CH. XLIII. OF THE TEMPTATION TO FORM RASH JUDGMENTS OF OUR NEIGHBOUR, ARISING FROM THE INSTIGATION OF THE DEVIL AND THE STRENGTH OF OUR OWN EVIL INCLINATIONS, AND OF THE WAY TO RESIST THIS TEMPTATION.
FROM this same vice of selfesteem and self-conceit arises another most injurious to us, i.e. rash judgment of our neighbor, leading us to despise, contemn, and disparage him. And this fault, which arises from our pride and evil inclination, is by the same pride voluntarily nourished and increased; for as it increases, so does pride also increase, insensibly flattering and deluding us. For the more we presume to exalt ourselves, the more do we unconsciously depress others; while we imagine ourselves free from those imperfections which we think we perceive in them.
And the cunning tempter, who discovers this most evil disposition in us, is continually on the watch to open our eyes and keep them awake to see, investigate, and exaggerate the defects of other men. Careless souls know not and believe not how diligently he studies and contrives to impress upon our minds the little failings of this or that person, when he cannot discover to us greater faults.
Therefore, as he is watching to do you hurt, be you also awake, lest you fall into his snare. And when he brings before you any defect of your neighbor, banish the thought at once; and if you still feel a temptation to pass judgment upon it, resist the impulse. Consider that the office of judge has not been committed to thee; and that even if it were, beset as you are by a thousand passions, and but too prone to think evil without just cause, you would be unable to form a righteous judgment.
And, as an effectual remedy against rash judgments, I would remind you to occupy your thoughts with your own defects; so will you perceive more and more plainly every hour how much you have to do in yourself and for yourself, and will find neither time nor inclination to attend to the doings of others.
Besides, by faithfully performing this exercise you will be enabled more and more to purge your inward sight from the malignant humors whence this pestilent vice proceeds.
And know, that whenever you are so unhappy as to think any evil of your brother, then is some root of the same evil in your own heart; which, in proportion as it is illdisposed itself, gives a ready welcome to any thing like itself.
Whenever, therefore, it comes into your mind to judge another for some fault, despise your own self as guilty of the same, and say in your heart, "How can a wretch like me, laden with this and far worse faults, dare to lift up my head to see and judge the faults of others!"
And thus will the weapon, which, directed against another, would have wounded you, being turned against thyself, bring healing to your wounds.
If the error committed be clear and manifest, find some compassionate excuse for it, and believe that in your brother are some hidden virtues, for the sake of which the Lord has suffered him to fall, or to be for some time subject to this failing, that he may become vile in his own sight; and that, being also despised by others on this account, he may reap the fruit of humiliation, and render himself more acceptable to God, and so his gain may become greater than his loss.
But if the sin be not only manifest, but grievous and willfully obstinate, turn your thoughts upon God's awful judgments. Then you will see men who were once great sinners attaining high degrees of sanctity; and others, who seemed to have reached the sublimest heights of perfection, falling into the lowest depths of perdition.
Therefore fear and tremble for yourself far more than for any other.
And be assured, that every good and kindly feeling towards your neighbor is the gift of the Holy Ghost; and that all rash judgment, all contempt and bitterness towards him, flow from our own evil hearts and the suggestions of Satan.
If, then, any imperfection of another have made an impression on your mind, rest not nor give slumber to your eyes until to the utmost of your power you have effaced it from your heart.
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