« PreviousContinue »
After this, our Saviour turns his Difcourfe again to the rigid Cenfurers, by another Parable; faying in the next words, And why beholdeft thou the Mote that is in thy Brother's Eye, but perceiveft not the Beam that is in thine own Eye? Where by the Mote in the Brother's Eye is meant fome leffer Failing or Infirmity, fuch as fome Indecency of Behaviour, fome Inadvertence or Indifcretion; which having no great Guilt or Malignity in it, is compar'd to the fmall Dimenfions of a Mote, which if gotten into the Eye, may a little difturb the Sight, but not darken or put it out. By the Beam in their own Eye, we are to underftand fome greater Crime or Enormity; which having the bigger Dimensions of a Beam, totally hinder the Sight, and keep the Eye from difcerning matters aright. So that the Senfe of this Rebuke is, Why doft thou fo eafily fee and cenfure fmall Faults in others, when thou haft much greater of thine own; which thy Pride makes thee overlook, and thy Partiality will not fuffer thee to discover? Now from hence we learn two very obvious, but fad Truths:
ift, The Proneness of Mankind to efpy and aggravate fmall Faults in other Men. There is fcarce a Mote in a Brother's Eye, which an evil Eye will not difcover; yea, and magnify too into a Beam: the Cenfurer is eagle-ey'd to difcern another's Failings, and can make a Mole-hill to become a Mountain. Do not too many put the worst Con ftruction upon fome Mens Words and Actions, omitting all the Circumftances that may extenuate and excufe them. and infifting only on thofe that may enhance and increafe the Guilt? And this proceeds (as was before hinted) fometimes from Pride, which prompts Men to afperfe and blac ken others, that themselves may fhine the brighter: Sometimes from Envy, which cannot bear the Luftre of another's Merits, and therefore must raise fome Duft of Detraction to obfcure and darken it: Sometimes from Malice, which works its mifchievous Ends upon those it hates, by blafting their Reputation: Sometimes again this proceeds from Differences in Religion; it being ufual with Sectaries and Separatists to raife and fpread evil Reports of others, to countenance their own Separation. In fhort, there is a certain Pride and Pleasure that fome Men take in finding faults, partly to fhew their great Sagacity and Integrity' above others, and partly to gain fome Power and 'Superiority over them, that they may appear greater by a fhew of being better than they. And there is that Ill-nature
and Ill-will reigning in many, that never speaks well, but makes them ever ready to fhoot out their Arrows, even bitter Words.
2dly, We may obferve here, as the Proneness of Men to efpy Faults in others, fo their great Backwardness to fee their own greater Mifcarriages. One would think that a Beam fhould be more eafily feen than a Mote; and indeed fo it would, if there were not fomething elfe to interpofe and hinder but fuch is the Prejudice and Partiality of most Men, that they can fooner fee a Mote in their Brother's Eye, than a Beam in their own. They that, like Argus, are all Eyes to behold the leaft Slip or Infirmity of their Neighbours, are yet stark blind with relation to themselves, and cannot fee a much greater Enormity of their own: and this is owing to Self-love and Self-intereft. Men are fo fond of themselves, that they cannot fee any thing amifs in them, and like Lais would break their Looking-glafs, if it fhew'd the Spots and Wrinkles of their Face. Others again are so addicted to their Intereft, as to hide all that may hinder it; and because Vice and Wickedness, Fraud and Falfhood, are great Enemies to Profperity and Preferment, they must by all means be conceal'd in themselves, and difclos'd in others. This Horace perceiv'd long fince in his time, Cum tua pervideas, &c. and half an Eye may plainly discern it in ours.
3dly, Our Saviour obferves here Mens Forwardness not only to fee, but to reform and amend Faults in others, without any regard to their own. This is held forth in the next Question; Either how canft thou fay to thy Brother, Brother, let me pull out the Mote that is in thine Eye, when thou thy felf beholdeft not the Beam that is in thine own Eye? Where he rebukes the Forwardness of their Zeal, who would pull out a Mote, or amend a small Failing in another, and in the mean time overlook a Beam, and neglect more heinous Enormities in themfelves. We know fome who talk much of Reformation of Manners, and call loudly for the punishing of Vice and Immorality, when at the fame time they can indulge themfelves in the more pernicious Evils of Schifm, Diffenfion, and all manner of Dif obedience.
Thefe our Saviour, in the next Verfe, calls by the name of Hypocrites, and directs to another and better Course for the reforming of Manners; faying, Thou Hypocrite, caft out first the Beam out of thine own Eye, and then halt thou fee
clearly to pull out the Mote that is in thy Brother's Eye. Where he firft brands fuch Reformers with, the name of Hypocrites, for affecting a feign'd Shew of greater Piety and Religion than other Men, and feeking to appear to the World better than they really are. Next, he lays before them the true and right Rule of Reformation, which is to begin with our felves, and to amend what is amifs there. True Reformation, like Charity, begins at home, and makes Men more follicitous to reform their own Ways, than to pry into and cenfure the Manners of others. Such Cenfores Morum had need have not only fufficient Authority, but an exemplary and unfpotted Integrity; left their own Mifcarriages upbraid the Forwardness of their Zeal, and confute their goodlieft Pretences. To act aright then, we must first pull out the Beam that is in our own Eye; for while that is there, it will fo cloud and intercept the Sight, that we fhall not fee matters aright either in our felves or others. But when that is remov'd, then fhall we fee the more clearly to pull out the Mote that is in our Brother's Eye. We shall be able with better Judgment and greater Authority to reprove and reform others, when our own Miscarriages are laid afide, and cannot be objected against us.
This is the Sum of this Day's Gofpel: it remains that we obferve and practife the great Leffons contain'd in it. As,
1. To be ever mindful of the great Duty of Mercifulnefs, and that in both the Branches of Giving and Forgiving by the one giving to the Wants and Neceflities of others, by the other forgiving the Injuries and Trefpaffes done to our felves; and in both imitating the Goodness and Bounty of our heavenly Father, who denies not the Blef fings of the Sun and the Rain to the Evil and Unthankful, and paffes by the Offences of them that daily provoke him. Let us not then confine the good Offices of Mercy and Kindness to them only, from whom we have or hope to receive the like again; for this is rather Bartering than Bounty, and is not fo much Mercy as Merchandize: but let us extend them to thofe that are unable or unwilling to re turn them; yea, to fuch as repay us only with Ingratitude and Unkindness: fo fhall we become the Children of the moft High, and be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. And this we fhould the rather do, because the Proceedings Vol, IV. Part 2
of the laft and great Day of Judgment will turn much upon this point of fhewing mercy. They that have reliev'd Chrift in his Members, fhall be pronounc'd bleffed, and enter into their Mafter's Joy; they that have neglected or refus'd these Acts of Mercy, fhall be denounc'd curfed, and doom'd to utter and eternal Darkness.
2. From this Difcourfe we may learn to be merciful in our Cenfures, not judging and condemning one another, but interpreting mens Words in the beft Senfe, and putting the beft Conftruction upon all their Actions. This Charity and the Commands of God require of all Chriftians, whereas all uncharitable and cenforious Judging is directly oppofite and contrary to both. 'Tis a piece of Injustice done to God, by taking his work out of his hand, and invading of his Prerogative: Every one of us (faith the Apoftle) hall give an account of himself to God, and therefore let us not judg one another any more; Rom. 14. 12, 13. Speak not evil one of another (faith St. James) he that speaketh evil of his Brother, and judgeth his Brother, Speaketh evil of the Law, and judgeth the Law; he fets himself above the Rule that he is to walk by, and fo is no longer a Doer of the Law, but a fudg: which is a high Prefumption, for there is one Lawgiver and Fudg, who is able to fave and to deftroy; and who art thou that judgeft? Jam.4. 11, 12. Moreover, this judging another is a great piece of Injuftice done to our Brother, by ufurping a Power over him, that no way belongs to us, 'tis judging another Man's Servant without any leave or authority from his Mafter, 'tis an Encroachment upon the Liberty of Chriftians in things indifferent, for why is my Liberty judged (faith the Apoftle) of another Man's Confcience? for which no Man hath any Commiffion: 1 Cor. 10. 29. Again, this judging is a great Injury to the Cenfurer himself; for his Cenfures commonly recoil upon himfelf, and the Darts he aims at others Reputation, ofttimes wound his own; he frequently makes a Rod for his own back, none being more fhot at and cenfur'd, than they who fo liberally let fly thefe Bolts: for with what Judgment ye judg (faith our Saviour) ye shall be judged; and with what meafure ye mete, it shall be meafur'd to you again. Mat. 7.1, 2.
Laftly, From the Rule of Reformation here fet by our Saviour, let us firft begin with reforming and amending our felves, and remove Beams from our own Eyes, before we meddle with Motes in our Brother's. Let us converse
more at home, and fweep our own doors, before we look abroad and complain of the Foulness of others. In a word, let us abstain from all rafh and hard Cenfures of others, and let us judg and condemn our felves; and then we fhall not be judg'd or condemn'd of the Lord: which God grant, &c.
Be ye all of one mind, having compaffion one of ano ther: Love as Brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendring Evil for Evil, or Railing for Railing, but contrariwife Bleffing: knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye fhould inherit a Bleffing, &c.
E are taught in the Collect for this Day to befeech Almighty God, that the Course of this World may be fo peaceably order'd by his Governance, that the Church may joyfully ferve him in all godly Quietnefs. To effect or bring this to pafs,
The Epiftle for this Day prefcribes this excellent Advice to that end, Be ye all of one mind: fignifying to us, that Unity of Mind and Judgment is the beft means to preferve the Peace of the Church and all godly Quietness; and likewife that Diversity of Opinions is the main caufe of all the Difcord and Confufion that happens in it. And therefore St. Paul, in his laft Advice to the Corinthians, joins them both together; faying, Finally, Brethren, be of one mind, live in peace, 2 Cor. 13. 11. thereby intimating, that there is a Connexion or mutual Dependence of these two upon each other, that Unity will put an end to Divifions, and the best way to live in peace, is to be of one mind.