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Thirdly, In our lips. The tongue is the principal mischievous instrument whereby people ruin or wound the good name of others. And here come in the sins of the tongue against our neighbour in a special manner, Thus men injure their neighbour,
1. By silence, when they forbear to speak what they ought and can for the credit of their neighbour. Thus men may wrong others by their silence in their neighbour's cause while he is aspersed, Prov. xxxi. 8. for in that case silence is consent. As also when their neighbour is justly commend ed, the entertaining thereof with silent looks, as if they knew something that may justly mar his reputation. If that be not the sense of it, it reflects on the silent person as grudging the reputation of the person commended,
2. Our neighbour may be injured by sinful speaking; and this command may be broken many ways.
(1.) By unnecessary discovering of the faults and infirmi. ties of others. O how much guilt is contracted this way, by people's going irf the way of cursed Ham. Gen, ix, 22. unavailing instead of vailing the weaknesses of others, without any necessity, but to the lessening of their reputation.
(2.) By aggravating of their lesser faults, Matth. vii. 3, 4, 5. Men see motes like beams in the eyes of others, while beams are as motes in their own. It is a mischievous tongue that, counting the faults of others, for fifty sets down a hun. dred, and still looks to them through a magnifying glass, Had we the dexterity of aggravating our own as we have of aggravating the faults of others, we would be happy, because very humble people,
(3.) By reviving the memory of our neighbour's crimes which were worn out of mind, especially being repented of. Thus many vent their malice against others by casting up their former faults to them, as Shimei did to David. Truth it may be, but it is uncharitably and maliciously spoken, for which the speaker must give an account to God.
(4.) By betraying of secrets committed to us. if the honour of God and the good of our neighbour require the discovering of a secret, in that case, as we ought not to promise, so we ought not to conceal it. But when we have lawfully promised to keep it, either expressly or tacitly, we sin against truth, justice, and friendship, to betray it. And though there be no promise in the case, yet when the reveal
It is true,
ing of it tends to the detriment of our neighbour, it is sinful, Prov. xvii. 9. 2 Tim. iii. 4.
(5.) By detracting, or endeavouring any manner of way to impair the deserved credit of our neighbour, Ezek. iv. 12, 13. This is the native result of envy and ill-will at our neighbour; for those who cannot endure others to sit on high, where they are deservedly placed, will
about one way or other to undermine them.
(6.) By evil reports to the prejudicing of our neighbour unjustly. In these many are involved in guilt. [1.] The raiser of it, Exod. xxiii. 1. Satan has the mouths of
many at command for a forge of ill reports, who strike that hellish coin with their stamp, that it may pass for current.  The receivers and spreaders of it, who are guilty here as well as the raiser; for they are to the raiser as the receiver to the thief: Report, say they, and we will report. If others will gather filth, they will throw it on their neighbours faces, and yet are not innocent, though they can give their authors, Neh. vi. 6. See Psal. xv. 3.
(7.) By slandering, which is an ill report without all ground. Psal. 1. 20. This the venom of a wretched tongue, made use of to kill and bury alive the innocent. It has been the trial of the people of God in general, and seldom if ever do any of them escape without it.
without it. Satan loves by his agents to vomit out against them reproaches and slanders, wherewith their good name may be blasted, and especially if religion and the cause of God can be wounded through their sides. Tlie scourge of the tongue is a sharp scourge.
(8.) By backbiting and whispering, Rom. i. 29, 30. Both agree in that they speak evil behind men's back, accusing them, and loading them with reproach when they are not present to answer for themselves. The backbiter does it openly, and the whisperer does it secretly.
(9.) By tale-bearing, Lev. xix. 16. This is a sort of pedlar-trade for the devil, driven by many whose work it is to carry tales out of the house or company where they happen to be; and these are the wares they have to vent in other houses or companies, where they will be ready to take up Dew clashes and tales to where they go next. These are the plagues of society, like Satan sowing discord among brethren. Hence secret grudges against one another, and none knows wherefore, and when they are searched to the fur thest, it is all grounded on some talebearer's credit.
(10.) By countenancing and encouraging of the black tribe of slanderers, backbiters, &c. Prov. xxix. 12. If these merchants for hell got not their wares taken of their hands, they would be ashamed of their trade, and forced to quit it. But many are as ready to take them off their hands as they are to deliver them.
(11.) By stopping our ears against the just defence of the parties lesed, as the malicious Jews did against Stephen, Acts vii. 57, 58. How rare is it to find a person as ready to receive a defence for, as an accusation against their neigh. bour?
(12.) By scornful contempt, and scoffing, and mocking of others. This was the way of Ishmael's persecuting of Isaac, Gal. iv. 29. These viperous tongues work upon the mise. ries of others, as the soldiers did at Christ in his sufferings, Matth. xxvii. 28, 29. The natural imperfections of others are their sport, though reproaching the poor they despise his Maker ; yea, and their sinful imperfections too, for fools make a mock at sin.
Some have a mighty fondness for gibing and taunting; their whole converse runs that way, to make others uneasy and themselves merry with their taunts. Let them not va. lue themselves on their talent; if any spark of tenderness be left in them, I doubt if they dare look to it as a good gift given them from above, but as an abuse of the good gift of God. It was Ishmael's way, for which he was cast out of the family of the faithful, Gal. iv. 29.
(13.) Reviling and railing, giving others reproachful and opprobrious names, piercing them with bitter words, and murdering them with their tongues, Matth. v. 22. 1 Cor, vi. 10. Revilers are among those excluded out of heaven.
These are some of the ways how the wicked tongue gives home-thrusts to others, and pierces like the piercing of the sword, following the example of him who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning. But would ye see them all gathered together in one, ye have them in,
(14.) Lastly, Scolding and rating, an abominable disorder which we are so much disturbed with. There their wicked hearts, stirred up with passion and revenge, vomit out all at once this filthy stuff. For there their neighbour's faults are unnecessarily discovered, aggravated, &c. as if hell's forces were rendezvousing betwixt them. Wonder not at the expression. See Jude 9. No, the angel durst not engage Sam tan with these weapons, whereof he was the proper
master, and at which none can outdo him. If ye take not better heed to your tongues, they will ruin you, Psal. lii. 2,-5.
There are some other evils of the tongue here forbidden, the hurt whereof does not so plainly appear.
1. Talkativeness, or much speaking. Some are ever talk, ing, and are never in their element but when prattling; and when once they loose, it is as hard to stop them as to stop a flood, and turn it another way. Of it I say,
(1.) It is a sign or a loose and frothy heart, where the fear of God hath little place, Eccl. v. 2; for that would make our words few, true, weighty, and useful. When God has given us two ears, and but one tongue, that we may be swift to hear and slow to speak, it is a pregnant evidence of a naughty heart, to be swift to speak and slow to hear.
(2.) It is the fool's badge, Eccl. v. 3. Talkative persons, for want of acquaintance with themselves, thinking to shew themselves wise, ordinarily present a fool to the company. They will have a flood of words, who have hardly a drop of good sense or judgment; so that they are just a voice, and no more. They that are given to much speaking, can harda ly speak either true or well; which made an orator ask a double fee of a talkative scholar, one to learn him to speak well, another to learn him to hold his peace. It is the character of a virtuous woman, that she openeth her mouth with wisdom, Prov. xxxi. 26. Her mouth is not always open, but duly shut, and discreetly opened.
2. Idle speaking, Matth. xii. 36. The tongue was given to man to be for the honour of God, and the good of him. self and his neighbour. Though our words, then, be not evil in themselves, they are evil because they are idle ; that is, words spoken to no good purpose, tending neither to the honour of God, nor the good of ourselves or others, neither to his moral good, to make him more holy, nor to his civil good, as not being upon the necessary concerns of human kife, nor his natural good, to maintain the moderate cheerfulness of society. It may be comprehended under fooliski VOL. III.
talking, rash, raving, and impertinent discourse, doing no good to the hearers, but bewraying the folly of the speaker.
3. A trade of jesting, Eph. v. 4. It is not sinful to pass an innocent jest for begetting of moderate cheerfulness. The wise man tells us, “There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh,' Eccl. iii. 4. It may in some cases be as necessary to cheer the spirits, as a cordial is to restore them, or a pleasant gale of wind to purify the air. It was not unbecoming the gravity of the prophet to mock Baal's priests, and to say,
Cry aloud; for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey; or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened, 1 Kings xviii. 27. But sinful are,
(1.) Offensive jests, which tend to the shewing a despising of our neighbour, to the irritating and provoking of him. And indeed it is often seen, that those who are much given that way, their conversation is most offensive, sparing neither friend nor foe,and will rather lose their friend than their jest.
(2.) Profane jests, either making a mock of sin, or of that which is holy, particularly wresting and abusing of scripture, to express the conceits of their light and wanton wits. It is a dangerous thing to jest in such matters.
(3.) People's being immoderate in jesting. To make every word a jest, is liker the stage than Christian gravity. This is as absurd as to present a man a dish of salt to feed on; a little of it is good for seasoning, but to give it for the whole entertainment, is absurd.
4. Lastly, Flattery, Psal. xii. 3. This is a most dangerous stroke, and the more deadly that the wound it gives does not smart, but by it a man is hugged to ruin. The words of a flatterer are smoother than oil, yet are they in effect as drawn swords. It is a compound of lying, abjectness of spirit, and treachery. The flatterer gives the praise that is not due, professes the kindness that is not real, and screws up all to a pitch far above truth; and so he is a liar. He debases himself to please others, turning himself into every shape to humour the party he is to flatter, and betrays him into self-conceit and unacquaintedness with himself.
I shall shut all with a twofold dehortation.
First, Speak truth, and beware of lying. Lying is a very common sin; repent of that guilt, and beware of it for the future. For motives, consider,
Mot. 1. That God is the God of truth, the Author and