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vate, needless, groundless and harsh censure of persons or actions that is interdicted: nor can we perhaps better understand our duty in this matter, than by considering what are the properties and obligations of a judge, and comparing our prac tice thereto.
1. No judge should intrude himself into the office, or assume a judicial power without competent authority; in which condition we fail, when, without warrant from God, or special reason exacting it from us, we pry into and tax the actions of our neighbor topic enlarged on.
2. A judge should be free from all prejudices and partial affections, especially such as incline him to condemnation: and if this rule were copied, there would be but little censuring, since few blame others without some preoccupation or disaffection towards them.
3. A judge should never proceed in judgment without a careful examination of the cause: this caution, as it excludes all rash judgment, would quietly diminish the practice pointed
at in the text.
4. A judge should never pronounce final sentence but on good grounds, after certain proof, and on full conviction. If this rule were regarded, how many censures would be prevented?
5. Hence it is plainly consequent, that there are divers causes wholly exempted from our judgment, such as are the secret thoughts and purposes of men, not declared by words or overt acts; and this would prevent innumerable rash judgments.
6. Hence also it is not commonly allowable to judge concerning the state, present or final, of our neighbor in regard to God; and this, if duly considered, would cut off many hard thoughts and harsh words.
7. A judge should not undertake to proceed against any man, without warning and citing him to appear, nor without affording him competent liberty and opportunity to defend
himself: this would prevent many harsh judgments; for seldom do censurers charge men to their faces.
8. Moreover a judge is obliged to conform all his determinations to the settled rules of judgment, not according to his own private fancy or affection: the observing of which condition would smother many censures from those who reprehend persons for practices blameless, and perhaps commend
9. It is also to be supposed that a judge should be a person of good knowlege and ability, well skilled in the laws, endued with good measure of reason, &c.: the observation of this point therefore would draw many down from their usurped seats of judicature.
10. Again, it is proper for a judge not to make himself an accuser; and this also would diminish the trade of censuring.
11. He that pretends to judge others should himself be innocent, under no indictment, and not liable to condemnation : but we are all guilty of heinous crimes before God, and lie under the sentence of his law.
12. Lastly, it is the property of a good judge to proceed with great moderation, equity, candor, and mildness, as a friend not only to the public, but to the party accused. If this course were observed, innumerable causes, which now are severely judged, would never be mentioned or come under trial.
So much for the part explicative and directive: now for the persuasive; and to induce men to eschew this practice, its depravity and vanity is declared.
1. Censuring is an impious practice in regard to God, whose office we thus invade, and whose perfections we proudly arrogate to ourselves: moreover we are guilty of ingratitude towards him for his mercy, when we judge unfavorably of our brethren.
2. It is an unjust practice towards our neighbor, inasmuch as we meddle in affairs which do not belong to us, and draw
those under our jurisdiction who are not subject to it, who have their own master to whom they must stand or fall, &c.
3. It is an uncharitable practice, and so contrary to the principal duty of our religion: this topic enlarged on.
4. It is also a very foolish and vain practice, as arguing great ignorance and inconsiderateness, as producing great inconveniences and mischiefs.
5. Moreover this practice will produce many great inconveniences and mischiefs to ourselves.
1. We thereby provoke, and in some sort authorise others to requite us in the same kind: 2. we not only expose ourselves to censure, but implicitly pass it on ourselves: 3. we do by censuring others aggravate our own faults and deprive them of excuse or pardon: 4. indeed censuring others is an argument that we little mind our own case, or consider to what a dreadful judgment we are exposed: 5. nothing in fact causes us more to neglect our own case, nothing more engages us to leave our own faults unobserved and uncorrected than this humor: 6. hence it is that commonly the best men are the most candid and gentle, and they are most apt to blame others who deserve worse themselves: 7. in fine, the censorious humor, as it argues ill nature to be predominant, and as it signifies bad conscience, so it breeds and fosters such ill dispositions; it debauches the minds of men, rendering them dim and sluggish in apprehending their own faults, apt to please and comfort themselves in the evils, real or imaginary, of their neighbors. Conclusion.
AGAINST RASH CENSURING AND JUDGING.
MATTHEW, CHAP. VII.-VERSE 1.
THESE words, being part of our Saviour's most divine sermon on the mount, contain a very short precept, but of vast use and consequence; the observance whereof would much conduce to the good of the world, and to the private quiet of each man: it interdicting a practice, which commonly produceth very mischievous and troublesome effects; a practice never rare among men, but now very rife; when, with the general causes, which ever did and ever will in some measure dispose men thereto, some special ones do concur, that powerfully incline to it.
There are innate to men an unjust pride, emboldening them to take on them beyond what belongeth to them, or doth become them; an excessive self-love, prompting them as to flatter themselves in their own conceit, so to undervalue others, and from vilifying their neighbors, to seek commendation to themselves; an envious malignity, which ever lusteth to be pampered with finding or making faults; many corrupt affections, springing from fleshly nature, which draw or drive men to this practice; so that in all ages it hath been very common, and never any profession hath been so much invaded, as that of the judge.
But divers peculiar causes have such an influence on our age, as more strongly to sway men thereto : there is a wonderful affectation to seem hugely wise and witty; and how can we seem such more than in putting on the garb and countenance of
judges; scanning and passing sentence on all persons and all things incident? There is an extreme niceness and delicacy of conceit, which maketh us apt to relish few things, and to distaste any thing; there are dissensions in opinion, and addictedness to parties, which do tempt us, and seem to authorise us in condemning all that differ from us; there is a deep corruption of mind and manners, which engageth men in their own defence to censure others, diverting the blame from home, and shrouding their own under the covert of other men's faults;* there are new principles of morality and policy become current with great vogue, which allow to do or say any thing subservient to our interests or designs; which also do represent all men so bad, that, admitting them true, nothing hardly can be said ill of any man beyond truth and justice.
Hence is the world become so extremely critical and censorious, that in many places the chief employment of men, and the main body of conversation is, if we mark it, taken up in judging;† every gossiping is, as it were, a court of justice; every seat becometh a tribunal; at every table standeth a bar, whereto all men are cited, whereat every man, as it happeneth, is arraigned and sentenced: no sublimity or sacredness of dignity, no integrity or innocence of life, no prudence or circumspection of demeanor can exempt any person from it: not one escapeth being taxed under some scandalous name, or odious character, one or other. Not only the outward actions and visible practices of men are judged; but their retired sentiments are brought under trial, their inward dispositions have a verdict passed on them, their final states are determined. Whole bodies of men are thus judged at once, and nothing it is in one breath to damn whole churches, at one push to throw down whole nations into the bottomless pit. All mankind in a lump is severely censured, as void of any real goodness or true virtue; so fatally depraved as not to be corrigible by any good discipline, not to be
* Expedit vobis neminem videri bonum; quasi aliena virtus exprobratio vestrorum delictorum sit.-Sen. de Vit. B. xix.
† Εἰς τὰ τῶν ἄλλων πολυπραγμονεῖν καὶ καταδικάζειν δαπανᾶται ἡμῖν ἅπας ὁ βίος· καὶ οὐδένα ἂν εὕροις ταχέως, οὐ βιωτικὸν ἄνδρα, οὐ μοναχὸν ταύτης ἐλεύθερον τῆς ἁμαρτίας, καίτοιγε τοσαύτης ἀπειλῆς κειμένης αὐτῇ.—Chrys. ad den. t. vi. Orat. 42.