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bling-block, for a man to fall upon, or a trap to ensnare a man; and in the Old Testament it is oft used for a stumbling-stone, on which a man may fall into any corporal calamity, or a snare to hurt or ruin a man in the world; (as Exod. x. 7. 1 Sam. xviii. 21. xxv. 31. Psalm cxix. 165. Ezek. vii. 19. Sept.) But in the New Testament, (which speaketh more of spiritual hurts) it is taken for a stumblingblock or temptation, by which a man is in danger of falling into sin, or spiritual loss, or ruin, or dislike of godliness, or any way to be turned from God, or hindered in a religious, holy way; (and if sometimes it be taken for grieving or troubling, it is as it hereby thus hindereth or ensnareth ;) so that to scandalize, is sometimes taken for the doing of a blameless action, from which another unjustly taketh occasion to fall, or sin, or be perverted: but when it signifieth a sin (as we take it in this place) then to scandalize is, By something unlawful of itself, or at least unnecessary, which may occasion the spiritual hurt or ruin of another. 1. The matter is either something that is simply sinful (and then it is a double sin) or something indifferent or unnecessary, and then it is simply the sin of scandal. 2. It must be that which may occasion another's fall, I say, occasion; for no man can forcibly cause another man to sin, but only occasion it, or tempt him to it, as a moral cause.
II. By this you may see, 1. That to scandalize, is not merely to displease, or grieve another; for many a man is displeased through his folly and vice, by that which tendeth to his good; and many a man is tempted (that is, scandalized) by that which pleaseth him; when Christ saith, "If thy right eye or hand offend, (or scandalize thee) pluck it out, or cut it off," &c. he doth not by 'offending,' mean ' displeasing,' or 'grieving;' for by so offending it may profit us; but he plainly meaneth, If it draw thee to sin;' or else he had never added, "That it is better to enter maimed into life, than having two hands or eyes to be cast into hell!" That is, in a word, Thy damnation is a greater hurt than the loss of hand or eye, and therefore if there were no other way to avoid it, this would be a very cheap way. So 'pedem offendere in lapidem,' is to stumble upon a stone. The most censorious and humourous sort of men, have got
a Matt. v.
a notion, that whatever offendeth or displeaseth them is scandalous! And they think that no man must do anything which grieveth or displeaseth them, lest he be guilty of scandal; and by this trick whoever can purchase impatience and peevishness enough, to be always displeased with the actions of others, shall rule the world. But the truth is, the ordinary way of scandalizing these men, is by pleasing them.
I will give you one instance of scandal in Scripture, which may help this sort of people better to understand it, Gal. ii. 10-16. Peter there giveth true scandal to the Jews and Gentiles; he walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, but laid a stumbling-block before the Jews and Gentiles; and this was not by displeasing the Jews, but by pleasing them. The Jews thought it a sin to eat with the Gentiles, and to have communion with uncircumcised men. Peter knew the contrary, but for fear of them of the circumcision, lest they should be offended at him as a sinner, he "withdrew and separated himself." This scandal tended to harden the Jews in their sinful separation, and to seduce the Gentiles into a conceit of the necessity of circumcision; and Barnabas was carried away with the dissimulation. Here you may see, that if any think it a sin in us to have communion in such or such congregations, with such persons, in such worship, which God alloweth us not to separate from, it is a sin of scandal in us to separate to avoid these men's offence. We scandalize them and others, even by pleasing them, and by avoiding that which they falsely called scandalous. And if we would not scandalize them, we must do that which is just, and not by our practice hide the sound doctrine, which is contrary to their separating error.
2. And it is as apparent that to scandalize another, is ǹot (as is vulgarly imagined by the ignorant) to do that which is commonly reputed sinful, or which hath the appearance of a sin, or which will make a man evil thought of, or spoken of by others; yet commonly when men say, 'This is a scandalous action,' they mean, it is an action which is reproachful or of evil report as a sin. And therefore in our English speech it is common to say of one that slandereth another, that he raised a scandal of him. But this is not the meaning of the word in Scripture; materially indeed
scandal may consist in any such thing which may be a stumbling-block to another; but formally it is the tempting of another, or occasioning his fall, or ruin, or hurt, which is the nature of scandalizing. And this is done more seldom by committing open, disgraceful sins, and doing that which will make the doer evil spoken of; for by that means others are the more assisted against the temptation of imitating him; but scandal is most commonly found in those actions, which are under the least reproach among men, or which have the most plausible appearance of good in them, when they are evil! For these are more apt to deceive and overthrow another.
3. And it is also apparent, that it is no sinful scandalizing to do a duty or necessary action, which I have not power to forbear, though I know that another will be offended, or fall by it into sin. If God have made it my duty, even at this time, I must not disobey him, and omit my duty, because another will make it an occasion of his sin. It must be either a sinful or an indifferent action, that is, scandal, or something that is in my power to do, or to forbear: yet this must be added, that affirmatives binding not 'ad semper,' to all times, and no duty being a duty at every moment, it may oft fall out, that that which else would have been my duty at this time, may become at this time no duty but a sin, by the evil consequents which I may foresee, as if another man will make it an occasion of his fall. So that this may oblige me to defer a duty to a fitter time and place. For all such duties as have the nature of a means, are never duties when they cross the interest of their chief ends, and make against that which they are used to effect. And therefore here Christian prudence, foreseeing consequents, and weighing the good and evil together, is necessary to him that will know a duty from a sin, and a scandal from no scandal.
III. The several ways of scandalizing are these following: 1. Scandal is either intended or not intended, either that which is done maliciously of set purpose, or that which is done through negligence, carelessness or contempt. Some men do purposely contrive the fall or ruin of another, and this is a devilish aggravation of the sin: and some do hurt to others while they intend it not; yet this is far from
excusing them from sin; for it is voluntary as an omission of the will, though not as its positive choice; that is called voluntary which the will is chargeable with, or culpable of; and it is chargeable with its omissions, and sluggish neglects of the duty which it should do. Those that are careless of the consequent of their actions, and contemn the souls of other men, and will go their own way, come of it what will, and say, Let other men look to themselves, are the most common sort of scandalizers; and are as culpable, as a servant that would leave hot water or fire when the children are like to fall into it; or that would leave straw or gunpowder near the fire, or would leave open the doors, though not of purpose to let in the thieves.
2. Scandal is that which tendeth to another's fall, either directly or indirectly, immediately or remotely. The former may easily be foreseen; but the latter requireth a large foreseeing, comparing understanding; yet this sort of scandal also must be avoided; and wise men that would not undo men's souls while they think no harm, must look far before them, and foresee what is like to be the consequent of their actions at the greatest distance and at many removes.
3. Scandals also are aptitudinal or actuai; many things are apt to tempt and occasion the ruin of another; which yet never attain so bad an end, because God disappointeth them; but that is no thanks to them that give the scandal.
4. Scandal also as to the means of it, is of several sorts. 1. By doctrine. 2. By persuasion. 3. By alluring promises. 4. By threats. 5. By violence. 6. By gifts. 7. By example. 8. By omission of duties, and by silence; by all these ways you may scandalize.
1. False doctrine is directly scandalous; for it seduceth the judgment, which then misguideth the will, which then misruleth the rest of the faculties. False doctrine, if it be in weighty, practical points, is the pernicious plague of souls and nations.
2. Also the solicitations of seducers and of tempting people are scandalous, and tend to the ruin of souls; when people have no reason to draw a man to sin, they weary him out by tedious importunity. And many an one yields to the earnestness, or importunity, or tediousness of a persuasion, who could easily resist it if it came only with pretence
3. Alluring promises of some gain or pleasure that shall come by sin, is another scandal which doth cause the fall of many. The course that satan tried with Christ, "All this will I give thee," was but the same which he found most successful with sinners in the world. This is a bait which sinners will themselves hunt after, if it be not offered them. Judas will go to the Pharisees with a "What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?" Peter saith of the scandalous heretics of his time, "They allure through the lust of the flesh, through much wantonness those that were clean escaped from them who live in error; while they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption "."
4. Threatenings also and scorns are scandals, which frighten unbelieving souls into sin; thus Rabshakeh thought to prevail with Hezekiah. Thus Nebuchadnezzar', thought to have drawn those three worthies to idolatry. Thus the Pharisees thought to have frightened the apostles, from preaching any more in the name of Christ. Thus Saul thought to have perverted the disciples, by breathing out threatenings against them a.
5. And what words will not do, the ungodly think to do by force; and it enrageth them, that they should resist their wills, and that their force is patiently endured. What cruel torments! what various sorts of heavy sufferings have the devil and his instruments devised, to be stumblingblocks to the weak, to affright them into sin!
6. Gifts also have blinded the eyes of some who seemed wise: "As oppression maketh a wise man mad, so a gift destroyeth the heart." What scandals have preferments proved to the world, and how many have they ruined! Few are able to esteem the reproach of Christ to be greater riches than the treasures of the world.
7. And evil examples are the most common sort of scandals: not as they offend, or grieve, or are apparently sinful; but as they seem good, and therefore are temptations to the weak to imitate them. So apt are men to imitation, especially in evil, that they will do what they see another do, without examining whether it be justifiable or not. Es
a 2 Pet. ii. 18, 19.
b Dan. iii.
e Exod. xxiii. 8.
e Acts iv. 17. 21
f Heb. xi. 26.