ŇJudge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.Ó Matthew 7:1,2.


In these words, and so forward to the end of the fifth verse, is contained the sixth part of this sermon of our Saviour Christ, concerning judgment. And it consisteth of three parts: First, a commandment, Judge not; then certain reasons of the commandment, in the words following to the fifth verse; and thirdly, a remedy of evil and rash judgment in the fifth verse.


Touching the commandment, Judge not,


The Meaning.

This commandment forbids not all kind of judgment, but must be restrained to unlawful judgment; for there be four kinds of lawful judgment, two whereof be public, and two private.


1. Of public, the first is civil judgment, belonging to the magistrate, who is to enquire into the manners of men, and according to the positive laws of the country to give judgment, either in punishing offenders, or rewarding them that do well.


2. The second kind is ecclesiastical, belonging principally to the minister, who in the public dispensation of the Word, judgeth menŐs manners, by reproving and condemning their sins, whether they be thoughts, words or actions. In this sense the unbeliever is said to be judged when his thoughts and actions are controlled by the Word (1 Cor. 14:24), and thus Noah judged and condemned the old world (Heb. 11:7).


3. Of private lawful judgment, the first is private admonition, whereby one man doth in Christian and loving manner, reprehend another for his sins, and thereby judgeth him. This is also commanded in the Word of God, and therefore it is not here forbidden.


4. The second is just dispraise, when the gross faults of notorious persons are reproved and condemned for this end alone, that others may take warning thereby. Thus Christ judged the Pharisees both for life and doctrine before His disciples, calling them hypocrites that said and did not (Matt. 23:1-3), and their doctrine leaven (Matt. 16:6); and that most justly and wisely, that His disciples and others might beware of them. And thus He called Herod a fox (Luke 13:32), so discovering his subtlety, for the admonition of others.


The thing then here forbidden is rash judgment, which one man doth unjustly give of another. And the reason why we so understand this place, may be drawn from the third verse, where instance is given of the judgment here forbidden, in a quick espial and sharp censure of small faults in others, not seeing far grosser and greater in ourselves. Also St Luke setting down this prohibition, Judge not, expounds it in the next words by condemn not (Luke 6:37); which must be understood of rash censure, as is plain by St Paul (Rom. 2:1), In that thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself, because thou dost rashly condemn him of that whereof thou thyself art guilty. Now that we may better know the thing forbidden, first I will shew what rash judgment is, and in the second place make known the common practices of it.



I. Rash judgment is when of an evil mind we judge amiss of others, for some evil end. In this description:


1. First, observe the root and ground of all rash judgment; to wit, an evil mind, whereby we love ourselves too well, and want the love of our neighbour. This we testify by being sharp sighted to pry into the lives and behaviour of others, and are as blind as beetles to see into ourselves; as also by giving ourselves exactly to censure other menŐs sayings and doings, and with delight to hear their faults tipped up; but for our own courses, we would not have them called into question, nor controlled.


2. Secondly, here note the manner of rash judgment, which is to judge amiss of others. And this they do which judge of other menŐs persons and doings without a calling, or urgent necessity. Secondly, which give out sentence of menŐs doings, but not according to the law of charity, which binds a man to judge and say the best of others always, so far forth as may stand with good conscience and the Word of God.


3. Thirdly, here note the end of rash judgment; for it is ill grounded and guided, so it aims not at the reformation of the party, nor the detestation of sin in ourselves and others, but it is directed to some wrong end; as, first, to testify the hatred of the party, and desire of revenge; secondly, to delight ourselves with the faults of others; thirdly, to defame our neighbours, and to bring them to an ill name, that our names may bear away the praise without comparison; and lastly, that we may seem more holy than others by being much in censuring sin in others.



II. The practice of rash judgment consists in two things: first, the evil mind of man prepares matter of wrong judgment; and secondly, gives sentence accordingly of the sayings and doings of men, and likewise of their persons.


1. For the first, the evil mind prepares matter of rash judgment thus: it sets itself to pry and enquire narrowly into the lives and behaviour of men, and to see if it can find any matter in word or action worthy of reproof. Indeed there is a virtue whereby one man doth observe another in his ways, but that is directed to a good end, namely to rectify and reform him in his wants, and to further him when he doth well; but for one man to observe another for this end, to find out matter of defamation and reproach, is a fault directly forbidden by our Saviour Christ in this place.


2. Secondly, when matter is found, the evil mind accordingly gives censure. This censure is given, first, of the persons of men, then of their speech and actions.


(1) Rash censure of menŐs persons is when a man thinks otherwise of the person of another than in conscience, and by GodŐs Word he ought to do. Example of this we have in Satan; for when the Lord commends Job for his fidelity (Job 1:8-11), Satan tells the Lord that Job indeed served the Lord, but it was only for his own profit; for (saith he) withdraw thou thy hand from him, and thou shalt see whether he will not curse thee to thy face. This then we see is a devilish practice, and ought to be far from every one of us. We must remember what an ancient divine hath taught us heretofore, that there are three things exempted from the judgment and censure of men: the Scriptures, the counsel of God, and the condemnation of any manŐs person.


(2) Rash censure of menŐs speeches and actions is given many ways:


(a) When things are well done, to carp and cavil at them without any just cause. Thus the profession of religion at this day is accounted of many to be but counterfeit holiness, and the due obedience to the moral law is nicknamed and termed preciseness, and the professors thereof called Puritans and Precisians, for this cause only, that they make conscience of walking in obedience to GodŐs law.


(b) When actions or speeches indifferent, are taken in the worser part. Thus was DavidŐs kindness ill accepted of Hanun King of Ammon (2 Sam. 10:3,4), when David sent his servants to comfort him after the death of his father; for his nobles told him and persuaded him that David sent not unto him because he honoured his father (though David undoubtedly sent with an honest and upright heart) but as it were craftily to search out the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it. Now hereupon DavidŐs servants were badly entreated, and shamefully sent away; whence grew the war that ensued between them.


(c) When upon light occasion and uncertain reports, we suspect and surmise evil of our neighbour. Suspicions indeed are sometimes good, being conceived on a good ground and retained for a good end; as to beware of the party and of his evil; but when they are conceived upon light causes, and for some sinister respect (as the common practice is, upon no good ground to conceive most badly), this is rash judgment.


(d) When we see any want in our neighbourŐs speech or behaviour, to make it worse than it was meant, or than indeed it is.


(e) When we spread abroad and publish the wants of men, to defame them, which might better be concealed, and in conscience and charity ought so to be.


(f) When we speak nothing but the truth of another, but yet withal do insinuate thereby some evil of the party into the hearts of the hearers. This practice is as pestilent and dangerous as any of the former. Thus Doeg told Saul of the fact of Ahimelech unto David, how he gave him victuals, and the sword of Goliath, which was true; but withal he did therein insinuate that David and Ahimelech intended conspiracy against Saul. And this telling of the truth in that sort, cost the lives of fourscore and five persons that wore the linen ephod, as we may read (1 Sam. 21:7, compared with 22:9,18).


(g) When in hearing the Word preached, and sins reproved in the congregation, some hearers misapply the same. As for example, the minister reproves the sin of swearing, of drunkenness, or any such sin; then someone guilty hereof, doth not only surmise, but also break forth into this speech: Now the preacher means me: he speaks this of me: he censures my facts and speeches. Hereupon follows spite and malice against the person of the minister, and also rash censuring and condemning of his ministry. They also sin in this kind, that apply the reproofs of sin to the person of others; as when they say: Now such a one is touched: there is a good lesson for such a one if he would learn it. Yea, others go further and say: Now the preacher means such a man: now he speaks against such a man. But this is also rash judgment in hearing of the Word. They misconceive of the purpose of the minister, for his manner is not when he standeth in the room of God, to tip up the secrets and lives of some particular hearers; but to deliver the will of God concerning such and such sins unto all. It is the power of the Word, not the mind of the preacher, that causeth it to touch thy conscience; and therefore everyone ought to apply the Word unto his own heart, and not to lay it upon others, or else take it to be spoken of himself for his disgrace; for it is to misapply the Word, and to judge amiss of the preacher. And this is a common sin, which is the cause why many men reap so little profit by the Word preached as they do.


(h) The eighth practice of rash judgment is when in towns and cities some persons are wrongfully reputed and taken for witches. This is as common a sin throughout the world as the former. One man will say: Such a one is a witch, because he in conscience is so persuaded; and yet the ground of this persuasion is nothing but his bare conceit. Another man saith: Such a one is a witch because a wise man or a wise woman hath so reported of him or her; and yet this testimony is but the testimony of the devil, who is a liar, and the father thereof. If he tell the truth, it is with purpose to deceive. Again, another is judged to be a witch, because coming to a manŐs house to borrow something, and being denied thereof, he took it unkindly, and thereupon gave these, or such like threatening words: It had been as good you had lent it me; or, I will meet with you; and hereupon, someone in the family fell sick, or some cattle died, and other things did miscarry. It is no question, but witches be too rife among us, and ought to be sought out and severely punished; and there be lawful ways of convincing a witch. But upon these bare presumptions to judge any one to be a witch, is an unchristian practice of rash judgment; for why may not the hand of God befall thee in visiting someone in thy family, or in the death of thy cattle, as well as the annoyance of the witch, after some hard speeches of another. A witch therefore must first be lawfully convinced, and then judged to be a witch, and not before. This thing especially jurers ought to look unto; else if they have but the ordinary discretion of common people, to judge one for a witch upon these presumptions, they may easily defile their hands with innocent blood.


Thus much for the sin of rash judgment, and the practices thereof, which are condemned and forbidden in this place.



Now because it is so common a sin in all places, and with most men counted no sin; for the common talk in all meetings is of other men, and self-love makes the heart glad to hear other menŐs faults ripped up, yea, this sin will take hold when other sins leave a man, which caused Christ to forewarn His disciples hereof in this place. Therefore it is our duty to labour and strive the more earnestly to be purged from this evil mind; and preserved from these evil practices of rash judgment; for which end let us lay to our consciences the reasons following:


1. The practice of rash judgment cannot stand with Christian charity; for charity binds a man to walk in love, and love suspecteth not evil, but thinks the best always, and if it be possible, thinks well of all.


2. When thou seest a man speak or practice any evil, for which thou beginnest to think hardly of him, then consider well of thine own self, how thou hast both that and all other sins in thee, if we regard the root of sin, and therefore do not rashly condemn him for his act, because thou thyself hast done the like heretofore; or else in time to come mayest do the like or worse than he hath done whom thou now condemnest.


3. Consider that God the Father hath committed all judgment unto His Son; who now executeth public judgment by the magistrate in the commonwealth, and by the minister in the church; and private judgment of admonition, and just dispraise, by them who He calleth thereunto. If therefore thou judgest another, not being called thereto, thou thrustest Christ out of His office, and robbest Him of His honour, which is a grievous sin, and cannot be unpunished.


4. Consider also that thou art unable, whatsoever thou art, to judge aright of other menŐs actions, being ignorant of many circumstances thereof; for thou knowest not with what mind, or to what end the action was done. Thou knowest not the cause why he did it, nor the state of his person, nor manner of his temptation thereto. And therefore, why judgest thou rashly of him?


5. He that gives rash judgment of another is worse than a thief that steals away a manŐs goods; for he robs him of his good name, which (as Solomon saith) is to be chosen above great riches (Prov. 22:1). Again, riches may be restored, so cannot a manŐs good name, being once blemished in the hearts of many. Again, a man may defend himself from a thief, but no man can shun another manŐs evil mind, or his bad tongue. Nay, the backbiter is worse than a murderer, for he killeth three at once: first, his own soul in thus sinning; secondly, his neighbour whose name he hurteth; and thirdly, the hearer, who receiveth this rash and unjust report. And for this cause, the slanderer is numbered among those that shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Psa. 15:3; 1 Cor. 6:10), and the apostle chargeth Christians to account of such railers as of persons excommunicate (1 Cor. 5:11).


Here some will say: If we may not give our opinion of others freely as we have done; what must we do when we have occasion to speak of them? Answer: Thy carriage towards others must be according to these rules:


(1) If thou know any good thing by the party of whom thou speakest, when thou hast occasion think and speak of that. If thou know evil by him also, conceal it from others; and if thou mayest, admonish the party thereof; or else tell it to those who have authority to correct his faults; and thus shalt thou win thy brother. Some will say: I do indeed sometimes censure my brother for his faults, yet only in detestation of his sin. I love the party never the worse; and I only do it to some private friend that will not tell it again. Answer: But this excuse, and all such like, are frivolous. No colour of good intent can excuse rash judgment. If thou lovest him, why dost thou make known his fault to another, for love covereth the multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8)? And if thy conscience answer, it will tell thee that either ill will to the party causeth thee so to do, or self love, whereby through his defamation thou thyself seekest to be advanced above him in the thoughts of others. In thy censuring therefore look to thine heart, whether malice move thee not thereto; and take heed to the end also; for if it rise from a bad ground, or tend to a wrong end, the whole action is naught.


(2) We ought to think as well of every man as possibly we can, yea, of our enemy and of his actions; for love thinketh not evil; and in the practice of love towards our enemies, we become followers of God (Matt. 5:44,45).


(3) If thou mark thy neighbourŐs life and behaviour, do it for this end, to withdraw him from sin, and to further him in well doing.


(4) Lastly, in all thy societies and dealings with others, labour either to do them good, or to receive good from them; and by this means thou shalt eschew the sin of rash judgment.


Here, two questions may be moved concerning rash judgment, and that necessarily, because surmises will arise upon very small occasions:


1. Question: When may a man doubt or suspect evil of another? Answer: In all suspicion, recourse must be had to the ground thereof, whether it rise of just and sufficient cause or not. A sufficient cause of suspicion is that which in the judgment of wise men, being well considered with all the circumstances thereof, is judged sufficient. And on the other side, that is insufficient, which wise men well weighing with the circumstances thereof, do judge insufficient. If then the cause of suspicion be thought insufficient in the judgment of the wise and godly, we must suspend our suspicion; as thus: suppose some evil is reported abroad of such a man; as that he is a thief, an adulterer, or such like; yet this fame riseth only of some one in his report, which because it may proceed from an ill mind on a private grudge, we are not to yield thereupon to suspect ill of the party. This report may well cause us to search further into the case, and move us to look unto ourselves that we be not hurt by him. But if the cause be thought sufficient in the judgment of those that are wise and discreet, then we may without offence or breach of conscience, yield to suspect and judge evil of another.


2. Question: How may we give upright judgment of all men with whom we live and have to deal? Answer: This is as necessary to be known as the former, for as we are prone to think ill, so we are also forward in judging rashly. Therefore there are three things required in the judging of others:


(1) First, we must have recourse to the cause of our judgment; for if the cause be insufficient, then our judgment is rash and unlawful. Before the Lord brought upon the world the confusion of languages. He is said to go down among them to see their act (Gen. 11:6). And before He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone, He is said to come down from heaven, to see whether they had done according to the cry that was come up to the Lord (Gen. 18:21); whereby the Lord would teach us that before He enter into judgment with any man, or any people, He first takes good consideration of the fact which causeth his punishment.


(2) Secondly, we must have authority and warrant by calling to give judgment, or else something which is answerable thereto, though the judgment be private; as to give admonition or just dispraise; yet without a calling we must not do it. He that giveth judgment must be able truly to say: The Lord hath called me thus to do. The magistrate, the minister, the master, and every superior hath authority to judge those that are under him; and for private men in private judgment, though they want this authority by calling, yet if they have that which is answerable hereto, that is, the affection of Christian love, so as they can say with Paul, The love of God constraineth me (2 Cor. 5:14), then they may judge.


(3) Thirdly, we must always have a good end of our judgment, as well as a good beginning; that is, the reformation and amendment, not the defaming of our brother. And these three concurring in all hard speeches, they cease to be rash and unjust censures. John Baptist calls the Pharisees and Saducees, a generation of vipers (Matt. 3:7). Our Saviour Christ calls them hypocrites, and painted tombs (Matt. 23:27); and Herod a fox (Luke 13:32). The prophet Isaiah calls the princes and people of Judah and Israel, Princes and people of Sodom (Isa. 1:10). And the apostle calls the Galatians, fools (Gal. 3:1); and the Cretans, Liars, evil beasts, slow bellies (Tit. 1:12,13). All which are hard speeches, but yet no slanders; because they had all of them a calling so to do. And likewise did this on good ground, and for a good end.


Thus much for the commandment. Now follows two reasons to induce us to make conscience of rash judgment. The former is laid down in these words: That ye be not judged. And it may be framed thus: If ye judge, ye shall be judged of men again with rash judgment. But ye cannot abide to be judged of rashly. And therefore judge ye not. The second part is understood, but yet necessarily collected. The conclusion is the commandment itself, Judge not.


This reason doth afford us two instructions:


1. It giveth us a taste and view of our own natural pride and self-love; for when we hear God dishonoured by swearing, or our neighbourŐs name defamed by slandering, we are not only grieved, but oftentimes are the cause thereof, and take great delight therein, especially in hearing other menŐs faults ripped up to their disgrace. But yet we can in no sort brook or suffer our own good name to be called in question. If ourselves be evil spoken of, we are presently filled with malice and envy, and cannot be at rest till we be required or revenged. Nay, though we be in a good manner admonished of our fault, even in love, and after a friendly sort, yet we can very hardly brook it; though the party admonishing make known unto us that he doth it only for our good, without all purpose of disgrace unto our persons.


2. Here also our Saviour Christ affordeth unto us a notable way whereby we may come to the knowledge of our own sins, and of the heinousness thereof. When we behold sin in ourselves, we hardly judge it to be sin. We must therefore look upon our own sins in the persons of others, and learn to judge of it in ourselves as we judge of it in others. When we consider of rash judgment in others against ourselves, we count it a vile and grievous sin, yea, odious and intolerable. And in like sort ought we to think of rash judgment in ourselves towards others. And so for every other sin in ourselves, we ought to judge of it, as we do when we see it in the persons of others against us. Otherwise if we look only to ourselves, we shall sooth up ourselves in sin, making great sins little sins, and small sins none at all.



ŇFor with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.Ó (v.2)


This verse contains a double confirmation of the former reason, drawn from the event.



1. The first, in these words, For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; as if Christ had said: If ye judge men rashly, then men again, by the appointment of God in His wisdom and providence, shall accordingly give rash judgment upon you. But if ye judge men righteously, then men again, by GodŐs appointment and providence, shall judge well of you. For so I take the words to be meant of menŐs judgment by GodŐs appointment in His providence, and not of GodŐs judgment immediately.


Now in this proof:


(1) First, we may observe one true and main cause of that personal defamation which is common in the world; and it is to be found in the person himself that is defamed: he hath rashly and unjustly censured others, for which God in His providence, doth most justly cause others to defame him again; so as men themselves do most of all wound their own good names, and by their bad carriage towards others, justly cause their own disgrace. In regard whereof, we must learn:


(i) First, to set a careful watch before our mouths, to keep the door of our lips, governing out tongues by the Word of God; for when we censure others rashly, we do procure judgment unto ourselves.


(ii) Secondly, to be patient under the rash censures and slanders of others. For we must think that we ourselves have heretofore done the like to others; and therefore it is justice with God to reward us in the same kind wherewith we have wronged others. This is SolomonŐs counsel (Eccl. 7:21,22), Give not thine heart to all the words that men speak, lest thou do hear thy servant cursing thee: for ofttimes also thine heart knoweth that thou likewise hast cursed others.


(2) Secondly, in this proof we may also observe the right way how to get and keep a good name; to wit, by judging others with Christian judgment, carrying a charitable opinion of everyone, speaking the best of them in all companies, so far forth as we can with good conscience, and never judging hardly of any, till we be indeed lawfully called thereunto, having a good ground for our action, and doing it for a good end. If thou wouldest live long (saith the prophet, Psa. 34:12,13) and see good days, refrain thy tongue from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile; that is, speak not evil of any man, though thou know ill by him, till thou be lawfully called thereto.


(3) Thirdly, from the consideration of this providence of God whereby He ordereth and disposeth that defamers of others shall be rewarded in their kind, and that by others; we may gather that God knows every unadvised thought of the heart, and every rash censure which we speak or think of others; else how could this be true, that rash judgers shall be so rewarded in their kind, seeing men may conceal their thoughts, and many times their words from the eyes of men? To this purpose Solomon admonisheth (Eccl. 10:20), not to curse the king, no not in thy thought, nor the rich man in thy bedchamber: for the fowl of heaven shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall declare the matter. And this must teach us for to make conscience of all our speeches and thoughts that concern others, yea, then when we ourselves are judged. When David was railed upon by wicked Shimei, he stayed himself with the consideration of this: that God knew it, and appointed Shimei to curse David (2 Sam. 16:10).


(4) Lastly, here it may be doubted how God can be cleared from the guilt of rash judgment, seeing in His providence He causeth it by His decree. Answer: Though He decree it, yet is He free from the fault thereof; for: First, He decrees it not to be the cause thereof Himself, but to permit it among men, leaving them to be the authors thereof. Secondly, He decrees to dispose of it well, and to order it as a just punishment of the rash judgment of others, and so in no sort is the cause of evil in rash judgment; howsoever He dispose hereof for the just punishment of offenders in this kind.



2. The second confirmation of the first reason is contained in this parable, which tendeth to the same end with the former sentence: And with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again; that is, the Lord hath ordained that men shall be rewarded in their kind, like for like. Hence we may observe this rule of GodŐs justice in the punishment of sin: namely, to reward men in their kind, punishing them in the same things wherein they offend. David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah; and God by way of punishment raised up evil against him out of his own house in the same kind; for his own son Absalom deflowered his fatherŐs concubines in the sight of all Israel (2 Sam. 12:9,11 and 16:22). And experience shews that blood will have blood; for though the murderer escape the hands of the civil judge, yet the terror and vengeance of God doth ordinarily pursue him to destruction. A notable example hereof we have in the holy league (as it is called) but indeed the bloody league; wherein the enemies of GodŐs grace and truth did confederate themselves to root out true religion and the professors thereof from the earth. But the Lord hath rewarded them in their kind, and turned their own swords against themselves, causing them to spoil one another; according to the prophecy of Isaiah, Woe to thee that spoilest, and was not spoiled; and dost wickedly, and they did not wickedly against thee. When thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled (Isa. 33:1). This rewarding justice of God well observed, doth discover unto us, yea, and denounce a fearful woe, not  only against all those that give out rash judgment of others; but against all usurers and oppressors, who mete out hard measure unto others, even cruelty without mercy; but so shall they be served again. GodŐs heavy hand hath heretofore lien sore upon this land for many years in dearth and scarcity, which also in some sort hath been made more grievous upon the poor, by hard hearted rich men, who are like to great fishes that devour the lesser; for they grind the faces of the poor, and pluck off their skins from them, and their flesh from the bones by their wicked covetousness. Yea, doubtless their cruelty costs many a manŐs life. Some in higher place by enclosing and racking of rents. Others of meaner sort, by engrossing and withholding the commodities of the land from the common good till a time of dearth come, wherein (as the prophet saith, Amos 8:5) they make the ephah small, and the shekel great; that is, sell little for much, lessening the measure, and enhancing the price. And indeed, such a time of dearth is the worldlingŐs day, wherein they do enrich themselves by the spoil of the poor. But they must know that a fearful woe belongs unto them: for the like merciless measure shall be measured to them again, and when they cease to spoil, then shall they be spoiled; for when the hand of God is heavy upon the poor, then no doubt is vengeance preparing for hard hearted rich men, who increase the same. The Lord forbiddeth to trouble the widow or fatherless child (Exod. 22:22-24), for if thou vex and trouble such, and so he call and cry unto me, I will surely hear his cry: then shall my wrath be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. This is GodŐs Word, and it must stand. The Lord Himself foretold that toward the latter day, iniquity should abound and charity should wax cold (Matt. 24:12); and are not these the times whereof Christ spake?  For what power hath the gospel to withdraw menŐs hearts from iniquity? And when was there ever less charity than is now? Well, these are forerunners of greater judgments; and therefore in the fear of God, let us make conscience of this and all other sins, even in consideration of this, that the Lord will pay us home in that kind wherein we offend.