« ÎnapoiContinuă »
duct appears. Their case resembles that of Ishmael. He who has his tongue against every man, shall have every man's hand against him. This is both natural and equitable; and such as might be expected. He who shows no mercy to the good names of others, shall have no mercy shown to his own. But if this be generally the case now, it will infallibly be the case hereafter, when all shall "stand before the judgment-seat of Christ." There both parties must meet, and then the humble sufferer shall be relieved, and the haughty scorner condemned. The righteous God sometimes, in the present state, observes a righteous rule of retribution; as in the case of Adonibezek.* So also we read, "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword."+ The same punishment is threatened to mystical Babylon, the bitter persecutor of the church: "Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double." Thus with what measure we mete our uncharitableness and censure, it shall be measured to us again-perhaps in this world, but certainly in the next. In this respect, as well as in deeds of violence, the evil returns upon the aggressor. Let this, therefore, deter us from all severity in our opinion and conversation of our fellow-creatures. As the Saviour, in the preceding parts of this sermon, has made mercy to the miserable, and forgiveness to the offender, evidence of having obtained pardon ourselves, so here He assures us, that the contrary temper is a mark of unregeneracy, a spot that does not belong to God's children;"§ and that, therefore, if we cherish such an unchristian spirit, we must expect no mercy ourselves at last.
Judges i. 7. † Rev. xiii. 10. Ibid. xviii. 6.
Deut. xxxii. 5.
Secondly. As another corrective of this temper, we are reminded of our own imperfections. "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye." Here a striking contrast is exhibited between those who censure and the objects of their animadversion. By "mote" we may understand a small splinter of wood, taken from a larger piece, and this is, therefore, put in complete opposition to the "beam," which the Saviour represents as filling our own eye. Stripped of its figurative clothing, the sentiment exposes the absolute folly and injustice of passing judgment on the lesser infirmities and failings of our brethren, while greater ones disgrace ourselves. The whole expression," says a modern writer, "may be considered as a proverb among the Jews, and which was generally applied to such persons as were peculiarly acute in noticing every error in their neighbours, though small as a mote in the eye; while they entirely overlooked their own iniquities, though large as a beam in comparison." Men of this description ought, above all others, to desist from such conduct, for two reasons. First, because they have no right to sit in judgment on others, who are themselves guilty of the same crimes to a greater amount. Would it not be an insult to every feeling of propriety and decorum, and a mockery of justice, for the man whose hands are yet warm with the blood of his fellow-creature, to seat himself in the chair of the judge, and proceed to decide upon a charge of misdemeanour or petty larceny? And, secondly, because they have no moral qualification for its discharge. How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own
eye?" With what colour of propriety can you reproach another for his failings, when your own heart and hands are full of much grosser abominations? In order to judge rightly, our own minds should be enlightened and sanctified by the knowledge of divine things, otherwise we are wholly unqualified for the work. This is intimated by the figures before us-for we judge by the eye of the mind in the same way as we do by the eye of the body. If the one be darkened by error, or disordered by prejudice and passion, it will mislead the judgment in all its decisions, as the other does with respect to the colour, magnitude, and distance of an object. Thus the apostle remarks, "Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things."* Hence,
Thirdly. The Saviour directs us to reform our own conduct, before we undertake to sit in judgment on that of others. "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." That is to say, 'If you would attempt any thing of this kind, with a good conscience, and proper authority, begin first at home; reform what is amiss there, and direct your zeal against your own errors, before you begin to reprove the failings, and condemn the motives of your fellow-creatures." Now this is a pointed direction to examine ourselves; and if it were adopted, we should doubtless find enough within us to deplore and amend, without being severe upon the demerits of others. Before we preach to our neighbours, we should preach to ourselves. This is much more commendable, and would be more profitable in the issue.
Rom. ii. 1.
We cannot penetrate the secret recesses of the human mind, nor fully acquaint ourselves with the motives which may regulate the conduct of those whom we may be disposed to censure; instead, therefore, of vainly attempting to develope the spring of their actions, let us look at home. They who blame others, ought to be clear themselves. Admirable morality! We are not absolutely prohibited from reproving those who err; but we are directed to be first free ourselves of the evil they may have committed. In every point of view, this is advice of infinite importance. Who is competent to counsel, to instruct, or to guide; and who is likely to succeed in his admonitions to his brother, if he be himself open to the charge of ignorance, prejudice, and crime? The Jewish law said, "thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him."* So, likewise, the apostle directs the Hebrews to " exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."+ The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is a system of mercy and benevolence, and we are, therefore, to exemplify its influence over our hearts; not by the indulgence of a captious spirit towards our brethren, but by every mild and gentle endeavour to "turn them from the error of their ways." It is a maxim of general admission, that that is pure philanthropy, which, from love to God, and tenderness to man, seeks the promotion of human happiness, by the advancement of virtue and righteousness in the earth; this will contribute to true felicity in both worlds.
III. LET US NOTICE THE CAUTION WHICH WE MUST OBSERVE IN ITS DISCHARGE.
This is stated in the sixth verse; and although its connection with the preceding may not be so palpably obvious as in some cases, yet a moment's attention will enable us to perceive it. "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Learned writers have observed that the words of this verse are not in their natural order, and that the "turning again and rending" should be applied to the first, and not to the last, of the animals here mentioned, as it is more probable that the dog, exasperated by offering him that which he could not eat, would become more furious than the swine. But without disturbing the original arrangement, the sense cannot be mistaken. Generally it admonishes us not to throw away counsels and reproofs upon profane and hardened sinners, who, instead of being improved by them, would be enraged like the snarling dog, who does not like to be molested in his den; or like the sow, would return again to wallow in the mire. But this cannot refer to the public ministry of the word, for ministers are to follow the example of their Lord in this respect, and, like Him, preach the gospel of the kingdom to publicans and harlots. And while the Scribes and Pharisees became like furious dogs against the Saviour himself, yet He commanded his brethren to "preach repentance and remission of sins in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Incurable as their malignity was, they were, notwithstanding, to have the first overtures of reconciliation and peace; and it was not until these unhappy men had filled up the measure of their iniquities, by the most determined and deliberate rejection of the salvation of the gospel, that they were to be passed by. Thus the apostle, in reply to their contradictions and blasphemies at Antioch, said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you; but