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men as we do from lions and tigers, or else peace will be worse than war: for in war a man may fight for his life; but against false witnesses he hath no defence: but God is the avenger of the innocent, and above most other sins, doth seldom suffer this to go unpunished, even in this present world; but often beginneth their hell on earth, to such perjured instruments of the devil. III. The evil of unrighteous judgments. 1. An unrighteous judge doth condemn the cause of God himself; for every righteous cause is his. 2. Yea, he condemneth Christ himself in his members: for in that he doth it to one of the least of those whom he calleth brethren, he doth it to himself. It is a damnable sin, not to relieve the innocent and imprisoned in their distress, when we have power: what is it then to oppress them and unrighteously condemn ! 3. It is a turning of the remedy into a double misery, and taking away the only help of oppressed innocency. What other defence hath innocency, but law and justice And when their refuge itself doth fall upon them and oppress them, whither shall the righteous fly 3 4. It subverteth laws and government, and abuseth it to destroy the ends which it is appointed for. 5. Thereby it turneth human society into a state of misery, like the depredations of hostility. 6. It is a deliberate, resolved sin, and not done in passion by surprise: it is committed in that place, and in that form as acts of greatest deliberation should be done : as if he should say, ‘Upon full disquisition, evidence, and deliberation, I condemn this person, and his cause.’ 7. All this is done as in the name of God, and by his own commission, by one that pretendeth to be his officer or minister". For the judgment is the Lord's". And how great a wickedness is it thus to blaspheme, and to represent him as satan, an enemy to truth and righteousness, to his servants and himself? As if he had said, “God hath sent me to condemn this cause and person.” If false prophets sin so heinously who belie the Lord, and say, He hath sent us to speak this,” (which is untruth); the sin of false judges cannot be much less. 8. It is sin against the most full and frequent prohibitions of God. Read over Exod. xxiii. 1–3, &c. Lev. Deut. i. 16, 17. xvi. 18. * Rom. iii. 3–6. * 2 Chron. xix. 5–8, 10.
Isa. i. 17. 20. 23. Deut. xxiv. 17. xxvii. 19. “Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, the fatherless, and widow, and all the people shall say Amen.” Ezra vii. 26. Psal. xxxiii. 5. xxxvii. 28. lxxii. 2. xciv. 15. cvi. 3. 30. Prov. xvii. 27. xix. 28. xx. 8. xxix. 4. xxxi. 5. Eccles. v. 8. Isa. v. 7. x. 2. lvi. 1, 2. lix. 14, 15. Jer. v. 1. vii. 5. ix. 24. Ezek. xviii. 8. xlv. 9. Hos. xii. 6. Amos v. 7. 15. 24. vi. 12. Mic. iii. 9. Zech. vii. 9. viii. 16. Gen. xviii. 19. Prov. xxi. 3. 7. 15. I cite not the words to avoid prolixity. Scarce any sin is so oft and vehemently condemned of God. 9. False judges cause the poor to appeal to God against them, and the cries of the afflicted shall not be forgotten “.. 10. They call for God’s judgment upon themselves, and devolve the work into his hands: how can that man expect any other than a judgment of damnation, from the righteous God, who hath deliberately condemned Christ himself in his cause and servants, and sat in judgment to condemn the innocent? “The Lord hath prepared his throne for judgment, and he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness; he will be a refuge for the oppressed".” “He will bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day “.” “Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” “The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed".” In a word, the sentence of an unjust judge is passed against his own soul, and he calleth to God to condemn him righteously, who unrighteously condemneth others. Of all men he cannot stand in judgment, nor abide the righteous doom of Christ. Direct. 11. “When you well understand the greatness of the sin, find out and overcome the root and causes of it in yourselves: especially selfishness, covetousness and passion.” A selfish man careth not what another suffereth, so that his own ends and interest be promoted by it. A covetous man will contend and injure his neighbour whenever his own commodity requireth it. He so much loveth his money, that it can prevail with him to sin against God, and cast away his own soul; much more to hurt and wrong his
c Luke xviii. 5–8. * Psal. ix. 7–9. * Psal. xxxvii. 6. * Psal. lxxxix. 14. & Psal. ciii. 6. cxlvi. 7.
neighbour. A proud and passionate man is so thirsty after revenge, to make others stoop to him, that he careth not what it cost him to accomplish it. Overcome these inward vices, and you may easily forbear the outward sins. Direct. 111. ‘Love your neighbours as yourselves:’ for that is the universal remedy against all injurious and uncharitable undertakings. Direct. 1 v. ‘Keep a tender conscience, which will not make light of sin.” It is those that have seared their consciences by infidelity or a course of sinning, who dare venture with Judas or Gehazi for the prey, and dare oppress the poor and innocent, and feel not, nor fear, whilst they cast themselves on the revenge of God. Direct. v. “Remember the day when all these causes must be heard again, and the righteous God will set all straight, and vindicate the cause of the oppressed.’ Consider what a dreadful appearance that man is like to have at the bar of heaven, who hath falsely accused or condemned the just in the courts of men. What a terrible indictment, accusation, conviction and sentence must that man expect! If the hearing of righteousness and the judgment to come made Felix tremble, surely it is infidelity or the plague of a stupified heart, which keepeth contentious persons, perverters of justice, false witnesses and unjust judges from trembling. o Direct. vi. “Remember the presence of that God who must be your final judge.” That he seeth all your pride and covetousness, and all your secret contrivances for revenge, and is privy to all your deceits and injuries. You commit them in his open sight. Direct. v11. ‘Meddle not with lawsuits till you have of. fered an equal arbitration of indifferent men, or used all possible means of love to prevent them ' Lawsuits are not the first, but the last remedy. Try all others before you use them. Direct. vi.11. “When you must needs go to law, compose your minds to unfeigned love towards him that you must contend with, and watch over your hearts with suspicion and the strictest care, lest secret disaffection get advantage by it: and go to your neighbour, and labour to possess his heart also with love, and to demulce his mind; that you may wO L. W. i. C C
not use the courts of justice, as soldiers do their weapons, to do the worst they can against another, as an enemy; but as loving friends do use an amicable arbitration; resolving contentedly to stand to what the judge determineth, without any alienation of mind, or abatement of brotherly love.” Direct. Ix. ‘Be not too confident of the righteousness of your own cause; but ask counsel of some understanding, godly, and impartial men; and hear all that can be said, and patiently consider of the case, and do as you would have others do by you.’ Direct. x. ‘ Observe what terrors of conscience use to haunt awakened sinners, especially on a death-bed, for such sins as false witnessing, and false judging, and oppressing, and injuring the innocent, even above most other sins.'
Cases of Conscience, and Directions against Backbiting, Slandering and Evil Speaking.
Tit. 1. Cases of Conscience about Backbiting and Evil Speaking.
Quest. 1. ‘MAY I not speak evil of that which is evil? and call every one truly as he is o' Answ. You must not speak a known falsehood of any man under pretence of charity or speaking well. But you are not to speak all the evil of every man which is true: as opening the faults of the king or your parents, though never so truly, is a sin against the fifth commandment, “Honour thy father and mother:” so if you do it without a call, you sin against your neighbour's honour, and many other ways offend. Quest. 11. “Is it not sinful silence, and a consenting to, or countenancing of the sins of others, to say nothing against them, as tender of their honour?” Answ. It is sinful to be silent when you have a call to speak: if you forbear to admonish the offender in love between him and you, when you have opportunity and just cause, it is sinful to be silent then. But to silence backbiting is no sin. If you must be guilty of every man's sin that you talk not against behind his back, your whole discourse must be nothing but backbiting. Quest. 111. ‘May I not speak that which honest, religious, credible persons do report?' Answ. Not without both a sufficient evidence, and a sufficient call. You must not judge of the action by the person, but of the person by the action. Nor must you imitate any man in evil doing. If a good man abuse you, are you willing that all men follow him and abuse you more ? Quest. Iv. ‘May I believe the bad report of an honest, credible person?' Answ. You must first consider whether you may hear it, or meddle with it: for if it be a case that you have nothing to do with, you may not set your judgment to it, either to believe it, or to disbelieve it. And if it be a thing that you are called to judge of, yet every honest man's word is not presently to be believed : you must first know whether it be a thing that he saw, or is certain of himself, or a thing which he only taketh upon report: and what his evidence and proof is ; and whether he be not engaged by interest, passion, or any difference of opinion : or be not engaged in some contrary faction, where the interest of a party or cause is his temptation : or whether he be not used to rash reports and uncharitable speeches: and what concurrence of testimonies there is, and what is said on the other side: especially what the person accused saith in his own defence. If it be so heinous a crime in public judgment, to pass sentence before both parties are heard, and to condemn a man before he speak for himself; it cannot be justifiable in private judgment. Would you be willing yourselves that all should be believed of you, which is spoken by any honest man? And how uncertain are we of other men's honesty, that we should on that account think ill of others! Quest. v. ‘May I not speak evil of them that are enemies to God, to religion and godliness, and are open persecutors of it; or are enemies to the king or church 2’ Answ. You may on all meet occasions speak evil of the sin; and of the persons when you have a just call; but not at your own pleasure.