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thrown upon the innocent, and the innocent is compelled to recrimination, he ftands acquitted and vindicated at the bar of reafon and of God.
Further, when the notorious iniquity of any individual, hath erected fuch a beacon of warning, that his crimes cannot be hid, has forfeted all reputation, and his conduct tranfcends the rules of concealment, duty to our families and others is not to hide fuch a character. Duty in this cafe is to give warning to others to avoid the abominable example.
Moreover, when called to give a narrative of public facts, fallen under our own obfervation, such as rebellion, blasphemy, murder, perjury, cruelty, &c. and to give in the names of offending abfentees, this is right and duty. Alas, how many blaze forth the failings of others without occafion, and intrude themselves into the office of backbiters, to their own detri ment and the exceeding unhappiness of fociety.
Secondly, I am to explain wherein this evil of backbiting
First, if perfons fpread abroad the faults of their neighbours, when they ought previously to have mentioned them to them. felves; and proceeded according to the rules of reafon and the gofpel, for reclaiming a brother. In violation of friendship, neighbourhood and chriftianity, how many, and that religionifts too, will tell a fault real or fuppofed, to almoft every body, and never mention it to the perfon himself? This is destroy" ing a neigbour, wounding his fame, and backbiting with the kceneft feverity.
Secondly, when perfons fpeak of the failing of others in in their abfence, with apparent pleafure and delight, conceal their good qualities and dwell upon and magnify their evil
ones. It is very common to profess forrow for hearing of the mifconduct of others, while pleafure is exhibited in retailing the unhappy flory. Let the report be true or otherwife, the retail is generally grofs backbiting. The reporting the evil has no tendency to amend, but to injure the character and fpread the evil of his name. Were it not for the latent expectation of this kind, to render the perfon more contemptible and odious, they would be entirely filent.
Thirdly, when perfons, to spend a vacant hour, and to entertain their company, fill up the time with impertinently converfing of the faults and infirmities of their neighbours. This is often done merely for the diverfion and amufement of others, yet hereby they flain, if not ftab, their neighbour's reputation. When fuch fpeeches flow from paffion, envy, prejudice, faction, hatred, or to exalt themfelves, it is certain, that is a backbiting tongue. And when the language expreffes things devious from the truth, magnifying fmall failings as is frequently the cafe, concealing all that is worthy and good, and exhibiting only fome deformities, this has alfo the fin of lying, flandering and reproaching annexed to it. It has been generally remarked, thofe who are much addicted to backbiting, rarely avoid lying. But here perhaps it will be asked, may we not fpeak evil of that which is evil, and state every thing as it truly is? It is readily granted, that we are not, under a mistaken notion of charity, to fpeak a known falfehood, terming a man's vices, virtues; but we are to be very careful refpeeling the fpeaking evil of others. When we are about to difcover the faults of our neigbours, we ought to confider, whether we are duly called hereto, whether we are entering upon a duty which we owe to God or fociety. If confideration was practifed, it would put a ftop to much of the backbiting that is in the world. But fome will fay, may we not tell fuch things which honeft and religious perfons report. This muft not be done without fufficient evidence and
a fufficient call. However honeft and religious a períon may be, we must not imitate him in things that are evil or wrong, Suppofe a good man fhould abufe another, which has often happened, could the injure d perfon be willing that all should follow that good man's example, and abuse him likewife. Surely not. I proceed,
Thirdly, to attempt to exhibit to view the evil and danger of this fin. Is there need of faying any thing farther after showing what backbiting is. The odious character ever one will condemn. Yea, a backbiter himself, would probably be highly offended to have this vice imputed to him. Why will perfons indulge themselves in the evil practice when they abhor the name? None would chufe to be reproached themselves, why then will they reproach others? Some have fuppofed that backbiting is a term borrowed from the deteftable nature of poisonous ferpents or ugly dogs which will flyly bite a man when his back is turned, but were his face towards them, they would flee from him. How awful is the evil, to find this vile and odious difpofition in any of the children of men? And especially to perceive any tincture of it among those who profefs to be followers of the Lamb of God. The very nature of the fin itself ought to raise the deteftation of all against it. The fupreme Jehovah himfelf hath forbidden it in the most exprefs terms. It is enumerated amongst the groffest and most henious tranfgreffions. It is made the evidence of a reprobate mind, and the character of fuch whoni God chiefly abhors. When St. Paul makes up a catalogue of the most abominable offenders, backbiters are ranked among murderers, haters of God, &c. On the other hand, the avoiding of this fin is conftituted an evidence of one who is approved of the Moft High, and fhall dwell with him forever. "Lord, who hall abide in thy tabernacle, who fhall dwell in
thy holy hill? He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up 2
reproach against his neighbour." The holy apostle.. when he fharply rebukes the Corinthians for various offences among them, he recounts this as one. "I fear, fays "he, when I come, I fhall not find you fuch as I would, and that I fhall be found unto you fuch as ye would not, left there be debates, ftrifes, backbitings &c." Let all bitterness, clamour and evil fpeaking be put away from you, with all "malice, and be kind one to another and tender hearted."
It is a fin in a special manner gratifying to Satan; it affimifates to him; he is full of malice and backbiting, and speaking evil of a neighbour are works which are fuited to his malignity. Shall chriftians and thofe who enjoy the light" of the gospel, employ their tongues to perform the hellish drudgery of the deftroyer of fouls. Forbid it heaven, forbid it eternity.
Moreover, whofoever allow themselves in this fin, it argues a want of due tenderness and chriftian affection. Love fpeaketh no evil of its neighbour, neither doth it open his faults without a caufe. It will rather cover infirmities, and will not propagate flander or carry about evil reports. It is likewise evil which tends to deftroy the hearers, love, and thus to ruin their immortal fouls. If the backbiter understood himself, he would acknowledge this to be his defign, to banish love from the human breaft, and to introduce in its room, hatred, maliçe and ill will, and all the infernal train of odious paffions and feelings. When one perfon wishes another to become an ob
ject of hatred, he does not directly intreat a man to hate his neighbour; but he makes fuch a representation of his character, as excites disgust and brings on a dislike of him. It tends much to the injury of the fpiritual interefts of him of whom the reproaches are uttered; for, generally, he will by fome means hear of them. Backbiting is ufually accompanied with tale-bearing. Were it not for the latter the former could not do half the mischief it does. The one flanders and the other fpreads the evil report.
The confequences of a backbiting tongue are frequently very dreadful. It rarely fails to be a peace breaker; it tirs up envy and revenge; fets neighbour against neighbour, and brother against brother. When a perfon is reproached he often is tempted to exert all the power of malicious invention to retort the injury. It has brought on duels, bloodshed and murder. Many churches and focieties have been totally ruined hereby. Many fightings, and defolating wars, hath it produced. It has def troyed kingdoms and scattered nations. And what is worst of all, it has funk thousands and tens of thousands of fouls to hell
A few directions to caution us again this atrocious vice fhall conclude this difcourfe.
First, let us maintain a life of brotherly love. Love your neighbour as your felf. He who obferves this rule will never be guilty of this offence. No man will reproach or speak evil of himself. When we are tempted to this fin, let us put our felves in the place of the perfon whom we would backbite, and afk ourselves, whether we would be well pleafed, if another should talk in the fame manner of us. This conduct would prove a fovereign antidote against this evil.
Secondly, let us watch narrowly whether intereft or paffion does not influence us to speak against our neighbour. Selith nefs will prompt us to commit this fin, and difpole us to justify our iniquity. Let us guard against selfishness as a dangerous thing, and the fource of innumerable mifchiefs.
Thirdly, let us ever bear upon our minds an habitual fenfe of the malignant, and dangerous nature of this impiety. It had a great hand in putting to death the Lord of glory. He was called a deceiver, a devil, a blafphemer, a friend of publicans and finners, therefore he was not fit to live; away with him; crucify him, crucify him. This had an high hand in the death of the apostles; it ftyled them, peftilent fellows, movers