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Faber On Judging Others
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Faber On Judging Others

This article was written and published at the beginning of this century. Its content, however, is timeless. The vocabulary and grammar may seem unusual, but the message is clear.

Note: the Faber referred to is Frederick William Faber (1814-1863) "Faber was the author of many hymns and devotional books. His writings owed their popularity to their fervent spirituality and their lucid style, in which profound truths were made accessible to the simplest minds." - from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

by George D. Watson, D.D.


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With regard to our judgment or others, we may safely say there has never lived a Christian that did not, at some time, have to repent for judging his fellows to harshly. And, on the other hand, there never has lived a Christian that ever had to repent for being too loving, compassionate or charitable. Faber, in one of his books writing on the different classes of believers, has some excellent remarks on the judging of others, which, I think, very helpful, and so omitting those phrases which are peculiar to Catholics, and, compiling his thoughts from different pages, I will give the reader the substance of his remarks.

Lack of Self-knowledge

"It is a universal law that when we judge others, whether individuals or multitudes, we come to erroneous conclusions from the mere fact that we naturally judge over harshly. It is one of the effects of our fallen nature to put the worst construction upon what we see or hear about others, and to make small, if any, allowance for the hidden good that is in them. Also, we unwittingly judge of others by the worst parts of our own disposition, and not by the best. It is natural for us to judge of ourselves by the best things, in us. It is so common to impute our evil to others, but to think our goodness is peculiarly our own."

Lack of Balance

"Severity is one of the natural accompaniments of a young and immature state of grace. Many religious people think that the power to detect evil in others is a special gift from God, to be prized and cultivated, and if such people are inclined to hunt for evil they can always find it to their satisfaction, but the practice begets a habit of suspicion which is utterly ruinous to the deep love of God and to Christlikeness of disposition. Men are never industrious in finding out the good about others, but have a terrific swiftness in seeing the evil, and even religious people, in many instances, have an awful propensity for circulating the evil, but are very slow to tell the good." It is also a trait among human beings to be most severe with those of their own class, or guild, or profession.

Whoever knew a musician to speak commendatory words of another musician. Merchants are severe on merchants, and it is proverbial the world over that religious people are severe on their fellow religionists. This is partly accounted for because each class of mankind is more familiar with the defects, and infirmities, and sins which are liable to affects their class.

Lack of Knowledge

"When we see evil in others, we never can see the amount of inward resistance which the person has given to the evil, or the amount of humiliation and sorrow which they may have for their own failures and defects. The violence of temptation is always invisible, and its peculiar oppressiveness, owing to heredity, or education, or previous modes of life, can never be estimated by a fellow creature. There are depths of invincible ignorance not only in the intellectual nature, but in a man's moral nature, which every individual character has in some one or more directions, and it is almost universally true that even among good religious people there is one point of moral excellence upon which the seem stupid. This explains why we meet so many very excellent people who seem to have some one glaring inconsistency - and everybody has some inconsistency, only they all have not the deep humility to see it.

In judging others we fail to see how many odd crossings there are in people's minds, which tell upon their motives and hamper the free action of their moral sense. Much sin lies at the door of a warped mind, but how much guilt there is in the sin can be known to God alone. The heart is the jewel that he covets for his crown, and if the habitual attitude of the heart is better than any particular action which we see, God be praised for it. The fall of man is so great, that in this present world it may be there is no one entirely free from obliquity in the perception of perfect, universal justice."

Lack of Insight

"The evil in our fellows strikes us with bold, startling proportions, whereas goodness is more quiet and hidden, and often passes unobserved as a very tame affair. It must be observed that evil, of its own nature, is more visible than goodness. Evil is like the world, loud, rude, anxious, hurried, impetuous, and ever acting on the self defensive; while goodness partakes on the nature of God and imitates the ways of God, of quietness, unobstrusiveness, slowness, non-combativeness, and meekly suffers instead of defending itself, and is saturated with the Spirit of God in his feelings and conduct."

"The evil we see, or think we see in others, is easily recognized, but oftentimes the people we are judging are more keenly alive to their defects than we imagine, and may grieve over them in secret and feel in their hearts a humiliation and sorrow for them which we cannot know of, for if sorrow for evil were ostentatious and glaring, that would destroy its true character. God has so contrived the world that the greater part of goodness must of necessity be hidden like himself. There are many things that baffle our judgment as to the sincerity of a man's conversion, but we may depend upon it that a thousand spots which look to us desert waste, God's mercy is finding something there for his glory."

Lack of Understanding

"One of the frightful features of the world, and which is hard to dwell upon without some gloom passing over our spirits, is that of the appalling activity of Satan, and under his leadership myriads of demons are incessantly plying our fellow creatures with every possible subtlety and devise for their ruin. To judge of others without taking into consideration to widespread tyranny of evil spirits, would be both unscriptural and unjust. One while Satan is persecuting the good, even stirring good Christians against good Christians, weaving webs of diplomacy and compromise around the advocates of Christian perfection, or bending all his energies on the ruin of some one who is doing a notable work for God, or sapping the foundations of a revival church, or causing Christian warriors to misinterpret their orders on the battlefield, causing them to fire into each other's rranks, and working in a thousand ways both with individuals and bodies of men. This terrible work of evil spirits, described by St. Paul in Ephesisans unconsciously affects our judgment of others.

But we fail to see that God is ten thousand times more active than Satan, though he seems to be less so. The reason is because we do not known how to follow God in the deep seclusion of his work, for he works opposite to the methods of Satan, and is constantly accomplishing marvelous things in human souls which we do not suspect, because we are not heavenly minded enough to trace the foot prints of his operations. If we actually saw what God is doing in the very people we often criticize and condemn, we would be utterly astonished at the immensity, the vigor, and the versatility of the magnificent spiritual work which God is doing all around us in the world.

Satan is active, but grace is more active. If the vigor of God abides in every atom of the inanimate world, shall we doubt that his presence pervades and controls in the world of human souls, by the energies of an all-wise Providence, beyond all our conjecture, especially when all his majestic operations have for their single end the accomplishment of infinite love."

Lack of Patience

"We see the evil in our fellows much sooner than the good. On a very short acquaintance with a person we discover their defects, and the things in them which are disagreeable to us, and soon find the weak point in them where they are most likely to fall, but their better nature is more slowly unfolding itself."

"This invisible character of goodness is not so obtrusive as defects, because there is an instinctive bashfulness in real goodness, even without a man's intending it. When we know people a long while, especially if we love them, there is apt to be the continual breaking forth of virtues in them we never dreamed they possessed and oftentimes in little things, in the ordinary wear and tear of life, there will come forth in unostentatious ways traits of humility and self depreciation, or a patience and sweetness, and unselfishness, beyond what we expect of them."

Lack of Discernment

"In our opinions of others we fail to distinguish between the sinfulness of sin and the deformity which has resulted from sin. There are many things in truly good people that are extremely very disagreeable, which may not involve real sin, and it is this disagreeableness, or deformity, which spreads itself out and covers a greater extent in our estimation of people than their actual sin, for this deformity infects the manners, taints the tone and atmosphere of a person, and altogether makes a much greater show than real sin. And we judge of people, not so much by how they stand to God, as by the inconvenient or disagreeable way in which they may stand to us."

"Much that the eye catches, which is offensive to our moral sense, may not be real sin, and yet we condemn it with a bitterness and severity much more than the real sin which does not happen to interfere with our interests or personal tastes."

"This is why an impartial God must condemn us so often for the very condemnation we give to others, because our judgments do not proceed from the love of God but from personal taste. Goodness always tends to be graceful, but in this life there are always to each man a thousand causes which prevent or delay a work of grace in the heart from becoming graceful in life. Grace may work instantaneously, but gracefulness in the details of life operates more slowly, at least in the majority of cases."

Lack of Fellowship with God

"Nothing is more amazing than the patient, gentle charity that God displays to his creatures. There is something adorable in the compassion of God for mankind which looks like a voluntary blindness at their evil. He seems either not to see, or not appreciate, the utter worthlessness of man; at least he goes on his way as though he did not see it. The Bible is full of instances of this, both in his dealings with nations and with individuals, where his justice seems to move with tortoise pace, constantly pursuing but seemingly on purpose to be a long while catching up with the one to be punished, as if to give them every allowance possible to infinite mercy. Now the more we are with God, and the closer our union is with him, and the more deeply we drink of the interior sweetness of his life, the more shall we catch something of his gentleness and compassion of spirit which will destroy our proclivity for harsh judgements and take away the keenness by which we discover evil in others. Even where judgments are legitimate and unavoidable, we may lay it down as a rule that the severity of our judgments is an infallible index to the lowness of our spiritual state. Green sanctity is ever swift and sharp and thinks God is too lenient, and often acts as if his judgment throne wanted an occupant."

"Mature, mellow sanctity is always slow, gentle, compassionate, making allowance for others which it never feels justified in making for itself. We must therefore be on our guard, for the more severe we are the lower we are in love, and in proportion we get milder to others, are strict with self."

"The gospel nowhere tells us that sinners are punished to the uttermost of their demerits, but it does tell us that the righteous shall be rewarded 'with good measure, and shaken together, and running over,' so it is in the rewards of goodness, that our merciful Creator seems bent on doing his uttermost."

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