ON RASH JUDGMENT
Consider first, that this commandment is also violated by the sin of rash judgment, which robs one’s neighbour of his esteem and reputation; if not with regard to others, by publishing the suspicions we have conceived of him, or the judgment we make to his disadvantage, at least within our own breast, by despising and condemning him there. O how much is this crime (when voluntary and deliberate) condemned by the word of God! O how contrary it is to all Christian charity! ‘Judge not,’ saith our Lord, Luke vi. 37, ‘and you shall not be judged: condemn not and you shall not be condemned.’ ‘Why dost thou judge thy brother,’ saith St. Paul, Rom. xiv. 10, ‘or why dost thou despise thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, and every one of us shall render account to God for himself. Let us not therefore judge one another any more.’ and again, 1 Cor. iv. 4, 5: ‘He that judgeth is the Lord: therefore judge not before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.’ And again, Rom. xiv. 4, ‘Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? It is to his own master he must stand or fall.’ ‘He that detracteth his brother,’ saith St.James, chap. iv. 11, & c., ‘or he that judgeth his brother, detracteth the law, and judgeth the law. There is one lawgiver and judge that is able to destroy and to deliver, but who art thou that judgest thy neighbour?’ O let us always attend to these divine admonitions, and fly rash judgment like death.
Consider 2ndly, the injury done by rash judgment, first to God himself, to whom all judgment belongs; by usurping his authority, in judging and condemning others without his licence; and even presuming to claim his prerogative of diving into the intentions and secrets of hearts. Then the wrong that is done to one’s neighbour, by passing sentence upon him unheard, and without sufficient knowledge of his guilt; (which way of proceeding would be highly unjust in any judge or court whatsoever,) and this without any sufficient authority over him, or observing any order or justice in this regard. Moreover, rash judgment, when voluntary, is also highly criminal upon account of its opposition to those two most essential virtues of a Christian, charity and humility. For the rashly censuring and condemning one’s neighbour must needs destroy charity; since the property of charity is ‘to think no evil,’ 1 Cor. xiii. 5. and how can it be otherwise, for charity is love; and love, so far from rashly imputing imaginary crimes to the beloved, is ever willing to overlook even real defects when duty does not oblige us to correct them. And as to humility, nothing can be more opposite to it than the despising and undervaluing one’s neighbour, and secretly preferring one’s self before him, in one’s own breast: now this is commonly one of the chief ingredients in rash judgment.
Consider 3rdly, that in order to overcome the vicious habit of judging rashly of one’s neighbour, one must search out the root of this evil, and then lay the axe to the root, in order to cut it up. Rash judgment in many persons, springs from pride, and from their having too good an opinion of themselves; which makes them ever ready to believe the worst of others, and to censure them, in order to exalt themselves. In others the root of their rash judgment is the ill will, hatred, or envy, they bear to their neighbours which inclines them to put always the worst construction on what they say or do, and to condemn their intentions, even in their best actions. Others again, because they are evil themselves, judge ill of their neighbours, by themselves. Others, in fine, from the presumption they have of their own wit, great talents, and experience, arrogate to themselves privilege of passing their judgment upon every one,and yet proudly imagine they are out of the danger of rashness or injustice in so doing; such is the confidence they have in their own clear-sightedness, though alas! it often pretends to discover the mote in another’s eye, and see not the beam in its own. The general remedy for all rash judgments, from whatsoever source they proceed, is to have our eye always upon ourselves, and upon our own faults, and to turn it away form our neighbour’s; to endeavour also to be sensible how great an evil it is to judge and condemn our neighbours, and how pernicious it is to our own souls; to make frequent acts of detestation of it; and to pray continually to our Lord to be delivered from it.
Conclude to guard against all manner of rash judgments, as being hateful to God, injurious to your neighbours, and destructive of the salvation of your own soul. The study and practice of charity and humility is the sovereign means by which to obtain the victory over this pernicious evil.