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“ENDEAVOURING to keep the UNITY OF THE SPIRIT IN THE Bond Of Peace." “Jesus Christ, the same Yesterday, TO-DAY, AND FOR Ever. WHOM TO KNOW is
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ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL.—2 Thess. v. 22. An anonymous correspondent having requested a few thoughts on the above, we purpose, as briefly as we can, to consider the subject in three general points of view :
1st. The influence of sin personally. 2nd. Relatively. 3rd. The Apostle's admonition, “ Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
1st. Sin in its personal influence. " Abstain,” says the apostle, when writing to the church at Thessalonica—to Christians, remembermen possessing, like all others, in their old Adam nature, evil passions, and liable to err. Abstain, avoid, flee from all appearance, or the least appearance of evil. Do not parley with sin, or with the tempter ; shun the first approach of evil, otherwise, ere you are aware, you will be partially ensnared, and thus be thrown off your guard—vacate your watchtower, trespass on forbidden ground, and meet the tempter half way. He advances by degrees, by little and little he approaches. He lies in ambush, makes his calculations, prepares his forces, and commences his attacks with skilfulness and art. The adversary is deeply versed in human nature ; well he knows our weakest part, and upon that weakness he is sure in some way or other to make his encroachments. Was No, X. Vol. 1.—New Series.
admiration of the works of the great Creator, and a thirst for more extensive knowledge, a part of the natural constitution of the mind of man? Eve, the weaker vessel, must be tempted with a promise of increase of understanding (Gen. iii. 5). Were covetousness, or a disposition to choose for himself, two prominent infirmities in the character of Lot ? with those bad principles wrought upon by Satan, he readily prefers a choice which is but the introduction to a long train of evil (compare Gen. xiii. 10, with Gen. xiv. 12, and Gen. xix.). Was voluptuousness a sad ingredient in the character of the sweet singer of Israel ? in an unwary moment an object of gratification is presented to his view, which entails upon him the greatest disgrace, and secures to his house the sword for ever (see 2 Sam. xi. 4). Were vanity and pride predominant weaknesses in Hezekiah ? messengers must bring a present from a far country, to whom “the house of his precious things ” must be exhibited, and their ultimate forfeiture thereby secured (see Isa. xxxi.). Was Peter self-confident, and in possession of untried fortitude ? he must be placed in Satan's sieve, and confronted and defeated even by, a maiden ; before whom, with oaths and curses, he declared he “knew not the man ” (see Matt. xxvi. 33, 69–74).
Oh! beloved, what humbling considerations are these! Apologies for sin, loop-holes of iniquity, are they? oh! no, God forbid. Sin, that abominable thing, which the Lord declares his soul hateth ; sin, which was atoned for at so high a price as even the dear Redeemer's most invaluable blood ; sin, which he who laughs at
“ Laughs at his Maker's frown.” Shall sin be deemed a light thing? No! no ! if trifled with, if indulged, if compromised, it shall veil the lovely face of a kind Father ; bring disquietude and agony into the soul ; cause bondage to supplant freedom and liberty ; a slavish fear to occupy the place of filial affection; and the feet to be fast bound in the stocks; to be tied and bound with the chain of sin, instead of walking at large in a way in which they shall not stumble, in green pastures beside the still waters of a free and full salvation. This, beloved, is the fruit, the effect of sinof second sin, if we may so term it'; of sin accumulated after pardon full and free had been proclaimed in the conscience, in and through the peace-speaking blood of a dear Immanuel. It grieves, moreover, the Holy Spirit ; it crucifies the Son of God afresh, and puts him to an open shame. Sins before conversion are bad, but, methinks, sins after conversion are worse. Sins before conversion are committed in a measure of ignorance ; but sins after conversion are against light and knowledge. Sins before conversion are trespasses against him whom we formally acknowledge as our Sovereign, Ruler, Governor, and King; sins after conversion are the weapons of rebellion raised against a kind and loving Father, a Brother, a Husband, a Friend that loveth at all times. What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid, how shall we who profess to be dead to sin, live any longer therein ?-Lord, we hate it, we abominate ourselves on account of it; and we pray that we may be indulged more and more
with such a deepened sense of its hatefulness in thy sight, and of its destructive consequences, that we may by thy Spirit's might be enabled more and more to flee out of self, to “put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” And grant that we may realize the blessed promises contained in thine own word, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace ;” “ Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”
But do thou, blessed and eternal Spirit, deeply instruct us in one lesson, in the learning of which we feel ourselves such dull scholars ; and that is, experimentally to feel and know that strength against sin, and victory over it, are not obtained by merely analyzing it, poring over it, dwelling upon it, as a poor diseased man would pore over his malady, without applying to the physician ; but it is in a simple looking unto Jesus, leaning upon Jesus, casting our care upon Jesus, that health and cure are obtained. Here, and here alone, is relief to be found ; and this is the most effectual way by which to “ abstain from all appearance of evil.”
2ndly. We have briefly to consider sin in its relative tendency.
It contradicts in action what is advanced in words; and unless an observer is well schooled in a knowledge of the desperate depravity of the human heart, he at once sets down the speaker as an hypocrite or an impostor. Thus a stumbling-block is thrown in the way of the lambs and the feeble ones of Christ's fold, who, alas ! too often secure these things to themselves, and bring down upon the men the very evils for which they afterwards censure and condemn them, by reposing undue confidence in them; admiring their talents and usefulness; and, in short, making little Christs of those who are but mere baubles, liable to be blown away by the feeblest breeze that passes. God is jealous of his glory; he says he will not give it to another. As sure, therefore, as men begin to think more of their fellow-men than they ought to think, or to regard them in any other light than as mere trumpets through which the Lord speaks to his family--to be respected, nevertheless, for their work's sake-so surely will they be "robbed and spoiled.” Dryness, bondage, and misery, will take the place of freedom and enlargement of soul, and great is the mercy if no outward sin is or can be laid to their charge.
But the effect of untoward conduct, or an inconsistent walk, upon the minds of others, is to deprive them of confidence, and to render powerfal words and powerful actions, apparently powerless. They have lost their weight and importance, and though they may have had their origin in divine teaching, and instilled to actions from the utmost purity of principle, yet a failure in the conduct throws the whole into a questionable labyrinth, which only time and the inward witness of God's Spirit can rectify and explain.
Beloved, are these things so or not? If so—and God's word, as well as careful observation and experience, bear us out in the assumption that the theory we have laid down is correct—how entirely does it bring us to the conclusion to which the apostle arrived, when he said, “Seeing these things, brethren, what manner of men ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness.”
We have said, and we repeat it, that sin and suffering are inseparable. Need we turn over many pages in the word of God to prove this ? No! What was it entailed upon us all our misery and all our woe, but sin ? Let the very opening of this sacred book testify to the truth of this assertion. Sin! Does Abraham, the father of the faithful, and the friend of God-does he sin ? He does. He, even he, impatient, restless, unbelieving, unwilling to await the appointed time for the fulfilment of the promises of a promise-keeping God, listens and yields to the voice of carnal reason; and by that frail act entails upon himself and his family disquietude and disorder (see Gen. xvi. and xxi.). Is David, either by the pride or the unbelief of his heart, moved to number Israel? He is, and, as a consequence thereof, is commanded to choose one of three things, either the famine, the pestilence, or the sword (see 2 Sam. xxiv.). Does the self-will of a Jonah for a time reign predominant ? It does ; he flees from the face of his Maker, and out of the belly of hell (Jonah, ii. 2) has he to cry to him to bring him back. Does Peter, the loving-hearted Peter, sin ? Thrice he denies his Lord ; and though one look from that self-same lovely Lord broke his heart, and brought him to repentance, yet thrice must his wounded spirit be probed, thrice must the agonizing interrogation be put to him, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ?” and thrice must he assure his apparently doubting Master, “Thou knowest that I love thee !"
3rdly. We have briefly to consider the Apostle's admonition, “Ahstain from all appearance of evil.” Here, indeed, lies the strength of the passage. Words and actions are liable to a twofold construction. Many things which in themselves may be inpocent, and as far as regards our adoption of them are so, yet in the estimation of others, they may have the “appearance of evil.” “We that are strong,” says the apostle, when writing upon the subject in his epistle to the Corinthians, “ought to bear the infirmities of the weak.” It behoves us, therefore, to bear and forbear ; to dispense with what otherwise we might adopt, but for its evil tendency upon our brother. Oh! believer ; how needful in your daily walk is the bridled tongue, the cautious step! What a labyrinth of trouble do we often plunge our feet into, on account of our heedlessness ; none get into greater straights in this particular than even the real children of God. They sometimes meet in the Spirit, and talk in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit; knit together heart to heart, cemented by the bond of eternal covenant union, they too soon forget of what combustible materials their poor fallen nature is composed; and, ere they are aware, causes of contention arise, originating perhaps in the veriest trifles. The mistaken word, the apparent frown, the misinterpreted message—all these things, beloved, and many more equally trilling, are by Satan's craft made the means of separating chief friends (Prov. xvi. 28), insomuch that many feel it more profitable to seek solitude and a comparative state of nonentity, in preference to the society even of the excellent of the earth. There, in newness of spirit, are their hearts frequently warmed while holding communion with those
they have never seen, nor can see, till they meet in heaven; frequently in imagination is their little chamjer filled with guests, constituting the doubting, fearing, tempted, deepl-exercised of the Lord's family ; they can mutually listen to the tale of woe, and weep and rejoice together; whereas, if they met in person, hey would soon discover on either side causes of dissatisfaction—somening to mar, and tell each other they were dwellers in a clay taberncle. All to teach them not to repose too much confidence in the crature, nor to suffer their attention to be drawn away from him who aone is worthy of their most entire trust and dependance.
“Appearance of evil.” On! how often does the judgment, misinformed by mere appearances sow the seeds of animosity and strife between brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus; as the apostle James says, “ What a little matter a grat fire kindleth.” Many-yea, very many the victims of appearances, have been grossly injured, and with brokenness of heart, hurried to a premature grave! How needful then, on the one hand, the petition, “ Jord, enable me to abstain from all appearance of evil ;” and, on tle other, a careful investigation of what, if judged of by appearances only, would greatly mislead us.
Having briefly commened upon the passage, its personal and relative tendency, it behoves us to inquire what should be our conduct towards those that have in a greater or less degree fallen into iniquity. Shall we abandon them, cut them off, give them over to the enemy's power, and send them to hell headlong ? God forbid ! What ! we who are in the body, encompassed with ten thousand infirmities, liable to attacks from every quarter, and as certain of falling into some sin or other the first moment we are left by an omnipotent grasp, as we are of our own existence ? Shall we thus act? God forbid! And we dare the pharasaic reader, whoever he is, to say that what we have advanced, or what we are about to advance, is in extenuation of sin. Though ours has been regarded by some as an Antinomian work, yet every discerning experimental Christian will see that there has been a uniformity of statement in this respect. That our poor labours are in the midst of much infirmity, we are sensible ; but we call God to witness in the consciences of our readers, whether we have ever made light of sin, or treated it as of little moment. But shall we, we repeat, be indifferent to the case of our poor fallen brother, while we have such examples as those with which the word of God abounds ? Why were the infirmities and falls of men of old recorded, but that those who in after years should partake of the same nature, should not despair? What was the advice of the great apostle in such a case, “Is a brother overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Gal. i. 6). And what did our most blessed Lord himself say in the case of the woman taken in adultery ? “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John, viii. 7). And what said he in reply to his disciples' inquiry, “Lord, if my brother offend me, how oft shall I forgive him ; till seven times ? And he said unto him, I say unto you, not only till seven times, but until seventy times seven." Here was