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be burdened so much the more, till you “ go to your brother,
be a peculiar case, wherein it is necessary to accuse the guilty, though absent, in order to preserve the innocent. For instance: You are acquainted with the design which a man has against the property or life of his neighbour. Now the case may be so circumstanced, that there is no other way of hindering that design from taking effect, but the making it known, without delay, to bim against whom it is laid. In this case, therefore, this rule is set aside, as is that of the Apostle; “ Speak evil of no man:” and it is lawful, yea, it is our bounden duty, to speak evil of an absent person, in order to prevent his doing evil to others and himself at the same time. But remember, meanwhile, that all evil-speaking is, in ils own nature, deadly poison. Therefore if you are sometimes constrained to use it as a medicine, yet use it with fear and trembling; seeing it is so dangerous a medicine, that nothing but absolute necessity can excuse your using it at all. Accordingly, use it as seldom as possible; never but when there is such a necessity : and even then use as little of it as is possible ; only so much as is necessary for the end proposed. At all o:her times, "go and tell bim of his fault between thee and him alone."
II. 1. But what if he will not hear?” If he repay evil for good? If he be enraged rather than convinced? What if he hear to no purpose, and go on still in the evil of his way? We must expect this will frequently be the case; the mildest and tenderest reproof will have no effect; but the blessing we wished for another, will return into our own bosom. And what are we to do then ? Our Lord has given us a clear and full direction. Then “ take with thee one or two more:” This is the second step. Take one or two whom you know to be of a loving spirit, lovers of God, and of their neighbour. See, , likewise, that they be of a lowly spirit, and “clothed with humility.” Let them also be such as are mcek and gentle, patient and longsuffering ; not apt to “ return evil for cvil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing.” Let them be men of understanding, such as are endued with wisdom from above; and men unbiassed, free from partiality, free from prejudice of any kind. Care should likewise be taken, that both the persons and their characters be well known to him. And let those that are acceptable to him be chosen preferable to any others.
2. Love will dictate the manner wherein they should proceed, according to the nature of the case. Nor can any one particular manner be preseribed for all cases. But perhaps, in general, one might advise', before they enter upon the thing itself, lui them mildly and affectionately declare that they have do ânger or prejudice toward him, and that it is merely from a principle of good will that they now come, or at all concern themselves with his affairs. To make this the more apparent, they might then calmly attend to your repetition of your former conversation with him, and to what he said in his own defence, before they attempted to determine any thing. After this they would be better able to judge in what manner to proceed, “that by the mouth of two or three witnesses cvery word might be established;" that wiatever you have said, may have its full force, by the auditional weight of their authority.
3. In order to this, may they not, (1.) Brieily repeat what you spoke, and what he anstrered? (2.) Enlarge upon, open,
ud contirn the reasons which you had given ? (3.) Give weight to your reproof, showing how jost, how kind, and how seasonable it was? And, lastly, Coforce the advices and persuasions which you bad annexed to it? And these may likewise herealter, it med should require, bear witness of what was spoken.
4. With regard to this, as well as the preceding rule, we may obserre, that our Lord gives us no choice, leaves us no alternative, but expressly commands us to do this, and nothing cise in the place of it. lle likewise directs is when to do this ; neither sooner vor later; namely, after we have taken the first, and before we have taken the third step. It is then only that we are allthorized to relate the evil another has done, to those whow we desire to biar a pait rrith us in this great instance of Liviherly lovci Butket us have a cure how we rclate it to any other person, il both the steps bave been taken. If we 20 leti to take thene', or if we take any others, what wonder ifre are burdened still? For we are sinners against God, and against our neighbour, and how fairly soever ire may colour it, yet, it we have any conscience, our sin will find us out, and bring a burden upon our soul.
III. 1. That we may be thoroughly instructed in this weighty wail', our Lord has give us a still farther direction.
" The will not bear theul, thee, and vot till then, “tell it to the Church." This is the third step. All the question is, How this rond we churchi,' is here to be understood ? But be very haune of the will determine this, beyond all
reasonable doubt. You cannot tell it to the national Church, the whole body of men termed “ the Church of England.” Neither would it answer any christian end, if you could; this, therefore, is not the meaning of the word. Neither can you tell it to that whole body of people in England, with whom you have a more immediate connexion. Nor, indeed, would this answer any good end: the word, therefore, is not to be understood thus. It would not answer any valuable end, to tell the faults of every particular member to the Church, (if you would so term it,) the congregation or society united together in London. It remains that you tell it to the elder, or elders of the Church, to those who are overseers of that flock of Christ, to which you both belong, who watch over yours and his soul, “ as they that must give account." And this should be done, if it conveniently can, in the presence of the person concerned, and, though plainly, yet with all the tenderness and love, which the nature of the thing will admit. It properly belongs to their office, to determine concerning the behaviour of those under their care, and to rebuke, according to the demerit of the offence, “with all authority.” When therefore you have done this, you have done all which the Word of God, or the law of love, requireth of you : You are not now partaker of his sin; but if he perish, his blood is on his own head.
2. Here, also, let it be observed, that this, and no other, is the third step which we are to take; and that we are to take it in its order after the other two; not before the second, much less the first, unless in some very particular circumstance. Indeed, in one case, the second step may coincide with this : they may be, in a manner, one and the same. The elder or elders of the Church may be so connected with the offending brother, that they may set aside the necessity, and supply the place, of the one or two witnesses; so that it may suffice to tell it to them, after you have told it to your brother, “ between you and him alone.
3. When you have done this, you have delivered your own soul. “If he will not hear the Church,” if he persist in his sin, “ let him bc to thee as an heathen nian and a publican.” You are under no obligation to think of him any more; only when you commend him to God in prayer. You need not speak of him any more, but leave him to his own Master. Indeed, you still owe to him, as to all other heatheus, carnest, tender good will. You owe him courtesy, and, as occasion offers, all the offices of humanity. But hare no friendship, no familiarity with him; no other intercourse than with an open heathen.
4. But if this be the rule by which Christians walk, which is the land where the Christians live? A few you may possibly find scattered up and down, who make a conscience of observing it. But how very few! How thinly scattered upon the face of the carth! And where is there any body of men, that universally walk thereby? Can we find them in Europe ? Or, to go no farther, in Great Britain or Ireland ? I fear not: 1 fear we may search these kingdoms throughout, and yet search i:) vain. Alas for the Christian world! Alas for Protestants, for reformed Christians ! 0,“ who will rise up with me against thic wicked?” “Who will take God's part” against the evilspeakers ? Art thou the man? By the grace of God wilt thou be onc, who art not carried away by the torrent ? Art thou fully determined, God being thy helper, from this very hour, to set a watch, a continual “watch, before thy mouth, and keep the door of thy lips ? From this hour wilt thou walk by this rule, “ speaking evil of no man ?” If thou seest thy brother do evil, wilt thou “ tell him of his fault between thee and him alone? Afterwards, “ take one or two” witnesses, and then only “tell it to the Church ? " If this be the full purpose of thy heart, then learn one lesson well, « Hear evil of no mar.' If there were no hearers, there would be no speakers, of evil. And is not (according to the vulgar proverb) the receiver as bad as the thief? If then any begin to speak cvil in thy hearing, check bin immediately. Rcfuse to hear the voice of the charmer, charm he never so sicetly; let himn use ever so soft a manner, so mild an accent, ever so many professions of good will for him whom he is stabbing in tlie dark, whom he smiteth under the fifth rib! Resolutely refuse to hear, though the whisperer complain of being 'burdened till he speak.' Lurdened! thou fool ! dost thou travail with thy cursed secret, as a woman travaileth with child? Go then, and be delivered of thy burden in the way the Lord hath ordained! First, “ Go and tell thy brother of his fault between thee and bim alone :” Next, “take with thee one or two” common friends, and tell him in their presence: If neither of these steps take effect, then “tell it to the Churchi.” But, at the peril of thy soul, tell it to no one clse, either before or after, wless in that one exempt case', when it is absolutely needful to preserve the innocent! Why
shouldest thou burden another as well as thyself, by making him partaker of thy sin ?
5. O that all you who bear the reproach of Christ, who are in derision called Methodists, would set an example to the Christian world, so called, at least in this one instance! Put ye away evil-speaking, tale-bearing, whispering : let none of them proceed out of your mouth! See that you
speak evil of no man ;” of the absent, nothing but good. If ye must be distinguished, whether ye will or no, let this be the distinguishing mark of a Methodist : 'He censures no man behind his back : by this fruit ye may know him.' What a blessed effect of this self-denial should we quickly feel in our hearts! How would our «
peace flow as a river," when we thus “ followed peace with all men !” How would the love of God abound in our own souls, while we thus confirmed our love to our brethren! And what an effect would it have on all that were united together in the name of the Lord Jesus ! How would brotherly love continually increase, when this grand binderance of it was removed ! All the members of Christ's mystical body would then naturally care for each other. “If one member suffered, all would suffer with it ;” “if one was honoured, all would rejoice with it ;” and every one would love his brother “ with a pure heart fervently.” Nor is this all : But what an effect might this have, even on the wild, untbinking world! How soon would they descry in us, what they could not find among all the thousands of their brethren, and cry, (as Julian the apostate to his heathen courtiers,) “See how these Christians love one another!” By this chiefly would God convince the world, and prepare them also for bis kingdom; as we may easily learn from those remarkable words in our Lord's last, solemn prayer : “I pray for them who shall believe in me, that they may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,—that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” The Lord hasten the time! The Lord enable us thus to love one another, not only “in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth,” even as Christ hath loved us !