You must not harbor hatred against your brother in your heart. Directly rebuke your neighbor, so that you will not incur guilt on account of him.
1. It was twice quoted by our Lord (Matthew 19:19 and Matthew 22:39).
2. It shows us the Law as closer to the gospel than we are apt to think; it proves that, under the old dispensation, God was not satisfied with a mere mechanical propriety of behaviour, that he demanded rightness of feeling as well as correctness of conduct. We have -
I. THE BROAD PRINCIPLE OF GOD'S REQUIREMENT. Man is to "love his neighbour as himself" (verse 18). No man, indeed, can
(1) give as much time and thought to each of his neighbours as he does to himself, and no man
(2) is so responsible for the state of others' hearts and the rectitude of their lives as he is for his own. But every man can and should, by power of imagination and sympathy, put himself in his brother's place; be as anxious to avoid doing injury to another as he would be unwilling to receive injury from another; and be as desirous of doing good to his neighbour who is in need as he would be eager to receive help from him if he himself were in distress. This is the essence of the "golden rule" (Matthew 7:12).
II. THE ROOT FROM WHICH THIS FEELING WILL SPRING. How can we do this? it will be asked. How can we be interested in the uninteresting; love the unamiable; go out in warm affection toward those who have in them so much that is repulsive? The answer is here, "I am the Lord." We must look at all men in their relation to God.
1. God is interested, Christ is interested in the worst of men, is seeking to save and raise them; do we not care for those for whom he cares so much?
2. They are all God's children; it may be his prodigal children, living in the far country, but still his sons and daughters, over whom he yearns.
3. The most unlovely of men are those for whom our Saviour bled, agonized, died. Can we be indifferent to them?
4. They were once not far from the kingdom, and may yet be holy citizens of the kingdom of God. When we look at our fellow-men in the light of their relation to God, to Jesus Christ, we can see that in them which shines through all that is repelling, and which attracts us to their side that we may win and bless them.
III. THE FRUITS WHICH HOLY LOVE WILL BEAR. There are two suggested in the text.
1. Forbearance; "not hating our brother in our heart," "not avenging or bearing any grudge against" him. Without the restraints and impulses of piety we are under irresistible temptation to do this. Unreasonable dislike on our brother's part, injustice, ingratitude, unkindness, inconsiderateness, features of character which are antipathetic to our own, - these things and such things as these are provocative of ill will, dislike, enmity, resentment, even revenge on our part. But if we remember and realize our brother's relation to the common Father and Saviour, we shall rise to the noble height of forbearance; we shall have the love which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7).
2. Restoration by remonstrance, Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." Instead of nursing and nourishing our indignation, allowing our brother to go on in the wrong, and permitting ourselves to become resentful as well as indignant, we shall offer the remonstrance of affection; we shall "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering" (2 Timothy 4:2). We shall try to win our brother back to that path of truth or righteousness which he has forsaken; so shall we "gain our brother" (Matthew 18:15), instead of "suffering sin upon him." This is the conquest of love, the crown of charity. - C.
I. WHAT BROTHERLY REPROOF OR CORRECTION IS. It is an act of love and charity, whereby we endeavour to reduce our offending brother to repentance and reformation.
I. THE CHRISTIAN DUTY OF REPROVING SIN IN OTHERS.
Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy brother.? —
I. THE ILL-CONDUCT OF A NEIGHBOUR DEMANDS A PERSONAL REBUKE.
1. This injunction supposes cognisance of another's actions. Man was made for society, and its value consists greatly in taking an affectionate interest in those about us.
2. It is often easier for a bystander to detect a fault than for the one actively concerned in the deed. Our friend may be in ignorance of his guilt, and a word of reproof may open his eyes. What we imagined way done with intent may prove to have been thoughtlessly wrought.
3. The text inculcates what is acknowledged to be a hard duty, one which most are willing to relegate to others. We may fear some cutting retort, "Who made thee a judge over us?" We know that our neighbour's vanity may be wounded, and he may inflict some blow in return. Perhaps the duty is most difficult when the wrong has been perpetrated upon ourselves. Pride urges us to keep silence, and we nourish a sentiment of undeserved injury which rather flatters our conception of ourselves. Yet Jesus Christ re-enforced the law.
4. Regard for God demands the observance of the text. Every transgression is sin against Him.
5. The welfare of our neighbour requires it.
II. To REBUKE A NEIGHBOUR IS THE SUREST METHOD TO PREVENT OUR HATING HIM FOR HIS EVIL ACTION.
1. Hatred proceeds from the perception of something repugnant to our feelings, and, in the case supposed, of something that is distasteful to our moral sentiments. An outrage upon good taste is committed — a deed that is offensive to our judgment of what is congruous to the relationship and circumstances under consideration. This just resentment will be soothed by the recantation and improvement of the transgressor consequent on the reproof administered. We learn to distinguish between the sinner and the sin.
2. Our perception of wrong is clearer and more intense when the injury is done to ourselves, and the hatred threatens to become stronger. The picture is directed towards ourselves, and we get a good front view of it. It is the more necessary, therefore, to take steps to abate ensuing enmity. We shall relieve our burdened breasts by expressing our sense of the unrighteousness of our neighbour's behaviour, the utterance of resentment being a sentence of condemnation that satisfies to a certain extent our love of justice. Holy indignation will have been vented, and to that degree appeased.
3. On the other hand, the repression of reproof aggravates hatred. The concealment of our knowledge genders a sore that spreads till our every sight and thought of the man is one of utter dislike. By the sin of a brother we ourselves are thus betrayed into dire sin against the very purport of the Decalogue. We do not love, but hate our neighbour, and "he that hateth his brother is a murderer." Whereas "if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." Thy reproof may be "an excellent oil, which shall not break his head."
III. THE REPROOF WILL DISCHARGE US FROM ALL GUILT OF TACIT PARTICIPATION IN OUR NEIGHBOUR'S SIN. The marginal rendering is preferable, "that thou bear not sin for him" or "on his account." To witness a crime and not make an endeavour to stop it is to be an abettor of it.
(S. R. Aldridge, B. A.)
1. Duty to God.
(1) (2) (3) 2. Duty to neighbour. Love him as self. No outward act of what is called "good fellowship," no degree of goodwill or social intercourse can possibly make up for neglect of the soul. Now the exhortation in the text comes enforced by our duty to our neighbour. For what is it which is most injurious to our brother? It is sin. And shall I suffer sin on him? I should grieve, if I were to see him on the brink of a precipice or surrounded with devouring flames; if I saw that in his bosom was concealed a venomous serpent, or that he was about to lift a cup of deadly poison to his lips! And how, then, shall I suffer sin upon my brother? II. THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DISCHARGING THIS DUTY. 1. There are a number of circumstantial difficulties, but these I shall not dwell upon here. 2. The chief difficulties are in the heart of the Christian himself.(1) The first which I shall mention, and that which will strike all, is the fear of man. This arises from — (a) (b) (R. W. Sibthorp, B. D.)
(2) (3) 2. Duty to neighbour. Love him as self. No outward act of what is called "good fellowship," no degree of goodwill or social intercourse can possibly make up for neglect of the soul. Now the exhortation in the text comes enforced by our duty to our neighbour. For what is it which is most injurious to our brother? It is sin. And shall I suffer sin on him? I should grieve, if I were to see him on the brink of a precipice or surrounded with devouring flames; if I saw that in his bosom was concealed a venomous serpent, or that he was about to lift a cup of deadly poison to his lips! And how, then, shall I suffer sin upon my brother? II. THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DISCHARGING THIS DUTY. 1. There are a number of circumstantial difficulties, but these I shall not dwell upon here. 2. The chief difficulties are in the heart of the Christian himself.(1) The first which I shall mention, and that which will strike all, is the fear of man. This arises from — (a) (b) (R. W. Sibthorp, B. D.)
(3) 2. Duty to neighbour. Love him as self. No outward act of what is called "good fellowship," no degree of goodwill or social intercourse can possibly make up for neglect of the soul. Now the exhortation in the text comes enforced by our duty to our neighbour. For what is it which is most injurious to our brother? It is sin. And shall I suffer sin on him? I should grieve, if I were to see him on the brink of a precipice or surrounded with devouring flames; if I saw that in his bosom was concealed a venomous serpent, or that he was about to lift a cup of deadly poison to his lips! And how, then, shall I suffer sin upon my brother? II. THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DISCHARGING THIS DUTY. 1. There are a number of circumstantial difficulties, but these I shall not dwell upon here. 2. The chief difficulties are in the heart of the Christian himself.(1) The first which I shall mention, and that which will strike all, is the fear of man. This arises from — (a) (b) (R. W. Sibthorp, B. D.)
II. THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY OF DISCHARGING THIS DUTY.
1. There are a number of circumstantial difficulties, but these I shall not dwell upon here.
(R. W. Sibthorp, B. D.)
(R. W. Sibthorp, B. D.)
1. By words. Remonstrating to them the greatness of their sin; the scandal which they give to others, either by encouraging or saddening them; the reproach which they bring upon religion; and the danger which they bring upon their own souls.
2. Where words have proved ineffectual, we may try how deeds can prevail — prevail, I say, either to deliver them, or, at least, to deliver thine own soul from death.(1) If they be our inferiors, over whom we have authority, either as magistrates, or parents, or the like, we ought, when admonition is fruitless, to reprove them by correction and punishment. If they will not hear they must feel rebuke. This discipline, if it be seasonably and prudently used, is so far from being any act of cruelty that it is an act of the greatest charity that can be, both to them and to others.(2) If they be our equals, over whom we have no jurisdiction nor coercive power, we are then to rebuke them, if they continue obstinate after Christian admonition, by withdrawing ourselves from all necessary converse with them — not so as to deny them the offices of courtesy and our charitable assistance to promote their temporal good, but to break off all intimacy with them, not to make such dissolute persons our chosen companions (2 Thessalonians 3:6).And to these two things are necessarily previous and antecedent —
1. Instruction and conviction. Could we but skilfully convince our brother by representing the odiousness of such and such sins, to which we know he is addicted, possibly we might spare ourselves in that which is the most ungrateful part of this work — I mean personal reflection, and leave it to his own conscience to reprove himself, and to apply it home with "Thou art the man." And —
2. It is necessary that we watch over our brother, not so as to be insidious spies upon him, officiously to pry into his actions, and busily to concern ourselves in all he doth.(1) We ought so to watch over our brother as to give him timely caution if we see him in any danger through temptation or passion, and to admonish him to stand upon his guard, to recollect himself and beware he be not surprised or injured by such an approaching sin.(2) If we have observed any miscarriages in him, we are to watch the best seasons and all the fittest circumstances in which to remind him of it, that so our reproof may be well accepted and become effectual.
II. But indeed, which is the second thing, it is not so hard a matter to know what it is as it is DIFFICULT conscientiously and faithfully to practise it
1. Many are afraid to reprove sin, lest they should incur displeasure, weaken their secular interest, ruin their dependencies, and bring some mischief upon themselves by exasperating the offenders against them. But these are poor, low, carnal considerations. Where matter of duty is in question, it is very necessary for every Christian to be of an undaunted courage and resolution.
2. Others, again, are ashamed to reprove sin. And whereas many profligate wretches glory in their shame, these, on the contrary, are ashamed of that which would be their glory. Either they doubt they shall be thought but troublesome and hypocritical inter-meddlers, or else, possibly, being conscious to themselves of many miscarriages, they suspect their reproofs will be upbraidingly retorted upon themselves; and so, by reproving the faults of others, they shall but give an occasion to have their own ripped up and exposed, and so they think it the safer way to say nothing.
III. It is a most NECESSARY duty. The greatest good you can do in the world is to pluck up these briars and thorns with which it is overgrown.
IV. I shall give you some brief RULES and DIRECTIONS when you ought to reprove, and how you ought to manage your reproofs, so as they may be most beneficial to your brother. And some of them shall be negatives, and others shall be positives.
1. For the negative rules take these that follow.(1) I ought not to reprove my brother if I have no certain knowledge of his offence.(2) It is not necessary to reprove where I have reason to conclude that others, of more prudence and interest in the party, either have already or will more effectually perform it.(3) We ought not to give sharp reproofs for small offences.(4) We are not to reprove those whom we have reason to believe are such desperate wretches that our reproofs would but exasperate them to sin the more for a reproof.
2. Let us now proceed to lay down some positive rules and directions for the right managing of our reproofs. And here —(1) If thou wouldst reprove with success, observe right circumstances of time and place. And let the one be as opportune, and the other as private, as thou canst. Now, usually, it is no fit season for reproof —(a) Presently, as soon as the sin is committed; for then the heat is not over, nor the uproar of the passions and affections appeased. In all likelihood a reproof as yet would but irritate. Nor yet —(b) Is a time of mirth and joy fit for reproof; for that will look like a piece of envy, as if we were malicious at their prosperity, and therefore studied to cast in somewhat that might disturb them, and so they will be apt to interpret it. Nor —(c) Is a time of exceeding great sadness and sorrow a proper season for reproof; for this will look like hostility and hatred, as if we designed utterly to overwhelm and dispatch them. But the fittest opportunity for this duty is when they are most calm, their passions hushed, and their reason (with which you are to deal) again reseated upon its throne.(2) If thou wouldst have thy reproofs successful, reprove with all gentleness and meekness, without giving any railing or reviling terms.(3) Though our reproofs must be meek and gentle, yet must they be quick and vivacious also; for as charity requires the one, so doth zeal the other, and the best and most equal temper is rightly to mix these two, that at once we may show meekness to his person ("For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," James 1:20) and sharpness against his sin (for a remiss reprover will make but a slow penitent).(4) Let all thy reproofs be given as secretly and privately as possibly thou canst, otherwise thou wilt seem not so much to aim at thy brother's reformation as at his shame and. confusion.(5) Reprove not one who is greatly thy superior, unless it be at a respectful distance. Towards such we must not use downright and blunt rebukes, but rather insinuate things into them with address and artifice.(6) If thou wouldst hard thy reproofs effectual, especially beware that thou thyself art not guilty of those sins which thou reprovest in another.
V. Some MOTIVES which may quicken you to the conscientious discharge of this duty. And here, next to the express command of Almighty God, whose authority alone ought to prevail against all the difficulties which we either find or fancy in the way of obedience thereunto, consider the great benefit which may redound both to the reprover and reproved.
1. To the reprover.(1) Thou shalt hereby provide thyself a friend who may take the same liberty to reprove thee when it shall be needful and for thy great good.(2) Thou wilt hereby entitle thyself to that great and precious promise (Daniel 12:3).(3) Thou shalt increase thy own graces and comforts more than possibly thou couldst do by separating thyself from them. Thy graces will be more confirmed, because reproving of others will engage thee to a greater watchfulness over thyself. Thy comforts also will be increased, because a conscientious discharge of this duty will be to thee a great evidence of the integrity and sincerity of thy heart.
2. The practice of this duty will be greatly profitable unto him that is reproved. How knowest thou but it may be a means to turn him from his iniquity? and so thou shalt prevent a multitude of sins and save a soul from death (James 5:20).
(Bp. E. Hopkins.)
II. STATE RULES AND MOTIVES.
1. There must be a diligent and prayerful observation of both the relative and the absolute circumstances of the offending party, so that we may decide whether the interference is likely to be spurned as an unwarrantable intrusion or provoke to additional sin.
2. Supposing that neither of these results be likely to follow, and supposing the offending party is one who, if I reproach, he may probably be advantaged by reproof, then we give, as a second rule, that an exact proportion should be preserved between the offence committed and the rebuke which it receives. It is very easy, but, at the same time, infinitely removed from all that is Christian, to upbraid the shiner in place of rebuking the sin. Whereas, if we would act up to the spirit of our text, the rebuke should never part from our lips which has not the double object of love for the offender and hatred of the offence. The brotherly correction, which alone can be expected to work its way to the heart, must bear upon itself the evident marks of having been dictated by genuine affection.
3. The reproof should be given privately rather than publicly.
4. If you hope that your admonition may carry any weight, take heed that you be not yourself chargeable with the fault that you reprove in another. The force of example is vastly greater than that of words, and the reproof which rebounds on itself leaves no permanent impression on the rock against which it was thrown.
5. These are simple rules, which you may all understand and apply. Their motives are so involved in them that it is unnecessary to multiply reasons urging to the duty under review. Enough for us to know that he who neglects the duty suffers sin on his brother; enough for us to be assured that "they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as stars for ever and ever." And equipped with the fear of partaking in the guilt which we do not rebuke, and with the hope of securing the glories of those who turn souls to the Lord, we have all which can brace us up to the vigorous effort of checking the rule and progress of impiety.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. WHAT DUTY IS ENJOINED, AND WHAT SHOULD BE REBUKED.
1. TO tell any one of his fault, "Thou shalt not suffer sin upon him." Sin, therefore, is the thing we are called to reprove, or rather him that commits sin. Do all we can to convince him of his fault, and lead him in the right way.
2. Love requires that we should also warn him of error, which would naturally lead to sin.
3. Avoid reproving for anything that is disputable.
II. WHO THEY ARE WE ARE CALLED TO REPROVE.
1. There are some sinners we are forbidden to rebuke. "Cast not your pearls before swine."
2. Our "neighbour" is every child of man, all that have souls to be saved.
3. The reproving is not to be done in the same degree to every one. First, it is particularly done to our parents, if needing it; then to brothers and sisters; then to relatives; then to our servants; to our fellow-citizens; members of the same religious society; watch over each other that we may not suffer sin upon our brother. To neglect this is to "hate our brother in our heart"; and "he that hateth his brother is a murderer." It imperils our own salvation to neglect this duty.
III. WHAT SPIRIT AND MANNER SHOULD MARK OUR PERFORMANCE OF THIS DUTY.
1. There is considerable difficulty in doing it aright. Although some are specially qualified to do it by grace, and skilful by practice. But, though difficult, we must do it; and God will aid us.
2. How most effectual? When done in "the spirit of love," of tender goodwill fur our neighbour, as for one who is the son of our common Father, as for one for whom Christ died, that he might be a partaker of salvation.
3. Yet speak in the spirit of humility. "Not think of yourself more highly than you ought to think." Not feeling or showing the least contempt of those whom you reprove; disclaiming all self-superiority; owning the good there is in him.
4. In the spirit of meekness. "For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." Anger begets anger, not holiness.
5. Put no trust in yourself; in your wisdom or abilities; speak in the spirit of prayer.
6. And as for the outward manner, as well as the spirit, in which it should be done; let there be a frank outspokenness, a plain and artless declaration of disinterested love. It will pierce like lightning.
7. With great seriousness, showing that you are really in earnest. A ludicrous reproof makes little impression, or is taken ill.
8. Yet there are exceptions when a little well-placed raillery will pierce deeper than solid argument. "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."
9. Adapt the manner to the occasion. By few or many words as the situation determines; or by no words at all, but a look, a gesture, a sigh. Such silent reproof may be attended by the power of God.
10. Watch for a fair occasion. "A word spoken in season, how good it is." Catch the time when his mind is soft and mild.
11. But should a man be left alone when intoxicated? I dare not say so; for instances are forthcoming of a reproof then having had good effects. Despise not the poor drunkard. Many of them are self-condemned, but they despair. He that tells a man there is no help for him is a liar from the beginning. "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world."
12. You that are diligent in this labour of love be not discouraged. You have need of patience.
(John Wesley, M. A.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.) - (J. Vaughan.) ( St. Augustine.) - — A person who objects to tell a friend of his faults because he has faults of his own acts as a surgeon would who should refuse to dress another person's wounds because he had a dangerous one himself. (R. Cecil.)
( St. Augustine.) - — A person who objects to tell a friend of his faults because he has faults of his own acts as a surgeon would who should refuse to dress another person's wounds because he had a dangerous one himself. (R. Cecil.)