Brother Fuller! brother Fuller!Posted: May 20, 2014
Do you, earnest reader, feel that you would rush at once into this work? Stay awhile, and hear another word or two; for it is well for you to know that it is no child’s play which is before you. Wisdom must guide you, or you will play the fool. A busy-body who is for ever babbling, is like a yelping cur which is no more esteemed than a dumb dog that cannot bark, and is thought to be a far greater nuisance. It has been said that “If a man were to set out calling everything by its right name, he would be knocked down before he got to the corner of the street;” and he who sets himself up as a general reformer of every other man’s follies, will likely enough receive the same treatment, and will have nothing to blame but his own impertinence. Casting pearls before swine has often led to the simpleton’s discovering the truth of the Saviour’s warning, “lest they turn again and rend you.” Sin may be foolishly rebuked, and so encouraged; it may be sinfully rebuked, and so multiplied. Much spirituality of mind is needed to speak for God; hence Paul puts it, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye who are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.” Such are fit to be soul-surgeons, whose tenderness and faithfulness give them a lady’s hand and a lion’s heart. “The art of reproving,” says Rayner, “is like the husbandman’s skill which his God doth teach him, in respect of the several kinds of grain, as to beat out cummin and fitches with a staff or little rod, and to bruise out the bread corn as wheat and rye by the force of the flail or the cartwheel. So God doth teach the spiritual man whom to touch with a twig of reproof, whom to smite with a rod, and whom to thrash with a flail of reproof.” We must consider both the offence and the offender, the sin and the sinner, so that our words may be fitly spoken, and prove effectual. It is written of Andrew Fuller, that he could rarely be faithful without being severe; and, in giving reproof, he was often betrayed into intemperate zeal. Once, at a meeting of ministers, he took occasion to correct an erroneous opinion delivered by one of his brethren, and he laid on his censure so heavily that Ryland called out vehemently, in his own peculiar tone of voice, “Brother Fuller! brother Fuller! you can never admonish a mistaken friend, but you must take up a sledge hammer and knock his brains out.” Gentleness and affection should be evident in all our remonstrances: if a nail be dipped in oil it will drive the more readily. There is a medium in our vehemence which discretion will readily suggest: we must not drown a child in washing it, nor cut off a man’s foot to cure a corn. Perhaps it will be less tedious to the reader if, instead of a long enumeration of the qualities required in a successful reprover, we instance the case of Dr. Waugh. There are two or three anecdotes which are eminently characteristic of his power:—“At one of the half-yearly examinations at the Protestant Dissenters’ Grammar School, Mill Hill, the head master informed the examiners that he had been exceedingly tried by the misconduct and perverseness of a boy who had done something very wrong, and who, though he acknowledged the fact, could not be brought to acknowledge the magnitude of the offence. The examiners were requested to expostulate with the boy, and try if he could be brought to feel and deplore it. Dr. Waugh was solicited to undertake the task; and the boy was, in consequence, brought before him. ‘How long have you been in the school, my boy?’ asked the doctor. ‘Four months, sir.’ ‘When did you hear from your father last?’ ‘My father’s dead, sir.’ ‘Ah! alas the day! ’tis a great loss, a great loss, that of a father; but God can make it up to you, by giving you a tender, affectionate mother.’ On this the boy, who had previously seemed as hard as a flint, began to soften. The doctor proceeded: ‘Well, laddie, where is your mother?’ ‘On her voyage home from India, sir.’ ‘Ay! good news for you, my boy: do you love your mother?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘And do you expect to see her soon?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘Do you think she loves you?’ ‘Yes, sir, I am sure of it.’ ‘Then think, my dear laddie, think of her feelings when she comes home, and finds that, instead of your being in favour with everyone, you are in such deep disgrace as to run the risk of expulsion, and yet are too hardened to acknowledge that you have done wrong. Winna ye break your poor mother’s heart, think ye? Just think o’ that, my lad.’ The little culprit burst into a flood of tears, acknowledged his fault, and promised amendment. On one occasion, a young minister having animaverted, in the presence of Dr. Waugh, on the talents of another minister, in a manner which the doctor thought might leave an unfavourable impression on the minds of some of the company, Dr. W. observed, ‘I have known Mr. —— many years, and I never knew him speak disrespectfully of a brother in my life.’ At another time, in a company of nearly forty gentlemen, a student for the ministry entertained those around him with some ungenerous remarks on a popular preacher in London. Dr. Waugh looked at him for some time, with pity and grief depicted in his countenance, and when he had thus arrested the attention of the speaker, he mildly remarked, ‘My friend, there is a saying in a good old book which I would recommend to your consideration:—The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.’ ” Such rare powers of wise remonstrance may not be easy to acquire, but they are very precious, and should be greatly coveted.
***Selection taken from C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1865 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1865), 18–20.