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throwing into the shade such as are commendable. "When he cannot deny the metal to be good and the stamp to be true, he clippeth it, and so rejecteth it from being current: he misconstrues doubtful actions unfavourably, and throws over the very virtues of his neighbours the name of faults,-calling the sober sour, the conscientious morose, the devout superstitious, the frugal sordid, the cheerful frivolous, and the reserved crafty: he diminishes from the excellence of good actions, by showing how much better they might have been done; and attempts to destroy all confidence in long-established character, and all respect for it, by pitching on some single act of imprudence, and expanding it into a magnitude, and darkening it into a shadow, which truth and justice forbid. Such is the backbiter; whose crime is compounded of the ingredients of ill humour, pride, selfishness, envy, malice, falsehood, cowardice, and folly. Backbiting must be peculiarly hateful to God: "He is the God of truth, and therefore detesteth lying, of which detraction ever hath a spice: He is the God of justice, and therefore doth especially abhor wronging the best persons and actions: He is the God of love, and therefore cannot but loath this capital violation of charity : He is jealous of his glory, and therefore cannot endure it to be abused by slurring his good gifts and graces: He cannot but hate the offence which approacheth to that most heinous and unpardonable sin, that consisteth in defaming the excellent works performed by Divine power and goodness, ascribing them to bad causes."
The same writer, in speaking of the mischief of
detraction, as discouraging others from the performance of that goodness which is thus vilified and defamed, has the following beautiful remarks. Many, seeing the best men thus disparaged, and the best actions vilified, are disheartened and deterred from practising virtue, especially in a conspicuous and eminent degree:-"Why," will many a man say, "shall I be strictly good, seeing goodness is so liable to be misused? Had I not better be contented with a mediocrity and obscurity of goodness, than by a glaring lustre thereof to draw the envious eye and kindle raging obloquy upon me?" And when the credit of virtue is blasted in its practices, many will be diverted from it. So will it grow out of request, and the world be corrupted by these agents of the EVIL ONE. It were advisable, upon this consideration, not to seem ever. to detract, even not then when we are assured that, by speaking ill, we shall not really do it; if we should discover any man to seem worthy, or to be so reputed, whom yet we discern, by standing in a nearer light, not to be truly such, yet wisdom would commonly dictate, and goodness dispose, not to mar his repute. If we should observe, without danger of mistake, any plausible action to be performed out of bad inclinations, principles, or designs, yet ordinarily in discretion and honesty, we should let it pass with such commendation as its appearance may procure, rather than slur it by venting our disadvantageous apprehensions about it; for it is no great harm that any man should enjoy undeserved commendation; our granting its claims is but being over just, which, if it ever be a fault, can hardly be so in this case,
wherein we do not expend any cost or suffer any damage but it may do mischief to blemish any appearance of virtue: it may be a wrong thereto, to deface its very image; the very disclosing of hypocrisy doth inflict a wound on goodness, and exposeth it to scandal, for bad men will then be prone to infer that all virtue doth proceed from the like bad principles; so the disgrace cast on that which is spurious, will redound to the prejudice of that which is most genuine. And if it be good to forbear detracting from that which is certainly false, much more so in regard to that which is possibly true; and far more still is it so in respect to that which is clear and sure.
CENSORIOUSNESS is another sin of the same classanother child of the same family: varying, however, from those we have already considered by acting not so much in the way of reporting faults as in condemning them. It is different from slander, inasmuch as it assumes, that what it condemns is true; and from detraction, inasmuch as it is not exercised with an intention to injure another in public estimation, but only to reprove him for what is wrong. It assumes the character, not of a witness, but of a judge: hence the injunction, " Judge not." Censoriousness, then, means a disposition to scrutinize men's motives-to pass sentence upon their conduct to reproach their faults,-accompanied by an unwillingness to make all reasonable allowances for their mistakes, and a tendency to the side of severity rather than to that of leniency. We are not to suppose that all inspection and condemnation of the conduct of others is sin; nor that all
reproof of offenders is a violation of the law of charity; nor that we are to think well of our neighbours, in opposition to the plainest evidence; nor that we are to entertain such a credulous opinion of the excellence of mankind, as unsuspectingly to confide in every man's pretences: but what we condemn is needlessly inquiring into the conduct and motives of other men; examining and arraigning them at our bar, when we stand in no relation to them that requires such a scrutiny; delivering our opinion when it is not called for; pronouncing sentence with undue severity, and heaping the heaviest degree of reproach upon an offender which we can find language to express.
"The world is become so extremely critical and censorious, that in many places the chief employment of men, and the main body of conversation, is, if we mark it, taken up in judging; every company is a court of justice, every seat becometh a tribunal, at every table standeth a bar, whereunto all men are cited-whereat every man, as it happeneth, is arraigned and sentenced: no sublimity or sacredness of dignity-no integrity or innocence of lifeno prudence or circumspection of demeanour,-can exempt any person from it. Not one escapes being taxed under some odious name or scandalous character or other. Not only the outward actions and visible practices of men are judged, but their retired sentiments are brought under review-their inward" dispositions have a verdict passed upon them their final states are determined. Whole bodies of men are thus judged at once; and nothing is it in one breath to damn whole churches-at ore
push, to throw down whole nations into the bottomless pit: yea, God himself is hardly spared, his providence coming under the bold obloquy of those, who, as the Psalmist speaketh of some in his time, whose race does yet survive,-speak loftily, and set their mouth against the heavens." Barrow, in order to censure this temper, gives the following qualifications of a judge. He should be appointed by competent authority, and not intrude himself into office. To how many censors may we say, "Who made thee a judge?" He should be free from all prejudice and partiality. Is this the case with the censorious? He should never proceed to judgment, without a careful examination of the case, so as well to understand it. Let the private self-appointed judges remember this, and act upon the principle of Solomon-" He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is a folly and a shame to him." He should never pronounce sentence but upon good grounds, after certain proof and full conviction. If this rule were observed, how many censures would be prevented. He will not meddle with causes beyond the jurisdiction of his court. If this were recollected and acted upon, the voice of unlawful censure would die away in silence; for who are we, that we should try the hearts and search the reins of men, or judge another's servant? He never proceeds against any man, without citing him to appear, either in person or by his representative, and giving him an opportunity to defend himself. When any one is censured in company, there should always be found some generous mind, who would propose that the accused should be sent for, and the trial put off till he