Judging Others, and Casting Pearls Before Swine
“Judge not,” &c. This prohibition, like many others in our Lord’s discourse, if interpreted in its utmost latitude, would go to censure what is elsewhere commended. If we judge not truth and error, good and evil, we cannot embrace the one and avoid the other; neither can we discharge the duties of our station in the world, or in the church, without forming some judgment of those about us. Paul and Silas are supposed to have judged Lydia to be faithful, ere they entered her house; and Peter did not scruple to tell the sorcerer that he “perceived him to be in the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity.” We are not only allowed, but directed, even in this discourse, to judge of men, as of trees, by their fruit, ver. 16–20. It is part of our duty as ministers to declare from God’s word that they who live after the flesh will die; and that they who are carried away by strong delusions and the belief of a lie are in the utmost danger of damnation. They may be displeased with us for thinking so hardly of them, and may allege this passage as a reproof to our presumption. The judgment which Christ forbids is that which arises not from good-will and a faithful discharge of duty, but from a censorious spirit, which takes pleasure in thinking and speaking evil of those about us, puts the worst construction upon actions of doubtful motive, and is severe in detecting smaller faults in another, while blinded to far greater ones in ourselves. It stands opposed by Luke to a forgiving spirit, chap. 6:27. It is therefore the judgment of rancour, selfishness, and implacability. “All men,” says Calvin on the passage, “do flatter and spare themselves; and every man is a severe censor against others. There is a certain sweetness in this sin, so that there is scarcely a man who itcheth not with a desire to inquire after other men’s faults. This wicked delight in biting, carping, and slandering doth Christ forbid, when he saith, Judge not.”
It is remarkable that those who are most disposed to detect the faults of others are commonly the most faulty themselves, and therefore the least qualified for that which they are so eager to undertake. And herein lies their hypocrisy: they would seem to be great enemies to sin, whereas, if this were the case, they would begin with their own. It is therefore nothing better than selfish rancour, under the mask of zeal and faithfulness. It also deserves notice, that he who is under the dominion of any sin is utterly unqualified to reprove; but he that has first repented of his own sin shall thereby be fitted to deliver his brother from his. “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
To deter us from this evil spirit and practice, we are given to expect that if we judge we “shall be judged,” and that “with what measure we mete it shall be measured to us again.” Such is the ordinary course of things even in the present life. A censorious spirit towards others brings censure in abundance upon ourselves. Hence arise debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults. Thus the sweets of society, both civil and religious, are imbittered; and, instead of the ills of life diminishing, they greatly accumulate in our hands. Neither is it in this life only, nor chiefly, that such things will meet with a righteous retribution. If we go on condemning in this manner till death, we must expect to be condemned at a judgment-seat, from the decisions of which there is no appeal.
Excerpt from: “Illustrations of Scripture: The Sermon on the Mount.”
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 585–586). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.