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fectionately and courteously with all the members of the family and society, in which it has pleased God to place us. (Note X.)
II. The reasons why we are required not to judge are various, and their right apprehension is of considerable import
In the first place, though we make the attempt, we cannot judge correctly. Virtue and excellence under the Christian dispensation are rated not according to the outward acts, but according to the disposition of the inward spirit; and where is the man who can discern correctly the inward disposition of his fellow man? To God alone all hearts are open, from Him alone no secrets are hid, and man in vain endeavours to usurp a prerogative which belongs to the Almighty. How often under a fair outside lie concealed passions which shun the light of day, and thoughts that disgust the possessor, no less than they would surprise the world! How many are the failings of the best, how numerous the errors of the wisest! how
true that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God! The different degrees of man's holiness, compared with the perfection to which he should aspire, are but as the different heights of earthly elevation compared with the boundless altitude of the heavens; in their utmost loftiness they are all bound down to the same centre by the force of a common and universal corruption. The utmost therefore that a human observer can attain unto, is to ascertain of any other, how far he is exalted in point of outward excellence of conduct; whilst the true acceptable qualities of contrition, humility and faith, can never be discovered by the eye of flesh. The tears that are shed in secret, the sighs which are uttered when no one perceives, the wrestling with temptation that goes on in many a bosom supposed to be given up to carelessness and sin, these are things which elude human observation, and which render all our attempts at judgment fallacious and uncertain. (Note XI.) And hence even the judgment of the church, that company of
faithful men, which ought to maintain a godly discipline, must be liable to considerable mistakes, if it were to aim at more than the censure and correction of manifest acts of ignorance and iniquity.
We cannot therefore judge correctly if we would. And further it would be a great evil if we could. This then is a second reason for our Saviour's precept in the text. And this is obvious to any one, who considers the actual state of human nature, the natural feelings of affection, the duties connected with society, and the manner in which we are made to be members of it. Instances might easily be given to illustrate the mischief which would ensue, if such a power of discernment were imparted unto man. They would all tend to illustrate the same point, namely, that there would then be an end to the exercise of evangelical charity. The best Christians could scarce be duly humble if they found all others worse than themselves; they could no longer be said to hope, when by contrast they conceived themselves certain of salvation; they
would be no longer in a state of trial, when they were by a comparison with others released from all doubt of their being accepted. The erring sinner could have little place for repentance, if utterly shunned and abandoned by the righteous, and driven to the society of the reprobate. Son would be divided against father, brother against brother, husband against wife, not only in the special occurrence of conversion from paganism to Christianity, not only in the extreme emergencies which even in present times sometimes render necessary such grievous results, but in every family would be sown the seeds of discord; and the sweet interchanges of social affection, encouraged and exalted as they are by the spirit of the Gospel, would run risk of being greatly hindered if not extinct.
If indeed there could be any doubt from the reason of the thing that such a power would be inconsistent with the ends of human trial and probation, we might infer that it is so, from the fact that He who alone knew what was in
man, and best considered for human good, has Himself forbidden the attempt.
Judge not," said the Saviour of mankind, "Judge not," said He who taught with authority, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Is it possible that this plain precept, and the warning with which it is accompanied, can have been well weighed by any mind, which presumes to decide upon the righteousness and unrighteousness of every individual of its acquaintance? Is it possible that any interpretation of the words can be devised, compatible with a practice of separating one's self from the intercourse of one's own family, declining their conversation, refusing altogether to join in their employments and amusements, and censuring even those whom above all other human beings we are bound to honour and to love? Consider I beseech you how vain must be every pretence of serving God, by conduct so openly at variance with his commands. And this commandment have we from God," That he who loveth God love his brother also." (1 John 4. 21.) It