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tion of the individual he addresses. Let him speak
And he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.
And again, on this wise (Proverbs, xxiii. 9,) saith Solomon :
“Speak not in the ears of a fool;
For he will despise the wisdom of thy words."
“ Let them alone !" “ Cease your remonstrances to them," was the command of the Saviour respecting the Pharisees, who had so often blasphemously rejected His ministry. Our best guide in such a difficulty is the discovery whether we are likely to bring honour to our God, or to benefit the person's soul we are speaking to; and if neither of these results is probable, we must be silent-silent at least for the time being. We can do what we please with red-hot iron, in the way of moulding and fashioning
it; but nothing can be done with a hot and angry
Words cannot be fitly spoken to such, and silence is our best rebuke.
How different the spirit and temper that will practically elucidate the force of the saying, “Rebuke a wise man and he will love thee!”
It is not mere natural amiability that meekly submits itself to truthtelling admonitions; but it is one of the new feelings engendered by the Holy Spirit in the heart. This regard for Reproof is highly commended of the Lord. It is said to be the way of life; (Proverbs, vi. 23;) to be honourable; (Proverbs, xv. 5;) wise; (Proverbs, xv.
, 31 ;) improving ; (Proverbs, xv. 32 ;) and enlightening ; (Proverbs, xxix. 15.) Faithful, indeed, are the wounds of a friend; for we know they are inflicted with pain, and are only designed to bring us health. They are like the rebukes of our God, when by some sorrowful chastisement He corrects us, but does it only for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. As many as He loves, He rebukes and chastens. So, reproof at His servant's hands should be received not alone with patience, but even with gratitude : “Let the righteous smite me—it shall be a kindness : And let him reprove me—it shall be an excellent oil, which shall
not break my head!”—PSALM, cxli. 5. Rebuke such as this is truly “better than secret love." It ought to create love (Proverbs, ix. 8) toward those who have shown so much love to us as to promote our improvement by making known our defeets. Even when rudely and unskilfully done, we should bless the admonition that saves us from sin or folly.
And although, with the natural impatience of our frail hearts, there may have at first arisen within us some momentary feeling of irritation, yet in the end we must acknowledge the blessedness of such counsellors. “He that rebuketh a man will afterwards find more favour at his hands than he that flattereth with the tongue.” When we contemplate our personal history, do we not find that the avoidance of many an evil habit might, under the grace of God, be ascribed to the faithful remonstrance of some ingenuous friend ? one who would not, like the multitude, flatter us in our errors, but who set us right by the painful process of telling us our faults.
Should unjust reproof be given to us, and should men lay to our charge things that we know not, we have a precedent for our conduct in the Lord Jesus Himself. At such times we had better, along with Him, not open our mouth. In any instance, when reviled, we may not revile again; and, in this particular case, it is perhaps safest to keep silence even from good words. When it is not mistake, but malignity, prompts the accusation, the most eloquent pleadings will be vain. They had better not be attempted.
Yet I need hardly add, that the same great Example of suffering affliction and of patience will lead us to a gentle reception of the threatened wrong, as well as to sweet submission to our Heavenly Father's will. What words of consolation are these, “ If, when ye do well and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God!”
“A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him; neither will he go unto the wise.” Irritability under correction displays much ignorance of one's own self, and of the will of God toward us. It shows we know little of our own short-comings—little of the forbearance which all our doings claim from those around us--and still less of the long-suffering of the Lord above. And the testimony of Holy Scripture is very plain and decisive about it. This impatience of reproof is shown to be erroneous; (Proverbs, x. 17;) brutish ; (Proverbs, xii. 1 ;) and deadly. (Proverbs, xv. 10.) How many are quick and ready to inform their neighbours of their offences, who cannot endure an allusion to their own! The speediest to censure others are commonly the slowest to bear rebuke themselves.
Furthermore, as reproving should be wisely exercised if it is to be profitable, so do certain positions confer a degree of authority towards this end unpossessed by others. For instance, parents have a divinely-conferred power to restrain their children, and pastors to guide their flocks. It is a reversing of God's order when children presume to censure their parents, or when members of a congregation take on them to instruct their minister in his duty. There is confusion here, and plain evidence of some evil work. Again, it is unseemly for youth to dictate to age. An elder should not be rebuked, but entreated as a father. Respecting all, censoriousness must be put away. Let no man be forward in judging another. Is he without sin himself? Then, and then only, may he cast the stone of punishment upon his neighbour.
Finally, let all men cultivate charity. For doubtful things let us seek a good construction, not a malicious one; and where we almost hesitate to decide, let us, so long as it is possible, lean to the side of mercy. External circumstances often widely differ from internal emotions, and are deceptive guides where they are followed. There was One who, sinless Himself, came down from a throne of glory to save sinners; and of Him it was prophetically announced, (Isaiah, xi. 3, 4,)—
“He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes
Neither reprove after the hearing of His ears ;
And if He, who was of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord, and upon whom the Spirit of counsel and knowledge rested, acted in this manner, shall His frail and short-sighted creatures presumptuously set up
another code for themselves, and decide according to the hasty impulses of their ignorant hearts? Too often, also, it is not reproof but reproach they indulge in; while they forget the royal law—"JUDGE NOT ACCORDING TO THE APPEARANCE, BUT JUDGE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT.”