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herd of those who spread them, is either strangely injudicious, or very malignantly disposed. If he want not judgment, he cannot but know, that when he complieth with popular fame, it is mere chance that he doth not slander, or rather it is odds that he shall do so : he consequently showeth himself to be indifferent whether he doth it or no, or rather that he doth incline to do it: whence, not caring to be otherwise, or loving to be a slanderer, he in effect and just esteem is such; having at least a slanderous heart and inclination. He that puts it to the venture whether he lieth or no, doth eo ipso lie morally, as declaring no care or love of truth. • Thou shalt not' (saith the law) follow a multitude to do evil :' and with like reason we should not follow the multitude in speaking evil of our neighbor.
5. Another slanderous course is, to build censures and reproaches on slender conjectures, or uncertain suspicions, (those ÚTÓvotal rovnpai, evil surmises,' which St. Paul condemneth.) Of these occasion can never be wanting to them who seek them, or are ready to embrace them; no innocence, no wisdom can anywise prevent them; and if they may be admitted as grounds of defamation, no man's good name can be secure. But he that on such accounts dareth to asperse his neighbor is in moral computation no less a slanderer, than if he did the like out of pure invention, or without any ground at all: for doubtful and false in this case differ little; to devise, and to divine, in matters of this nature, do import near the same. He that will judge or speak ill of others, ought to be well assured of what he thinks or says: he that asserteth that which he doth not know to be true, doth as well lie, as he that affirmeth that which he knoweth to be false ; (for he deceiveth the hearers, begetting in them an opinion that he is assured of what he affirms :) especially in dealing with the concernments of others, whose right and repute justice doth oblige us to beware of infringing, charity should dispose us to regard and tender as
It is not every possibility, every seeming, every faint show or glimmering appearance, which sufficeth to ground bad opinion or reproachful discourse concerning our brother : the matter should be clear, notorious, and palpable, before we admit a disadvantageous conceit into our head, a distasteful
" that an
resentment into our heart, a harsh word into our mouth about him. Men may fancy themselves sagacious and shrewd, (persons of deep judgment and fine wit they may be taken for,) when they can dive into others hearts, and sound their intentions; when through thick mists or at remote distances they can descry faults in them; when they collect ill of them by long trains, and subtle fetches of discourse : but in truth they do thereby rather bewray in themselves small love of truth, care of justice, or sense of charity, together with little wisdom and discretion : for truth is only seen in a clear light ; justice requireth strict proof: charity thinketh no evil, and believeth all things for the best; wisdom is not forward to pronounce before full evidence. (* He,' saith the wise man, swereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.') In fine, they who proceed thus, as it is usual that they speak falsely, as it is casual that they ever speak truly, as they affect to speak ill, true or false; so worthily they are to be reckoned among slanderers.
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; not only careful of not wronging one distinct person, but of harming any promiscuously; not only abstinent from aiming directly, but provident not to hit casually any person with obloquy. For as he that dischargeth shot into a crowd, or so as not to look about regarding who may stand in the way, is no less guilty of doing mischief, and bound to make satisfaction to them he woundeth, than if he had aimed at some one person : so if we fling our bad words at random, which may light unluckily, and defame somebody, we become slanderers unawares, and before we think on it. This practice hath not ever all the malice of the worst slander, but it worketh often the effects thereof, and therefore doth incur its guilt and its punishment; especially it being commonly derived from ill temper, or from bad habit, which we are bound to watch over, to curb, and to correct. The tongue is a sharp and parlous weapon, which we are bound to keep up in the sheath, or never to draw forth but advisedly, and on just occa
sion; it must ever be wielded with caution and care : to
malice or madness.
gross; then in retail, as occasion serveth, to asperse any man: this is the way of half-witted Machiavelians, and of desperate reprobates in wickedness, who, having prostituted their consciences to vice, for their own defence and solace, would shrowd themselves from blame under the shelter of common pravity and infirmity; accusing all men of that whereof they know themselves guilty.* But surely there can be no greater iniquity than this, that one man should undergo blame for the ill conscience of another.
These seem to be the chief kinds of slander, and most common ways of practising it. In which description the folly thereof doth, I suppose, so clearly shine, that no man can look thereon without loathing and despising it, as not only a very ugly, but a most foolish practice. No man surely can be wise, who will suffer himself to be defiled therewith. But to render its folly more apparent, we shall display it; declaring it to be extremely foolish on several accounts. But the doing this, in regard to your patience, we shall forbear at present.
• Remedium pænæ suæ arbitrantur, si nemo sit sanctus, si ompibus detrahatur, si turba sit pereuntium, &c.-Hier. ad Asellam, Ep. xcix.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XVIII.
PROVERBS, CHAP. X.-VERSE 18.
In the second place the folly of slander is declared.
1. Slander is foolish, as sinful and wicked. All sin is foolish on many accounts, as proceeding from ignorance, error, vanity, &c. What can be more egregiously absurd than to dissent in our opinion and choice from infinite wisdom, to disoblige our best friend, on whom our all depends ? If then this practice be proved extremely sinful, it will thence be demonstrated no less foolish ; and that it is extremely sinful may easily be shown. It is so described in holy Scripture ; it is that which gives to the grand fiend his names, and which best expresses his nature. To lie simply is a great fault, highly disagreeable to the God of truth ; and of all lies those are the worst which proceed from malice, or vanity, or both; and which work mischief, such as slander does. Again, to bear hatred or illwill, to exercise enmity towards any man, to design mischief against our neighbor, whose good, by many laws, and for many reasons, we are obliged to tender as our own, is a heinous fault; and of this the slanderer is apparently most guilty. All injustice is abominable: it is that crime which tends more immediately to the dissolution of society, and the disturbance of human life ; which God therefore most loathes, and men have most reason to detest ; but the slanderer violates all the rules of justice, and commits all sorts of wrong against his neighbor. He may perhaps conceive it no great matter if he does not act in a boisterous and bloody manner, but only by
means of words, which are subtile transient things, and on his neighbor's credit only, which is neither substantial nor visible : but we are not to estimate things by our fancy; we must not reckon that a trifle which he prizes as a jewel : moreover the injustice we commit is not to be corrected or cured : thefts may be restored and wounds healed; but a good name lost, cannot so easily be recovered. Nor is the thing itself contemptible; for as Solomon says, a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches : this point enlarged on.
2. But more particularly the slanderer is plainly a fool, because he makes wrong judgments and valuations of things, and accordingly drives silly bargains for himself, whereby he becomes a great loser. He means by his calumnies either to vent some passion boiling within him, or to compass some design, or to please some humor with which he is possessed; but is
any of these things worth purchasing at so dear a rate ? Can there be any fair exchange for our honesty? But the slanderer may pretend that it is not to assuage a private passion, or to promote his own concerns, that he deals thus with his neighbor; but for the sake of orthodox doctrine, or for the advancement of the public good; and in truth zeal for some opinion or some party is often the covert of innumerable slanders; but truth, equity, candor, and charity, are to be observed not only towards those who dissent from us in opinion, but even towards declared enemies of truth; for truth must ever support itself by fair means: this point enlarged on.
3. The slanderer is a fool, because he uses improper means and preposterous methods of effecting his purposes. As there is no design worth carrying on by ways of falsehood and iniquity, so there is scarcely any (at least any good or lawful one) which may not be more surely and cleverly achieved by means of truth and justice. He that has recourse to base means, and maketh lies his refuge, forfeits all hopes of God's assistance, and so cannot reasonably expect success.