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SOCIAL LIFE OF THE PHARISEES.
SECTION 1.-UNCHARITABLE JUDGMENTS.
MAT. VII. 1 6.
THROUGHOUT the whole ofthe sixth chapter of Matthew's gospel, the Redeemer has been laying down the great leading principles by which His disciples ought ever to be actuated in so far as God is concerned. Pharisees, or formalists of that day, like the formalists of our own, though they made a high outward profession of Christianity, were in reality hypocritical worldlings, who engaged in religious duties with no other view than to be seen and admired of men, and instead of setting their hearts upon God as the chief treasure of the soul, the whole desires of their hearts, and the whole energies of their life, were devoted to the things of the world. Our blessed Lord accordingly lays it down as an established law of His kingdom, that God must be the all in all of our religious duties, and He must be the all in all of the affections of our hearts.
But the formalist is not only living in a practical
violation of his duty to God; he is also living in a practical violation of his duty to man. The two tables of the Moral Law are essentially and inseparably connected. The religion of the Bible requires us to love God with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and mind, and it requires us, with equal authority, to love our neighbour as ourselves. The Pharisee was unsound in his views of the one, and he was just as unsound in his views of the other. If he falsely trusted that he was righteous in the sight of God, this very error led him to despise others. If he could say, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess," the same spirit led him to say, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are.” In both cases he was puffed up with pride, and therefore he fell into the condemnation of the devil. Self-righteousness is the offspring of pride; it is pride towards God,—one of the most hateful forms which pride can possibly assume; and its invariable accompaniment is pride towards man-an unseemly and odious preferring of ourselves to our fellow-men.
In opposition to such a spirit, our blessed Redeemer issues the pointed exhortation
V. 1. "Judge not, that ye be not judged."
It is scarcely necessary to observe, that our blessed Lord is not forbidding the administration of justice in courts of law, or by the authorised judges of
the land; neither is He to be understood as forbidding the exercise of our own private judgment on what is properly within our sphere. On the contrary, we are commanded, 1 Thess. v. 21, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." Still less does our Lord mean to discountenance the strictest self-examination, with a view to discover our own principles, and sentiments, and character. This plain scriptural duty the apostle enforces upon us, when he exhorts us, that if "we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." The true design of our Lord in the text may be learned, not only from the context, but from the parallel passage in Luke vi. 37, "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven." From these words, it is plain that our Lord warns His disciples against all rash, censorious, condemnatory judgments upon their fellow-men. He wishes that all His people should avoid the presumptuous conduct of the formalist who, puffed up with a high opinion of his own excellence, recklessly usurps the tribunal of the Searcher of Hearts, and ventures to give forth his judgment upon the motives and secret feelings of others, while all the time he is in utter ignorance of himself.
Against all such unwarrantable and censorious judgments in reference to our fellow-men, the Redeemer gives His solemn warning, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." We must not be ready to take up
an evil report against our neighbour, but seek to exercise that charity which "hopeth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things." There is a spirit akin to that of the Evil One, which "rejoiceth in iniquity," which exults in the halting of a neighbour, more especially if a professor of Christianity, which aggravates his crime, and hastens to pronounce upon him a sweeping condemnation. How different the spirit of the true believer! "Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law." He weeps, but he will not rashly judge; he hates sin, but his heart bleeds for the sinner; he pities and he prays for him, remembering that he himself also is compassed about with manifold infirmities; for one fault that he finds in his neighbour, he will, on reflection, find two in himself.
But if censorious judgment is opposed to the spirit of the gospel in any case, much more when the object of it is a fallen Christian who may conscientiously differ from us on some points of lesser moment. this subject the exhortation of the apostle is explicit, Rom. xiv. 1-5, "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?
Let every man be
to his own master he standeth or falleth; yea, he shall be holden up for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another; another man esteemeth every day alike. fully persuaded in his own mind." And again, verses 10-13, "But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block, or an occasion to fall, in his brother's way." These words contain a powerful reproof to those who are disposed to judge uncharitably of individuals, who, though they hold the same faith, and are animated by the same hope, yet may have deemed it their duty to attach themselves to different sections of the Church of Christ from that to which we belong. If the points which separate us and them be vital,-affecting, as we believe, the very foundation and framework of the Church of Christ,-let us protest with the utmost firmness against the error, but let us beware of rashly judging or condemning the men who, probably in ignorance, hold the error.
The reason on which our Lord rests his prohibition