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themselves of all the Affronts and Injuries that have been offered them by all the most railing Rabjhakebs. And therefore it is a Part of Wisdom, to restrain that Wantonness of Wit or Malice, which inclines us to play with Mens Names and Reputations, either in the Way of Calumny, Satire, or Ridicule; for besides the Sin of it, it is much safer and more prudent for our own Interest, to put the best and most candid and charitable Constructions on all our Neighbour's Actipns, assuring our selves, that whenever we do otherwise, we are only laying Snares, which some time or other will entrap our selves. But this is not the worst of it: For,
(2.) The terrible Retribution which shall be made to this Sin in the future Judgment, is a much greater and more terrible Consideration to scare all People from the Comtniffion of it. And this is what I think, is principally meant by this Threatning in my Text: With what Judgment ye judge, ye Jhallbe judged: and with what Measure ye mete, it Jhall be measured to you again; q. d. if ye are so severe and uncharitable to others, ye shall meet with the same Judgment without Mercy, at the Hands of Almighty God; according to that Observation of the Psalmist, Psal. xviii. 25. With the Merciful, thou wilt jhew thy self mercifulwith an upright Man, thou wilt jhew thy self upright; with the pure, thou wilt Jhew thy self pure; and with the Froward thou wilt Jhew thy self froward. Meaning, that God will repay Men in their own Coin; either in this World, or in the World to come. And therefore as many of this, and all fort of Sinners, as die impenitent, without being punished in this Life, we
may may be sure such shall not escape unpunished in in the World to come.
But because some may be apt to think that this Sin of rash judging is so common and trivial, that it is not probable it is of the mortal Kind; I lhall therefore here consider some of the chief Aggravations of it, which, if they were more duly reflected on, Men would change their Opinion of the innocent Nature of this Sin, and count it one of those that is threatned with Damnation.
1. First then, Let us consider, that by this rash judging and condemning of our Neighbour, we invade God's Prerogative. This fort of Judgment belongs properly to Him, and his Vicegerents, the Ecclesiastical and Civil Judges and Magistrates. And to them it belongs only, when the Things judged come to be Overt-acts, well attested and proved, and they are regularly sitting in Judgment upon them, and give the Defendant a full Hearing; which has no Relation to these rash Judgments condemned in my Text. These are Things commonly for which they are answerable only at God's Tribunal; being usually of such Things, as either human Laws have taken no notice; or if they have, that there is 'not sufficient Proof to make them answerable at their Tribunals; or perhaps, the rash Judgment relates to the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart, which are immediately under God's Inspection. And therefore the Apostle's Question, Rom. xiv. 4. Who art thou that judgejl another Man's Servant? is a very proper Reprimand. And as he is only answerable to God, so the Person guilty of this Sin doth rashly likewise anticipate the Time of that answering; God is pleased to wait the proper Time; doth not take Advantage of us upon the first Trip, but gives us time to consider and repent. And certainly this is another Aggravation of this Sin, that we treat our Neighbour more severely than God thinks fit to do. He commands us to judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, 1 Cor. iv. 5. And there is a great deal of Reason why this Hastiness to judge should be avoided. That which we may think a grievous Fall, may be nothing else but some stumbling or staggering; and God is able to make him stand for all that; and will do it too, if he is not wanting to himself in begging and making use of the Grace of God. This the Apostle teaches in that forecited Place, Rom. xiv. 4. To his own Master, says he, he ftandeth orfalleth ; yea, he Jhall be holden up, for God is able to make him stand. Then there are some Things which God has expressly left to himself, as knowing our Insufficiency for such Judgments, and that if we attempted them, we mould do a great deal more Harm than Good; as in the Parable of the Tares, Mat.xiii. 29. The Servants are forbid to gather them up, for a very good Reason, Least while ye gather up the Tares, ye root up also the Wheat with them. Let both grow together until the Harvest: and in the time of Harvest I willsay to the Reapers, Gather ye together first the Tares, and bind them in Bundles to burn them, but gather the Wheat into my Barn. But we being much more forward for this Work of judging and condemning than God, though so ill qualified for it, are for pasting our rash Judgments and Censures at present, and by so doing, as our Saviour foretold, through our Rashness and Unskilful
Ikilfulness, do a great deal of Prejudice to the good Corn it self.
2. Let us consider, That by this rash judging and censuring, we are guilty both of Injustice and Uncharitableness towards our Neighbour. * t It is unjust to usurp a Jurisdiction over others, without lawful Authority. It is unjust to determine in such Causes, the Equity or Iniquity of which depends upon an Inspection into the Heart and Thoughts a Thing of which we are not capable. It is unjust to make so light of one's Reputation and good Name, which is a Thing that all good and wife Men set a great Value upon; and which commonly has a principal Influence in the making or marring one's Fortune in the World.
And as this Practice of rash judging is highly unjust, it is no less uncharitable. The better half of Charity, I think we may safely say, consists in thinking and speaking well of our Neighbour; for the other, of relieving him in his Wants and Necessity, is much more limited both by the Object, the Necessitous being but a small Part of the Whole; and by the Subject, the Narrowness of our own Circumstances. But this other Charity, in thinking and speaking well of our Neighbour, is altogether boundless and unconfined; for as to the Object, it takes in all Men and Women, of whom we have any occasion to think or speak; they are all some how or other Objects capable of this fort of Charity; and then for the Subject, it is altogether inexhaustible. Let us bestow, ever so much of it cn some Objects, we are never , the poorer;
but but have still as much left for others. Now that this censorious judging, and rash condemning of our Neighbour, is inconsistent with that grand Duty of loving our Neighbour as our selves, there cannot be the least doubt. For Charity disposes us to be gentle, meek, patient, kind, and merciful in all our Dealings with our Neighbour; it inclines us to hide and smother, to lessen or excuse, to pass by and pardon our Neighbour's Faults and Failings. Charity seeketh no Mischief; it covereth all Things; it beareth all Things. It regardeth our Neighbour's Credit, Interest, Convenience, and Satisfaction, and all his other Advantages; and therefore will inflict no Censure, will impress no black Character, more than Duty and Necessity do absolutely require. But now the censorious Person in my Text, makes it his Business to do all the Hurt he can to his Neighbour's Reputation and otheV Interests himself; and to stir up as many others as he can to be of the fame Spirit and Temper; and so is in an high Degree answerable for all the bad Effects of Malice and Hatred in them, as well as in himself. And this last is a terrible Aggravation; ,'for suppose he should repent himself, he may endeavour to do Justice to the Person he has injured, by undeceiving those who have been led into Error and Uncharitableness through his means; but how much further the Mischief may have spread through their means, that he misinformed and seduced; and their means that they have seduced; and so on in injinitum} is a most dismal Consideration.