Abbildungen der Seite

be jud

The tendency of this precept then is to prevent us from judging others in circumstances where we are not competent to judge; and to prevent us from judging unfavourably, unless we have clear and decided reasons for so doing. And how many considerations occur to enforce this precept, “Judge not, lest ye ged.”

1. Consider the influence of men's own passions and feelings in preventing the judgments they form of others. Were we to turn our eyes to the darkest side of the picture which these present we should perceive envy, jealousy, resentment and party-spirit holding their nocturnal assemblies to sacrifice to malice and falsehood the devoted characters of whomsoever they meet. Who shall


without danger from the venom which they scatter, and who knows the paths where invisble fiends haunt? What shield can defend from the secret attacks of an unseen foe? While

you yourselves may escape them, beware lest you be accessary to the mischief which they work. They watch

your steps; they place a dagger in your way, and filling you with false clamours they urge you to throw it at the innocent. Take not up the secret hints they drop;

wish that you If you

you must look

listen not to their insinuations--shut your eyes to their signs and your ears to their whispers.

Next to these appear the ill-natured, the pevish and the illiberal. At their tribunal temper sits as judge, and a word, a look will condemn you. If a defect or an offence appear, to that their eyes are turned; or if your merits are regarded, it is with a frown that they should be found in such company. wish to escape their censure, you must think as they think, you must speak as they speak,


when they look grave. Their minds resemble those barren and inhospitable regions, overhung with a perpetual gloom where no beauty or verdure appears, where the sun never sheds his enlivening beams.

But passing from these more flagrant breach-, es of candour and Christian charity which thinketh no evil, we may sufficiently perceive the influence of passion over the opinions of mankind, in the common affairs of life, and in characters who cannot justly be accused of malice, falsehood and illiberality. How much are men disposed to represent the character of another in that light in which they wish to view it? On one occasion, they con

jecture circumstances which they have not seen, and which change a good action into a bad one.

On another, when an action appears at first sight improper, they catch at what they see, and save themselves the trouble of conjecture. When first appearances are unfavourable, from these they, hastily, draw their picture, giving it, from their own imagination, colours so strong that nothing else can be seen through them.

When first appearances on the contrary are too favourable, they search around, and, by a perverse ingenuity, introduce into the back ground of their picture such unpleasing objects as spoil the beauty of what is better seen, and give to the whole that disagreeable aspect they desire it should wear.

In this way there is no virtue, there is no grace nor accomplishments which a mind disordered by selfish feelings will not divest of its true form, and represent in a shape which may displease. If a man be open and liberal, to such a mind he seems ostentatious, and to court popularity. If he be sober, he appears unsocial; if he be wiser and more learned than they, he is assuming and vain. To such a mind, justice wears the form of harsh severity, and gentleness



seems to be a want of spirit; prudence is transformed into cunning or timid caution ; liberality appears to be profusion, and the most necessary economy is represented as penury, .

When, therefore, my brethren, you judge your neighbour, examine your own hearts. Even in the mind of those who wish not to be unjust, who are not without candour, injurious prejudices arise. When you find fault with another, beware that no interference of interest, or rivalship in your pursuits, no difference of opinion, and no feeling of resentment may have produced, without your perceiving it, a desire to find fault. Would you wish to entertain a better opinion of him whom you blame? Is it with reluctance that you perceive his faults? Put these questions to your own hearts, and angwer them sincerely. If it give you a secret pleasure to censure, and if be disappointed in finding your censures groundless, distrust yourselves. Though these feelings were not improper in themselves, there is little doubt but they mislead you. Receive not then a sentiment you have so much reason to suspect, express it not to others, let it not influence your conduct. Banish the feelings from which it flowed. If you regard what is fair and what is just, proceed not to pass sentence of condemnation, while

you would

hold in


hand a bribe to condemn.

2. These sources of errour in judging our neighbour, lie within our own breast. There are others which lie without us of no less influence; without attention to which the most impartial and candid will become unjust.

The laws of morality are fixed and immutable ; but the situations, the constitutions, the

temper, the education, and the pursuits of men are infinitely various. Hence arises a variety of character and a diversity of conduct among those who have the same rules to guide them. The same things become not the young and the old, the serious and the

gay, the rich and the poor.

The man who has had few opportunities of acquiring knowledge cannot act with the skill and success of

experience. If we confound these characters, and judge them by a common law, how vague and unjust will be our judgment ? But in how few instances are we qualified to discern the true effect of circumstances like these, and the various complexions which their different combinations may give to the same con

« ZurückWeiter »