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faint in their mind, and do not reach the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
III. 1. How easily may we learn hence, that they know neither the Scripture nor the power of God, who directly or indirectly, in public or in private, oppose the doctrine of selfdenial and the daily cross ! How totally ignorant are these men of an hundred particular texts, as well as of the general tenor of the whole oracles of God! (And how entirely unacquainted must they be with true, genuine, Christian experience;—of the manner wherein the Holy Spirit ever did, and does at this day, work in the souls of men ! They may talk, indeed, very loudly and confidently, (a natural fruit of ignorance,) as though they were the only men who understood either the word of God, or the experience of his children ; but their words are, in every sense, vain words ; they are weighed in the balance, and found wanting.
2. We may learn from hence, Secondly, the real cause why not only many particular persons, but even bodies of men, who were once burning and shining lights, have now lost both their light and heat. If they did not hate and oppose, they at least lightly esteemed, this precious gospel doctrine. If they did not boldly say, “ Abnegationem omnem proculcamus, internecioni damus ;” “We trample all self-denial under foot, we devote it to destruction;" yet they neither valued it according to its high importance, nor took any pains in practising it. “ Hanc mystici docent,” said that great, bad man: “ The mystic writers teach self-denial.”—No; the inspired writers ! And God teaches it to every soul who is willing to hear his voice ! · 3. We may learn from hence, Thirdly, that it is not enough for a Minister of the gospel not to oppose the doctrine of selfdenial, to say nothing concerning it. Nay, he cannot satisfy his duty by saying a little in favour of it. If he would, indeed, be pure from the blood of all men, he must speak of it frequently and largely; he must inculcate the necessity of it in the clearest and strongest manner; he must press it with his might, on all persons, at all times, and in all places ; laying “ line upon line, line upon line, precept upon precept, precept upon precept :” So shall he have a conscience void of offence ; so shall he save his own soul and those that hear him.
4. Lastly: See that you apply this, every one of you, to your own soul. Meditate upon it when you are in secret : Ponder it in your heart! Take care not only to understand it
throughly, but to remember it to your lives' end ! Cry unto the Strong for strength, that you may no sooner understand, than enter upon the practice of it! Delay not the time, but practise it immediately, from this very hour! Practise it universally, on every one of the thousand occasions which occur in all circunstances of life! Practise it daily, without intermission, from the hour you first set your hand to the plough, and enduring therein to the end, till your spirit returns to God !
“ If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him
his fault between thee and him alone : If he shall hear
thee, thou hast gained thy brother. “ But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two
more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every
word may be established. “ And if he shall neglect to 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.” Matt. xvii. 15–17.
1. “SPEAK evil of no man,” says the great Apostle :-As plain a command as, “ Thou shalt do no murder.” But who, even among Christians, regards this command? Yea, how few are there that so much as understand it! What is evil-speaking ? It is not, as some suppose, the same with lying or slandering. All a man says may be as true as the Bible; and yet the saying of it is evil-speaking. For evil-speaking is neither more nor less than speaking evil of an absent person ; relating something evil, which was really done or said by one that is not present when it is related. Suppose, having seen a man drunk, or heard him curse or swear, I tell this when he is absent; it is evil-speaking. In our language this is also, by an extremely proper name, termed backbiting. Nor is there any material difference between this and what we usually style tale-bearing. If the tale be delivered in a soft and quiet manner, (perhaps with expressions of good-will to the person, and of hope that things may not be quite so bad,) then we call it whispering. But in whatever manner it be done, the thing is the same;—the same in substance, if not in circumstance. Still it is evil-speaking ; still this command, “ Speak evil of no man,” is trampled under foot ; if we relate to another the fault of a third person, when he is not present to answer for himself.
2. And how extremely common is this sin, among all orders and degrees of men! How do high and low, rich and poor, wise and foolish, learned and unlearned, run into it continually! Persons who differ from each other in all things else, nevertheless agree in this. How few are there that can testify before God, “ I am clear in this matter; I have always set a watch before my mouth, and kept the door of my lips !” What conversation do you hear, of any considerable length, whereof evilspeaking is not one ingredient ? and that even among persons who, in the general, have the fear of God before their eyes, and do really desire to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man.
3. And the very commonness of this sin makes it difficult to be avoided. As we are encompassed with it on every side, so, . if we are not deeply sensible of the danger, and continually guarding against it, we are liable to be carried away by the torrent. In this instance, almost the whole of mankind is, as it were, in a conspiracy against us. And their example steals upon us, we know not how; so that we insensibly slide into the imitation of it. Besides, it is recommended from within, as well as from without. There is scarce any wrong temper in the mind of man, which may not be occasionally gratified by it, and consequently incline us to it. It gratifies our pride, to relate those faults of others whereof we think ourselves not to be guilty. Anger, resentment, and all unkind tempers, are indulged by speaking against those with whom we are displeased ; and, in many cases, by reciting the sins of their neighbours, men indulge their own foolish and hurtful desires.
4. Evil-speaking is the more difficult to be avoided, because it frequently attacks us in disguise. We speak thus out of a noble, generous, (it is well if we do not say,) holy indignation, against these vile creatures ! We commit sin from mere hatred
of sin! We serve the devil out of pure zeal for God! It is merely in order to punish the wicked that we run into this wickedness. “ So do the passions” (as one speaks) “ all justify themselves," and palm sin upon us under the veil of holiness !
5. But is there no way to avoid the snare? Unquestionably there is. Our blessed Lord has marked out a plain way for his followers, in the words above recited. None, who warily and steadily walk in this path, will ever fall into evil-speaking. This rule is either an infallible preventive, or a certain cure, of it. In the preceding verses, our Lord had said, “ Woe to the world, because of offences;” —unspeakable misery will arise in the world from this baleful fountain : ( Offences are all things whereby any one is turned out of, or hindered in, the ways of God :) “ For it must be that offences come :"-Such is the nature of things ; such the wickedness, folly, and weakness of mankind : “ But woe to that man,”—miserable is that man, “ by whom the offence cometh.” “Wherefore, if thy hand, thy foot, thine eye, cause thee to offend;"_if the most dear enjoyment, the most beloved and useful person, turn thee out of or hinder thee in the way, “pluck it out,”—cut them off, and cast them from thee. But how can we avoid giving offence to some, and being offended at others ? especially, suppose they are quite in the wrong, and we see it with our own eyes ? Our Lord here teaches us how: He lays down a sure method of avoiding offences and evil-speaking together. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him of his fault between thee and him alone : If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to 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.”
I. 1. First. “ If thy brother shall sin against thee, go and tell him of his fault between thee and him alone.” The most literal way of following this first rule, where it is practicable, is the best : Therefore, if thou seest with thine own eyes a brother, a fellow-christian, commit undeniable sin, or hearest it with thine own ears, so that it is impossible for thee to doubt the fact, then thy part is plain : Take the very first opportunity of going to him ; and, if thou canst have access, “ tell him of his fault between thee and him alone.” Indeed, great care is to be taken that this is done in a right spirit, and in a right manner. The success of a reproof greatly depends on the spirit wherein it is given. Be not, therefore, wanting in earnest prayer to God, that it may be given in a lowly spirit; with a deep, piercing conviction, that it is God alone who maketh thee to differ; and that if any good be done by what is now spoken, God doeth it himself. Pray that he would guard thy heart, enlighten thy mind, and direct thy tongue to such words as he may please to bless. See that thou speak in a meek as well as a lowly spirit ; for the “ wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” If he be “overtaken in a fault,” he can no otherwise be restored, than “ in the spirit of meekness.” If he opposes the truth, yet he cannot be brought to the knowledge thereof, but by gentleness. Still speak in a spirit of tender love, “ which many waters cannot quench.” If love is not conquered, it conquers all things. Who can tell the force of love ?
Love can bow down the stubborn neck,
The stone to flesh convert ;
An adamantine heart. Confirm, then, your love toward him, and you will thereby “heap coals of fire upon his head.”
2. But see that the manner also wherein you speak be according to the gospel of Christ. Avoid every thing in look, gesture, word, and tone of voice, that savours of pride or selfsufficiency. Studiously avoid every thing magisterial or dogmatical, every thing that looks like arrogance or assuming. Beware of the most distant approach to disdain, overbearing, or contempt. With equal care avoid all appearance of anger; and though you use great plainness of speech, yet let there be no reproach, no railing accusation, no token of any warmth, but that of love. Above all, let there be no shadow of hate or illwill, no bitterness or sourness of expression ; but use the air and language of sweetness as well as gentleness, that all may appear to flow from love in the heart. And yet this sweetness need not hinder your speaking in the most serious and solemn manner; as far as may be, in the very words of the oracles of God, (for there are none like them,) and as under the eye of Him who is coming to judge the quick and dead.
3. If you have not an opportunity of speaking to him in person, or cannot have access, you may do it by a messenger; by