"Charity Shall Cover the Multitude of Sins"

1 Peter 4:8.

The above words state in the abstract what characterises Love - Divine Love, without doubt - that which God is, for "God is Love"; and represent one aspect in which God acts, and in which the believer is called to act towards his fellow-believer. But it cannot be dissociated from that to which, in the first Epistle of John, priority is given, viz., the statement that "God is Light," preceding this that "God is Love."

Viewed separately, Love covers, as in our verse, while Light exposes. "All things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light." (Eph. 5:13.)

There is much danger of the words in 1 Peter 4:8 being misapplied, by being allowed to reach out beyond their own special domain, and thus to supersede the very positive and absolutely necessary functions of Light. As turned to account by natural affections, or the spirit of indifference, which insidiously creeps in sometimes among the Lord's people, much harm may be done by passing over, under the apparent authority of a divine injunction, what Light should bring up to notice. But in such a case, the conscience of the offender being involved, it would manifestly be a flagrant misuse of these words to act upon them alone. This could only lead to encouragement of evil in its first stage, and contribute directly towards further and future indifference to its workings. The moment conscience is in question Light is called for, which, brought to bear in grace, results in maintaining and insisting upon the holiness of Love. This may, of course, be without the slightest publicity, and through grace it may be successful in manifesting the evil, or it may signally fail. Nevertheless, Love, under these circumstances, has not covered without Light exposing. Further, where the failure concerns what is purely personal, having acted accordingly to God as Light, Love may and possibly ought not to proceed further. On the other hand, should the evil be of such a nature as to seriously affect the assembly, as touching the Lord's honour, or leavening the Lord's people, or constituting a scandal without, it would be absolutely necessary, with wisdom sought from the Lord, to bring it forward, that it might be scripturally dealt with.

As examples, with what exquisite delicacy, perfect because divine, on the occasion of Peter's solemn failure against the Lord personally, Love covered what Light exposed, and in consequence Peter's complete restoration to a place of deeper and more permanent communion with the Lord was effected as the fruit. Again, in the case of the offender at Corinth, a flood of holy Light is poured by the apostle upon the state of things; not to cover at once by "confirming love" (2 Cor. 2:8), but for the purpose of expunging the evil from the midst of the company as intolerable to the holiness of the Lord, by putting away from among themselves that wicked person. (1 Cor. 5:2-13.) And yet, when the proper moment had arrived, viz., that of danger, "lest such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow" (2 Cor. 2:7), the apostle encourages forgiveness, and the confirming of their love towards the now broken and repentant offender.

There is yet another case, exceptional, doubtless, but not by any means impossible, viz., the appropriation of these words of Scripture so as, if possible, to arrest all faithful remonstrance. This indicates a most unhealthy condition of soul in shrinking from the light, for "he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John 3:21.) It is the poor human substitute, characterised by indifference to evil, that is made to do duty in a state of soul-estrangement from God, as Light, for divine and holy Love.

The language of the true heart as to God is, uniformly, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead, me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24); and as to fellow-believers, "Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it, shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head." (Ps. 141:5.) Lastly, the wise man says, "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Prov. 27:5-6.) M. C. G.