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UR Saviour's design in this paragraph, is the same with most of the foregoing, to correct the Jewish misinterpretations of the moral law. They found there a

command to *rebuke their brethren, and not to suffer fin upon them. From hence that proud, ill-natur'd people took the liberty of censuring one another with the utmost rigour; hoping by their affected strictness in condemning what was ill in others, the better to conceal their own vices. Thus we meet with a Pharisee censuring his neighbour, even in his prayers to God, + God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. This and some other mistakes in the duty of reproof, our Saviour here endeavours to rectify, as though he should fay,

“ Be not rash and severe in your censures. Do « not readily give ear to every malicious story, nor “ be apt your selves to surmise the worst of other “ people's actions, left ye provoke both God and man,

to use you in proportion as ye have done your “ neighbour: For ye must expect from the justice 6 of God to be judged with the like candor or “ rigour ye have Phewn to others; and such is the

common method of proceeding amongst men, « that whosoever gives no quarter, mult expect

none. But especially it is unreasonable for those, “ who are guilty of gross and scandalous fins, (which 6 often is the case) demurely to correct, reprove, “ and exclaim against others for faults of little

concern, and hardly worth the notice: He who " would reform another, must begin with himself, " that it may appear he reproves not out of a cen« forious humour, but from a real aversion to every

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* Lev, xix. 17.

† Luke xviii. 51

" thing that is evil, and a real charity to the of“ fender, and that he may set about it with dis“ cretion, and perform it with a decent authority. “ Nor is reproof always proper, we must distin“ guish between such persons as are, and such as are " not likely to be amended by it. Some men are so “incorrigible, that it would be cast away upon “ them, like holy things thrown to dogs, and pearls " to swine. Nay, perhaps they may rather be 66 made worse than better by it, not only despif6 ing but abusing both your advice and your chac rity. And in this case you will only expose your “ self, instead of reforming them.

In explaining of this paragraph, a little farther, let us consider more distinctly,

1. What sort of judging is here forbidden us? II. The necessity of amending our own lives,

in order to the reforming of others. III. The meaning of this advice, of not at

tempting reproof where it is not likely to have

a good effect. I. WHAT sort of judging is here forbidden us : Were not reproof a duty incumbent upon every private Christian, as occasion requires, I Thould not take these words to be a prohibition of rash and sea vere censuring only, but of meddling at all with other mens matters; and indeed when we do cenfure men, tho' never fo justly, without designing them or religion any service by it, but only the gratifying our own malicious temper, we certainly of fend against this precept. But beside the necessity of a good intention, as the ground or only reasonable pretence of all censuring of others, we must take care that our cenfures be not rash and severe, for such they are, if we either,

(1.) GIVE (1.) GIVE credit to every thing that can be said ill of a man. There is not that story which can be invented to the disreputation of another, though never so groundless and improbable, (nay, I may say almost impossible) but some will greedily receive and swallow it. 'Tis an ill-natur'd easiness of belief these people are guilty of: The case is otherwife, when any thing is told (whether false or true) to the advantage of a man: For then how difficult is the credit, how lazily does it circulate? But these fame persons, who are cautious enough of being imposed upon by a lie in other matters, as thinking it a reflection upon their judgments, hardly ever question the truth of a defamation; and look upon it as a sufficient excuse, not only for believing, but reporting the most egregious falíhoods of this kind, that indeed they heard so. They may deceive themselves and others, with a pretended detestation of the offence, and concern for the offender, but it really proceeds from a pride of raising their own reputation, by the ruin of another's. And this vanity is an encouragement to envious and malicious people, to invent lies of their neighbours, because they know that most men are very ready to believe and hearken to such stories. This is certainly one instance of rash judging. Another is,

(2.) WHEŇ we judge men to be wicked, because they are unfortunate, because it has pleas'd'God to afflict them with some calamity. This was the error of Job's friends, from which that upright man endeavours to free them, by shewing them to be to blame in condemning a man's innocency by his afflictions. And if it was a great crime in them at that time, it is much worse now a-days in Christians, yet is there no practice more common. Some are so given to this kind of censure, that they cannot hear of any, the least loss, befallen a neighbour, but they presently suspect the person guilty

of

of some crime, for which they tell you this is a judgment of God upon him. But St. Paul tells us, that * whom the Lord loveth he chastneth, and Scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. The revelation of a future judgment, and of rewards and punishments in another life, makes this barbarous custom, of adding to peoples afflictions, very unreasonable, and an instance of rajh judging. 'Another is,

(3.) When we make the worst of every thing, which is really sinful in mens actions, or believe an offender to be worse than he really is, when we condemn him as for an habit only for a single act of sin: For certainly tho' one profane oath discharged in passion, or however else, and the being once drunk, is sin, and calls for a deep repentance before God; yet is not a man for one, or perhaps two or three acts of these, committed in his whole life, to be esteemed a common fwearer, or drunkard. If these offences be against the general couríc and bent of his life, 'tis very uncharitable to rank him hereupon amongit scandalous and habitual finners. In like manner, when we magnify a fault above its true nature and degree, when we affect to blacken any wicked act, with more aggravations than can be fairly gathered from the circumstances of it: Or when, because a man lives in the practice of some vices, we presume him guilty of every ill thing our uncharitable suspicion may suggest against him: Or when, because a man has been notoriously bad, we conclude him always so, and are unwilling to suppose he either has repented, or will or may repent. And as reducible to this head, when we pretend to judge of the eternal state and condition of persons deceased, without any good assurance, which ’tis very hard, and in most cases impoflible

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for us to have, that they did not truly repent before death, and are not received to mercy. In all these instances we are guilty of rash judging. And fo we are,

(4.) When we censure and condemn as evil, an action that is really in its own nature indifferent, and may be either good or bad, as circumstances (probably unknown, or at least not consider'd by us) may determine it. It may perhaps be somewhat that borders too near upon evil, or is easily abused to evil; but is not evil in the nature of the thing, and therefore capable of two interpretations. To instance only in keeping company, gaming, dreffing, dancing (and there are many others of this kind) which may be innocent diversions; or they may be crimes, according as they are used to good, or abused to ill purposes, the regularity, or the milbehaviour in them, or according to the time we fpend upon them.

To judge favourably of these, when circumstances and effects do make them criminal, is indeed to encourage vanity and vice: But on the other hand, to censure them as evil, tho' such effects and circumstances do not appear to render them fo, is rafh and fevere judging, moroseness and ill nature, not religion. Or,

7:) When we suspect a good action of hypocrify. By good actions, I here mean not only such as are materially good; as the practice of family prayer, frequenting the Church, receiving the facrament, giving liberally to the poor; and, in a word, all works of piety, charity, justice, and temperance ; but these works attended also with such circumftances, that to a candid and unprejudic'd judgment, they appear formally and really good; and this

, or the other man whom we would censure, seems to do them from an inward principle of conscience and fincerity; nothing appearing to the contrary either

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