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3. We do by censuring others aggravate our own faults, and deprive them of excuse, and render ourselves uncapable of mercy and pardon: for of all men, he that is forward and prone to censure, who is rigorous and severe in judging others, deserveth no favor, nor can reasonably pretend thereto. • Inexcusable,' saith St. Paul, art thou, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest;' for, thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?' and, Mǹ orerážete кar' ἀλλήλων. Do not,' saith St. James, moanfully complain one against another, lest you be condemned;' and, He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy' in his judgment, saith the same Apostle. Which passages imply, that to be unmerciful in this kind, will expose us to the severity of judgment in regard to our offences; or, that if we deal harshly with our brethren now, God will then proceed the more severely toward us, when our great cause doth come under trial.
4. Indeed censuring others is an argument that we do little mind our own case, or consider to what a dreadful judgment we do stand obnoxious: did we think of that, we should see cause rather to employ our leisure and care in stating our own accounts, than in examining those of others; more advisable it would appear to mind our own case, than to busy ourselves in canvassing and determining the state of our neighbor, finding what great need our actions will have in that day of favorable construction and merciful allowance, we should become candid and mild in reflecting on the actions of others; we should not be forward to carp at any thing, we should scarce have the heart to condemn any man; this St. Paul seemeth to imply, when he thus argueth: Why dost thou judge thy brother, or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? We shall all stand at the judgment-seat of Christ' that is, why do any of us judge others, seeing we must all be judged ourselves? It is not seemly, it is not expedient for those who soon must be arraigned, and put to answer for themselves, to be busy in questioning and prejudging others; but rather to spend their care and pains in preparing for their own account.
5. Nothing indeed more causeth us to neglect our own case,
nothing more engageth us to leave our own faults unobserved and uncorrected, than this humor. It is easy to observe that as they who are most sparing and gentle in censure are usually most exempt from blame, (for that carefully reflecting on their own infirmities and defects, spending their heat and activity of spirit on amending their own errors and faults, they have less time, less concernment, less mind to search out and scan the imperfections and misdemeanors of others; they do find less reason also, and therefore have less will to be fierce or severe toward them,) so the most censorious are usually the most stupid in discerning, and most careless in retrenching their own faults. And needs it must be so, for the actions of other men devour their leisure, take up the intention of their spirits, employ the keenness of their passions on them, so that they cannot and will not attend to themselves; they are so much abroad, they are so very busy otherwhere, that they little know or care what is done at home; while they are spying' and pulling outmotes from their brother's eye,' they " consider not the beam that is in their own eye,' although never so gross and obvious.
6. Hence, I say, it is that commonly the best men are the most candid and gentle, and they are most apt to blame others who deserve worse themselves; that the sharpest tongues and foulest lives do usually go together; that they who are the strictest judges of their own are the fairest interpreters of other men's actions; and they who will least pardon others do most excuse themselves; that they who are strangely acute in descrying other men's faults are stark blind in discerning their own. Our Saviour therefore chargeth such persons with hypocrisy; Thou hypocrite; first cast the beam out of thine own eye;' implying, that they do but falsely pretend a respect for goodness and zeal against sin, seeing in their own practice they indulge it; that it is indeed rather pride, peevishness, idleness, spleen, or selfish design that acteth them.
7. In fine, the censorious humor, as it argueth ill nature to be predominant, (a vulturous nature, which easily smelleth out, and hastily flieth toward, and greedily feedeth on carrion,) as it signifieth bad conscience; for he that knoweth evil of himself is most prone to suspect, and most quick to pronounce ill
concerning others, so it breedeth and fostereth such ill dispositions; it debaucheth the minds of men, rendering them dim and doltish in apprehending their own faults, negligent and heedless in regard to their own hearts and ways; apt to please and comfort themselves in the evils, real or imaginary, of their neighbors; which to do is a very barbarous and brutish practice.
These considerations may, I hope, suffice to persuade the observance of this precept, by the help of God's grace, to which I commend you, and conclude.
Now the God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XXI.
I THESSALONIANS, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
IN the matter before us, duty and offence are on the confines of each other, and the difference is almost imperceptible. St. Paul here bids us to be studious of quiet; elsewhere he enjoins us to be earnestly active; here, to mind our own affairs; elsewhere, to look not only to our own things, but also to the things of others: Phil. ii. 4. Farther observations on this point. How then shall we reconcile these things? how, in the case before us, separate the bounds of duty and blame? It is difficult to do so precisely, and with distinctions that shall reach all cases. The endeavor however is made, and some rules and directions proposed for the regulation of our intercourse with others. First, the terms are considered in which the precept is couched.
Study: the word (pıλoriμetotal) signifies to be ambitious, that is, to affect quiet with as much vehemency of desire as men are wont to pursue fame, dignity, and power.
To be quiet: this signifies not a physical but a moral rest; not a total forbearance of action, or drowsy listlessness, but a calm, regular, steady way of proceeding, within the bounds prescribed by justice, charity, and modesty.
To do our own business, signifies to do things proper and pertinent to us; things which suit our condition or vocation; whereby we may discharge our own duties, supply our own needs, and benefit, or at least avoid troubling others. The text therefore, as it implies an obligation lying on us to be industrious in our own calling, so it is chiefly designed to prohibit
our meddling with the concerns of others: but how to settle the limits of these two duties, is the difficult task to be encountered. The method observed is as follows: first, some cases are brought forward in which it is allowable or commendable to meddle with the affairs of others; next some general rules are propounded, according to which such meddling is commonly blameable; then some directions are assigned which are proper to the chief and most obvious kinds of meddling; and, lastly, some considerations are offered to dissuade men from this pragmatical humor.
1. Superiors may intermeddle with the business of their inferiors, who are subject to their charge, in all matters relating to the needful execution of their office instances of magistrates, parents, pastors, &c.
2. In any case wherein the honor of God is much concerned, we may interpose in vindication and maintenance of it: this enlarged on.
3. When the public weal and safety are manifestly concerned, we may also intermeddle to support or secure them this also enlarged on.
4. We may also meddle for the succor of right against palpable outrage and wrong: for example, we may help an honest man against a thief, &c.: example of Moses, Acts vii. 24.
5. We may likewise meddle with the proceedings of others when our own just defence requires it: this is indeed but doing our own business.
6. When the life or welfare, either spiritual or temporal, of our neighbor is deeply concerned, and cannot be supported or relieved but by our aid, we may lawfully interpose to yield it this enlarged on.
7. In fine, if any signal opportunity of doing our neighbor considerable good, especially to his soul, offers itself, we should even in charity embrace it; and we may then obtrude on him our direction and advice.