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Cases and Directions against Censoriousness and Unwarrantable
Tit. 1. Cases of Conscience about Judging of Others.
Quest. 1. ‘Am I not bound to judge truly of every one as he is.'
Answ. 1. There are many that you are not bound to meddle with, and to pass any judgment at all upon. 2. There are many whose faults are secret, and their virtues open ; and of such you cannot judge as they are, because you have no proof or evidence to enable you : you cannot see that which is latent in the heart, or done in darkness. 3. You neither ought on pretence of charity, nor can believe an evident known untruth of any man,
Quest. · Doth not charity bind me to judge men better than they are?'
Answ. Charity bindeth you, 1. Rather to observe the best in them, than the worst. 2. .And as I said, to judge of no man's faults uncalled. 3. Nor to judge of that which is not evident, but out of sight; and thus consequently it bindeth you to judge some men better than they are ; but not directly
Object. Then a man is bound to err, and believe an untruth.'
Answ. No: you are not bound to believe that it is certainly true, that such a man is better than he is; because you have no evidence of its certain truth. But you are bound to believe it a thing probable or verisimile, likely to be true, by an opinion or fallible human faith ; and this is not a falsehood; for that is likely and probable to you, which hath the more probable evidence, and more for it than against it: so that the thing which you are to believe immediately is this proposition, ' There is more evidence to me to prove it likely that this man is sincere than the contrary:' and consequently you believe this, and believe not the contrary, because the contrary hath no evidence. But you are
not to take it as a certain thing, that the contrary hath no latent reality.
Quest. 11. ' How far may I judge ill of one by outward appearances, as by the countenance, gestures and other uncertain but suspicious signs?'
Answ. There are some signs which are not so much as probable, but a little suspicious, and which men are very ordinarily mistaken by; as those that will judge of a man at the first look, by his face; and those that will judge a studious, serious person (a lawyer, a judge, or a divine) to be morose or proud, because they are not complimental, but of few words; or because they have not patience to waste precious hours in hearing an empty vessel sound ; an ignorant, self-conceited person talk foolishly. Such censures are but the effects of injudiciousness, unrighteousness and rash haste. There are other signs which make it probable to a wise and charitable person, that the man is bad (e. g. proud, or covetous, or an hypocrite). If with these, there are as great signs to make the contrary probable, we must rather incline to the better, than the worse. But if not, we may fear the worst of that person, but not conclude it as a certainty; and therefore we may not in public censures, proceed upon such uncertainties, nor venture to divulge them ; but only use them to help us for due caution, and pity, and prayer, and endeavour for such an one's recovery and help
Quest. u. “How far may I censure upon the report of others?'
Answ. According to the degree of the credibility of the persons, and evidence of the narrative; not simply in themselves, but as compared with all that is to be heard on the contrary part : else you are partial and unjust.
Quest. iv. 'Doth not the fifth command oblige me in honour to parents and princes, to judge them to be better than their lives declare them to be?'
Answ. You are gradually to honour them more than others, and therefore to be more afraid of dishonouring them, and must not sit in judgment on them, to believe any harm of them, which evidence doth not compel you to believe. But you are not to judge any sin the less, because it is theirs ; nor to judge contrary to evidence, nor to call evil good, nor to be wilfully blind, nor to flatter any in their sin.
Quest. v. *Whom must we judge for sincere and sanctified Christians ?'
Answ. 1. All those that profess to be such, whom you cannot disprove. 2. But as there are several degrees of evidence and probability, so must there be -several degrees of your good opinion of others. Of some who give you the highest probability, you may have the strongest confidence short of certainty: of others you may have less; and of others you may have much more fear than hope. 3. And in matters of church-rights and public communion, your fears will not allow you to use them as no Christians ; for their profession of faith and repentance is certain ; and as long as your fears of their hypocrisy or unsoundness are but uncertain, it must not (on that account) prevail to deprive another of his right.
Quest. vi. "But is not my error my sin, if I prove mistaken, and take that man for a sincere Christian who is none ?'
Answ. If you judged it to be certain, your judgment and error was your sin; but if you only judged him a professor of Christianity, and one that on that account you were bound to have church-communion with as if he were sincere, because you cannot prove the contrary, this was no error: or if you erred for want of sufficient evidence to know the truth, this error is not in itself a sin.
Quest. vi. “Whom must I judge a visible member of the church, with whom I am thus bound to hold communion?'
Answ. 1. If you are the pastor of the church who are made the judge, at his admission by baptism or afterwards, you must so judge of every one who maketh a credible profession of true Christianity, that is, of his present consent to the sacramental covenant: and that profession is credible, which is, 1. Understood by him that maketh it. 2. Deliberate. 3. Voluntary. 4. Seemingly serious. 5. And is not disproved by valid evidence of the contrary. These are the true measures of church-communion; for
every man, next God, is the judge of his own heart; and God
would have every man the chooser or refuser of his own mercies.
2. But if you are but a private member of the church, whom the pastor hath taken in by baptism, and not cast out again by excommunication ; except the contrary be notorious : and even then you are oft obliged for order sake to carry yourself towards him as a visible member, till he be regularly cast out.
Quest. viii. 'Whom must I judge a true worshipper of God, and whom not?'
Answ. Him that professeth true Christianity, and joineth in true worship with a Christian church, or privately (when hindered) acknowledgeth the true God in all his essential attributes, and heareth his Word, and prayeth to him for all things necessary to salvation, and praiseth him accordingly, not giving the worship proper to God unto any creature : and doth all this as a sinner redeemed by Jesus Christ, trusting in his merits, sacrifice and intercession, and giveth not his office to any other. And he is a false worshipper who denieth any essential attribute of God, or essential part of the office of Christ, or giveth these to any other; or refuseth his Word, or excludeth in 'hiş, prayers any thing essential to Christianity, or absolutely necessary to salvation. But 'secundum quid,' in lesser parts, or in circumstances, or measures, every man on earth is a false worshipper, that is, he offereth God a worship some way faulty and imperfect, and hath some sin in his worshipping of God; and sin is a thing that God requireth not, but forbiddeth even in the smallest measures.
Quest. ix. Which must I judge a true church of Christ, and which a false church ?'
Answ. The universal church is but one, and is the whole society of Christians as united to Christ their only head; and this cannot be a false church.
But if any other set up an usurper as the universal head, and so make another policy and church, this is a false church formally, or in its policy: but yet the members of this false church or policy may some of them as Christians be also members of the true church of Christ : and thus the Roman church as papal is a false Catholic church, having the policy of an usurper; but as Christians they may be members of the true Catholic
church of Christ. But for a particular church which is but part of the universal, that is a true church considered merely as an ungoverned community, which is a true part of the Catholic, prepared for a pastor, but yet being without one : but that only is a true political church, which consisteth of professed Christians conjoined under a true pastor, for communion in the profession of true Christianity, and for the true worshipping of God, and orderly walking for their mutual assistance and salvation.
Quest. x. 'Whom must we judge true prophets and pastors of the church?'
Answ. He is a true prophet who is sent by God, and speaketh truth by immediate supernatural revelation or inspiration. And he is a false prophet who either falsely saith that he hath Divine revelations or inspiration, or prophesieth falsehood as from God. And he is a true pastor at the bar of God, who is, 1. Competently qualified with abilities for the office. 2. Competently disposed to it, with willingness and desire of success; and hath right ends in undertaking and discharging it. 3. Who hath a just admission, by true ordination of pastors, and consent of the flock; and he is to be accounted a true pastor ‘in foro ecclesia,' in the church's judgment, whom the church judgeth to have all these qualifications, and thereupon admitteth him into the possession of the place, till his incapacity be notorious, or publicly and sufficiently proved, or he be removed or made incapable.
Tit. 2. Directions for the Cure of Sinful Censoriousness.
Direct. 1. ' Meddle not at all in judging of others without a call.' Know first whether it be any of your work; if not, be afraid of those words of your Judge, Matt. vii. 1-5.
Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, you shall be judged,” &c. And Rom. xiv. 4. “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth.” And verses 10. and 13. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ-- Every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore