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all that breathe. They were made subject to its forerunner, pain, in its ten thousand forms; although "God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the death of any living." How many millions of creatures in the sea, in the air, and on every part of the earth, can now no otherwise preserve their lives, than by taking away the lives of others; by tearing in pieces and devouring their poor, innocent, unresisting fellow creatures! Miserable lot of such innumerable multitudes, who, insignificant as they seem, are the offspring of one common Father; the creatures of the same God of love! It is probable not only two thirds of the animal creation, but ninety-nine parts of a hundred, are under a necessity of destroying others in order to preserve their own life! But it shall not always be so. He that sitteth upon the throne will soon change the face of all things, and give a demonstrative proof to all his creatures, that "his mercy is over all his works." The horrid state of things which at present obtains, will soon be at an end. On the new earth, no creature will kill, or hurt, or give pain to any other. The scorpion will have no poisonous sting; the adder, no venomous teeth. The lion will have no claws to tear the lamb; no teeth to grind his flesh and bones. Nay, no creature, no beast, bird, or fish, will have any inclination to hurt any other; for cruelty will be far away, and savageness and fierceness be forgotten. So that violence shall be heard no more, neither wasting or destruction seen on the face of the earth. "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb," (the words may be literally as well as figuratively understood,) "and the leopard shall lie down with the kid: they shall not hurt or destroy," from the rising up of the sun, to the going down of the same.
18. But the most glorious of all will be, the change which then will take place on the poor, sinful, miserable children of men. These had fallen in many respects, as from a greater height, so into a lower depth, than any other part of the creation. But they shall "hear a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God is with men and he will dwell with them; and they shall be his people; and God himself shall be their God," Rev. xxi, 3, 4. Hence will arise an unmixed state of holiness and happiness, far superior to that which Adam enjoyed in paradise. In how beautiful a manner is this described by the apostle: "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying: neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are done away." As there will be no more death, and no more pain or sickness preparatory thereto; as there will be no more grieving for, or parting with friends; so there will be no more sorrow or crying. Nay, but there will be a greater deliverance than all this; for there will be no more sin. And, to crown all, there will be a deep, an intimate, an uninterrupted union with God; a constant communion with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, through the Spirit; a continual enjoyment of the Three-One God, and of all the creatures in him!
SERMON LXX.-The Duty of Reproving our Neighbour. "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him," Lev. xix, 17.
A GREAT part of the book of Exodus, and almost the whole of the book of Leviticus, relate to the ritual or ceremonial law of Moses; which was peculiarly given to the children of Israel, but was such "a yoke," says the apostle Peter, as neither our fathers nor we were able to bear." We are, therefore, delivered from it: and this is one branch of "the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free." Yet it is easy to observe, that many excellent moral precepts are interspersed among these ceremonial laws. Several of them we find in this very chapter: such as, "Thou shalt not gather every grape in thy vineyard: thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger. I am the Lord your God," verse 10. "Ye shall not steal, neither lie one to another," verse 11. "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee till the morning," verse 13. "Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind but thou shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord," verse 14. As if he had said, I am he whose eyes are over all the earth, and whose ears are open to their cry. "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the persons of the poor," which compassionate men may be tempted to do, "nor honour the person of the mighty," to which there are a thousand temptations, verse 15. "Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale bearer among thy people," verse 16: although this is a sin which human laws have never yet been able to prevent. Then follows, "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.”
In order to understand this important direction aright, and to apply it profitably to our own souls, let us consider,
I. What it is that we are to rebuke or reprove? What is the thing that is here enjoined ?
II. Who are they whom we are commanded to reprove? And,
I. 1. Let us consider, first, What is the duty that is here enjoined ? What is it we are to rebuke or reprove? And what is it to reprove? To tell any one of his faults; as clearly appears from the following words: "Thou shalt not suffer sin upon him." Sin is therefore the thing we are called to reprove, or rather him that commits sin. We are to do all that in us lies to convince him of his fault, and lead him into the right way.
2. Love indeed requires us to warn him, not only of sin, (although of this chiefly,) but likewise of any error, which, if it were persisted in, would naturally lead to sin. If we do not "hate him in our heart," if we love our neighbour as ourselves, this will be our constant endeavour; to warn him of every evil way, and of every mistake which tends to evil.
3. But if we desire not to lose our labour, we should rarely reprove any one for any one thing that is of a disputable nature; that will bear much to be said on both sides. A thing may possibly appear evil to me; therefore I scruple the doing of it: and if I were to do it while that scruple remains, I should be a sinner before God: but another is
not to be judged by my conscience: to his own Master he standeth or falleth. Therefore I would not reprove him, but for what is clearly and undeniably evil. Such, for instance, is profane cursing and swearing; which even those who practise it most, will not often venture to defend, if one mildly expostulates with them. Such is drunkenness; which even an habitual drunkard will condemn when he is sober. And such, in the account of the generality of people, is the profaning of the Lord's day. And if any who are guilty of these sins, for a while attempt to defend them, very few will persist to do it, if you look them steadily in the face, and appeal to their own conscience in the sight of God.
II. 1. Let us, in the second place, consider, Who are those that we are called to reprove? It is the more needful to consider this, because it is affirmed by many serious persons, that there are some sinners whom the Scripture itself forbids us to reprove. This sense has been put on that solemn caution of our Lord, in his sermon on the mount: Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot, and turn again and rend you." But the plain meaning of these words is, Do not offer the pearls, the sublime doctrines or mysteries of the gospel, to those whom you know to be brutish men, immersed in sins, and having no fear of God before their eyes. This would expose those precious jewels to contempt, and yourselves to injurious treatment. But even those whom we know to be, in our Lord's sense, dogs and swine, if we saw them do, or heard them speak, what they themselves know to be evil, we ought in any wise to reprove; else we "hate our brother in our heart."
2. The persons intended by our "neighbour" are, every child of man; every one that breathes the vital air; all that have souls to be saved. And if we refrain from performing this office of love to any, because they are sinners above other men, they may persist in their iniquity, but their blood will God require at our hands.
3. How striking is Mr. Baxter's reflection on this head, in his "Saints' Everlasting Rest:" "Suppose thou wert to meet one in the lower world, to whom thou hadst denied this office of love, when ye were both together under the sun; what answer couldst thou make to his upbraiding? At such a time and place, while we were under the sun, God delivered me into thy hands: I then did not know the way of salvation, but was seeking death in the error of my life; and therein thou sufferedst me to remain, without once endeavouring to awake me out of sleep! Hadst thou imparted to me thy knowledge, and warned me to flee from the wrath to come, neither I nor thou need ever to have come into this place of torment.
4. Every one, therefore, that has a soul to be saved, is entitled to this good office from thee. Yet this does not imply, that it is to be done in the same degree to every one. It cannot be denied, that there are some to whom it is particularly due. Such, in the first place, are our parents, if we have any that stand in need of it; unless we should place our consorts and our children on an equal footing with them. Next to these we may rank our brothers and sisters, and afterwards our relations, as they are allied to us in a nearer or more distant manner, either by blood or by marriage. Immediately after these are our servants, whether bound to us for a term of years, or any shorter term Lastly, such, in their several degrees, are our countrymen, our fellow
citizens, and the members of the same society, whether civil or religious: the latter have a particular claim to our service; seeing these societies are formed with that very design,-to watch over each other for this very end, that we may not suffer sin upon our brother. If we neglect to reprove any of these, when a fair opportunity offers, we are undoubtedly to be ranked among those that " hate their brother in their heart." And how severe is the sentence of the apostle against those who fall under this condemnation! "He that hateth his brother," though it does not break out into words or actions, "is a murderer:" "and ye know," continues the apostle, " that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." He hath not that seed planted in his soul, which groweth up unto everlasting life: in other words, he is in such a state, that if he dies therein, he cannot see life. It plainly follows, that to neglect this is no small thing, but eminently endangers our final salvation.
III. We have seen what is meant by reproving our brother, and who those are that we should reprove. But the principal thing remains to be considered: how, in what manner, are we to reprove them?
1. It must be allowed, that there is a considerable difficulty in performing this in a right manner: although, at the same time, it is far less difficult to some than it is to others. Some there are, who are particularly qualified for it, whether by nature, or practice, or grace. They are not encumbered either with evil shame, or that sore burden, the fear of man: they are both ready to undertake this labour of love, and skilful in performing it. To these, therefore, it is little or no cross; nay, they have a kind of relish for it, and a satisfaction therein, over and above that which arises from a consciousness of having done their duty. But be it a cross to us, greater or less, we know that hereunto we are called. And be the difficulty ever so great to us, we know in whom we have trusted; and that he will surely fulfil his word, "As thy days, so shall thy strength be."
2. In what manner, then, shall we reprove our brother, in order that our reproof may be most effectual? Let us first of all take care, that whatever we do, may be done in "the spirit of love;" in the spirit of tender good will to our neighbour; as for one who is the son of our common Father, and one for whom Christ died, that he might be a partaker of salvation. Then, by the grace of God, love will beget love. The affection of the speaker will spread to the heart of the hearer; and you will find, in due time, that your labour hath not been in vain in the Lord.
3. Meantime, the greatest care must be taken, that you speak in the spirit of humility. Beware that you do not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think. If you think too highly of yourself, you can scarce avoid despising your brother. And if you show, or even feel, the least contempt of those whom you reprove, it will blast your whole work, and occasion you to lose all your labour. In order to prevent the very appearance of pride, it will be often needful to be explicit on the head; to disclaim all preferring yourself before him; and at the very time you reprove that which is evil, to own and bless God for that which is good in him.
4. Great care must be taken, in the third place, to speak in the spirit of meekness, as well as lowliness. The apostle assures us, "that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." Anger, though
it be adorned with the name of zeal, begets anger; not love or holiness. We should therefore avoid, with all possible care, the very appearance of it. Let there be no trace of it, either in the eyes, the gesture, or the tone of voice; but let these concur in manifesting a loving, humble, and dispassionate spirit.
5. But all this time, see that you do not trust in yourself. Put no confidence in your own wisdom, or address, or abilities of any kind. For the success of all you speak or do, trust not in yourself, but in the great author of every good and perfect gift. Therefore, while you are speaking, continually lift up your heart to Him that worketh all in all. And whatsoever is spoken in the spirit of prayer, will not fall to the ground.
6. So much for the spirit wherewith you should speak, when you reprove your neighbour. I now proceed to the outward manner. It has been frequently found, that the prefacing a reproof with a frank profession of good will, has caused what was spoken to sink deep into the heart. This will generally have a far better effect, than that grand fashionable engine, flattery, by means of which, the men of the world have often done surprising things. But the very same things, yea, far greater, have much oftener been effected, by a plain and artless declaration of disinterested love. When you feel God has kindled this flame in your heart, hide it not give it full vent! It will pierce like lightning. The stout, the hard hearted, will melt before you, and know that God is with you of a truth.
7. Although it is certain that the main point in reproving is, to do it with a right spirit, yet it must also be allowed, there are several little circumstances with regard to the outward manner, which are by no means without their use; and therefore are not to be despised. One of these is, whenever you reprove, do it with great seriousness; so that as you really are in earnest, you may likewise appear so to be. A ludicrous reproof makes little impression, and is soon forgot: besides, that many times it is taken ill, as if you ridiculed the person you reprove. And indeed those who are not accustomed to make jests, do not take it
well to be jested upon. One means of giving a serious air to what you speak, is, as often as may be, to use the very words of Scripture. Frequently, we find the word of God, even in a private conversation, has a peculiar energy; and the sinner, when he expects it least, feels it sharper than a two-edged sword."
8. Yet there are some exceptions to this general rule of reproving seriously. There are some exempt cases, wherein, as a good judge of human nature observes,
Ridiculum acri fortius:
A little well placed raillery will pierce deeper than solid argument. But this has place chiefly, when we have to do with those who are strangers to religion. And when we condescend to give a ludicrous reproof to a person of this character, it seems we are authorized so to do, by that advice of Solomon : " Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."
9. The manner of the reproof may, in other respects too, be varied according to the occasion. Sometimes you may find it proper to use many words to express your sense at large. At other times, you may judge it more expedient, to use few words; perhaps a single sentence;