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was a stranger, and ye took me not in;" &c (Mat. xxv.)
Now, ignorant and bigoted men have inferred from these and similar texts, that we must be saved by our works ; than which, no doctrine is more contrary to the whole tenour of scripture. These passages do indeed enforce the necessity of good works, but they by no means encourage us to rely upon them for justification. It must be remembered that we are composed of two principles; the spirit and the flesh; and as these two principles are essentially different from each other, some texts are adapted only to the former, teaching us how we must live in'the spirit, and deal with God by faith alone ; other passages teach us only how we should live in the flesh, and regulate our outward conduct in the world; of which sort are the texts above quoted.
If it be asked, why we should be perplexed in reading the word of God, with passages that appear contradictory to each other, as those we have mentioned may seem to some 1 I answer, that they only appear so on slight examination ; which is an advantage rather than a' hinderance; as it will lead men to reflect and examine more attentively, and likewise prevent them from imagining that they are perfectly acquainted with the scriptures, while as yet they are almost wholly ignorant of their true import. Ye should therefore endeavour to become well acquainted with the language of scripture, that ye may not apply to the spirit, that which is spoken only of the flesh; and thus confound the office of faith with that of works: for works are only commendable when they benefit our neighbours, and are the fruits and evidence of faith; but we must by no means rely upon them for justification.
I have made this digression in order to show the. proper office of works, lest I should seem to confirm the doctrine of the papists, who think they shall be saved thereby. We will now resume the subject of the text. is the judging of the righteousness or unrighteousness of our neighbour; which judgement belongeth onlj to God. The Lord knoweth all things, even the most secret thoughts of our hearts, and is therefore capable of judging righteously. But the knowledge of man is extremely limited, and confined to external appearances; which are oftentimes a very improper criterion. Besides, we are extremely liable to be blinded by prejudice, and to endeavour to pluck the mote out of our brother's eye, while there is a beam in our own. Although a man may have committed many faults, it is possible that he hath repented; and surely, we have no right to impute sin to any whom God hath forgiven. Let no man, therefore, presume to judge of the righteousness or unrighteousness of his neighbour; for in so doing, he assumeth the office of God, and is accounted more guilty than the thief or adulterer. emolument thereby. As ignorance and confidence are always companions, such persons esteem themselves better and wiser than the rest of mankind, and therefore assume the province of judging and directing others.
We have already briefly considered the words, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful; and on this part of the text little more need be said at present, as Christ himself hath given the interpretation thereof in the words which follow: to which I shall now direct your attention.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged : condemn not, ■and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given you. Here the .Lord maketh three divisions of mercy, in order that we may know what kind of mercy we are required to exercise toward our neighbour. In the first place; we are forbidden to judge or condemn; secondly, we are commanded to forgive our neighbour if he hath committed aught against us: and lastly, it is enjoined upon us to assist the needy. If we carefully observe, we shall discover that the word mercy, wherever it is found in the scripture, includeth these three offices; all of which should proceed from a sincere heart, without ostentation, hypocrisy, or respect of persons.
At present, we will attend to the first of these divisions of mercy: viz. that which forbiddeth us to judge or condemn. Christ hath no reference here to the judging of public crimes, for this belongs to the civil magistrate, who is appointed for that purpose, and is amenable to God, and to the laws of his country, if he judge unjustly. All judgements of this kind pertaineth not to the kingdom of Christ, but to earthly government; for God hath left the worldly affairs of men to be decided by worldly judges: as is evinced by his answer to him who desired that he would command his brother to divide the inheritance with him: "Man, who made me a judge, or a divider over you." Luke xii. 14.
But that which Christ hath forbidden in the text,
Many persons delight in publishing the faults of their neighbours, and in putting the worst construction upon their conduct. Such persons will often misrepresent circumstances, and magnify a trifling errour into an enormous crime. Although they^nay not do the same things themselves, yet they rejoice that others are guilty of them, that they may be esteemed more righteous than their neighbours. However, it often happeneth that they do secretly commit far greater offences than those of which they accuse others. But a truly good man will endeavour to hide the failings of his neighbour, while he examines with the closest scrutiny into his own motives and actions. He will cast the mantle of charity over the frailties of human nature, and interpret every thing in the most favourable manner. If his brother commit sin, instead of rejoicing at it, and Mishing it to the world, he will endeavour to rein him; and will pray to God for him, that he j repent, and receive forgiveness. This is true
Christianity; this is that mercy which the gospel inculcateth, and which it is our indispensable duty to show to our neighbour : for it is certain, be we ever so merciful, we shall never equal the mercy which God has manifested toward us, miserable and wretched sinners.
Of those that judge others, Christ speaketh thus in the text: "Can the blind lead the blind 1 shall they not both fall into the ditch 1 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye 1 Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in. thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye 1 Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother's eye."
The meaning of this parable is, that men who are wicked and ignorant themselves, will often attempt to instruct and direct others; whom they will make like unto themselves; for as Christ saith, "the disciple is not above his master." It is, moreover, a common proverb, that a pupil cannot learn more of a tutor, than he knoweth himself; wherefore, those who are led by such blind guides, will most certainly fall into the ditch. It however commonly happeneth that those who have the least godliness, and are most ignorant of the truths of the gospel, are the most forward to judge and instruct others. For those who are best acquainted with the doctrine of the scriptures, know that there are many things of difficult interpretation; and if they are sincere, they will be diffident and cautious, lest they should teach that which is contrary to the word of God. But those who are wicked themselves, care not how bad they make others, if they can -obtain honour and
Of such ignorant and blind guides, who exak themselves above others, and even think their counsel ought to be followed rather than the word of God, Paul thus speaketh, Romans ii. "Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law, and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructer of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law: thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest, a man should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest, a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery 1 thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege f thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law, dishonourest thou God V
In this passage, the apostle very justly reproveth those boasting hypocrites, who being themselves ignorant of the way, presume to lead others, that they may destroy them also. In the beginning of the same chapter, he denounceth those who judge their neighbours: and especially those that condemn others for the same faults which they commit themselves: "Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest: for wherein thott judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest, doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgement of God is according to truth, against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do