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the father. Oh! tell it out, then. The festival of love is spread ; Christ has been crucified ; his blood is on and before the mercy-seat ; the returning wanderer has but to fix his eye on that, and say, "O Lord, I have done wickedly; pardon me, for Jesus' sake.” And forthwith the voice of mercy, loud above the broken accents of confession, will be heard saying, "I have blotted out thy transgressions, and will not remember thy sins.” Isa. xliii. 25.
Before leaving this branch of our subject, it may be well to give prominence to another matter mentioned in the verse quoted from Gal. vi. which we have made the basis of our remarks, I mean the temper of mind in which the work is to be done: “In the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” From these words we infer that the restorative spirit is a spirit of kindness. Considering the delicacy of the undertaking, and how difficult it is to render it successful, the necessity of this qualification is apparent. An operation so important must not be performed with roughness and severity, but with as much gentleness and softness as possible. If we have not an eagle's eye in detecting where the disease lies, or a lion's heart in dealing freely with it, let us at least show the lady's hand in endeavouring to eradicate it; and if we cannot do this, it will be far better not to do anything at all, for without meekness we shall exasperate rather than reclaim. What amazing tenderness Jesus showed in restoring poor Peter! He did not upbraid him for being so faithless, nor rebuke him in harsh language for acting so cowardly ; but, turning round from the elevated bench where his trial was going on, he looked down at Peter in the hall beneath, and that look, though not a word he spake, was so full of love and tenderness that it pierced the heart of the swearer, opened up the deep spring of penitential grief, and compelled him to retire from the judgment-hall weeping bitterly. Luke xxii. 60—62. There was a private meeting on the day of the resurrection, for we are told," the Lord appeared unto Simon.” What transpired there remains a secret ; but the same tenderness was beautifully exhibited at a later period, when he was publicly restored to his apostolic office... John xxi. 15—17. Let this spirit, then, be in us which was also in Christ Jesus the Lord.
It is also clear that the restorative spirit should be a spirit of selfreflectiveness. We are to consider our own personal infirmity and fearful liability to fall; how helpless we are when the strong temptation and inviting opportunity come together; and how probable it is that if we bad been in the same circumstances we might have fallen into the same sins. We are not to do as the man in the fable, who carried other people's sins before his face and his own behind his back, but the reverse. We are to be so conscious of our own frailties as to be almost unmindful of those of others, ever remembering that we are in reach of the tempter, and may fall into the same sins or even worse. Bernard speaks of a man who, on hearing of the falls of others, was accustomed, tremblingly, to say, “ Is it me next, Lord ?” And John Bradford, on seeing prisoner after prisoner going to gaol, was wont to exclaim : “ There goes John Bradford, but for the grace of God.” This is the feeling that should pervade the minds of those who now seek to rescue the fallen from the deep pits into which they have stumbled. There
must be no desire to impute blame and find fault; no harshness or haughtiness, no stooping of conscious superiority; but a full manifestation of a loving, self-distrusting spirit.
II. Secondly, there is THE JUDICIAL METHOD.
This method is propounded in various parts of the New Testament, and is closely connected with the other, and supplementary to it. Through the pride and obstinacy of the human heart, it sometimes happens that the restorative method fails to bring the offender to a sorrowful sense of his sin, and a practical renunciation of it. In such a case disciplinary measures are to be adopted. If the gentle influence of expostulation and private entreaty is not effectual, the bit and curb of public judgment is the only alternative, and being divinely ordained, is as imperatively binding. It is commanded by Christ himself in Matt. xviii. 15–17, where he says concerning the trespasser, “ If he will not 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.” It is also commanded by his servant Paul in several of his epistles, especially those to the Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Timothy. That our remarks on this method may be the more definite and easy of remembrance, we shall arrange them under the following divisions :
1. And, first, we must explain the nature of the discipline enjoined. In the majority of cases, admonition in the presence of the church appears to be the first step. This is intimated in 1 Tim. v. 20, where the apostle says, “ Them that sin rebuke before all ;” and also in the Saviour's words just quoted, “ Tell it unto the church; and if he will not hear the church,” implying that if he did, and was thereby brought to repentance and public acknowledgement of his sin, they were not to proceed further with the disciplinary process. But in some instances, that is, where the offence is public, of a very scandalous nature, and there are no signs of repentance, and in all cases where private remonstrance and public admonition fail, the sentence of excommunication is to be passed, and the delinquent absolutely excluded from all the honours and privileges of his church standing. This, we confess, is a most solemn and painful duty. It is like that of the judge when he passes sentence of death on the guilty culprit, and it ought therefore to be discharged by us with much sorrow of spirit and tenderness of heart. Indeed, in Austin's time, it was thought better to be executed by law than to be excommunicated by the church. But, however painful, it is imperative. If the leprosy cleaves to the house, the building must be pulled down; if the dislocated limb cannot be set in joint again, it inust be amptuated; if the branch, though pruned, will not yield holy fruit, then nothing remains but that it be cut off and cast on one side. In 1 Cor. v. 13, this procedure is authoritatively enforced by the apostle Paul. From the first verse we learn there was an individual in the church at Corinth who had been guilty of a crime so heinous that its name was not mentioned among the more civilised heathens, and so public that it was matter of common report far and near. From the second verse we learn that the church had neglected to judge the evil and censure the offender, and were more proud of their gifts than sorrowful for their faults. In the third, fourth, and fifth verses the apostle expresses his feeling about the matter, and commands the church promptly and collectively to pass sentence, and expel the incestuous person from their midst; concluding the chapter by saying, “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
2. Secondly, we must mention the persons amenable to this discipline. Who are they? 2 Thessalonians iii. 6, says, Every brother that walketh disorderly." And we learn from various passages who these disorderly walkers are. In Rom. xvi. 17, we are entreated to “ mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine received, and to avoid them.” Who are included under this denomination? All who teach false doctrine, and spread schisin through the church. Tit. iii. 10, 11; Rev. ii. 14-16. In 2 Thess. iii. 11-14, the apostle says, “We hear that there are some which walk disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.” “Them that are such we command by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work."
** And if any man obey not our word, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” Who are included here? All idlers and busybodies, who habitually loaf about and officiously interfere in matters not belonging to them. In Matt. xviii. 15—18, it is said, “If thy brother trespass against thee,” etc., etc. Who are intended here? Those who injure others in body, mind, or estate. In 1 Cor. v. 11, the apostle says, “I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” It is unnecessary to define a fornicator, idolater, or drunkard; but we may ask what is a railer? One who indulges in reproach; who, by harsh and bitter language wounds the feelings and vilifies the character of others, and insults and abuses where he thinks he can do so with impunity. What is a covetous man? One who is avaricious and greedily desirous of being possessed of the wealth of others. What is an extortioner? One who systematically overcharges for the goods sold, or the service rendered. But is it possible that any such persons are to be found in the church of Christ? Alas! we fear there are a great many. Judging from what one sees and hears, we are inclined to think that most of our churches have a tolerably good share of them. Have they any right to be there? If Scripture means what it says they certainly have not. Their names are put down in the same category with the idolater, the fornicator, and the drunkard; and, for ought I know, they are to the all-searching eye of God equally culpable, and evidently are regarded by him as unworthy of a public connection with that kingdom whose distinguishing title is righteousness as well as joy and peace in the Holy Ghost.
3. Thirdly, we must notice by whom this discipline is to be administered. This question is one of acknowledged difficulty, and great difference of opinion prevails with regard to it. Among Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians, it has generally been done by high ecclesiastical functionaries, such as the cardinal, bishop, or synod ; but among Dissenting bodies it has been usually looked upon as the work of the church and officers concerned, with the suggestion, sanction, and agency of the pastor. The latter certainly appears to be more in harmony with the words of Scripture. In the case of discipline recorded in 1 Cor. v., the apostle declares the necessity of judicial action, directs the members to assemble together for that purpose, and announces the nature of the punishment to be inflicted. The church accordingly met, and the sentence of excommunication was passed by the vote and sanction of those present. 1 Cor. v. 4. Though an apostle, and although he had excommunicated Hymenæus and Alexander by his own judicial authority, he did not in this case act alone. There being an organised church, he requested them to do it as the most proper persons. This is a strong proof that the power of discipline is in the church collectively, including its pastor, officers, and members, and not in any independent individual or body of men apart from the church. It will be prudent, however, where the case is delicate and difficult, to confide the work of investigation and decision to those who take the oversight of the church, as it may be supposed they represent the wisdom and piety of the assembly. This plan has been adopted in several places with the most gratifying results. It is not always wise to publish the details of a fall in the presence of a whole church consisting of persons of various ages and conditions in life.
4. Finally, we shall specify the ends for which the discipline is instituted. These are, at least, two. In the first place, there is the wellbeing of the community. It is essential to its purity that unworthy persons should not be tolerated in its midst. Sin is a contagion, and if allowed and excused in one member it will extend its poisonous infection to others. It was a proverbial saying among the Jews, and the apostle has availed himself of it, that “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." Leaven was the type of sin in its permeating and corrupting power. It is of a spreading nature, and however large the measure of dough, a comparatively small quantity of leaven will diffuse itself through it. Says Paul, such is evil in a church. Though small, if not removed it will spread its deteriorating influence throughout the entire assembly. One insurgent may give rise to a widespread revolt; one leak may sink the largest vessel ; one spark may set on fire an entire factory; and so one sin winked at may pollute and ruin the sanctity of the noblest church.
“ One sickly sheep infects the flock,
And poisons all the rest.” Moreover, when preparing for the celebration of the Annual Passover, the Jew was scrupulously diligent in removing all leaven from the house; searching even with lighted candle lest the smallest particle should be left behind. He did this because it was enjoined by God, and because the act was emblematic of the putting away of moral evil from their hearts. Paul writes to the church at Corinth, in reference to the incestuous person, “ Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us."
But, discipline is essential to the progress as well as the purity of the church. In Christian life holiness is the divine condition of prosperity, and in this respect, what is true of the individual is equally so of the church. Impurity, whether practical or doctrinal, is like a poison or a disease in a vital organ: it hinders the healthy development of the whole body; or, to change the figure, unholy professors are like the barren fig trees, whose fruitless branches impede the fertility of the garden to which they belong; or like the tares, worthless in themselves and detrimental to the growth of the golden grain by which they are surrounded. If, then, we would have the garden blooming and blossoming like a rose, such serious impediments must be thoroughly removed, whatever pain or labour may be involved in the exercise.
A second object should be the wellbeing of the offender. This is of vast importance, and should ever be kept before the mind in all disciplinary work. Indeed, the work should never be commenced without the desire to benefit him as well as the church of which he forms a part. His peace, happiness, restoration, and permanent improvement, may be, and often have been, promoted when the work has been undertaken with this design. The sainted and loved M'Cheyne, in one of his paragraphs in a serial edited by Dr. Bonar, mentions an illustration of this. He states how reluctantly he set about the excommunication of a certain transgressor, fearing the consequence would be bad. However, he did it prayerfully and with good intent, and to his great surprise and joy, it issued almost immediately in his repentance and reformation. He said he must henceforth regard discipline as a means of grace in the hand of God for bringing his wandering children to himself. Another very striking case is recorded in the works of Andrew Fuller, but space forbids our giving it. We may add, that we cannot conceive how discipline can be right or salutary that is inflicted froin a less worthy motive. Whenever it is pursued from private pique, dislike, rivalry, lust of power, or ambition to obtain a good name in the eyes of the world, it is wrong. Even the incestuous person already mentioned was to be expelled “for the destruction of the flesh,” not the literal flesh, because death did not follow (1 Cor. v. 5); but the corrupt, sinful flesh, and all its depraved tendencies, “ that the spirit,” his soul,"might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Cor. v.5. And we would observe that, even after the act of excommunication is completed, every possible effort should be made for the backslider's amendment, and every inducement held ont to bring him back to the fold, unless we have reason to believe that he is a confirmed hypocrite. Discipline is not exhausted by excision ; nor is it the highest part of discipline. True, the excluded party is not to be fraternised with as if he were innocent; that is expressly forbidden; but he is not to be treated “as an enemy, but admonished as a brother.” 2 Thess. iii. 6—8. Has the church usually done this with its deposed members? We think not. A man falls; he is turned out, and forthwith consigned to a kind of social perdition, and scarcely one has enough of kindly concern and Scripture light to go after him and show him the way back. It is right to exclude; but is the excluded never to be sought for, and, if possible, restored to his lost position? Scripture teaches that he should, and that having fulfilled the law of penalty, we should recommence the law of restoration. 2 Cor. ii. 6-8. The father in the parable never ceased watching until the prodigal had ceased wandering; and the church should never cease seeking the prodigal member till he has left off sinning. The blessed Saviour, it would seem, did not enter upon the full joy of his resurrection triumph until blaspheming Peter was reclaimed; and we should not account ourselves entitled to the