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intimate the probability of offences between brethren, also imply that we are prone to an opposite line of conduct to that here placed before us. Our natural feelings, indeed, prompt to such an unscriptural course, being little disposed to bear injury with meekness, and without retaliation; being more ready to proclaim, than to conceal, the faults of others; and to be revenged for wrongs committed against us, than to recover and restore an erring brother. But here let it be clearly understood, that these words are not to be regarded in the light of mere advice and recommendation, but as a positive command. It is the law of Jesus Christ, the head, to all the members who compose His body, which is the Church. The persons on whom this law is specially binding are His professed disciples. The term by which one
party (and by inference, the other also) is li designated—thy brother ”-and the ultii mate reference to the Church, in case of
the non-success of private remonstrance, intimate that it is given to the Church for a perpetual guide in its practice, and that we are not left to exercise our own discretion as to its use or otherwise. To disregard this law as a principle, and indeed as a literal rule, of action, in such matters, is sin; not only as it involves a neglect of our brother's spiritual good, but as it is practically treating with contempt the counsel of Him who is wisdom and love. While, however, we take this view of our Lord's words, let us not forget how much of the spirit of peace and love they manifest
. Spoken by the Prince of Peace, they breathe His spirit, through whose cross peace is preached to us, and who came to reconcile man to Himself by the shedding of His own blood. He was ever found to exemplify the spirit of His own rule. He returned not evil for evil, but rather good ; when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He suffered He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. He came to seek and to save that which was lost; and when He suffered death at the hands of those whom He came thus to bless, He asked not for legions of angels to inflict upon them deserved vengeance, but prayed to His Father for their forgiveness. When, there
fore, instead of being revenged on our f brother who trespasses against us, or at
once making known to others his conduct towards us, we go and tell him his fault alone, and that with the object of gaining
him, we are but acting in accordance with the mind of Him whose example has been left for our imitation.
With these views, then, of our Lord's words, let us contemplate more closelyThe case supposed; The parties addressed ; and The line of conduct to be pursued.
The case supposed. “ If thy brother shall trespass against thee.” While we must be careful in judging what is a trespass against us, we must be equally so not to deem every trespass to be deliberate and wilful, or to have arisen from the worst motives ; seeing that such judgment may result from the indul. gence, in ourselves, of an unlovely temper, and the want of that charity which Thinketh no evil. A trespass against us may be an act into which an individual may be betrayed, under the influence of sudden and strong feeling or passion, or it may partake of a wilful and deliberate character; it may be an act whereby injury is inflicted, or it may be one where what is justly due is withheld: it may be a positive departure from truth or integrity; or it may be a violation of those rules, and of that temper of sincerity, of kindness, of forbearance, which should regulate all our intercourse as brethren and members of one family. In any case, it would appear that it must be a real, not an imaginary trespass-an act morally wrong, an act inconsistent with the Gospel of Christ and the Christian characterthat would justify this designation of a trespass, and warrant the course here recommended. The special case templated, then, is a private offence, a case of trespass on the part of one individual towards another. It is well for us to bear this distinctly in mind, not only to guide us in such special cases, but also that we may not blame, nor be blamed by others, for not applying the rule to cases to which it is obviously not intended to apply. Mistakes have, doubtless, been committed, both by those who have not acted on this rule in private offences, and by those who have expected its application in public offences. Cases of open sin, of a general character; sins against the community of believers; cases which are, or may become, the cause of public scandal ; sins before all, whether
or oftener committed cannot be viewed as offences against an individual only, nor can they be so treated.
The parties addressed in this passage are brethren. “If thy brother trespass against
thee"-one who is a professing Christian; who is in reality, or at least in profession, a believer in Christ; a possessor of the hopes and privileges of the family of God. The exhortation would, perhaps, apply specially to those brethren who are mem: bers of the same Church; though, of course, not exclusively so, seeing that it evidently suggests a general rule of action amongst brethren, as such, and, therefore, whether belonging to the same particular community or not. The term used is well calculated to beget in us a suitable state of wind; to induce us not only to obey our Lord's command in the letter of it, but also in its spirit, with kindly feelings. The offender may be an ignorant person; he may have done us great injury; he may intentionally have wounded our feelings or reputation; he may have erred greatly against the rules of rigbt, and the law of love : but he is our brother, professing the same dependence on Christ as ourselves, the same love and obedience, though in some instances he may not follow Christ fully. Not for one trespass, nor for seven, nor for seventy times seven, must we cease to regard him or designate him as a brother. He may be an erring, but in the exercise of proper means he may become a humbled and penitent brother; in which case, of course, we are bound to forgive him. He is our brother; and until, by departure from Christ, or until, by conduct which excludes him from the Church of Christ, he proves himself unworthy of the designation, we must continue to regard and treat him as such.
The line of conduct to be pursued demands our careful notice. "If thy brother shall tres. pass against thee, go and tell him his fault.” There is nothing in this passage to coun. tenance a spirit that is easily provoked, and ever ready to imagine wilful offence where none was intended; that is ever on tlie watch for occasions for reproof, and that is ever prone to self-complacency and self-exaltation. But supposing a trespass to be comınitted against us, then we must not entirely pass it by. The honour of religion and the welfare of our brother require that, for their sakes, if not for our own, the matter should be noticed. As far as we ourselves might be affected, we might often be disposed to take no notice of trespasses committed against us, both bec:use we might not wish it to be thought that we were readily offended, and perhaps, also, because we might wish to save our.
selves and our offending brother possible unpleasant consequences.
Yet, though we may entertain no revengeful feelings, and indeed cordially forgive the offender, we nevertheless owe him the duty of seeking to bring him to a right state of mind towards God and man with reference to his conduct. (See Levit. xix. 17.)
“Go and tell him his fault.” This re. quirement is addressed to the offended, not to the offending party. Its wisdom and love are manifest. A sense of unmerited injury, of unprovoked trespass, would lead an individual to say, with reference to the party offending, “Let him come to me, and confess, and ask pardon ; I shall certainly not go to him.” Thus the breach might be widened—both parties, perhaps, indulging in unhallowed and sinful feelings: by this precept the surest means are taken to prevent such a result. We do not, indeed, forget that in another passage (Matt. v. 23, 24) our Lord has made it binding upon the offender
, when he takes his gift to the altar, and there remembers that his brother has ought against him, to leave his gift upon the altar, and go and first be reconciled to his brother, and then to return and offer his gift. But the same angry feeling which leads to the commission of an offence, as also a mixed feeling of pride and shame, will often prevent the offender from going to make acknowledgment; such feelings are less likely to remain in operation to prevent such acknowledgment, when the offended party is the first to take steps towards reconciliation. In other cases, an offender inay be prevented from going to confess his fault by a doubt as to the re. ception he may meet with. A word to the offended person might be enough: a kindly voice saying, “Brother, the sun is going down,” might be sufficient to restore peace; but he fears he might be repulsed by his offended and perhaps unforgiving brother
, and he remains without seeking reconciliation. Such cases our Lord meets when
He says, “Go and tell him his fault.” The happy tendency of his command may illustrated in the instance of a dispute between two brethren, in which it is common for both parties to give offence, and for each to feel that he is the offended person. Now, if we had not such a rule, and each were to act under the double im. pulse of feelings natural to the mind of an offender and to one offended, the probabi. lity is that they would remain at variance,
their unhallowed quarrel would continue, We must be careful not to use language to their own injury and the injury of the calculated to wound the feelings; nor, cause of Christ. But the operation of this indeed, must we employ any stronger rule, supposing it recognized and acted terms than are needful to set our brother's upon, would present the pleasant spectacle offence before him in the proper light. In of each going to gain his brother. And when our representations to him we must act each should proceed with such an object, upon the principle that “a soft answer and in the spirit of cheerful obedience, it furneth away wrath." We must be willing could not but be attended with the happiest to hear anything he may have to say results,
in defence of his conduct. It would be un. Go and tell him his fault, between thee righteous to condemn him without hearing and him alone." This, then, must be the him. He may have something to urge in
There must be no previous extenuation of his actions. He may not, mention of it to any oth-r person, not even moreover, have been wholly and only to in confidence, and under the promise of blame in the matter. His representations secrecy. Nor must we tell him in the
may show something to be confessed and presence of others, but must speak to him acknowledged on our side; and if we in strict privacy. To this part of our go in a right spirit, we shall be ready to Saviour's direction do we ask special atten- make such acknowledgment, on cause being tion, believing that it is much neglected, and shown for it. that by many it is utterly disregarded. In thus going to our brother, it is of When this is the case, and the offence is great moment that we set before ourselves, made known to and commented upon by explicitly and prayerfully, the special object others, great evils must accrue, both to in- our Lord directs attention to-viz., that of dividuals and the Church of God. It leads “gaining our brother ;” of restoring him to the indulgence and strengthening of from the path of sin and inconsistency. evil tempers, not to the cultivation of Let us set this object before us prayer. meekness and gentleness ; to the fostering fully. An offended brother is often hard of enmity, not to the producing and to be won. To secure a conquest over cherishing the desire for reconciliation; to evil and strong tempers, we must not lead the hardening of our brother in an evil to our own understanding, nor trust in our way, presenting no inducement to him own strength. What, however, we might to confess his error, and to be at peace. fail to accomplish, the grace of God can
In thus going alone to our brother, and easily effect. This can humble the proud telling him his fault, much will depend, as beart and subdue the haughty spirit.
our object, upon the manner Even while we are praying for our brother, in which this is done. We must not go to him God may show him his fault, and inspire in a spirit of revenge or retaliation. It is him with contrition on account of it. not ours to revenge injuries. Vengeance While we are asking God to prepare our belongs to God. It is ours to forgive the way, and speed our object, He may incline Wrongs done against us, and if the offence our brother's heart to that which is right, in the sight of God need chastisement, He so that he shall meet us in a spirit of will repay it. The Lord Jesus, in inculcat- fraternal kindness, and readily hear us. ing the spirit of forgiveness, shows us that We have little ground for expecting God's instead of being revenged upon our enemy blessing unless we seek it. If we seek it We must forgive him ; and that we must not in such a case, it is hardly supposable bless and pray for those who trespass that we are actuated by a right spirit ; against us, being our enemies. And if it that this pure and disinterested motive of be our duty thus to forgive our enemy, gaining our brother animates us; and if how much more is it a duty to forgive our we have not that blessing, we cannot expect
Generally speaking, we think it We must not go to him in a harsh or reasonable to hope that our brother would reproachful spirit. This would only be to hear us; in which case, not only would embitter his feelings, and, in fact, to com: further steps be rendered unnecessary, but mit a trespass against him. But we must they would be absolutely wrong, and are go in a meek and humble spirit, remember- forbidden by the spirit of the whole ing that we also are subject to temptation, passage. and liable to fall; and that we are only
(To be continued.) sustained as God in His grace holds us up.
to the success of
GROWTH IN GRACE.
BY THE REV. CORNELIUS ELVEN.
It is truly astonishing that there should ever have been a question concerning the Christian duty and privilege of growing in grace, seeing that the inspired injunction is so explicit : “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. iii. 18.)
Some have said, to insist on this gavours of legality, but we refer all such cavillers to the inspired apostle. The dispute is not with us, but with the words of inspiration; notwithstanding which, there are many who, being wise above what is written, and being system-bound, are in bondage to a human theory ; they have adopted a system, and every Scripture that does not accord therewith must bend or break. They seem to have been brought up, not at the feet of Gamaliel, but of Procrustes, the famous robber of Attica, who was said to tie travellers on a bed, and if their length exceeded that of the bed, he used to cut it off, but if they were shorter, he had them stretched to make their length equal it. The notorious “ Act of Uniformity” was designed to be such a Procrustean bed, but how miserably it has failed the present variations of our hierarchy sufficiently attest.
We turn, therefore, to the “law and the testimony," and here we are exhorted to grow in grace."
But first of all, this presupposes the existence of grace in the heart. It is said of the youthful prince Ahijah, that “there was found some good thing in him, but how came it there? It was not congenital ; it came not with his natural birth. Man is no more born with grace in his heart than he is with clothes on his back. The ancient philosophers, it is true, affirmed that nature had the sparks and seeds of virtue in it; but Paul, who was a heaven-taught philosopher, says, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) there dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. vii. 18); and concerning whatever good was implanted there, he says, “ By the grace of God I am what I am.” That grace once implanted, we believe can never be eradicated. We are aware it may be asked, Where was this divine principle in David and in Peter when they so fearfully relapsed? We reply, the grace was shaken in them, but not shaken out of them ; it was moved, as an old divine says, but not removed. There was an obscuring, but not an annibilation of grace, as their restoration and subsequent history abundantly prove.
Still, the question returns, How came it there? In and by baptism, say some. The common prayer book says so, and I need not quote from that singularly heterogeneous compilation, for we have had these quotations ad nauseam of late, and have seen to what miserable shifts its abettors have been put to defend or to explain it
. We say, in the infallible words of the Holy Ghost, concerning the implantation of grace in the heart, “It was not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zech. iv. 6.) “Born not of blood, nor of the will of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John i. 13.) Again, “Being born not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever, (1 Pet. i. 23.) The method or development of regenerating grace may vary, although the source and the fruits of it are always the same.
In some it may be as instantaneous as in the case of Saul of Tarsus, or the Philippian gaoler. In others, as gentle and gradual as with Timothy or Lydia
. Let none of our sincere and God-fearing readers, therefore, be discouraged because they cannot point to the time, the place, the means of their conversion. The very figures employed to illustrate it imply this gradual development. Is it the blade
, the ear, the full corn in the ear? Who can tell the precise moment when the grain
of corn first put forth its germinating power beneath the silent clod? Is it being born again? Who can remember the day of his birth? Is it the light “shining more and more unto the perfect day?”
“The ray that lights you may be faint indeed,
To boundless knowledge and unmeasured bliss." is also to be continuously progressive ; otherwise it would be out of analogy with the whole creation of matter and of mind. Nothing remains in statu quo. The planets are always revolving, the air is ever undulating, the sea is in constant motion; and it is as much the desire as it is the duty of a believer to grow in grace.”
It is recorded of one Philip Nerius, that he conceived himself so full of God, that lie used to say, “Depart further from me, O Lord, for I am holy enough; as though he feared that, if God should pour in more grace, it would burst the vessel. Peter said, “ Depart from me, for I am a sinful man,” but in the fulness of his pride the Pharisee said in effect, “ Depart from me, for I am righteous enough.”, We resemble the Thessalonians, whose “ faith grew exceedingly and their charity abounded ;” and “as new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby ;” that so," being rooted and grounded in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ,” (Eph. iv. 15.)
Oh, then, for more humility! We need not fear to enter into the valley of humiliation, for to quote Bunyan's inimitable description of it, “It is of itself as fruitful a place as ever the crow flies over, and is the best piece of ground in all these parts. I have known many labouring men that have got good estates in this Valley of Humiliation, for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” In this valley our Lord formerly had His country house ; He loved much to be here. It was here the shepherd boy sung so sweetly
" He that is down need fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride :
Have God to be his guide." And does not every right-minded Christian desire to grow in faith? Is not the cry of
every living soul, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief ?” And is not the apostle's prayer ours,
“Lord, increase our faith? Are we not too generally exposed to the gentle rebuke, “Oye of little faith?” Surely, then, we should not be contented with being weak in the faith, but rather emulate the Thessalonians, to whom Paul said, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly."
What can be more feeble than the vine just rising from the ground? Yet by those tendrils which nature has provided, it will cling and rise to the height of the tree or wall that sustains it. So the weak believer, holding on Jesus by the tendril of faith, may rise to the height of a full assurance, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
It would extend this article to an improper length to illustrate the principle with regard to every grace of the Holy Spirit ; but we may just say, it is equally desirable that we should grow in love. Love has been said to be the diamond among the jewels of the believer's breastplate. The other graces shine like the precious stones in nature, with their own peculiar hue; the einerald is green, the sapphire is blue, the topaz is yellow, the carbuncle is red; but the diamond is white ; and as white is the blending of all the colours, so in love are centred all the graces of the Christian life.
He that is humble ever shall