And indeed, have mercy on those who doubt;
I. THE LEAST HOPELESS CLASS - THE UNSTABLE AND DISPUTATIOUS. "And on some have mercy, who contend with you." We are to be compassionate towards errorists of this class.
1. Compassion becomes a Christian; for he ought to have the very bowels of Christ himself.
2. It is not to be denied to errorists of a certain class. They are entangled with doubts. Their very disputations imply that they are restless in mind. We are to restore the fallen in a spirit of meekness. "We live not among the perfect, but such as are subject to many slips." We have frequent need ourselves of God's pity and help.
3. Wisdom is needed in dealing with the fallen. Some will be won by love who will be repelled by severity. The persons in this first class may have fallen through infirmity, ignorance, or blinded zeal.
II. ANOTHER CLASS TO BE TREATED WITH A HOLY SEVERITY, "And some save, snatching them out of the fire."
1. This class is obdurate, presumptuous, and without shame. They have not known the bitterness of sin, and they are in great hazard.
2. The saints can, in a sense, save transgressors. "How knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?" (1 Corinthians 7:16); "Thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Timothy 4:16; see also James 5:20). Believers can rebuke sinners, plead with them, pray for them, and win them back to the gospel.
3. A holy severity is often needed in dealing with transgressors. "Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Sinners must be plucked violently from the fire. Our severity ought to have a saving motive: "Severity to sin being mercy to the soul;" "and a godly heart," as Jenkyn says, "would not have one threat the less in the Bible."
4. The wicked are fearless in sin, and regardless of its dread consequences. Yet
(1) those who are in the fire may be plucked out.
(2) The merriment of a sinner is madness. The fire of judgment is burning under his feet, and he knows it not.
III. THE MOST HOPELESS AND CORRUPT CLASS. Those to be saved by appeals to their fear. "And on some have mercy with fear; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh."
1. Such sinners need to be confronted with the terrors of the Law. A holy rigour is needful for corrupt and proud transgressors. None but fools hate reproof.
2. The saints ought, in dealing with them, to watch lest they should receive contamination.
(1) Sinners are very defiling in all the accessories of their life.
(2) Even the saints run risks of defilement.
(3) They must seek to avoid even the appearance of evil. They should pray to be "kept from the evil." They must seek to purge themselves from the vessels of dishonour (2 Timothy 2:21). - T.C.
And of some have compassion, making a difference.Titus 1:13); and others, whom when they, are overtaken in a fault, they which are spiritual are directed to restore them in the spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1). There can be no better direction given us in this matter than in the words of the text: "Of some have compassion," etc. For so God Almighty Himself in the dispensations of His all-wise Providence draws some men with the tender mercies of a compassionate Father, and others He drives with the terrors of an incensed Judge. In the words we cannot but observe —
1. That there is great difference in the degrees of sin and in the danger of sinners; and that, accordingly, there ought to be a proportionable difference in the manner of treating them.
2. That the difference which ought to be made in this case is this, that those who sin through infirmity are to be admonished with greater tenderness than those who sin presumptuously.
3. That presumptuous sinners who transgress habitually and with a high hand, are to be looked upon as being in a condition near to desperate, as being already in the fire.
4. That even these persons we ought still to endeavour to save, by bringing them even yet to repentance. Firstly, some men there are who, for want of early instruction and good education, are utterly ignorant of all religious matters. Such persons want the very first principles of the doctrine of Christ. Secondly, others there are who deny all moral difference of actions, and take upon them by an extraordinary degree of reason and judgment to have gotten above the fears and obligations of religion. These are men of openly corrupt principles and debauched lives; despisers of true knowledge, and that cannot bear reproof. To such persons we must demonstrate, from the necessary notion of a first or self-existent Cause and from the structure and order of the world, that there is a supreme God, who made and governs all things; and from the necessary attributes of such a supreme and self-existent Cause we must prove that God, as He is all-powerful and all-wise, so He is also perfectly holy, just, and good. Thirdly, others we shall find who will profess to believe the Being of God and the natural obligations of religion; yet will deny the truth of all Divine revelation and have no regard to the authority of the gospel, which is the religion appointed for the reconciliation of sinners. To such persons as these we must endeavour to show the necessary difference between the natural duty of innocent creatures and a religion instituted for the salvation of sinners. Fourthly, among those who have gone still further than the former, and acknowledge not only the religion of nature, but also the gospel of Christ; yet how many are there who have corrupted this doctrine of truth with numberless vanities and superstitions? Against every one of these are proper remedies to be applied. Fifthly, even among those who maintain the truth in speculation, and contend for no errors in doctrine; many there are notoriously wicked in practice, and the truth which they hold is in the most shameful unrighteousness. The only way of applying to this sort of persons is to endeavour to awaken their stupefied consciences by representing to them the wrath of God, revealed from heaven, against all incorrigible sinners. Sixthly, others there are, on the contrary, who not only believe rightly, but also live well; and yet through indisposition of body and melancholy imaginations of mind they are always disconsolate and fearful of their own estate. These must be treated in a quite contrary method to the former, with all possible tenderness and compassion.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)1. Reproofs must be managed with compassion and holy grief. This is like God (Lamentations 3:33). There are tears in His eyes when He hath a rod in His hand. It is like Christ (Luke 19:41). There are three grounds of this holy grief: —(1) The dishonour done to God (Psalm 119:136). Love will be affected with the wrong of the party loved.(2) The harm and destruction men bring upon themselves, that they have no care of their own souls (Jeremiah 13:17).(3) The proneness that is in our nature to the same sin (Galatians 6:1). Bernards good man would weep — he to-day and I to-morrow: there is no sin in their lives but was in your nature. Well, then, it checketh them that speak of others' sins by way of censure, but with delight or petulancy of spirit; many reproofs are lost because there is more of passion than compassion in them. It is spiritual cruelty when you can turn a finger in your brother's wound without grief.
2. In reproving some must be handled gently: but who are those that must be handled gently?(1) With the most notorious it is good to begin mildly, that they may see our goodwill and desire of their salvation (2 Timothy 2:25). Hasty spirits cannot brook the least opposition, and therefore are all a-fire presently. How did God deal with us in our natural condition? with what mildness? and "spake comfortably" to us, to allure us out of the devil's snare (Hosea 2:14).(2) The persons whom we should treat with much compassion are these: —(a) The ignorant and seduced. Many well-meaning men may err; be not too severe with them, lest prejudice make them obstinate.(b) Those that slip of infirmity. Members must be "set in joint" tenderly (Galatians 6:1).(c) The afflicted in conscience. We must not speak "to the grief of those whom God hath wounded" (2 Corinthians 2:7).(d) If they err in smaller matters. We must not deal with motes as with beams, and put the wicked and the scrupulous in the same rank, nor the gross heretic, and those that mistake in point of church order. While the judgment is sound in fundamentals, and the practice is reformed, we should use meekness till "God reveal the same thing" (Philippians 3:15, 16).(e) The tractable and those of whom we have any hopes. Dashing storms wash away the seed, whereas gentle showers refresh the earth: men left without hope grow desperate.
3. In all censures and punishments there must be choice used and discretion. Prudence is the queen of graces. Different tempers require different remedies (Isaiah 28:27). God Himself putteth a difference: some are brought in with violence, others gently. This showeth —(1) That ministers had need be wise, to know how to suit their doctrines, to distinguish between persons, actions, circumstances.(2) That ministers should give every one their portion. Terror to whom terror belongeth, and comfort to whom comfort belongeth.(3) It showeth what care we should take to "know the state of our flock" (Proverbs 27:23), that we may know how to apply ourselves to them (Colossians 4:8). It also obligeth private Christians to consider each other's temper, gifts, frame of heart, that we may the better suit ourselves to do and receive good (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
(W. Muir, D. D. )
(H. Melvill, B. D.)Matthew 10:16). Some are wild heifers, and must have a yoke; some are rude horses, and must have a snaffle; some are dull asses, and must have a whip and a spur; some are unruly, and must be admonished; some feeble, and must be comforted; and towards all we must use patience. The nurse, when the child hath a fall, will first help it up, after chide it, and if it fall again correct it; so must the nurse of souls first help a brother out of the mire of sin, then chide him for falling into the ditch, and if this will not serve, apply a sharper corrosive to his sore; yet let all this be done with discretion. Well, we must have compassion of some, for some sins are to be pitied. We must be so far from hating and rejoicing at their falls, that we ought rather to sorrow and to be grieved. What father is not grieved with the hurt of his children? What friend is not grieved at the loss of his friend? What shepherd delighteth in the wronging and scattering of his flock, and not in gathering it together? The compassionate Samaritan to the poor passenger may teach us to show mercy unto sinners. It is strange to see how we pity an ox or an ass fallen into a ditch, but not a brother drowned in sin; it is vile to set a house on fire, but it is vile also to pass by it and not to quench it when it is in our power. Again, as some men are to be pitied, so other some are to be reproved, and must have the judgments of God denounced against them, and must be terrified with menaces. A Christian must not be afraid to reprove sin. Noah reproved the old world; Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah; Samuel, Saul; Nathan, David the king. This also teacheth the people to suffer the word of exhortation; but flatterers are most esteemed of them, such as can sow pillows under their elbows and can preach pleasing things unto them. If a shepherd, after his whistle, sets his dog on his sheep, it is not to worry them, but to return them home; therefore let men suffer the word of exhortation.
1. The doubters. They are to be treated with consideration and kindliness. Many who once were disputers are now firm believers of the truth.
2. Scoffers. There was a class, not the leaders of the schism, that had been led away, to whom warning must be administered. The suggestion is that the authority of the truth be used; not persuasion, but admonition, exhibiting the power of the truth. Let the arrow of conviction have its own barb, and let it fly.
3. The sensualists. They must be approached with fear or with caution. They were within the bounds of conviction, although very near the circumference. The lesson for the Church to learn is to approach men according to their condition. Somebody in a hurry gave a tract on the sin of dancing to a man with two wooden legs. We fear that worse mistakes, if possible, are committed frequently.
(T. Davies, M. A.)
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