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evil-speaking; and that, not only without the smallest provocation, but even without the slimmest foundation for what they maliciously propagate ? Or, if they are not exactly guilty of raising an “evil report” against a brother or sister in Christ; against a brother in the ministry or an elder in the Church; or against a near neighbour or a familiar friend, how sad is it to reflect that, without inquiry and without scruple, they greedily “ take up” that report, and give it willing and wide circulation? In this way “cowardly calumny” often distils for a time “its blasting mildew on that fairest of flowers, a spotless name; " but while all such forfeit all claim to the character of true citizens of Zion, so briefly yet beautifully described in the fifteenth Psalm, as calumniators they, sooner or later, fall into their own snare.
Need we add, how contrary evil-speaking is to what is right in the eye of reason, as well as revelation ? Or rather, how dishonourable and disgraceful is it, as well as uncharitable and unchristian, by whatever criterion it is tried ? For is it not obvious that it benefits neither the speaker, nor him that is spoken of, but injures both; that it transgresses an express precept of Scripture, and violates the grace of charity, the greatest of the Christian graces, which even
“thinketh no evil;” that it gratifies the basest dispositions, and excites the worst passions of the human heart; that it distresses true believers, and gives occasion to enemies to rejoice; that it wounds the cause of religion, and carries along with it, otherwise, the bitterest fruit; and that it dishonours Christ, and grieves the Holy Spirit ? In short, is it not much more becoming that our lips be “sealed in silence," than “opened to speak evil of any man?”
And is it not proper that whatever evil we know of any one, we “go and tell it to our brother alone,” and not to others; or, “if he will not hear us, that we take with us one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established,” and he, if possible, reclaimed ?
How appropriately, therefore, may all the Ministers of Christ be themselves exhorted to exemplify in practice the inculcated duty, “speak evil of no man ?” How properly, also, may it be said to them, what was addressed to Titus, in regard to this part of ministerial duty towards professing believers, "put them in mind to speak evil of no man;” no not, as it has been said by another, even of “an evil-designing man or an enemy," although what is asserted of him be true; but rather pray for him, as well as pity him ? How justly, likewise, may all who profess
to be members of Christ's spiritual family be reminded, in the words of the Apostle James, of the duty which they owe to one another in this sense, “speak not evil one of another, brethren; he that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge ?” And how fitly may it be said to believers in reference to those without, as well as within, the pale of the Church, "let all evil-speaking be put away from you ;” “ lay aside all evil-speakings ?” When we, likewise, think of the magnitude of the mischief which results from this sin, as well as of the sin itself, how importunately may the Psalmist's prayer be that of all true believers, “let not an evil-speaker be established in the earth ;” and how righteous is the sentence of holy writ, that “revilers shall not inherit the kingdom of God ?'
As it thus appears that this pernicious practice, whether known by the name of calumny or slander, backbiting or whispering, is too generally prevalent among professors, as well as non-professors, of religion, to all who are called Christians may it not well be said in regard to it in every degree," he not conformed to this world ?” In this, as in other respects, should there not exist a perfect contrast between them and the men of the world ? And if such a contrast existed, what a lovely spectacle would be exhibited in private and in public? With you, my dear readers, who profess to be Christ's, is it so in this sense ? If not, you still need to possess this distinctive peculiarity in the Christian character, and to evidence it in practice; and, as yet, you are neither true practical nonconformists to the world, nor true Christians.
NON-CONFORMITY TO THE WORLD
“Still with their lips their hearts agree,
Nor flattering words devise.
Through every false disguise.”
ALL true Christians must, likewise, “not be conformed to this world” in the practice of any thing like flattery. This sin, as the counterpart of the preceding, does not consist in speaking evil of another, whether that evil be true or false, but in speaking favourably, when the contrary is more or less the case. Unlike the
preceding sin, too, while it does not proceed from a malicious, but from a deceitful state of heart, it does not produce, either in private or public, such disastrous consequences. Still, it is no less worthy of censure and condemnation; and the more so, as it often happens that “he that flattereth his neighbour, spreadeth a net for his feet,” and “a flattering mouth worketh ruin.” Although it is not, likewise, so common as evilspeaking, either in the world or in the Church,