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sions of angry passion, or recrimination, perhaps, to attempt to justify himself, by alleging that some are, in other respects, more guilty than himself,--and to take occasion to prolong conversation on some relative circumstance, for avoiding what is mainly censurable. But, in the worst view of the case, at the outset, the reprover should beware of thinking or speaking of the case as hopeless, as, in failing to hope for success, he would naturally fail in making endeavours for that end. Sin produces moral madness; but there is no prejudice or passion too strong for being overcome by the “grace and truth which come by Christ Jesus.” And there is “ need of patience.” Business of this kind can seldom be settled at one meeting ; and, when there is no immediate appearance of repentance, it will be well to submit a “word in season,” from the Bible, for the offender's consideration, requesting him to confer with God, in private, about its application, as a preparative for another interview. But great care should be taken to prevent discussion becoming a party quarrel.
5. This prescription, for individual treatment of the of fender “alone,” is followed by a notice of prospective success, intended no doubt, to excite the offended to labour in hope. “ If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” This implies that he had spoken the truth in season to him for his recovery, else the offender had better not have heard him ; and the hearing here mentioned is more than the bearing of the ear; it is the hearing of faith and obedience, shewn in the confession of sin, by which the offender is gained from his fallen condition, gained to the love of the truth, gained to Christ, and gained to the offended brother, to the wonted exercise of brotherly love, by“ repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” But no repentance can be regarded genuine, but as produced by the influence of Scripture truth, convincing of sin, and leading to God for pardon and acceptance through Christ, shewn by the confession of sin and corresponding expressions of grief on account of having offended, with resolution to forsake sin and live to God. All confessions, not spontaneous, but, seemingly, the result of necessity, for preventing further trouble or exposure, or mixed with apologies, in self-justification, or accompanied with murmuring at faithful reproof, are indications of the repentance not being “after a godly sort." Yet great allowance should be made for the capacity and manners of different persons in such circumstances. And in all cases,
what seems deficient should be explained, and means used to produce what is wanting.
Repentance on the part of the offender, calls for forgiveness on the part of the offended ; and this is not optional but imperative. “ Take heed to yourselves, if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him ; and if he repent, forgive him," Luke xvii. 3. By this law, the offended is as much bound to profess forgiveness as the offender to profess repentance; and in this way only can the breach be healed to reconciliation, for tho exercise of brotherly love, without which all labour and professions would be in vain.
Love thus restored should be maintained by dismissing from the mind, the offence, which, having been forgiven, should be “ remembered no more," and never once mentioned in time to come. Any reference to an old offenee that has been forgiven, is mean and dishonourable as well as unchristian,
is no better than charging over again an old account, that had been paid and discharged ; and is a plain indication that, the person so acting, has not forgiven the offence, as God forgives sin, “ remembering it no more.” For promoting love, all that is “unseemly" should also be avoided, and the duties of love carefully performed, remembering that “ love is the fulfilling of the law.” By repentance, sin, which impaired confidence, is removed, leaving the holy affections to operate as formerly. And, in a proper view of the case, there will be found cause for a great increase of love.-the offender finding cause to love his brother more, as the instrument of restoring his soul from sin to God; and the offended finding cause of greater love to his brother, as the fruit of his labours of love in reclaiming him. In this view, there is strong inducement to endeavour to heal the breach without other aid, as love so restored would be more genuine and fervent than what could be produced by the labours of “ one or two more." And there is a noble triumph of grace in the offender being gained by the person he had injured, corresponding with what appears in Saul of Tarsus having been gained by Jesus whom he had persecuted,
TREATMENT OF AN OFFENCE BY “ONE OR
In the event of the offender not being gained by hearing his brother, the offended party is required to take with him “one or two more.” The object of this arrangement is twofold-that further private means may be used to restore the
offender--and that, failing success, there may be legal evidence for establishing the truth of the case before the church. - the only tribunal competent for the exclusion of the offender, should he continue impenitent.
Those chosen for this purpose should be men of standing and sound experience"wise men among the brethren,”and, if otherwise suitable, the special friends of the offender, that, having his confidence, they may find easy access to his heart.
It merits particular notice here, that, the offended, is not commanded to go and tell the case to “one or two more," but, to "take" them first to the offender, which implies that, he must not say a word about the matter but in the presence of the accused. Any previous or partial communication would be dishonourable would indicate want of wisdom, candour, and love-might form a temptation to the mediators to prejudge the case, and if known to the offender, could not fail to produce a suspicion in his mind to that effect, which would unfit him for hearing them with advantage. They should hear nothing till the accuser and accused are face to face, when they should proceed in the order of the following principles :
1. They should enter on their work under a deep sense of responsibility, reflecting how the interests of an immortal soul are at stake, anxious to save a soul from death, remembering how it is written, “He that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord,” and resolving to act as scriptnre law requires, depending on Christ for guidance and success.
2. After prayer for divine guidance, they should request the offended party to state the case, and the grounds on which he conceives the offender has not repented; which should be followed by inquiry at the offender whether he consents to the truth of the statement, which, if disputed to any extent, must be investigated for ascertaining how far what is in dispute is the effect of misunderstanding, or, whether any point not admitted can be established by circumstantial evidence, as no righteous judgment can be formed, but on the ground of facts proven by the admission of the accused, or other legal evidence.
3. The offender should then be questioned as to his own view of the case, whether he conceives that the wordsoractions complained of, accord with scripture law, and brotherly love, explaining to him how, in finding no law in justification of his conduct, he shews that, he “has been walking after the flesh, fulfilling the desires of his own heart," and neither
hearing nor obeying Christ ; shewing him also the laws he has violated, and recommending the wholesome appropriate prescriptions of scripture for producing repentance. But they should not rest satisfied with giving judgment on the case, as in civil matters, without finding the offender hearing them, by showing symptoms of true repentance, which may be sought by adjourned meetings, always conducted in the exercise of that love which “bopeth all things."
On occasions of this kind, there have been instances of the offender contriving to resist or avoid the treatment intended for his recovery, by recrimination, accusing his accusér, and demanding a hearing of what he had to say against him, as if intent to settle the account by making a balance of alleged injuries on both sides. But this law makes no provision for any thing of the kind, as was shewn in the following case :-An offender was found resisting the labours of agents employed to treat his offence, by loud and bitter complaints against his accuser, as having persecuted him, and spoken to him in a bad spirit; and a patient hearing of all he had to say against him was demanded ; when it was said in reply, • We cannot just now hear a word you have to say against your brother. We did not understand this as a case of personal quarrel, allowing a hearing of both parties. We were brought here to treat your case, not that of your accuser ; and the law of Christ, under which we act, requires us to speak to you concerning your offence, apart from all other subjects. It is also written, 'Every man shall bear his own burden,' which forbids our mixing up cases that are distinct. Moreover, it would be wrong in you to advance, or us to sustain, what you might say against another in extenuating your own sin. Nor can you form a proper judgment of the rebukes of your brother, till you see the evil of the sins he has rebuked. We must, therefore, proceed in the treatment of your case in the first instance, and when disposed of, if you require, we shall be ready to hear what you have to say against your brother, after you have dealt with him in private, as the laws of Christ require, without effect. When this offender was gained by repentance, instead of complaining against his brother, he thanked him cordially for his faithful dealing, confessing that he had hated reproof while in love with sin.
But, in treating a quarrel, both parties should be heard, and care taken to ascertain how the disputes originated, who was the aggressor ;-and how the minds of the parties have been affected ;-whether as offending or being stumbled,
- ministering counsel and rebuke accordingly ;-taking care jot to admit the faults on one side in extenuation of faults on the other, and without requiring confession on the one side, on condition of confession on the other, but showing how each must repent and confess and turn to God, as the proper basis of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. And it should be shewn, at the outset, how necessary it is that, each of the parties desire reconciliation rather than victory, and consent to that effect should be obtained ; otherwise, all discussion would only promote strife, making the end worse than the beginning.
TREATMENT OF A PUBLIC OFFENCE.
An offence is public, when committed in circumstances which give occasion for its being reported and known in the world ; and must be treated differently from a private offence, in respect of being at once submitted to the church for judgment, when the facts of the case are ascertained so as to be “established in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” A public, as well as a private offender, might be brought to repentance, by the blessing of God, on private treatment. But every public offender is amenable to the church, because, by the publicity of his offence, they are rendered responsible for its removal,--because, being public, it is a sin against the whole church, rendering them entitled to reparation, and, because, though the offender were led to repentance by private means, the breach with the church, occasioned by his offence, could not be healed without confession before them, fitted to repair broken confidence. It is, therefore, commanded, “ Them that sin, rebuke before all, that others also may fear,” 1st Tim, v. 20. This must refer to public sins, as it is required, that private offences should be otherwise treated. Paul rebuked Peter before all the brethren on finding that the offence was public. Gal. ii. 14.
It is not lawful to tell unto the church what is reported against a member, and appoint two to investigate the case and report evidence, as in doing so, some things might be prematurely told, which could not be proven, to the injury of the accused, who should be held innocent till the true amount of his guilt is fully established. There is a positive law preventing any thing affecting character being told in the church, till after full investigation of the case, “ In the anouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established," 2nd Cor. xii. 1. It is, therefore, the duty of any,