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shun all unnecessary intercourse with him. They are not even to eat with him. He is to be to them as a heathen man, and a publican.
Such is the law itself. Let the reader now direct his thoughts for a moment to the wisdom which it develops.
It has then, it will be observed, a happy influence upon the offender himself, being powerfully adapted to induce repentance and confession. When, on the contrary, the law of secrecy has been violated, the offender feels that his reprover is not without fault. Confession to others might not be impossible: to him it is so; and, instead of acknowledging his offence, it is well if he do not direct his reprover to pull out the beam that is in his own eye, before he attempts to remove the mote from his
Further, It has a happy influence upon the church, tending to preserve and promote a spirit of love in the body; to secure its purity; and to increase its numbers.
THE LAW IN REGARD TO PUBLIC OFFENCES.
In reference to this class of offences, we find the law laid down in the following words : Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also mav fear," 1 Tim. v. 20. It must be admitted, indeed, that the pronoun tem refers immediately to elders, who are mentioned in the preceding verse; yet, as there is nothing, in the nature of the case, to limit the application of the law to them, it must be regarded as a general direction. The sin of which the passage speaks is, doubtless, what we call a public, in contradistinction from a private offence ; since private offences, whether committed by elders or others, come under the regulation of the law already considered. The words teach us, then, that public offences must be dealt with by the church at large. First, because, as they are not offences against any one individual, no one is specifically required, as in the former instance, to go to the offender and expostulate privately with him. There is, however, a case of transgression of a medium character—when the offence is not strictly a public offence, i. e., it is not a trespass against any individual, nor strictly a public offence; since, though known to an individual or two connected with the church, it may
not be known to the world—which must be dealt with according to the previous law. The spirit of that law would be most grossly violated, were the individual privy to the transgression to give publicity to it, even by carrying information to the officers of the church, before he had ascertained, by private conversation, the state of mind of his offending brother. Finding him penitent, the business should be regarded for the present as at an end. We say for the present, since, if by any unexpected means, the transgression should require publicity, it may become necessary to deal further with it. Secondly, public offences must be dealt with by the church at large, because the honour of Christ, as well as of his religion, and the safety of the Christian body, would not be sufficiently secured by private admonition. The reason assigned for tendering public rebuke, in a case which does not require excommunication, is,
“ that others may fear;" i.e. increase their watchfulness against temptation, lest it should lead them into sin. Now, this important end could not be attained by private measures. The offence should not, indeed, be made public for the sake of securing a salutary impression upon the church at large; but, being public, this is an advantage which the Head of the church does not permit us to throw away. I beg the reader's attention, then, to the subsequent remarks on the following points.
ist. On the mode in which the church should, in reference to public offences, proceed.
The first step is obviously for the body to invest two or three individuals, suggested by the pastor, or otherwise, with authority to investigate, minutely and thoroughly, the facts of the case, that the church may obtain sufficient data for arriving at an enlightened and a scriptural decision. It is conceived to be a point of considerable importance that this initiatory step be in no instance omitted, even when it is conceived that the facts of the case are fully known. It will often happen that minute circumstances, not as yet fully disclosed, may affect the moral estimate we should form of the whole transaction. The individuals thus appointed should take especial care that, by full and minute investigation, they may be able to prevent any difference of opinion, in relation to the facts of the case in the subsequent proceedings.
The next step is to lay the case in all its particulars before the church. This should be done with great care and accuracy; and, accordingly, it will be generally expedient that it be done by the pastor; the individuals who had been appointed by the church to ascertain the facts, being appealed to, to confirm the correctness of the pastor's statements.
The pastor, the appointed teacher of the church, should then direct to the law or laws of Christ, which bear upon the case under consideration ;--should unfold their meaning and application; and thus guide the church to a decision, which, being in conformity with the law of the Head of the church, will be confirmed by him. If the writer might venture to appeal to his own experience, he would add, be careful to remember, on this point, the following directions : Let the pastor beware of leaving it to the church to suggest the mode of proceeding. He has no right, no liberty to do this. He is the appointed ruler and guide of the church. He must not throw off a responsibility which he has taken upon himself. He ought, on ordinary occasions at least, to be able to direct the church; and if he is not, how qualified soever he may be to preach the gospel, he is not fit for the pastoral office. It will be found exceedingly injurious to leave it to the church to sụggest the mode of proceeding. It tends to encourage
the spirit of democracy; it is almost sure to elicit various and contradictory opinions; and it greatly diminishes the probability of ultimate unanimity, so preeminently desirable in all cases of discipline. Further, let the pastor take especial care to place the mode of procedure recommended by himself on the authority of some general principle or specific direction of the word of God. If he do this, he will carry the concurrence of the church-if it be rightly constituted-along with him; for, in adopting his recommendation, the church will feel that they are obeying Christ. The plan of proceeding now recommended powerfully tends to enthrone Christ in the consciences of the people; and the ultimate decision to which they come, presents a beautiful instance, first, of their obedience to him who has the rule over them; and, secondly, of the obedience of the whole body—the pastor and the flock—to the exalted King in Zion. In fact, there is no other mode of proceeding which can be adopted. If no law could be found to bear upon the case in hand, then the church could not act without making law, which they have no power to do.
2ndly. Upon some of the principles which should guide the church in reference to the decisions to which they come.
The great general principle--and though its practical application will not be found unattended with difficulty, it is well to have the principle itself established—is, that penitents should be retained in their fellowship with the church ; impenitents excluded from it. I can conceive of nothing that could justify the exclusion of a real Christian from a church of Christ. No sin, however aggravated, unless it should prove, as it may do, the absence of religion, or destroy the confidence of the body, can warrant the extreme measure of excommunication; since the individual put away is to be to his former brethren as a heathen man and a publican. I am aware that the injunction of Paul to the church at Corinth, to put away the incestuous person, without directing them to ascertain previously the state of his mind, may appear, at first view, at variance with these statements. But that individual was living in sin : there could, in that case, be no repentance, because the crime itself was not forsaken. They were, accordingly, bound to consider and treat him as an irreligious man.
Penitents are, then, to be retained; impenitents excluded. Yet, as all sin tends to bring character into suspicion, and as professions of repentance, after transgression, may be expected to be universal, the practical application of this governing principle is sometimes difficult.
To form an enlightened judgment on the question whether the sin evinces the absence of religion, we must consider the circumstances in which it was committed :—the strength, unexpectedness, suddenness of the temptation, by which the transgressor was assailed, or the contrary ;-the character and temperament of the transgressor ;-whether his constitution, age, peculiar circumstances, &c., rendered him prone to the sin, or the contrary ;-whether or not he had received warnings against it, &c. A man, who is overtaken in a fault, or who falls into sin through the influence of powerful temptation assailing him at an unexpected time and manner, and carrying him away before his better principles had time to rally and make effectual resistance, should, on satisfactory evidence of penitence, be restored. Gal. vi. 1. A man who displays habitually little fear of sin,—who took no care to avoid the temptation which overcame him,—and pre-eminently one who put himself in the way of it, should, generally at least, be excluded : no confidence can be placed in his professions of repentance.
When the offender is not excluded, it will be necessary for the church to administer, by the voice of the pastor, public rebuke. The welfare of the body, and the honour of religion, demand it. It may be added, also, that the willingness of the transgressor to submit