Jude 1:22

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.
There is one kind of argument necessary to be used to men of evil principle and debauched lives; to lovers of pleasure and haters of discipline and wise instruction; to men puffed up with accidental advantages of this present world, and that have never tasted the powers of the world to come; and another sort proper to be applied to those who know the will of God and approve the things that are more excellent, being convinced that the law is holy, but through the strength of their passions and the weakness of their resolutions they are frequently seduced by the deceitfulness of sin. There are some that ought to be rebuked sharply (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).

(T. Manton.)

The exact nature of that discrimination in the exercise of religious wisdom which the apostle prescribes, will readily be seen if we only glance back at the circumstances of the persons to whom he referred. There were "some" among them who, through ignorance, through inattention, or through the power of a commanding example, might be betrayed into errors of opinion, and into impurities of practice; and who, in fact, might be victims to the artful leaders of the great heresy which St. Jude has condemned. There were the "others" however — those very artful leaders themselves — who were proud and insolent, overbearing and authoritative, in their wickedness; and for the sake of personal "advantage," who were firmly fixed in their corruptions of faith and manners. Surely to have "made no difference" between these would have been the most flagrant injustice. Undoubtedly it will be granted that in all cases the attempt that is projected for the conversion of men ought to have "compassion" as its source and unwearied mainspring. What other sentiments, indeed, can be tolerated for leading us to diffuse the knowledge and influence of religion? But, while observing this, you will at the same time readily see that the two things contrasted in the text, "compassion and fear," relate to the instruments by which we try to accomplish the ends of Christian benevolence. Though the affection be one, the means which are employed are varied. On one side then, in making this difference, some are to be treated "with compassion." Here is the "bruised reed," and we must be careful lest we "break" it. Here is "the smoking flax," and we must be careful lest we "quench" it. Ignorance by its darkness has produced confusion; we must endeavour to restore order by admitting the light of truth. The principles are distorted, but through the bias of false education. Offences are committed, but chiefly through surprise and inadvertence. Wrong habits are indulged, but they were contracted not wilfully, and they are persevered in through carelessness. Hence correction must be administered in the spirit of meekness; reproof be regulated by time and circumstances; and everything be so conducted as to allure, rather than to terrify; and to lead, rather than by forcible methods to compel. On the contrary, however, the duty of "making the difference," ascertains that "others are to be saved with fear" — that is by using fear as the means — by employing it without scruple, or shrinking, or cautious tenderness; but employing it promptly, determinately, and even vehemently; urging on to the person who is in jeopardy, and extracting him, as out of the very midst of the destroying element. Instead of "the bruised reed" of a feeble resolution, there is now the hardened heart, which must be assailed with many a blow in order to dissolve its stubbornness. Instead of "the smoking flax" of a timid and fickle piety, there is now the very hatred of religion flaming out against truth and godliness, which must be suppressed and extinguished. Instead of unavoidable ignorance there is wilful blindness. Instead of the unfortunate notions of a false education, there are evil principles adopted by design and cherished with obstinacy. Instead of teachableness, there is contempt of instruction. Instead of offendings by inadvertence, there are transgressions of purpose. Instead of practices, wrong by oversight, there are habits pernicious by intention. Instead of lapses by surprise, there are sins by deliberation and fixed execution. Instead of occasional failings, there is perpetual and almost incorrigible guilt. For these reasons our subject of address can no longer continue its tone of mild persuasion. The awakening language is now requisite. The warning and the rebuke are now needed; and the tearing off the coverings — the breaking down of the pretended excuses — the driving through every fence and vain protection — and the sweeping forcibly away of all "those refuges of lies" which the unbelieving heart is wont to raise up against conviction. Thus encouragement and alarm, on the subject of religion, have a reference to opposite classes of persons. In preaching, one material part of duty consists of setting forth and expounding the blessed promises of revelation. Without our "making a difference," most assuredly we are not "dividing the word aright"; and this want of wisdom may prove itself in sad effects. The indiscriminate hopes may cause presumption. The undiscerning freeness may produce licentiousness. The premature healing of the wound may hinder for ever the perfected cure. The hasty consolation may stifle conviction. Again, in preaching, another material part of duty consists of setting forth and expounding the threatenings of revelation. There are the serious representations of the Divine government, which impress us with the thought — of a Judge, clothed in awful authority — of a tribunal, whence the sentence of life and death shall issue. But indiscriminate terrors might cause depression when there should be hope might cloud the evidences of safety where these were beginning to brighten, and oppress with new darkness the diffident and the doubting. While you thus see the reasons for our "making a difference" in preaching, you will not fail to grant that equally strong reasons press on you the same duty in hearing. Now inquire whether you have "made the difference" that must be made ere the receiving of the promise can be salutary or even safe; or, on the contrary, if you may not be deceived with superficial views of your character.

(W. Muir, D. D. )

I need hardly tell you that, although it is only of one class that the minister is bidden to "have compassion," the meaning cannot be that he is not to compassionate any other class. He would be wanting in the sensibilities of a man, to say nothing of those which his very office is adapted to cherish, if he could be indifferent to the condition of a single transgressor. And hence it cannot be the design of St. Jude to divide sinners into classes, for one of which the minister is to feel compassion, but not for the other: he must be referring to the difference in treatment, rather than to a difference in sentiment. And yet whilst there is a great sense in which every sinner is to be an object of compassion, undoubtedly the characters and circumstances of some are more adapted to the exciting pity than those of others. Behold that young person whose family is irreligious, who, with perhaps a secret sense of the necessity of providing for the soul, is laughed out of all seriousness by those who ought to be urging him to piety. I could not treat that young person sternly; I could not fail in any intercourse with him to bear in mind his peculiar disadvantages. I could indeed weep over one who had so much against him in the saving of the soul. Or behold, again, that man in distressed circumstances, on whom are pressing the cares of a large family, and who is tempted to gain the means of subsistence through practices which his conscience condemns — Sunday trading, for example. Could I go to that man in harshness and severity? I must not, indeed, spare his fault; I must not allow that difficulties are any excuse for his offence; but surely when I think on his peculiar temptations, and hear the cry of his young ones who are asking for bread, you will expect me to feel concern for the man, and to show it in the manner "in which I reprove his misdoing. Oh! I know very well how easy it is for a man to deceive himself in the beginnings of sin, how many things commonly conspire to facilitate the entrance on an evil course, and to hide alike its peril and its wrongness. And whenever, therefore, we see a man just venturing his foot on a forbidden path, we would address him in the language of the text: language which would show that we make every allowance for what may be called the naturalness of his error, even as we would if we saw him entering a field the flowers round whose margin gave him no warning of the fatal marsh into which he would soon sink. Or once more — and here you have the exact case that appears to be contemplated by St. Jude — a man of no very strong intellect, and of no very great reading, is thrown into the society of sceptics, men perhaps of brilliant powers and of no inconsiderable acquirements. He will be no match for these apostles of infidelity. Towards a man thus seduced our prevailing feeling will be compassion — a feeling which you cannot expect to extend towards those who seduced him. So that if there be amongst you the man or the woman who can only please God by displeasing relations, or with whom close attention to religion seems likely to shut up the channels of subsistence, or who is unavoidably associated with those who half force him to be sceptical, or who is living upon what we may call the border-line where vice tries to pass for virtue, why, we would not class that individual with the reckless and the obdurate, who are sinning with a high hand, and "doing despite to the Spirit of grace." Without disguising the nature of sin, of whatever degree or complexion, we may still show that we put a difference between sinners, just as the physician between patients, who may be all sick of diseases which tend directly to death, but who require, nevertheless, very different remedies. And there are gentle remedies which we would try with those cases we have endeavoured to describe. We feel for you — ah, that is little, very little. The Redeemer Himself feels for you. He knows your dangers and your difficulties — in how attractive a form temptation has come — how much you will have to give up, how much to encounter, if you come boldly out and embrace His discipleship. He bids me speak to you in tenderness. Go not away and say that Christianity is harsh and repulsive. You shall have our entreaties, if they will move you to run no further risks; you shall have our expostulations, our affectionate expostulations, if they will induce you to take the Saviour at His word. But it is time that we advanced to the consideration of the other part of the apostle's directions. There is to be stern treatment as well as gentle. "Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." There can be no very great difficulty in deciding what the cases are which St. Jude may be supposed to have here had in view. They are the cases of hardened and reckless men, of the openly dissolute and profane — men living in habitual sin, and showing an unblushing contempt for the authority of God. The apostle refers to men who cannot possibly be in any doubt as to the wrongness of their conduct, who cannot plead ignorance in excuse, or the suddenness of temptation, or the pressure of circumstances, but who, out of a decided preference for iniquity, a settled determination to gratify their passions, or aggrandise their families, pursue a course against which conscience remonstrates, and of which they would not themselves venture to advance any justification. How am I to act towards such men? Must I show them that I pity them? Oh! yes, that I pity them; for if ever men were within a hair's-breadth of destruction, these are the men. But the pity must be mixed with indignation. What mean you by thus persisting in iniquity? Is the Bible a forgery? is death annihilation? is hell a phantom? is heaven a day-dream? What mean you, young persons, with your delay; elder persons, with your avarice; men of pleasure, with your licentiousness; men of business, with your underhand transactions; men of argument, with your sceptical theories? We may pity you, but at the same time we hardly know how to keep down a righteous scorn. There is no excuse to be offered for you, no extenuation. And what treatment does the apostle bid us try with such? "Others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." Oh! beautiful words, notwithstanding all their harshness! The apostle speaks, you see, of "saving" these men. Then they may yet be saved. We are not to despair of any one amongst you. We have yet again to bring to you the message of pardon. We are sent to you once more with the touching words — "Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?" But, then, whilst directed to make every effort to save you, and therefore assured that you are not past recovery, the terms are very peculiar in which the direction is conveyed. "Save with fear, pulling them out of the fire." The apostle considers you as already in the fire. So perilous is your condition, that he speaks of you as though you had taken the last step and plugged into perdition. And the expression goes even beyond this. It is of danger to the man who seeks to save, as well as of danger to the perishing man, that the apostle would admonish us. And here is a fact which well deserves the being seriously pondered. We may say generally, that if our wish to convert the sinful bring us into intercourse with the sinful, there is a risk of our learning their vices whilst labouring to communicate our principles. Association, under whatever circumstances, with dissolute men is full of peril. There is one more clause of the text which, though it may not perhaps actually convey any new sentiment, is so strong in its expression as well to deserve separate notice — "Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." You would be very cautious in giving assistance to a man in the fire, fearing that you yourselves might be burned. You would be equally cautious in giving assistance to a man seized with the plague, fearing that yourselves might be infected. You should deal with them as with parties who cannot be approached without risk of contamination; who are hot only radically diseased, but to whom there can belong nothing which may not be a vehicle for conveying disease; their very dress — language which is the dress of thought — manners, which are often a fascinating garb, being not unlikely ultimately to act as a conductor, so that secretly and stealthily you may get the poison into your own veins.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

First, generally we must use discretion, and make difference of men; we must be like surgeons and expert physicians, who do not lay one plaster to all sores, nor minister one potion to all patients: this is that wisdom that Christ requireth of His apostles (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.

(S. Otes.)

The method of treating the three classes on Christian grounds is here laid down, and is as applicable to-day as it then was.

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.)

Legh Richmond was once conversing with another clergyman in the case of a poor man who had acted inconsistently with his religious profession. After some angry and severe remarks on the conduct of such persons, the gentleman with whom he was discussing the case concluded by saying, "I have no notion of such pretences; I will have nothing to do with him." "Nay, brother, let us be humble and moderate. Remember who has said, 'making a difference'; with opportunity on the one hand, and Satan at the other, and the grace of God at neither, where should you and I be?"

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