Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,…
I. Consider THAT RASH AND INCONSIDERATE CENSURES ARE INCONSISTENT WITH THE JUSTICE WHICH YOU OWE TO YOUR BRETHREN. The Author of our nature hath wisely ordained that approbation should follow virtue as its natural reward. This the virtuous are allowed to propose to themselves as an inferior motive of conduct; and this they expect as what belongs to them of right. The esteem which a man hath merited by his integrity and usefulness may be considered as a property of which he cannot innocently be deprived; and the extent of the injury done by detraction, is proportioned to the value of the possession which it invades. Now, what interest is dearer to the ingenuous than the preservation of their good name? You detest the villain who robs the industrious of their well-earned store; you abhor the oppressor who plunders the innocent and the deserving of the means of their support; yet how light and trivial are such injuries as these in comparison of the rum of their virtuous name, which, even in the midst of poverty, would ensure them respect. Would men weigh duly the mischiefs which detraction occasions, that pernicious humour would be less frequently indulged; for it is not always from malice and cruelty of nature that detraction proceeds: it arises, often, from an inconsiderate gaiety of mind, and means not to ruin the character which it delights to expose. The effects of such conduct are not, perhaps, obvious, because they are not immediate; but they are not, on this account, the less certain, or the less direful. With a man's reputation his usefulness and success are closely connected; and one unguarded expression may involve a deserving family in want and wretchedness. The only compensation which you can possibly make is to vindicate the violated character at the expense of your own; and this is an atonement most humiliating to yourselves, yet to the unhappy sufferer often of little avail; for many listen with avidity to the tale of slander, who will lend to your exculpation an indifferent ear; nor will your influence be sufficient to repair the reputation which your levity or your baseness hath ruined.
II. THAT A CENSORIOUS TURN OF MIND IS DESTRUCTIVE ALSO OF YOUR OWN FELICITY. The man who is addicted to this odious vice, acquires, by degrees, an unhappy acuteness in marking the imperfections of his brethren. To him, therefore, the society of men can have no charms; for he beholds in every human being an object of dislike. Is not that man's mind ill-formed for happiness, who, amidst the various appearances which nature exhibits, dwells always on such as are dismal and destructive; who observes only the inhospitable desert, the blasting lightning, and the wintry storm; but marks not the beauties which adorn the spring, the riches which descend in the shower, or the stores with which autumn gladdens the earth? Nor does his happiness suffer merely from the effect of detraction on his own disposition. His conduct renders him an object of general aversion. Even his gay companions, whom his destructive pleasantry may entertain for a season, despise and dread the promoter of their mirth. They know that the edge of his satire will soon be turned against themselves; and that their own characters are destined to bleed by the very same weapons by which others have been assailed. Those who have suffered by his calumny, are entitled to vindicate, at his expense, their injured reputation; and every friend of innocence will aid them in the attempt. Merely to refute his slander, implies a reproach to which no prudent man would choose to expose himself. But how rarely doth human resentment confine itself within such moderate bounds. The rage of the injured will probably prompt them to retaliate. The security of others will seemed to be concerned in the cause. It will not appear sufficient that the aspersion be removed. The character of the detractor is devoted to ruin. In the snare which he hath laid for others, his own feet are entangled, and he falls by the sword which he hath whetted against his brethren.
(W. Moodie, D. D.)Evil speaking: —
I. All evil speaking MY BE REFERRED TO TWO HEADS, FOR IT IS
(1) either the uttering of false and evil things, or
(2) of true things falsely and evilly.
1. The former.
(1) When men speak upon no ground, as when men, present or absent, are accused of the evils which they never did (2 Samuel 16:3).
(2) When men speak some evil of others upon weak and insufficient grounds, as when any either publicly or privately chargeth some other man before his face or behind his back with evil upon suspicions (2 Samuel 10:3).
(3) When men cast railing, cursing, or reviling speeches upon another, present or absent, openly or secretly, and covertly by insinuation (2 Samuel 15:3)
2. The latter kind of evil speaking is in true things, as —
(1) When a man speaketh of something done or spoken, but destroyeth the sense (Matthew 26:61; John 2:19).
(2) In uttering nothing but truth, but with wicked insinuations and collections of evil (1 Samuel 22:9, 10).
(3) In speaking of good things, but either lessening them or depraving them, as Gone of bad intent for bad ends in hypocrisy.
(4) In speaking of things evil and not so well done.
(a) By uncovering infirmities, which is the guise of cursed Chains, who are ever revealing to their brethren other men's nakedness, which an ingenious disposition, yea, humanity itself (if there were no religion), would cover and hide (Proverbs 11:13).
(b) Whereas we can excuse our own faults twenty ways, by amplifying the faults and offences of others, be they never so apparent, we become evil speakers in a high degree, as sycophants who make the scapes of men far greater than they are, affirming often that to be done of deliberation which was done rashly and in hot blood, or presumptuously when it was perhaps done but weakly, and imputing that to want of conscience which perhaps was want Of heedfulness and foresight; and thus the sin is heightened when men so wickedly speak of that which they ought altogether to be silent in and not to speak at all.
II. Now, because of all sins, there is not a more manifest and general mischief in all the life of man, WHEREIN EVEN CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES ARE NOT EXEMPTED, who carry a very world of wickedness about with them, and yet wipe their mouths as though all were well with them; therefore will it not be amiss to take a little pains with this sin, scarce so accounted of, and to show —
1. How unseemly it is for a Christian.
2. How dangerous in itself.
3. The means to repress and avoid it.
1. For the first —
(1) To utter slander, saith Solomon, is a note of a fool; and the slander itself is a fool's bolt, which is soon shot. And the apostle in so many places affirming it to be the practice of the old man, which must be cast off, maketh it hence an unbeseeming thing for Christians that profess new life to walk in such heathenish courses.
(2) This cursed speaking, whereby our brethren are hurt in their names, is the devil's language, who thence hath his name, and argueth a venomous and hateful disposition not becoming the children of God:(3) True religion will not stand with such a tattling course as many Christians take up, who, like the Athenians, delight in nothing more than hearing and telling news; and once getting a tale by the end, they are in travail till they have delivered it to others, and with these all opportunity of good and edifiable speech perisheth.
(4) Were it not most disgraceful for a Christian to be counted a thief, or a continual robber in the highway, or a continual breaker of the peace? and yet this sin is a greater breach of love than theft or spoiling of the goods, for a good name is more precious then gold, more sweet than the sweetest ointment.
2. The second point is the danger of this sin, which cannot but attend it, unless we conceive no danger in breaking such express commandments as we have (Leviticus 19:16; James 4:11). The defence of many a man is, I speak nothing but the truth, and so long I may speak it. But if that thou speakest be a tale true or false (as it is if without a calling thou playest the pedlar, and settest to sale the name of thy brother), these commandments cast and condemn thee. Others think it is a fault indeed, but not so great a fault to speak the thing we know by another; but look upon it, not as it may seem in thine eye, but in the penalty the Scripture hath set upon it; (Psalm 15:3) it hindereth the entrance into the holy mountain of God, and (1 Corinthians 6:10) railers and revilers shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and therefore it is no such small matter as many take it for. Others reply, What are words but wind? and God is not so straitlaced; if a man should go to hell for every word, who shall come to heaven? This, indeed, is an ancient natural conceit that outward profession and ceremony will carry a man to heaven, although in the particulars of the life the power of godliness be never expressed. But mark how the Lord answereth such vain conceits (Psalm 50:19, 20). God hath His time then to call upon old reckonings, and then thou shalt not think words wind, but know to thy cost that life and death was in the power of thy tongue. Others yet see no such danger, or, if any be, it is far off. But this sin, beside the just hire of it hereafter, carrieth a secret plague with it for the present, for look, as thou dealest with another man's name, so shall thine be dealt with, and with what measure thou metest to others shall men measure to thee again.
3. The third thing to be considered is the means to avoid this sin of evil speaking, which may be reduced to five rules.
(1) Look to thine heart, for if it, being the fountain, be corrupted, the issues and streams cannot but be bitter; and if thou giveth thyself leave to think evil of any man, as accounting the thought free, thou canst not but one time or other utter it. Purge well thine heart, therefore —
(a) Of pride, which maketh a man speak disdainfully of those who want the things which themselves seem to have, and liberally take up any language if he can make the detraction of another a ladder for himself to climb upon.
(b) Of envy, which, grieving at the graces and good things in another, seeketh to darken them, as Satan, envying Job's prosperity, said, "He serveth not God for nought."(c) Of flattery, which for favour or reward will tune the tongue to any ear.
(2) Be careful to contain thyself within thine own calling; follow thine own plough; beware of the sin of busybodies, who love to play the bishops in other men's dioceses, who, if they had not with the witch in the fable, put off their own eyes at home, they might find foul corners enough well worthy of reformation in themselves; but therefore load they others, because they spare themselves; they throw no stones at their own faults first, and therefore they are at good leisure to pry into other men's, and so become the devil's gunpowder for want of better employment.
(3) Beware in all thy speeches with men of strife of words, for from hence evil speeches arise, and many words want not iniquity.
(4) In all companies pray to the Lord to set a watch before thy mouth, and to keep the door of thy lips, for the tongue can no man of himself tame, being such an unruly evil.
(5) Beware of consenting to this sin in another, for as thou art bound not to relate, so not to receive, any evil speeches of thy brother. Solomon counselleth not to meddle with the slanderer and flatterer; wise chapmen must beware of such base pedlars.
(T. Taylor, 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,