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PREPARATION FOR THE TREATMENT OF OFFENCES. 31
pies of “ the new man.” Some neglect it, alleging that they have enough to do in attending to their own salvation, without meddling with the affairs of others. But such know not, or forget, that they cannot be saved without attending to this as well as the rest of Christ's commandments, as the calls of duty require. Others excuse themselves on the ground of alleged incapacity for the work. But this excuse is groundless, in the view of needful help being afforded in the warrant to take “ one or two more,” in the event of personal efforts being unsuccessful. Others wink at the faults of brethren, supposing that, in doing so, they are “ following the things which make for peace.” But this is peace with sin,—the peace of spiritual death, preventing true peace with God. Others neglect this labour of love lest they should forfeit the favour of the offender, and provoke his resentment. But this indicates more desire to secure his favour, than to save his soul,-more dread of suffering his displeasure, than fear of his perishing by being left to“ bear his iniquity." There is, therefore, no ground of excuse, but strong obligation to attend to this duty, which cannot be neglected without becoming“ partakers of other men's sins.” PREPARATION FOR THE TREATMENT OF
In the treatment of all kinds of offences, it must be remembered, that there are special qualifications necessary for ensuring success : namely, such love to Christ, and to his people for his sake, as will induce to willing and unwearied exertion in promoting his cause and glory,--such a strong sense of obligation to Christ, as will determine to serve him at all hazards,-such confidence in his promised presence and blessing, as will render fearless of all difficulty and opposition,
such hatred of sin, as will not admit of “ bearing them that are evil,” without endeavouring to reclaim or put them away, -such “compassion for them that are ignorant and out of the way,” as will induce to “save them with fear, pulling them out of the fire,”-such meekness, as will prevent what would provoke, and produce what may win the offending brother, -such humility, as may subdue prejudice in the offender, and dispose him for the candid consideration of truth,—such knowledge of human nature and of the word of God, and such wisdom in the application of truth, as may instruct and persuade unto repentance,-such faithfulness, as will neither withhold the applications necessary to promote
32 PREPARATION FOR THE TREATMENT OF OFFENCES.
a broken heart, nor heal the hurt slightly, such patient perseverance, as will neither faint nor fail till all required is accomplished,- and such leaning on Christ in the spirit of believing prayer, as will prevail with God and with man in finding that success by which God will be glorified.
In connexion with the cultivation of these graces, the offended party must examine himself, so as to ascertain whether he has not been stumbled by the offence, as, in such a case, he must first resort to means for purging and restoring his own soul, without which he can have no capacity for restoring his fallen brother. In cases of personal trespass, there is great danger of being stumbled into the sin of seeking to avenge the wrong, by rendering evil for evil. When the offence contains personal insult, there is danger of being provoked thereby to speak unadvisedly, as did Moses, when, after being accused unjustly by the people, he said, “ Hear now, ve rebels, must we fetch you water out of the rock ?” When personal interests are supposed to be affected by the offence, there is danger of giving place to jealousy, envy, and anger, as when “the ten were moved with indignation against the two brethren,” who sought ascendancy over them in their Lord's kingdom. When mortified by the reproach occasioned by the offence, there is danger of giving place to a desire to get rid of the offender rather than to restore him. When the offended party forgets that he also is a sinner exposed to temptation, there is danger of fostering the pride of thinking himself superior to him that has fallen, and thus despising him, neglect the means appointed for promoting his recovery.
Great care should be taken to have the mind completely purged from all improper feeling occasioned by the offence to be treated, because there will be danger in acting under the influence of evil passions of doing more harm than good. The rule is, “ First cast out the beam out of thine own eye ; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.” “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” But there is a difference between private and public offences, and between that of a man “ overtaken in a fault "--and hypocrisy detected by the discovery of long continuance in secret sin, which must be treated respectively, as “the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
TREATMENT OF A PRIVATE OFFENCE BY THE
A PRIVATE offence is any injury done to another, or an offenco against God, known only to one or more, who will not tell it to others ; and, though entailing no personal injury, it is the duty of any who know it to treat it as required by the laws of Christ. The law on this branch of the administration is very explicit. “ Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican”. Mat. xviii, 15–17. This comprehends the following particulars:
1. This law is imperative, not optional, but of binding obligation-as positive and peremptory as “ Do this in remembrance of me;" and hence, cannot be neglected by any disciple, without dishonouring Christ and wronging his own soul, and also causing injury to the offender and to the church of God.
2. It is worthy of special notice, that the party suffering by the "trespass” of the offender, is here required to take the
lead in seeking to restore his soul to God. This is contrary to corrupt nature, but it is a first principle in the dispensation of grace, which teaches to render good for evil, and corresponds with the perfect example of Christ, who sought to save them who slew him. It is, moreover, a test of pure disinterested benevolence, well fitted to convince those who neglect this duty, that they are wanting in likeness to Christ -wanting in pure love, and that they are in a fallen condition, as well as the offender.
3. The command, “ Go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone,” implies that he should not tell it to othors. This is intended to prevent the offended party from sinning, by violating the law of love, which “covereth a multitude of sins.” No person can, without proper cause, report evil against one that he loves ; and “ he that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” This clause of the law is further intended to prevent the pain and stumbling to the church, and the woe unto the world, which would arise from
that being made'known which might be disposed of in private. It is also intended for the benefit of the offender, that, in the event of repentance, he may not suffer in his reputation, by another giving publicity to his private sins. God never reports the secret sins of his people ; when repented of and pardoned, they are “ remembered no more.” Nor does he permit their private offences, known only to one or more brethren, to be told, but in so far as may be required in the use of means to produce repentance. The privacy here enjoined is also necessary for gaining the offender, who could not be expected to profit by the communications of one who had shewn want of love to him, by making known his private trespass ; by which, also, the offended would appear disquali. fied for his work, as not subject to this law of Christ, and wanting in the love essential to success. In such a case, the offended would be fully warranted to refuse hearing his brother,—not only on the ground of incapacity for treating the case as now mentioned, but also because, having made it public, it is no longer a subject for private treatment, but makes both parties amenable to the church, as in all other cases of public offence.
But there is sin in hearing or receiving, as well as in telling, the private faults of offenders. The man that listens to a tale-bearer, becomes a partaker of his sin, the same as he that receives stolen goods, knowing that they are stolen, is a partaker with the thief. Every faithful and honourable man will watch against talebearers, as tempters, subverting the scriptural administration, and rebuke them sharply ; for it is written, “ Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off”—Psal. ci. 5.
4. The command, “ Go and tell him his fault,” further implies:-(1.) That the offended must not lock it up in his own bosom, and dwell upon it in silence, else it will become a ground of grudge that will expose him to condemnation James v. 9. He must rebuke the offender, and in no ways leave this undone to the injury of his own soul, and at the hazard of being charged with the blood of his brother. (2.) That he must not act rashly, speaking when the trespass has been committed, and when passions may have been thereby excited; but, after retiring to reflect and pray, he must “go" prepared for doing what is commanded. (3.) That he must go, not to tell how much he has suffered by the trespass, which would indicate a selfish spirit of resentment, tending more to promote a quarrel than to gain the brother, but he must go in the generous spirit of love, to tell the offender how
much he has been in fault, that thus he may be awakened to repentance. And, considering that injury is generally followed with hatred on the part of him that inflicts it, and dread of the sufferer being disposed to avenge the wrong, it becomes the more necessary, at the outset, to remove all prejudice of the kind, by exercising the God-like long-suffering of love,-shewing that the object of the interview is not to seek restitution, or even to complain of the injury, but to restore the soul of him who has fallen by inflicting it. But, without winking at aggravating circumstances, care should be taken not to find the offender more in fault than a correct view of the whole case warrants,-thus shewing a kind, conciliatory spirit, and candid readiness to give place to all that can be offered in extenuation of his guilt-proceeding in the style of inquiry rather than of accusation, and endeavouring to find agreement about the facts of the case, as the proper foundation for judgment and all proceedings which may follow.
But the offender must be told more than the facts of the case already known to him. He must be told his “fault," as consisting in violation of the laws of Scripture, and the law of love, bringing home these laws to his understanding and heart, for convincing him of the true character of his offence, as dishonouring to God, and injurious to his own soul, shewing him how his trespass indicates a state of mind inconsistent with his holy profession, as when Christ told Peter that his words “ savoured not of the things that be of God, but those that be of men ;” and as when Peter shewed Simon Magus how his words indicated that his “ heart was not right in the sight of God.” This should be followed by proposing every Scriptural inducement to repentance, always shewing that the end intended is not to degrade or conquer, but to gain the erring brother, by the kind and persuasive proceedings of truth and love, and speaking so as to remind him that he has to do with Christ as a Saviour and Judge, and that he must resort to Him for pardon and repentance, as the only way of recovery. And every interview of the kind should be opened and closed with fervent prayer, for guidance and success.
In services of this kind, much difficulty, in some cases, must be encountered, arising from the effects of the offence on the mind of the transgressor. The power of prejudice, formed by the hardening influence of sin, generally leads the offender to regard such services as an intrusion on his liberty, to count his faithful monitor an enemy in telling him the truth, to meet and resist the admonitions of love by expres