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whom yet we discern, by standing in a nearer light, not to be truly such, having had opportunity to know his bad qualities, bad purposes, or bad deeds; yet wisdom would commonly dictate, and goodness dispose not to mar his repute. If we should observe, without danger of mistake, any plausible action to be performed out of bad inclinations, principles, or designs; yet ordinarily in discretion and honesty we should let it pass with such commendation as its appearance may procure, rather than to slur it by venting our disadvantageous apprehensions about it: for it is no great harm that any man should enjoy undeserved commendation, or that a counterfeit worth should find à dissembled respect; it is but being over-just, which if it be ever a fault, can hardly be so in this case, wherein we do not expend any cost, or suffer any damage : but it may do mischief to blemish an appearance of virtue ; it may
thereto to deface its very image; the very disclosing hypocrisy doth inflict a wound on goodness, and exposeth it to scandal; for bad men thence will be prone to infer that all virtue proceedeth from the like bad principles : so the disgrace cast on that which is spurious will redound to the prejudice of that which is most genuine : and if it be good to forbear detracting from that which is certainly false, much more is it so in regard to that which is possibly true; and far more still is it so in respect to that which is clear and sure.
2. Hence detraction is very noxious and baneful to all society; for all society is maintained in welfare by encouragement of honesty and industry; the which, when disparagement is cast on them, will be in danger to languish and decay: whence a detractor is the worst member that can be of a society; he is a very moth, a very canker therein.
3. Detraction worketh real damage and mischief to our neighbor; it bereaveth him of that goodly reputation which is the proper reward of virtue, and a main support to the practice of it; it often really obstructeth and disappointeth his undertakings, estranging those from him, or setting them against him, who do credulously entertain it.
4. The detractor abuseth those into whose ears he instilleth his poisonous suggestions, engaging them to partake in the injuries done to worth and virtue; causing them to entertain
unjust and uncharitable conceits, to practise unseemly and unworthy bebavior toward good men.
5. The detractor produceth great inconveniences and mischiefs to himself.
He raiseth against himself fierce animosity and wrath : for men that are conscious to themselves of their own honest meaning and blameless proceedings, cannot endure to be abused by unjust disparagement; hence are they stirred to boil with passion, and to discharge revenge on the detractor.
He exposeth himself to general hatred; all good men loathe him as a base and mischievous person, and a particular enemy of theirs, always ready to wrong them; every man is apt to say, he that doth thus abuse another will be ready to serve me in like manner if I chance to come in his way, vilifying the best thing I can do : even the worst men will dislike him ; for even such affect to do somewhat laudable or plausible, and would be glad to enjoy approbation for it; and cannot therefore brook those who lie in wait to rob them of the fruit of their good endeavors : so do all men worthily detest and shun the detractor, as a common enemy to goodness first, and then unto men. Farther,
6. The detractor yieldeth occasion to others, and a kind of right to return the same measure on him. If he hath in him a show of
any thing laudable, men will not allow him any commendation from it: for why, conceive they, shall he receive that which he will not suffer others to enjoy? How can any man admit bim to have any real worth or virtue in himself who doth not like it or treat it well in another ? Hence, if a detractor hath any good in him, he much injureth himself, depriving himself of all the respect belonging thereto.
7. Again the detractor, esteeming things according to moral possibility, will assuredly be defeated in his aims; his detraction in the close will avail nothing, but to bring trouble and shame on himself: for God hath a particular care over innocence and goodness, so as not to let them finally to suffer : the
good man's righteousness he will bring forth as the light, and his judgment as the noon day.' Wise men easily will discern the foul play, and will scorn it ; good men ever will be ready to clear and vindicate the truth ; worth, however clouded for a
time, will break through all mists, and gloriously expand itself, to the confusion of its most sly opposers.
Such are the natural and obvious effects of this practice; the consideration whereof (together with the causes producing it, and the essential adjuncts which it did involve) will, I should think, suffice to deter us from it.
I shall only adjoin one consideration, which our text suggesteth : Speak not evil of one another, brethren,' saith the Apostle : brethren ;' that appellation doth imply a strong argument enforcing the precept: brethren, with especial tenderness of affection, should love one another, and delight in each other's good; they should tender the interest and honor of each other as their own; they should therefore by all means cherish and countenance virtue in one another, as that which promoteth the common welfare, which adorneth and illustrateth the dignity of their family. We should rejoice in the good qualities and worthy deeds of any Christian, as glorifying our common Father, as gracing our common profession, as edifying the common body, whereof we are members. • Members we are one of another,' and as such should find complacence in the health and vigor of any part, from whence the whole doth receive benefit and comfort: for one brother to repine at the welfare, to malign the prosperity, to decry the merit, to destroy the reputation of another, is very unnatural; for one Christian anywise to wrong or prejudice another is highly impious.
To conclude: it is our duty (which equity, which ingenuity, which charity, which piety do all concurrently oblige us to,) whenever we do see any good person, or worthy deed, to yield hearty esteem, to pay due respect, gladly to congratulate the person, and willingly to commend the work; rendering withal thanks and praise for them to the donor of all good gifts :' unto whom, for all the good things bestowed on us, and on all his creatures, be for ever all glory and praise. Amen.
Previous remarks on the precept in the text, its use and consequences: endeavor to describe the nature of the practice thus forbidden; declaration of its iniquity and folly.
Judge not. As to the word, though according to its primitive sense it is of a middle and indifferent signification, yet it is frequently used in Scripture in the worst sense, so as to import those acts or effects of judgment, which are to the disadvantage of those that are subjected to it: this sense may be given to the word here, though without excluding somewhat of the larger meaning. But for the clearer understanding of the matter, it must be observed that there are divers sorts of judging, or acts resembling judgment, which do not belong to this precept: these enumerated; as, 1. public judgment, or the administration of justice, is not here prohibited, without which society could not subsist: 2. neither trial and censure, although out of court, which superiors exercise over inferiors committed to their care: 3. nor paternal correption and friendly reproof, with charitable design and on clear grounds: 4. nor all observation and reflexion on our neighbor's actions, and expression of our opinion about them : 5. we are not hence obliged to think so well of all men, as without competent knowledge to rely on their pretences, and intrust our interest in their hands : 6. nor are we hence obliged, in contradiction to plain sense, to judge well of men, accounting him a good man whom we see living contrary to the rules of piety, justice, or sobriety.
These sorts of allowable judgment being excepted, it is private, needless, groundless and harsh censure of persons or actions that is interdicted : nor can we perhaps better understand our duty in this matter, than by considering what are the properties and obligations of a judge, and comparing our practice thereto.
1. No judge should intrude himself into the office, or assume a judicial power without competent authority; in which condition we fail, when, without warrant from God, or special reason exacting it from us, we pry into and tax the actions of our neighbor: topic enlarged on.
2. A judge should be free from all prejudices and partial affections, especially such as incline him to condemnation : and if this rule were copied, there would be but little censuring, since few blame others without some preoccupation or disaffection towards them.
3. A judge should never proceed in judgment without a careful examination of the cause : this caution, as it excludes all rash judgment, would quietly diminish the practice pointed at in the text.
4. A judge should never pronounce final sentence but on good grounds, after certain proof, and on full conviction. If this rule were regarded, how many censures would be prevented ?
5. Hence it is plainly consequent, that there are divers causes wholly exempted from our judgment, such as are the secret thoughts and purposes of men, not declared by words or overt acts; and this would prevent innumerable rash judgments.
6. Hence also it is not commonly allowable to judge concerning the state, present or final, of our neighbor in regard to God; and this, if duly considered, would cut off many bard thoughts and harsh words.
7. A judge should not undertake to proceed against any man, without warning and citing him to appear, nor without affording him competent liberty and opportunity to defend