« FöregåendeFortsätt »
sion; it must ever be wielded with caution and care: to brandish it wantonly, to lay about with it blindly and furiously, to slash and smite therewith any that happeth to come in our way, doth argue malice or madness. 7. It is an ordinary way of proceeding to calumniate, for men, reflecting on some bad disposition in themselves, (although resulting from their own particular temper, from their bad principles, or from their ill custom,) to charge it presently on others; presuming others to be like themselves: like the wicked person in the psalm, ‘Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” This is to slander mankind first in the gross; then in retail, as occasion serveth, to asperse any man: this is the way of half-witted Machiavelians, and of desperate reprobates in wickedness, who, having prostituted their consciences to vice, for their own defence and solace, would shrowd themselves from blame under the shelter of common pravity and infirmity; accusing all men of that whereof they know themselves guilty." But surely there can be no greater iniquity than this, that one man should undergo blame for the ill conscience of another. These seem to be the chief kinds of slander, and most common ways of practising it. In which description the folly thereof doth, I suppose, so clearly shine, that no man can look thereon without loathing and despising it, as not only a very ugly, but a most foolish practice. No man surely can be wise, who will suffer himself to be defiled therewith. But to render its folly more apparent, we shall display it; declaring it to be extremely foolish on several accounts. But the doing this, in regard to your patience, we shall forbear at present.
* Remedium poenae suae arbitrantur, si nemo sit sanctus, si omnibus detrahatur, si turba sit pereuntium, &c.—Hier. ad Asellam, Ep. xcix.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XVIII.
PROVERBS, CHAP. X. —VERSE 18.
In the second place the folly of slander is declared.
1. Slander is foolish, as sinful and wicked. All sin is foolish on many accounts, as proceeding from ignorance, error, vanity, &c. What can be more egregiously absurd than to dissent in our opinion and choice from infinite wisdom, to disoblige our best friend, on whom our all depends? If then this practice be proved extremely sinful, it will thence be demonstrated no less foolish; and that it is extremely sinful may easily be shown. It is so described in holy Scripture; it is that which gives to the grand fiend his names, and which best expresses his nature. To lie simply is a great fault, highly disagreeable to the God of truth; and of all lies those are the worst which proceed from malice, or vanity, or both; and which work mischief, such as slander does. Again, to bear hatred or illwill, to exercise enmity towards any man, to design mischief against our neighbor, whose good, by many laws, and for many reasons, we are obliged to tender as our own, is a heinous fault; and of this the slanderer is apparently most guilty. All injustice is abominable: it is that crime which tends more immediately to the dissolution of society, and the disturbance of human life; which God therefore most loathes, and men have most reason to detest; but the slanderer violates all the rules of justice, and commits all sorts of wrong against his neighbor. He may perhaps conceive it no great matter if he does not act in a boisterous and bloody manner, but only by means of words, which are subtile transient things, and on his neighbor's credit only, which is neither substantial nor visible: but we are not to estimate things by our fancy; we must not reckon that a trifle which he prizes as a jewel ; moreover the injustice we commit is not to be corrected or cured: thefts may be restored and wounds healed; but a good name lost, cannot so easily be recovered. Nor is the thing itself contemptible; for as Solomon says, a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches: this point enlarged on. 2. But more particularly the slanderer is plainly a fool, because he makes wrong judgments and valuations of things, and accordingly drives silly bargains for himself, whereby he becomes a great loser. He means by his calumnies either to vent some passion boiling within him, or to compass some design, or to please some humor with which he is possessed; but is any of these things worth purchasing at so dear a rate 7 Can there be any fair exchange for our honesty! But the slanderer may pretend that it is not to assuage a private passion, or to promote his own concerns, that he deals thus with his neighbor; but for the sake of orthodox doctrine, or for the advancement of the public good; and in truth zeal for some opinion or some party is often the covert of innumerable slanders; but truth, equity, candor, and charity, are to be observed not only towards those who dissent from us in opinion, but even towards declared enemies of truth; for truth must ever support itself by fair means: this point enlarged on. 3. The slanderer is a fool, because he uses improper means and preposterous methods of effecting his purposes. As there is no design worth carrying on by ways of falsehood and iniquity, so there is scarcely any (at least any good or lawful one) which may not be more surely and cleverly achieved by means of truth and justice. He that has recourse to base means, and maketh lies his refuge, forfeits all hopes of God's assistance, and so cannot reasonably expect success.
4. The slanderer is a very fool, as bringing many great inconveniences and troubles on himself. 1. A fool's mouth, saith the wise man, is his destruction, his lips are the snare of his soul; and if any kind of speech be dangerous, this is certainly most so, for men will more easily pardon one who robs them of their goods, than the defamer of their good name. 2. Such an one is odious not only to the person immediately concerned, but generally to all men that observe his practice: so that the slanderer is reckoned a common enemy. 3. All wise, noble, ingenuous persons have an aversion to this practice, and cannot entertain it with any complacency: a righteous man hateth lying. 4. The slanderer banishes himself from all good conversation and company, or intruding becomes disgusting unto it. 5. He also derogates wholly from his own credit in all matters of discourse; for when he dares thus to injure his neighbor, who can trust him in anything he speaks? 6. This practice is perpetually accompanied with troublesome companions, inward regret, self-condemnation, fear, and disquiet. 7. The consequence of it is commonly shameful disgrace, with an obligation to retract and render satisfaction; for seldom does calumny pass long without detection. 8. To this in all likelihood the concernments of men, and the powers that guard justice, will forcibly bring him; and certainly his conscience will bind him thereto; God will indispensably exact it from him. 9. This practice doth also certainly revenge itself, imposing on its actor a perfect retaliation; a tooth for a tooth; an irrevocable infamy to himself for the infamy which he has caused to others. 10. In fine, the slanderer (unless by serious repentance he retracts his practice) banishes himself from heaven and happi
BAR. VOL. II. B
ness, exposes himself to endless miseries and sorrows: for St. Paul declares that no railer or evil-speaker shall inherit the kingdom of God: and if for every idle or vain word we must render a strict account, how much more so for such as are positively evil?
The nature of this sin, and the folly of it having been declared, much need not be said for dissuading it; especially to persons of a generous and honest mind: it may suffice to observe that, since our faculty of speech (in which we excel all other creatures) was given us, as in the first place to praise and glorify our Maker, so in the next to benefit, help, and delight our neighbor, it is an unnatural perversion and irrational abuse of it, to employ it for his damage or disgrace. Conclusion.