Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

. (page 13 of 121)
Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 13 of 121)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory of
Gtod. It is the delight of this pure and heavenly
grace to contemplate holiness wherever it is to be
found. Ascending to the celestial world, it joins
the choirs of the cherubim, to look upon the spotless
One, and with them to give utterance to its ecstasies,
in the short but sublime anthem, " Holy, holy, holy,
is the Lord God Almighty." Undismayed by the
roar of thunder, and the sound of the trumpet, and
the voice of words ; by the thick darkness, and the
vivid lightnings, and the agitation of the quaking
earth ;— it ventures near the base of Sinai, and, for
the delight that it has in holiness^ rejoices in the law
which is the rule of righteousness. The angels are
pleasant to behold, because they are clad m nr-
jnents of unsullied purity ; and the crown of glory
which Adam wore li^ore his iUl was his innocence;
and the deep degradation into which he fell by his
apostacy, was loss of holiness, in which consisted
the ima^ of GkxL The ceremonial law has an ex-
cellence in the eye of charity, because it teaches the



value of holiness in the view of God, and the me-
cessity of it for man. The prophetic visions are all
delighted in, because they are distinguished by the
beauties of holiness ; and the whole gospel of Jesus
is dear to the heart of love, because it is intended to
purify unto Christ a chtirch, which he will present
to the Father without spot, wrinkle, of blemish.-^
Men are esteemed and loved on earth as they have
this moral excellence enstamped upon their souls :
and in looking for a heaven which shall satisfy alt
its desires, it can think of nothing higher and better
than a state of sinless purity.

So ardent and so uniform is charity's regard to
holiness, that it rejoices in it when it is found in an
enemy or a rival. Yes ; if we are under the infli»-
ence of this divine virtue as we ought to be. we shall
desire, and desire ver^ fervently too, that those who
have displeased or injured us were better than they
are. "We shall wish to see every speck of imperfect
tion gone from their conduct, and their whole cha-
racter standing out to the admiration of the world,
and receiving the approbation of those by whom
they are now condemned. We shall be willing to
do any thing hf which they mav conciliate to them-
selves the favor of the alienatea multitude, and also
raise themselves to the vantage ground on which
their misconduct has placed us above them. This
is charily, to rejoice in those mof al excellences, and
gaze upon them with gratitude and complacency,
which invest the character of one that opposes us
with loveliness and beauty, and by which bis cause
is promoted, in sume degree, to the detriment of
ours. Men of little virtue may sometimes join tronk
policy in tho»te commendations of another's good*
ness, the justice of which they cannot dispute, and
the harmony of which they dare not disturb ; but it
is only the Christian, who is far advanced in the
practice of all that is difficult in religion, who can
secretly rejoice, without envy or jealousy in those
very virtues which draw away the public attention
from himself, and cause him and his parbr to pass
into eclipse and to sink into shadow. ^ O uharity I
this is My work, and ikis thy glory ;— a work too
rarely performed— a ^orjr too rarefy seen— in this
region of selfishness, in this world of imperfection ;
where, of the multitudes that profess to submit to thy
sway, there are still so few wno are really governed
by thy lawa^ and inspired by thine influence."

CHAPTER XIV.

THE CANDOR OF LOVE.

"* Ckariif beoreih tUl things.''

Some writers consider this verse as an amplification
of the foregoing one, and explain it, in reference to
the truth, in the following manner :—" It beareth all
things" reported in the truth, however opposed to
the corruption of human nature, and counts ncme of
them hard sayings or unfit to be borne ; ** it believ-
eth all things'' imported in the great truth, or all the
inferences which the apostles have deduced Arom it,
as being well affected to the source from whence
they flow ; '^ hopeth for all things" promised in it.
ana '' endureth all things ;" or patiently suffers aa
the afflictions that can attend a steady attachment to
it. This gives a very good sense oi the words, and
admits the full force ca the universal expressions.
Tet it certainly aigrees better with the scope of the
apostle, to understand the verse with reference to
the brethren as the objeets of it.

If we render the first expression, and which we
are now about to consider, as our translators have
done, it may signify our bearing one another's bur-
dens and weaknesses, which is to Ailfil the law of
Christ : and it must be confessed this is strictlv true ;
for whoever is under the influence of this principle,



Digitized by



Google



CHRISTIAN CHARITY.



41



will possess a spirit of tender syinpa^. In this
worla we all groan, bcinff burdened. Efach has his
own load of care, or grief, or imperfection. This is
not the state where we ind perfect rest. How wide
is the scope, how iVeqaent tne opportunity, how nu-
merous tne occasions, for sympathy ! And, who
that is possessed of benevolence, can allow himself
to pass a brother apon the road, laboring under a
heavier load than his own, without offering to bear
a part 1 We are not to be impertinently officious
and intermeddling, nor to pry into the secrets of our
neighbors with an inquisitive curiosity : but to in-
<^uire into the cause which gives them so much so-
licitude or so much cfrief, is the duty of those who
are the witnesses of their careworn countenance and
downcast look. What an unfeeling heart must
that man have, who can see the very form of care
and sorrow before him, and never kindly a<k the
reason of its existence 1 It is but little that sympa-
thy can do for the sufferer, but that little should be
most cheerfully afforded. To be unnoticed and un-
pitied in our griefs, adds greatlv to their weieht.—
For what purpose are Christians collected into
churches 1 not merely to eat the Lord's Supper to-
gether : this could be done without any such dis-
tmct recognition of a mutual relationship^ as that
which takes place ip the fellowship of believers.^
The end and aesign of this bond is, that being united
as one bodv, the members might cherish a general
sympathy for each other, and exercise their benevo-
lence in the way of mutual assistance. The rich,
l^ their munificence, should help their poorer bre-
thren to bear the hurden of poverty ; the strong
should aid the weak to bear the burden of their
fears and apprehensions ; those who are in health
and ease should by seasonable visits, and soothing
words, and kind offices, bear the burdens of the
stclE : counsel should always be eiven, when it is
sought by those who are in difficulty; and a dispo-
sition should pervade the whole body, to render its
varied resources, talents, and energies, available for
the benefit of the whole.

But though this also gives a beauttfnl meaning,
and enjoins a necessary duty, it is not the right
view of the passage. The word translated " bear-
eth" all things, signifies also, " to contain, to con-
ceal, to cover." The idea of " bearing" is parallel
in meaning with that of "en4uring " of which the
apostle sp^iks in the latter part of the verse ; and it
is not probable that it was nis intention to express
the same thought twice. Adopting " concealment"
as the sentiment intended to be expressed and the
fkilings of, others as the object to which it refers, I
shall go on to show in what way it is practised.

To do this with still greater effect, we shall exhi-
bit a general view of those sins to which the view
of Christian charity stands exposed ; and these are,
j2d4u2rr, detracHpHj and rask judging^ or censorums-

%g8S.

Perhaps there are no sins which are more f^
quently alluded to, or more severely rebuked, in
Scripture, than those of the tongue ; and for this rea-
son,— because there are none to which we are so
frequently tempted— none we are so prone to in-
dulge, or so bold to excuse-naone which are so fruit-
ful of disorder and discomfort to society. Besides
swearing, falsehood, obscenity, blaspbemy,— the
Scripture speaks of bearing false witness, railing.
tale4)earing, whispering, backbiting, slander, and
reproach :— a dismal enumeration of vices belong-
ing to that member which was intended to be the
glory of oar frame. By sLAimia. we understand
the circulation of M.fals€ report witn the intention of
injuring a neighbor's reputation. Its most vicious
excess is the irwenH^n and construction of a story
which is absolutely false from beginning to end.—
hsi next lower grade, though little uferior in crimi-



nality, is to become the propagator of the tale, know-
ing it to be false. " This," sajrs Bakrow, " is to be-
come the hucksters of counterfeit wares, or factors
in this vile trade. There is no coiner who hath not
emissaries and accomplices ready to take from his
hand and put off his money; and such slanderers at
second hand are scarcely less guUty than the first
authors. He that breweth lies may have more wit
and skill, but the broacher showeth the like malice
and wickedness. In this there is no great difierence
between the great devil that frameth scandalous re-
ports, and the little imps that run about and disperse
them." The next operation of slander is to receive
and spread^ wUhoui examining into the truth of
them, false and injurious reports. It is a part of a
good man's character, that *^He taketh not up a re-
proach against his neighbor;" t. e. he does not ea-
sily entertain it, much less propagate it; he does not
receive it but upon the most convincing evidence :
but slander founds reproachful tales upon conjecture
or suspicion, and raises an injurious represcnta
tion upon a suppositious foundation. Sometimes it
withers the reputation of a neighbor by rash speak-
ing, or vehemently affirming things which it has no
reason to believe, and no motive for affirming, but
the hope of exciting ill will. Slander is svnfil. be-
cause rorbidden in every part of Scripture ; cfueL be-
cause it is robbing oar neighbor or that whicn ii
dearer to him than life j and foolish. htctLUse it sub-
jects the calumniator himself to all Kinds of incon-
venience. — for it not only exposes him to the wrath
of Grod, the loss of his soul, and the miseries of hdl
in the world to come, but it makes him odious ih the
present life, causes him to be shunned and discredit-
ed, arms his conscience against his own peace,
brings upon himself the most reproachful accusa-
tions, and not unfrequently the venj^nce of that
public justice, which is rightly appomted to be the
guardian not only of property and life, but of repu-
tation also.

Detraction, or backbiting, differs a little from
slander, though, in its general nature and constitu-
tion, it closely resembles it. Slander involveth an
imputation of falsehood ; but detraction may clothe
itself with truth : it is sweetened poison, served from
a golden cap by the hand of hypocrisy. A detrac-
tor's aim is the same as the slanderer's— to injure the
reputation of anoth<ir ; but he avails himself of
means that are a little different. He represents per-
sons and actions under the most disadvantageous
circumstances he can, — setting forth those which
may make them appear guilty or ridiculou.<«, and
throwing into the shade such as are commendable.
"When he cannot deny the metal to be good and
the stamp to be true, he clippeth it, and so rejectcth
it from being current: he misconstrues douboful ac-
tions unfavorably, and throws over the very virtues
of his neighbors the name of faults,— calling the so-
ber sour, the conscientious morose, the devout su-
perstitious, the frugal sordid, the cheerful frivolous,
and the reserved crafty : he diminishes from the ex-
cellence of good actions, by showing how much bet-
ter they might have been done ; and attempts to de-
stroy all confidence in long-established character,
and all respect for it, by pitching on some single act
of imprudence, and expanding it into a magnitude,
and darkening it into a shadow, which truth and
justify forbid. Such is the backbiter ; whose crime
is compoimded of the ingredients of ill humor,
pride, selfishness, envy, malice, falsehood, coward-
ice, and folly. Backbiting must be peculiarly hate-
ful to God. * " He is the God of truth, and therefore
detesteth l3ring, of which detraction ever hath a
spice : He is the God of justice, and therefore doth
especially abhor wronging the best persons and ac-
tions: He is the God of love, and therefore canimt
but loathe this capital violation of charity: He is



Dflitized by



Google



CHRISTIAN CHARITY.



Jealoua of his glory, and therefore cannot endure it
to be ahnsed l^ slurring his good ^s and graces :
Be cannot but hate the offence wmch approacheth
to that most heinous and unpardonable sin, that
consisteth in defoming the ezceUent works perform^
•d by divine power and goodness, ascribing them to
bad causes.''

The same writer, in bpeahiuff of the mischief of
detraction, as discouraging others from the pei^
formance of that goodness which is thus vilified and
defamed, has the following beautiful remarks.—
Many, seeing the best men thus disparaged, and the
best actions vilified, are disheartened and deterred
from practising virtue, especially in a conspicuous
and eminent degree :— " Why," will many a man
say, ** shall I be strictly good, seeing goodness is so
liable to be misused 1 Had I not better be contented
with a mediocrity and obscurity of goodness, than
by a flaring lustre thereof to draw tbe envious eye
and kmdle raging obloquy upjon me Y* And when
the credit of virtue is bliB^ed in its practices, many
will be diverted from it. So will it grow out of re-
ouest, and the world be corrupted by these agents of
tne Evil Oms. It were advisable, upon this consi-
deration, not to seem ever to detract, even not then
when we are assured that, by speaking ill, we shall
not really ^^ it; if we should discover any man to
seem worthy, or to be so reputed, whom yet we dis-
cern, by standing in a nearer light, not to be truly
such, yet wisdom would commonly dictate, and
goodness dispose, not to mar his repute. If we
uiould observe, without danger of mistase, any plau-
sible action, to oe performed out of bad inclinations,
principles, or designs, vet ordinarily in discretion
and honesty, we snoula let it pass with such com-
mendaticm as its appearance may procure, rather
than slur it by venting our disadvantageous appre-
hensions about it; for it is no great harm that any
man should enjoy undeserved commendation ; our
granting its claims is but being over just, which, if
it ever be a fault, can hardly be so in this case,
wherein we do not expend any cost or suffer any
damage ; but it may do mischief to blemish any ap-
pearance of virtue : it may be a wron^ thereto, to
deface its very image ; the very disclosmff of hypo-
crisy doth inmct a wound on goodness, and exposeth
it to scandal, for bad men wlu then be prone to inier
that all virtue doth proceed from the like bad prin-
ciples ; so the disgrace cast on that which is furi-
ous, will redound to the prejudice of that which is
most genuine.' And if it oe good to forbear detract-
ing from that which is certainly filse, much more
so in re^d to that which is possibly true; and far
more sull is it so in reqpect to that which is clear
and sure.

Censoriousness is another sin of the same class—
another child of the st^me family: varying, how-
ever, from those we have already considered by act-
ing not 80 much in the way of reporting faults as
in condemning them. It is different from slander,
inasmuch as it assumes, that what it condemns is
true ; and from detraction, inasmuch as it is not ex-
ercised with an intention to injure another in public
estimation, but only to reprove him for wnat is
wronff. It assumes the character, not of a witness,
but of a judge : hence the injunction, " Judge not."
Censoriousness, then, means a disposition to scrutin-
ize men's motives— to pass sentence upon their con-
duct—to reproach their faults,— accompanied by an
unwillingness to make all reasonable allowances
for their mistakes, and a tendency to the side of se-
verity rather than to that of leniency. We are not
to suppose that all inspection and condenmation of
the conduct of others is sin ; nor that all reproof of
offenders is a violation of the law of charity ; nor
that we are to think well of our neighbors, in oppo-
iition to the plainest evid«Ace; nor that we are to



entertain such a credulous opinkm of tha axeelle&c*
of mankind, as unsuspectingly to confide in evenr
man's pretences : but what we condemn is need-
lessly inquiring into the conduct and motives of
other men; examining and arraigning them at our
bar, when we stand in no relation to them that re*
quires such a scrutiny { delivering our opinion
when it is not called for ; pronouncing sentence
with undue severity, and hewmg the heaviest de-

See of reproach upon an ominder which we can
d languaffe to express.

The world is become so extremely critical and
censorious, that in many places the chief employ-
ment of men^ and the main body of conversation, is,
if we mark it, taken up in judging ; every company
is a court of ju^ce, every seat becometh a tribunal,
at every table standeth a bar, wherennto all men
are cited— whereat tverY man, as it happeneth, ia
arraigned and sentenced; na sublimity or sacred-
ness of dignity— no integrjt^r or innocence of life —
no prudence or circnmspection of demeanor,— nran
exempt any person from it Not one escapes being
taxed under some odious name or scandalous cha-
racter or other. Not only the outward actions and
visible practices of men are judged, but their retired
sentiments are brought under review— their inward
dispositions have a verdict passed upon them — their
final states are determined. Whole bodies of men
are thus judged at once ; and nothing is it in one
breath to dunn whole churches— at one push to
throw down whole nations into the bottomless pit:
yea, Gk>d himself is hardly spared, his providence
coming under the bold obloquy of those who— as
the Psalmist speaketh of some in his time, whose
race does jret survive— speak loftily, and set their
mouth against the heavens. Barrow, in order to
censure this temper, gives the following qualificar
tions of a iud^. ^* He should be appointed l^ com-
petent authonty, and not intrude himself into office.
To how many cenilors may we say, ' Who made
thee a judge r He should be f^ee from all preju-
dice andpartiality. Is this the case with the censo-
rious 1 He shoida never proceed to judgment, with-
out a careftil examination of the case, so as well to
understand it Let the private self-appointed jndges
remember this, and act upon the principle of Solo-
mon — " He that answeretn a matter before he hear-
eth it, it is a folly and a shame to him." He should
never pronounce sentence but upon good grounds,
afier certain proof and full conviction. If this rale
were observed, how many censures would be pre-
vented. He will not meddle with causes beyond the
jurisdicticm of his court If this were recollected
and acted upon, the voice of unJawful censure would
die away in silence : for who are we, that we shonld
try the hearts and search the reins of men. or
judge another's servant 1 He never proceeds against
any man, without citing him to appear, either in
person, or by his representative, andgiving him an
op^rtunity to defend himself. When any one is
censured in company, there should always be found
some generous mind, who would propose that the
accused should be sent for, and the trial put off till
he appeared. He must pronounce, not according
to private fancy, but to pMic and established laws.
Is this the rule of the censorious 1 Is it not rather
their custom to make their own private opinion the
law? He should be a person of great knowlediere
and ability. What is the usual character of the
private censors 1 Are they not persons of great ig-
norance and few ideas, whq. for want of something
dse to say, or ability to say it, talk of their neigh-
bors' faults, — a topic on which a child or a fool can
be fluent 1 He is not an accuser; and moreover is,
by virtue of his office, counsel for the accused. On
the contrary, the censorious are, generally, not only
judges but accusers, and ooonsel againM the culpritt



Digitized by



Google



CBaiSTIAlf CHARITY.



4a



whom tbey haye tooocht to their bar. He should
lean, as far as the pabBc good will allow, to the side
of mercy : but mercj has no j^ace in the boeom of
the censorioos, and their very justice is craelty and
oppression. He most himself be innocent. Why
is there not^ a voice heard in every company, when
the prisoner 13 arraigned, and the process of judg-
ment begins, saying, ''He that is without sin. let
him cast the first stone i'' He proceeds with solem-
nity and grief, and slowness, to pass the sentence-
Bat what indecent haste and levity, not excepting
joy, do we witness in those who are given to the
practice of censoring their neighbors' oondact.*

Now, to all these sinful practices Christian love
stands directly opposed. B is a long Uwu before it
mUows itsaf to perceive the faults of others^ Not more
qoick is mstinct in the bird, or beast» or fish, of
prey, to discover its victim, than the detractor and
Che censorious are to descry imperfections as soon
as they aj^^ear in the conduct of those around them.
Their vision is quite telescopic, to see objects of this
kind at a distance, and they have a microscopic
power of inspection, to examine those that are small
and near ; and, when looking at faults, thev alwajrs
employ the highest magnifymg power which their
instrument adiuts of: while for the purpose of look-
ing at those spots, which to the nakid eye would be
UA amidst tne surrounding glory, they carry a
darkened glass. They do not want to see virtues :
no, all that is &ir, and good, and lovely, is passed
over inouest ofdeformi^^andevil. But all this is
mteriy abhorrent to the nature of love; which, in-
tent npon the well-being of mankind, and anxious
fi>r their happiness, is ever looking out ibr the signs
and the symptoms which betoken that the sum of
human feliaty is perpetually^ increasing. The eye
of the Christian philanthropist is so bnsuy employed
in searching for excellence, and so fixed and so
ravished by it when it is found, that it is sure to pass
over many thin^ of a contrarjr nature, as not in-
cluded in the ob)ect of its inquiry ; just as he who
is searching for gems » likely to pass by maaj com-
mon stones unheeded; or as he who is looking for
a particular star or constellation in the heavens, is
not likely to see the tapers which are near him
upon earth. Good men are lus delight; and to
omie at these, very many of the evil generation are
passed by: and there is also a singular power of ab-
straction in his benevolence, to separate, when look-
ing at a mixed character, the good {rom the evil,
ai^ losing sifht of the latter, to concentrate its iJb-
setration m the former.

And when love is obli^ to admit the existence
of imperfections, it dimmiskes as muck as jfossible
their magnitude^ and hides them as much as ii law-
ful from its own notice. It tikkes no delight in look-
ing at them, finds no pleasure in keeping them be-
fore its attention, and poring into them; but turns
away (torn them, as an unpleasant oUect, as a deli-
cate sense would fhntn whatever is omnsive. If we
find an afllnity between our thoughts and the sins
of which we are the spectators, it is a plain proof that
our benevolence is or a very doubtful nature, or in
a feeble state ; on the contrary, if we involuntarily
turn away our eyes from beholding evil, and are
conscious to ourselves of a strong revulsion, and an
acute distress, iHiea we cannot altogether retire
flrom the view of it, we possess an evidence that we
know much of that virtue which covereth all thin^
If we are properly, as we ought to be, under the in-
ikience of love, we shall make all reasonable allow-
ances for those things whbh are wronf in the coup
duct of our neighbor ; we shall, as we have alreadv
considered, not be forward to suspect evil ; but shaU
do every thing to lessen the heinoosness of the ac-



• Dr. Barrow^ Sermons.



tion. This is what is meant, when it is said that
'* Charity covers a multitude of sins. Hatred stir-



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 13 of 121)