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4. The slanderer is a very fool, as bringing many great inconveniences and troubles on himself.
1. A fool's mouth, saith the wise man, is his destruction, his lips are the share of his soul ; and if any kind of speech be dangerous, this is certainly most so, for men will more easily pardon one who robs them of their goods, than the defamer of their good name.
2. Such an one is odious not only to the person immediately concerned, but generally to all men that observe his practice : so that the slanderer is reckoned a common enemy.
3. All wise, noble, ingenuous persons have an aversion to this practice, and cannot entertain it with any complacency: a righteous man hateth lying.
4. The slanderer banishes himself from all good conversation and company, or intruding becomes disgusting unto it.
5. He also derogates wholly from his own credit in all matters of discourse ; for when he dares thus to injure his neighbor, who can trust him in any thing he speaks?
6. This practice is perpetually accompanied with troublesome companions, inward regret, self-condemnation, fear, and disquiet.
7. The consequence of it is commonly shameful disgrace, with an obligation to retract and render satisfaction ; for seldom does calumny pass long without detection.
8. To this in all likelihood the concernments of men, and the powers that guard justice, will forcibly bring him; and certainly his conscience will bind him thereto; God will indispensably exact it from him.
9. This practice doth also certainly revenge itself, imposing on its actor a perfect retaliation ; a tooth for a tooth; an irrevocable infamy to himself for the infamy which he has caused to others.
10. In fine, the slanderer (unless by serious repentance he retracts his practice) banishes himself from heaven and happi
ness, exposes himself to endless miseries and sorrows : for St. Paul declares that no railer or evil-speaker shall inherit the kingdom of God: and if for every idle or vain word we must render a strict account, how much more so for such as are positively evil?
The nature of this sin, and the folly of it having been declared, much need not be said for dissuading it; especially to persons of a generous and honest mind : it may suffice to observe that, since our faculty of speech (in which we excel all other creatures) was given us, as in the first place to praise and glorify our Maker, so in the next to benefit, help, and delight our neighbor, it is an unnatural perversion and irrational abuse of it, to employ it for his damage or disgrace. Conclusion.
THE FOLLY OF SLANDER.
PROVERBS, CHAP. X.-VERSE 18.
He that uttereth slander is a fool.
I HAVE formerly in this place, discoursing on this text, explained the nature of the sin here condemned, with its several kinds and ways of practising.
II. I shall now proceed to declare the folly of it; and to make good by divers reasons the assertion of the wise man, that • he who uttereth slander is a fool.'
1. Slandering is foolish, as sinful and wicked.
All sin is foolish on many accounts; as proceeding from ignorance, error, inconsiderateness, vanity; as implying weak judgment and irrational choice; as thwarting the dictates of reason and best rules of wisdom; as producing very mischievous effects to ourselves, bereaving us of the chief goods, and exposing us to the worst evils. What can be more egregiously absurd than to dissent in our opinion and discord in our choice from infinite wisdom; to provoke by our actions sovereign justice and immutable severity; to oppose almighty power, and offend immense goodness; to render ourselves unlike, and contrary in our doings, our disposition, our state, to absolute perfection and felicity? What can be more desperately wild than to disoblige our best friend, to forfeit his love and favor, to render him our enemy, who is our Lord and our Judge, on whose mere will and disposal all our subsistence, all our welfare does absolutely depend? What greater madness can be conceived than to de
prive our minds of all true content here, and to separate our souls from eternal bliss hereafter; to gall our consciences now with sore remorse, and to engage ourselves for ever in remediless miseries ? Such folly doth all sin include: whence in Scripture style worthily goodness and wisdom are terms equivalent; sin and folly do signify the same thing.
If thence this practice be proved extremely sinful, it will thence sufficiently be demonstrated no less foolish. And that it is extremely sinful may easily be showed. It is the character of the superlatively wicked man; Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit: thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son.' It is indeed plainly the blackest and most hellish sin that can be; that which giveth the grand fiend his names, and most expresseth his nature. He is ó Aláßudos, “ the slanderer ;' satan, the spiteful adversary; the old snake, or dragon, hissing out lies, and spitting forth venom of calumnious accusation ; the accuser of the brethren,' a murderous, envious, malicious calumniator ; ' the father of lies ;' the grand defamer of God to man, of man to God, of one man to another. And highly wicked surely must that practice be, whereby we grow namesakes to him, conspire in proceeding with him, resemble his disposition and nature. It is a complication, a comprisal, a collection and sum of all wickedness; opposite to all the principal virtues, (to veracity and sincerity, to charity and justice,) transgressing all the great commandments, violating immediately and directly all the duties concerning our neighbor.
To lie simply is a great fault, being a deviation from that good rule which prescribeth truth in all our words ; rendering us unlike and disagreeable to God, who is “the God of truth ;' (who loveth truth, and practiseth it in all his doings, who abominateth all falsehood ;) including a treacherous breach of faith toward mankind ; (we being all, in order to the maintenance of
; society, by an implicit compact, obliged by speech to declare our mind, to inform truly, and not to impose on our neighbor ;) arguing pusillanimous timorousness and impotency of mind, a distrust in God's help, and diffidence in all good means to compass our designs; begetting deception and error, a foul and illfavored brood : lying, I say, is on such accounts a sinful and
blameable thing: and of all lies those certainly are the worst which proceed from malice, or from vanity, or from both, and which work mischief ; such as slanders are.
Again, to bear any hatred or ill-will, to exercise enmity toward any man, to design or procure any mischief to our neighbor, whom even Jews were commanded to · love as themselves,' whose good, by many laws, and on divers scores, we are obliged to tender as our own, is heinous fault ; and of this apparently the slanderer is most guilty in the highest degree. For evidently true 'it is which the wise man affirmeth, “a lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted with it;' there is no surer argument of extreme hatred ; nothing but the height of ill-will can suggest this practice. The slanderer is an enemy, as the most fierce and outrageous, so the most base and unworthy that can be: he fighteth with the most perilous and most unlawful weapon, in the most furious and foul way that can be. His weapon is an envenomed arrow, full of deadly poison,' which he shooteth suddenly, and feareth not;' a weapon which by no force can be resisted, by no art declined, whose impression is altogether inevitable and unsustainable. It is a most insidious, most treacherous and cowardly way of fighting; wherein manifestly the weakest and basest spirits have extreme advantage, and may easily prevail against the bravest and worthiest : for no man of honor or bonesty can in way of resistance or requital deign to use it, but must infallibly without repugnance be borne down thereby. By it the vile practiser achieveth the greatest mischief that can be. His words are, as the psalmist saith of Doeg, devouring words,' (Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue :') and, • A man,' saith the wise man, • that beareth false witness against his neighbor is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow ;' that is, he is a complicated instrument of all mischiefs: he smiteth and bruiseth like a 'maul, he cutteth and pierceth like a 'sword,' he thus doth hurt near at hand; and at distance he woundeth like a sharp arrow;' it is hard anywhere to evade him, or to get out of his reach. • Many, saith another wise man, the imitator of Solomon, have fallen by the edge of the sword; but not so many as have fallen by the tongue. Well is he that is defended from it, and hath not passed through the venom thereof; who hath not