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“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law and judgeth the law. But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one law-giver who is able to save and to destroy. Who art thou that judgest another." James iv. 11, 12
The following remarks are from Dr. Macknight's paraphrase of the two verses. “ Speak not against one another, brethren, on account of your difference of opinions in religion. He who speaketh against his brother and condemneth his brother in matters pertaining to conscience, speaketh against the law both of Moses and Christ, which forbids that kind of speaking. Thou, who art thou that condemnest thy brother, and thereby assumest the prerogative of Christ ?"
It may be asked, how can it be said that in judging and condemning a brother on account of his religious opinions, we judge and condemn the law ? We practically judge and condemn the law when we do that which the law prohibits; for the language of our conduct is, that the law is unworthy to be obeyed. The law forbids bearing false witness; and I may be guilty of bearing false witness if I accuse a man of moral evil without evidence of his guilt. His differing from me in opinion is no proof of guilt on his part, for his opinion may be right while I think it to be erroneous; or if his opinion is not right, he may have been led into error by causes very different from that of a depraved heart. The
law requires my neighbor to love God with all his understanding, and not with mine. His differing from me is no proof that he does not love God with all his understanding. By condemning him I implicitly say, that the law is not as it should be, and that the man is blameable for not loving God according to my understanding. Again the law says, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I must therefore be as tender of my brother's character as I wish him to be of mine. Do I then think it right in him, not only to impute to me error of opinion, but to ascribe that' opinion to the pride or wickedness of my heart ! If not, I practically speak against the law when I thus accuse my brother.
It would be in vain to search the scriptures for more clear prohibitions and expostulations against murder, than we have against reviling and censorious judging on
account of differences of opinion; and is it not a lamentable truth that in each of the cases Christians have too commonly regarded custom as of higher authority than the prohibitions of God? The sixth commandment is, “ Thou shalt do no murder ;” but as soon as the rulers of two nations have declared war against each other, murder is regarded as not only lawful but laudable. So as soon as the ministers of one sect of Christians have ventured to denounce the people of another sect as heretics, the commands, "judge not" "condemn not,” “ speak not evil one of another," are treated with as little regard as the sixth commandment is in time of war. As in time of pational hostilities, killing men is deemed a duty
and not a crime, so it is with censorious judging in time of sectarian hostilities; and in both cases the most glaring violations of the divine commands are vindicated on the principles of necessity and self preservation.
There are other melancholy coincidences in these two cases.
In time of war the leaders of one party will deliver harangues, publish tracts, and insert articles in newspapers, of the most inflammatory kind, to excite a spirit of hostility against the people of another country, against eminent individuals, against the nation as a body, against thousands of better people than themselves, and against myriads of whose real characters they are perfectly ignorant. I appeal to the consciences of my fellow Christians to say, whether this atrocious policy has not its parallel in sectarian hostilities! Besides, when the rulers of a nation make war, not one in a hundred of those who engage in the quarrel, have any correct knowledge respecting the real grounds of the contest, nor is in a capacity to judge on which side there is the greater share of blame, nor whether, on the whole, there was the least cause or necessity for such a war. Yet, relying on their leaders, they will calumniate, condemn and fight. I need not show how this has a parallel in sectarian wars. But I may express the opinion that in both cases the laws of Christ are flagrantly violated ; that christianity can never appear to advantage till such customs are abolished ; and that in both cases an awful share of responsibility is attached to the conduct of those who take the lead in such conflicts,
In national wars, love of country is the boast of each party in the quarrel, yet the course pursued tends directly to fill both countries with crime and calamity. So in sectarian strife men profess to be influenced by love to Christ, love to the truth, and love to the souls of men. Yet the strife is carried on by disobedience to the commands of Christ-by conduct manifestly repugnant to his example and the spirit of his religion-by conduct too, which really tends to the ruin of souls. The love required by the gospel worketh no ill to its neighbor. Can this be said of the love displayed in the wars of nations, or the wars of different sects of Christians ? If not, what awful delusions have prevailed in both cases ! And how constantly is the reproof applicable—“ Ye know. not what manner of spirit ye are of!" If God should be strict to mark this iniquity, who among us would be found able to stand ?
FALSE STANDARDS OCCASION FALSE ESTIMATES.
My Christian Brethren,
Mankind in their commercial dealings are often defrauded by the use of false balances, weights and measures. In the concerns of religion, standards are used for estimating the eharacters and actions of men. Here, as well as in commerce, there may be false standards by which men may deceive, and be deceived. By adopting a false standard, the people of one sect may overrate their own worth, and undervalue the worth of people of other sects. It hence becomes a serious question whether false standards are not in use at the present day? and whether these are not the occasion of much censorious judging, as well as of self-deception ?
Ever since Christians were divided into sects, creeds or confessions of faith have been set up as standards of character, or tests of moral worth. That many of these standards have been false may be obvious from the following considerations :
1. In all the creed-making sects, each sect has a standard of its own, which is different, and in some particulars often directly opposite to that of another sect. Of course, there must be a false standard with one or the other, and perhaps with both of the two clashing sects.
2. It is a known fact that the creed of a sect may become so changed in a course of years, that what was once deemed essential, is afterwards deemed erroneous; still the sect may retain its distinctive name,
3. All party standards are formed by substituting the inferences or explanations of fallible men for the language of the inspired writers : and these tests, formed in the words of man's wisdom, are preferred