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SIN OF SLIGHTING THAT PRECEPT. 277 trample under foot the law of God. Were they to plunge into idolatry or drunkenness, they could but rebel against the Son of God, and they who make light of this solemn law of his are as truly rebels against him. Again, they are commonly guilty of slander and lying. The evil reports they greedily receive are most probably in a great degree false, and when they circulate these falsehoods they become guilty of scandal and lying. In connexion with this they are guilty of indulging the worst and most hellish passions of the human heart, rancour, malice, and resentment: if they did not indulge these hell-born passions they would not lend a pleased and attentive ear to every idle tale against an offending friend, nor be pleased, if that person had been ever so wrong, to publish his shame; they see the mote in their brother's eye, but they have a beam in their own.
Others pursue a different course; but a course of rebellion as real, though not carried to the same extent against the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of taking the steps with an offending friend which he ordains, they sit down in sullen pride, and resolve to have no more to do with him. Instead of going and telling him his fault in private, and in the spirit of Christian affection, they at once treat him as a heathen man and a publican. The rebellion in such cases against the authority of the Lord is as complete as in the former. Nothing can be more opposite than his law and their conduct.
This wicked conduct is often rendered still more wicked, from the flagrant fact, that it is often indulged where there is no clear evidence that a brother has been an offender; and where perhaps there is nothing but vague report; yet instead of inquiring into the truth of this report, it is at once assumed to be correct, and that course of wickedness commences which has now been faintly delineated.
If you are one that thus trample under foot the authority of Christ, that pay no attention to his positive law upon this subject, mock him no longer with the title of your Lord and Saviour, while you are a real rebel against him; but go and join the ranks to which you belong, the ranks of his enemies, the swearers, the drunkards, the liars, the scoffers, the blasphemers; they are but rebels, and while you neglect this precept, when a brother has offended you, you are as really a
OF DISPLAYING rebel as they, and perhaps a worse enemy: they are open enemies, not traitors in disguise. Rather let me say to you, if you have acted the part I have described, deplore your sin, Flee to the blood of sprinkling, and resolve that, in this respect, and every other, the laws of Christ shall govern you.
$ 5. Christian love is to be displayed by not rashly believ. ing unfavourable reports against brethren and sisters in the Lord, and by forgiving those who may have committed faults, or even been the authors of repeated injuries. « Charity thinketh no evil ; hopeth all things; endureth all things." “ In malice be ye children.” “ And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." “ Peter said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him ? till seven times ? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Uatil seven times; but, Until seventy times seven."
Christian love is to be displayed by hating tale-bearing, and by endeavours to promote harmony and peace. « Let all evil speaking be put away from you."y “Seek peace and pursue it.”? “ Have peace one with another."a « Blessed are the peace-makers : for they shall be called the children of God."b
Christian love is to be shown by a watchful concern to give our brethren no cause of offence, and, if we have dealt unkindly to any, by speedily seeking reconciliation. “ Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another." “ If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."d
$ 6. Christian love is to be displayed by warning brethren of sin, and by friendly reproof. “ Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart : thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him."é “If thy brother trespass against thee, TELL him his fault." “ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”8
(u) 1 Cor. xiii. 5, 7. (0) 1 Cor. xiv. 22. (w) Eph. iv. 39. (6) Matt. xviii. 21, 22.
(y) Eph. iv. 31. (3) Ps. xxxiv. 14. la) Mark ix. 50. (0) Matt. v. 9. (c) James v. 16. (d) Matt. v. 23, 24. (e) Lev. xix. 17.
(0) Gal. vi. 1.
Matt. xviii. 15.
CHRISTIAN LOVE. To reprove sin in fellow-disciples, or in others, is an act of sincere friendship, and an important Christian duty ; but in its discharge much prudence should be exercised. Sometimes there is a propriety in openly reproving the profane or indecent conversation of worldly persons. At other times this may be done more effectually by slipping a tract against the sin committed into the offender's hand, or by a friendly private remark. The errors or faults of an offending friend should seldom be publicly reproved. To converse affectionately with relatives or friends in private, is the far more probable way of promoting their welfare. Such reproof should ever be administered with kindness and affection, not with the authority of a superior, but with the humility of a fellowsinner.
On excuses for neglecting this duty, nothing more shall here be said than is contained in a short anecdote. One day a person being with a poor aged Christian, and lamenting a want of firmness to reprove the abandoned when travelling, as an excuse had recourse to that passage, “ Give not that which is holy unto dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” She seriously and hastily replied, “Oh, Sir, keen and just reproofs are no pearls. Were you to talk to a wicked coachman respecting the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, and the pleasures of communion with God, you would cast pearls before swine; but not in reproving sin."
$ 7. Christian love is to be manifested by endeavours to promote the spiritual welfare of our brethren in the Lord. « Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love, and to good works : exhort one another daily, while it is called Today ; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."'b « Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another."
Christian love and humility are to be displayed by receiving with meekness, and thankfulness, the admonitions and reproofs of those who wish us well. They are our best friends, whose faithfulness points out our faults, and occasions their correction. They who are too proud to listen to reproof, manifest a dreadful want of Christian spirit. “Let the right
eous smite me, it shall be a kindness."i “Whoso loveth inį struction, loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is (1) Heb. iii. 19, 13.
(1) Ps. cxli. 5.
280 ON DISPLAYING CHRISTIAN LOVE. brutish. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes : but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise."
Christian love is to be displayed by fervent prayers for the flock of the Lord, and for all mankind. “We pray always for you, that our God would fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.”k “ I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men."
Finally, Christian love to brethren is to be shown by avoiding divisions, and cherishing unity of Spirit and affection. “Be of one mind; live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."m “ Mark them which cause divisions, and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned ; and avoid them."n
$ 8. Cherish the spirit inculcated in these precepts by the authority of the Lord Jesus. Thus act, and you will live esteemed and beloved ; a comfort to others, and a comfort to yourself. Thus live, and you will enjoy the fairest evidence that you have passed from death to life; and may indulge an animating hope, that you shall soon join the church triumphant in that happier country, where all the truly pious "shall meet in Christ, and part no more."
While it is your incumbent duty thus to manifest Christian love to the household of faith, it is also your duty, in all those modes which are applicable to the situation and circumstances of those who are not the friends of the Saviour, to manifest benevolence and love to them. Thus will you display to those who know it not, the influence of real piety. Though exhorted to do good, “ especially to the household of faith," you are also exhorted to do good unto all.
$ 9. Besides those duties which devolve upon members of the Saviour's flock, in reference to their brethren in the Lord, there are others which more immediately respect the ministers of the gospel, and the pastors of churches. The duties of those employed in the ministry of the gospel, are of the most important nature, and connected with the most awful responsibility. An idle, inactive, unfaithful minister, deserves neither respect nor affection. But a minister of the gospel who zealously endeavours, though with much imperfection, to dis. charge the duties of his station, is entitled to the deference, (K) 2 Thess. i. 11. (1) 1 Tim. ii. 1. (m) 2 Cor. xiii. 11. (n) Rom. xvi. 17.
DUTIES DUE TO MINISTERS.
281 kindness, and attention of the people to whom he ministers. Nothing can be more unchristian than the spirit, which some professors of the gospel manifest towards its ministers ;-a spirit of suspicion and distrust, as if they esteemed them tyrants, anxious to grasp power and sway ;-a spirit of opposition, which seems bent on thwarting the proceedings of those under whose ministry they sit. These men are a kind of ecclesiastical radicals. They talk of liberty, but their liberty is opposed to the word of God, to human comfort, and social order; it is licentiousness and anarchy; and there is reason to apprehend, that the liberty they, like other radicals, admire, is the liberty of tyrannizing over all around them, or a liberty like the boasted freedom of the United States of America, where while the white man extols liberty, he flogs, and chains, and treats as a brute, the enslaved black that crouches at his feet. A young man just entering on the ministry should yield a respectful deference to experienced Christians, who have become fathers in Christ, and are much more calculated to lead the flock of God than he. But a minister of some experience, who knows the importance of his station, should never suffer a church to lord it over him, and if he feel the spirit of his Master, he will never wish or aim to lord it over
If you are connected with a church that enjoys the labours of a faithful minister of the gospel, you enjoy a blessing which the Saviour has bestowed upon you. For such a minister is declared to be the Lord's gift to any people.
A minister of the gospel, as a Christian brother, is entitled to the same Christian kindness and affection, as any other member of the flock of Christ, and to the same displays of Christian love. But, as a person sustaining an important situation in the family of the Saviour, there are other ways in which that love is to be displayed.
On this subject, as well as others, the word of God is the surest guide.
You are to esteem them highly. “We beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." To treat their admonitions and advice with deference and
(0) 1 Thess. v. 12, 13.