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recoverable even by the grace of God: yea God himself is hardly spared, his providence coming under the bold obloquy of those, who, as the psalmist speaketh of some in his time, whose race doth yet survive, speak loftily, and set their mouth against the heavens.'
This being too apparently the present state of things, and obvious practice of men, it were desirable that, in order to their being reclaimed, men commonly did well understand the nature of this practice, with the heinous guilt, and consequently the deadly hazard they do incur thereby at this purpose my discourse shall aim, wherein I shall endeavor both to describe the nature of the practice forbidden in my text, and to declare the pravity, iniquity, and folly of it.
Judge not.' As to the word, we may observe that it being in itself according to its primitive sense of a middle and indifferent signification, is yet frequently in the Scripture used in the worst sense: so as to import those acts or those effects of judgment, which pass to the disadvantage of the persons subjected thereto; for condemnation, and for infliction of punishment and this sense here surely the word doth principally respect, yet not so precisely as to exclude somewhat contained in the larger sense we are so prohibited the condemning and punishing our neighbor in his good name, that withal some acts antecedent or concomitant to those, are glanced at in the prohibition undue application thereto, unjust proceeding therein are also signified unlawful; for the meaning of the word and the reason of the case may be so far extended.
But for the fuller and clearer understanding of the matter, we must observe that there are divers sorts of judging, or acts resembling judgment, which do not belong to this precept; which it is requisite to distinguish from this judging prohibited.
1. That exercising public judgment, or administering justice, is not here prohibited, I need not to insist, that is necessary; human society could not subsist, right could not be maintained, nor peace preserved without it; God thereby governeth the world, earthly judges being his instruments and substitutes; such judgment is not so much the act of men, as of God himself, by whose authority, in whose name, for whose service it is ministered. As Moses told the judges in his time, 'You shall
not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's.' And in numberless places of Scripture this judgment is allowed and authorised; it therefore is not touched here.
2. That trial and censure, although out of court, and without formal process, which any kind of superiors do exercise on their inferiors, committed to their inspection and care; such as of parents over children, masters over servants, pastors over their flock, any governors over their charge, their admonitions, reprehensions, and corrections are to be excepted hence, as being in themselves needful and warranted, yea enjoined by God.
3. Neither are fraternal correption or friendly reproof, proceeding out of charitable design, on clear ground, in fit season, within reasonable compass, concerned in this prohibition; this being a wholesome practice, and a duty incumbent on us : 'Thou shalt,' saith the law, not hate thy brother in thine heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin on him.'
4. All observing and reflecting on our neighbor's actions, all framing an opinion about them, and expressing our minds concerning them are not forbidden. For we are not bound perpetually to shut our eyes, or go about hood-winked; nor to stop our ears and make ourselves deaf; and how can we forbear to think according to plain evidence? how can we resist the impressions of sense on our minds? how can we contest notorious experience? how also, barring such apprehensions of obvious and apparent things, could we bear testimony concerning them? how could we signify our approbation or dislike of them? how could we for his amendment admonish or reprove our neighbor, as in some cases we are obliged to do?
5. We are not hence obliged to think so well of all men, as without competent knowlege always to rely on their pretences, or to intrust our interests in their hands; for common experience acquainteth us that we may be deceived in trusting men, prudence biddeth us in matters of importance not to confide in uncertainties; wherefore we shall not be culpable for being wary in such cases: this indeed is not a positive judgment, but only a waving to declare in favor, when sufficient ground of doing so doth not appear; it is only a reasonable suspecting the possibility of miscarriage in some persons, not a downright
asserting ill concerning any one man: wherefore to do it as it suiteth discretion, so it doth not thwart justice or charity; and cannot therefore be prohibited here.
6. We are also not hence obliged, in contradiction to plain sense, to judge well of men; accounting him for a saint, or a good man, whom we see living disorderly, or committing scandalous offences, plainly repugnant to the rules of piety, justice, or sobriety.
In fine, there are some special cases and circumstances wherein good men excusably may in severe terms declare their resentment of manifest wickedness, especially such as is prejudicial to God's honor and public good. Of this there are divers instances, which yet hardly can be reduced to common rules, or proposed for general example; the matter being ticklish, and men being apt to pervert any liberty or pretence of this kind, by indulging to their own bad humours and passions.
These sorts of allowable judgments being excepted, it is then private, affected, needless, groundless, rash, and harsh censuring the persons or actions of our brethren; such as doth resemble not the acting of a lawful superior, of a needful witness, of a faithful friend, but of a judge acting without competent right, on no good grounds, or in undue manner, which is here interdicted: the word 'judging' doth well imply the nature of this fault, the manner of our proceeding therein, the grounds of its unlawfulness; neither perhaps can we better understand our duty in this matter, than by expending what' are the properties and obligations of a judge, and comparing our practice thereto; for thence it may plainly appear how unqualified we are to bear this office, and how unduly we execute it.
1. No judge should intrude himself into the office, or assume a judicial power without competent authority; that is, by delegation from superior powers, or by voluntary reference of the parties concerned. This condition we fail in, whenever without warrant from God, or special reason exacting it from us, we do pry into, scan, and tax the actions of our neighbor. When, I say, we are pragmatically inquisitive into the purposes and proceedings of our superiors, of our equals, of those who
are not subject to our charge and care, when we narrowly examine them, when we peremptorily blame them, then do we unduly exalt ourselves above them, and exercise an unwarrantable jurisdiction over them. What sense doth offer, we may receive in; what judgment reason doth extort, we may follow; what testimony public benefit requireth, we may yield; what expression charity doth call for toward our neighbor's edifieation, we may seasonably vent: but if we proceed farther in this way, the party concerned may appeal from us as incompetent and unlawful judges of his actions or his state; we are arrogant and injurious in presuming to exercise that office. God is the master and judge of men, and without authority from him, we must not presume to judge his servants and subjects: so we are taught by St. Paul, Who,' saith he, art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth' and St. James, in like manner, on the same ground, expostulateth with the censurer: There is,' saith he, 'one Lawgiver, who is able to save, or to destroy; who art thou that judgest another?' Our Lord himself for this reason declined intermeddling in the affairs of men; Who,' said he, 'made me a judge or divider over you?' And shall we constitute ourselves in the office, shall we seat ourselves on the tribunal, without any commission from God, or call from men? How many judges, if this proviso were observed, would have their quietus! how many censures would be voided hence!
2. A judge should be free from all prejudices, and all partial affections; especially from those which are disadvantageous to the party in danger to suffer; such as tempt or incline to condemn him; from ill-opinion and ill-will, from anger, envy, revengefulness, contempt, and the like: for he that is possessed with these, is nowise qualified to be a judge; his eyes are blinded, or distorted, or infected with bad tinctures, so that he cannot discern what is right, or that he seeth things represented in the wrong place, and under false colors; his mind is discomposed and disturbed, so that he cannot calmly and steadily apprehend or consider the just state of the case; his will is biassed, and strongly propendeth one way, so that he cannot proceed uprightly in a straight and even course: being not indifferently affected, but concerned on one side, he is become
a party, or an adversary, and thence unfit to be a judge; he hath determined the cause with himself beforehand, so that no place is left to farther discussion or defence; wherefore before such a judge the best cause will fall, the clearest innocence shall not preserve from condemnation. He therefore that will undertake this office must first divest himself of all prejudices, must rid himself of all passions, must purify himself from all corrupt inclinations, taking care not to come with a condemning mind, or a lust to punish the obnoxious party; otherwise a just exception lieth against him, and reasonably his jurisdiction may be declined.
If this rule were put in practice, there would be little censuring; for few come to it with a free and pure mind; few blame their neighbors without some preoccupation of judgment, or some disaffection toward them.
3. A judge should never proceed in judgment without careful examination of the cause, so as well to understand it. Even those, who out of indispensable duty, or by a just power, may call others to account, are yet obliged to be wary, and never to pass sentence without due cognisance of the cause; otherwise they will judge blindly and rashly; they will either decide wrongly, or so truly, that doing it must be imputed not to their virtue, but to their fortune; often they will be mistaken, and it is luck that they are not so always and what plainer iniquity can there be, than that the reputation or real interest of any man should be put to the arbitrement of chance; that he should be defamed, or damnified, not for a certain fault, but from an unhappy lot? As things viewed at a distance appear much different in bigness, shape, and color, from what they are in nature and reality; so if we do not look nearly and narrowly, we shall greatly misapprehend the nature, the degrees, the right characters of things and of persons: then be our pretence to judge never so fair, yet our proceeding is unjust; then if we do unduly invade the place, it will be a great aggravation of our misdemeanor: if of our own head and pleasure we will constitute ourselves judges, yet at least we should act the judge's part, in patiently attending to, and heedfully sifting the cause: if we have not, a stomach to hear, if we will not afford the care to mind what may be alleged in favor of the party concerned;