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of an oath, which is the best that can be said of common swearing; and, at the same time, he depreciates the solemnity of an oath in extraordinary cases, by taking the name of God in vain, so as to give ground to, fear that he trifles with it then as well as in common converse.
3. All that name the name of Christ, are concerned to see that they comply with the exhortation in the text: "If any man seemeth to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue,' particulary from lying, surely "that man's religion is vain." And, therefore, we should use the most effectual means to secure our veracity.
We should maintain a constant sense of the great evil of falsehood, and of the excellence of truth; as the one is contrary to the God of truth, and the other to his image; the one destructive of society, and the other the greatest strength and security to it.
We should be upon our guard against every thing that may be a temptation to falsehood. Guilt needs a lie to excuse it. Covetousness may prompt to falsehood for gratifying it, but a woe is entailed upon all such gains, Prov. xxi. 6. "The getting of treasure by a lying tongue, is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death." Malice and ill-will sometimes lead to false charges to support them; when the reputation of an adversary cannot be sunk by true accusations. And rash speaking often betrays into falsehood at unawares. All these, therefore, should carefully be guarded against by every lover of truth.
We ought to take heed of any appearance of evil in this case; to keep at a remote distance from any thing that borders upon falsehood. This is the surest way to avoid any vice. And, as in the practice of every other duty, and the avoidance of every other sin, so here we should join prayer to God with our own care and endeavours, in such language as that of the psalmist, Psal. cxix. 29. "Remove far from me the way of lying, and grant me thy law graciously."
4. Christians should do all they can to promote truth among others, both for the honor of God, and the spiritual and eternal good of their neighbours, and the general interest of society.
Such as have the care of youth should, with the utmost and most early care, impress upon their minds their indispen
sable obligations to maintain truth inviolate; they should let them know, by their conduct, that a lie is to be reckoned a greater fault than most of those which they may intend to excuse by it, at least that any crime is more easily to be passed over by itself, than as aggravated by a covering of falsehood.
Falsehood should, upon all occasions, be discountenanced. A Christian should resolve, with the psalmist, that "he that telleth lies should not dwell in his sight," Psal. ci. 7.; he should frown upon the backbiter, and "not give heed to false lips; he should countenance plain-dealing in all, and both express a just abhorrence of flattery, and a real liking of frankness and openness, though it should be shewn in truths that bear hard upon himself.
CHARITABLE JUDGING, IN OPPOSITION TO
MATT. VII. 1.
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
MONG the many important rules delivered by our Saviour in his comprehensive sermon on the mount, there are not many more needful in every age of the world than this. It was peculiarly suitable to the Jews, who were eminently censorious of all who were not of their nation and religion. And the same spirit of bigotry closely adhered to those of them who embraced Christianity, after Christ had set up his church and kingdom, in relation to the Gentile converts; so that there was occasion frequently to repeat to them such an admonition as that in the text, which we find done in several of the apostolical epistles. And, God knows, the same evil temper abounds in every age of the Christian church; so that the like caution is never unseasonable.
In the prosecution of the subject, I would,
I. Explain what is here forbidden. And,
I. It is needful to explain this prohibition of our Lord and Master, in what sense we are to understand him, when he says, Judge not.
The words, in themselves, are very general, but the sense of
them may easily be understood, if we look into the context and compare them with other scriptures.
Nothing is plainer, than that Christ intends not absolutely to forbid any to use their own judgments. Judging is a natural faculty, which God hath given us all as rational-creatures, and which he expects us to use in the best manner we can, according to every natural and acquired advantage for it, each of us for himself, to conduct us in the affairs of this world, and in our way to a better. We act no farther as reasonable creatures, either in civil concerns, or in those of religion, than as we act upon our own judgments.
But it is judging of other people, which is the subject of the text, passing a judgment concerning their words, or actions, or intentions. The third, fourth, and fifth verses, of this chapter, plainly shew, that it is "our brother,” that is, any other man who is concerned in the judging spoken of.
And though the word itself doth not limit the sense either to judging well or ill of him, yet the use of it in the New Testament confines the meaning to judging ill, or censuring him.
And yet even all such judging of our neighbour is not designed to be forbidden.
The censure of the magistrate upon criminals that disturb the public peace, and his punishing of them when found guilty, is so far from being discountenanced, that it is absolutey necessary to the good of civil society. Magistrates are instituted by God to be "a terror to evil doers ;" and they are justly worthy of blame, when they "bear the sword in vain," by not executing judgment upon notorious offenders, which, by the precept of God in scripture, and by the claim of the society in which they are, is their proper province.
Ministers and Christian societies are not debarred from censuring those, in the way of censure which Christ has appointed them, who are of their own body, or who offer themselves to be members of it, by denying them Christian communion with them, if they notoriously break the laws of Christ. This sort of judging is made a duty by the gospel-rule, “not to keep company," in Christian society, "with any man that is called a brother, if he be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolter, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner," 1 Cor. v.
11. This is called "judging them that are within," ver. 12.; judging them, according to the rule of Christ, to be unfit for Christian communion.
: It is not unlawful for private persons to entertain a fear, that evils may possibly be committed by those in whom they have a concern, by means of the temptations which are known to attend their circumstances; that is, such a fear as may awaken prayer and endeavours for their good: "It may be," says Job of his sons, when they had been feasting together, they have sinned;" and, therefore, "he offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all," Job i. 5. And the apostles express their fears of the Christians, to whom they wrote, and gave them the most awful cautions accordingly, when, at the same time, they expressed a charitable hope of better things: "I fear," says St. Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Epist. xi. 3. "least by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted * from the simplicity that is in Christ." So he warns the Hebrews of the dreadful danger of apostacy, and of the sad effects to be expected from unfruitfulness under the advantages of the gospel; and yet tells them, that "he was persuaded better things of them, and things that accompany salvation, though he thus spoke," Heb. vi. 4--9. Fear and concern for others, that arises from a sense of their danger, is the fruit of true charity, consistent with a good opinion, and very different from actual censures without a good foundation.
We shall not be chargeable with censoriousness, for judg ing any thing erroneous in the professed sentiments of others, or amiss in their practice, which really appears so to us. If we believe ourselves in the right, we cannot but judge those who differ from us in the wrong: there is no uncharitableness in this; nor in endeavouring, by fair reasoning, to convince them of what we judge their mistake, or, by fair reproof and advice, to use our best endeavours that sin may not lie upon them.
And, to go a step farther, we are not forbid to judge those to be ill men, who give flagrant proofs of it by a course of evil actions, and whose sins go beforehand to judg
But the judging which we should avoid, may, I think, be reduced to the four following heads :-pragmatical, rash, partial, and uncharitable judging.