The duty of brotherly admonition or reproof.
I. Consider what the duty is. St. Paul uttered a great truth when he said, “We are members one of another.” If we be members one of another, there must be relative duties which could not exist were these mutual relationships wholly destroyed. We may not act with a view to ourselves alone. If there be an obligation upon us, from the very fact of our creation, to have reference in all we do to the benefit of our brethren, we cannot shift off from ourselves the duty of brotherly admonition or reproof. If we see a brother or neighbour pursuing a course which is likely to provoke God’s wrath and must issue in ruin, then we are altogether and grievously at fault if we “suffer sin upon him” and do not strive to bring him to repentance and amendment.
II. There are certain rules and motives to be noticed as regulating the careful performance of the duty which the text lays down. (1) He who takes upon himself the duty of reproving another is required to proceed with much delicacy and caution. It by no means holds good that wherever a man sees vice, he is bound to rebuke it. We do not want a headlong and quixotic chivalry, fancying itself commissioned to break a lance with all whom it may meet on the highways of the land. (2) Since the end of reproof is mainly the well-being of the party reproved, there is to be a careful avoidance of that indiscriminate and unqualified censure which is calculated to disgust, and we should show by the tenderness of our dealing that, though we dare excuse nothing, we know how to distinguish between an involuntary betrayal and an unblushing rebellion. (3) The reproof should be given privately rather than publicly. (4) If we hope that our admonition will carry any weight, we must take heed that we are not ourselves chargeable with the fault that we reprove in others.