ŇAnd why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.Ó Matthew 7: 3-5.

 

 

 

ŇAnd why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?Ó (vv. 3,4)

 

These two verses contain a second reason to enforce the former commandment against rash judgment. The meaning of the words is thus:

 

Why seest thou?

That is, upon what ground, for what cause, with what conscience seest thou? And so in v.4, How sayest thou? That is, with what face, with what honesty and conscience sayest thou? So much these interrogations how and why import.

 

Seest

Sight, here is not a light or sudden beholding of the mote, but a seeing with attention, a serious considerate observation thereof.

 

A mote

The word used in the original may as well be translated a straw, or a piece of straw, as a mote, as it hath been in former times; for it will bear either translation. Yet the word beam seems rather to have reference to a straw than to a mote. But which way soever it be taken, it signifies small and little sins, as sins of ignorance and infirmity, such as the best Christians do commit, and cannot be free from in this life. Again, it signifieth supposed sins; such as are not indeed sins before God, but only in his opinion that giveth rash judgment.

 

And perceivest not

This perceiving is properly an action of the mind, standing in consideration and thinking, which follows after seeing. Thus the word is used (Luke 12:27), Consider the lilies of the field; that is, look upon them, and then consider well thereof in your mind. And (Jam. 1:23), He that hears the Word and doeth it not, is like unto a man that beholds his natural face in a glass; that is, to one that sees and considers of his shape. So that ChristŐs meaning is as if He had said, It may be thou seest, but why doest thou not well weigh and consider with thyself of the beam that is in thine own eye?

 

Beam

By beam, is here meant great and notorious reigning sins in manŐs heart; such as wound the conscience, which are like unto a beam in the eye; which doth not only blemish, but quite dash out the sight. Some may here ask, in what sense this is spoken, seeing the eye is not capable of a beam? Answer: It is spoken by way of supposition, as if it had been said, If it were possible that a beam could be in the eye, the rash censurerŐs fault is as a beam in the eye. This kind of speech is usual in Scripture; If I could speak with the tongues of angels, saith St Paul (1 Cor. 13:1), that is, suppose angels had tongues, and that I could speak as eloquently as they.

 

The words of the fourth verse are for substance all one with the former. The difference between them is only this: In the third verse Christ speaks only of rash judgment conceived in the mind; but in the fourth verse He speaks of rash judgment uttered in speech: How sayest thou to thy brother, etc. So that in both verses, the words are a parable bearing this sense: With what face, honesty or conscience canst thou find fault with thy brother, either in thought or speech, thou thyself being tainted with greater faults and offences? And hence the second reason may be thus conceived:

 

He that hath greater faults, must not censure him that hath lesser.

But he that giveth rash judgment hath greater faults that he whom he censureth.

And therefore, no man ought to use rash judgment.

 

The proposition or first part is omitted; the assumption expressly set down in the third and fourth verses whereupon the conclusion follows against rash judgment.

 

1. Upon this form of speech, How seest thou? Why sayest thou? that is, With what face and honesty, and upon what ground? we may learn this instruction: that our speeches, yea, our very thoughts must be conceived and uttered upon good ground, and in a good manner. Establish thy thought by counsel (saith Solomon, Prov. 20:18), and by counsel make war; teaching us to have direction from the Word of God for the ground and manner of our very thoughts, and for all our affairs. Our Saviour Christ bids us take heed how we hear GodŐs Word (Luke 8:18); and Solomon would draw us to this heed and attention in prayer also: Be not rash with thy mouth, nor let thy heart be hasty to utter a thing before God (Eccl. 5:2). Now that which they speak of divine exercises is in this place by our Saviour enlarged to every thought of the heart, and word of the mouth that concerns our brother.

 

Further, in these words, Seest thou; that is, with attention and consideration beholdest, our Saviour Christ acquaints us with a common fault wherewith our nature is generally stained and corrupted; to wit, that we are over sharp sighted in other menŐs lives and offences. This appears in that men can easily discern small faults in others, and cannot see great offences in themselves, nay, when they can find no just fault, yet they will make these faults which indeed be none at all. Example hereof we have in the Scribes and Pharisees, in their censures against our Saviour and His disciples. They themselves were hypocrites tainted with grievous sins, and yet they pried to find motes in ChristŐs eyes; for when He wrought miracles, cured the diseased, and did good unto us all, they blamed him as a breaker of the Sabbath day, and as a companion of publicans and sinners, though He conversed with them for their good. So they blamed His disciples for eating with unwashen hands, and for plucking up the ears of corn on the Sabbath day to satisfy their hunger, and for their seldom fasting. This fault was in the Corinthians, who censured Paul and his ministry for want of eloquence and excellency of words, which was in other teachers amongst them, as may appear by his rebuking of them (1 Cor. 4). And the Christian brethren among the Romans condemned one another in the observation of days and times, and in the use of the creatures of God (Rom. 14); which is nothing else but rash judgment. And this no doubt is a fault which reigns in our congregations, even among the better sort at this day; for deeply is our nature stained with this corruption, and so prone it is to this sin, that even they which have received true grace can hardly abstain from the practices of rash judgment.

 

The considerations hereof must teach us these duties:

 

(1) First, to take knowledge of this corruption of our nature, and of the want of brotherly love in us; for why should we so soon spy a fault in another but because we want the love and charity to his person? We may consider the vileness of this practice by resemblance in some brute creatures; for we account most basely of those ravening fowls which delight in nothing but in filthy carrions; and such for all the world are these rash censurers, all their delight is in other menŐs faults, which make them so sharp sighted to spy them out.

 

(2) Secondly, when we are about to censure any man, we must (in regard of this corruption) suspect ourselves, and our speeches, and call ourselves back to a view and consideration of that which we are to speak; for oft-times we see that which we ought not to see, and thereupon speak that which we ought in conscience to conceal. Physicians give this note of a frenzy, to begin to take up straws. Now when the mind looks not into itself, but pries into other menŐs actions, then no doubt it is not right, but is corrupt and infected with a spiritual frenzy, and therefore the danger of this disease must cause us to look unto ourselves.

 

(3) Thirdly, here we may observe a reason of the strange behaviour of men in regard of sin. For this we may easily perceive, that men with open mouth will condemn those things in others which they like and approve in themselves. Now the cause hereof is, for that the affections do follow the mind; such as the mind is, such are the affections; and manŐs mind naturally looketh outward, not inward, it sees very little faults in others, but will neither see nor condemn the same faults, nor greater, in itself. Nay, rather it causeth man to love those sins in himself which he detests in others. And therefore in the amendment of our lives, we must begin in our own hearts, and turn the eye of our mind inward to see our own sins, and labour first to have our hearts touched with sorrow for them, and to hate them first in ourselves, and then to proceed to hate them in others. It is a preposterous course, arising from the corruption of nature, to begin with the hatred and dislike of sin out of ourselves.

 

2. Further, here in this reason our Saviour Christ makes a difference of sins: some are as motes, some as beams. Every sin indeed is death and condemnation, and yet all are not equal, but far different in degrees: as some men are drowned in the channel and middle of the sea, some by the shore side, which places differ in depth and danger, though all is one in regard of death. Some men endure damnation in deeper measure, some in lesser, yet both are condemned. But the papists abuse these words, and would gather hereon a distinction of sins which God doth not allow; to wit, that some sins are venial, which deserve not death, and these are here called motes; some again are mortal, deserving death, and those are called beams. But the mote and beam are both mortal sins. A mote or a straw may sometime put out the eye, though indeed the beam be more forcible to dash it quite out. And so do small sins wound the conscience, and damn the soul, though greater sins do more deeply wound the conscience, and plunge the same into hell. Small and great sins both destroy the soul, though in a different degree. The very mote is deadly sin, though in nature the beam be more mortal. This distinction they borrowed from former ages, but abusing the primitive church from whence they had it; for the ancient fathers called some sins venial, not because they deserved not death, but because they were pardonable in regard of the church, and did not incur the censure of excommunication; and those they call mortal or criminal sins, which had the censure of excommunication passed against them; so that the papists abuse both fathers and Scripture in this distinction.

 

3. Thirdly, Christ naming the very eye, and not the face or other parts of the body, would hereby give us to understand what is the property and scope of rash judgment; namely, to deface the very intention of his heart of whom censure is given. When David sent his servants to Hanun king of Ammon, to comfort him after his fatherŐs death; the princes of Ammon told their lord that DavidŐs servants were but spies that came to search out the city (1 Chr. 19:2-4). Thus they judged rashly of DavidŐs fact, and their intent was to corrupt the honest mind of David; persuading the king that David and his servants had another intent and end of their coming than they made known to the king. So that the rash censurer seeks to blemish the good mind and conscience of his brother. And hence we may well be warned to take notice of our natural corruption, how that without GodŐs special grace do we plainly hate our brother; else we would never so suspiciously pry into his ways, as to deprave his good meaning. We must therefore content ourselves with the speeches and actions of our brother, and take heed how we deal about the eye; that is, with his intent and meaning; but we must leave to God, who only knows the heart. And for his actions and speeches (if it may be) we must always expound them in the better part. If we cannot defend a manŐs doing, yet we must excuse his meaning. If we cannot excuse his intent, yet we must think the best of his conscience. If we cannot excuse his conscience, yet we must judge it to be but a sin of ignorance. If we cannot do so, yet we must think that it was done in some grievous temptation, and that if we ourselves had been in like case, we should have done far worse. We know not when God may give grace to men, or when He leaves them to themselves, and therefore in regard of the mind and conscience, we must compromise our judgment at all times.

 

And perceivest not.

That is, though it may be thou seest it, yet thou doest not well consider of it. Here our Saviour noteth out a second main fault in manŐs nature to be thought upon; namely, carnal security, whereby though in some small measure men see their offences, yet naturally they never think on them heartily and seriously as they ought to do. St Paul saith (Eph. 5:14), Awake thou that sleepest, signifying that by nature we lie slumbering in sin; so as though we may sometime have a little glimmering thereof, yet we never thoroughly behold and consider them as we should. The Lord Himself complains of this security in sin in His own people: No man saith, What have I done? (Jer. 8:6). This was the sin of the old world: They knew nothing till the flood came (Matt. 24:39). It may be they had now and then some conceit thereof, but they thought not seriously thereon. Now as the days of Noah were, so shall be the days of the coming of the Son of man, in regard of security. And these are those days wherein we now live. For howsoever we sometime think of our sins, yet we look not on them with both eyes, as we do on our neighboursŐ faults. We must here be warned to take heed of this sin; for it is a fearful case, either not to see our sins, or, seeing them, to pass them over without serious consideration. The apostle saith, When men say, Peace, then comes sudden destruction (1 Thess. 5:3). Now men do then most fearfully cry, Peace, peace, unto themselves, when they either will not see their sins, or seeing them, do not well consider thereof in their hearts. We therefore must labour for this grace to have a clear sight into our sins; for without that we can never sorrow according unto God, nor repent unto life as we ought to do.

 

How seest thou etc., and how sayest thou to thy brother

In both these phrases consider how Christ would have all those which are to give judgment of the offences of others, to be themselves without reproof and blame. Else they are no fit persons to give censure of those that be under them. And therefore the magistrate in the town and commonwealth, the minister in the church, the master in the family, and every superior in his place, must labour to be unblameable; for if they be tainted with gross sins, they can never thoroughly purge them that be under them. A minister (saith Paul) must be unreproveable (1 Tim. 3:2), and so likewise the magistrate, who is GodŐs vicegerent, and every governor in his place.

 

4. Lastly, in both verses observe the condition of those that are given to rash judgment; namely, that of all men they are the worst. Christ maketh them to carry beams in their eyes, when others have but motes or straws. The man that is given to censure others, would seem to be of all men most holy; but the truth is, there is none so bad as he though he be a minister, yea, be he what he will, nay the better is his place, the worst is his fault; and the more he is given to this sin of censuring, the worst he is, for the less he sees his own sins; nay, let him live unblameably before men, yet he hath a heart full of pride and self-love, and full of disdain towards his brother. And therefore let us take heed of this sin, even when it begins to creep upon us.

 

 

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.Ó (v.5)

 

This verse contains a remedy against rash judgment. It depends upon the former verses as an answer to a secret objection that might thence arise; for whereas Christ had said, Judge not; and Why seest thou a mote in thy brotherŐs eye etc., some man might say, belike then it is not lawful to correct my brother by speech, and by reproof to seek amendment of his fault. To this Christ answers that He forbids not brotherly correction and admonition, but the evil, corrupt and unchristian manner of giving admonition and correction; whenas men take a preposterous course in censuring, and do not begin with themselves in the first place, but with their brethren. As if our Saviour Christ had said, Hypocrite, thou hast greater faults than he whom thou judgest; and therefore if thou wilt take a right course in thy correction, begin with thyself, reform the great sins that be in thyself, and then shalt thou be fitted and better able to correct and reform thy brother. So that these words contain two parts: 1. The remedy of rash judgment, Hypocrite, first pluck out the beam out of thine own eye. 2. The fruit hereof, which is true wisdom, to be able to discern aright of our neighbourŐs fault, and also how it is to be cured, in these words, And then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brotherŐs eye. Of these in order.

 

1. The remedy against rash judgment is for a man first to begin with himself, reforming first his own offences; which because it is here propounded by our Saviour Christ of set purpose, as a special remedy against this sin, I will stand a little to shew how a man may cast out the beam out of his own eye. Hereunto four things are required:

 

(1.) A man must turn the eye of his mind inward, and cast his cogitations toward his own life and conscience, that so he may see and know the principal sins of his own heart and life. To this purpose serveth the moral law, which is as a glass to let us see our main and principal sins, which be the beams in our eyes here meant. And for direction herein, I will note out some special main sins, which be in all men naturally; and which every one must well consider of, that will cast this beam out of his own eye:

 

(i) The first common sin of all men is a guiltiness in AdamŐs first offence; that is, his sin is made ours by relation or imputation; for his eating the forbidden fruit was no particular or private sin, but the sin of manŐs nature; and every one sinned in Adam, that was to descend of him by ordinary generation; for though we were not born when Adam sinned, yet by his sin we stand guilty of eternal death before God.

 

(ii) The second common sin is a natural disposition and proneness to everything that is evil and against GodŐs law, when occasion is offered, the sin against the Holy Ghost not excepted; for the same corruption and proneness to evil which was in them that have committed this sin, is in all men naturally; the difference stands only in this: that all do not fall into it. And this proneness to evil is the second head of original sin.

 

(iii) The third common sin is inward idolatry. This is a most heinous sin, and may be thus perceived: Every man by nature takes his heart from the true God, and bestows it on some other thing he makes his god; and by nature we love ourselves, our sins, and the world more than God, and yield obedience to the devil, rather than to the true God. The like may be said of our fear, joy and dangers, and of our trust and confidence, all which affections we set upon the devil, the world, and iniquity; yea, upon the creature; forsaking the Creator, who is blessed for ever; and he that sees not this in himself, hath idolatry as yet reigning in his heart.

 

(iv) The fourth sin is hypocrisy, which naturally reigneth in all men, till grace expel it. This hypocrisy stands in this: when men are about any good thing, they are more careful to please God in the outward action than with the service of the heart. Again, they seek more to please men than God. And, lastly, they rather endeavour to perform the outward duties of the first table than of the second. This is a large beam in every manŐs eye naturally, which each one ought to see in himself, as well as the former.

 

(v) The fifth sin is pride, not outward in apparel, but spiritual inward pride of the heart, which stands in this: that a man thinks himself out of Christ to have in him some natural goodness, whereby he stands in GodŐs favour, and hath in himself perfect love, and perfect faith. This sin all men will condemn, and yet it cleaves fast to every man by nature. The church of Laodicea (Rev. 2:17) said she was rich, and lacked nothing; whereas indeed she was poor and blind and naked. This inward pride poisons GodŐs grace in the heart, it is a main sin, and the common cause of rash judgment.

 

(vi) The sixth sin is that particular sin or sins wherewith everyone is assaulted; for howsoever the corruption of nature doth infect all men alike, yet everyone that is of years shall find himself more troubled with some sins than with others, by reason that corruption is in part either removed or restrained in him. Wherefore everyone must enter into his own heart, and there search and see what be those particular sins which most of all prevail against him, troubling his heart, and causing him to dishonour God. These be his beams which keep GodŐs grace out of his heart, which we must labour to find out in ourselves.

 

(2.) After we have some sight of these our main sins, we must in the next place labour to see them in ourselves as beams, and to feel the weight thereof; for commonly we either see them not at all in ourselves, or if we do a little perceive them, yet we see them not in their quantity as beams, but rather like motes or straws. Now we shall come to see these sins in ourselves as beams in their just quantity:

 

(i) First, if we compare them with other menŐs sins, as with AdamŐs first sin; for doubtless we have many particular sins in our hearts that be as great or greater than AdamŐs sin was, considered in the fact; and yet by that sin Adam brought not only on himself, but on all his posterity mortality and destruction, the first and the second death.

 

(ii) Again, we shall come to see the grievousness on our sins, if we consider them in the punishment thereof; that is, subjection to all woe and misery, yea, and to death itself in this life, and also to death eternal after this life, with the devil and his angels. This is the reward of every sin in itself.

 

(iii) Thirdly, consider these thy sins, as they were laid upon the holy person of our Saviour Christ, for which He endured not only outward bodily torments on the cross, but inwardly in soul apprehended the whole wrath of God due unto us for the same, which caused Him to sweat water and blood, and to cry, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? This being well weighed, will let us see that our sins are no motes, but huge and great beams, such as are able to crush us in pieces, under the heavy wrath of God.

 

(iv) Lastly, have recourse to the last commandment, which forbids the very first thoughts and motions in the heart, that be against our neighbour, and against God, though we never give consent of will thereto; nay, though we abhor the fact itself; as when we see our neighbourŐs ox or his ass, to wish in our hearts, ŇO that this were mine,Ó though we detest the stealing thereof. Now if this first motion be a sin deserving damnation, how heinous be the sins of our nature, and the transgressions of our life, wherein we have given full consent to rebel against God?

 

(3.) The third thing required to this casting out the beam out of our own eye, is that which is here intended by our Saviour Christ; namely, to cease to judge others, and to begin to judge ourselves for our own sins; for if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged (1 Cor. 11:31). Now we do then judge ourselves, when in our own hearts we give sentence against ourselves, and condemn ourselves in regard or our own sins. Thus David judged himself (Psa. 51:1), Have mercy upon me, O Lord, according to the multitude of thy mercies; as if he should say, Lord, one mercy will not serve the turn, so far have I plunged myself into hell by my grievous sins; but in the multitude of thy mercies do them all away. And in the words following (v.2), Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquities, he confesseth himself to be so deeply stained with the filth of sin, that a little washing will not serve. So when the Lord had spoken unto Job, and made him see and know himself, he cries out (Job 40:4), Behold I am vile, and again (Job 42:6), Now I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes, for those things that I have said and done. In such sort also did the prodigal son judge himself, crying out (Luke 15:21), that he had sinned against heaven, and against his father, and was not worthy to be called his son. The apostle Paul likewise confesseth against himself that he was the head of all sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). And thus much we condemn ourselves, and say with Daniel, in his prayer for the people (Dan. 9:7), Open shame and confusion of face belong unto us.

 

(4.) After we have thus judged ourselves, we must labour to break off and to amend our former evil ways, endeavouring by all means that sin may be abolished and weakened in us more and more. And this is indeed the removing of the beam out of our own eyes; that so we may be fitter to censure and reform others. Of this last duty the apostle speaketh (Rom. 14:13), Let us not judge one another any more, but use your judgment rather in this, that no man put a stumbling block before his brother; that is, he live without offence.

 

These four duties ought everyone to practise; and to move us hereunto,

 

(i) First, let us consider that it is GodŐs commandment in this place, that we should first reform our own selves.

 

(ii) Secondly, that our state and case is fearful and miserable without this reformation; if a man have but a thorn in his finger, he cannot be well until it be plucked out; what case then is he in that hath a huge beam in his eye, the most tender part of the whole body; that is, hath his heart and conscience pricked with the sting of sin? And therefore it nearly concerns everyone to remove it.

 

(iii) Thirdly, we shall never be able to judge aright of ourselves, of others, or of the life to come, till we practise this duty; and therefore in the fear of God, let us seriously set ourselves unto it.

 

 

Thus much of the remedy itself; now follow two circumstances therein further to be considered: (1.) The party to whom the remedy is given; that is, an hypocrite; (2.) When this remedy is to be practised: First, pluck out etc.

 

(1.) For the party, by hypocrite, we must understand him that in heart and speech is prone to conceive, and give rash judgment of other menŐs sayings and actions. And good cause there is why he is so called, for this man hath the sin of hypocrisy reigning in him, he desires to seem more holy than others, and therefore gives himself to censure others, that by debating of others, he may advance himself. See this in the hypocritical Pharisee (Luke 18:11,12), I thank God that I am not as other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week etc. But they must know, that this censuring of others is a fruit of hypocrisy arising out of an hollow heart.

 

(2.) The second circumstance is the time when this duty is to be practised; namely, in the first place; First cast out etc. Here then we have a notable direction for the manner and order of giving brotherly correction: It must begin with a manŐs own self, and end in a manŐs neighbour. And by proportion, look by how much everyone is nearer unto us, so much the sooner must he be corrected and judged. If thou be a private man that art to give censure, first begin with thyself; then judge thy kindred; thirdly, thine acquaintance; and last of all, strangers. So a master of a family must first judge himself, then his own family, and after he may judge his friends and neighbours, and last of all, strangers. And the like must every superior practise in his place. Now by this order to be observed in brotherly censure, we may easily see that the world is far wide in the practice of this duty, for everyone thinks well of himself, and also of his friends and acquaintances, and therefore spares them, and will not censure them; but for strangers, them he will not stick to reproach and to condemn. But this is a preposterous course, swerving far from this direction of our Saviour Christ.

 

 

2. And then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brotherŐs eye.

Ths is the fruit of the former remedy; by curing himself first, a man comes to see clearly what his neighbourŐs fault is, and how it is to be cured and amended.

 

(1.) Where we may note, that out of the amendment of ourselves follows a spiritual gift of judgment and wisdom, whereby we see aright how to reform our brotherŐs fault. Hence I gather this general doctrine: that Right wisdom and understanding follows the reformation of our own hearts and lives. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (Psa. 111:10); that is, true wisdom and good understanding comes from a reverent awe of God, in regard of His Word and commandment. So (Psa.119:100), I was made wiser than the ancients, by keeping thy commandment. First, David reformed himself, and then he became exceeding wise. As it is said of Mannaseh (2 Chr. 33:13) that when he repented and humbled himself, he knew that the Lord was God. And after Nebuchadnezzar was humbled (Dan. 4:34), his understanding was restored to him, for God teacheth the humble His ways (Psa. 25:9). The proud man is he that builds up his sins with posts and beams, and such an one the Lord will not teach; but him that plucks down these posts by amendment of his life, will the Lord instruct in the way that he should walk. Christ saith to His disciples (John 15:14,15), Ye are my friends, if ye keep my commandments; and to His friends will He make known all things needful that He hath heard of His Father; by all which it is plain that right judgment follows true reformation of life.

 

Uses.

(i) Hereby we see how to come to understand the Holy Scriptures read or heard; namely, by the amendment of our own lives. First reform thine own heart and life and then shalt thou have true judgment given unto thee, to be able, in reading or hearing, to understand GodŐs Word, at least so much thereof as shall be needful for thee; and doubtless, the cause why most men profit so little in the Scriptures, though they hear and read them much, is for that they look not to the reformation of their own lives and consciences, according to the Word (Prov. 1:23), Turn you at my correction (saith Wisdom) and I will pour out my mind unto you, and make you understand my words. The student therefore that must fit himself to get true understanding in GodŐs Word for the edification of GodŐs church, must remember this direction, and labour first to pluck out the beam out of his own eye, and then shall he see clearly to read with judgment the Word of God, and to discern the true way of everlasting life, for the good of GodŐs people. But if thou come in thy sins, thou readest without profit.

 

(ii) Again, wouldest thou know thyself to be a child of God? Remember then to purge thy heart and life from all sin, for thence floweth true understanding, and thereupon God will certify thy conscience of thine election and reconciliation. But if thou suffer thyself to live in sin, thou mayest long wait for thy certificate, and never have it.

 

(iii) Many then there be that will be of no religion, because there are so many and divers opinions about matters of religion in the world; and therefore till some general Council hath determined of the truth of religion, they will live as they do. But these men must know that they take a wrong course. If they would come to know the truth of religion, they must first reform their lives; but while they live in sin, they can never see what is good, what is bad; what is truth, what is falsehood in religion (John 7:17), If any man will do my FatherŐs will (saith Christ) he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself; where He plainly gives us to understand that true judgment of religion comes from obedience unto God. This is the right way to reform an atheist: first, to bring him to obedience. And in a word, whosoever thou art, that wouldest in thy calling, whatsoever it be, please God, and do good to others; first, purge thine own heart and life from sin, and then shalt thou see clearly wherein thou failest, and how thou art to amend thy fault, and afterward do good unto others.

 

(2.) A second general point. Further, in this remedy, our Saviour Christ opposeth brotherly correction unto rash judgment; and withal, prescribes brotherly correction as a duty to be practised among GodŐs people. Touching this point, four things are to be considered: (i) Who is to correct; (ii) Who is to be corrected; (iii) What is to be corrected; (iv) In what manner.

 

(i) For the first, the party that must correct is a brother, that is, any member of GodŐs church. So it is said, Then shalt thou see clearly to put out the mote out of thy brotherŐs eye. And (Lev. 19:17), Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but shall plainly rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer him to sin. And (Matt. 18:15), If thy brother sin against thee, that is, do thee any wrong; or else sin against God, and thou be privy to it (for that sin may be said to be against man, whereto he is privy, though the wrong be not against him, because there is an offence given unto him); Then tell him his fault between him and thee alone; that is, privately. Again, every man is bound in conscience to save his brotherŐs soul, which ofttimes may be done by brotherly correction; and for want thereof, many times the soul may perish. And therefore it is every manŐs duty to correct his brother; yet with this clause and caution, that just occasion be offered, and time and place observed; for there be certain particular exceptions in which a man is freed from this duty, and all because there is no just occasion of correction offered; as: First, if he be not certain of the fault committed, for all lawful correction is of faults certainly and truly known. Secondly, if the party offending do repent, for the end of correction is to bring the offender to amendment. Thirdly, if there be no hope of his amendment (Prov. 9:8), Reprove not a scorner; that is, such an one as mocks thee for thy labour. Fourthly, if it may in better manner, and to better purpose, be performed by others, which for place and ability may and will more fitly perform it. But yet out of these cases, if just occasion be offered, everyone is to perform brotherly correction unto his brother.

 

Here I note one particular instruction; that not only the minister of GodŐs Word is our pastor, but even every brother after a sort is a pastor in regard that he must watch over the lives of his brethren for their good and amendment. It is the sin of our time that everyone thinks he hath no charge laid on him in regard of his brotherŐs life and estate. This was CainŐs sin towards his brother Abel, he denied himself to be his brotherŐs keeper. If any man sin, the common speech is, What is it to me? Let them look to it whom it concerns. But this ought not to be, one man ought to observe another, and use also brotherly correction for the reformation of faults certainly known. This is a duty of love and mercy, tending to the good of our brother, and to the salvation of his soul. In conscience we are bound to relieve the bodies of our poor brethren that be in peril and want, much more then are we bound to look unto their souls, that they perish not for want of admonition. We must turn back our enemyŐs ox or ass that wandereth, much more our brother from going to perdition.

 

(ii) Who is to be corrected? Out of whose eye is the mote to be taken? To wit, a brother: out of thy brotherŐs eye. By a brother here Christ meaneth not every neighbour, for that is every man; but everyone that is a member of that church whereof we are members, and professeth the same religion which we do, being admitted into the church by the same sacrament of baptism, whereby we are admitted. This is plain in the exhortation of Christ (Matt. 18:15), If thy brother sin against thee, tell him his fault between him and thee; and so proceed (if he hear thee not) till he come to the censure of the church; which were in vain if the party were a member of the church. If anyone that is called a brother (saith Paul (1 Cor. 5:11)), be a fornicator, covetous, etc., with such an one eat not, and he addeth, What have I to do to judge them that are without? Do ye not judge them that are within? Now hear the former order must be observed; that, first, a man must correct himself, secondly, his family and kindred, next a brother of the same congregation with him. And if good order be observed, he may admonish a brother that is a member of another particular church; but beyond this we may not go, though we must carry ourselves so to them that are without, that by our good conversation we may win them to God. And further this is to be known, that in the church of God, authority and dignity frees no person from brotherly correction; whereupon Paul bids the people of Colossae, to say unto Archippus their pastor, Take heed to thy ministry, which thou hast received of the Lord, that thou fulfil it (Col. 4:17). And hence we may learn this duty: when we offend in word or deed, we must submit ourselves willingly to brotherly correction; we must not say, as sometimes one of the Israelites that strove with his brother, said unto Moses for reproving him, Who made thee a judge and a ruler over us? But being faulty, we must submit ourselves to the correction of our brother, though we be above them in place. It is better to hear the reproof of a wise man (saith Solomon) than the song of a fool (Eccl. 7:5). It may be the song of a fool will more delight us, but sure it is, the wise manŐs reproof is far more profitable. This David testified, by desiring that the righteous might smite him; accounting it as a precious balm upon his head, which he would never want (Psa. 141:5). Yea, nature itself doth teach us this: that it is better to be reproved even of an enemy, than to be praised of a friend; according to that of Solomon (Prov. 27:5), Open rebuke is better than secret love.

 

(iii) For what is a brother to be admonished or corrected? Not only for great offences, but for lesser sins. We must pull out not only beams, but straws and motes out of his eye. For here lesser sins are as straws and motes to greater sins, which be as beams and posts. The reason why we must correct our brother for small offences, is because every great sin hath his beginning of some little and small sin; and therefore it is a duty of brotherly correction to cut off sin in the head, before it grow out to the full. Thus the Lord dealt with Cain (Gen. 4:7), He reproved him for his wrath and malice against his brother, testified by his sad countenance, before he slew his brother; but Cain not yielding to the LordŐs reproof, came at the last to the grievous sin of murder.

 

In this third point, we may take a view of that heavenly order which Christ hath left in His church, for the reformation, not only of greater sins, but of lesser sins; for there be many sins committed which cannot be corrected by the sword of the magistrate, neither yet by the public censure of the church; as lying, foolish jesting, and other offences in behaviour and attire; yet these will not Christ permit to be in His church, and therefore hath provided brotherly correction to cut them off.

 

(iv) How is brotherly correction to be performed? Although the manner of brotherly correction be not here expressly set down, yet it is implied, where it is said, Then shalt thou see clearly etc. I will stand a little to shew how this duty is to be performed. In brotherly correction, these things are to be required:

 

(a) Christian wisdom to see clearly into the fault, and also how it is to be amended. The author to the Hebrews makes it the duty of every Christian to observe his brother; not for this end to upbraid him with his faults; but that he might rightly discern thereof, and also know how to correct him. And here comes a common fault to be reproved, many are forward and hasty to correct their brethren, but yet it shall be upon bare rumours and uncertain grounds; they will not stay till they know the fault thoroughly and certainly; whereupon it comes to pass many times, that the reprover bears the blame; for the party reproved saith there is no such matter, the thing is otherwise, and so the other becomes a rash censurer.

 

(b) In Christian correction, there must be observation of fit circumstances; as time and place; else the good admonition may be less effectual. We shall see the practice of this in the Word of God. Abigail (1 Sam. 25:36,37) observed a fit time to reprove her husband for his churlish answer to DavidŐs servants, and therefore told him not of it till his feast of sheep shearing was ended, and the wine gone out of his head.

 

(c) The manner of our brotherŐs offence must be considered, whether it proceed of human frailty or otherwise. If his fault proceed from human frailty, then PaulŐs lesson may be practised (Gal. 6:1), Ye that are spiritual restore such an one with the spirit of meekness. The phrase there is borrowed from surgeons, who beginning to deal with a broken joint, will handle the same very tenderly; and so must they be dealt with in reproof, that sin of human frailty. Example of this mildness in reproof we find in Nathan (2 Sam. 12), who reproved David in a parable, and so brought him to condemn himself. And the apostle Paul reproving the Corinthians in the beginning of the first epistle, doth include himself and Apollos in the same reproof, as though they had been guilty of the same crime (1 Cor. 4:6). And giving direction to Timothy how to carry himself in the church of God, though he allow him to use rebuke and reproof (2 Tim. 4:2), yet he bids him, exhort an elder; therein giving good direction for admonition. If the party be an elder, though reproof be not unlawful, yet it is not so fit as exhortation; and the like mildness must be used toward all those that sin of human frailty. But if the offence proceed from wilfulness and obstinacy, then the judgments of God must be denounced against them, to drive them to repentance.

 

(d) Everyone that is to correct another, must consider himself and his own estate, knowing that of himself he may fall into the like offence. So Paul bids them that are to seek the restoring of such as are fallen, to consider themselves (Gal. 6:1).

 

(e) Brotherly correction must be delivered with doctrine and instruction. (2 Tim. 4:1,2), I charge thee before God, to reprove, exhort, and rebuke with all longsuffering and doctrine. He that will admonish, must first himself be resolved that the thing done is a sin; then he must propound it to the party, as a sin out of GodŐs Word; so as hereby the party may know himself to have offended, and also say that he is reproved of God Himself rather than of man. This ought all superiors to practise in correcting and admonishing their inferiors; they must not go thereto in rage, but in longsuffering; nor rudely, but with doctrine, that the party offending may see his fault. And thus much for this duty of brotherly correction.