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In the sixth and last place, That there is nothing which exposes men in a more marked and direct manner to the displeasure of the Almighty, than a malignant and censorious spirit. I insist not now on the general denunciations of Divine wrath against malice and hatred. Let us only consider under what particular description the Spirit of God brings this crime of uncharitable judgment. It is declared to be an impious invasion of the prerogative of God, to whom alone it belongs to search all hearts, and to determine concerning all characters. This privilege He often appropriates expressly to himself, on purpose to restrain the rashness of censure among men ; requiring us to leave the judging of others to Him, and to attend to our own business and duty. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? To his own master, he standeth or falleth. Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who shall make manifest the counsels of the heart. *
It deserves our most serious attention, that in several passages of Scripture, the great Judge of the world is represented, at the day of final retribution, as proceeding upon this principle, of rendering to men according to the manner in which they have acted towards their brethren. With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; and with the froward, thou wilt show thyself froward. With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye. mete, it shall be measured to you again. † It is impossible to form an argument of more force than this, to restrain all severity of judgment among such
Rom. xiv. 4. 1 Corinth. iv. 5.
as look forward to the tribunal of God. The argument extends not indeed so far, as to represent our acceptance with the Deity as entirely suspended upon the candour which we shew in forming our sentiments of others. We know that other graces besides this are requisite, in order to fit us for heaven; and that without piety towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, all our charity to men will be found defective and vain. But this we know also, that in the heart which is destitute of fairness and candour, the Spirit of God certainly dwells not ; and that whatever appearances of religion the uncharitable man may assume, on him the Sovereign of the universe looks with no favour. Thou, who art a man full of frailties, who standest in need, not merely of impartiality in thy Divine Judge, but of indulgence and mercy: Thou who implorest daily this mercy from Him, and prayest that He would remember thou art dust, and not be strict to mark iniquity against thee; darest thou, with those very prayers in thy mouth, proceed to judge without candour of thy brethren, and upon the slightest grounds to reprobate and condemn them? O thou hypocrite! (for by what other name can we call thee?) vain are all thy pretensions to piety. Ineffectual is every plea which thou canst form for mercy from Heaven. The precedent which thou hast established against thyself is decisive. Thou hast dictated the sentence of thine own condemnation.
On the whole, it clearly appears that no part of the government of temper deserves attention more, than to keep our minds pure from uncharitable prejudices, and open to candour and humanity in judging of others. The worst consequences, both to ourselves and to society, follow from the opposite spirit. Let us beware of encouraging a habit of suspicions, by forming too severe and harsh opinions concerning human nature in general. A great proportion of infirmity and corruption, doubtless, adheres to it; yet tempered also it is with various mixtures of virtue and good affection. Darkened as the Divine Image now is among mankind, it is not wholly effaced. Much piety and goodness may lie hidden in hearts that are unknown to us. Vice is glaring and loud. The crimes of the wicked make a noise in the world, and alarm society. True worth is retired and modest, and requires particular situations to bring it forth to public notice. The prophet Elijah, in a time of prevailing corruption, imagined that all true religion had forsaken the land. I, even I, only, said he to the Lord, am left to serve thee. But the * Almighty, who discerned what was concealed from his imperfect view, replied, Yet have I left me seven thousand men in Israel who have not bowed the knee to Baal. *
The aged, and the unfortunate, who have toiled through an unsuccessful life with long experience of the falsehood and fraud of evil men, are apt to be the most severe in the opinions which they entertain of others. For such, their circumstances may be allowed to form some degree of apology. But if, in youth and prosperity, the same hard suspicious spirit prevail ; if they who are beginning the career of life set out with all the scruples of distrust; if, before they have had reason to complain of the world, they betray
* 1 Kings, xix. 18.
the diffidence of a jealous, and the malignity of a censorious mind; sad is the
which be drawn of their future dishonour. From such, you have nothing to look for that shall be either engaging in private life, or respectable in public character. To youth it particularly belongs to be generous in sentiment, candid in opinion, undesigning in behaviour, open to the most favourable construction of actions and conduct. Throughout all the stages of life, candour is one of the most honourable distinctions of the human character; it is connected with magnanimity; it is justified by wisdom; it is suitable to the relation in which we stand to one another. But if reason and humanity be insufficient to restrain us from rash and uncharitable judgments, let that awful denunciation frequently resound in our cars, He shall have judgment without mercy, roho hath showed no mercy.
On the CHARACTER of JOSEPII.
GENESIS, xlv. 5. 8.
Now therefore be not grieved nor angry with yourselves
that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. So now it was not
that sent me hither, but God.
for the unnatural behaviour of his brethren. He extenuates the atrocity of their crime, by representing the happy effects which it had produced. He looks beyond all second causes ; and recognizes, in the wonderful events of his life, the hand of the Almighty. No human character exhibited in the records of Scripture, is more remarkable and instructive than that of this patriarch. He is one whom we behold tried in all the vicissitudes of fortune ; from the condition of a slave rising to be ruler of the land of Egypt; and in every station acquiring, by his virtue and wisdom, favour with God and man.
When overseer of Potiphar's house, his fidelity was proved by strong temptations, which he. honourably resisted. When thrown into prison by the artifice of a false woman, his integrity and prudence soon rendered him conspicuous, even in that dark mansion. When called into the presence of