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of love teaches us, not to pity the unhappy wanderer from the paths of virtue, but to content ourselves with blaming and execrating him ? Do we learn it from that infinite mercy of God which delivered up
his only Son for sinners? Do we learn it from that ineffable grace of Jesus which led him to die for the guilty? Do we learn it from those exhortations to brotherly love which he so often repeated; from that forbearance, long-suffering, and kindness, of which he has given us both the precept and example? from that address, when urged to approve the punishment of a criminal, “Let him that is without sin, cast the first stone?" from the injunction of his most zealous apostle, “If any man fall, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness ?" Ah! my brethren, I in vain search the scriptures to find a vindication of this rigour and severity.
Hitherto we have principally considered those judgments as formed in the heart. But they'remain not there; almost always a second crime is added to this first. - From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh;" and malignant conjectures, odious suspicions, and pretended discoveries, are communicated to others. This second crime is still more directly referred to by the Saviour than the first, and the evil resulting from it is incomparably greater.
Though when we inwardly judge our neighbour, we are very far from being as innocent as many persons imagine, yet when these judgments are produced to the world, we become doubly guilty. What before was a mere opinion, becomes a slander. We multiply the injury we do to our neighbour in proportion to the number of persons to whom we communicate our unfavourable opinions concerning him. And who can say how far this injury will extend? Who will be able to remedy it, should we afterwards dis
cover that we were deceived, and had condemned the innocent ? Nevertheless, my brethren, these reflections are incapable of arresting the greater part of men; and scarcely has their mind formed an unfavourable judgment of their neighbour, before they hasten to communicate it to others. Some act thus from the habit they have formed of paying no attention to their discourse, and of uttering whatever they think; others propose to themselves--what? The important business of filling up the voids of a conversation, which would be burdensome to them or to those to whom they address themselves, if the real or pretended failings of their neighbour were not the subject of it! Others wish to appear persons of penetration; they know more than others; they have secret intelligence; they are able to discern the intentions, to discover the true motives of action. Appearances do not deceive them, the mask of a false virtue cannot impose on them. Add to these motives those of pride, envy, hatred, revenge ; and you
will have seen most of the sources of this crime. Experience teaches us that it is a crime too common. Every one is thus judged; no one is exempted. Rank, dignity, virtue, do not prevent persons from being cited to this tribunal: what is uncertain is judged, as well as what is indubitable; what is supposed, as well as what is known; the heart and intentions, as well as the actions and external conduct. Almost every one yields to the torrent; few can lay their hands on their hearts, and say, “ I am
, guiltless of this crime;" few indeed have not violated this command, and judged their neighbour in opposition to duty and truth. It is then necessary to press upon you this exhortation, “ Judge not:" it is necessary to show you the motives which should induce
you to comply with it; it is necessary
prove to you, that if you judge, you also shall be judged. This is our
Observe the general manner in which the Saviour speaks, to teach us that there is more than one Judge, at whose tribunal we shall be condemned, if we thus condemn our brethren ; to teach us that men, as well as God, will recompense, ah! dearly recompense, our cruel conduct.
And is not this declaration of our Lord confirmed by universal observation? Is it not true, that those who heap merciless censures upon others, find for themselves judges without pity? Is it not true, that those children of Ishmael, whose band is against every man, find every man's hand against them? Every one fears that he himself may be injured by that odious temper which leads them to give an unfavourable interpretation to every circumstance, and then to publish their injurious suspicions or malicious discoveries. There is ordinarily but a small interval between this fear and hatred ; and those who are thus dreaded, are rarely spared by others. These rigorous judges are then menaced by an almost universal conspiracy of society against them. And by how many different methods may they not be made to feel the effects of that indignation that is excited against them? especially what have they not cause to fear from those whom they have personally offended ? After their reputation has been wounded, and their hearts torn by you, malignant censurers, will they not render to you with usury the pains you have inflicted on them? With what a critical eye will they examine your life! How will they blazon abroad your least failings! How ready will they
be to attribute to you evil intentions, and to give unfavourable interpretations to your most innocent conduct! This is what our Lord has declared, and his declaration is daily verified : “ With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Even then, if we regard only our temporal interests, prudence will urge us to avoid a conduct which will draw after it so many pains and afflictions; which will cause the sharp and poisoned arrows which we have cast at others, to return with double force against our own breasts.
But, my brethren, there is another circumstance which ought infinitely more to affect us : it is the just and terrible apprehension of the rigours of that judginent, which must at the last day be undergone by all who have without cause, and with malignity, judged their brethren. Every thing proves to us, that for persons who violate this command of the Saviour, that day will be most awful. What! will not God punish him who attacks his authority, and impiously usurps his prerogatives? And are not those, who thus judge their neighbour, chargeable with this crime? When we see them deciding on the actions and intentions of others, dispensing blame and praise, loading with infamy those whom they are pleased to regard as criminal; would it not seem that they supposed that the Judge of the earth had conferred on them his omniscience and omnipotence, and descended from his tribunal, that they might seat themselves upon
it? 6 But who art thou, O man! that usurpest the place of God? Who art thou, that judgest another's servant ? To his own Master he standeth or falleth. To Jesus is committed all judgment; but why dost thou judge thy brother?" Tremble, lest when thou shalt appear shuddering before his bar, thou shalt sink under the indignation of him to whom alone belongeth judgment, and who will not give his glory to another.
If God will punish those who have thus encroached upon his rights, he will also manifest his severity against those who in their conduct have trampled under foot the rules of justice and equity. And is not this the character of those who thus judge their brethren? What more unjust, than to usurp over our equals a right which we do not possess, and the exercise of which is expressly forbidden to us? What more unjust, than, after erecting this tribunal without authority, to disregard in its decisions every rule of equity; to condemn ou the most vague reports and frivolous surmises; to condemn without investigation, and from the impuise of the basest passions ? What more unjust, than tłius without reason to tear from our neighbour his good name, and the esteem of the worthy? What more unjust, than constantly to do to others, what would overwhelm us if they did it to ourselves ? Say, accusers of your brethren, would you desire to be treated as you treat others ? Would
be pleased, if they should suppose you guilty when you were innocent? Or, even if you were overtaken by a fault, would you approve their conduct, if instead of concealing it, or excusing it as far as possible, they should publish it with a trumpet, and load you with anathemas ?
But, my brethren, charity as well as justice is deeply wounded by such conduct; or rather, it cannot subsist in the hearts of those who thus inhumanly judge their neighbour. And what is a Christian without charity? Can he stand unappalled before the tribunal of Christ ? Destitute of this, will he not