Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,…
I. THERE ARE SEVERAL, REASONS FOR WHICH CHRISTIANS OUGHT TO BE EXHORTED TO REFRAIN FROM EVIL SPEAKING.
1. It is not only a mean and shameful, but a pernicious fault; it produces much harm in society, and is a cause why many live hateful and hating one another, and die in the same unfriendly disposition.
2. It is a common and widespread fault, and few, very few, are entirely free from it. It is not confined to wicked and profane persons; it is to be found in some measure even in those who have their virtues, their good and useful, and amiable qualities and accomplishments, who live soberly and honestly, who love their friends and are active to serve and oblige them, who are not uncharitable to the poor, who have a sense of religion, and worship God both in public and in private.
3. They who are addicted to it, either seldom reflect upon its odious nature, or are not sensible when and how often they thus offend, or have several plausible though vain excuses to justify themselves.
II. EVIL SPEAKING CONSISTS IN SPREADING REPORTS TO THE DISADVANTAGE OF OUR NEIGHBOUR; and of this fault there are three distinct kinds or degrees.
1. The worst kind of it is to spread lies of our own invention concerning others.
2. The next is to report things to their disadvantage, of the truth of which we are not sufficiently assured.
3. The lowest degree is to say of them that evil which we know to be true.
III. There is no occasion to prove and expose the folly and dishonesty of the two former kinds. It would be losing time and words. I shall, therefore, chiefly discourse of the latter, and SHOW HOW BLAMABLE EVEN THIS IS FOR THE MOST PART.
1. We should not be too forward to publish the faults of others, because it is no sufficient excuse for us, that what we say is true, and that they against whom we speak deserve such usage.
2. Another argument against censoriousness is contained in this plain precept of the gospel — "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye so unto them."
3. We should not accustom ourselves to discourse about the faults of our neighbour, because it may betray us by degrees into a worse kind of evil speaking.
4. We should not be forward to expose the faults of others, because by so doing we may bring upon them a punishment too heavy for the offence.
5. We should be cautious how we censure others, because we may misrepresent them, and yet say nothing of them that is not true.
6. To disclose the faults and indiscretions of others is often very pernicious to society, raises infinite variances amongst men, and tends to destroy the slender remains of love and charity which subsist in the Christian world.
7. Since for the most part we cannot discern the exact nature and degree of other men's faults, we may easily think too hardly and judge too severely of them. Their faults, when we know not the circumstances attending them, are like objects seen by us at a great distance, or at twilight: we see them neither in shape, nor in size or colour, such as they really are.
8. That we may restrain ourselves from talking of the faults of others, we should also consider that such discourse is produced by bad causes, and proceeds from a corrupted heart; and that all good and wise persons who hear us will judge of us accordingly. Speech is the child of thought; and a child it is which greatly resembles its parent. When the discourse is censorious and malicious, the mind which conceives it is no better.
9. Besides, this is an offence which seldom escapes correction. If human laws cannot chastise it, except in some few cases, the persons who are ridiculed or censured will fully supply that defect. 10. Lastly, we should be cautious not to give way to this inclination, because if we be once accustomed to it there is no probability that we shall ever leave it off. Of all bad habits, those of the tongue are, perhaps, the hardest to be cured. The reason is this: We deceive ourselves in thinking that words can do little or no hurt, and that the guilt of them is inconsiderably small, and consequently we speak at random what comes uppermost.
(J. Jortin, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,