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we observe the several kinds and degrees thereof; as also if we reflect on the various ways and manners of practising it. The principal kinds stated as follow. 1. The grossest kind of slander is that which in the decalogue is called bearing false testimony against our neighbor; that is, flatly charging him with facts which he never committed. Instance in the case of Naboth. This kind is the most rare, and they who are guilty of it are accounted most vile and infamous; but there are many out of the court, who run about scattering false reports, and infecting society with their poisonous breath, who are scarcely less guilty. 2. Another kind is the affixing scandalous names, injurious epithets, and odious characters on persons, which they deserve not. Instance of Corah and his accomplices against Moses; of the Pharisees against our Saviour; of the Jews against the Apostles: evil of such described. 3. Similar to this is the aspersing a man's actions with harsh censures and foul terms, importing that they proceed from ill principles, or tend to bad ends: thus when we say of him that is generously hospitable, that he is profuse; of him that is prudently frugal, that he is niggardly; of him that is conspicuous in virtuous practices, that he is actuated by ambition or ostentation; when we ascribe a man's charity to vain-glory, or his strictness of life to hypocrisy; we are indeed slanderers, imitating the great calumniator, who thus slandered even God himself; Gen. iii. 5. 4. Another kind of slander is the perverting a man's words or actions disadvantageously by affected misconstruction. All words are ambiguous, and capable of different senses. Instance of the false witnesses against our Lord: Matt. xxvi. 60. 61. 5. Another sort is, a partial and lame representation of men's discourse or practice, suppressing some part of the truth, or concealing some extenuating circumstances. In such a
manner easily, without uttering any logical untruth, one may yet grievously calumniate. Instances adduced. 6. Another kind of calumny consists in sly suggestions; which, although they do not assert downright falsehoods, yet breed sinister opinions in the hearers, especially in those who from weakness, credulity, jealousy, or prejudice, are prone to entertain them. Many ways instanced in which this is done; all which, as they issue from the principles of slander, and perform its work, deservedly bear the guilt thereof. 7. A like kind is that of oblique and covert reflexions; when a man does not directly or expressly charge his neighbor with faults, but yet so speaks, that he is understood, or reasonably presumed to do so; which is a very cunning and mischievous way of slandering. 8. Another kind is that of magnifying and aggravating the faults of others; raising any small miscarriage into a heinous crime, any slender defect into an odious vice; turning a small mote in the eye of our neighbor into a large beam. 9. Another is the imputing to our neighbor's practice, judgment, or profession, evil consequences, apt to render him odious, which have no dependence on or connexion with them: this point enlarged on. Another practice, worthily bearing the guilt of slander, is the aiding it, by anywise furthering and abetting it. He that by crafty significations of ill-will prompts the slanderer to vent his poison; he that by a willing audience and attention shows himself ready to suck it up; he that expresses a delight therein, as he is a partner in the fact, so is he a sharer in the guilt. He is a wicked doer, says the wise man, who giveth heed to false lips; and a liar who giveth ear to a naughty tongue. These are the chief and most common kinds of slander: the several ways of practising them are next considered, in order that we may avoid them. 1. The most notoriously heinous way is the forging and immediately venting ill stories, as it is said of Doeg (Psalm lii. 2.), and as our Lord says of the Devil. (John viii. 44.). This is the supreme pitch of calumny. 2. Another way is, the receiving from others and venting such stories, which they who do it certainly know, or may reasonably presume, to be false. He that breweth lies may have more wit and skill ; but the broacher showeth the like malice and wickedness. 3. Another way is, when one without competent examination or just reason, admits and spreads tales prejudicial to his neighbor's welfare; which is a very common and current practice: this topic enlarged on. 4. Of a kin to this way is the assenting to popular rumors, and thence affirming matters of obloquy to our neighbor: every one knows how easily such arise, and how nimbly they scatter themselves; whoever therefore gives heed to such, and thrusts himself among those who spread them, is either strongly injudicious, or very malignantly disposed. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil, says the law. 5. Another slanderous course is, to build censures and reproaches on slender conjectures or uncertain suspicions, those evil surmises which St. Paul condemns: this topic enlarged on. 6. Another like way of slandering is impetuous or negligent sputtering out of words, without minding what truth or consequence there is in them; how they may touch or hurt our neighbor: to avoid this sin, we must not only be free from intending mischief, but wary of effecting it: for he who fires a shot into a crowd without regarding who may stand in his way, is no less guilty of doing mischief, and bound to make satisfaction for it, than if he had aimed at some particular person. 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 or principles,) to charge it presently on others, whom they presume to be like themselves: this is to slander mankind, first in the gross, then in retail, as occasion serves. These seem to be the chief kinds of slander, and most common ways of practising it. In which description, the folly of it must be clear: but to render this still more apparent, it will be farther displayed in the next discourse.
GENERAL declamations against vice and sin are indeed excellently useful, as rousing men to consider and look about them: but they do often want effect, because they only raise confused apprehensions of things, and indeterminate propensions to action; the which usually, before men throughly perceive or resolve what they should practise, do decay and vanish. As he that cries out fire doth stir up people, and inspireth them with a kind of hovering tendency every way, yet no man thence to purpose moveth, until he be distinctly informed where the mischief is; then do they, who apprehend themselves concerned, run hastily to oppose it: so, till we particularly discern where our offences lie, (till we distinctly know the heinous nature and the mischievous consequences of them,) we scarce will effectually apply ourselves to correct them. Whence it is requisite that men should be particularly acquainted with their sins, and by proper arguments be dissuaded from them.
In order whereto I have now selected one sin to describe, and to dissuade from, being in nature as vile, and in practice as common, as any other whatever that hath prevailed among men. It is slander, a sin which in all times and places hath been epidemical and rife; but which especially doth seem to reign and rage in our age and country.
There are principles innate to men, which ever have, and