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SUMMARY OF SERMON XVII.
PROVERBS, CHAP. X-VERSE 18.
It is shown that general declamations against vice are indeed exceedingly useful; but that men ought to be made particularly acquainted with their sins, and by proper arguments dissuaded from them. Hence the sin of slander is now selected, being in nature vile, and in practice common. There are principles innate to men, which ever have, and ever will incline them to it. : this point enlarged on. But from especial causes, the present age does peculiarly abound in this practice : manners of the age described at length. Hence it is, that no discourse appears more needful or useful than that which serves to correct or check so vile an offence. Endeavors to effect this ; 1. by describing the nature; 2. by declaring the folly
I. For explication of its nature, slander may be described as the uttering false (or equivalent to false, morally false) speech against our neighbor, in prejudice to his fame, his safety, or his welfare, out of malignity, vanity, rashness, or bad design: this forbidden in holy Scripture under various terms, some of which signify the nature, others the special kinds, manners, or ends of this practice. But it seems most fully intelligible if
we observe the several kinds and degrees thereof; as also if we reflect on the various
ways and manners of practising it. The principal kinds stated as follow.
1. The grossest kind of slander is that which in the decalogue is called bearing false testimony against our neighbor; that is, flatly charging him with facts which he never committed. Instance in the case of Naboth. This kind is the most rare, and they who are guilty of it are accounted most vile and infamous; but there are many out of the court, who run about scattering false reports, and infecting society with their poisonous breath, who are scarcely less guilty.
2. Another kind is the affixing scandalous names, injurious epithets, and odious characters on persons, which they deserve not. Instance of Corah and his accomplices against Moses ; of the Pharisees against our Saviour; of the Jews against the A postles : evil of such described.
3. Similar to this is the aspersing a man's actions with harsh censures and foul terms, importing that they proceed from ill principles, or tend to bad ends: thus when we say of him that is generously hospitable, that he is profuse; of him that is prudently frugal, that he is niggardly; of him that is conspicuous in virtuous practices, that he is actuated by ambition or ostentation ; when we ascribe a man's charity to vain-glory, or his strictness of life to hypocrisy; we are indeed slanderers, imitating the great calumniator, who thus slandered even God himself; Gen. ïïi. 5.
4. Another kind of slander is the perverting a man's words or actions disadvantageously by affected misconstruction. All words are ambiguous, and capable of different senses. Instance of the false witnesses against our Lord: Matt. xxvi. 60. 61.
5. Another sort is, a partial and lame representation of men's discourse or practice, suppressing some part of the truth, or concealing some extenuating circumstances. In such a manner easily, without uttering any logical untruth, one may yet grievously calumniate. Instances adduced.
6. Another kind of calumny consists in sly suggestions ; which, although they do not assert downright falsehoods, yet breed sinister opinions in the hearers, especially in those who from weakness, credulity, jealousy, or prejudice, are prone to entertain them. Many ways instanced in which this is done ; all which, as they issue from the principles of stander, and perform its work, deservedly bear the guilt thereof.
7. A like kind is that of oblique and covert reflexions ; when a man does not directly or expressly charge his neighbor with faults, but yet so speaks, that he is understood, or reasonably presumed to do so; which is a very cunning and mischievous way of slandering. .
8. Another kind is that of magnifying and aggravating the faults of others; raising any small miscarriage into a heinous crime, any slender defect into an odious vice; turning a small mote in the eye of our neighbor into a large beam.
9. Another is the imputing to our neighbor's practice, judgment, or profession, evil consequences, apt to render him odious, which have no dependence on or connexion with them: this point enlarged on.
Another practice, worthily bearing the guilt of slander, is the aiding it, by anywise furthering and abetting it. He that by crafty significations of ill-will prompts the slanderer to vent his poison; he that by a willing audience and attention shows himself ready to suck it up; he that expresses a delight therein, as he is a partner in the fact, so is he a sharer in the guilt. He is a wicked doer, says the wise man, who giveth heed to false lips; and a liar who giveth ear to a naughty tongue.
These are the chief and most common kinds of slander: the several ways of practising them are next considered, in order that we may avoid them.
1. The most notoriously heinous way is the forging and
immediately venting ill stories, as it is said of Doeg (Psalm lii. 2.), and as our Lord says of the Devil. (John viii. 44.). This is the supreme pitch of calumny.
2. Another way is, the receiving from others and venting such stories, which they who do it certainly know, or may reasonably presume, to be false. He that breweth lies may have more wit and skill; but the broacher showeth the like malice and wickedness.
3. Another way is, when one without competent examination or just reason, admits and spreads tales prejudicial to his neighbor's welfare ; which is a very common and current practice : this topic enlarged on.
4. Of a kin to this way is the assenting to popular rumors, and thence affirming matters of obloquy to our neighbor : every one knows how easily such arise, and how nimbly they scatter themselves; whoever therefore gives heed to such, and thrusts himself among those who spread them, is either strongly injudicious, or very malignantly disposed. Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil, says the law.
5. Another slanderous course is, to build censures and reproaches on slender conjectures or uncertain suspicions, those evil surmises which St. Paul condemns : this topic enlarged on.
6. Another like way of slandering is impetuous or negligent sputtering out of words, without minding what truth or consequence there is in them; how they may touch or hurt our neighbor : to avoid this sin, we must not only be free from intending mischief, but wary of effecting it: for he who fires a shot into a crowd without regarding who may stand in his way, is no less guilty of doing mischief, and bound to make satisfaction for it, than if he had aimed at some particular person.
7. It is an ordinary way of proceeding to calumniate, for men, reflecting on some bad disposition in themselves, (although resulting from their own particular temper or principles,) to charge it presently on others, whom they presume to be like