliest opportunity of rebuke, when the heart is softened by the first preception of guilt; and not to leave him until it be hardened—for then there is but little hope of success. We are therefore, as much as in us lies, to “exhort one another daily."
In cases of physical danger, we admonish those exposed to it. Who can forbear to warn a traveller when treading on the verge of an awful precipice? If we see a fellow-creature taking poison instead of food, or pursuing a path beset with peril and danger, who can refrain from lifting up a warning voice? But in this case how much more requisite, since the interests at stake are so momentous! It is as benevolent, as it is urgent, to warn and rebuke a brother in fault, because his eternal happiness is placed in jeopardy. When
you feel that it is necessary to reprove, exercise yourselves in prayer.
If ever there be need to ask counsel of God, it is in this case. And in answer to prayer, he will give you the spirit of wisdom, meekness, and love. He will impart the word of instruction. Pray to Him, therefore, to enable you to discharge your duty; for he alone can bless
DISCOURSE ON THE TEN LEPERS.
(By the Rev. Samuel Thodey, of Cambridge.)
LUKE xvii, 17.
WERE THERB NOT TEN CLEANSED ? BUT WHERE ARE THE NINE?”
The text is plainly the language of disappointed benevolence. It is not the language of reproach, of exasperation, or of any thing resembling bitterness of feeling, for of this our Lord was incapable; but it is the language of solemn and tender regret, at witnessing the feeble moral influence which the greatest mercies exert over the thankless and insensible minds of irreligious men. Our Lord felt not the dishonour done to himself, in their withholding the tribute of their praise, so much as the melancholy indication which their conduct gave of the moral state of their minds; and no doubt he deeply regretted, on their behalf, that so signal a display of divine power and goodness should have produced so extremely slight an impression upon them. It is just in unison with the exclamation of the great vine-dresser, in the parable of the prophet: What could I have done more unto my vineyard that I have not done to it? Wherefore, when I looked for grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? -Were there not ten cleansed ? but where are the nine?
This cure was calculated to exert a powerful moral influence upon their character, if any thing in the order of outward means could. We might reasonably have expected that if it had not transformed them into Christians, it would at least have affected them powerfully as men ; that it would have called forth some vivid and permanent emotions, evincing that the miracle which produced so delightful a change upon their bodies, was not quite lost upon their minds—that if it had not led to the conversion of their souls to God, it would have produced some favourable result upon the tone of their thoughts and feelings.
This leads to one remark, which, no doubt, you have often made in common with myself,—that of all the disappointments of human life, none are more painful than the disappointment of our benevolent hopes and expectations in reference to the character of others. We regret most deeply the failure of the best plans and the most likely means, and the most affecting dispensations of Divine Providence, to influence the mind and conscience of those with whom we are associated. The parent, for instance, mourns when the best education, the best example, the most favourable outward circumstances, are lost upon the character of his child, and alike fail to elevate his mind here, or to prepare him for happiness hereafter. Other evils may be compensated, but for the wreck of character, and of hope, there is no compensation. We mourn for our friends, when we see them placed in circumstances most calculated to be beneficial to their minds, to arouse the slothful to action, or to subdue the more thoughtless to consideration, whilst yet nothing produces the desired end. But most of all, we mourn for ourselves, and we have reason to do so in moments of thoughtful retrospection, when we retrace the history of our lives, and see what opportunities of moral impression have been lost upon us, when neither judgments have aroused, nor mercies have subdued us: when we have been placed in the furnace, and yet have not been refined in the process; and have been brought out of the furnace, and yet have not, like the poor Samaritan, fallen at the feet of our deliverer. We seem to resemble the Israelites who had seen the sun stand still, and Jordan roll back, and the waves of the Red Sea divide, but who, amidst so many miracles, were hardened and unimpressible to the last. Oh what a scene does this life present—a scene of constant kindness on the part of God, and of constant insensibility on the part of man: where God seems to be doing every thing for his creature, in the way of mercies, and of blessings, and of providential dispensations, and where man seems to be doing every thing to thwart the benevolent designs of Heaven in his own restoration, turning from his benefactor without thankfulness, and converting the best gifts of Heaven into the elements of more than mortal death: a world, it seems, in which a single act of thankfulness stands forth as a matter challenging admiration and surprise, a solitary exception to a