or, Quarrels Settled and Trespasses
Forgiven According to the Law of Christ

A word of affectionate advice to professing Christians.

"First be reconciled to your brother."


My beloved flock,
It has been my practice, not infrequently, to deliver a few counsels from the press at the commencement of the new year. I now repeat this labor of love. By the present selection of a subject I would not have either you or the public imagine that there is anything in its nature peculiarly applicable to your state as a Christian community. In common however with every Christian minister of every religious denomination, I have occasionally had my surprise excited and my comfort disturbed by feuds and animosities; and like others, have seen the tranquility of the church in some degree jeopardized by the quarrels of some of its members. Both parts of this treatise came under consideration in a regular course of pulpit exposition, and it is now submitted to you in this form because of its great importance, and the too general neglect with which it is treated by those who make a profession of religion.

The church of God in general has yet failed to exhibit in any considerable and attractive prominence, that spirit of holy love, by which it was intended by its Divine Founder to be characterized. The thorn, the briar and the nettle, instead of the fir tree and the myrtle tree, still grow too luxuriantly in the precincts of the church; and the 'wolf and the serpent' are too often to be seen, where only the 'lamb and the dove' should be found. Christianity has not yet left the impression of its exceeding loveliness as deeply stamped as it should be on the characters of its professors—and of all its graces, none is so faintly and imperfectly traced as that which is the subject of this address. It has been found more easy, at any rate more common, to subdue the lustful than the irascible disposition—and yet it is as much the intention of Christ, that His people should be distinguished by meekness and gentleness, as it is by purity, truthfulness, and justice. Love is pre-eminently the Christian grace. Equity, chastity, and veracity, have been found in the list of heathen virtues, but not charity—they have sometimes "shed their fragrance on the desert air" of paganism, but where has love been found, except in the garden of the Lord? Alas, that even there this plant of Paradise, this heavenly exotic, should so often look shriveled and worm-eaten; and thus fail to procure for its Divine Curator all the praise it should, and in its more flourishing condition would do. My concern that Christian love should be cultivated with more care, and be seen with admiration in healthful vigor and in beauty—has led me to send forth this tract which is now offered first of all to you, and then to the churches in general, with the hope that this effort of pastoral fidelity may prevent in many cases the rupture, and promote in others the restoration, of Christian friendship, and thus bring upon its author from many a reconciled heart, the blessing of the peace-maker.

Commending you to God and to the word of His grace, and praying that He who has "made peace by the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself," would pour His own Spirit into your hearts, and unite you still more closely to one another,

I remain, your affectionate Pastor,
John Angell James


"If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won't listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn't pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you—Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:15-18)

Quarrels among Christians! Is there not a contradiction here? Do Christians ever quarrel with one another? Does not Christianity, where it is really possessed and felt in its proper influence, imply all that is loving, and kind, and peaceable? Certainly! And if every professor of it really lived under its influence, there would be no such thing as brother trespassing against brother. Christianity is, in every aspect of it—a religion of love. "God is love." Christ is love. The law is love. The gospel is love. Heaven is love. That one word "love," comprehends everything. Perfect love not only casts out fear, but malice. In heaven there will be no quarreling, because every one of its inhabitants is perfect in love. The design of Christianity is not only to conduct us to heaven, but to fit us for it—and it does this by imparting to us the spirit of love. The true spirit of Christianity is that which the apostle has, with such exquisite beauty, described in the thirteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians.

Let it be supposed that everyone was perfectly under the influence of this spirit of love—what room would there be for quarrels? But all are not so, none are so. Those who have made the greatest advances in holiness have some remains of corruption, out of which there arise sometimes wars and fightings. "It must needs be," says our Lord, "that offences will come." That is, considering what human nature is, they must be looked for. Wherever there is sin there will be enmity on some occasion or other. This is not meant to excuse the quarrels of Christians—but merely to account for them.

Yes, Christians do quarrel. All pastors know they do—to the grief of their hearts. All denominations and all congregations of professing Christians know it to their disquiet. All people opposed to religion know it, and they stand by, and say, "Aha, so would we have it!" The Spirit of God knows it, and is grieved thereby; and the consequences of their quarrels are very sad; sad to the parties themselves, in the interruption of their peace, the injury of their religion, the discredit of their profession. Very few men come scatheless out of a quarrel, whether they were the aggressors or the aggrieved. The consequences of such disagreements extend to others, to the friends of the parties, and sometimes to the church of which they are members. Whole churches have been brought into strife contention and division, by a breach of the peace committed by two of their members. Solomon says, "Starting a quarrel is like opening a floodgate, so stop before the argument gets out of control!"

The New Testament says a great deal about offences, and the way of treating them. Here I must distinguish between the different kinds of offences alluded to. In the passage already quoted, "Woe to the world because of offences, it must needs be that offences come;" and in others, such as, "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby your brother stumbles, or is offended, or is made weak;" the word signifies, as the context shows, not what in common discourse we mean by offence, but tempting a brother to sin by our conduct, doing that which would lead him into transgression, casting a stumbling-block in his way, or what the apostle calls, "causing our brother to sin." And it is very true we ought to be very concerned, prayerful, and watchful, that no part of our conduct may thus lead anyone into sin, lest through us our weak brother "should perish, for whom Christ died."

But I do not now refer to offences of this nature, but to the class of actions meant, when one man says of another, "He has greatly offended me!" and spoken of by our Lord in the passage which I have put at the head of this tract in which he says, "If your brother sins against you." This refers to some real or supposed injury inflicted by one Christian upon another, in his person, property, reputation, or peace of mind—to some sin of which the complainant is the direct object, and by which in some way or other he is a sufferer. It does not refer to sins in which we our selves have no individual and personal interest; but to such as particularly affect us. A man may have wronged us by some money transaction, may have made some aggression upon our property, may have treated us unkindly, may have spoken contemptuously to us, or falsely of us, and may thus have wounded our feelings—in each of these ways there has been a trespass against us. We are injured; and it is to such cases the law of Christ applies. It is true there may be other offences to which the rule may be extended. If we saw a brother living in sin, we ought, though his sin had no direct reference to our own interests, to go to him alone, and in a spirit of love warn him, and remonstrate with him—but this comes under that other law so beautifully expressed in the Old Testament code, "You shall not hate your brother in your heart—you shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not allow sin upon him."

I shall suppose that you have received an offence, real or imagined, from some brother Christian; how are you to act?

First, inquire whether it is worth while to notice it at all—whether it is not one of those cases in which you may have been mistaken as to the intention of the offender; and even if not, whether it is not one of the ten thousand little occurrences perpetually happening in the fellowship of society, of which a wise man would take no notice, and which a holy man would not allow to dwell upon his mind, so as to interrupt his good will or good feeling towards the aggressor. "He is a very miserable man," says Jeremy Taylor, "that is unquiet when a mouse runs over his shoe, or a fly does kiss his cheek." "Whatever is little and tolerable must be let alone," said Aristides. The moment that offence has been given, we should instantly guard against a disposition to magnify it, and summon all our wisdom to look at it as it really is. Such a frame of mind would prepare us to say, "Well, it is true he did not treat me very kindly, but it was not, I dare say, the effect of design, much less of premeditation, but of haste and inconsiderateness; and, after all, it was no very serious matter. I doubt not, that I have often been as incautious myself. I will let it pass. To meddle would only make matters worse, and I will not allow it to remain upon my mind, nor in the smallest degree affect my good opinion of, or my good feeling towards, the aggressor." In such manner very many of the offences ought to have been treated, which by less considerate and reasonable handling have been magnified into large bulk, and made the occasion of others far larger. There is great wisdom, as well as great humility in saying, to many incipient causes of disturbance, "O, let it pass!"

But still, if the matter and ground of offence be of greater consequence than is here supposed, or if it have produced an impression on the mind unfriendly to our own comfort, or obstructive of our pleasant fellowship with the offender, then comes in the law of Christ for settling it. What is to be done?

I. I shall state the law of Christ NEGATIVELY. We are not to brood over the matter in silence. This is forbidden, at least by implication, in our Lord's command. If we cannot dismiss it from our hearts, we must not let it lie festering there, but must tell it to someone. Many people, instead of going at once with frankness to the offender, altogether shun his society, think all kinds of hard thoughts of him, and cherish all kinds of ill feeling towards him, and yet never either by writing or by speech, utter a single syllable to him. There is nothing more likely to aggravate our estimate of an offence than this state of mind. He who broods in silence over a trespass, is sure, by such a species of incubation, to hatch from a tiny egg, a monster injury. His imagination is brought into excitement by his passions, until his judgment is perverted and at length he considers himself the most injured man in the world; and then resolves to have nothing more to do with the offender. This is what the apostle calls giving "place to the devil." "How hard and how unkind it was," says this self-tormentor, "who could have expected such undeserved treatment? Well, I am done with him. I will speak no more to him." He meets the supposed guilty party, but avoids recognition, and feels his resentment influenced by the very sight of him; while perhaps the object of this conduct wonders what it can all mean?

And then as we are not to brood over an offence in sullen silence, so neither are we to tell it to another, but to the offender himself, "tell it to him alone." No sooner have some people received an offence, than off they are to communicate it to anybody and to everybody, rather than to the one and only person who ought to be informed of it. Those who have heard it tell it to others, those others to somebody else, until the report, exaggerated at each repetition, comes around at length, to the aggressor in such a swollen and distorted form, that he now is the aggrieved person, by being charged with having inflicted injuries of which in truth he was never guilty. Then the matter becomes complicated, and it is difficult to say which is most to blame, he who gave the offence or he who reported it. We ought to tell the matter to no one, scarcely, I was going to say, to God in prayer, or to ourselves—until we have told it to our offending brother. We must not arraign him before God, until we have given him an opportunity of explaining himself. Our views of his conduct may have been mistaken.

It would stop this propensity to report a trespass, if we all resolutely determined to meet the reporter with this question, "Have you obeyed our Lord's command, and told it to the offender himself and alone? if not, I cannot hear it." But alas, the disposition to receive bad reports is so common to men's corrupt nature, that their ears are greedy after information to the discredit of their neighbors.

II. But I now go on to explain the law of Christ positively. On supposition of a trespass having been committed, Christ enjoins three successive steps, which, if we really acknowledge him to be our Lord and Master, must all be taken for the purpose of reconciliation, and taken in the order he has laid down.

1. The offended party must first go by himself to the offender, and tell him of the trespass. Now the reason of this is obvious. A man is much more likely to be brought to a right view of his conduct by such a plan than by being addressed before others. He is more likely to listen dispassionately, and to be open to conviction; and if convinced, much more likely to confess his fault, than in the presence of spectators. In the latter case his pride is called into exercise, and he revolts at humbling himself before others. If he be ever "won," it is most likely to be in this way.

But then everything will depend upon the manner in which this most delicate and difficult duty is performed. A wrong way of doing a right thing may itself be a wrong—and it had better not be done at all. This is strictly and emphatically applicable to the present case. A quarrel may be made more difficult of final settlement by an injudicious manner of attempting to settle it in the first instance according to our Lord's rule. Take then the following directions.

Before we go to an offending brother to tell him his fault, let us make it matter of sincere and earnest prayer, that we ourselves may take a right view of the matter, and not be under any delusion, by supposing a wrong had been inflicted, where none was intended. Let us ask for grace so to subdue and control our feelings that we may not be under the influence of passion, but be able in a most peculiar manner to exercise the meekness and gentleness of Christ. Let us beg of God that we may be able to select such language, and display such a spirit in our interview with the offender, as shall have the most direct tendency to soften and subdue him. Nothing requires greater wisdom and grace to do it well, than the duty I am now dwelling upon, and we can hardly expect to obtain these without prayer. But we should also especially pray that all malice and ill feeling towards the offender may be extinguished, and that we may still cherish towards him a spirit of love. Nor should we forget to pray for him that he may be led to see his error, be willing to confess it, and humble himself before God on account of it.

In conducting the business of such an interview, there must be the very soul of charity in our conduct. We must go, not in the character, or with the spirit, of an accuser—but as a brother to a brother. We should be able to say to him in truth that we have not told it to another being upon earth; we should tell him that we do not actually charge him with the offence, but in the first place merely ask explanation, since we are all liable to be mistaken; that we do not come to extort any unreasonable concession, but if wrong has been committed, to receive his acknowledgment, and remain friends and brothers as before. We should then lay open our grounds of offence without any aggravating circumstances, being rather inclined to extenuate than to magnify. Especial care should be taken in reference to this latter matter, for any attempt to make the offence greater than it really is, will do mischief. The two parties look at the same thing with different eyes, and what appears to be a mountain to one may be only a molehill to the other. At first the offender, as is very likely to be the case, may be a little high, petulant, and irritable; this we must not regard, or turn abruptly upon our heel and retire; but we must continue to reason with him with all the meekness of wisdom, receiving any concession which may be made, and by lovingly acknowledging it, encouraging further admissions, until all is obtained that is sought. And be it specially remembered that our demands of confession ought not to be exorbitant, nor should there be on our part an apparent wish to conquer and to humble the trespasser. It should be clearly seen by him, that we seek nothing but such an admission of wrong as is necessary for continued friendship and brotherhood.

There is also a beautiful illustration of this method of stopping offences by soliciting explanation in the life of that eminently holy minister of Christ, Samuel Pearce, of Birmingham. At a meeting of ministers on one occasion, "a word was dropped," says Mr Fuller, in his memoir of that excellent man, "by one of his brethren, which he took as a reflection, though nothing was further from the intention of the speaker. It wrought upon his mind—and in a few days after he wrote as follows—'Do you remember what passed at Bedworth? Had I not been accustomed to receive plain friendly remarks from you, I should have thought you meant to insinuate reproof. If you did, tell me plainly. If you did not, it is all at an end. You will not take my naming it unkind, although I should be mistaken; since affectionate explanations are necessary when suspicions arise, to the preservation of friendship; and I need not say that I hold the preservation of your friendship in no small account. S. P.'" "The above," says the biographer, "is copied not only to set forth the spirit and conduct of Mr Pearce, in a case wherein he felt himself aggrieved, but to show in how easy and amiable a manner thousands of mistakes might be rectified and differences prevented by a frank and timely explanation."

Yes, and it shows another thing, and that is, how easy it is to receive a false impression, and to think evil of another, where none was intended. How would many, less blessed with charity than Mr Pearce, have acted? They would either have brooded over the supposed offence in silence, and let it lie festering in their minds, and generating all kind of ill will towards the innocent author of the wound; or else they would have gone about talking to other people of the affair, without saying a word to the individual himself who made the remark. Instead of this, he wrote in the meekness of wisdom to the brother by whom he imagined he had been reflected upon, and received a reply which set his heart at rest.

O that all Christians would seek grace to copy this beautiful model! What a delightful result; and how simply yet how impressively stated by our Lord, "You have gained your brother!" To lose a brother is or ought to be accounted a great loss to us. But more than this is implied, for our brother if not won to repentance towards us, may have his heart hardened towards God, and incur the dreadful catastrophe described by our Lord, where he says, "What is a man profited if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul." For that one sin unrepented of, may be the beginning of his downward path to perdition. While on the other hand, if we bring him to repentance, we may gain him not only to ourselves, but to Christ, the church, and heaven.

Trespasses against man are trespasses against God, and the injury done by them is in many cases far greater to those who commit them than to those against whom they are committed. Regard to a brother's welfare therefore, which ought ever to be in our hearts in these matters, as well as to our own peace, requires that we tell the offence to him, and tell it in the wisest and kindest manner. In very many, perhaps I may say in most, cases, this conduct would accomplish its end, the offender would be won. Bad as human nature is, and imperfect as even renewed human nature is, there are but few who would or could stand out against this siege of love. Let men be dealt with in a way of love, and generally speaking, they would be heard to say, "You have conquered, O love!" "The cords of love are the bands of a man." In the case of Christians, they certainly ought not to consider the matter well settled unless there be a restoration of love, and a renewal of fellowship. Our object in going to an offending brother ought not to be simply to get a concession, and end our fellowship, but to restore the broken friendship of the parties. It will not do to say, "Well, I have got his confession, that is all I care for, and I now neither wish nor intend to have any further fellowship with him." This is anything but complying with the law of Christ. Our aim must be not merely to gain our rights, but to gain our brother.

It must also be remembered that if a concession be made by the offender, the whole subject is from that moment to be buried in oblivion. As no one was informed of the matter before the private interview, so no one must ever hear of it afterwards. To mention a fault which penitence has confessed, and mercy has forgiven, is a base offence against the law of charity, and equally so against the forgiven offender.

I now pass on to remark, that after all, there are minds so little sensible to the appeals of reason and religion, because possessing so little of either themselves, that the most judicious and affectionate attempts to settle a private quarrel in a private way will fail. There are professors of religion so proud, so obstinate, so inflexible—that no expostulation will induce them to say they have done wrong. Where this is the case the aggrieved party must take the second step—

2. "If he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established." I must observe that this also is imperative. We are not in cases of an aggravated nature to let the matter rest, but are to endeavor by new measures to bring our trespassing brother to repentance. Still we may suppose that in many cases there is left with the aggrieved party a discretion to let the matter drop, even if he is not successful in the private interview. He may have gained further light, and may be led to take a more mitigated view of the trespass; or he may see reason to believe that time would be likely to soften the mind of the offender; or that greater mischief would result from pursuing it than from letting it drop, and may therefore wisely and religiously choose to proceed no further. Should this be the course adopted, we must not let a spirit of ill will be cherished in our heart towards the offender, or any outward token of resentment be manifested in our conduct; much less must we tell it to any one else. If, however, the case be such as to break up fellowship and prevent love, we had better go on to the second step, and take with us one or two more people. It is to be noticed that we are not to send these witnesses, but are to take them with us, at least in most cases.

The reasons of the second step are sufficiently obvious. It is intended to assist us. Perhaps we may have taken a wrong or an exaggerated view of the matter, and need, in some particulars, to be set right ourselves. Or if we are right, these two or three brethren may say something to the offender that will give weight to our appeals. Their representations may be more convincing and persuasive than ours; and thus they will be more likely to influence him; they add to the number who deal with him, and they are, or ought to be, impartial people; and moreover, they will be then prepared to bear testimony to the church, if it should be necessary to carry the matter to this last and highest tribunal.

It must be evident that much, very much, depends on the selection of the people to accompany the complainant. They may make matters ten times worse, if they are unsuitable for the business of reconciliation, or go about it in an improper manner. They should be Christian brethren, for what have we in such cases "to do with those who are without?" They should be men of meekness and gentleness of speech, not easily offended, and of great command of temper. They should be men of weight and standing in the church. They should be impartial men, not partisans of the aggrieved party; and in order to that it would be better for them not to hear of the matter until it is stated to them in the presence of the offender. It would be also very desirable that they should be people in whom he has confidence, and against whom it would be impossible he could raise any objection.

As our Lord has mentioned one or two, perhaps it would usually be safer to take the first number, and solicit the assistance of some eminently holy and judicious friend to accompany us. Most people are disposed to shrink from such a labor of love, for it is a delicate and difficult duty, and requires great grace for its right and proper discharge—and those who are entrusted with it must take great care of their own spirits.

In the course of my pastorate, I have settled many private quarrels thus. One member has come to me to complain of the ill-treatment of another, and has wished me to have his case brought before our Discipline Committee. I have immediately stopped him, even before I knew what the grievance was, and after finding they could not settle the matter between themselves, have said, "Will you submit this matter to some wise and good man to judge between you both?" Having obtained his assent, I have made the same proposal to the other. The umpire has been agreed upon, the matter has been heard, the decision has been given, concessions have been made, the parties have been reconciled, and I have never known what the matter was about. Only the day before I penned these lines, I received a document, of which the following is a copy, signed by two parties, to whom I had recommended this plan, and I do not know what was the cause of offence between them.

"The undersigned, J. A. and T. S., being desirous that the animosity which has for a time existed between them should at once subside, agree as follows. T. S. truly and sincerely acknowledges that he has used improper language to J. A.—and J. A. though unconscious of having intentionally provoked T. S., yet is heartily sorry if anything he may have done or said produced such an impression upon his mind; and in token of mutual reconciliation, they most cordially offer to each other the right hand of Christian friendship." (Signed.)

If there be few who could stand out against the expostulation of one man, there are still fewer who could resist the entreaties of two or three; and thus many a sinner would be converted from the error of his ways. Yet our Lord supposes that there are some who are so blinded by Satan, and so hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, as to resist even this; and now nothing remains but the dernier ressort.

3. The third step; "If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church," that is, the congregation of believers, the people associated together for social worship. The church is thus constituted the final appeal on earth. This was spoken by Christ while Judaism was yet in force. In a Jewish sense then, the church must mean the people assembled for worship at the synagogue; and it is well known to have been the custom of Jews, thus as the final means, to settle private quarrels by an appeal to the synagogue; where, after a public admonition without any beneficial result, a mark of infamy was set upon the offenders. Our Lord, by a tacit allusion to the known practices of the Jews, here lays down by way of anticipation, the law of His future church.*

* Does not this injunction throw some light on the agitated question of the nature of a church and the form and mode of its government? It is most explicit that the offence in its last case of appeal, must be laid before the church—then whatever the church means, it must be capable of hearing it, and must pronounce the final sentence. Now it will not do to say, by the church is meant its representatives the clergy. The clergy are not the church, and are no where called so in the New Testament. The church is sometimes distinguished from its ministers, but they are never called the church. If then the church here means a company of Christians, it must be such a company as can hear, and receive, and decide upon the case—and this brings us to the Congregational mode of church government. Episcopalian expositors are somewhat puzzled by this passage. The excellent Mr Scott says rightly, "Tell it to the teachers and professors of the gospel. It would be absurd to restrict these rules to any form of church government or discipline." True, but can that form of church government be scriptural, to which these rules cannot by possibility apply? Bloomfield, another episcopalian commentator, says, in his "Critical Digest," on this passage, "This admonition is local and temporary, and as not accommodated to our times, needs not be observed. For this public admonition can have place only in a very small congregation, without the least appearance of civil authority, and governing itself entirely by the principles of Christ. To the present state of the church this Christian discipline is little adapted." But why is it not so adapted, but because the church is not adapted to it? Is it not a perilous affirmation that Christ's own precepts need not be observed because not adapted to our times? What law of Christ might not be got rid of by such a method as this? And what a confession and concession too, that this injunction can be carried out only by those churches where there is "no appearance of civil authority," and which "govern themselves entirely by the principles of Christ." In those churches it not only can be carried out, but is. Must not those be most truly the churches of Christ, in which only Christ's laws can be carried out?

The matter having in a proper manner been laid before the church, it assuredly must upon investigation pronounce its sentence. But every large church will, if it be wise, appoint a number of its brethren to investigate the matter, and to make its report, and upon that report found its decision. To that decision the offender is required to bow. The voice of the church is the voice of God. So says our Lord in the next verse to those which form the subject of this tract—"Verily I say unto you, whatever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven." The same words had been on a former occasion addressed to Peter, Mat. 16:19; and great prerogatives and powers, it has been alleged, are thus granted to that apostle; but here the same prerogatives and powers are granted to every church, however small. The meaning of this passage is, that whatever shall be done rightly in the discipline of the church, shall be approved and confirmed by God in heaven. It is supposed, however, by our Lord, (as the words following imply,) that the church conducts all its acts, especially those of discipline, in a spirit of prayer, and of faith in His presence. "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree upon earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

It is apparent from all this how much importance is attached by our Lord to the maintenance of discipline in His church, and with what peculiar awe and solemnity these acts of discipline ought to be maintained. The act of a Christian community investigating the character or conduct of any of its members in a case of alleged delinquency, is the most solemn proceeding upon earth, inasmuch as it is trying an accused person for an offence committed against the laws, not merely of man, but of God; and it is visiting him with a sentence, if he is found guilty, that has no relation whatever to civil pains or penalties, but to spiritual judgments. If this be true, how slowly and solemnly ought the church in all cases, to take up this fearful sword, which is to cut off an offender from the kingdom of Christ, and deliver him over to the kingdom of Satan! Yet it must be done, if in the case before us the trespasser will not hear the voice of the church, calling him to repentance. He is then to be considered as a heathen man and a publican; that is, he is no longer to be acknowledged and treated as a Christian, but as one who has no part nor lot in the church, or its privileges. "Yet," says Matthew Henry, "he does not say, Let him be to you as a devil or a damned spirit, as one whose case is desperate; but as a heathen or a publican, as one in a capacity of being restored and received in again." "Count him not as an enemy," says the apostle, "but admonish him as a brother."

Such, then, is an explanation of the rule laid down by Christ for the settlement of those numerous private quarrels which rise up even among the members of the redeemed family.

I would here emphatically, as well as explicitly remark, that this law of Christ's must of necessity be taken with some limitations, and something no doubt must be left to the discretion of the injured party, how far to proceed in requiring satisfaction, and when it would be prudent to stop or go forward in giving it publicity. All matters of this kind are addressed not only to our conscience, but to our good sense. Trespasses may be committed, and wrongs may be inflicted, of so peculiarly difficult and delicate a nature, that if they cannot be adjusted between the litigating parties themselves, the matter had better be buried in silence, and the sufferer be content with expelling from his heart all malice and revenge, and being still ready to return good for evil, though he may not see fit to receive the offender back to his favor. The same remarks may be made in reference to other matters which, (how ever proper it may be to carry them on to the second step,) it would be unwise to advance to the third. The case may be so complicated with doubt and difficulty, that nothing short of the severe sifting of a court of law can get at all the facts or minute points which may decide the matter and show where the blame lies, and what mitigating circumstances should be taken into account. Or the affair may be of so peculiarly delicate a nature, involving so many parties, and such an exposure of secrets not desirable to be known, and hazarding to such an extent the peace of a whole church, that the injured party, where the matter does not amount to immorality, and no compromise either of the credit of religion or the purity of the church is involved, should be content with the expressed opinion of the witnesses whom he had found it necessary to associate with him in the appeal to the offender. A church should not be turned into a Court of Common Pleas. It would never be at peace if it were. An eagerness to drag every little matter into publicity, is a disposition as contrary to the law of Christ as a carelessness about inflicting an injury. A gradation of wisdom and caution should be set up, and maintained through every such case; we should be very backward to receive offence in small matters, or even to notice them; equally cautious of thinking the next step necessary, and still more so of carrying it on to the third. Mercy flies on eager wings to execute her offices, but justice walks with slow and measured pace in hers.

Should the question here be asked, as in all probability it will be, whether, if all other means fail to obtain redress from one who has injured us, it be lawful for a Christian to appeal to the tribunal of national justice, and call in the aid of law; I reply by a reference to the New Testament. The apostle has answered this question in his remonstrance to the Corinthian church, first epistle, sixth chapter. In that chapter he clearly and positively forbids brother going to law with brother, and enjoins the settlement of differences by the arbitration of the brethren—which is virtually carrying out the law of Christ. The one or two witnesses of whom our Lord speaks, constitute this tribunal; so that until this is tried it is manifestly unlawful; and when even this is found ineffectual, all appeal to law ought to be suspended until the church has given its decision upon the conduct of the offender—if then, he cannot be brought to reason, and should as the result of his contumacy be expelled, nothing else is left to the injured party but to bring the trespasser before a tribunal which he must obey. In this case he is no longer a brother, but is condemned to be treated as a heathen man and a publican. There are men so injurious and so obstinate that nothing but the arm of law is strong enough to reach or restrain them, and it is well for society that there is something for such characters stronger than moral power.

Still it is evident from our Lord's words that a Christian should be very backward to have recourse to such means, even in reference to one who is not a brother. "If your enemy takes your coat, let him take your cloak also; and if he smites you on your right cheek, turn to him your left also." These words are not of course to be understood literally, so as to forbid all securities, or precaution as to future evils; for Christ did not act so when an evil servant smote him; nor Paul, when the High Priest commanded him to be smitten on the face—they neither of them received it silently, nor turned the other cheek. It is clear therefore that these words are only an impressive form of forbidding us to return violence for violence; and equally of forbidding a precipitancy of going to law to redress our wrongs, and obtain our rights. We can easily see from all this our duty. A wise man will not go to law about little things, and a godly man will not about great ones, until all other methods of settling the difference have failed. Two members of the same church while yet in fellowship, engaged in a hostile suit in a court of justice, is a spectacle which very rarely occurs, and which ought never to occur, and never would if the church did its duty—and where they are members of two different churches, both these communities ought to interfere by the exercise of proper discipline to prevent it. It is no objection to all this to say that the apostle's argument does not apply to this age and country, since the magistrates in his time were pagans, whereas they are now, at least nominally, Christians, for the ground of the argument applies as clearly now as it did then, which is the credit of religion.

I now pass on to make a few remarks upon this blessed rule of Christ.

I. This is law, not mere advice; and is obligatory as such upon our conscience, and not merely suggested for our option. It is the language of the Lord. "The Master says it," and he intended it should be obeyed. We have no more right, and ought to have no more inclination to set aside this precept, than any other which he gives by his authority. It is as truly our duty to do this, as it is to pray, or read the scriptures, or to abstain from sabbath-breaking. No matter how difficult or how unpleasant it may be, it must be done. Many other things are difficult and unpleasant, but this is no excuse for their neglect.

It is not only law, but it is very explicit—there is no ambiguity of language, no mystery or profundity of thought, therefore no possibility of mistake. It is level to the plainest understanding. No man can plead ignorance of its meaning as an excuse for shifting off its obligation. It is a very rational law. It is full of wisdom. No man's understanding revolts from it, but every man's common sense must approve it. It is a law which carries out many others, and obedience to which is essential to obedience to them. We cannot fulfill the law of love if we neglect it; we cannot promote the welfare of the church without it; we cannot mortify our members which are upon the earth without it. It is a law which like others entails far more unhappiness in the breach of it than in the observance. Be it so, that it costs some personal uneasiness to submit to it, how much more will result from a different mode of treating offences!

Upon what a stormy sea have many embarked who have taken their own way to treat offences, instead of Christ's! It is a law that would be found efficient in most cases for the accomplishment of its purpose. All Christ's laws are wise and good, and are adapted to accomplish their own ends. This rule, though carried out in all the meekness of wisdom, and all the fervor and humility of true charity, will not of course prevent private quarrels, but it will settle amicably by far the greater part which occur, without bringing them before the church.

It is of consequence to avoid this last appeal. Private feuds are more dangerous in some cases to the tranquility of a congregation than matters of public scandal. Vice has no party, and the man who has committed it no patrons—but the offender in a private quarrel may have or make both a patron and a party in the church. In pulling up such a tare, which must of course be done, some of the wheat may be dragged up with it—or to change the allusion, as the evil spirit is being cast out, he may in his struggle convulse and tear the body. The man whose pride, passion, and obstinacy compel this last appeal; who has so little regard to the peace not only of the brother he has injured, but of the church, yields a strong presumptive evidence, not only of his guilt in the one trespass in question, but of his general bad temper, of his unChristian disposition, and of his unfitness for communion.

II. This law of Christ unquestionably requires and supposes for its fulfillment a high state of personal religion. All the laws of the Christian church do this, more or less. The fellowship of believers, and all the interchange of brotherly kindness and charity do this. In short, the whole divine life in all its exercises is a very high attainment. Christ's church is intended to be an oasis in a desert world, a Goshen in the midst of Egyptian darkness, a witness for its Divine Head testifying for him as the Redeemer of an elect people. And how can this be accomplished but by a spirit and temper, not only diverse from, but opposed to, that of the world? Church members do not understand, or strangely forget their vocation. They do not consider that their calling is to show the world what a different people Christians are to them; what a transformation grace has effected when it converted and sanctified them. Especially are they called to exhibit the power, the beauty, and the operation of love. "You are called," says the apostle, "to holiness," but holiness is love.

Of this the world knows nothing—"Hateful, and hating one another," is its description. The church ought to be entirely opposed to this, as being lovely and loving one another. The spirit of the world is revenge, satisfaction, legal adjustment; in short, the full play of the vindictive passions. But that of Christ's subjects, when indeed they are really and fully such, is forbearance, forgiveness, reciprocal concession, reconciliation, peace. Unless this be the case, what do we more than others? Where is the difference between us and them? Our Christian profession involves in it far more than an orthodox creed, a regular attendance upon religious ordinances, and an abstinence from gross immorality. It involves the image of Jesus, yes his very mind and spirit. The meekness and gentleness of Christ are to be our badge of distinction, the token of our submission to his authority, and the evidence of our sincerity. If we do not comply, and feel we cannot comply with his laws, and this among the rest, what do we in his kingdom?

Be it so then that this law requires a high state of religion; that is of subjection to Christ's authority; this is no excuse for the neglect of it, for if it were, disobedience to any law might be excused. There is nothing required of us in this matter which he will not most graciously give us help to perform if we are willing to receive it, and pray for it in faith. Difficult it is, but it can be done; and instead of leaving it undone because of its difficulty, we ought to exercise ourselves thereto. We must mortify our pride, curb our rashness, allay the heat of passion, extinguish resentment. Perhaps this kind will not go forth but by fasting and prayer. Then fasting and prayer it must have. The fact is, we want to be Christians on too easy terms, and to possess a religion which is all mere pleasurable excitement. We would shirk the cross, and excuse ourselves from the process of mortification.

III. Yet it is a law which, I regret to say, is almost universally neglected. This is a melancholy fact—an acknowledged rule of Christ, dropped by almost general consent out of the practice of his church. A wise, good, peaceful law—virtually expunged by his subjects from his statute book! Is this doubted? I challenge the testimony of all, especially that of the ministers of religion of all denominations, to the fact. Do they not know to their grief and shame how apt their members are to disagree, and how difficult it is to reconcile them? Do we not continually see the truth of Solomon's words, "A brother [not an enemy] offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and their contentions are like the bars of a castle." What a comment upon human depravity! As if the nearer the relation the wider the breach. Who thinks of adopting this as the rule of his conduct? Who attempts thus to stop a quarrel, and to crush a feud in the egg? Men almost smile at our simplicity in proposing it, and deem it a law suited only for the inhabitants of some spiritual Utopia. Alas, alas, is it then come to this, that Christians, professedly renewed men, men forgiven by God their ten thousand trespasses against him, claiming to be the spiritual offspring of him of whom it is said, "God is love," "the God of peace," gravely tell us this law of Christ is too refined, and requires too much gentleness and forbearance, for them to submit to? What! Does God, the infinite God, offended by man's transgression, and with an unlimited power of retribution at command, come down and knock at the sinner's door, and "beseech him to be reconciled," and offer him forgiveness! And yet a man, a Christian man, find it too much for him to go to his own brother, and ask for explanation, and tell us it is too much to be expected from him? Is religion then a reality, or anything more than a profession?

But why is it, that this law is so generally neglected?

1. It may be supposed that its obligation is by some scarcely admitted; they may get rid of it, or attempt to do so, under the idea it was a local and temporary enactment, which was not intended to be of universal and permanent obligation. But this will not avail them; for there is nothing at all either in the nature of the precept, or in the circumstances of its delivery, which stamps any restrictive character upon it. The man who in this way can get rid of this law, can get rid of any one. It is law, law for us; and there is no evading it, but by resisting the authority which enacted it. Let them try as they will, the objectors cannot satisfy others; no, nor do they satisfy themselves, that this was a rule for the Jewish synagogue, but not for the Christian church.

2. The general disuse into which the law has fallen is to each individual person a reason and excuse for his neglecting it. Thus general neglect is the cause of individual disobedience, and individual disobedience perpetuates general neglect. There is a sad propensity in us to follow the multitude to do evil, and in the idea that we are following a multitude to find an excuse for following them. It requires the pressure of an overpowering sense of obligation, and some degree of moral courage to be singular in the performance of duty. Unhappily the spiritual condition of the church generally, is such that its individual members should be content to possess a low degree of personal godliness. Great mischief is inflicted by us upon our own souls if instead of comparing ourselves with the word of God we compare ourselves with one another. It is no defense, or excuse, or even palliation for a fault, to say, "My fellow Christians do it, and why may not I?" If the reasoning be valid in one case, it is in another; and if as to a little sin, as to a great one. The church can never be improved, if its general imperfections be thus allowed by their prevalence, to perpetuate themselves. Let every man then whose eye wanders over these pages, say, "I will begin to act upon this rule. The next time I am offended I will go to my brother alone, and in the meekness of wisdom tell him of his fault. It is time somebody should begin, and whoever may or may not follow, I will desire to lead." Let everyone who has been offended, and who in sullenness or in wounded feeling is now brooding in silence over any injury, resolve immediately to throw off this conformity to general custom, and go to the offender. A few examples would soon revive this law, and give it force.

3. The strength of resentful feelings, or it may be only the deep sense of injury received, prevents many a man complying with this law. His mind is ruffled, and its perturbations are so violent as not to allow of the cool exercise of reason, and the influence of religious principle. Surprise, anger, resentment, have got possession of his soul, and keep down the exercise of reflection and the cultivation of meekness. Perhaps there may be some peculiar aggravations in the offence; it may contain a display of ingratitude, and intentional insult, as well as injustice and actual wrong. The aggrieved party says with Jonah, "I do well to be angry," hence he is too much taken up with his own sense of the wrong done, to think of having any fellowship with the wrongdoer. The very idea of seeing him, meeting him, talking to him, is revolting. "Meet him," cries the indignant mind, "I had rather go a hundred miles another way. Meet him! Go to him! I dare not trust myself in his presence; for I could scarcely keep my hands from him, much less my tongue. No, if I meet him, it shall be either before the church, or in a court of law." Be calm, man, be calm! Let the voice of Him who on the lake of Gennesaret said to the stormy winds, "Peace, be still," be heard by you. In, that state of mind you had better not go. You are on fire, and will set him on fire too. But cool the temperature of your soul. You have been injured; grievously injured; that is conceded to you—for if you had not, there would be no need of the exercise of Christian forbearance and forgiveness.

But this does not excuse the indulgence of such stormy passions. Have you not done something worse, not indeed to man, but to God? Is it for you to indulge all this passion and resentment? Follow me to Calvary. Look at that cross. Consider who hangs bleeding there—and for whom. Can you, with that object before you, refuse to calm your passions, and to go to your offending brother?

4. Pride is another cause of the neglect of this law. We have all more of this hateful disposition than we either know or suspect. Pride is the parent sin; the original sin, both in heaven and on earth; the devil's sin, and that by which our first parents fell. Pride is in many cases the chief cause of our exquisite sensibility to wrong done us—the man easily offended must be a proud man, and it is pride that has made his heart a very tinder-box, in which the least spark of offence finds the means of combustion. This same disposition prevents him from desiring reconciliation, or taking any steps to effect it. "I go to my brother! no indeed, it is his place to come to me. He has insulted me, injured me; and it would be degrading myself to go to him, as if I had need to ask his forgiveness, rather than he mine." Stop, are you a Christian? Do you profess to have received pardon from God? Do you owe and own allegiance to Christ? What, and talk in this manner! Degrade yourself! No, you exalt yourself. You become by this conduct the imitator of God. You rise in moral dignity immeasurably above the offender. What says Solomon? "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city." "Among all my conquests," said the dying emperor Valentinian, "there is but one that comforts me now, I have over come my worst enemy, my own evil heart." And Cato, a heathen, could say, "He is the best and most praiseworthy general who has rule over his own passions." Yet this control of our passions, so as to go to our offending brother and ask explanation of a trespass, is degradation is it? Heathens, as we have seen, might and do teach such inconsistent Christians better principles.

5. "It will be of no use to go to him; I know him; and it will only exasperate him and make matters worse," is an excuse frequently alleged for the neglect of this duty. How do you know this until you have tried. It will be of no use, if it be done in an improper manner—it will do harm. The offender will be exasperated in return, if you go to him in exasperation. The passions are contagious, the bad ones strongly so. It has been of use in many instances, and may in yours. No use! But if it should be of no use to the offender, it may be of use to yourself. If he is not made better by it, you will be. If you cannot subdue him, you will honor Christ. If you are not successful, you will set an example which may be more successful in the case of others, who will be encouraged by you.

6. "It is troublesome; and why should we burden ourselves with such a matter!" Yes, it is—it will require some little sacrifice of time and feeling—it will call for much thoughtfulness and care, in order that we may not make bad worse—and I say again, that unless we will take pains not to blow the coals and fan the flame of discord, we had better not touch the matter. But are not many other duties of religion troublesome? Can we live as Christians without trouble? Can we get to heaven without trouble? And is it not worth all the trouble we shall be required to give to it? Is it not a good thing to bring our erring brother to a right mind? Is it not a good thing to set our own mind at peace?

7. It is frequently brought forward as an excuse for non-compliance with this rule, that it is the duty of the offender to make the first movement towards reconciliation, and instead of our going to him, he ought to come to us; for our Lord says, "If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." It is certainly very clear from these words, as well as from the nature of things, that he who commits the trespass should by confession anticipate the expostulation of him against whom it is committed. But suppose he does not—then comes in our duty to be the first to move.

"If others begin to quarrel—you begin the peace," said Seneca. For sometimes the offender deserves pardon, but dares not ask it; he begs it by interpretation and tacit desire; consult therefore with his modesty, his infirmity, and with his shame. He is more bound to do it than you are; yet you can better do it than he can. It is not always safe for him; it is never unsafe for you. It may be an extreme shame to him; it is ever honorable to you. It may be sometimes to his loss; it is always to your gain. By so doing, we imitate God, whom though we have so often, so infinitely offended, yet He thought thoughts of peace, and sent to us ambassadors of peace, and ministers of reconciliation. We cannot want better arguments of peacefulness—it is no shame to you to offer peace to your offending brother, when your God did, who was so greatly provoked by you, and could as greatly have been revenged—and it is no disparagement that you should desire the reconcilement of him for whom Christ became a sacrifice. You are bound, I say, in charity to your brother's soul, whose repentance you can easily invite by your kind offer; and you make his return easy; you take away his objection and temptation; you secure your own right better, and are invested in the greater glory of mankind; you do the work of God, and your own soul; you carry pardon, and ease, and mercy with you; and who would not run and strive to be first in carrying a pardon, and bringing messages of peace and joyfulness.

"Consider therefore that death divides with you every moment you quarrel in the morning, and it may be you shall die before night—run quickly and be reconciled, for fear your anger last longer than your life. It was a victory which Euclid got of his angry brother, who being highly displeased, cried out, 'Let me perish if I be not revenged:' but he answered, 'And let me perish if I do not make you kind, and quickly to forget your anger.' That gentle answer did it, and they were friends presently and forever after. It is a shame if we be outdone by heathens; and especially in that grace which is the ornament and jewel of our religion; that is in forgiving our enemies, in appeasing anger, in doing good for evil, in returning prayers for cursings, and gentle usages for crude treatment. This is the glory of Christianity, as Christianity is the glory of the world."

In all these ways may we account for the too general neglect of this admirable provision for the peace of Zion; to which especial attention should be paid by all who love her, and pray for her prosperity—and who, indeed, desire their own tranquility, holiness, and safety.

But as prevention is not only better, but easier, than cure, it may be well to point out one or two things which would render such an interference as is here called for, but rarely necessary.

Let all professing Christians be cautious not to give offence. He who comes into society, whether civil or sacred, should recollect he has duties to discharge towards those with whom he associates, and that he is bound to respect and consult their peace, as well as his own. The man who is walking in a crowd must be more circumspect, more cautious, and more fearful of giving annoyance, than he who has the road or the field all to himself. He must be careful not to trample upon other people's toes, or elbow their sides. He must consider and consult the comfort of those around him. But unhappily this is forgotten by many—they are crude, dogmatic, indiscreet, rash, over-bearing, and tyrannical; never consulting the feelings of others around them, and equally careless as to when they give pleasure, or when they inflict pain. They are like an individual who would scarcely scruple, if it pleased him, to fire a musket loaded with ball in a street. Such is not that "love which is kind."

A Christian should be most anxious to avoid everything which would give pain even to an insect by crushing one of its legs; especially to a brother in Christ by wounding his feelings. The peace of his brethren should ever be more sacred to him than his own. He should be discreet, mild, and courteous, in all his language and his conduct, weighing the import of words before he utters them, and calculating the consequences of actions before he performs them.

Connected with this, as a necessary adjunct, is a willingness, yes a readiness, to acknowledge a wrong, when either by accident or intention he has inflicted one. But one of the most difficult duties which ever our proud hearts have to perform in the whole course of their moral probation, is to say, "I have done wrong, forgive me." Even to say this to God has been found, in some cases, no easy matter; and the poor sinner, at the very bar of Omniscience, instead of ingenuously confessing his transgressions, has looked about for all kinds of excuses and materials for defense. How much more may this be expected to take place when he is arraigned only before the tribunal of a brother. How often have we heard the remark made of some perverse and obstinate individual, "That man, however clearly he is convicted of a fault, can never be brought to say he has done wrong." Many are so blinded by the deceitfulness of sin, that they will not see their offence, however plainly it may be set before them—and others, though they see it, will not confess it. Pride and obstinacy seal their lips in silence, and prevent their saying, "I have sinned."

Let us all beware of this. Let us be open to conviction; and when convinced, let us confess. There is something noble and dignified in a man's ingenuously acknowledging himself to be in fault. It is a contemptible and despicable sight, and ought never to be exhibited by a Christian, to see a man catching up every shred and fragment of truth or falsehood, to construct a covering and a defense; fighting with every bit of missile he can lay hand upon, and running for protection into every hole and corner, instead of yielding at once, and casting himself upon the mercy of a generous and forgiving opponent. I know not which is most entitled to admiration, the man who frankly and ingenuously says, "I have done wrong," or he who promptly and affectionately replies, "I entirely forgive you." Alas that such excellence should be so rarely witnessed, and that it should seem to require the perfect holiness of that world where it will be never needed!

It has been observed in all cases of genuine and powerful revivals of religion, that one of the indications and characteristics of such a state of things has usually been an extraordinary and very abundant produce on the trees of righteousness of "the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Old feuds have been removed, alienated friends have been reconciled, injuries have been forgiven and forgotten; those who lived at a distance from each other have made advancement, and each, without waiting for the other, has been eager to make the first movement. It seemed as if enmity could not live in such an atmosphere of love. I have witnessed something like this myself—and have known individuals who have said, "We can hold out no longer—we are melted—we must be friends." Now in proportion as the church has relapsed into a lukewarm state, and the power of godliness has sunk and become enfeebled, the old state of things returned, and the roots of bitterness began again to spring up and bear their noxious fruits.

But I will suppose it still difficult for an individual who has in any way offended a brother to go and acknowledge the offence, and yet he still not only goes to the same place of worship, but to the same sacramental table—then to such trespasser I now address the words of Christ already quoted—"If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you; leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." This it is admitted referred in the first instance to the Jewish sacrifices; but it applies not only with equal but with greater force to the Christian ordinance—for if a brotherly heart were required even of a Jew in order to his coming to the sacrifice of a bullock or a lamb, what ought to be the charity of a Christian in coming to commemorate the sacrifice of the Son of God? And this is confirmed by the language of the apostle, where he says, "Let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness." No man is welcome at Christ's table who brings there a soul too proud to ask forgiveness for an injury he has inflicted, or too implacable to forgive an offence he has received. A religion the chief blessing of which is pardon, and the chief duty of which is love, cannot allow at the foot of its altar one who takes no steps to obtain reconciliation with an alienated brother. Why it is a rare and an unseemly sight for two people in a quarrel to eat bread together at the table of a common friend, how much more so at the table of the Lord! And yet how common is this, to eat of the same loaf, to drink of the same cup, in a state of enmity! To carry the feud and cherish it even there! Yes, and to carry it back again too! To go from the next spot and scene to the cross itself, and yet not reconciled! What is this but to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, to eat and drink unworthily, and to eat and drink judgment to themselves!

"What then is to be done? Must I not come to the communion?" No, not in that state; for God will not accept your gift. "Must I then keep away?" No; but go immediately to your brother and acknowledge your fault; or if no offence was intended, go and explain matters to him, and having conciliated him, then come and offer your gift. If the door of God's house were actually shut against everyone who refused to comply with this direction, it would make many feel—yet the door of mercy or divine acceptance is shut, which is of far greater consequence. Cyril, one of the early Fathers, tells us that the ancient Christians were accustomed before the communion to kiss each other, as a symbol of reconciled minds and forgotten injuries—and in confirmation of this practice brings the precept of our Lord just quoted. I say therefore to everyone who is conscious he has offended his brother, and yet is too proud or too obstinate to say, "I have done wrong, forgive me," the next time you present yourself at the feast of love, you ought to hear in imagination the voice of Jesus speaking by the plate and by the cup, speaking by every crumb of bread and every drop of wine, and saying, "Go away, proud man, for what in that state of mind, are you doing here? Go your way, first be reconciled to your brother."

But if we are to be cautious against giving offence, we should be equally backward to receive it. Quarrels often begin for lack of the caution I have just enjoined, and are then continued for lack of the backwardness I am now enforcing. Between the stone that feels nothing, not the hardest blow; and the eye that feels everything, even the slightest touch of an insect's wing, there is a medium—and so there is between the dull stolidity of an utterly insensible mind, and the too keen susceptibilities of an over sensitive one. There is no doubt a very great difference in mental constitution, which makes it much more difficult for one man to practice a Christian virtue than another man. Doubtless there is more religious principle, more of divine grace, in the half-virtues of one man than in the whole ones of another—in the one case all the seeming excellence is mere physical organization, mere constitutional quiescence, which is the result of temperament, rather than of principle; while all that is excellent in the other is the effect of principle and grace. Hence it certainly will cost one man much more trouble labor and effort to be holy, than it will another to appear so. I admit all this, but then I do not admit that the obligation to this labor and effort is superseded by the difficulty of it.

Now nothing is more common than for professing Christians to excuse their irritability and susceptibility to offence, on the ground of their sensitiveness. "Oh," they say, "our feelings are so tender, our emotional system is so exquisitely and delicately constructed, that we are not to be tried by ordinary rules; we, like the strings of an aeolian harp, are moved to sighs and mournful notes, even by the slightest breeze passing over us." Apart from the poetry of the comparison, it means, in plain prose, that they are very waspish and easily offended; that they are but a moral sensitive plant, a little squeamish shrub, that not only falls prostrate at a blow, but trembles, shrinks, and shrivels, at the touch of a finger. Let us watch against this sensitiveness, which is offended not only by an action, but by a word; not only by a word, but by a tone; not only by a tone, but by a look.

There are many who feel themselves offended not only by actual injury, but by the lack of what they deem due respect. "There is in such people," says Bishop Jeremy Taylor, "who complain for every small offence, such a stock of anger and peevishness, and such a spirit of fire within them, that every breath and every motion from without can put it into a flame; and the devil will never be wanting to give occasion to such prepared materials." There are cases so plain as not to be mistaken; only one construction can be put upon them; they are, and are intended to be, actual trespasses; and must be treated as such, for the design and motive are patent in the action. But there are many others, which, however appearances may be against them, are not and were never intended to be offences. Sensitive minds are ever apt to be mistaken in such matters; they are, so to speak, ever looking out for trespasses, and on the watch for offenders. They are like game-keepers watching preserves at night, who are ready to suspect every man to be a poacher, and who, gun in hand, are ever ready for action. A little of the 'love which thinks no evil' would lead them to impute a good motive until a bad one is proved. They are never taught by experience, for though they have in many instances found that they had judged wrongfully of a brother, and imputed to him an intention to trespass when it was furthest from his mind, they still go on concluding that all men are combined to do them harm.

In looking over the troubled scenes which in this unquiet world present themselves in nations and in churches, in families and between friends, and observing all the envies and the jealousies, the wars and the feuds, which banish peace from the earth, and make way for confusion and every evil work, it is painful to consider by what a small and easy exercise of Christian charity in the way of caution and concession, forbearance and forgiveness, all this mischief and misery might have been prevented; and yet that measure of love was resentfully denied. And our surprise and our sorrow are increased by recollecting that in the midst of this scene of tumultuous passions and bitter contentions there stands the Bible, the law and the representative of the God of love, which, as a messenger of peace from the world of untroubled repose, has come to reconcile all alienated parties to each other, by first reconciling them to God, and so to harmonize all these discordant elements; and by expelling from them their repellent properties, to give them the cohesion of a moral attraction which shall prepare them to attach themselves to each other, and to consolidate round a common center.

O, how painful it seems that the Bible for so many centuries has been brooding over the moral chaos of our world, and sending its peace-speaking voice over the wild uproar, and that yet the elements are at war! But even this is not half so surprising nor half so affecting as that other spectacle, the result of the strifes and contentions, the envies and the jealousies, the malice and resentments, to be seen even among the members of the redeemed family—that the ministry of the word floating over the churches of saints the very echo of the angel's song, and of the Savior's own words, "Peace be with you," sending out continually the notes of redeeming love, and causing the distant symphonies of the heavenly choir to be heard; that the sacramental table, with its simple yet most impressive array, those emblems of the body and blood of the crucified one, that feast of love; that the communion of saints, based as it is upon the sevenfold unity so sublimely set forth by the inspired apostle; that all the hallowed sensibilities and tender sympathies of the common spiritual nature; that the prospect and the hope of eternal friendships cemented by a divine love, and indulged round the throne of the Lamb—that these, I say, all these, should have no more power to make the men who profess to believe in them all, meek, gentle, and forgiving—no more power to prevent or to heal their contentions—no more power to transform them all into sons of peace! O, my God, when with an astonished and a wounded spirit I contemplate this sad inconsistency, grant me, I beseech you, your grace, to be a stay to my faith, and to save me from infidelity!