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flect upon it; and perhaps have reason also to believe, that he to whom you have done this injury is not ignorant of it?
Consider likewise, whether, in the chance of human affairs, you may not some time or other come to stand in need of his favour; and how incapable this carriage of your's towards him will render you of it? and whether it may not be in his power to revenge a spiteful and needless word by a shrewd turn? So that if a man made no conscience of hurting others, yet he fhould in prudence have some confideration of himself.
3. Let us accuftom ourselves to pity the faults of men, and to be truly forry for them; and then we fhall take no pleasure in publishing them. And this common humanity requires of us; considering the great infirmities of human nature, and that we ourselves also are liable to be tempted; considering likewise, how severe a punishment every fault and miscarriage is to it. felf, and how terribly it exposeth a man to the wrath of God, both in this world and the other. He is not a good Christian, that is not heartily sorry for the faults even of his greatest enemies; and if he be so, he will discover thein no farther than is necessary to some good end.
4. Whenever we hear any man evil-spoken of, if we know any good of bim, let us say that.
It is always the more humane and the more honourable part, to stand up in the defence and vindication of others, than to accuse and bespatter them. Pollibly the good you have heard of them may not be true; but it is much more probable, that the evil which you have heard of them is not true neither : however, it is better to preserve the credit of a bad man, than to stain the reputation of the innocent. And if there were any need that a man should be evil-spoken of, it is but fair and equal that his good and bad qualities should be mentioned together ; otherwise he
may be strangely misrepresented, and an indifferent man may
be made a monster. They that will observe nothing in a wise man, but his oversights and follies; nothing in a good man, but his failings and infirmities; may make a shift to render a very wise and good man very despicable. If one should
heap, together all the passionate speeches, all the fro. ward and imprudent actions of the best man, all that he had said or done amiss in his whole life, and prefent it all at one view, concealing his wisdom and virtues; the man, in this disguise, would look like a madman or a fury : and yet, if his life were fairly represente ed, and just in the same manner it was led, and his many and great virtues set over against his failings and infirmities, he would appear to all the world to be an admirable and excellent person. But how many and great foever
any man's ill qualities are, it is but just, that, with all this heavy load of faults, he should have the due praise of the few real virtues that are in him.
5. That you may not speak ill of any, do not delight to hear ill of them. Give no countenance to busybodies, and those that love to talk of other mens faults: or, if you cannot decently reprove them because of their quality, then divert the discourse some other way; or if you cannot do that, by seeming not to mind it, you may sufficiently signify that you do not like it.
6. Let every man mind himself, and his own duty and concernment. Do but endeavour in good earnest to mend thyself, and it will be work enough for one man, and leave thee but little time to talk of others. When Plato withdrew from the court of Dionysius, who would fain have had a famous philosopher for his fatterer, they parted in some unkindness, and Dionysius bade him not to speak ill of him when he was returned into Greece. Plato told him, He had no leisure for it; meaning, that he had better things to mind, than to take up his thoughts and talk with the faults of so bad a man, so notoriously known to all the world.
7. Lastly, Let us set a watch before the door of our lips, and not speak but upon consideration : I do not mean to speak finely, but fitly. Especially when thou speakest of others, consider of whom, and what thou art going to speak. Use great caution and circumspe ction in this matter. Look well about thee, on every fide of the thing, and on every person in the company, before thy words flip from thee; which, when they are once out of thy lips, are for ever out of thy power. B 3
Not that men fhould be sullen in company, and say nothing; or so stiff in conversation, as to drop nothing but aphorisms and oracles. Especially among equals and friends, we should not be so reserved, as if we would have it taken for å mighty favour that we vouchsafe to say any thing. If a man had the understanding of an angel, he must be contented to abate something of this excess of wisdom, for fear of being thought cunning. The true art of conversation, if any body can hit upon it, seems to be this; an appearing freedom and openness, with a resolute reservedness as little appearing as is possible.
All that I mean by this caution is, that we should confider well what we say, especially of others. And to this end, we should endeavour to get our minds furnished with matter of discourse concerning things useful in themselves, and not hurtful to others. And, if we have but a mind wise enough, and good enough, we may eafily find a field large enough for innocent conversation, such as will harm no body, and yet be acceptable enough to the better and wiser part of mankind. And why should any one be at the cost of playing the fool, to gratify any body whatsoever ?
I have done with the five things I propounded to speak to upon this argument. Bat, because hardly any thing can be fo clear, but something may be said against it; nor any thing so bad, but something may be pleaded in excuse for it; I shall therefore take notice of two or three pleas that may be made for it. ** 1. Some pretend mighty injury and provocation. If'in the same kind, it seems thou art sensible of it; and therefore thou of all men oughtest to abstain from it. But in what kind foever it be, the Christian religion forbids revenge. Therefore do not plead one fin in excuse of another, and make revenge an apology for reviling.
2. It is alledged by others, with a little better grace, that if this doctrine were practised, conversation would be spoiled, and there would not be matter enough for pleasant discourse and entertainment.
I answer, The design of this discourse is, to redress a great evil in conversation, and that, I hope, which mends it, will not spoil it. And however, if mens tongues lay a little more still, and most of us fpake a good deal less than we do, both of ourselves and others, I see no great harm in it: I hope we might for all that live comfortably and in good health, and see many good days. David, I am sure, prescribes it as an excellent receipt, in his opinion, for a quiet, and chearful, and long life, to refrain from evil-speaking: Psal. xxxiv. 12. 13. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may fee good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking falfhood.
But granting that there is some pleasure in invective, I hope there is a great deal more in innocence: and the more any man considers this, the truer he will find it; and whenever we are serious, we ourselves cannot but acknowledge it. When a man examines himself impartially before the sacrament, or is put in mind upon a deathbed, to make reparation for injuries done in this kind, he will then certainly be of this mind, and wish he had not done them. For this certainly is one neceffary qualification for the blessed sacrament, that we be in love and charity with our neighbours; with which temper of mind this quality is utterly inconsistent.
3. There is yet a more specious plea than either of the former, that men will be encouraged to do ill, if they can escape the tongues of men; as they would do, if this doctrine did effectually take place : because by this means, one great restraint from doing evil would be taken away, which these good men, who are so bent up on reforming the world, think would be great pity. For many who will venture upon the displeasure of God, will yet abstain from doing bad things for fear of reproach from men : besides that this seems the most proper punishment of many faults which the laws of men can take no notice of.
Admitting all this to be true, yet it does not seem fo good and laudable a way, to punish one fault by another. But let no man encourage himself in an evil way, with this hope that he shall escape the cenfure of men. When I have said all I can, there will, I fear, be evilspeaking enough in the world to chastise them that do ill: and though we should hold our peace, there will be
bad tongues enough to reproach men with their evildoings. I wish we could but be persuaded to make the experiment for a little while, whether men would not be sufficiently lashed for their faults, though we fat by and said nothing
So that there is no need at all that good men should be concerned in this odious work. There will always be offenders and malefactors enough to be the executioners to inflict this punishment upon one another. Therefore let no man presume upon impunity on the one hand; and, on the other, let no man despair, but that this business will be sufficiently done one way or other. I am very much miltaken, if we may not safely trust an ill-natured world that there will be no failure of justice in this kind.
And here, if I durst, I would have said a word or two concerning that more publick sort of obloquy by lampoons and libels, so much in fashion in this witty age. But I have no mind to provoke a very terrible sort of men. Yet thus much I hope may be said without offence, that how much soever men are pleased to see others abused in this kind, yet it is always grievous when it comes to their own turn. However, I cannot but hope, that every man that impartially considers, must own it to be a fault of a very high nature, to revile those whom God hath placed in authority over us, and to slander the footsteps of the Lord's anointed; especially since it is so expressly written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
Having represented the great evil of this vice, it might not now be inproper to say something to those who suffer by it. Are we guilty of the evil faid of us ? Let us reform, and cut off all occasions for the future; and so turn the malice of our enemies to our own advantage, and defeat their ill intentions by making so good an use of it; and then it will be well for us to have been evil spoken of.
Are we innocent ? We may so much the better bear it patiently; imitating herein the pattern of our blessed Saviour, who when he was reviled, reviled not again; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously. We may conlider likewise, that though it be a misfor