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SUMMARY OF SERMON XIX.
JAMES, CHAP. IV.—VERSE 11.
One half of our religion consists in charity towards our neighbor; and of that charity much the greater part seems exercised in speech. Meaning of the word karadaleir: in stricter acceptation it denotes that particular sort of obloquy which is called detraction, or backbiting : and so we may be allowed to understand it here.
The nature of this fault described : its difference from slander and reviling is, that it may be couched in truth and clothed in fair language : it is the fault (opposite to ingenuousness or candor) which out of a haughty disposition or design strives to disgrace worthy persons, or to disparage good actions, looking for blemishes and defects in them, and using care to pervert or misrepresent things to that purpose : farther observations on this head : to get a fuller understanding of it, some particular acts, wherein it is commonly exercised, are more distinctly considered.
1. A detractor is wont to represent persons and actions under the most disadvantageous light he can: there is no person so excellent, who is not by circumstances forced to omit some things which it would become him to do, if he were able ; to perform some things lamely, and otherwise than he would wish ; no action so worthy, but it may have some defect in matter or manner, incapable of redress; and he that represents such person or action, leaving out all excusing circumstances, gives a mean opinion of them, robbing them of their due value and commendation,
2. He is wont to misconstrue ambiguous words, or to misinterpret doubtful appearances of things.
3. He is accustomed to misname the qualities of persons or things, assigning bad appellations or epithets to good or indifferent qualities, calling a sober man sour, a cheerful man vain, a reserved man crafty, a modest man sullen, &c.
4. He imperfectly characterises persons, so as studiously to veil or faintly to disclose their virtues and good qualities; but he carefully exposes, and fully aggravates any defects or failings in them.
5. He is wont not to commend or allow any thing absolutely and clearly, but always interposes some objection, to which he would have it seem liable.
6. He is ready to suggest ill causes and principles, latent in the heart, of practices apparently good, ascribing what is well done to a bad disposition or a bad purpose.
7. He derogates from good actions by pretending to correct them, or to show better that might have been done in their room: see John xii. 5.
8. A detractor not regarding the general course of a man's conversation, which is conspicuously and clearly good, will attack some part of it, where its goodness is less discernible, and more subject to contest or blame.
9. In fine, the detractor brings forward suggestions of every thing anywise plausible or possible, that can serve to diminish the worth of a person, or the value of an action, which he would discountenance : such is the nature and way of detraction,
For dissuading men from its practice, the causes whence it proceeds are next considered.
I. 1. It proceeds from ill-nature and bad humor : 2. from pride, ambition, and inordinate self-love: 3. from envy: 4. from malicious revenge and spite : 5. from a sense of weakness or want of courage : 6. from an evil conscience : 7. from bad and selfish designs, it being a common engine by which evil
persons strive to compass their ends : such are its principles and causes.
II. It involves the following kinds of irregularity and depravity. 1. Injustice; a detractor caring not how he deals with his neighbor, and what wrong he does him : 2. uncharitableness; it being evident that the detractor does not love his neighbor, since charity believeth every thing, hopeth every thing to the advantage of its object : 3. impiety; for he that loves and reverences God, will acknowlege and approve his goodness, in bestowing excellent gifts and graces on his brethren; will be afraid to disavow or disgrace them, lest he rob God of the glory due to him : 4. it involves degenerate baseness, meanness of spirit, and want of good manners: 5. consequently detraction includes folly; for every unjust, uncharitable, impious, or base person is, as such, a fool; none of those qualities being consistent with wisdom. But the folly of this vice will farther appear, from the bad effects which it produces both to others and to him who uses it.
III. The practice of it is a great discouragement and obstruction to the common practice of goodness; for many, when they see virtue thus disparaged, are deterred from pursuing it : this topic enlarged on: 2. hence detraction is very noxious and baneful to society; for all society is maintained in welfare by the encouragement of honesty and industry; the which, when disparagement is cast on them, will be in danger of languishing and decaying : 3. it works real damage and mischief to our neighbor, bereaving him of that good reputation which is the reward of virtue : 4. the detractor abuses those into whose ears he instils his poisonous suggestions, engaging them to participate in the injuries done to worth and virtue : 5. he produces great inconveniences and mischiefs to himself, raising up against himself animosity and general hatred : 6. he also yields occasion to others and a kind of right to return the same measure to him : 7. again the detractor, according to moral possibility, will assuredly be defeated in his aims : his detraction in the end will bring shame and trouble on himself. Such are the natural and obvious effects of this practice: one more consideration only is subjoined, and that suggested by the text. Speak not evil of one another, says the Apostle, brethren: this appellation therefore implies a strong argument to inforce the precept: for brethren are bound to love each other : this point enlarged on. Conclusion.
JAMES, CHAP. IV.-VERSE 11.
Speak not evil one of another, brethren.
One half of our religion consisteth in charity toward our neighbor; and of that charity much the greater part seemeth exercised in speech; for as speaking doth take up the greatest part of our life, (our quick and active mind continually venting its thoughts, and discharging its passions thereby; all our conversation and commerce passing through it, having a large influence on all our practice,) so speech commonly having our neighbor and his concernments for its objects, it is necessary that either most of our charity will be employed therein, or that by it we shall most offend against that great duty, together with its associates, justice and peace.
And all offences of this kind (which transgress charity, violate justice, or infringe peace) may perhaps be forbidden in this apostolical precept; for the word karalaleiv, according to its origination, and according to some use, doth signify all kind of obloquy, and so may comprise slander, harsh censure, reviling, scoffing, and the like kinds of speaking against our neighbor ; but in stricter acceptation, and according to peculiar use, it denoteth that particular sort of obloquy, which is called detraction, or backbiting ; so therefore we may be allowed to understand it here; and accordingly I now mean to describe it, and to dissuade from its practice.
There is between this and the other chief sorts of obloquy