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thing that keeps up the trade, makes backbiting and detraction abound so in the world, and verifies that known observation in the most, that the slanderer wounds three at once, himself, him he speaks of, and him that hears : for this third, truly it is in his option to be none of the number; if he will, he may shift his part of the blow, by not believing the slander; yea, may beat it back again with ease upon the slanderer himself by a check or frown. 5. They offend that seek in any way at the expense of the good name and esteem of others, to increase their own, out of others' ruins to make up themselves; and therefore pull down as much as they can, and are glad to have others to help them to detract from the repute of their brethren, particularly any that are likely to surpass and obscure them; and for this reason incline always rather to hear and speak of the imperfections and dispraise of others, than to their advantage, and would willingly destroy the good name of their brethren, that theirs might reign alone. This is a vile disease, and such as cannot be incident to any truly religious mind; no, such need not this base dishonest way to raise themselves, but are glad to see virtue, and whatsoever is praiseworthy, to flourish in all; as these are lovers of God indeed, and his glory, and not their own; so they are glad to see many enriched with his best gifts; for seeing the good that all have, belongs to God, as the sovereign owner and dispenser, this contents and rejoices his children when they see niany partake of his bounty, for the more is his glory: and as in love to their brethren, they are always willing to take notice of what is commendable in them, and to commend it, so they do this the more wil. lingly, because they know that all praise of goodness at last terininates and ends in God, as Solomon says of the rivers, Unto the place from whence they come, thither they return again. 6. They sin against this commandment, who although they no way wrong their neighbour's good name, yet are not careful to do their utmost to right it when it suffers, to remove aspersions from it, and to clear it all that may be.
For this is here required; to desire, and delight in, and further the good name of others, even as our own, to look most willingly on the fairest side of their actions, and take them in the best sense, and be as inventive of favourable constructions, (yet without favouring vice,) as malice is witty to misinterpret to the worst: to observe the commendable virtues of our brethren, and pass by their failings,
It is lamentable to consider how much this evil of mutual detraction, and supplanting of the good name one of another, is rooted in man's corrupt nature; and how it spreads and grows in their converse, as the Apostle Paul cites it out of the Psalmist, as the description of our nature: Their throat is an open sepulchre, they have deceitful tongues, and the poison of asps is under their lips, Rom. iii. 13. Their throat is an open sepulchre, full of the bones as it were of others' good names that they have devoured : and, Rom. i. 29, 30, ainongst other endowments, they are whisperers, backbiters; despiteful. But it is strange that Christians should retain so much of these evils, who profess themselves renewed, and sanctified, and guided by the Spirit of God. Consider in your visits and discourses, if something of this kind doth not entertain you often, and lavish away that time you might spend in mutual edification, abusing it io descant upon the actions and lives of others, in a way that neither concerns nor profits us, taking an impertinent foolish delight in inquiring and knowing how this party lives, and the other. This is a very common disease; and thus men are most strangers at home, haver:ot leisure to study, and know, and censure themselves, they are so busied about others. It may be there is not always a height of malice in their discourses, but yet by much babbling to no purpose, they slide into idle detraction and censure of others without intention, for “ in multitude of words there wants not sin."
And the greatest part are so accustomed to this way, that if they be put out of it, they must sit dumb and say nothing. There is, I confess, a prudent observation of the actions of others, a reading of men, as they call it, and it may be done with Christian prudence and benefit; and there may be 100 a useful way of men's imparting their observation of this kind one to another concerning the good and evil, the abilities more or less that they remark in the world; but truly it is hard to find such as can do this aright, and know they agree in their purpose with honest harmless minds, intending evil to none, but good to themselves, and admitting of nothing but what suits with this. Amongst a throng of acquaintance a man may. find
very few by whose conversation he will be really bettered, and that return him some benefit for the expense of his time in their society. However, beware of such as delight in vanity and lying, and defaming of others, and withdraw yourselves from them, and set a watch before your own lips; learn to know the fit season of silence and speech, for thai is a very great noint of wisdom, and will help very much in the nhsery
those that are about you, nor altogether a barren tree yielding nothing ; but a fruitful tree, a Tree of life to your neighbour, as Solomon calls the tongue of the righteous.
And let your hearts be possessed with those two excellent graces, humility and charity, then will your tongue not be in danger of hurting your neighbour, for it is pride and self-love makes men delight in that. These are the idols to which men make sacrifice of the good name and reputation of others. The humble man delights in self-disesteem, and is glad to see his brethren's name flourish; it is pleasing music to him to hear the virtues of others acknowledged and commended, and a harsh discord to his lowly thoughts to hear any thing of his own. And the other, charity, thinks no evil; is so far from casting false aspersions on any, that it rather casts a veil upon failings and blemishes: “ Love covers a multitude of sins."
Thus far our Author on the subject of Detraction : that of curiosity concerning the affairs of others is treated of in a discourse on the text, John, xxi. 22. “ What is that to thee? Follow thou me."
After some allusion to our Lord's conversation with his disciples, in the interval between his resurrection and ascension, and in particular to his thrice repeated question to the apostle Peter, who had so lately denied him, “ Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" the author proceeds :
“St. Peter answers fervently, but most modestly: whereupon bis Lord gives him a service suitable to his love, Feed my sheep; for which none are qualified but they that love him. But when he grows bold to ask a question, he gets a grave check, and a holy command, What is that to thee? Follow thou me. But it is the common course of many, to wear out their days with impertinent inquiries. There is a natural desire in men to know the things of others, and tu neglect their own, and to be more concerned about things to come than about things present. And this is the great subject of conversation : even the weakest minds must descant upon all things, as is the weakest capacities could judge of the greatest matters; by a strange levelling of understandings, more absurd and irrational than that of fortunes. Many men are beside themselves, never at home, but always roving. It is true, a man may live in solitude to little purpose ; so that when one converseth with himself it had need be said, See that it be with a good man. A man alone may be in worse company than is in all the world, if he bring not into him better company than himself or all the world, which is the fellowship of God, and the Holy Spirit. Yet the matters of the church seem to concern all, and so indeed they do; but every sober man must say, all truths are not alike clear, alike necessary, nor of like concernment to every one. Christians should keep within their line. It is certainly a great error to let our zeal run out from the excellent things of religion, to matters which have little or no connexion with them. A man though he err, if he do it calmly and meekly, may be a better man than he who is stormy and furiously orthodox. Our business is to follow Jesus, and to trace his life upon earth. Had I a strong voice, could I lift it up as a trumpet, I should sound a retreat from our unnatural contentions and irreligious strivings for religion. Oh! what are the things we fight for, compared to the great things of God.
There is an ETERNAL MIND that made all things, that stretched out the heavens, and formed the spirit of man within him ; let us tremble before Him, and love the Lord Jesus. Our souls have indelible characters of their own excellency in then, and deep apprehensions of another state, wherein we shall receive according to what we have done upon earth. Was not Jesus the Son of God declared to be such by his miracles, and by his resurrection from the dead? Hath there not been transmitted to us, from different ages, the history of martyrs following him through racks and fires, and their own blood, to his glory? And shall we throw off' all these ? Better be the poorest, weakest, and most distempered person upon earth, with the true fear of God, than the greatest wit and bighest mind in the world, if profane; or though not such, it' void of any just or deep sense of the fear of God. Some religious persons are perhaps weak persons, yet in all ages there have been greater, nobler, and more generous souls truly religious, than ever there were in the whole tribe of atheists and libertines,
Let us therefore follow the holy Jesus. Our own concernments concern us not, compared to this. What is that to thee? may be said of all things besides this. All the world is one great impertinency to him who contemplates God, and his Soo Jesus.' Great things, coaches, furniture, or houses, concern the outward pomp or state of the world, but not the necessities of life; neither can they give ease to him that is oppressed with trouble.
Let us therefore ask, have we walked thus, and dressed our souls by this pattern ? This is the substance of religion, to imilate him whom we worshin
can there be hichon
him. He took our nature upon him, that he might transfuse his into us. His life was a tract of doing good, and suffering ill. He spent the days in preaching and healing, and often the nights in prayer. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled, and separate from sinners. Humility, meekness, and charity, were the darling virtues of Christ. He was meek, and reviled not again; though he met with the greatest injuries. The rack of his cross could make him confess no anger. In that hour of his great extremity was his most affecting and ever memorable intercession put forth : “ Father forgive them, they know not what they do." Charity was so dear to him, that he recommended it as the characteristic by which all might know his disciples, " By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another." John, xij. 35. But alas ! by this all may know we are not his disciples, because we hate one another. But that we may imitate him in his life, we must begin with his death, and must die with him. Love is a death. He that loves is gone, and lost in God, and can esteem or take pleasure in nothing besides him. This death of Jesus mystically acted in us, must strike down all things else, and he must become our all. Oh! that we would resolve to live to him that died, and to be only his, and humbly follow the crucified Jesus. All else will be quickly gone. How soon will the shadows that now amuse us, and please our eyes, fly away?”
The following remarks in conclusion of this interesting subject, are from the pen of another writer :
The excellent things of religion, then, are undoubtedly the great truths in which Christians agree, and the great objects for which they associate: the worship of God, the gospel of Christ, the communion of the Holy Spirit, the practice of good works, 'the maintenance of peace and good order in the churches. For the right discharge and enjoyment of these, there are required on our part, deliberation, calmness, watchfulness, humility, self-disesteem. But there are things having little or no real connexion with religion, which are yet very ready to spring out of the subject, when it becomes a topic of .conversation; and to be treated with much zeal and interest, in the disposition, (sometimes not very charitable,) which happens to prevail at the moment: and this not among the inconsiderate good sort of people only, but by characters, in other respects it may be, religiously circumspect :-things with which religious people may occupy themselves, to the misapplication at least of their own time and talents, if not