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such censures as are not agreeable to the rules that candour and charity would prescribe.

If we give way to suspicions and jealousies of people at random, without any proper foundations to support them ;, these are the evil surmisings spoken of in 1 Tim. vi. £. ; whereas"

charity thinketh no evil,” till obliged by evidence, 1 Cor. xiii. 5.

When we put the worst construction upon actions, while they will admit of better. The people of Israel were too hasty in this matter, with reference to their brethren of the two tribes and a half, who, when they were settled on one side of Jordan, built an altar there for a good and lawful end. The other tribes immediately upon the news of it conclude, but too uncharitably, that they had built this altar to turn away from following the Lord; whereas they soon found that no such thing was intended. The story is in Joshua xxii. There was some zeal for the true religion in these resenting tribes, but they put too rigorous and invidious a construction upon an innocent action of their brethren; and it was like to have had ill effects ; for they resolved, at first, “to go up to war against them,” ver. 12. But their heat subsided, and they had so much prudence, before they executed their resolution, as to send a deputation to know the truth of the case who soon found that they had put much too hard an interpretation upon the conduct of their brethren.

If we take upon us to judge of men's thoughts and inteni. tions, while we can find nothing to reproach in their actions, : As such censures are pragmatical

, so they are highly uncharitable. We should hope their ends and principles are good, when their actions are regular. To insinuate the contrary, is indeed a direct imitation of the devil, who is the most flaming instance upon record of such vile uncharitableness, in the case of Job. God had blessed Job with a course of great prosperity: Satan, therefore, would insinuate his religion to be entirely mercenary: Job i. 9. “Doth Job serve God for nought ?” It was, indeed, a possible supposition, for all that men could know, that Job might not be sincere ; but it was a vile suggestion to insinuate that this was fact, when all external appearances were otherwise. So bad a precedent should effectualy set every honest man against the imitation When we venture to judge of men's state and condition in reference to (livine acceptance, upon grounds which are not decisive by the express rules of the gospel ; either on account of mistaken opinions in religion, or some faults in practice. We know not how far these may consist with sincerity in other people; nor what allowances the great Judge of all may see fit to make in particular circumstances, which are obvious to his notice, though they escape ours ; nor is it any part of our business to enter into this matter.

of it.

If we censure men in the lump, as if there were nothing valuable in them, overlooking many commendable excellencies, berause of some real or supposed faults in them ; this is not charitable. How often is it seen, that a man once highly caressed and commended, shall presently be run down and disgraced by the same persons, if he happen to differ from them in some favoured notion, or even in a point of conduct! All lis merits and amiable qualities are forgotten, and all must be done to blacken him. This is vile uncharitableness.

When we impute to others opinions and consequences that they disown.

It is very lawful and charitable to endeavour to shew men whom we think mistaken, that such and such consequences follow from their avowed opinions ; this is one proper mean to convince them of their error.

But it is uncharitable and injurious to charge them with actually holding those very consequences, when they utterly disown them, and profess that they see not their connection with their principles.

To interpret calamities that befal people, as special judg. ments of God for something we dislike in them, without very clear and full evidence to support such a persuasion, can by no means escape the imputation of uncharitableness. Alas! these constructions are much more frequently the language of passion, and prejudice, and private resentment, than of reason or true religion. The judgments of God are a great deep, and it is very seldom that we can safely pronounce, that God intended to bear testimony against this or that sin of cthers, in the afflictions that come upon them in the course of his providence. But

angry men serve their purposes by such bold reflections, inflaming others against people whom they dislike, by this uncharitable supposition, that they are declared to be hated of God, and that he interests himself in their quarrels. Christ cautions his hearers against forming such dangerous conclusions from the calamities of others, directing them not to think men upon that account greater sinners than their neighbours, Luke xii. 1-4.

If we are unready to admit fair tokens of repentance even for real faults, this is uncharitable. It is a temper too frequent, if people have done ill things, presently to judge them incurable ; if they are seduced into that which we think a dangerous error, to give them over. Whereas, at the worst,

charity hopeth all things,” i Cor. xiii. 7. that "if any are otherwise minded," from what we esteem important truth, if they give us ground in charity to believe their integrity, “God shall reveal even this unto them,” Phil. ii. 15. And if mı own their faults or mistakes, while uncharitable jealousy may surmise many objections in the way of crediting them, charity will not enter into secret things that belong to God; but gladly “restore a man that is overtaken with a fault in the spirit of meekness.”

To publish the real faults of others without a just occasion, is carrying our judgment beyond the bounds of charity. If we can hope to reclaim them by private admonition, we should not choose to proceed farther to their disadvantage. To bring them upon the public stage, and expose them to the censure of others, where the welfare of our neighbour or public justice do not require it, serves no good end. That which we render, “charity beareth all things," i Cor. xiii. 7. Távra séyel, 'would be more properly rendered, “concealeth all things :" which falls in with St. Peter's observation, that charity covereth a multitude of sins," 1 Pet. iv. 8.

And to add one instance more; when innocent people are involved in a censure with the guilty, this is a notorious breach of charity. A whole party, shall suffer reproach for the crime of a single man, who happened to bear the same name of religious distinction with them : or a whole profession shall be insulted for the knavery or unjustifiable practices of some particular men belonging to it. This method of judging would leave no bounds to censoriousness. Every man's faults should be laid at his own door, and be no farther imputed to any other, than as their avowel principles directly


justify them, or they can be proved to be actual confederates in the practice.

II. I proceed to consider the motive by which this prohibition is enforced : Judge not, that ye be not judged. Which is strengthened by an express declaration in ver. 2. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged ; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” This

may be applied to retaliation, either from men or from God.

1. We should not be censorious of others, as ever we would not be served by men in the same kind. They may be faulty, indeed, in making such returns ; but it can hardly be expected, that when other men see that we make free with their characters, they will not make free with ours : they will even think themselves obliged, in their own defence, to scan our actions more narrowly than they would otherwise do ; and very probably, in their turn, be as rash and uncharitable upon us, as we have been upon them. Divine Providence wisely and justly so permits it that men, who fish for scandal, are very often met with in their own way; and it seems to give a general satisfaction, when they are effectually exposed,

2. We should avoid censoriousness, as ever we would escape the judgment of God. For,

(1.) Without repentance, we may expect that he will severely animadvert upon this sin in particular; which, upon many accounts, may be esteemed a very great and heinous sin. It is a direct invasion of God's province : either anticipating the work of the great day ; on which account the apostle exhorts the Corinthians, 1 Epistle iv. 5. “ Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.” Pretend not to judge of things out of the cognizance of men now, and that are designed to be so till the great day, as the secrets of the heart; otherwise, you will

usurp God's place. Or, it is judging men for things wherein they are not at all accountable to us, but to God only; judging his servants in things which concern none but their Master and themselves : as in matters which he hath left indifferent, or which neither the good of society, nor the ap

pointment of God, require to be called before any human tribunal : “ Who art thou that judgest another's servant ? to his own master he standeth or falleth," Rom. xiv. 4.

Why dost thou judge, or set at nought thy brother ? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,” ver. 10. And“ every one of us shall give account of himself to God," ver. 12. In such matters as the apostle is there speaking of, every man is to give account of himself to God; but men have no right to call one another to account. Therefore, to judge another in those things, is to thrust ourselves into God's province.

And will not God, think you, chastise such arrogance? It is, also, very injurious to our neighbour. Evil surmises of him, weaken our own affection ; and if we spread them abroad, may lessen his reputation with others, and draw many pernicious consequences after them ; for which we shall justly be accountable, as long as they spring from a sinful action of ours, and such effects might be foreseen likely to ensue.

And we may add to all the rest, that it is a practice wherein we cannot but be self-condemned, if we reflect how we should resent the like treatment in our own case. Every man inveighs at unjust censures, when he feels the lash of them : and may not the Judge of all be reasonably expected, if we should so “ smite our fellow-servants," to say, “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant.

(2.) We may expect that God will proceed with rigour in judging our offences against him, if we are rigid censors of our neighbours. We have no reason to complain, if God shall treat us according to the measures we observe to others. He will never, indeed, exceed the measures of justice, however we act : he will not retaliate in his proceedings; but if we allow uncharitableness, we are to expect no mercy, James ii

. 13. “ He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy." And what then must become of us ?

If God be strict to mark all our real iniquities, can we stand? Can we answer him for one of a thousand of our actions ? The uncharitable are excluded from any hope of the benefit of gospelgrace. God grant, then, that we may have mercy on ourselves, by being more merciful in our censures of others.

I might now, in the close of this subject, pursue such reflections as these : That this is one remarkable instance of “godliness having

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