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would we guard against this fin. A covetous man esteems a lye an eafy way to the acquifition of gain. The prophet's fervant Gehazi, was it not covetoufnefs that formed him to be fuch an adept in lying? Pride and covetousness conspired together to induce Annanias and Sapphira to lye to the Holy Ghoft, even to God. They hoped to obtain the fame of most charitable chriftians, while they chose to lye, rather than part with their property. The awful judgments of heaven fel! fuddenly upon them, to be a warning to all against pride, covetousness and falfehood.
Another important direction fhould be to truft in God at all times. Diftruft in the Lord and lying, often accompany each other. Was it not this, which caufed Jacob to lye in order to obtain the bleffing? Had he trusted in the divine promife, he would have obtained it without that bafe and finful measure of practifing deceit upon a blind and aged parent. His lying and diffimulation both in words and actions are beyond the powers of defcription.-Would we avoid this fin let us maintain a tender confcience, a confcience void of offence towards God and man. Let us have our confciences made tender by the special grace of the gofpel; let us imbibe the temper of Christ Jefus ; ever live under the government of our holy religion; cloath ourselves with truth as with a garment;. dwell in her chambers, delight in her walks and take pleasure. in all her ways. Let us love the truth and continually adhere to it. Let our text be impreffed upon our hearts, be written upon our memories, and never be forgotten or neglected by
S. "Wherefore putting away lying, fpeak every man truth "with his neighbour; for we are members one of another."
The Horrid Evil of a Backbiting Tongue.
Pfalms xv. 3. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
AMONG the questions circulated in the world, certainly none can be propofed, which it is more our duty and intereft to be capable to answer than this, to wit, who are the favourites of God, and fhall dwell in heaven forever. The prefent friendship and eternal enjoyment of Jehovah is without controversy a matter of the greatest importance. The treasures of Cræfus, and the extenfive dominions of Alexander, when weighed in the scales of the fanctuary, in this comparison, tekel must be their infcription. For what could it profit a man to gain the whole world and lofe his own foul? In this Pfalm we have the characters and heirs of heaven drawn by the pencil of perfection. The delineation is performed by God himself. He is here introduced anfwering this dignified queftion, "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who fhall "dwell in thy holy hill?" By tabernacle here is undoubted
ly meant the church in this world. The tabernacle was built for the worship of God in the wildernefs, and continued the residence of the divine glory till the erection of the temple, therefore it here evidently intends the church militant. By holy hill is meant the holy hill of Zion, which was emblemati cal of the celeftial ftate, or the church triumphant in heaven. Hence the question divefted of its figures is this, "What is the character of the perfon who is a true member of thy church on earth, and who is he that fhall be admitted to dwell with thee in the regions of felicity forever?" To which the Moft High, vouchfafes to give the following reply. First, "He that walketh uprightly." He who refpects and loves and confciencioufly endeavours to walk in all the commandments. Secondly, "And worketh righteoufnefs." He employs himfelf in thofe acts of duty, faithfulness and juftice which he ought to perform to God, himself, and his neighbour. Thirdly, "And speaketh the truth in his heart." He avoids lying lips, his words pronounce his intention, exprefs his purpose and agree to his thoughts and judgment. Then our text is introduced as a further defcription of the good man. "He that backbiteth "not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour, nor ta"keth up a reproach against his neighbour." He is not one who flanders his neighbour, or takes the advantage of his abfence to vilify or depreciate his character; he wilfully injures him not in name, perfon or property; he does not easily take up tales of reproach, or propagate them to his neighbours hurt.
Whofoever fancys himself to be religious and his heart and life is not in a habitual measure conformed to this defcription, let him fear, tremble, repent and reform, left he fhould not be fit to enter into the tabernacle of God on earth, and be excluded from the glorious privilege of becoming a citizen of the heavenly hill of Zion. That which commands our attention at present is the evil and danger of a backbiting tongue. This
is not an evil peculiarly incident to the openly ungodly; but many who are strict in their morals, many profeffors of chriftianity, and fome who make a high profeffion of an experimental acquaintance with religion, ftand in exceeding need of inftruction, correction and reproof upon this head. One branch of the character of him who is intitled to heaven is, that he backbiteth not with his tongue. Confider, this is only a part of the defcription of an holy perfon. Perhaps fome may be free from this vice, yet allow themselves in others which muft ex. clude them from the celeftial blifs. But it is abfolutely certain, all who prevailingly indulge themfelves in this iniquity, whatever their profeffion may be, or however orderly, regular and circumfpect in other refpects, they will never enter into the holy hill of Zion. The adjudication and cenfure may feem fevere, but it is not mine, but God's. Some will be ready here to exclaim, if this be true, who then can be faved? The fcriptures teach us that few are faved. The number of faints is comparatively fmall; and charity must have a broad mantle, and cover a multitude of infirmities and fins, even to. collect thefe few. We must hope favourably of many, who tranfgrefs in this matter, that it happens in the hurry of converfation, their inattention, and not from wilful and malignant defign. Desent chriftians will not commonly curfe or fwear, yet it is hardly known or confidered by them as an evil to backbite a neighbour. If a profeffor of religion, or even a man of common reputation was to steal his neighbour's goods, we would be furprifed and fhocked; but we ftand by and hear him deftroy his neighbour's character and good name, and at feeling of disapprobation hardly arifes in our hearts. The old adage is, a common vice is commonly overlooked. He who fleals my money takes only trafh, but he that robs me of my good name is an affaffin and stabs me to the heart.
Wherefore to be explicit and plain upon this fubject, for our inftruction and reformation, I fhall endeavour to lay before you
First, when we may lawfully fpeak of the faults of our neighbours in their abfence without being guilty of the fin of backbiting.
Secondly, explain to you wherein backbiting confifts.
Thirdly, attempt to exhibit to view the evil and danger of this fin. As to the
First, it will be a delineation of what is not backbiting, It may be a duty to fpeak of the faults of others in many inftances behind their backs. To tell to his brother various evils in love and chriftian privacy in hopes of convincing him of his wrong; there is nothing of evil in this, but a hope of convin cing him of his error or mistake, and bringing him to friendfhip and reconciliation. If after private conferrence, and the difference is not adjusted, we take two or three friendly and chriftian neighbours to fettle the difficulty, and the matter be related to them; all this can never be termed backbiting. We may lay the faults of a neighbour before the church or the civil magiftrate, and retail all we have to fay behind his back, which we are afterwards to prove, and this can never be contrued as flander er backbiting. When it is ufeful to the prefervation of anothers property, when we fee friends enticed into the company of knaves and villains, by whom they may be ruined, it is our duty to flate to them the characters of thofe by whom they may be enfnared, and to warn them against the dangerous connection. When we know of a combination against others, or confpiracy against good government, to refrain from difcovery of private or public injury, tho' behind the backs of the defigners, would not only be wrong but a grofs iniquity. It would be an offence against reafon, against fociety, against God and man; and he who charges himself with the concealment, becomes a culprit equal with the principal.
Morcover when by unreasonable felf juftification, wrong is