« ForrigeFortsæt »
ON THE OBSERVANCE OF THE NINTH
we were not to be guided solely by the
exact limitations of a fixed rule, but by its (BY JOHN PHILIP WILSON.)
intention, and our own moral sense of duty.
Having premised thus far, I cannot com“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy mence my present theme better than by neighbour."
quoting a small portion of the general
epistle of St. James, chap. iii. “ If any Ir will be acknowledged without scruple, man offend not in word, the same is a that, to perform our duties in a becoming perfect man, and able also to bridle the manner, we must view scripture precepts whole body. · The tongue is a little in the broadest and most comprehensive member, and boasteth great things. Be. light possible, for, although the most essen- hold how great a matter a little fire kindleth! tial rules of conduct, both in the law and And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: gospel, are remarkable for brevity, yet they so is the tongue among our members, that are aphoristical, and their principles and it defileth the whole body, and setteth on provisions extend much further, and com- fire the course of nature ; and it is set on prise more, than could be expressed by the fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and most prolix verbosity. If, therefore, we of birds, and of serpents, and of things in are merely careful not to infringe the abso- the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of lute and express prohibition of any esta- mankind : but the tongue can no man blished law,—thinking thereby to avoid the tame, it is an unruly evil, full of deadly penalties attached to a non-observance,- poison. Therewith bless we God, even but yet do not hesitate to perform acts the Father ; and therewith curse we men, which bear a similarity or analogy to the which are made after the similitude of God. forbidden one, and which may probably in Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing effect be the same, though, strictly speak- and cursing. My brethren, these things ing, not within the pale of the cominand. ought not so to be.
Who is a ment, we do not perform our duty either wise man, and endued with knowledge as christians or as citizens. Let it be among you ? let him show out of a good remembered, that our duty does not only conversation, his works with meekness of consist in a mere abstinence from gross wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying error, or a ceremonial obse vance of out- and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie ward form, but in moral obedience. not against the truth,” &c.
The conclusion naturally following the The chapter from which the preceding foregoing premises, as applicable to the passages are selected, is particularly worthy present subject, is, that the ninth com- a most careful perusal and study, inculcatmandment extends, not alone to mere per- ing as it does a grand and important lesson. jury, (although that be the main feature It shews us the difficulty, but points out of its detail,) but also to calumny, evil the necessity, of guiding our speech as well speaking, false assertions, and other habits as our actions. “ The tongue is a little as prevalent as they are pernicious,-a po- member," but withal may inflict wounds sition established under the authority of more deadly than the sharpest arrow, the gospel and the epistolary precepts of though tipped with the poisonous upas. the apostles. Before, however, proceeding One slight motion may create throes of farther, I will observe, that the purity of agony in an undeserving bosom, which no the Mosaic law had become soiled and consolation can assuage-one word, one encrusted, previously to the coming of our little sound, may banish from a heart some Saviour, by superstitious riles and sense- fondly cherished jewel, some well-loved less restrictions, arising from a false view object, causing a chasm which thousands of the letter, which were observed from of words cannot again fill-a loss which miltradition and habit, but were foreign to its lions cannot recompense. One fleeting breath spirit and original intention. These the may taint a thing erst beautiful and bright, hand of the Messiah pared away, and in may dry up a source whence long flowed a their stead substituted a more extended stream of felicity full and unbroken. moral observance of the law of God. He But let us not look only at the gloomy cast the refulgent and unshadowed light of side.“ The tongue is a little member," truth upon the system of good and evil. but its power is as availing in a good as in He caused virtue to stand forth divested of
a bad cause. Words may breathe consothe extraneous matter with which bigotry, lation to a bereaved spirit; words may superstition, or false philosophy, had de accommodate dissension and strife—may formed her; and He made clearly manifest, impart happiness. By words we may disthat, in all dealings with our fellow-men, sipate the mists of error, and substitute the 20. SERIES, NO. 20.
sunshine of truth-by words we may pre- sin may cast the first stone. With this vent crime--by words, prompted by feel. restriction, methinks we should have fewer ing, we petition the God of all; and glorify self-constituted public censors. the Ancient of days.
By comparison of the Mosaic law with On the government of speech, therefore, the Gospel, bearing in mind the moral exby reason and sense of duty, or by impru- tension of the former by the latter, we shall dence and malignity, depends the use to find that, by an easy and natural transition, which it is applied, and the effects which christian duty embraces, not merely the it will produce ; for it would be idle to limits expressed by the wording of this suppose, that words ought not to be commandment, but, as before observed, all governed as well as actions, when they are that evil-speaking which we comprehend equally capable of producing good or bad by the words obloquy, calumny, and consequences. Speech is one of the grandest scandal. Little, perhaps, do some of those faculties of man, and therefore ought to be persons imagine, who, for the gratification the last put to wicked uses : few are, how- of a base and mean-souled propensity, ever, more abused. Some talk is idle, indulge in this practice, which has been useless, and uninstructive, and, from the made the subject of ridicule, of serious want of guiding intellect, may be compared censure, and of satire, that they are actually to any continued sound made articulate by infringing a solemn command of the Most mechanical means. The subject matter of High, ratified by the special and solemn other, is disgraceful, false, and malignant, injunctions of the Redeemer. The vice of which last it is my present object to discuss. scandal has been particularly attributed to
The importance and obligation of a strict the female sex, and perhaps correctly, not observance of the leading feature of the from the construction of the female mind, ninth commandment, expressed by the but from the influences of female education, words“ false witness,” is sufficiently evi- which, not being conducted on such endent to be indispensable as a rule of con- larged principles as that of the male, natuduct, when we consider that the proper rally reduces the mind to a lower scale, and equitable administration of justice must and confines the objects of its contemnecessarily in a great measure depend upon plation to more petty matters. But, altotrue testimony: false evidence must, there- gether waiving disquisition on this point, fore, as an inevitable consequence, defeat I shall consider the principle of the act or neutralize the ends of justice. This part alone, without reference to those who are its of the subject being so clear, I shall not actors. pursue it further, but at once proceed to It is a dark spot on the character of ihose conclusions which may not be quite man, particularly the lower classes, that he so apparent.
seems to dwell with more eagerness in his The psalmist says, “ the tongue is the conversation upon misfortune and vice, pen of a ready writer.". Let us reverse the pain and misery, than upon happiness apophthegm, and say, that the pen may be and virtue ; and to disseminate with greater as an hundred tongues to a mischievous eagerness, intelligence of the former than talker, and the commandment equally the latter. This is exemplified not only in infringed by writing as by words. The his conversation, but in his habits. Now means which the pen affords for dissemi- we cannot arise from a perusal of the nating lies and misrepresentation, is diur. Gospel, or a careful consideration of our nally illustrated by the abuse of the press, social duties, without being impressed with the disreputable portion of which teems a sense of the necessity of endeavouring to day by day, week by week, and month by root out and erase from our nature this month, with injurious scandal against both unamiable trait. The pages of the New public and private character; and so far has Testament teem with exhortations to charity the vitiated taste for this unwholesome food and brotherly love; and how at variance increased, that hundreds support themselves with that beautiful principle must be the and families by pandering to it. But it feeling which would prompt us to speak to has been urged, forsooth, that this is neces- the injury of our fellow-sojourners in morsary for the spiritual well-being of the com. tality. All men, be they rich or poor, munity, and that these men are the guar- humble or exalted, wise or foolish, brave dians of the public morals ! Ay, indeed ? or timid, good or bad, are placed here with But so be it. Let these persons assume one grand view—all have allotted duties to the task, but, let them first see that they fulfil, apportioned by their Creator, all are are free from those faults with which they in a state of probation, all are fellow-parcharge others,- let them examine them- takers of the joys and ills of existence, all selves closely, and then he who is without hold life as a frail tenure dependent on the will of the Giver, and all are equally of a wife—the profligacy of a son-are objects of the Almighty care and regard. remorselessly dragged from obscurity, the Jesus hailed those who performed their decent veil of oblivion torn from them, and duties as brothers, without distinction of they are then cast in the teeth of a political age, class, or adventitious qualifications; adversary, with a cruelty and taunting acri
For whosoever shall do the will of God, mony at once unchivalrous and ungentlethe same is my brother, and my sister, and manlike. my mother,” Mark iii. 35.
With such public examples, it is not It is clear that the detestable vice of surprising that scandal finds its way into the lying is pointed at directly in the present quieter walks of domestic life, where con. commandment. We find in Exod. xxiii. 1. versation on the affairs of our neighbours “ Thou shalt not raise a false report : put and acquaintance seems to be far more not not thine hand with the wicked to be interesting than a proper attention to home an unrighteous witness :" also in Lev.xix. 11. concerns, We have a wonderfully acute “ Neither lie one to another.” In the New vision in discovering the smallest mote in Testament we find corresponding texts, such the eye of our neighbour, but fail in obas, “Speak every man truth with his neigh- serving the huge beam which deforms our bour, for we are members one of another," own, and is the mark of censure, or the Ephes. iv. 25. In speaking of lying, let it laughing-stock of those on whose defects be borne in mind, that the term compre- we have been so peevislily or satirically hends more than an actual falsehood, animadverting. How supereminently ridiboldly and absolutely asserted. A lie may culous to conceive, that whilst we are so be expressed passively, by a look, a wink, liberal of remarks upon others, our own a shrug, or the truth so told as to express a conduct escapes their scrutiny! and yet at meaning different from the real one. In the very moment that we are passing striceither case, the criminality is the same, from tures, disseminating lies or scandal, or inthe object being the same, though there dulging in remarks upon the frailty of may be a trifling variation in the means others, we should be highly indignant, were employed. The intent with which a false- we informed that precisely the same conhood is framed is generally bad, and, even duct had been pursued towards ourselves if it be not so, the means used for the in our absence ! Oh! for the consummate accomplishment of a good purpose ought folly of man--the incongruities, the strange not to be contrary to moral law.
anomalies, of his nature ! No further demonstration is required of Universal philanthropy is, perhaps, the the wickedness of evil speaking, than that noblest and most magnificent sentiment it must originate in evil feelings—in envy, that can exalt a mortal breast. It is a pahatred, or malice. Many political speakers triotism bounded only by the limits of the and writers, violent party men, when they globe, and the number of habitants, a have exhausted their store of arguments feeling which swells the soul beyond the against the public conduct and measures ordinary attributes of humanity, and excites of their opponents, or when they do not it to efforts which, if not splendid and imfeel their own faction strong or popular, posing from outward show—to schemes proceed to anatomize their private charac. which, even if hopeless and utopian-are ters, and hold up any blot or imperfection intrinsically beautiful from principle. How which they may discover, to public view, antipodal with so sublime and expanded a with an invidious exultation, disgraceful to feeling is the petty malignity which prompts themselves, and the cause they are defend. men to use one of the blessings of God to ing. Such conduct is in the worst possible the injury, perhaps destruction, of our feltaste, to say nothing of its moral impro- low-creatures – how inconsistent with the priety, and completely unjustifiable, unless, spirit of charity is the wish or the attempt indeed, such private blots or imperfections to work an injury to another, be it in person, can be proved to have influence, either purse, or same, even though in retaliation actually or presumptively, over public for damage done to ourselves. Most per
But political calumny is not sons wish to be thought great-minded, yet confined within such a limit, for some men, what can be more indicative of a narrow in the rancour of faction's spirit, scruple and cowardly soul, than the common habit not to set on foot reports, which have no of calumniating and reviling our neighbour foundation in truth, to the prejudice of an in his absence : petty in its own nature, it adversary; and, even at the best, family takes its rise from a source equally conoccurrences, which perhaps rather deserve temptible-envy-which can be the origin the name of misfortune than of crime- of nothing but what is base and lowyouthful and long past errors—the infidelity minded.
That it is wicked both in the estimation who cannot be implicitly confided in, and of God and man, to promulgate a base for whom a decidedly favourable opinion and deliberate lie to the prejudice of any cannot be entertained. Hence, friendships one, it of course needs no logic to prove; should be cautiously and judiciously but even to disseminate with malicious joy, formed, and, when once formed, mainreports, though founded on truth, when the tained with a firmness becoming the im. intent and object is to ruin a fellow-crea- portant nature of the compact. ture, and consign him by obloquy to the As no man's feelings ought to be tamscorn, hatred, and reproach of society, pered with, it is amazing to see with what proves a man either not to understand, or rapidity friendships are often formed, and completely to disregard, the doctrines of how suddenly they are broken off! Those Christianity. However, (as some qualifica- who can so slightly esteem the obligations tion may be considered necessary to the of friendship, ought to be watched with foregoing sentiment,) when the calls of jealousy; for to-day they may appear justice are to be satisfied, or when our true warm in their professions of regard, and object is the prevention of sin, it becomes to-morrow they may be wholly estranged. a duty to state all we know, without reser- With the fickle-minded and the designing, vation and without addition, of the evil it is equally dangerous to have any condoings of another ; but let it be remem- nexion. No favours can hind the latter; bered, that God looks at the intent of a they are always plotting and scheming to deed, and when our object is merely to betray and ruin those to whom they preslake the thirst of revenge, the attainment tend to be attached ; and the former, whatof some sinister view, or the gratification of ever degree of kindness they may imagine the splenetic feelings arising from envy themselves to feel for others, are either too and hatred, that the act is unjustifiable in weak, or too fond of novelties, to remain His all-just and all-wise estimation. Let long in the same mind, and are, therefore, us also bear in mind, that as we are in the not persons who can be safely trusted. same measure answerable for the effects of
Hasty attachments are frequently fol. our speech as our deeds, it behoves us to lowed by bitter repentance; for it seldom, guide it with equal caution to any other if ever, happens that they are of long voluntary motion for which we feel ourselves duration. Formed without consideration responsible.
and discerninent, their shallowness will To perform our duties according to soon appear, and cause the unfortunate evangelical principles, we must not only party to deplore the effects of a misplaced abstain from lies and perjury, but from confidence. A friend, with whom an un“all uncharitableness." It is not suffi- reserved interchange of sentiment may take cient that we refrain from forswearing our- place without fear of betrayal, is so rarely selves, but also from sayings or writings to be met with ; and the proper selection which may create discord or unhappiness. of one is so difficult, and withal so necesThe pleasure or gratification arising from sary to our credit and happiness-that, such a practice can only exist in a black rather than select without discrimination, and vitiated mind; and the principle is so we had better live without an intimate, and entirely bad, that it is certain, those who bury our secrets in our own bosoms. derive pleasure from such a source, are far, We cannot look around us in the world very far, from being good Christians or good without viewing multitudes associating with citizens.
their respective friends, with whom they have familiar intercourse ; but of these, how few are to be depended on in the
time of need! Then, indeed, their appaFRIENDSHIP, when it springs from right rent regard degenerates into cold indifferprinciples, and is directed to proper objects, ence, if not avowed contempt. Conscience is one of the greatest of sublunary blessings. is abused, promises are broken, and the The term friend is, indeed, often made to loudest notes of praise and admiration are bear a loose and unmeaning signification, changed into the murmurs of disaffection, hy being too indiscriminately applied; but and the evil surmises of a vindictive spirit. friendship, in its true and legitimate Surely a lamentable want of firmness of acceptation, is an affection of the heart, principle, and of every thing amiable and and a reciprocal feeling of good-will enter. excellent, exists, where a man can thus act tained by different parties for each other. a base and double part; and yet daily There should be no wavering, no vague- experience teaches, that no ordinary degree ness, no perfidy between professed friends. of prudence is wanted, to enable men to No person is worthy the name of friend guard against the wiles of the underminer,
AN ESSAY ON FRIENDSHIP.
the schemes of the selfish, or the faithless- with high expectations, form friendships ness of the giddy, and that a friend should without consideration, and, entertaining be chosen with the most anxious care, and loftier notions of their confidants than can be gradually confided in, as he may seem be realized, communicate their sentiments, to merit confidence.
and disclose their thoughts, with an unreBut whilst connexions are cautiously servedness bordering on indiscretion, inasformed, we should especially beware not much as, for the most part, no trial is to entertain too high notic of the perfec- made, no test applied, to prove the sincetions of friendship. We are all naturally rity of those in whom they confide, but fallacious and fallible creatures. Hence, every representation readily assented to, the absurdity of any one conceiving higher and every declaration of regard blindly notions of the perfections of human na- credited. The consequence is, that the ture than human nature can attain. The information necessary to be collected predepravity, which we may, on a narrow viously to the formation of an attachment and impartial inspection, find in ourselves, is often obtained by dear-bought expewe may conclude, is inherent in the breast rience, and not until their confidence is of every one in a greater or less degree. abused, and their reputation traduced, by Absurd, therefore, to look for perfect hap- worthless and mischievous characters. And piness on earth, or to expect from a friend even were youth to meet with a sincere faultless demeanour towards us, and unde- well-wisher, their too sanguine minds would viating and unceasing endeavours to admi- lead them to expect greater things from him nister to our gratification and delight. than could be reasonably looked for from A far wiser course is that which leads well- any mortal, and vexation and disagreement designing men, who hope to enjoy the would consequently follow without just pleasures of friendship, to judge of their cause, purely because of the incompetency chosen companions by themselves, and not of the human mind to sustain the exalted to expect that superhuman elevation of notions of friendship, conceived by fiction, sentiment, and that singleness of heart and and imbodied in pernicious books. purpose, which belong not to human In consequence of a too great precipinature. The nature and degree of the tancy in forming connexions, and a culpahappiness to be derived from friendship ble indifference as to the qualities of will thus be correctly ascertained, and the friends, we often view, in taking a survey vain phantoms of the imagination, which around us, breaches of friendship occurlead men to dream of ideal and indefinable ring, and an implacable animosity excited, pleasures, will be speedily dissipated. by malevolence on the one hand, and
The cause of much uneasiness will be wounded feelings on the other. Sudden removed by a proper regulation of our
intimacies forbode sudden alienations; and thoughts, and by our looking for nothing that animosity is the most obdurate, which more from a fellow-creature than what a succeeds an ill-requited attachment. The fellow.creature can perform-acts well- idea that injuries have been sustained, is a intended, though liable to error; and offices strong inducement, in too many minds, to of kindness sincere, though by no means have recourse to measures of retaliation; perfect. The tempers and dispositions of and that reconciliation of the parties at all will needs show themselves at times, issue, which was at first doubtful, soon becurbed though they be, and in the main comes hopeless. As a preventive to such held under a proper degree of restraint. distressing results, in which the worst pasThis observation holds good with men sions of human nature are elicited, a timely united in the bonds of friendship, as well
recollection that the sincerest attachments as in all the relations of life; and it follows, cannot be free from imperfections, would that the more our judgments break from be of essential service. the trammels of fancy, and become enlight- From the state of our own minds, and ened by dispassionate reflection, the greater our experience of the ruggedness of the happiness we shall experience from social road of human life, we may infer that the intercourse with our friends, and the less feelings of friendship cannot be always danger we shall be in of encountering mor- equally glowing. Enough that they are tification and disappointment.
cherished and improved ; and those who In all the stages of human life, men may are the most successful in the cultivation have to lament the uncertainty of earthly and enjoyment of them are ever ready to attachments ; but the young are peculiarly make allowances for human infirmities, apt to be deceived in the selection of and bent upon securing the great objects of friends. Wholly inexperienced in the friendship without being annoyed by minor affairs of the world, they set out in life obstacles. Those are undoubtedly the best