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producing grievous inconveniences and mischiefs, especially to the practiser of it.
It signifieth that we do not well understand or not well consider the natural impotency and frailty of mankind; how liable others are to mistake and slip, and how prone we ourselves are thereto; how, as St. James saith, “in many things we offend all;' did we observe, or would weigh this, we should not be so forward to censure, or so vehenient and bitter in it; we should see failing and tripping in many things to be a common case, rather demanding commiseration than censure.
It implieth also that we little consider how our escaping any faults, which our neighbor slippeth into, is nowise imputable to any worth or virtue in us, so much as the good providence and merciful grace of God, guarding or rescuing us from them; if we did apprehend and reflect on this, it would appear our duty rather to bless God for our being protected from miscarriages, than censoriously to insult over those who seem to fall into
It signifieth we have no sight or sense of our own defects; for did we clearly see, did we humbly resent them, that would damp our heat and earnestness to censure. It declares a fond self-conceit, that we deem ourselves superior to our neighbor in wisdom, and less obnoxious to blame, and therefore fit to be his judges; whereas, according to a sober esteem of ourselves, we should appear more fit to stand at the bar than to sit on the bench; and should thence more dread the one than affect the other.
It showeth likewise that we do not rightly conceive the nature, or worthily esteem the consequences of this practice: we know not, or regard not, the value of our neighbor's reputation, which by censure we do mean to ruin or impair: we perhaps by no means would rob him of his substance, or of his life; yet we scruple not by grievous censure to bereave him of his good name; which he, the best prizer of his own goods, may esteem beyond his estate or his life itself: we think it nothing, or a slight matter to carp at him; but he feeleth it very painful, and deeply resenteth it.
It argueth in us an untamed fierceness of mind and discomposedness of passion, which can never consist or cohabit with
wisdom; for a well-ordered, calm, and free mind will be slow in conceiving offence or dislike, moderate in estimating things, reserved in expressing its sentiments, not easily transported into extremity or excess; it consequently hardly will suffer a man to break forth into rash or harsh censure. So many signs and arguments of incogitancy and blindness this practice doth involve.
5. Farthermore, this practice will produce many great inconveniences and mischiefs to us.
1. We do thereby provoke, and in a sort authorise others to requite us in the same kind : for nothing more doth excite the indignation, doth inflame the anger, doth ingender the hatred of men toward us, than being pragmatical in finding fault, and hasty to censure their doings causelessly or immoderately ; nothing seeming to them a more certain argument that we bear them ill will, or do contemn them; and if we so vex them, they will in requital be as ready, by finding or making faults in us, to vex and trouble us; it engageth their care, and quickeneth their industry, and whetteth their invention to observe or devise matter of recrimination. Men think it not only lawful, but even needful for them, in their own defence, to disparage the censurer, that his judgment may have the less weight to their prejudice : so that it will infallibly come on us, as our Lord warneth, using it as an argument to dissuade us from this practice, that, with what judgment we judge, we shall be judged; and with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us again.' Men take it for allowable to retaliate in this way to the height, and stoutly to load the censorious man with censure.
2. We do by this practice not only expose ourselves to censure, but implicitly, and according to ready consequence, do pass it on ourselves, seeing we seldom, in kind or equivalently, are ourselves clear of that which we charge on others; with our own weapon of sharp censure, we through another's side do imprudently wound ourselves; and often, as David did in his parley with Nathan, adjudge ourselves to capital punishment; so that to any censorious person it may be said, in St. Paul's words, Wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.'
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, M) orerázere kar'
' άλλήλων. • 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 out motes 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 ceusorious 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 owu 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.