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As one of the common ways, in which malice vents itself to the prejudice of mankind, is reviling and de. famatory language, therefore, the Apostle,
4. Exhorts Christians to put away from them all clamor, and evil speaking.
By clamor he intends noisy, complaining and con. tentious language, in opposition to that which is soft, gentle and courteous.
There are some, who are clamorous from the ferocity and ruggedness of their tempers. And there are others, who by use have acquired such a habit of clamorousness, that whether they are in anger, or only in earnest, their language is much the same.
When they give orders or instructions, it is in a manner, which, if it has any affect, operates only on fear, not on the more ingenuous principles. If any thing is done contrary to their intention, they condemn it with such precipitancy and noise, that no excuse can be made, or be heard, if it is made. At the most trivial inadvertencies they exelaim with as much vehemence, as if one were setting fire to their house. Accidental errors are imputed to the worst intention, and the oßender is loaded with the vilest epithets.
Such language is what the Apostle calls clamor, This is unreasonable in any ; but peculiarly indecent in Christians; for they profess a religion, which exhibits for their imitation, the mildest and sweetest examples, and inculcates, in its precepts, moderation and gentleness, soft answers and obliging manners, gracefulspeech and winning address.
But what the gospel more especially warns Chris, tians to ayoid is evil speaking:
There are indeed some cases, in which we may speak evil of others. Public and notorious crimes, the corruption of manners, and the degeneracy of the times, may be subjects of discourse among Christians in a way of lamentation, and for mutual warning and excitement. The evil which we know of another, we
may mention in a way of caution to a stranger, who, for want of information, might be ensnared.
If we are called to bear testimony against a criminal before lawful authority, we are bound to speak without reserve, what we know relative to the matter in question.
The frequent cautions in scripture against evil speak. ing, respect not cases of this nature ; much less de they forbid us to speak to the offender himself, in a way of friendly admonition and rebuke. It is the command of our divine Lord, " If thy brother trespass àgainst thee, go and tell him his fault betwixt him and thee. If he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
But we should always remember, that to speak evil of another is a nice and delicate matter. That you may not in this offend, be pleased to observe the following rules :
Never believe, much less propagate an ill report of your neighbor, without good evidence of its truth. Never listen to an infamous story handed to you by a man, who is a known enemy of the person defamed, or who is himself infamous for defaming his neigbors, OF who is wont to sow discord among brethren and excite disturbances in society. Never utter the evil which you know or sụspect of another, till you have taken an opportunity to expostulate with him. Never speak evil of another while you are under the operation of envy and malevolence, but wait till your spirits are cooled down, that you may better judge, whether to utter or suppress the matter. Never express the evil which you would say of your neighbor, in terms too strong, or in language which would convey an exaggerated idea of his
conduct. Never throw out against a man broken hints and dark innuendoes, which would leave the hearers to suspect any thing and every thing that ill nature can suggest. Never speak evil of your neighbor to his known enemy, who wishes for an occasion of blander; for he will certainly paint the image anew, and touch it off with bolder colors. In short
In short ; never
speak evil of a man, when your speaking may proba. biy do much hurt, but cannot possibly do any good.
These are reasonable rules : By a strict adherence to them much evil speaking would be prevented.
II. I proceed to observe, in the second place, the Apostle exhorts Christians to“ be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.”
1. Christians are to be kind one to another.
The word signifies such kindness as renders us useful.
Kindness will not always gratify, but sometimes cross the wishes of others. To gratify men's vicious inclinations is not kindness, but inhumanity-not goodness, but injury.
Kindness wishes well to all men, prays for their happiness and studies within its sphere, to promote their interest. It is forward to relieve distress. It will in. terpose to vindicate an injured character. It will warn the heedless of their danger. It will reprove vice, and lend its aid to promote knowledge and virtue. In a word, it will do good, as opportunities occur, occasions require, and abilities permit.
2. Christians should be tenderhearted; or, as the parallel expression is, in the epistle to the Colossians, they should put on bowels of mercies. They should not be indifferent to the dangers, and unfeeling to the afflictions of their fellow men, especially of their fel. low Christians; but, when an interesting sensibility, weep with them that weep; burn for them who are offended ; have compassion on them who are in trouble ; remember those who are in bonds, as bound with them, and those who suffer adversity, as being themselves al. so in the body.
They should not, however, be guided by a blind, instinctive pity ; but by an habitual goodness of heart, cultivated with reason, improved by religion and operating with discretion. They should make a distinction of objects; and while they commiserate all who ap
pear to be in affliction, they should regard among them the difference of characters and circumstances, giving a precedence to the most necessitous, the most friendless, and the most virtuous; and should exercise their char. ity in ways consistent with other obligations and the general good. The Appostle adds,
3. That'we are to forgive one another.
In this imperfect state, ofences will come. If there. fore we hope to live comfortably in society, we must carry with us a peaceable and forgiving spirit.
Forgiveness does not oblige us tamely to submit to every insult, and silently to bear every injury. There are wrongs so gross and oppressive, that justice to ourselves demands redress. And there are some insolent offenders, whom nothing but the terror of human pun. ishment will restrain. When, and how far we may ap. ply to the laws of society for the redress of, or for protection against personal injuries, wisdom is profitable to direct.
But under the influence of that forgiving spirit, which the gospel inculcates, we shall, on our part, be careful to injure no man; and if through inadvertence, pas sion or temptation, we have done a wrong, we shall, on reflection, be willing to repair it. To those who have injured' us we shall maintain good will and exercise forbearance, as far as our own and the common safety will allow. We shall be grieved for their guilt, , as well as our own loss; and wish their repentance, rather than their punishment. If there is hope of reclaiming them, we shall treat them with mildness, rather than severity, thinking it better to win them with goodness, than subdue them with power. We shall make some allowance for their mistakes and temptations, and give some weight to excuses in their behalf, not suspecting the worst but hoping all things. Prov. idential disabilities will successfully plead for our for. bearance; and propositions of adjustment will be heard with candor. A credible repeutance will reinstate them
in our favor and esteem ; and though they continue implacable, they will have a share in our benevolence and prayers.
ili. We are, in the last place, to apply the argument, by which the Apostle urges us to this kind and forgiving carriage. "God for Christ's sake bath for: given you.
Remember, Christians, what ye once were---sinners -enemies to God by wicked works-under his holy displeasure, and exposed to everlasting death. Think how ye were brought out of this deplorable state--not by your own works, but by the forgiving mercy of
" It is God who hath forgiven you.” Though your repentance was the condition on which pardon was vouchsafed to you ; yet, consider, this pardon was granted, not on the ground of any intrinsic obligatory worth in your repentance, but on the ground of Christ's mediation, who voluntarily suffered for your sins, offering himself a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savo or. “God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
This wonderful instance of divine mercy is pertinently urged on Christians as a motive to mutual for. giveness. God abundantly pardons : Even where sin abounds, his grace much more abounds. He proposes forgiveness to all sinners without distinction, and on the same gracious terms. He forgives great sins as well as small, and repeated transgressions as freely as the first. He renews the tenders of his mercy after multiplied rejections, and waits to be gracious. He forgives without compensation for injuries done him : He requires only that humiliation and penitence of soul, which are necessary preparatives for this gracious pardon. He forgives though he needs nothing from us, and our righteousness cannot be gain to him. He makes the first advances to a reconciliation. He calls us to repentance, and even strives with us, that we may be persuaded to turn and live. He has redeemed us at a great price, even by the blood of his own Son, whom