James 4:11
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the Law and judges it. And if you judge the Law, you are not a practitioner of the Law, but a judge of it.
Sermons
Be Merciful in Your Judgment of OthersJames 4:11-12
Conscience Subject to God AloneEmperor Maximilian.James 4:11-12
DetractionI. Barrow, D. D.James 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingR. Wardlaw, . D. D.James 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingThe Christian MagazineJames 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingChas. Hope.James 4:11-12
Evil SpeakingA. Warwick.James 4:11-12
Evil Speaking RebukedJames 4:11-12
Evil-SpeakingR. Turnbull.James 4:11-12
Evil-Speaking and Evil-JudgingC. Jerdan James 4:11, 12
Habit of CensureJ. Spencer.James 4:11-12
Judging Our BrethrenJohn Adam.James 4:11-12
Judgment, Human and DivineT.F. Lockyer James 4:11, 12
Look for Good in OthersJames 4:11-12
Of Judging Our NeighbourChas. Peters, M. A.James 4:11-12
On Evil SpeakingJ. Seed, M. A.James 4:11-12
Rights of ConscienceH. C. Fish, D. D.James 4:11-12
The LawgiverD. Thomas.James 4:11-12
The Love of Censuring OthersA. Plummer, D. D.James 4:11-12
The Supreme LawgiverT. Manton.James 4:11-12
Uncharitable Speech in the Light of DeathAdvocate and Guardian.James 4:11-12
Here James still continues his warning against the spirit of selfishness and worldliness. In these two verses he issues a solemn interdict against the habit of calumny and unjust censure of brethren. For evil-speaking is one of the most familiar manifestations of that spirit of strife which he has already rebuked.

I. THE PROHIBITION. (Ver. 11.)

1. Fundamentally it is directed against evil-judging. The apostle's words are to be interpreted according to their spirit. He does not condemn all judging. God has implanted within us the critical faculty, the judgment; and we cannot avoid using it. Indeed, it is a Christian duty to pronounce upon conduct and character. We require to do so within our own breasts for our own moral guidance; while to judge publicly is a function of the civil magistrate and of Church rulers. What James condemns here is evil-judging - all judging that is censorious or calumnious. We are not to judge rashly, harshly, uncharitably. Even good Christians are tempted to transgress in this matter in many ways: e.g. from listening to mere rumor, from trusting to our own first impressions, from narrow-mindedness, from self-conceit, from mistaken views of the sufferings of others, from forgetting that we cannot look into our neighbors' hearts. In forming our judgments of conduct and character we should have regard to such principles as these:

(1) We have no right to come to an unfavorable conclusion unless we possess full knowledge of all the facts.

(2) We ought to guard against undue severity of judgment.

(3) We must not allow bad motives to warp our decisions.

(4) When acts are capable either of a favorable or an unfavorable construction, we are bound in charity to take the favorable view.

2. But the prohibition refers also to the expression of our judgments. It forbids evil, speaking. The vilest form of this sin consists in the willful creation of false reports against brethren. To originate such is literally diabolical. True Christians may seldom fall into this lowest and guiltiest form of calumny; but how readily do some of us yield ourselves to the circulation of slanders which have been poured into our ears! How frequently do we "take up a reproach against our neighbor" (Psalm 15:3)! We find it lying in our way, and we pick it up and pass it on, whereas we ought to allow it to remain where it is. Alas! even in Christian circles a small and slight rumor will sometimes expand speedily into a huge inflated calumny, which will scatter mischief and misery along its path. And even mere idle speaking degenerates into evil-speaking. Gossip soon becomes backbiting; scandal grows out of tittle-tattle. It is so much easier to talk of persons than of principles, that our dinner and tea parties, instead of being occupied with profitable subjects of conversation, are sometimes largely given over to the retail of scandal. We should ever bear in mind such principles as the following for our guidance in the expression of our judgments concerning others:

(1) The end of speech is to bless and serve God, while evil-speaking is work done for Satan.

(2) We should direct attention to the excellences rather than to the defects of our neighbor's character.

(3) When we require in private life to use the language of condemnation, we ought to condemn principles rather than persons.

(4) We should tell his fault to the erring brother himself rather than to others.

II. THE GROUNDS OF THE PROHIBITION. One strong argument is introduced incidentally, in the use of the words "brethren" and "brother." Depreciatory and calumnious language towards one another is subversive of the whole idea of brotherhood. It is inconsistent with the recognition of the common brotherhood of the race, and tenfold more so in relation to the special spiritual brotherhood of believers. The apostle, however, submits expressly two grounds for his condemnation. To judge and speak evil is:

1. To condemn the Divine Law. (Ver. 11.) "The law" refers to the moral code which was given by Moses, and fulfilled and made honorable by Jesus Christ. It is the same which James has spoken of in James 1. as "the law of liberty." Of this law the second great commandment is, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" - a precept which embraces within it the "judge not" of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 7:1). But the man who speaks evil of his brother virtually condemns the New Testament ethics as unsound, and pronounces the moral law to be unworthy of obedience.

2. To usurp the functions of the Divine Judge. (Vers. 11, 12.) Our proper place and work as Christians is that of humble submission to the authority of the law. If, however, we speak evil regarding our fellows, we in so doing withdraw altogether from the attitude of subjection. In "judging our brother" we climb up to the judicial bench; we usurp the seat of him who administers the law, and who is not himself under it. But how frightful the impiety that is involved in such usurpation! "One only is the Lawgiver and Judge;" he alone pronounces infallible judgments, and possesses power to execute them. His sentences are spoken for doom; yet he loves to "save," and it gives him" no pleasure" to "destroy."

LESSONS.

1. The presumptuousness of evil-judging. "Who art thou that judgest thy neighbor?" Man lacks the requisite knowledge and wisdom and purity.

2. The duty of cultivating love of the brethren.

3. The importance of copying in our lives the perfect character of the godly man, as mirrored in Psalm 15:4. The reasonableness of fearing God, as the one true and final Judge. - C.J.







Speak not evil one of another.
1. Wilful false accusation. This may be held as the very worst form of it. It involves two evils — one of heart and one of conduct — malice and falsehood.

2. The exaggeration of faults that are real. Few things are more common than this. It springs from the same odious principle of malice.

3. The needless repetition of real faults. The principle of this is still the same.

4. The whispering of slander, with the simulation of regret. Oh, there is nothing so nauseous as this. The whisperer must first be sure that doors are all close, and no one within hearing. He is so sorry to have anything to say such as he is about to disclose: begs it may be held confidential, and go no further, while he himself carries it further, the very next person he meets.

5. There is often in the representations given a colouring — in which there is no direct falsehood, but such an artful leaving out of one circumstance, and qualifying another, and giving prominence to a third, as to amount to a thorough misrepresentation of the sentiments or the actions reported, and to convey quite a different impression of them from the reality. Just as two painters may produce two pictures, each containing the very same objects, which shall yet, by the different arrangement of these objects, in foreground and background positions, and various lights and shades, be so thoroughly different, that the sameness of the objects contained in them shall never be observed.

6. Lastly, as connecting the subject with what immediately follows, harsh uncharitable judging of the conduct of others: "He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother." What means this judging? We may first reply, negatively, that it does not mean our simply forming an opinion of the conduct of others by the standard of God's law. This we cannot but do.(1) But first: we must not judge beyond the law, pronouncing sentence on our brother in matters which the Divine law does not embrace in its prohibitions or its requirements; in matters which it leaves indifferent. When we do this we are presumptuous. We go quite out of our province.(2) Then, secondly: we must not judge without sufficient evidence. We must not pronounce our sentences on suspicion, or surmise, or vague and unexamined rumour.(3) Further, we ought not to judge with undue severity, giving sentence with a rigour beyond the real desert of the offence; excluding from our judgment all alleviating circumstances.(4) We must not judge motives, the secret principles of action. These are beyond the range of our cognisance. The general interdiction of "evil-speaking" and "judging" is here enforced by a special consideration — "He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law."How is this?

1. The law itself prohibits such evil-speaking and judging. If, then, in despite and defiance of such intimations of God's will, we persist in "speaking evil of our brother, and judging our brother," we are, in the very fact, "speaking evil of the law and judging the law." We are speaking evil of it, as an over-stringent law, laying an interdict on what we see no harm in indulging. We "judge" it as being too severe and rigid in its judgments. In doing what it condemns, we condemn it.

2. When, on the other hand, we go beyond the law — judging our brother in matters which the law has left open — matters in which neither doing nor refraining to do is any violation of law; as in the case of meats and drinks and days — we then "speak evil of the law, and judge the law '"on a ground the very opposite of the former. We condemn it as not being sufficiently stringent; as leaving things indifferent, which ought not to be so left.

3. The remarks apply, in their full force, to the great general law of love. To that law the apostle had before adverted — "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well." Of this law the practical counterpart, in the terms of our Divine Master Himself, is — "Therefore, whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them for this is the law and the prophets." Now it is plain that to the spirit and the letter of this law all "evil-speaking" and all such "judging" as has been described is utterly opposed. When, therefore, we indulge in such evil speaking, we condemn, as laying too stringent a restraint upon us, even this Divinely excellent and self-recommending law, in which the elements of equity and love are so admirably combined. We in effect judge and censure this law, as laying unbearably stern restrictions upon the evil propensities of our nature.

(R. Wardlaw, . D. D.)

I. WHAT IS HERE FORBIDDEN. It is speaking evil of, and judging our brethren. It is bringing charges against, and passing sentences on, our fellow-men, and especially our fellow-Christians, for they are the brethren here referred to by the apostle. It is depreciating and denouncing them — their actions, motives, designs, characters.

1. As to speaking. "Speak not evil one of another," that is, from a spirit of enmity or envy, from the lusts warring in the members, do it not except under necessity, with some such sanction as we have referred to; in which case it is but uttering the truth, bearing a faithful testimony, not speaking evil in the ordinary and bad sense of that expression.

2. As to judging. We are repeatedly warned against such judging (Matthew 7:1, 2; Romans 14:3, 4; 1 Corinthians 4:5). We must often pronounce on conduct, and the Scripture has laid down the rule according to which we are to decide. When it is applied, certain inferences as to character and state are legitimate, inevitable. But here we are to proceed with the greatest caution. Are the actions such as they are represented, or appear to us as being? Are we not regarding them with prejudiced minds, with jaundiced eyes, under some perverting or obscuring influence? Are we not mistaken? do we know all the circumstances? Then, though they may be wrong, are they not partially explained by the peculiar position, temperament, and temptations of the parties? Can they not be accounted for without supposing a radical want of sound principle, of Christian spirit? Then let us never forget our own feeble powers and narrow views, our tendency to limit the range of Christian faith and practice; to make a great deal of some elements, and little or nothing of others, which yet may be as prominent, or even more so, in Scriptural representation and requirement. Let us also remember that there is a region which we cannot enter, and where much may be concealed of which we can take no cognisance — a region where all the springs of action, the principles of conduct lie, that of motive. "We are not to ascend the throne, we are not to usurp the Divine prerogative of judgment.

II. WHY IT IS FORBIDDEN.

1. Because it involves a condemnation of the Divine law. The law here is the moral law as animated, unfolded, regulated by the gospel. Now, speaking evil of a brother is speaking evil of the law, for the brother may be all the while keeping it, and the conduct condemned may be exactly that which it demands, dictates. When the charges made are false — as in such cases they so often are — when the dispositions or actions found fault with are not wrong but right, when they are prompted and regulated by the very law itself, then abuse of the one is abuse of the other.

2. Because it amounts to a usurpation of the office of the only Lawgiver. One acting thus does not apply it to himself, and regulate by it his own speech and behaviour. He withdraws from its control, he goes directly and flagrantly in opposition to its authority; for it forbids and condemns this way of dealing with our brother.

(John Adam.)

1. A detractor is wont to represent persons and actions under the most disadvantageous circumstances he can, setting out those which may cause them to appear odious or despicable, slipping over those which may commend or excuse them.

2. He is wont to misconstrue ambiguous words, or to misinterpret doubtful appearances of things.

3. He is wont to misname the qualities of persons or things, assigning bad appellations or epithets to good or indifferent qualities.

4. He doth imperfectly characterise persons, so as studiously to veil or faintly to disclose their virtues and good qualities, but carefully to expose, and fully to aggravate or amplify any defects or failings in them.

5. He is wont not to commend or allow anything absolutely and clearly, but always interposing some exception to which he would have it seem liable.

6. He is ready to suggest ill causes and principles, latent in the heart, of practices apparently good; ascribing what is well done to bad disposition, or bad purpose.

7. He derogateth from good actions by pretending to correct them, or to show better that might have been done in their room: it is, said he, done in some respects well, or tolerably; but it might have been done better, with as small trouble and cost: lie was overseen in choosing this way, or proceeding in this manner.

8. A detractor not regarding the general course and constant tenor of a man's conversation, which is conspicuously and clearly good, will attack some part of it, the goodness whereof is less discernible, or more subject to contest and blame.

9. The detractor injecteth suggestions of everything anywise plausible or possible, that can serve to diminish the worth of a person, or value of an action, which he would discountenance.

I. THE CAUSES OF DETRACTION.

1. Ill nature and bad humour: as good nature and ingenuous disposition incline men to observe, like, and command what appeareth best in our neighbour; so malignity of temper and heart prompteth to espy and catch at the worst.

2. Pride, ambition, and inordinate self-love.

3. Envy.

4. Malicious revenge and spite.

5. Sense of weakness, want of courage, or despondency of his own ability.

6. Evil conscience.

7. Bad, selfish design.

II. IT DOTH INVOLVE THESE KINDS OF IRREGULARITY AND DEPRAVITY.

1. Injustice: a detractor careth not how he dealeth with his neighbour, what wrong he doeth him.

2. Uncharitableness: it is evident that the detractor doth net love his neighbour, for charity maketh the best of everything; "charity believeth everything, hopeth everything" to the advantage of its object.

3. Impiety: he that loveth and reverenceth God will acknowledge and approve His goodness, in bestowing excellent gifts and graces to his brethren.

4. Detraction involveth degenerous baseness, meanness of spirit, and want of good manners.

5. In consequence to these things, detraction includeth folly; for every unjust, every uncharitable, every impious, every base person is, as such, a fool; none of those qualities are consistent with wisdom.

III. THE FOLLY OF it will particularly appear, together with its depravity, by THE BAD AND HURTFUL EFFECTS which it produceth, both in regard to others and to him that practiseth it.

1. The practice thereof is a great discouragement and obstruction to the common practice of goodness; for 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.

2. Hence detraction is very noxious and baneful to all society; for all society is maintained in welfare by encouragement of honesty and industry.

3. Detraction worketh real damage and mischief to our neighbour.

4. The detractor abuseth those into whose ears he instilleth his poisonous suggestions, engaging them to partake in the injuries done to worth and virtue, causing them to entertain unjust and uncharitable conceits, to practise unseemly and unworthy behaviour toward good men.

5. The detractor produceth great inconveniences and mischiefs to himself. He raiseth against himself fierce animosity — hence are they stirred to boil with passion, and to discharge revenge on the detractor.

6. The detractor yieldeth occasion to others, and a kind of right to return the same measure on him.

7. Again the detractor, esteeming things according to moral possibility, will assuredly be defeated in his aims; his detraction in the close will avail nothing, but to bring trouble and shame on himself; for God hath a particular care over innocence and goodness, so as not to let them finally to suffer.

(I. Barrow, D. D.)

The original of this evil is from Satan, and the pedigree of evil speech is to be derived from the devil, the great dragon, the old serpent. This is he that begetteth all slanderous persons; he it is who raiseth these motions in our hearts, and bloweth the fame of these affections in the minds of the wicked. This is that poison of Apis, the venomous serpent which lurketh under the lips of the reproachful slanderer. These wound and slay at hand, and far off, at home and abroad, the quick and the dead; these spare neither prince nor people, neither priest nor prelate, neither friend or foe, rich nor poor, base nor honourable, man nor woman, one nor other, these destroy whole houses and families. Now the common causes for which men speak evil of one another are chiefly these five:

1. Men slander and speak evil of — thereby to be revenged of — such as either have done them hurt, or else are thought to have done them injury. Thus men and women, not able with violence to make their part a good, use their slanderous tongues as instruments and weapons of their revenge.

2. As desire to be avenged pricketh men forward to this mischief, so also desire of gain moveth men thereunto, for we see sometimes that the bringing of others by slander into contempt may breed our commodity wherewith all we moved, give over our tongues as weapons and instruments of slander.

3. Neither for these causes only do we speak evil of our brethren, but also stirred up by envy; for the graces and benefits of God poured in plentiful manner upon our neighbours, whereat we being moved through envy, we speak evil of them as unworthy of those graces and benefits received.

4. And as for these causes men are moved to slander, so through desire that men have to please others they give themselves to slander. Now it is the nature of many men to delight in hearing others slandered, whose humour flatterers following do therefore often slander their brethren.

5. Finally, and that which properly concerneth this place, our evil speaking proceedeth of pride, and therefore as a mischief and effect of pride it is here condemned. For as the ape and raven think their own young ones fairest and best favoured, yet is there not a more deformed thing almost among beasts than the ape, neither a fouler among the birds than the young raven; so men like their own doings, be they never so bad, and condemn all others in comparison of themselves.This mischief is manifold, and sundry ways are men said to speak evil one of another.

1. When men misreport of us, and charge us with that which is not true, then speak they evil of us.

2. Neither thus only speak men evil one of another, but also when they amplify, exaggerate, aggravate, and make the infirmities and faults of men far greater by their reports than indeed they be, to make them odious in the sight of men; as when our neighbor is something choleric and hasty to report him to be so mad, furious and headstrong, that norm can abide it.

3. Besides this, men speak evil of their brethren when they blaze abroad the secret sins and infirmities of their brethren — when they should have covered them in love — only to discredit and defame the offenders.

4. Again, men sin by speaking evil of their brethren when they deprave the good deeds and well-doings of them, when they extenuate and make less than indeed they be.

5. Not thus only, but also when men excel in learning, be singular for virtue, renowned for faith, or any such gift and grace of God's Spirit. To diminish and extenuate these things and make them, by our envious reports, far less than indeed they are; what is this then but evil speech here condemned? Wherefore as to exaggerate and amplify the vices so to extenuate the virtues and good gifts in the saints is and to be accounted a kind of slander and evil speech also.

6. Moreover, men speak evil, though they speak that which is true, touching the sins and infirmities of their brethren, when they speak those things, not for love of the truth, but for the slandering of the person which hath offended.

7. Finally, this evil is committed when in the pride of our hearts we would have all men live according to our pleasures and wills, which, when they do not, we arrogantly condemn them, we slanderously report of them, we maliciously censure them, we rashly judge them.And this evil he dissuadeth by four reasons.

1. From the violating God's law, which is broken and violated of us when in the pride of our minds we condemn and speak evil of our brethren. How doth the law sustain injury in thus injuring of our brethren! How is it violated, how is it evil spoken of and condemned when our brethren are evil spoken of and condemned by us! God's law teacheth us not to condemn nor to speak evil of the brethren. When, notwithstanding this law, we do and will speak evil and condemn our brethren then we speak evil of the law and condemn it in effect. Because we will not be bridled thereby. Now, whoso speaketh evil of and condemneth any law, speaketh evil of and condemneth him whose law it is; proud and wicked men then speaking evil of the law of God, and condemning it, speak thereby evil of God and condemn Him by whose finger this law was written. And thus blasphemously speak we evil of God and presumptuously also prefer we our wits and wills before God's, and as wiser than God, we in all impiety condemn Him of folly. And to find fault with the wisdom of God, and to speak evil of His eternal Spirit and the unsearchable counsels of His heart, to take upon us to control and correct His laws, statutes and ordinances, what intolerable impiety, what desperate iniquity, what singular ungodliness were it!

2. A second reason why we should not speak evil of, or condemn the brethren, is drawn from the duty of the saints, it is the duty of God's children to do the law, not to judge or condemn it. We may not speak evil of the brethren, because in so doing we are not doers of the law which duty requireth, but judges, which becometh not the saints.

3. A third reason why men may not proudly condemn and arrogantly judge their brethren is drawn from the usurping of the office of God and of Christ.

4. The fourth reason why we should not speak evil, or rashly condemn our brethren, is from the frailty of our own common state and condition. There is no better bridle to the heady and hasty judging of other men than to be plucked back by the reins and bit of our own frailty, and view of our own infirmities, which thing greatly abateth our pride, assuageth our hatred, cooleth our courage, and tempereth the hastiness of our judgments against our brethren. When the peacock beholdeth his tail, beset with such varieties of beautiful colours, then he swelleth in pride, contemning and condemning all other birds in comparison of himself; but when he looseth upon his black feet and vieweth the deformity thereof, his comb is something cut and his courage abated. So when we lift up our eyes to the graces and gifts which God bestowed upon us, then we wax proud and insolent; but when we cast our eyes down upon the manifold infirmities whereunto we are subject, then is our pride abated and our insolency of spirit diminished, and we made more moderate and temperate in judging of our Christian brethren.

(R. Turnbull.)

The Christian Magazine.
I. Is WHAT WAYS THIS EVIL MAY BE COMMITTED.

II. SOME OF THE DETESTABLE QUALITIES AND BAD CONSEQUENCES WHICH ATTEND THIS PRACTICE.

1. It spends much precious time in a very unprofitable and sinful manner.

2. It is a practice which leads people to form false judgments of one another, and is apt to expose those who do so to danger or contempt.

3. This practice necessarily causes the worthy or the innocent to suffer.

4. It is a practice which, in all its parts, tends to sow enmity among men.

5. It is a practice which causes much uneasiness to those who engage in it.

6. It is often the cause of the greatest cruelty and injustice to innocent persons.

7. This practice is one of the most mean and disgraceful possible.

(The Christian Magazine.)

I. AS TO ITS ORIGIN. Calumny, like every other evil that embitters the happiness or tarnishes the present good name of mankind, may finally be traced to the original corruption of human nature and to the want of that abiding principle of true religion which alone can ensure the mastery over every evil propensity and fit all, individually, to comport themselves aright in the ever-varying and multifarious relations of social life. Of the secondary and more immediate causes, however, of this baneful and prevailing vice, idleness, envy, revenge, malice, and spiritual pride may perhaps, without much uncharitableness in the supposition, be naturally assigned as the chief and most common sources from whence it flows. It has often been said that when the devil finds a man idle he generally sets him to work; for as the mired of man is essentially active, and cannot long bear the languor and irksomeness of mere idleness, so when he is not habitually employed in the acquisition of learning and knowledge, the pursuits of science, the cultivation of the fine arts, or engaged in one or other of the more common yet not less useful occupations of humble life, he will most likely soon become busied in pursuits of an opposite kind! And hence mere idleness is not only a useless, but even a highly dangerous state of existence — an inlet to every evil which can either disgrace or embitter the life of man; and to none does it afford a more ready and direct access than to that of calumny. But to a habit of idleness may be mentioned also envy as not an unfrequent cause of evil speaking among mankind. Fallen perhaps, through habits of idleness and dissipation, from that rank in society which greater prudence and exertion might have enabled him to maintain, or, finding himself outstripped in the journey of life by those who were but his equals or even inferiors in the outset, and whom, but for his own misguided conduct, he might still have equalled or surpassed, the man in whose bosom is fanned the spark of envy sickens at the sight of that prosperity which he cannot reach vilifies as crooked and suspicious that line of conduct by which it has been obtained; affects to undervalue that happiness which worldly success seems to confer; ascribes to penuriousness of disposition or to an unaccountable flow of good luck whatever a more amiable or generous mind would naturally be disposed to set down to the credit of commendable economy united to a system of virtuous and undeviating industry. But, farther, revenge also not unfrequently prompts men to the indulgence of evil speaking. Few modes of attack seem to unite so completely safety to the assailant and injury to the person assailed as that which is presented through the medium of calumny; and hence it is so frequently adopted by the cold-blooded, cowardly, malicious, and revengeful! No matter how innocent and unoffending, how distinguished and exemplary, may be the object of their hatred, to have incurred their displeasure, however unwittingly, is cause sufficient for Jetting loose all the envenomed shafts of slander! But yet farther. There are some who appear to indulge in a habit of evil speaking for whose conduct no possible reason can be assigned but the innate malice of their hearts or the secret desire of mischief. Such are those who, without any personal provocation or the least shadow of excuse, wantonly attack without discrimination the characters of all around them. Human only in appearance, they are in heart and dispositions but demons in disguise. But yet farther again. The only remaining topic, to which we here claim your attention, as one of the many sources from which a habit of evil speaking may sometimes proceed, is that of spiritual pride. Nothing has a stronger tendency to render a man arrogant and contemptuous in his conduct towards others than a false idea of his own superior attainments in knowledge and in religion; while, at the same time, not a surer evidence can well be given of the presence of ignorance and of the want of the true spirit of the gospel.

II. And hence we would remind you that calumny or evil speaking Is A MEAN AND COWARDLY VICE. If you would blush to have yoUr names associated with the thief and the robber, can you for a moment think it less mean or less criminal to assassinate the character of your neighbour, which to every good man is dearer than life? To filch from him that which constitutes his most valued possession, which, to many, is all they have whereon to depend for the support of themselves and family, and to all is absolutely necessary to the true enjoyment of the good things of this life with which Providence may have blessed their condition? But we would have you to recollect, farther, that evil speaking is not only mean and cowardly in the extreme, but is also characterised by the blackest injustice. Is it justice, though he may in some instances have failed in duty towards us, to represent him as deficient in all, to go about privily slandering him in his absence, fabricating stories to his hurt, without once, perhaps, having acquainted him with the cause of our displeasure; to condemn him, in short, without a hearing in his defence, and for that, too, of which perhaps the cause lies chiefly with ourselves?

III. Let us now ADDUCE A FEW CONSIDERATIONS WHICH NATURALLY, AS WELL AS POWERFULLY, OUGHT TO LEAD ALL MEN TO GUARD AGAINST OR TO FORSAKE A HABIT SO ODIOUS AND UNCHRISTIAN. And these are chiefly suggested to us by the concluding word of our text, namely, that we are "brethren."

1. We are brethren by creation. To indulge, therefore, in calumny and malignant sarcasm against our fellow creatures is a gross and unnatural perversion of all those exalted faculties by which our race has been distinguished — a habit which at once degrades us beneath the rank of the lower animals, and insults the wisdom and majesty of God the Creator, by thus vilifying the noblest of His works.

2. We are brethren in the original corruption of our nature.

3. We are brethren by one common faith in Christ Jesus. Therefore, if we are really Christians, one temper, one spirit of peace, must pervade the whole. Seeing also that we look for the coming of Christ and the glorious fulfilment of His promises, "let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it" through lack of brotherly love.

(Chas. Hope.)

I. THE EXTENT OF THIS PRECEPT.

1. This precept does not extend so far as to hinder us from telling another man his faults with a view to his amendment.

2. It is no crime to descant upon the faults of our neighbour which are public and notorious; for where can be the harm for any man to talk of what every one knows?

3. Though nothing can justify ill-grounded uncharitable opinions, yet in cases where we have sufficient information a wide difference is to be made between what we say in a mixed company and what we disclose to a particular friend, who is virtually under a covenant with us not to betray our private conversation.

4. Nor do we act contrary to this precept when we are called upon by lawful authority to speak what we know against a criminal.

5. We are so far from acting against the precept of my text, that it is an act of charity as well as justice to strip the wolf of his sheep's clothing, which he has put on to make a prey of the innocent and unsuspecting.

6. Though it is our duty not to speak ill of any man, without some of the above reasons, yet it does not follow that we ought to speak well of everybody promiscuously and in general, because we ought to make a distinction where there is a difference.

II. THE CAUSES OF EVIL SPEAKING,

1. An affectation of wit.

2. Hastiness or precipitancy in judging before we know the whole of the case.

3. Malice.

4. Envy.

5. Little personal animosities.

6. An ill life in general. Those who know a great deal of ill of themselves are apt to suspect ill of everybody else.

7. Talkativeness.

III. THE UNREASONABLENESS OF EVIL SPEAKING,

(J. Seed, M. A.)

"Speak not against one another, brethren." The context shows what kind of adverse speaking is meant. It is not so much abusive or calumnious language that is condemned as the love of finding fault. The censorious temper is utterly unchristian. It means that we have been paying aa amount of attention to the conduct of others which would have been better bestowed upon our own. It means also that we have been paying this attention, not in order to help, but in order to criticise, and criticise unfavourably. Bat over and above all this, censoriousness is an invasion of the Divine prerogatives. "He that speaketh against a brother, or judgeth a brother, speaketh against the law and judgeth the law." St. James is probably not referring to Christ's command in the Sermon on the Mount — "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged" (Matthew 7:1, 2). It is a law of far wider scope that is in his mind, the same as that of which he has already spoken, "the perfect law, the law of liberty" (James 1:25); "the royal law according to the Scriptures, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (James 2:8). No one who knows this law, and has at all grasped its meaning and scope, can suppose that observance of it is compatible with habitual criticism of the conduct of others and frequent utterance of unfavourable judgments respecting them. No man, however willing he may be to have his conduct laid open to criticism, is fond of being constantly subjected to it. Still less can any one be fond of being made the object of slighting and condemnatory remarks. Every man's personal experience has taught him that; and if he loves his neighbour as himself, he will take care to inflict on him as little pain of this kind as possible. In judging and condemning his brother he is judging and condemning the law; and he who condemns a law assumes that he is in possession of some higher principle by which he tests it and finds it wanting. What is the higher principle by which the censorious person justifies his contempt for the law of love? He has nothing to show us but his own arrogance and self-confidence. This proneness to judge and condemn others is further proof of that want of humility about which so much was said in the previous section. Pride, the most subtle of sins, has very many forms, and one of them is the love of finding fault; that is, the love of assuming an attitude of superiority, not only towards other persons, but towards the law of charity and Him who is the Author of it. Censoriousness brings yet another evil in its train. Indulgence in the habit of prying into the acts and motives of others leaves us little time and less liking for searching carefully into our own acts and motives. The two things act and react upon one another by a natural law. He who constantly expresses his detestation of evil by denouncing the evil doings of his brethren is not the man most likely to express his detestation of it by the holiness of his own life; and the man whose whole life is a protest against sin is not the man most given to protesting against sinners. "One only is Lawgiver and Judge, even He who is able to save and to destroy." There is one, and only one, Source of all law and authority, and that Source is God Himself. And this sole Fount of authority, this one only Lawgiver and Judge, has no need of assessors. While He delegates some portions of His power to human representatives, He requires no man, He allows no man, to share His judgment-seat or to cancel or modify His laws. It is one of those cases in which the possession of power is proof of the possession of right. "He who is able to save and to destroy," who has the power to execute sentences respecting the weal and woe of immortal souls, has the right to pronounce such sentences, Man has no right to frame and utter such judgments, because he has no power to put them into execution; and the practice of uttering them is a perpetual usurpation of Divine prerogatives. Is not the sin of a censorious temper in a very real sense diabolical? It is Satan's special delight to be "the accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10). It is of the essence of censoriousness that its activity is displayed with a sinister motive. "But who art thou, that judgest thy neighbour?" St. James concludes this brief section against the sin of censoriousness by a telling argumentum ad hominem. Granted that there are grave evils in some of the brethren among whom and with whom you live, granted that it is quite necessary that these evils should be noticed and condemned, are you precisely the persons that are best qualified to do it? Putting aside the question of authority, what are your personal qualifications for the office of a censor and a judge? Is there that blamelessness of life, that gravity of behaviour, that purity of motive, that severe control of tongue, that freedom from contamination from the world, that overflowing charity which marks the man of pure religion? To such a man finding fault with his brethren is real pain; and therefore to be fond of finding fault is strong evidence that these necessary qualities are not possessed. Least of all is such an one fond of disclosing to others the sins which he has discovered in an erring brother. Indeed, there is scarcely a better way of detecting our own secret; faults than that of noticing what blemishes we are most prone to suspect and denounce in the lives of our neighbours. It is often our own personal acquaintance with iniquity that makes us suppose that others must be like ourselves.

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

It is not good to speak evil of all whom we know bad; it is worse to judge evil of any who may prove good. To speak ill upon knowledge shows a want of charity; to speak ill upon suspicion shows a want of honesty. I will not speak so bad as I know of many; I will not speak worse than I know of any. To know evil by others, and not speak it, is sometimes discretion; to speak evil by others and not know it, is always dishonesty. He may be evil himself who speaks good of others upon knowledge, but he can never be good himself who speaks evil of others upon suspicion.

(A. Warwick.)

One day the conversation at dinner, in a family well known to the writer, turned upon a lady who was so unfortunate as to have incurred the dislike of certain members of the household because of some little peculiarities. After several had expressed their views in no gentle terms, the married sister added, "I can't endure her; and I believe I will not return her call if she comes here again." Her husband, who had hitherto remained silent, replied, "She will not trouble you again, my dear, as she died an hour ago." "You do not mean it? Surely you are only teasing us for our uncharitableness?" "She is really dead. I learned it on my way home to dinner." Overwhelmed with shame, the little group realised for the first time the solemnity of such sinful conversation. Let us take warning, and speak of those about us as we shall wish we had done when they are taken from us.

(Advocate and Guardian.)

It is reported of vultures that they will fly over a garden of sweet flowers and not so much as eye them; but they will seize upon a stinking carrion at the first sight. Thus many there are that will take no notice of the commendable parts and good qualities of others; but, if the least imperfection appear, there they will fasten.

(J. Spencer.)

There is an old legend that our Lord was once walking through a market-place, when He saw a crowd of people gathered together, looking at something on the ground, and He drew near to see what it was. It was a dead dog with a halter round its neck, by which it seemed to have been dragged through the mire, and it certainly was a most disagreeable sight. Everybody around it had something to say against it. "How horrible it looks," said one, "with its ears all draggled and torn l" "How soon will it be taken away out of our sight?" said another. "No doubt it has been hanged for thieving," said a third. And Jesus heard them, and looking down compassionately on the dead creature, He said, "Pearls cannot equal the whiteness of its teeth." Then the people turned towards Him with amazement, and said among themselves, "This must be Jesus of Nazareth, for only He could find something to approve even in a dead dog." This is a beautiful old legend, and the lesson it teaches us is that there is always something good to be found in everybody if only we would take the trouble to look for it.

"Is she a Christian?" asked a celebrated missionary in the East of one of the converts who was speaking unkindly of a third party. "Yes, I think she is," was the reply. "Well, then, since Jesus loves her in spite of all her faults, why is it that you can't?"

There is one Lawgiver.
1. Absolute supremacy becometh none but him that hath absolute power.

2. God hath an absolute and supreme power on man, and can dispose of them according to His will and pleasure; and therefore we must —(1) Keep close to His laws with more fear and trembling. There is no escaping this Judge (1 Corinthians 10:22). Eternal life and eternal death are in His disposal (Matthew 10:28).(2) Observe them with more encouragement; live according to Christ's laws, and He is able to protect you (Psalm 68:20). He can save His people, and He hath many ways to bring His enemies to ruin. Your Friend is the most dreadful Enemy; He "hath the keys of death and hell" (Revelation 1:18).(3) Be the more humbled in case of breach of His laws. Wool overcometh the strokes of iron by yielding to them. There is no way left but submission and humble addresses. He may be overcome by faith, but not by power (Isaiah 27:5).

(T. Manton.)

I. HIS PRE-EMINENCE.

1. His authority is underived. All other legislators act on trust; they are responsible to some one, He to none.

2. His laws are constitutional; they are written in the very nature of the subject. Hence —

(1)They are unalterable.

(2)They involve their own sanction.

(3)They are the ultimate standards of conduct.

II. His PREROGATIVE. He is able to save and to destroy. There are three classes of moral beings in the universe.

1. Those that He can destroy, but never will — unfallen angels and sainted men.

2. Those that He could save, but never will — the population of the nether world.

3. Those that He can either save or destroy — men on earth. If a human sovereign possess the prerogative to save a condemned criminal, and he nevertheless perish, it must be for one of three reasons-either that he is indisposed to use it, or that it is not expedient for him to use it, or that the criminal spurns it. Neither of the first two will apply to God. The Bible declares His willingness, and the Atonement makes it expedient.

(D. Thomas.)

To offer to domineer over the conscience is to assault the citadel of heaven.

(Emperor Maximilian.)

Nobly did Napoleon Bonaparte, in the year 1804, maintain the rights of conscience, in his reply to M. Martin, President of the Consistory of Geneva, in words worthy to be held in everlasting remembrance — "I wish it to be understood that my intention and my firm determination are to maintain liberty of worship. The empire of the law ends where the empire of the conscience begins. Neither the law nor the prince must infringe upon this empire."

(H. C. Fish, D. D.)

Who art thou that judgest another?
I. First, let us inquire WITH WHAT LIMITATIONS WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND THIS PROHIBITION IN MY TEXT, OR WHAT THAT JUDGING IS WHICH IS HERE FORBIDDEN. For it is plain that it cannot be understood in an absolute sense, as if all judging were forbidden; but only in certain cases, and with some restrictions. As, first, we must not so understand these words as if they interfered with the magistrate's office, or forbade those in authority to judge and punish crimes. This is so far from being forbidden, that it is everywhere allowed, approved, and authorised in Holy Scripture. The judging here forbidden can be only meant of that liberty which private Christians take to judge and censure the conduct of one another. And this appears plain from the verse before my text, where it is joined with the vice of evil-speaking. But still it may be asked, Is all judging or censuring, then, forbidden to Christians? Or how far may we be allowed to judge and speak concerning the faults of other people? To this I answer, briefly, as far as truth and charity will give us leave, and no farther. Where a man's faults, indeed, are public and notorious, there every man may be allowed to pass a judgment on them, nay, and to express his detestation of the thing, if it be really detestable, as long as he bears no malice or hatred to the person. We are not allowed to call evil good, or good evil, but must give everything its proper name; and public infamy or shame is but the just reward of bold and open wickedness. But then it is not every idle rumour, every ignorant or malicious whisper, that will bear a man out in presently censuring and condemning of his neighbour; much less in spreading ill reports concerning him, or saying what may tend to lessen or defame him. A man's general character should always be considered, in the first place, before we lightly entertain an ill opinion of him; and, moreover, the fact well proved, before we take upon us to pronounce, or even to think him guilty. But, where a man's faults are evident to all the world, there every man may be allowed to express his dislike; and happy were it if the public censure might bring him to himself at last, and reclaim him from his evil courses. If this should happen, indeed, and a person who has been openly bad should nevertheless repent sincerely and become a new man, here the law of charity will oblige us to regard him in a different light — to forget his former faults, if possible, or at least never to mention them by way of reproach. But, further yet, I must observe, that the words of the apostle are not to be understood in that strict sense as if they forbad us to speak of the faults of others to themselves, by way of charitable admonition or reproof. For that observation of the wise man will be found, in most cases, to hold good — that better is open rebuke than secret (or silent) love (Proverbs 27:5).

II. THE JUDGING HERE FORBIDDEN BY THE APOSTLE IS ALL FALSE, AND RASH, AND NEEDLESS, AND UNCHARITABLE, JUDGING OR CENSURING THE CHARACTERS AND CONDUCT OF OTHER PEOPLE.

1. You must beware that your censures be not false or groundless: for whenever this happens, you are guilty of injustice to your neighbour, though you should only harbour such an ill opinion of him in your own thoughts; but much more if you give vent to it, and help to propagate the slander amongst others.

2. But beware of being rash and precipitate in judging: for there are so many things that are apt to deceive and mislead us, that, if we proceed hastily in this matter, it is ten to one but we make a wrong and a mistaken judgment.

3. As you are to avoid all rash judgments, so must you likewise all needless ones — all that censuring and judging our brother which there is no occasion for.

4. You must beware of all uncharitable judgments and censures of others: you must be ready to put the best constructions that you can upon the words and actions of other people — avoiding that too common, but ill-natured practice of turning things to the worst sense, and suspecting ill of everything that has but the least doubtful aspect. There is another thing which men ought carefully to avoid in their judgments and censures of other people, not to intrench upon the prerogative of God by pretending to discern men's hearts, or the secret springs upon which they act, and which can be known only to God and their own consciences, any further than as their words and actions plainly speak them.

III. THE REASONS HERE USED BY THE APOSTLE TO DISSUADE US FROM THIS SIN OF RASH JUDGING AND CENSURING.

1. We should be cautious how we judge our brethren, because we must all of us give account of ourselves to God, that great Lawgiver, who is alone able to save and to destroy. The great Judge of heaven and earth, who sees men's actions in their very birth, and is perfectly acquainted with even the smallest circumstance of them, yet does not ordinarily judge men so as to reward or punish them in this life, but has reserved the great decision to the future general judgment; and shall we, then, weak and ignorant and short-sighted creatures, presume to prevent the great and infallible Judge, and hastily to pronounce upon the characters and conduct of men, before the time which God Himself hath fixed to bring these hidden things to light? Again, since we must all of us give account to God, the great Lawgiver and Judge, we should consider that our proper business is to look well into ourselves, and to examine diligently our own conduct, that so we may be able to stand the trial of that great day. This is our great concern, and, if we do this with diligence and impartiality, we shall neither have the heart nor leisure to inquire much into the bad conduct and failings of other people. I shall observe one thing more, viz., — That, as the consideration of a future judgment should make us cautious how we judge and censure others, so will it afford just ground of comfort and support to those who labour under the weight of an undeserved reproach.

2. The other argument is this — that we are, for the most part, very unfit and improper judges of the characters and conduct of one another: Who art thou that judgest another? Whereby the apostle would intimate to us, either that we have no authority so to do, or else that we are very unfit and unqualified for the office. And, indeed, it may be justly questioned by what authority we set ourselves up as judges of the conduct of other people. The office of a judge is what no man takes upon himself without a commission from his superiors, or else by a reference from the parties themselves who submit to be judged by him; and, if we do it without one or other of these to war, ant us, we intrude into an office to which we have no right. And, if our authority to judge our brother may be justly questioned, it is certain that our ability for it, in many cases, is as justly questionable; and, perhaps, there is scarcely anything wherein we are more liable to error and mistake. If we judge from the reports of others, how often is it that prejudice, malice, or envy, or ill-nature, or sometimes, perhaps, a mere mistake and oversight, has had the greatest share in kindling these reports! And if we judge from these, therefore, we are in great danger of being deceived and misled. If we set aside the reports of others, and trust to our own sagacity in judging; yet here too we shall be liable to great mistakes, unless we proceed with care and circumspection. And that on account of the difficulty that there is to see into the true characters of men and things; and next, with respect to ourselves, and the many prejudices we labour under, which are apt to bias and corrupt our judgment. A friendship for one man shall make us blind to all his faults; and some little difference with another shall give us a disgust, perhaps, even of his virtues. In general, men are more inclined to judge by humour and affection than by any fixed and stated rules. And hence it is that the most trifling things are sometimes apt to possess them with an ill opinion of a person. The very make of a man's face, that has had something in it disagreeable to the humour of another, has oftentimes possessed him with such a prejudice against him, at first sight, as nothing had been able to remove, till a better acquaintance has at length convinced him of his folly, that he was too rash and precipitate in his judgment. And so, likewise, a mere absurdity of behaviour, or some little weakness and indiscretion, shall, by hasty and severe judges, be interpreted as something highly criminal, and oftentimes throw a blot upon a character which it no way deserved. So easy is it for us to be mistaken in our judgment and opinions of other people. But the greatest prejudice of all, and that which will infallibly corrupt men's judgments in this as well as other cases, is that of a depraved and wicked heart. For he that is a slave to any vice himself is a very improper person to judge of the characters and conduct of other men. The reason is this, because he will be apt to judge of others by what he finds and feels within himself. And as his own inclination to his favourite vice is strong, he will suspect the same of all men, and so proceed to censure and condemn without reserve.

(Chas. Peters, M. A.)

One of the legends of Ballycastle preserves a touching story. It is of a holy nun whose frail sister had repented of her evil ways and sought sanctuary at the convent. It was winter. The shelter she claimed was granted; but the holy sister refused to remain under the same roof with the repentant sinner. She left the threshold, and proceeded to pray in the open air; but, looking towards the convent, she was startled by perceiving a brilliant light proceeding from one of the cells, where she knew that neither taper nor fire could be burning. She went back to her sister's room — for it was there the light was shining — just in time to receive her last sigh of repentance. The light had vanished, but the recluse interpreted it as a sign from heaven that the offender had been pardoned, and learned thenceforward to be more merciful in judging and more Christlike in forgiving.

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