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LUKE vi. 37.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged. CHRISTIANs are joined together in the most endearing bonds of union. They are peculiarly distinguished in the Gospel by the title of the Brethren ; and the most prominent and characteristic feature of the Gospel itself is harmony and peace. “By this shall all men know," says our blessed Lord,“ that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” In the writings of the Apostles we are repeatedly enjoined to be “like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;" “ to seek peace, and to ensue it;" « to walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us ;” and “if it be possible, as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men.” “And more especially does our Saviour's sermon on the mount abound with precepts, by the observance of which punctually and faithfully, love and peace would be effectually promoted among men;—precepts, too, which apply not only to the ordinary transactions of man, but extend to the daily intercourse of social and domestic life. Our Divine Master was well acquainted with our mutual dependence upon each other for comfort and happiness, and accordingly he inculcated those tempers and dispositions, with which we ought always to meet our fellow-creatures. And perhaps among all his admonitions, there is not one of greater interest and importance, than that which is proposed in the Gospel for the day; “ Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.”
This precept, like many others in the New Testament, is delivered in general terms. There are cases, however, to which it does not apply; and wherein the contrary is not only necessary, but sanctioned in the Gospel. If, indeed, the dispositions which our Saviour recommends were universally adopted, the precepts would also be as general as the words in which they are expressed. But our blessed Lord “knew what was in man;" and he therefore knew, that in many instances, instead of peace, envyings and strife would arise ; and we are told by St. James, that “where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” To suppress this confusion, therefore. and to eradicate these evil works, whether in Church or State, there must of necessity be constituted authorities, endowed with the power of inquiring into the conduct of offenders, and of passing judgment upon, and punishing their crimes. “Magistrates,” says the Apostle, " are the ministers of God, for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” And again, St. Paul exhorts Timothy, “ that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men ; for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.”
But we may go yet further; and we shall see that there is a line of conduct, which Christians, and more particularly ministers of the Gospel, are bound to pursue, which may seem at first sight to militate against the command in the text. To convince the sinner of his
errors, and to labour to restore him to the favour of his God, is, perhaps, the noblest feature which Christian charity can assume. "He that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death ;" and our blessed Lord assures us," that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” Now it is manifestly impossible, that this benevolent spirit should be exercised, without passing judgment upon the guiltiness of the sinner, and convincing him of the nécessity of amendment ;--without preserving the distinction between right and wrong, and guarding against the error and condemnation of those who “ call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter."
It is farther commanded in the New Testament, that from such persons as persist in their wickedness, after repeated and ineffectual admonitions, we are to withdraw ourselves. “ Have no fellowship," says St. Paul, “ with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Again, we are commanded to “ withdraw ourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly ;" and from such as, “having a form of godliness, deny the power thereof." By this behaviour, therefore, we manifest our reprobation of the character of such persons, and pass à tacit judgment upon their lives and actions ; and it cannot be supposed that such conduct would be enjoined by the Apostle, if it were at variance with the precept in the text. Nor are we called upon to resist the evidences of our senses, and refrain from judging ill of a person who is a notoriously disorderly liver, and conducting himself in a manner evidently repugnant to the dictates of virtue, sobriety, and justice. And even in those cases where we have no foundation for thinking ill, we are not always required to think well. Common experience teaches us, that we may place our reliance upon those who are unworthy of confidence, and therefore we are justified in selecting such persons to manage our affairs, upon whom no suspicion can possibly rest. Such a selection is by no means a positive judgment; it does not imply that we think ill of one, because we think well of another. And at all events, if we keep our opinions within our own breasts, and say nothing to the injury of a man's chas racter, even though we may have reason to be on our guard against him, we cannot be considered as offending against our Saviour's command ; “ Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.”
. What then is the extent of the admonition, and what are the consequences of neglecting it ? --- First, our Lord forbids all rash judgment, and censorious opinions upon the conduct of our fellowcreatures. We are not to condemn the conduct of another, without sufficient grounds for the charges which we bring against him. Human nature is ever liable to be deceived by appearances, and it may easily happen that an action may be perfectly correct, which, when looked upon in an improper light, may appear ill-advised and blameworthy. A man may proceed upon principles with which a stranger is unacquainted ; who is therefore unqualified to give an opinion upon the matter in hånd. Circumstances, moreover, may render an action perfectly justifiable in one man, which, under different circumstances, would be equally unjustifiable in another. And, indeed, even in cases where the event decides that a man has been actually wrong, we should
be very careful how we judge harshly or hastily. He may have proceeded conscientiously, and have erred through ignorance ;- his motives may have been right, though his conduct should be wrong. And if he declares that he has so erred, we have no right to judge otherwise, unless there is the clearest proof to the contrary. In fact, till we can scrutinize the thoughts and sentiments of our fellow-creatures, " Who are we that judge another man's servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth :” and by our judgment we invade the prerogative of God, who is alone the searcher of hearts, and from whom no secrets are hid. We arrogantly anticipate the judgment which he will pass upon all men at the last day, and assume to us the right which he has reserved exclusively to himself. Let us “therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.” This advice of the Apostle refers more particularly to the judgments which are passed in religious concerns, a species of censoriousness, perhaps, of all others, the most uncharitable. That there may be hypocrisy and affectation in the exercise of devotion that there may be ostentation in charity and benevolence and deceit in a grave and sanctified deportment, we shall not pretend to deny. These vices were condemned by our Saviour himself in the Pharisees of old, “who made clean indeed the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they were full of extortion and excess." But nothing can be more uncharitable than to judge of the hearts of men, denouncing whole sects as hypocrites, because their tenets are different from our own.
Analogous to this, is that unfavourable judgment which those, who are influenced by what is called party-spirit, are apt to pass upon others, who think differently from themselves. The opinions of another may be wrong, and if generally acted upon, productive of fatal consequences ;- but are we therefore to misrepresent his character, and because he is mistaken, reproach him as dishonest ? Are we not all liable to error ? and may we not, even at the time we are finding fault with another, be ourselves much more deserving of blame?
Another offence against the precept in the text, is a tendency to form our opinions of a man's character from personal prejudice, and to allow ourselves to be biassed by a feeling of private resentment. An unforgiving spirit is, of all others, the most at variance with the character of a Christian. Such, indeed, is the infirmity of human nature, that offences must necessarily arise; and we cannot expect, with our most anxious endeavours, to maintain a perfect and unceasing fellow. ship with all around us. We should, therefore, be prepared to meet with provocations and injuries, and exert ourselves to bear them patiently, and to restrain our resentment within proper bounds. In this, as in all other virtues, our blessed Lord has left us an example that we should follow his steps. Amidst all the insults which he endured, and all the taunts and calumnies which were heaped upon him, he never once expressed the slightest feeling of revenge. “When he was reviled, he reviled not again ; when he sụffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” With this bright example, then, before our eyes, shall we allow ourselves to be led astray by any trifling injury, to vilify and defame the character of a fellow-creature? We are all compassed by infirmity, and we may all be drawn, in the hour of temptation, into offence. But we should none of us, perhaps, be very ready to admit the justice of the judgment, which should affix a general stain upon our conduct, and from a single failing decide upon the whole tenour of our lives and actions. Truth and charity should never give way to any feeling of ill-will; but we should follow carefully the advice of the Apostle, "putting on, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any." But above all, in censuring the faults of others, let us look to our own. There are too many in the world, who justly expose themselves to the answer of the Apostle : “ Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, for thou that judgest doest the same things.” It is not unfrequent, that the most censorious are by far the most blind to their own frailties and imperfections. While they are prying into the affairs of others, and seeking occasion of censure against them, they have no time to attend to themselves, and correct what is amiss in their own conduct. How many, for instance, are there who do not hesitate to condemn the practice of others in neglecting the public worship of God, whilst they themselves yet more shamefully neglect the blessed sacrament! This is a species of hypocrisy, against which the precept in the text seems more particularly directed, and which is strikingly represented in the parable which immediately succeeds; “Why beholdest thou the mote which is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye.” To these, and similar cases, does the injunction of our Saviour apply. The disposition from which they arise, originates in a sinful pride, which makes us think “more highly of ourselves than'we ought to think," and less highly of our neighbours ;—from a foolish self-conceit, which exalts us in our own eyes, and raises us in our own imaginations; and from those corrupt inclinations of the heart, which would derive a borrowed splendour to our own actions, by throwing a cloud over those of others. The mischief which such tempers cause, and the confusion which they create, are easily discernible. By ill-judging of the intentions of another, -by interpreting an indiscreet word into an intended affront,- by denouncing a mistaken kindness as a meditated injury-how easily may an attached friend be regarded as a disguised enemy! By condemning the benevolence, the piety, and the devotion of a sincere Christian, and charging him with hypocrisy and affectation, how may the virtuous be discouraged, and their examples lost to the world! And even by aggravating the offences of those who are really guilty, and treating them with undue severity, how easily may we render them callous to reproof, and heedless of penitence and amendment !
"Judge not then, and ye shall not be judged:”—but upon the çensorious and malevolent shall judgment assuredly be retorted, judgment in this world, and in that which is to come. Mankind will always be ready to repay the harsh opinions which they receive from others; and you may be assured, that “with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” But what is the judgment of man, compared with the sentence of his Maker ? Before the tribunal of God, we are told by St. James, that “He shall have judgment without mercy, who hath showed no mercy.” As we, therefore, desire to be judged with favour by God, let us also be favourable in our judgments upon our fellow-creatures. And surely there is no one who does not feel that he stands in need of unlimited favour from his Almighty Judge. “In many things we offend all; and if thou, O Lord, art extreme. to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?” The great rule of that Gospel which Christ bas given us—that Gospel too, by which we shall one day be judged, is this: “ Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them.” And can there possibly be a more direct violation of this rule, than to slander, or misrepresent, or in any way judge uncharitably of our neighbours?
Let us then judge of all men with candour and good-nature, “putting on, above all things, charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” This is indeed the distinguishing badge of the Christian profession, and without which we shall be entitled to none of those blessings and privileges, which Christ has suffered to obtain for us. He that loveth not his brother — he that makes no allowance for the failings, and judges harshly of the conduct of others, will be excluded for ever from those peaceful regions of the blessed, “ where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.” In that celestial abode, where all is harmony and love, there can be no society for those who would mar the happiness of all about them. But “blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
ON THE EARLY FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
: No. VI.
CHRISTIANITY had now struggled through the horrors of two inveterate persecutions, and the third had commenced its ravages under the sanction, rather than under the direction, of Trajan. Although the scrutiny of Pliny, the talented governor of Bithynia, had been unable to detect any, the most trivial practices of the despised and misrepresented disciples of the cross, and the emperor himself had determined to leave them unmolested, provided they kept their VOL. XII. NO. VII.