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Lord favours and distinguishes his servants at their departure out of this world. By length of days, by a sound constitution, by vigorous faculties, by increasing usefulness, by heightened enjoyment, by the fruit of their labours, by more abundant respect and honour, by serenity of mind, by confidence in God, by the unclouded prospect of glory, honour and immortality have the righteous, in the end of life, been honoured of the Lord. And ought not we to preserve their memory with honour?
It is always true that the death of the saint is dear to the Lord. On all the excellent of the earth, however, the same tokens of the favour of heaven are not conferred, in the evening or at the close of life. The sun sometimes leaves the horizon in an unclouded sky with all nature serene and beautiful; at other times he sets obscured in clouds. But it is the same glorious luminary, whose brightness no clouds can sully, and who disappears to rise again in renewed splendour.
If we believe and meditate on the glory that shall be revealed, if we place before our eyes. the descending judge, the assembled world, the publick, unfading and eternal honours of the righteous, their depression and obscurity
will not only be as nothing, but will rather add to their celebrity and glory. If such be the heritage of them who seek God, can we but be constrained to honour them whom God delighteth to honour, and whom he will hold in everlasting remembrance?
On the caution necessary to be observed in our
censure of others.
MATTHEW, CHAP. 7, VERSE 1.
"Judge not, that ye be not judged."
THOUGH the opinion of the world is by no means an infallible test of character, yet it is not without reason that we set a high value on reputation. Though the approbation of our own conscience is the surest reward of virtue, yet an indifference to reputation is not the attendant of a mind most desirous to be satisfied with itself. It is the attainment of those only who have completely thrown away a good opinion of themselves and have nothing to lose. To every person then, who has a just sensibility to reputation, it will appear a matter of the greatest importance, to establish a rule to regulate the judgments which men form
of one another, and to prevent those errours into which they are liable to fall. This rule our Saviour has laid down in the words of the text; which forbids us rashly to form an unfavourable judgment of others. For though the precept is expressed in general terms, and literally taken would prevent us forming any opinion of others, whether favourable or otherwise, yet so seldom do mankind err on the favourable side, and so little harm arises from so doing, that we can never interpret the precept as in any respect directed against it. Besides the intercourse and connections of society give us an unavoidable interest in the character of others. Were we to become indifferent spectators of their conduct human life would stand still. But this is impossible. We will love those only who are deserving—we will trust those only who are honest-we will believe those only who have never deceived us. Every action of a man is influenced by the opinon he entertains of his neighbours; and in this sense by abstaining from judging them we must cease to have any intercourse with the world. The spirit of our Saviour's exhortation, then, is not to abstain wholly from judging others, but that in forming our opinions we should be charitable and think no evil.
Neither does this precept require us, in forming our judgment, always to think well of our neighbours. Shall we overstep those limits which separate right and wrong? If a man appear in open day, clothed with his vices, shall we suppose that virtue may wear such a garb? If he takes the name of God in vain, shall we not call him profane? If he be intemperate, shall we shut our eyes until we find an interval of sobriety and call him sober? If he ruin the innocent, if he defraud those who trust in him, if he oppress those who dépend on him, and repulse with harshness the petition of the poor, shall we not call him cruel, unjust, insolent and worthless?
There is room enough for charity, without extending it to vice; and our characters will have but a poor title to indulgence if we have no other than that we ourselves spare those who openly violate the laws of morality and good order. This precept was intended to promote peace among men, but not by reconci ling right and wrong, by destroying the only foundation on which peace can be established. Wo unto them who call evil good, and good evil; wo unto them who would separate infamy from vice-who smile at crimes, and hold forth their right hand to wickedness.