"Judge not, that ye be not judged" (v. 1). In the previous chapter we were obliged, so as not to exceed the usual length, to confine ourselves unto the first part of this brief verse. In it we sought to show what is here not forbidden, that there is a lawful judging which God requires us to exercise, both in public and in private. Then we pointed out no less than seven forms of unlawful judging, indicating that this prohibition of Christ's is a very comprehensive one. Our apology, if such be needed, for entering into so much detail is, first, because these words "judge not" are so frequently misunderstood and misapplied; and second, because the sin which is here forbidden is a very grievous one and has become exceedingly common. Some Christians are more prone to it than others, one in one way and one in another. It is a sin which may be committed in the house of prayer. When the minister is rebuking some evil or failure in some particular duty, there are often those present who will conclude he is addressing himself to some others in the congregation, which is one reason why so many reap so little from hearing the Word preached.
Now since it be wrong for us to judge one of our brethren or even our fellows presumptuously, hypocritically, hastily, unwarrantably, unjustly or unmercifully, how much more heinous must it be for us to give audible expression to the same and transmit it to others! Equally so is it for those who listen to us to repeat the same. "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people" (Lev. 19:16): yet who among us can plead innocence therein? Alas, how many there are, now that the pulse of love beats so feebly, who take a devilish pleasure in spreading evil reports of fellow members and enlarging on the same. "A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (Prov. 11:13). Equally reprehensible is it for us to censure and hold up to scorn those of another denomination, unless the Scriptures plainly condemn them. "Speak evil of no man's (Titus 3:2) forbids us expressing anything to the discredit or disadvantage of another to anyone but to oneself, except where duty demands it-the putting others on their guard against an evil-doer or a doctrinal corrupter.
It should be pointed out that veracity is not the only virtue which needs to be exercised whenever we make report of the character and conduct of another. To say of such and such a person, "He possesses this or that virtue, but-well, least said, soonest mended," is far worse than saying nothing at all, for such an utterance insinuates to our hearers that there is some grave evil in the party to whom we have alluded. We may say nothing but what is the truth, yet by the very manner in which we express ourselves suggest that a certain person is not to be trusted. Thus when David came to Ahimelech begging bread for his men and requesting some weapon, and the priest granted him the sword of Goliath (1 Sam. 21), Doeg, who witnessed the transaction, put his knowledge to a wicked use by reporting the same unto Saul, implying that Ahimelech had entered into a conspiracy with David against the king's life; and the telling of the truth from such an evil motive and in such a manner cost the lives of eighty-five priests (1 Sam. 22:18): again we say, Behold how great a fire a little matter kindleth!
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