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have need of all these things. Seek those things first which are of the first importance. Take care of God's interest, and God will take care of yours. The ills of the time present are sufficient for us, without calling in those of futurity. God has promised strength for the day, but no more : the evils which we bring in from the morrow, we must bear ourselves.
ON JUDGING OTHERS, AND CASTING OUR PEARLS
Matt. vii. 1-6.
VER. 1-5. Judge not, &c. This prohibition, like many others in our Lord's discourse, if interpreted in its utmost latitude, would go to censure what is elsewhere commended. If we judge not truth and error, good and evil, we cannot embrace the one, and avoid the other. Neither can we discharge, the duties of our station in the world, or in the church, without forming some judgment of those about us. Paul and Silas are supposed to have judged Lydia to be faithful, ere they entered her house ; and Peter did not scru. ple to tell the sorcerer that he perceived him to be in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. We are not only allowed, but directed even in this discourse, to judge of men as of trees, by their fruit, ver. 16—20. It is a part of our duty as ministers to declare from God's word, that they who live after the flesh will die ; and that they who are carried away by strong delusions and the belief of a lie, are in the utmost danger of damnation. They may be displeased with us for thinking so hardly of them, and may allege this passage as a reproof to our presumption. The
judgment wbich Christ forbids is that which arises not from goodwill, and a faithful discharge of duty ; but from a censorious spirit, which takes pleasure in thipking and speaking evil of those about us : puts the worst construction upon actions of doubtful motive, and is severe in detecting lesser faults in another, while blinded to far greater ones in ourselves. It stands opposed by Luke to a forgiving spirit, Chap. vi. 27. It is therefore the judgment of rancour, selfishness, aud implacability. “ All men,” says Calvin, on the passage,“ do flatter and spare themselves ; and every man is a severe censor against others. There is a certain sweetness in this sin, so that there is scarcely a man who itcheth not with a desire to inquire after other men's faults. This wicked delight in biting, carping, and slandering, doth Christ forbid, when he saith, Judge not.”
It is remarkable that those who are most disposed to detect the faults of others, are commonly the most faulty themselves, and therefore the least qualified for that which they are so eager to undertake. And herein lies their hypocrisy : they would seem to be great enemies to sin, whereas, if this were the case, they would begin with their own. It is therefore nothing better than selfish raocour, under the mask of zeal and faithfulness. It also deserves notice, that he who is under the dominion of any sin, is utterly unqualified to reprove ; but he that has first repented of his own sin, shall thereby be fitted to deliver his brother from his. When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
To deter us from this evil spirit and practice, we are given to expect that if we judge, we shall be judged, and that with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again. Such is the ordinary course of things even in the present life. A censorious spirit towards others, brings censure in abundance upon ourselves. Hence arise debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults. Thus the sweets of society, both civil and religious, are embittered ; and instead of the ills of life diminishing, they greatly accumulate in our hands. Neither is it in this life only, nor chiefly, that such things will meet with a righteous retribution. : If we go on condemning in this mammer
till death, we must expert to be condemned at a judgment-seat, from the decisions of which there is no appeal.
Ver. 6. Gire not that which is holy unto the dogs, &c. This precept may have no immediate connexion with the foregoing one, and may apply to the disciples as teachers. Thoogh they must preach the word to all, yet it must be with due discrimination, giving to every character that which the scripture assigns him. Thus did Christ himself, at the beginning of this sermon. I am inclined to think, however, that there is a connexion between this precept and the foregoing one ; and that the former dissuades from evil-minded censures, and this from imprudent ones. Though we should reprove men from the purest motives, yet if what we say, be barsh or unseasonable, instead of doing them goud, we shall provoke their resentment, and do both them and ourselves harm. The conduct of Paul in his voyage to Rome, (Acts xxvii.) furnishes an example of the contrary. He was not so awed as to leave the company in any doubt who he was, nor yet so obtrusive as unnecessarily to draw upon him their displeasure. His behaviour was such from the beginning, as to procure him a courteous trealment from Julius the centurion, ver. 3. When danger approached, he gave them a respectful admonition, and to excite their attention to the gospel, foretold what would be the disastrous issue of the voyage, ver. 10. Finding his word disregarded, be held his peace, till all hope that they should be saved was taken away. Then, with a gentle reproof for their unbelief, he renews his predictions, declares the ground on which he uttered them, acknowledges himself more fully the servant of God, and addresses them in 'encouraging language, ver. 21–25. After this, he 'rises in their esteem, his influence among them is extended, he takes bread and gives thanks in the presence of them all, and they are cheerful, and eat with him, ver. 31–36. Whether this conduct issued in the conversion of any of them, or not, it so interested the centurion, that when the soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners, he kept them from their purpose, for Paul's sake. We see in it a union of zeal, which never lost sight of its object, and of discretion which selected the best means, and seized the fittest opportunities for accomplishing it. All was the effect of good will, which,
wherever it prevails, either prevents the violent attacks of the wicked, or if they come unprovoked, enables us to bear them.
ON PRAYER AND EQUITY:
Matt. vii. 7-12.
From negative religion, our Lord proceeds to enforce that which is positive-prayer to God, and justice to men. We have had directions already, concerning the duty of prayer, and are now furnished with encouragements to engage in it.
Observe the terms by which it is expressed—asking, seeking, knocking. No mention is made of what we are to ask for ; but it is understood that every thing we want, both for this world and that to come, is richly provided, and that the way of access to God is opened by the Saviour. Such an invitation would not else have been given. It is also understood that what we receive is of grace, and that we must apply for it, not as baughty claimants, bút as needy and unworthy supplicants. The prayer of the pharisee had not a single petition in it. We may also perceive that true prayer is that by which we look out of ourselves, and seek help from above. The formalist rests in the deed done, but the believer in Jesus thinks not of his own seekings, but of the objects sought. There is also a gradation of desire expressed in the tèrms. Seeking is somewhat more than asking, and knocking more than seeking. The mind, when properly engaged in this
exercise, increases in its importunity, like his who said, I will not let thee go except thou bless me. .
Observe next, the encouragement afforded us in the exercise. It is wonderful how they are beaped, as it were, one upon another. Here are first promises ; It shall be given you, &c. : next examples ; Every one that usketh receiveth, &c.; and then an appeal to the feelings of a parent, arguing from thence to the compassion of our heavenly Father.
It is of great account in prayer, to lay hold of the promises. It is this constitutes it the prayer of faith. It is true, we may pray for temporal things, which are not specifically promised, provided it be in submission to the will of God, leaving it to his wisdom, to give or to withhold, as seemeth good to him. But even here we must not lose sight of his general promise, to withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly. It is also true that if there were only a possibility of success in matters of salvation, considering the urgency of our case as lost and helpless sinners, we might well supplicate mercy. Such were the reasonings of the four lepers, and of Esther the queen ; but though they have sometimes been applied to the sinner's application for mercy, yet they are not cases in point. We must not compare our heavenly Father to capricious heathens, who might have spurned their supplicants, instead of hearing their petition; nor an application at a mere peradventure, to coming on an invitation, and under a promise of acceptance.
And then, with respect to examples, our Lord directs the attention of his followers to facts. Every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth. This is like challenging them to find an instance of a poor supplicant, perishing at a throne of grace, or of a single petition offered in the faith of Jesus, falling to the ground. Lastly : His appealing to the heart of an earthly parent, and arguing that if we, being evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our heavenly Father give good things to them that ask him; is truly overwhelming. And is it possible after all this, that we should ever feel reluctant to draw near to him? O what must be that alienation of heart, which can