Friday, February 18

The Puritans: From Richard Baxter

Cases And Directions Against Censoriousness And Unwarrantable Judging.

Tit. 1 Cases of Conscience about Judging of Others.

Quest. I. Am I not bound to judge truly of every one as he is?

Answer. I. There are many that you are not bound to meddle with, and to pass any judgment at all upon. 2. There are many whose faults are secret, and their virtues open and of such you cannot judge as they are, because, you have no proof or evidence to enable you: you cannot see that which is latent in the heart, or done in darkness. 3. You neither ought on pretence of charity, nor can believe an evident known untruth of any man.

Quest. Doth not charity bind me to judge men better than they are?

Answer. Charity bindeth you, 1. Rather to observe the best in them, than the worst. 2. And, as I said, to judge of no man's faults uncalled. 3. Nor to judge of that which is not evident, but out of sight and thus consequently it bindeth you to judge some men to be better than they are; but not directly.

Quest. Then a man is bound to err and believe an untruth.

Answer. No; you are not bound to believe that it is certainly true, that such a man is better than he is; because you have no evidence of its certain truth. But you are bound to believe it a thing probable or likely, likely to be true, by an opinion or fallible human faith and this is not a falsehood; for that is likely and probable to you, which hath the more probable evidence, and more for it than against it so that the thing which you are to believe immediately is this proposition: There is more evidence to me to prove it likely that this man is sincere than contrary: and consequently you believe this, and believe not the contrary, because the contrary hath no evidence. But you are not to take it as a certain thing, that the contrary hath no latent reality.

Quest. II. How far may I judge ill of one by outward appearances, as by the countenance, gestures, and other uncertain but suspicious signs?

Answer. There are some signs which are not so much as probable, but a little suspicious, and which men are very ordinarily mistaken by: as those that will judge of a man at the first look by his face; and those that will judge a studious, serious person (a lawyer, a judge, or a divine) to be morose or proud, because they are not complimentary, but of few words; or because they have not patience to waste precious hours in hearing an empty vessel sound, an ignorant, self-conceited person talk foolishly. Such censures are but the effects of injudiciousness, unrighteousness, and rash haste. There are other signs which make it probable to a wise and charitable person, that the man is bad (e.g. proud, or covetous, or a hypocrite). If with these, there are as great sins to make the contrary probable, we must rather incline to the better than the worse. But if not, we may fear the worst of that person, but not conclude it as a certainty; and therefore we may not in public censures, proceed upon such uncertainties, nor venture to divulge them; but only use them to help us for due caution, and pity, and prayer, and endeavour for such a one's recovery and help.

Quest. III. How far may I censure upon the report of others?

Answer. According to the degree of the credibility of the persons, and evidence of the narrative; not simply in themselves, but as compared with all that is to be heard on the contrary part; else you are partial and unjust.

Read the rest.

Biography: The Life and Ministry of Richard Baxter.

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