« PreviousContinue »
a fufficient call. However honest and religious a person may be, we must not imitate him in things that are evil or wrong. Suppose a good man should abuse another, which has often happened, could the injure d person be willing that all should follow that good man's example, and abuse him likewise. Surely not. I proceed,
Thirdly, to attempt to exhibit to view the evil and danger of this fin. Is there need of saying 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 per. fons 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 supposed that - backbiting is term borrowed from the detestable nature of poisonous serpents or ugly dogs which will slyly 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 detestation of all against it. The supreme Jehovah himself hath forbidden it in the most express terms. It is enumerated amongst the groffest and most henious transgreffions. It is made the evi. dence of a reprobate mind, and the character of such whom 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 lin is constituted an evidence of one who is approved of the Most High, and fhall dwell with him forever. “ Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle, who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that backbileth not with his congue, nor doch evil to his
neiglibour, por taketh up a
* reproach against his neighbour.” The holy apoftre when he sharply rebukes the Corinthians for various offences among them, he recounts this as one.
« I fear, says a he, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and 6t that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not, left * there be debates, trifes, backbitings &c.” Let all bitterness, “ clamour and evil speaking 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 aslimilates to him ; he is full of malice and backbiting, and speaking evil of a neighbour are works which are suited to his malignity. Shall christians and those who enjoy the light of the gospel, employ their tongues to perform the hellish drudgery of the destroyer of souls. Forbid it heaven, forbid it eternity.
Moreover, whosoever allow themselves in this an, it argues a want of due tenderness and christian affection. Love spea. keth no evil of its neighbour, neither doth it open his faults without a cause. It will rather cover infirmities, and will not propagate Bander or carry about evil reports. It is likewise evil which tends to destroy the hearers, love, and thus to ruin their immortal fouls. If the backbiter understood himself, he would acknowledge this to be his design, to banish love frona the human breast, and to introduce in its room, hatred, malice and ill will, and all the infernal train of odious paflions and feelings. When one person wishes another to become an object of hatred, he does not directly intreat a man to hate his neighbour ; but he makes such a representation of his character, as excites disgust and brings on a diflike of him. It tends much to the injury of the spiritual interests of him of whom the reproaches are uttered ; for, generally, he will by some means hear of them. Backbiting is usually 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 spreads the evil report.
The consequences of a backbiting tongue are frequently very dreadful. It rarely fails to be a peace breaker ; it itirs up envy
revenge ; sets neighbour againit neighbour, and brother against brother. When a person 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 churcles and societies have been totally ruined hereby. Many fightings, and defolating wars, hath it produced. It has del troyed kingdoms and scattered nations. And what is worst of all, it has sunk thousands and tens of thousands of souls to hell
A few directions to caution us again this atrocious vice Ihall conclude this discourse.
First, Ict us maintain a life of brotherly love. Love your neighbour as yourself. He who observes this rule will never be guilty of this offence. No man will reproach or speak evil of himself. When we are tempted to this sin, let us put our selves in the place of the person whom we would backbite, and alk ourselves, whether we would be well pleased, if another should talk in the same manner of us: This conduct would prove a sovereiga antidote against this evil.
Secondly, let us watch narrowly whether interest or paflion does not influence us to speak against our neighbour. Sel6thness will prompt us to commit this sin, and dilpole us to justify our iniquity. Let us guard against felfishness as a dangerous thing, and the source of innumerable mischiefs.
Thirdly, let us ever bear upon our minds an habitual sense of the malignant, and dangerous nature of this impiery. It had a great hand in puiting to death the Lord of glory. He was called a deceiver, a devil, a blafphemer, a friend of publicans and sinners, therefore he was not fit to live ; atvay with him ; crucify him, crucify him. This had an high band in the death of the apostles; it lyled them, pestilent fellows, movers
of fedition, turners of the world upside down, &c. and thus. contirbuted largely to their death. It has had a full part in. the murder of all the martyrs in all ages. These things should engage christians to avoid this abomination.
Fourthly, frown upon and discountenance this sin in others, and it will be an excellent preservative against it in yourselves. “ As the North wind, saich Solomon, driveth away rain, so “ doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue." Better we never had tongues than employ them for such destructive purposes. “ Whosoever privately slandereth his neighbour, him “ will I cut off, faith the Lord." “ If any man among you
“ seemeth to be religious and bridleth not his tongue, that - man's religion is vain.” Wherefore let us all be exhorted to avoid this evil of backbiting as we would wish to escape hell, and to have tlie gates of heaven opened unto us.
The Excellencies and Evils of the Tongue.
James, iii. 6. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; A
is the tongue amongst the members, that it defileth the whole body, and fetteth on fore the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell.
HERE is an awful description of an unruly and ungoverned tongue. St. James in this epistle sets himself to corre & ma. ny evils which had taken place among the christians to whom he wrote, and for the instruction of the churches in all future ages. Some in these early days had imbibed the fatal error, that if they had but faith, they might indulge themselves in the most licentious practices. Therefore the apostle having corrected various vices in the preceding chapters, comes in this to reprove the fins of the tongue. He proposes the exceeding great difficulty of bridling this unruly member. Hence he declares, that he who offendeth not in word is a perfect man and able to bridle the whole body. As if he had said, the person who can govern this member, can cafily govern all others. This truth he illustrates by two similitudes. By the small bits in a horse's mouth we turn his whole body and res