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which the apostle commended, and which the acter of others suffer by it. word of God enjoins upon us.
The rule here given is equally condemnatory of boastful speech. There is nothing more unbecoming the character of a Christian than to be a boaster. He who believes that he has been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, has, by that very faith, destroyed all occasion of boasting. He has nothing in which to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto him, and he unto the world. It is impossible, moreover, for any man to boast, and be at the same time strictly truthful. He may not directly lie, by stating that he has done what he never even attempted to accomplish. But the language of every boaster is inconsistent with sound and sober speech, and with strict truth. His first desire is to make his achievement bear the best possible aspect; and if in his narration he tells nothing but the truth, it is almost certain that he will not tell the whole truth. But the first and most obvious requirement of truth is that a thing be represented as it really was that no fact be concealed-that no colouring or undue prominence be given to any one feature. To this rule the boaster never attends, and he is virtually guilty of falsehood.
We thus sin against God-defeat what ought to be a principal object of our lives-and give occasion to others to speak evil of us. It is most important, both to the cause of Christ, and to our own comfort and usefulness, that our speech should be so ordered as to give no handle to accusers. If we be really faithful to Christ, we may expect to be falsely accused; but God will bring shame upon our enemies, if they have no ground for the evil they speak against us. But, dwelling as the Christian does, in a land of enemies, he must be very watchful over every word he speaks, that it may be impossible to condemn his speech. His statements will be narrowly canvassed and weighed, and if he give the slightest ground of accusation, his fault will be indefinitely magnified, and Christ will be wounded in the house of his friends.
Abore all things, hare ferrent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins,' 1 Pet. iv. 8.
THE exhortation of the text occurs in immediate A loose and uncertain method of making a connection with a solemn warning that the end statement is also contrary to sound speech. It of all things was at hand, and seems to imply shows a want of due regard to truth. If we that the meetest preparation which could be made have a hearty desire to maintain and promote for that awful event was the cultivation of fertruth, we will never make a statement which we vent charity. Nor will this seem at all surprising are not sure of being true. We will refrain from when we remember that it is elsewhere said, repeating idle rumours. We will take pains to Charity is the bond of perfectness,' and, 'Love is ascertain the real facts regarding any matter the fulfilling of the law.' But however true it which we may think important enough to obtain may be that in this view the exercise of fervent a place in our conversation. By speaking at and untiring love is the best preparation for hearandom, we do irreparable injury to the truth. ven, it is not the view which the text most proWe show a practical disregard of it. It is not minently suggests. The reason here expressly enough for us to say that we know not whether assigned for the emphatic manner in which the a report we may have heard be true or false, cultivation of charity is urged upon Christians, is unless we repeat it for the sake of obtaining because charity shall cover the multitude of sins. more correct information. By circulating it for Such a statement as this, occurring immediately any other purpose, we show that truth is less after a declaration of the near approach of the regarded by us than it ought ever to be. We consummation of all things, enjoins upon us in expose ourselves to the hazard of having our tes- the most solemn way the duty of forgiving one timony on other matters questioned, and give another, and forbearing one another in love. For occasion to our enemies to speak evil of us. Let who can contemplate his appearance before the us ever consider the obligation which lies upon righteous Judge of all, without feeling his own us to maintain and promote truth, and let us urgent need of forgiveness? We could not guard against all manner of speech which in any answer for one of a thousand of our offences, and way is calculated to injure and impair our testi- we are only encouraged to ask and expect forgivemony on behalf of it. If in our conversation we ness, as we forgive men their trespasses. For seek to exalt ourselves, we are almost certain to thus saith the Lord: If ye forgive men their to do so at the expense of others. If we indulge trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive in frivolous conversation, our own and the char-you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' Under the solemn sanction, then, of the last judgment, Christians are here charged, as they hope and expect their own sins to be covered by the fervent love of God in Jesus Christ, that they exercise the same charity among themselves. That love which they expect to be exercised towards them, in the judgment, in covering the multitude of their sins, even the same love are they enjoined to cherish and to exercise towards their brethren. They are not to expose but to cover the faults of their brethren, as they hope that their own faults will be covered on that day when the secrets of every heart shall be made manifest.
That it is this special exercise of charity which consists in covering and freely forgiving the faults of others which is here enjoined, will become more apparent when we advert to the fact that the latter part of the text is a quotation from the book of Proverbs: 'Hatred stirreth up strifes; but love covereth all sins,' Prov. x. 12. The meaning of Solomon is here sufficiently evident. The two members of the sentence form an antithesis, and the one explains the peculiar force and bearing of the other. Hatred and charity are here placed over against one another. The office of hatred is declared to be to stir up strifes-to set men in opposition to one another-to lead them to traduce, to bite and devour one another. The office of charity, as here described, is just the opposite of this-to bury one another's faults in oblivion-to allay strife where it has sprung up-to bear all things-hope all things-believe all things. This is precisely the exercise of charity enjoined in the text, and when we consider that the religion which we profess is preeminently a religion of love and truth, it is scarcely necessary to say that it must be of the very last importance to the promotion and maintenance of it, that we have fervent charity among ourselves. We have the evidence in our own conduct, of hearts full of enmity and hatred, if we be in any way instrumental in stirring up strife; and we are destitute of the only sure testimony that we are the children of God, unless we seek to cover the multitude of sins.
Besides, by such conduct we practically deny the leading and fundamental truth of our holy faith.
No man can sincerely believe that Christ died to save him-that such a costly sacrifice was absolutely necessary to atone for his guilt-and, consequently, that the debt he has incurred to the justice of God is really beyond all calculation great;-no man can sincerely believe this without possessing a forgiving spirit. He cannot
in all earnestness cry, 'God be merciful to me a sinner,' without being willing to show that mercy which he craves. He seeks that his own sins may be covered, and his desire will necessarily be to cover the transgressions of others. According as the desire for his own forgiveness arises into fervour and vehemence, and the consciousness of his own guilt becomes deeper, so will he become fervent in his charity. He will be careful of the good name of his neighbour-he will be grieved with their offences—and bear them as part of his own burden. So far from exaggerating an evil rumour, he will endeavour to put the best construction on their conduct. He will rejoice to bear a favourable testimony, and while constrained at all times to speak the truth, he will speak it in love. He will bear with meekness offences committed against himself-destroy so far as he can the seeds of dissension and strife
and seek to realize that union in heart and spirit which may manifest the unity of faith— and that harmony which is the result of kind forbearance, and which is incumbent on all the household of faith, that as brethren they may dwell together in unity.
He will especially remember, that as Christians, they are members of Christ's body, and that by injuring them, he injures their Lord. He cannot speak an offensive word against them
he can say nothing to their discredit, without at the same time speaking against Christ. Were we but to bear these things upon our hearts, how different would our conversation be from what it too often is. We are too apt to be easily provoked against our brother, and our pride and vanity easily lead us to become detractors. Instead of concealing, some men rather seek to magnify every fault. Their presence is a sure harbinger of strife.
Their object seems to be that men should dwell together in enmity-that they should bite and devour one another. Whereever the bonds of love seem most strongly knit
wherever the light of faith burns most clearly they seek to obscure the one, and to untie the other. This is the natural tendency of a heart at enmity with God-the natural tendency of every unrenewed man;;—a tendency which nothing will check and destroy but the constant remembrance of his own infinite demerit, and of Christ's infinite love. This will inspire fervent charity, whose object will be to cover all sins.
strangers, but to whisper his tale into the ear of brethren and friends, is a most satanic crime. As
Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer society is constituted, with so many mutual deamong thy people, Lev. xix. 16.
No one who has mingled with society can be ignorant of the commonness of the sin denounced in the text, and the frequency of its commission affords abundant proof that men are not alive as they ought to be to its enormity. If a man attempted to rob another of his property, society would rise in arms against him; there would be felt an instant revulsion, he would be excluded from the ordinary intercourse of life-and for the perpetration of his crime would seek the covert of darkness, and would practise the most cautious concealment. But in the open face of daywithout a blush of shame-frequently without the consciousness of guilt-without rebuke, a man's reputation will be willingly and wrongously blighted. And the tale-bearer, instead of being thrust forth from society, will by the very habit of evil-speaking often win his way into its very bosom, and obtain a more favourable place than he could otherwise hope to reach.
Such indications as these not only prove how very erroneous and inadequate are the views which are generally entertained of the heinous character of this sin, but furnish also the most palpable proof of its frequent commission. For he who lends a favourable and willing ear to the report of the tale-bearer, is prepared to take up and circulate the story. It were well, in such a state of society, amid such manifestations of character by professing Christians, to bear in mind, that the tale-bearer has the same name as is bestowed upon the devil. He is the accuser. This is the very signification of his name, and indicates his office and chief work. Now surely it can be no light and trivial sin, the commission of which obtains for a man such a name as this. The identity of name proves the identity of character. The essence of Satan's character is hatred, and the way in which he habitually manifests it is by becoming the bearer of accusations against the brethren. The tale-bearer among men approximates in his character most nearly to him who is the personation of all wickedness. The actuating spirit of such a man is enmity and hatred. He is an incarnate representation of the devil. And more especially does he assume this character when among his own people he discharges his wicked office. The malignity of his purpose, and the mischievous effects of his conduct, are, in such circumstances, most speedily and most abundantly displayed. He might with comparative harmlessness carry his evil report to
pendencies, a man's good name is his richest and most precious inheritance. Much of our happiness, moreover, results from the cordial intercourse of friendship and neighbourhood. The tale-bearer poisons this cup of comfort-destroys all confidence and plants among our people, our relations, friends, neighbours, the seeds of enmity and strife. He is described in the text as busy in his vocation. He is continually going up and down, and in this he exhibits another striking resemblance to him who goeth about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. There is nothing fair and lovely in characternothing eminent or excellent, which is not the object of his dislike, and he can find no rest till he has blighted and destroyed it.
We read of one who was most instant and unwearied in labour—who went up and down among his people-who had no fixed dwelling place. He had a report to tell, and he lost no opportunity of declaring it. In desert places, and in crowded cities, wherever he could find an ear to listen, he poured forth his tale. But it was a tale of gladness and joy. He was prompted by infinite love to tell it, and there was infinite love in every word by which he set it forth. It was a tale to which the holiest and the best lent the most willing ear-which was fitted to unite all men in the bonds of affection, to change the aspect of universal nature, to make hatred relinquish her malignant contrivances, and to quell all strife and division among men. Jesus Christ, went about continually, but it was to do good, to heal the broken-hearted, to comfort the mour ner, to deliver the captive, to bring peace on earth, and good-will to men.
The tale-bearer is almost equally busy-but it is for ends entirely the reverse of these, and he thus also proves his paternity. He is of his father the devil, and like him he goes up and down seeking whom he may devour.
Is it possible that any who bear the Christian name, should manifest a character like this? There is reason to fear that many professing Christians are deeply tainted with this crime. How then should they call themselves Christ's people, when they show a spirit so entirely op posite to his? It is just by practising one of those deceptions, whereby men so easily impose both upon themselves and others. The professing Christian will not bear about his tale with an avowed purpose of malignity. He will not refrain from telling it, but he will disguise from others and
perhaps from himself the evil purpose which animates him, by professing that he was very sorry to hear such and such a report, but he is afraid it may turn out to be too true. This profession is a lie, and under whatever circumstances it is made it should be denounced as such. He rejoices in the evil report which he propagates, and there is a secret hatred in his heart against him whom the report affects. This is capable of easy proof. With this view let us suppose a man seated among his companions, and that the conversation turns upon the character of one for whom he has a very great and special regard. By and bye some fault is hinted, some doubt expressed, and as the conversation ripens, his character is discovered to be less and less amiable, till by aid of insinuation and various other practices with which the slanderer is quite conversant, and which from long practice he can aptly use, the subject of their conversation is made out, to the satisfaction of all parties, to be very worthless. Now it is not necessary to suppose that this man's friend who is present interposes to check and contradict the slander, but he listens to it with secret disbelief and scorn, and retains his old affection for his friend. In these circumstances, would he repeat what he had heard to the very next person he might happen to meet? It is quite certain he would not, but would exert himself to justify his friend's name in the face of the world. Now why is it that such a course is not uniformly adopted? It is just because in this particular instance there was a real sorrow for the evil report, and that in other cases, whatever profession to the contrary may be made, the heart goes along with the accusation, rejoices in the credit which is given to it, and in all the evil results to which it is likely to lead,
would be very limited in its extent, did he not
a coin, and knows it not to be genuine, shows himself capable of making the coin if only he had the skill. The maker of base coin is subjected to summary punishment when he is detected, the slanderer escapes with impunity. Yet his crime is not less great; it is, if possible, more aggravated, because attended with more disastrous consequences. He who places in our hands a base coin in payment of articles he has received from us, is guilty of the double crime of falsehood and theft. He who slanders us is equally guilty of falsehood, and indirectly robs us to a much greater extent. A man's character is his most valuable property, and precisely that property, in most instances, which secures to him his livelihood. He cannot make his way in the world without it. Almost every office which he may be called to fill, and by the discharge of the duties of which he earns his livelihood, implies some trust in his integrity on the part of his employer; and to blight his character is to deprive him at once of the resources on which he lives. The slanderer then, like the forger, is at once a liar and a thief. And inasmuch as the depredations of the former are both more extensive and more ruinous than those of the latter, he ought to be regarded with so much the greater abhorrence. Ile is the most dangerous of all enemies, and against his assaults men are comparatively helpless. By ordinary watchfulness and care we can protect ourselves against the impositions of the forger, but he who invents a false report, and circulates it, easily gains for it currency and favour. For men are too apt to listen to unfavourable representations of their neighbours, very narrowly to question the truth of a tale the burden of which is evil. And hence from the encouragement with which the crime meets, it has become general. There is, indeed, no sin more common than the sin of private slander. A public and definite.
Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him accusation is comparatively rare, because it would will I cut off,' Psal. ci. 5.
If it be an evil thing to circulate a false report, it is certainly an aggravation of the crime to invent it. The bearer of a false tale is likened to the devil: he who raises it is certainly animated by the father of lies. The criminality which respectively belongs to those who invent, and those who propagate a slander, may be aptly compared to that which belongs respectively to him who issues, and to him who circulates base coin. He who commits forgery, or who issues base coin is the origin of the evil, but that evil
meet with prompt punishment if false, and bring shame upon its inventor. But everywhere are to be found men who gratify their malignity by slandering their neighbour privily; and all who are interested in the cause of truth, and in the peace and happiness of society, ought not only to set their faces stedfastly against it, by refraining in the very least degree from giving it countenance and encouragement, but by influencing others both by punishment and reward to refrain from it. In this way it should become a special subject of parental care.
The tendency to slander is early manifested by children, as soon indeed as they learn to covet praise, which is often most easily gained by depreciating others; and as soon as they learn to cherish hatred, which finds its readiest gratification in slander. Let us take one example, to show how the disposition to slander is manifested, even in very young children. Suppose a quarrel to take place among them, and just as surely as the feelings of anger and hatred are excited, so surely will there be mutual recrimination. It may be that a very young child has not ingenuity enough to invent a slander, but if he has heard any evil of his neighbour, it is sure, in that moment of irritation, to be cast in his teeth. Now, this is just the very disposition which, in maturity, and when the capacity was greater, would inevitably lead to the invention of slander. Over every such exhibition of character parents ought to watch with the most sedulous care. It is a solemn duty they owe to their children, that they should train them to speak the truth; and by checking every little slander which they could discover, they might be instrumental in effecting a mighty and most desirable change in the aspect of society. But in their very earliest dealings with their children as moral agents, in their first effort to check and to destroy the disposition to slander, they will discover that though the tongue may be stopped, they cannot uproot the evil without the destruction of envy and hatred in the heart. And therefore along with all the instrumentality they may find it necessary to adopt, to destroy the evil they will have recourse to higher instrumentality than their own. They will lift up their souls in prayer to that God who has the hearts of all men in his hand, and who turneth them as he doth the rivers of water. Were Christian parents so to act, and so to pray, this great and shameful evil in a professedly Christian community would speedily disappear. But it is vain to expect such a result, so long as we find that many parents, instead of adopting such a course, do actually train their children to become slanderers, by telling the evil reports which they have heard in the presence of their children. By so doing they encourage them to lie, and expose them to the just judgment of him who abhors the lying lips. The text solemnly directs us to think of this judgment. He that privily slandereth his neighbour, may escape punishment from men. He may even obtain the reward of their approbation. But God will cut him off. He can have no part in the heavenly inheritance. His portion is with the
father of lies.
And I will come near to you to judgment; and
AN oath for confirmation is the end of strife.
The profane swearer is deeply guilty, because
A false oath is a lie told with the worst possible intention. Its object is to put down truth, and to set up falsehood in its place-to frustrate the ends of justice, and make a righteous decision unattainable. It establishes falsehood as the rule of judgment, and hence in its very nature involves a violation of the whole commandments in the second table of the law. It combines and concentrates in itself the essence of every social crime. Its tendency is to loosen, or rather to