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from him, as slanderers and back-biters do, without giving him an opportunity, first, to defend himself ? It cannot be that they can justly do this. For character is of as much and more importance than property.
This rash and private judging and condemning, of which evil speakers are guilty, is frequently condemned in the Scriptures. Thus immediately following our text, we read, “ He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another.” To the same purpose our Saviour spake," Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" Mat. vii. 1, 2, 3. And Paul said, “ Thou art inexcusable, man, whosoever thou art that judgest ; for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest, dost the same things ;" Rom. ii. 1. " Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth ;" Rom. xiv. 4. “ Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts;" 1 Cor. iv.,5. These texts evidently teach, that we ought to be, at least very cautious about ascribing the actions of men to bad motives, and forming a bad opinion of their conduct ; and that we ought to avoid all rash and precipitate judgment, and much more expressing such a judgment to the disadvantage of others. Hence, in these verses ; evil speaking is evidently condemned ; and it is intiinated that those who speak evil of others, are often, times guilty themselves of those very things, which they so severely censure in others, and we have reason to believe that generally, they who are most forward to scandalize their neighbours, are most guilty themselves. They behold the mote in their brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in their own eye. “ Thou hypocrite (said our Saviour to such) first cast out the beam out of thine own eye ; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast
the mote out of thy brother's eye;" Mat. vii. 5. If, my hearers, we were to look more at ourselves, we would probably see less reason to be dwelling on our neighbour's faults.
4. Another reason against speaking evil of others, is the evil consequences which result from this practice. It is the cause of a flood of evils in society. James, speaking of the abuses of the tongue said, “ Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue amongst our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and is set on fire of hell. The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” Jam. iii
. 5, 6, 8. In this passage, the tongue which is the instrument in slandering, back-biting, and tale-bearing is called a fire ; and from the same passage we learn, whence this fire is kindled-it is set on fire of hell
. Evil speaking has its origin from hell, and is the fruit of the temper of hell residing in the heart. And in this same passage are pointed out the great evils produced by this vice. It is a little fire which kindleth a great matter; it setteth on fire the course of nature ; and it is a deadly poison. Evil speaking has injured and destroyed many characters ; and this too of the innocent. It has sown discord in families, neighbourhoods, and societies. The most tragical events have sometimes resulted from it; and it has been and still is one of the most fruitful sources of the jarrings and contentions in the world. And is this the case, and must not the conduct which produces so much mischief be very wicked ?”
5. Another argument against this vice may be drawn from the common sense of mankind. Notwithstanding they are so prone to listen to, and practice evil speaking, yet the detractor, the slanderer, the back-biter and the tale bearer, are odious characters in common estimation. And even they who are addicted to these vices, are very unwilling to bear the names.
6. I mention one other argument against this vice, and that is, it is a soul destroying sin. A good man may sometimes, through inattention, or in the hurry of conversation transgress in this respect, as well as in others; but they who habitually indulge themselves in this iniquity, whatever their profession may be, certainly cannot be
the people of God, but must be children of wrath. This is clearly evident from some of those texts which have already been quoted. We are expressly told without charity or love, we are “ as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal,” and “ nothing;" 1 Cor. xiii. 1, 2. But he who habitually indulges himself in this vice, must be destitute of this charity; for this charity " is kind, envieth not, thinketh no evil
, ‘rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, believeth all things, hopeth all things ;' 1 Cor. xii. 4, &c. The habitually evil speaker, certainly cannot have this charity; and therefore, whatever be his professions and hopes, he is nothing. The Psalmist describing the good man who shall dwell in the holy hill of God, or heaven, gave the following as a trait in his character," he back-biteth not with his tongue nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour; Ps. xv. 3. From this text it appears that the back-biter cannot dwell in the holy hill of God, and therefore must be in a graceless state. Again, the wise man gave as a trait in the character of the wicked man," he soweth discord;" Prov. vi. 14. And he called him “ that uttereth a slander a fool;" Prov. x. 18. By which he meant a wicked man. And James wrote, “ if any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.” Jam. i. 26. In these texts the evil speaker may see his character and situation. He is a wicked man; and he is yet under the wrath of God, and in danger of everlasting misery, which will certainly be his portion unless he repents of, and forsakes the habitual indulgence of this sin as well as every other.
Are there any present, addicted to this vice. Are there present any detractors, slanderers, or back-biters, who indulge themselves in speaking evil of their neighbours ? Who invent slanders and report them? Whose ears are open to the tongue of calumny, and who readily take up an ill report against their neighbours, and spread it to their hurt? Are there present any tale-bearers, who go from house to house, to carry from one to the other what they hear and see ; and who tell to those with whom they are, what they have heard others say about them, and perhaps gloss over what they have to say with a pretence of friendship? Are there any such characters present?
Let them seriously consider the arguments, which have been offered against this practice. God repeatedly forbjds it in his word, and requires the opposite temper and conduct. It is contrary to the principles of justice, and is assuming a prerogative which does not belong to you. It is most pernicious in its consequences, blasting a man's character, sowing discord in society, and setting on fire the course of nature. It is odious in popular estimation. And the practice unless repented of and forsaken willassuredly destroy your souls forever. These are weighty considerations. Let them have their due weight upon your minds, and lead you to be ashamed of your past conduct, repent of it and forsake it.
Brethren, I want language to pourtray this vice in its truly odious colours. Permit me to adopt the language of another, the elegant Hunter in his conclusion of the histotory of Cain.
“ Hold thy bloody hand, son, daughter of murderous Cain ! Why should a brother, a sister fall by it! That furious look is a dagger; that unkind word has made the blood, the hearts blood to follow it. Daughter of murderous Cain ! A female hand armed with a sword, lifted up to slay, dipped in blood ! No, she wields a more deadly weapon, she brandishes an envenomed tongue : poison more fatal than that of asps is under her lips; it is not the body that suffers, when that unruly member moves; it is the spirit, it is the spirit that bleeds : the man dies, and sees not who it was that hurt him ; he perishes in the best part of himself, his good name is blasted ; and what has he left worth possessing ? The sight of a little material blood makes her faint : a dead corpse terrifies and sho
terrifies and shocks her; but she can calmly and with delight sit down to that horrid human sacrifice, a murdered, mangled reputation.”
Brethren, what a shocking picture is this ! Where is the original ? Is it to be found among men? Yes. In civilized society? Yes. Yea among those who would be classed with refined society, as well as among the more vulgar. And what may well be still more astonishing, it is not contined to the more robust and less tender sex, but is found among that sex where we naturally look for more tenderness. My bearers, be shocked at the picture and shun this detestable and hurtful vice of speaking evil of others. May we all be enabled to put away and avoid
all evil speaking, to put on charity which is the bond of perfectness, to be kind and tender-hearted one to another, and to walk in that brotherly love which worketh no ill to our neighbour.-AMEN.
EXODUS Xx. 17.
- Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shall not rovet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's."
The object of this commandment appears to be, to regulate, and set bounds to our desires ; and especially to restrain us from improper feelings towards others, or desires of those things which belong to them. Or, in other words, this commandment requires a suitable frame of mind in regard to the Providence of God, with respect to both ourselves and others, and prohibits the contrary:This explication is agreeable to the sense in which the authors of our excellent Catechism understood this commandment.
According to them,
“ The tenth commandment requireth full contentment, with our own condition, with a right and charitable frame of spirit toward our neighbour and all that is his."
“ The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbour, and all inordinate motions or affections to any thing that is
According to this explanation, the duties required in this commandment are, with respect to ourselves, contentment with our condition; and with respect to others, a right and charitable frame of spirit towards them and