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On the Judgments We Form of Others

On the Judgments We Form of Others

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY REV. SYDNEY SMITH, A.M.


In righteousness shall thou judge thy neighbour.— Leviticus xix. verse 15.
BY REV. SYDNEY SMITH, A.M.


In righteousness shall thou judge thy neighbour.— Leviticus xix. verse 15.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 16, 2013
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O THE JUDGMETS WE FORM OF OTHERSBY REV. SYDEY SMITH, A.M.In righteousness shall thou judge thy neighbour.— Leviticus xix. verse15.Though this sentiment has been repeatedly confirmed byour Saviour himself; and though it continually pervades thewritings of Saint Paul and the apostles ; I have chosen toquote it from the Jewish Scriptures, to show, that it was anancient law among men, arising from good feeling, sanctionedby long practice, and, therefore, from its direct bearing uponhuman happiness, incorporated into Christian morals.In righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour ; the firstbranch of which righteous judgment is, to cultivate a pre-disposition to mercy ; to hear bad motives imputed to others,with an earnest desire that they may prove to be exaggerated,or untrue ; and to discipline the mind in such a manner, thatits habitual feeling, on hearing of the faults of others, shouldbe that of unfeigned sorrow. Modern manners have adopteda certain language of virtuous sympathy, which passes, notunfrequently, with ourselves and others, for the excellenceitself ; — if all, then, who wish to appear good, counterfeit acompassion for the faults of others, all who wish to be good,should really cherish and promote the feeling. — Manners arethe shadows of virtues ; the momentary display of those quali-ties which our fellow-creatures love and respect. — If westrive to become, then, what we strive to appear, mannersmay often be rendered useful guides to the performance of our duties.The habit we have of comparing ourselves with others, isthat principle of our nature which prevents us from feelingas much compassion as we ought for the infirmities of the8
 
86 O THE JUDGMETS WE FORM OF OTHERS.rest of mankind ; we cannot hear a bad action imputed to any-one without congratulating ourselves that we have not beenguilty of it, and enjoying a momentary superiority that ourfortune has been more perfect, our wisdom more penetrating,and our virtue more firm: — this is not what Christianityteaches ; it teaches us to listen, with trembling humihty, toevery example of error, or of crime ; to reflect, at such sea-sons, upon the frail nature of man; to receive, with seriouspity, every fresh example of misguided reason and triumph-ant passion ; to remember, that to-morrow may bring somedifficulty which we cannot vanquish ; some temptation whichwe cannot resist ;'^and that we ourselves may then be suingfor that indulgence which to-day we so arrogantly refuse toothers.To judge our neighbour in righteousness, it is our duty toconsider those motives which may corrupt our judgment :when we set ourselves to reflect how far we have cultivatedthis species of justice, Ave deceive ourselves, by quoting theexamples of those who have become dear to us from particu-lar circumstances ; by citing the judgments we have made of friends, of kindred, of men, who have embarked with us incommon designs ; have been engaged in the same pursuit; andbeen actuated by the same principles : doubtless we are justenough in all these instances ; here we feel real sorrow atthe faults of others, and do all, and even more than the mostrighteous judges ought to do: but if we really and faithfullywish to fulfil this great duty, we are to examine how far wehave righteously judged those to whom we have never beenconnected in friendship ; those whom chance has separatedfrom us by rank and wealth ; nature by talents ; education byopinions; those who have been opposed to us in questions whichtry the passions : those from whom we have suffered disre-spect, injury and contempt. If, in the awful moments of self-judgment, we can satisfy ourselves that we never wishedthat calumny to be true which accorded with our warmestpassions ; that we have never been disappointed by that in-
 
nocence which baffled our resentment, that the infirmities of our nature have rarely stifled this tenderness for the goodfame of others ; then, and not till then, are we entitled to con-ceive that we have obeyed this precept of the Scriptures, and judged our fellow-creatures in righteousness.It is from inattention to the motives which may corrupt our judgments, that the art of differing in opinion upon importantO THE jrDGMETS WE FORM OF OTHERS. 87subjects is so little understood, or, if understood, is so imperfectly-exercised ; — a part of conduct, however, in which all the bestfeelings of a Christian may be called into action, and upon theproper exercise of which the happiness of society intimately de-pends. To look upon mankind, collected either into greater orlesser numbers, as members either of kingdoms, or cities, weare delighted with that social combination, that unity of viewand interests, which appears among them ; it is only from amore intimate view of their condition that we perceive thoseinterior societies separated from each other by insuperableaversion, and waging the most furious and implacable war of opinion ; — to see men of acknowledged worth and talentstotally blind to each other's perfections, furiously ascribing toeach other the most improbable depravity, and shunning eachother Avith the most marked detestation, is, to him who haskept his passions cool and unbiased, a lesson upon the in-firmities of our nature not easily to be forgotten : differ wemust, and upon the most serious topics ; but the law of Christis not a set of words always in our mouths, but a rule to benever absent from our hearts. What is the meaning of beinga Christian, if it is not to carry into all these differences acandid, liberal and forgiving spirit ? to exhibit towards everyopponent the purest and most impartial justice ? to debarourselves of the unworthy resource of imputing bad motives,but upon the most unq^uestionable evidence ? to exercise ourown right of deciding, without denying that right of others ?and, while we obey the result of our own dehbe rations, to re-

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