Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

on them, or connexion with them. There do in every age occur disorders and mishaps, springing from various complications of causes, working some of them in a more open and discernible, others in a more secret and subtile way; (especially from divine judgment and providence checking or chastising sin :) from such occurrences it is common to snatch occasion and matter of calumny. Those who are disposed this way are ready peremptorily to charge them on whomever they dislike or dissent from, although without any apparent cause, or on most frivolous and senseless pretences; yea, often, when reason showeth the quite contrary, and they who are so charged are in just esteem of all men the least obnoxious to such accusations. So usually the best friends of mankind, those who most heartily wish the peace and prosperity of the world, and most earnestly to their power strive to promote them, have all the disturbances and disasters happening charged on them by those fiery vixens, who (in pursuance of their base designs, or gratification of their wild passions) really do themselves embroil things, and raise miserable combustions in the world. So it is, that they who have the conscience to do mischief, will have the confidence also to disavow the blame and the iniquity, to lay the burden of it on those who are most innocent. Thus, whereas nothing more disposeth men to live orderly and peaceably, nothing more conduceth to the settlement and safety of the public, nothing so much draweth blessings down from heaven on the common-weal, as true religion ; yet nothing hath been more ordinary, than to attribute all the miscarriages and mischiefs that happened unto it; even those are laid at its door, which plainly do arise from the contempt or neglect of it: being the natural fruits, or the just punishments of irreligion. King Ahab, by forsaking God's commandments,' and following wicked superstitions, bad troubled Israel,' drawing sore judgments and calamities thereon ; yet had he the heart and the face to charge those events on the great assertor of piety, Elias : • Art thou he that troubleth Israel ?' The Jews by provocation of divine justice had set themselves in a fair way toward desolation and ruin; this event to come they had the presumption to lay on the faith of our Lord's doctrines : If,' said they, we let him alone, all men will

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

believe on him, and the Romans shall come, and take away our place and nation :' whenas, in truth, a compliance with bis directions and admonitions had been the only means to prevent those presaged mischiefs. And, Si Tibris ascenderit in mænia,* if any public calamity did appear, then Christianos ad leones, Christians must be charged and persecuted as the causes thereof. To them it was that Julian and other Pagans did impute all the concussions, confusions, and devastations falling on the Roman empire. The sacking of Rome by the Goths they cast on Christianity: for the vindication of it from which reproach St. Austin did write those renowned books de Civitate Dei. So liable are the best and most innocent sort of men to be calumniously accused in this manner.

Another practice (worthily bearing the guilt of slander) is, being aiding and accessory thereto, by anywise furthering, cherishing, abetting it. He that by crafty significations of illwill doth prompt the slanderer to vent his poison; he that by a willing audience and attention doth readily suck it up, or who greedily swalloweth it down by credulous approbation and assent; he that pleasingly relisheth and smacketh at it, or expresseth a delightful complacence therein; as he is a partner in the fact, so he is a sharer in the guilt. There are not only slanderous throats, but slanderous ears also; not only wicked inventions, which ingender and brood lies, but wicked assents, which hatch and foster them. Not only the spiteful mother which conceiveth such spurious brats, but the midwife that helpeth to bring them forth, the nurse that feedeth them, the guardian that traineth them up to maturity, and setteth them forth to live in the world; as they do really contribute to their subsistence, so deservedly they partake in the blame due to them, and must be responsible for the mischief they do. For indeed were it not for such free entertainers, such nourishers, such encouragers of them, slanders commonly would die in the womb, or prove still-born, or presently entering into the cold air would expire, or for want of nourishment soon would starve. It is such friends and patrons of them who are the causes that they are so rife; they it is who set ill-natured, base, and de

• Tertull. Apol.

signing people on devising, searching after, and picking up malicious and idle stories. Were it not for such customers, the trade of calumniating would fall. Many pursue it merely out of servility and fattery, to tickle the ears, to sooth the humor, to gratify the malignant disposition or ill-will of others ; who on the least discouragement would give over the practice. If therefore we would exempt ourselves from all guilt of slander, we must not only abstain from venting it, but forbear to regard or countenance it: for • be is (saith the wise man) a wicked doer, who giveth heed to false lips; and a liar, who giveth ear to a naughty tongue.' Yea, if we thoroughly would be clear from it, we must show an aversation from hearing it, an unwillingness to believe it; an indignation against it; so either stifling it in the birth, or condemning it to death being uttered. This is the sure way to destroy it, and to prevent its mischief. If we would stop our ears, we should stop the slanderer's mouth; if we would 'resist the calumniator, he would fly from us;' if we would reprove him, we should repel him. For as 'the north wind driveth away rain, so (the wise man telleth us) doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.'

These are the chief and most common kinds of slander; and there are several ways of practising them worthy our observing, that we may avoid them; namely these,

1. The most notoriously heinous way is, forging and immediately venting ill stories. As it is said of Doeg, . Thy tongue deviseth mischief;' and of another like companion, Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit:' and as our Lord saith of the Devil, · When he speaketh a lie,' éx Tūv idiwr dadei, ‘he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.' This palpably is the supreme pitch of calumny, uncapable of any qualification or excuse : hell cannot go beyond this ; the cursed fiend himself cannot worse employ his wit, than in minting wrongful falsehoods.

2. Another way is, receiving from others, and venting such stories, which they who do it certainly know, or may reasonably presume, to be false; the becoming hucksters of counterfeit wares, or factors in this vile trade. There is no false coiner, who hath not some complices and emissaries ready to take from his hand, and put off his money: and such slan

6

[ocr errors]

6

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

derers at second hand are scarce less guilty than the first authors. He that breweth lies may have more wit and skill; but the broacher showeth the like malice and wickedness. In this there is no great difference between the great Devil, that frameth scandalous reports, and the little imps, that run about and disperse them.

3. Another way is, when one without competent examination, due weighing, and just reason, doth admit and spread tales prejudicial to his neighbor's welfare; relying for his warrant (as to the truth of them) on any slight or slender authority. This is a very common and current practice: men presume it lawful enough to say over whatever they hear; to report any thing, if they can quote an author for it. It is not, say they, my invention ; I tell it as I heard it: sit fides penes authorem; let him that informed me undergo the blame, if it prove false. . So do they conceive themselves excusable for being the instruments of injurious disgrace and damage to their neighbors. But they greatly mistake therein : for as this practice commonly doth arise from the same wicked principles, at least in some degree, and produceth altogether the like mischievous effects, as the wilful devising and conveying slander : so it no less thwarteth the rules of duty, and laws of equity; God hath prohibited it, and reason doth condemn it. Thou shalt not (saith God in the law) “go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people :' as a tale-bearer, (as Rachil, that is,) as a merchant or trader in ill reports and stories concerning our neighbor, to his prejudice. Not only the framing them, but the dealing in them beyond reason and necessity, is interdicted. And it is part of a good man's character in the fifteenth psalm, Non accipit opprobrium, He taketh not up a reproach

• against his neighbor;' that is, he doth not easily entertain it, much less doth he effectually propagate it: and in our text, • He,' it is said, “that uttereth slander' (not only he that conceiveth it) is a fool.'

And in reason, before exact trial and cognisance, to meddle with the fame and interest of another, is evidently a practice full of iniquity, such as no man can allow in his own case, or brook being used toward himself, without judging himself to be extremely abused by such reporters. In all reason and equity, (yea in all discretion,) before we yield credence to any report concerning our neighbor, or adventure to relate it, many things are carefully to be weighed and scanned. We should concerning our author consider whether he be not a particular enemy, or dissaffected to him ; whether he be not ill-humored, or a delighter in telling bad stories; whether he be not dishonest, or unregardful of justice in his dealings and discourse; whether he be not vain, or careless of what he saith ; whether he be not light and credulous, or apt to be imposed on by any small appearance; whether at least in the present case he be not negligent, or too forward and rash in speaking. We should also concerning the matter reported mind, whether it be possible or probable; whether suitable to the disposition of our neighbor, to his principles, to the constant tenor of his practice; whether the action imputed to him be not liable to misapprehension, or his words to misconstruction. All reason and equity do, I say, exact from us, diligently to consider such things, before we do either embrace ourselves, or transmit unto others, any story concerning our neighbor; lest unadvisedly we do bim irreparable wrong and mischief. Briefly, we should take his case for our own, and consider whether we ourselves should be content, that on like grounds or testimonies any man should believe or report disgraceful things concerning us. If we fail to do thus, we do (vainly, or rashly, or maliciously) conspire with the slanderer to the wrong of our innocent neighbor; and that in the psalmist (by a parity of reason) may be transferred to us, Thou hast consented unto the liar, and hast partaken with the author of calumny.

4. Of kin to this way is the assenting to popular rumors, and thence affirming matters of obloquy to our neighbor. Every one by experience knows how easily false news do rise, and how nimbly they scatter themselves; how often they are raised from nothing, how soon they from small sparks grow into a great blaze, how easily from one thing they are transformed into another : especially news of this kind, which do suit and feed the bad humor of the vulgar. 'Tis obvious to any man how true that is of Tacitus, how void of consideration, of judgment, of equity, the busy and talking part of mankind is. Whoever therefore gives beed to flying tales, and thrusts himself into the

« ZurückWeiter »