Sermon for St.

Peters Day
BY REV DOCTOR JOH TAULER
Of brotherly rebuke and admonition, how far it is
advisable and seemly or not, and especially how
prelates and governors ought to demean themselves
toward their subjects.
2 Tim. 2. — " Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long -suffering and
doctrine. "
THIS is the lesson which St. Paul gives to
his beloved disciple Timothy, whom he
set to rule over men, and it equally behoves all
pastors of souls and magistrates, to possess these
two things, — long-suffering and doctrine.
First, it is their office to rebuke all open sinners,
whom they may possibly bring to a better way, and
especially those over whom they are set in authority,
that they may reveal the truth unto them, for this is
needful, and in many places Scripture doth tell us
how we ought to teach, rebuke, and exhort those
who are committed to our charge, each according
to the office which he holds, as St. Gregory has
sufficiently shown and set forth in his Pastoral,
wherefore we will refrain for the present from saying
more on that point.
But we will rather turn to the second point, which
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is more spiritual, teaching a man to look within and
judge himself, seeing that he who desires to become a
spiritual man must not be ever taking note of others,
and above all of their sins, lest he fall into wrath and
bitterness, and a judging spirit towards his neigh-
bours. O children, this works such great mischief
in a man's soul, as it is miserable to think of ; where-
fore, as you love God, shun this evil temper, and turn
your eyes full upon yourselves, and see if you cannot
discover the same fault in yourselves, either in times
past or now-a-days. And if you find it, remember
how that it is God's appointing that you should now
behold this sin in another in order that you may
be brought to acknowledge and repent of it ; and
amend your ways and pray for your brother that
God may grant him repentance and amendment,
according to His Divine will. Thus a good heart
draws amendment from the sins of others, and is
guarded from all harsh judgment and wrath, and
preserves an even temper, while an evil heart puts
the worst interpretation on all that it sees and turns
it to its own hurt. Thus is a good man able to
maintain inviolate a due love and loyalty towards
his fellow-man. Further, this generous love makes
him hold others innocent in his heart : even when
he sees infirmity or fault in his neighbour, he reflects
that very likely all is not as it seems on the outside,
but the act may have been done with a good in-
tention ; or else he thinks that God may have per-
mitted it to take place for an admonition and lesson
to himself ; or again, as an opportunity for him to
exercise self-control and to learn to die unto himself,
by the patient endurance of and forbearance towards
the faults of his neighbours, even as God has often
412 TAULER'S SERMOS
borne many wrongs from him, and had patience with
his sins. And this would often tend more to his
neighbour's improvement than all the efforts he
could make for it in the way of reproofs or chastise-
ments, even if they were done in love (though
indeed we often imagine that our reproofs are given
in love when it is in truth far otherwise). For I
teU thee, dear child, if thou couldst conquer thyself
by long-suffering and gentleness and the pureness
of thy heart, thou wouldst have vanquished all thine
enemies. It would be better for thee than if thou
hadst won the hearts of all the world by thy writings
and wisdom, and hadst miserably destroyed thine
own soul by passing judgment on thy neighbours ;
for the Lord says : " And why beholdest thou the
mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considereth
not the beam that is in thine own eye ? "
In thus speaking, I except those who are bound by
their ofüce in the holy Christian Church to rebuke
others. Let them wisely beware how they reprove,
and for what causes, so that they rebuke none with
an irritable demeanour, or with harsh and angry
words, from which much trouble and toil do spring,
for that they have no right to do, but it is permitted
to them to reprove those who are under them for
their own amendment. But alas ! it happens for
the most part now-a-days that those who occupy
the highest places do often and greatly forget them-
selves in these respects, and hence their rebukes
do not produce any amendment, but only anger
and alienation of heart. For if they were to instruct
those who are under their care in the fear of God, in
such wise that the people could mark and be sure
that it was done solely for the saving of their souls,
TAULER'S SERMOS 413
they would be much the more ready to set themselves
to amend, and would be content, — but now, alas !
they see that their superiors are only seeking their
own glory and profit, and taking upon themselves
wrongfully to keep them down and defraud them of
their just rights, and therefore reproof only makes
them the more refractory and indignant. And there
are many in authority who do really beheve that
they rebuke those under them from a reverence for
righteousness, and yet are doing it from a wrath-
ful, domineering, and arrogant spirit ; and what they
think they are doing from hatred to sin, they are
doing from hatred to men.
But I beseech you examine yourselves, whether
you do in truth love those whom you are punishing
so bitterly out of reverence and zeal for righteous-
ness as you suppose. For when we see men punish-
ing and oppressing with such vehemence those who
are under them, or treating them so harshly with
sharp words and sour looks, it is to be feared that
there is more reproof given out of crabbed im-
patience, than for the sake of righteousness from the
true ground of charity and kindness, especially by
those who have not yet experienced the inward
joy of hearty sweetness and godly love : for the
soul that has not yet experienced inward love and
divine sweetness does not know how to hold a
discreet mien and just language in rebuking ; but
genuine love teaches us how we ought to treat those
who are worthy of punishment.
ow let him who has to punish in virtue of his
office first take account of God's dishonour and the
injury done to the souls of his flock, and then rebuke
with sweet, loving words and patient demeanour and
414 TAULER'S SERMOS
gestures, so that the weak shall be able to mark that
he is seeking and purposing their welfare alone,
and nothing else. And if in the dispensations of
God's Providence it should happen that those who
are subject should at times rise up and offend by
license and presumptuous irreverence against their
superiors, the latter ought not in any wise to regard
or revenge it, so far as that may be, without scandal
to the rest of their subjects ; for if they revenge
themselves they fall under suspicion of selfish
motives, and it is likely that God wiU not be able
to work any fruit through them ; but they must
rather treat such offenders with more patience,
kinder words and acts, than they do others. For
this is commonly the greatest temptation which
befalls those in authority, by which they for the
most either win or lose the greatest reward of their
labours ; wherefore they should ever be on their
guard, for gentleness and a readiness to forgive
injuries is the best virtue that a ruler can possess.
They shall show no partiality in their affections,
neither for their own glory nor yet towards particular
persons, but they shall embrace all their flock in the
arms of a common love, as a mother does her children.
To the weak they should ever show the greatest love
and care, and without ceasing lift up their hearts
unto God in prayer, earnestly beseeching Him
to guard and defend the people committed to their
charge, and not indulging in any self-glorification.
Likewise, so far as it rests with them, let them be the
first to do such works as they would wish to see
their people do : for so it stands, that, with the help
of God, all may be accompHshed to a good end,
when those in authority are inclined to virtue, for
TAULER'S SERMOS 415
then their subjects must needs follow as they lead,
even though they may have been beforehand in-
dined to all evü and vice, and hostile to their
superiors.
But for those who have received no commission
to govern other men, but stand in a private char-
acter without office, it is needful that they secretly
judge themselves inwardly, and beware of judging
all things without, for in such judgments we do
commonly err, and the true position of things is
generally very far otherwise from that which it
appears to us, as we often come to discover after-
wards. On this point remember the proverb :
" He is a wise man who can turn all things to the
best."
May God help us so to do ! Amen.
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