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we may be interested; as when Pilate assisted the Jews to effect the crucifixion of Jesus, for the sake of avoiding the displeasure of the emperor, which might have been easily aroused by their malicious representations, had he disappointed them of their victim.
3. Iniquity is fellowshiped when wrong is justified as right; when sweet is called bitter, and bitter sweet; when darkness is called light, and light darkness.
4. The same thing takes place when men support wrong on the whole. This is done by endeavoring to produce an under estimate of the wrong itself; or by urging its necessity or expediency, as if Providence compelled us to sin; or by exonerating the offender, as when the guilt is imputed where it does not belong, or is charged to a source which cannot be made responsible, such as society at large, or the circumstances which it is said have made the offender what he is. Iniquity is supported on the whole, moreover, when the character of the offender is sanctioned in full; as when the people, or whoever may have the power, confer public honor on some prominent transgressor ; or when a church retains within her bosom a known irreclaimable offender. In the 2d chap. of Revelation, the church at Pergamos, and that at Thyatira, are rebuked for allowing certain profligate heretics to remain in their communion; and while they are highly commended for various excellencies, yet are they threatened with terrible judgments for this fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. It is remarkable, too, that this rebuke and denunciation immediately precedes the commendation of the few names of the church in Sardis who had not defiled their garments; and thus are the comparative responsibilities of majorities and minorities signally illustrated. “ He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.”
Again, we may on the whole support iniquity by preserving that willful silence which gives consent. Indeed some evils, if not all; are more effectually encouraged in this way than in any other ; for the clamorous advocate of any sin excites attention to it, and provokes discussion, which is most hurtful to error. But when a dead silence is observed, a whole community may be poisoned by the moral malaria exhaled from the stagnant fen of undisturbed habitual wrong. While men sleep the enemy sows tares. The hands of evil-doers are wonderfully strengthened by this mode of procedure, or rather non-procedure, on the part of those whose duty it is to lift up a warning voice. Either their consciences are lulled to sleep, or they are emboldened by a sense of power on their side, which, as they believe, awes the friends of truth into dumb submission.
Fearful is the peril thus incurred by the carelessly or studiously silent; yet many and plausible are the temptations to pursue such a course; and to these temptations are ministers of the gospel especially exposed. They see the folly of intemperate reproaches. Offenders may attempt to awe them by threats or to conciliate them by caresses.
The rebukes of conscience may be pacified, though her approval be not secured; while her demands are met by the specious evasion of preaching general truths, and these, if the transgressor will take the trouble, he may apply to his own particular case. They must seek peace with all men. They can do a man no good by enraging him. Cannot they preach Christ and him crucified? Is it not enough to call on men to repent and turn to God, since good actions will naturally proceed from a good heart? These and such-like considerations have much weight, because though greatly alloyed with error, they still retain so much of Truth as to look like the pure metal; while for that very reason they are the more dangerous counterfeits. God hath warned the watchman let him beware.
Let us then give such heed to the principle of remedial probation as not to isolate ourselves; nor attempt what is out of our power. But let us keep our hands clean from sin, and take heed that we do not assist others to do wrong by supplying the requisite means, by sanctioning its commission, or by willfully winking at its perpetration.
II. Let us now consider our positive duty as enjoined in the text. Many seem to imagine that to reproach is to reprove.
Their impressions, their opinions, their conclusions, they strongly feel and strongly utter. Their trumpet gives no uncertain sound; and if the signal is not instantly obeyed, it is only because its authority is not acknowledged. Often in such a case will the disappointed zealot solve the problem of his disappointment by at once referring it to the depravity of mankind; and if among those who will not heed him there are any professors of religion, he will denounce them either as hypocrites who will not do right, or as too obtuse in their intellects to understand their duty; and it must be owned that there are enough of both these classes to give a show of plausibility to the conclusion. Indeed he may ask : “ To what other conclusion can I come? is not my warning signal the echo of reason and conscience ?". Be this granted; and still there is room to hope that among those who heard but heeded not, there may be some who are neither too knavish to obey, nor too foolish to understand the demands of reason. Too frequently the tones of her voice are confused by reason of the discordant medium through which they may be uttered; and it is not strange, however much to be deplored, that they should therefore be unheeded.
In all attempts at reformation, then, we should assert the dictates of reason so that men shall feel her authority; and take heed not to supply them through our folly with any plausible excuses for trampling on their obligations. A proper understanding of the
word “Reprove" will furnish us with a clew to guide us to this end. The term implies an appeal to the understanding of the evil-doer—to convince him 'by proving that his course is one of wickedness and folly—to arouse his sense of right, and not to irritate his sensibility to obloquy and scorn. How different this from mere reiterated denunciations, uncommended by kindness and unsupported by proof; or if proof be adduced, only in such a manner as will inevitably harden the heart to resistance !
To discharge this duty it is requisite
1. To understand ourselves.—“ Know thyself," says the heathen oracle. “Examine yourself,” “ Keep thy heart with all diligence,” are the injunctions of holy writ. "In attaining this knowledge we shall find ourselves to be frail; and so shall be led to bear with our erring fellows; and shall feel too deeply the impropriety of self-righteous arrogance to be guilty of it.
We shall moreover ascertain our powers and the better understand how to exert them. We shall also appreciate more clearly our dependence on God, and so shall the more earnestly seek the gui. dance of his wisdom and the aid of his power; and He giveth liberally and upbraideth not.
2. We should understand our position.—Indeed without understanding this we cannot well understand ourselves. It is needful to examine our position in social life, in the church, and in all our business and political relations. A man may safely and successfully attempt that, in one set of circumstances, to aim at which, under other circumstances, would be both useless and injurious. The reproof of Nathan, if it had been uttered by Joab, would probably have awakened David to fury rather than to repentance; and that unscrupulous but wily courtier well understood the value of this point of policy when he commissioned the woman of Tekoah to deal with the king instead of himself approaching him on the subject of Absalom's return. The honest Christian may learn a lesson from the crafty politician as well as from the unjust stew. ard. Our duty is to do good as we have opportunity, and our opportunities are very materially modified if not created by our position; and while that depends greatly on outward circumstances, yet as much, yea far more, does it depend on our own spirit and character as developed in them. Now on a careful consideration of himself and his circumstances in relation to others, a true disciple may conclude, and that correctly, that some with whom he is living in contact are beyond his influence; and such there may be without any fault of his own; witness what the Scriptures advise concerning scorners, dogs, and swine. But even such evil-doers should be reproved ; and reproved rnost emphatically they are by the silence of him who bears a faithful and consistent testimony against sin wherever he can in the sphere of his influence. The silence of such a one toward an evil.doer speaks most loudly of his utter depravity; and thus we find the Scriptures reconciled which in one place command us in any wise to rebuke our neighbor, and elsewhere direct us not to reprove a scorner. A virulent opposer of religion has sometimes been brought to reflection and penitence by the significant silence of Christians at a time when it was well known that they were urging their neighbors on every hand to come to Christ. Such cases, however, are rare; and frequently we may induce others to exert a beneficial influence where any direct effort of our own would be lost. We should however be especially careful that our position be as favorable as possible in relation to wrong-doers; as Paul was made all things to all men so as to save some. It should be remembered moreover that, apart from moral influence, wealth, office, and civil rights confer power to encourage what is for good and to restrain whatever tends to evil; and such power we ought thus to exert.
3. It is necessary that we understand those whom we would reform. We must understand human nature both in the general and in the particular. Some may have correct and profound notions of man; but when they would labor with men for their good, they waste their efforts through lack of a proper perception of the peculiarities of individual character. Others are accurate in their cognizance of peculiarities, but this alone is useless; for great is human nature. Its wants, its sins, its capacities, its dangers, and its hopes are great; and the small tactics of the store, the courthouse, or the saloon, are not the strategy required in the grand operations of intellectual and moral warfare. The partisan is not the general. He who wisely seeks the improvement of mankind will unite both kinds of knowledge, so that the wheels of a noble enterprise need not be thrown off the track through encountering some pebble of petty prejudice which might have been removed by gentle means with little trouble. The wise reformer will remember, that men are led by their feelings quite as much as by their reason; and he will endeavor to enlist their affections in his favor and so in favor of Truth.
4. We should be acquainted with the position of the wrong. doer.-We should inquire into the circumstances that have led him astray, the opportunities of knowledge which he may have had, the influences which now hinder his amendment, and especially those which may favor the access of truth to his mind, and consequently his restoration to virtue and religion. In thus doing we should give special heed to his relation to ourselves.
Having thus taken a survey of the field and the means of action, we must speak and act the Truth with that kindness and compassion which seeks to reclaim rather than to punish, which desires neither to draw down the fire of Heaven nor to shed the
venom of acrimonious reproaches on the offender's head, though he may richly deserve it, if by forbearance he may be won. We shall deny ourselves even the comfort of expressing a holy indignation. Our rebukes, though sharp, as in cases of the certain style of character they should be, will be uttered more in sorrow than in anger. We shall exhibit that meekness of charity which beareth and that candor which hopeth all things. We shall exercise that patience which endures insult and injury, and that courage and fortitude which will constantly reiterate thier attempts until the work be done, and the stronghold captured. In all this we shall exercise a holy prudence, a careful adaptation of the means to the end; for, although we are not responsible for success, our great Captain demands of us that we do not fail through our own fault. Nathan was faithful in the application of his parable ; but he was prudent in securing a concession of the principle before he said, "Thou art the man." Paul was faithful in warning the Athenians; but he was prudent in availing himself of every point which was common ground to him and them.
Wisdom is profitable to direct in this as in all other duties; and wisdom is needed; for although the simple principle of love, which is the fulfilling of the whole law, may be readily understood, like that of gravitation, yet how diversified and complicated are its operations! The course of duty in each case, is, so to speak, the resultant of various moral forces, and to ascertain it we need a calculation beyond all that our poor guesses at expediency can furnish. The Bible pronounces a woe on those who lean to their own understanding; and this some do most evidently in preferring what appears their own interest to God's high behests. There are others however who often make a great outcry at this sin, and yet are guilty of it in another way. They are generally persons possessed of some logical powers, and measurably devoid of that species of selfishness which would lead them to consult their own ease and comfort. They are not men-pleasers, neither are they lovers of pleasure rather than of God. They seize on some one or two points clearly laid down in the Scriptures. From these they draw their conclusions; and these become their convictions, and to them they resolutely cling. In them they hear the very voice of God, and that they will follow to consequences at which one would suppose they would shrink back aghast. Thus they "please not God, and are contrary to all men.” They are illustrations of the difference between mere logic and common sense. Logic draws conclusions from one or two premises; while common sense looks at a larger number, and would look at everything that is to be taken into account. Now, if the expression be allowable, God is a being of infinite common sense. He surveys the whole ground and sees the end from the beginning; and he has given us not only his law, but precepts, statutes, testimonies and judgments