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D E F A MATION AND DIETR ACTION.
ADVISED, to watch against all tale-bearing and defaming friends or others, or evil-speaking tending thereunto; and to shut out all occasions of offences, contentions and divisions, and to put a speedy stop thereto, passing righteous judgment upon all who appear instruments of divisions and offences, contrary to that peaceable truth and gospel we profess to be guided by. Be kind and tender-hearted one to another, earnestly laboring for universal love, union, and peace in our religious society.
But when any hath received offence from another, let him first speak privately to the party offending, and endeavor reconciliation between themselves; and not whisper or aggravate matters against one another, behind their backs, to the making of parties, and the breach wider. 1692.
Let those just and ancient commands of God be observed, Levit. xix. 16, “Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people:” and Exodus xxiii. 1, “Thou shalt not raise a false report.” In the fear of the Lord stand against all whisperers, backbiters, tale-bearers, defamers, and slanderers, and against all whisperings, backbitings, tale-bearing, reproaching, and slandering; and put a speedy stop thereto, as much as in you lies; for such works of darkness and envy tend to division and discord, and the righteous law of God goes against both the authors, fomentors, receivers and encouragers thereof. 1695. Be careful to avoid all backbitings, whisperings, and tale-bearings; for “the words of a tale-bearer,” says the wise man, “are as wounds,” Prov. xviii. 8, tending to the defamation and lessening of the characters of one another. Be not, therefore, like those of whom the prophet complains, “Report, say they, and we will report it;” but when you hear a thing tending to the defamation of any, inquire of the reporter, whether he has acquainted the person affected thereby with such a report; if not, caution him to forbear spreading the same, lest the reputation of the innocent be injured thereby. Endeavor to put a speedy stop to all such wicked practices, and works of darkness, justly condemnable, not only in the authors, but in the encouragers thereof. “He that worketh deceit,” says the Royal Psalmist, “shall not dwell within my house; he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” Psal. ci. 5, 7. 1738. We remind you to stand upon your guard against all whispering, backbiting and detracting spirits, who busy themselves in spreading evil surmisings one of another, and to discourage every practice of that nature, observing the advice of the apostle, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.” Eph. iv. 31, 32. Always mindful of the precept of our Lord, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Matt. vii. 12, 1784. It is the advice of this meeting, that any person charged with defamation or scandal, ought to be proceeded against in the manner and by the several steps following. First, the person defamed, or supposed to be defamed, in his own person, or any other to whom the knowledge of the case shall come, is to go to the accused, and tell him his fault, or supposed fault, between them alone, and, by the best method he is capable of labor to convince him of it, in order to his acknowledgment of the truth, and to his repentance, if he appears to be guilty. But if the accused shall appear, either through ignorance not to apprehend the validity of the proof, or through wilfulness not to yield to it, or being convinced, shall refuse to make such satisfaction as the nature of the case requires; (that being the consequence of true repentance;) in such case let the accuser take with him one or two more of the monthly meeting the accused belongs to, if it may be conveniently done; and if the accused thinks fit, he may bring with him one or two friends also of the same monthly meeting, if it may be conveniently done ; and they, together, in the wisdom of God, to endeavor to obtain the true knowledge of the case, by hearing witmesses, if there be occasion. And if they all judge him guilty, and he doth not make satisfaction; or if they do not all agree that he is innocent; in either of these cases happening, the person charging is at liberty to bring the matter before the church, who are the only judges now remaining, both of the nature of the fact, and the validity of the proof of it; and they in the wisdom of God, which we hope will not be wanting to his church, as they humbly wait on him for it, to deal with him for the good ends before mentioned ; and, as they see cause, upon a mature and deliberate consideration, to justify or condemn him. And if the church shall see meet to commit the consideration of a case of this nature, for better dispatch, to certain persons of its own body, we recommend it as our tender advice, in case the accused shall object against one or more of the friends so chosen, that the church have a due regard to such objection, and set aside the person or persons so objected against, and substitute another or others in his or their room, provided such objection doth not extend to the major part of the friends so chosen; and in general, we desire all tenderness and regard may be had to a person under such circumstances; and that friends, in a spirit of love and condescention, should be ready to make him as easy as they can, provided they keep up the authority of their meetings. Nameless books, pamphlets, and papers, reflecting darkly on friends, are testified against; and it is desired that no such book, pamphlet or paper, be written, printed, published, or privately handed about, by any under our profession, for the time to come. 1718. If you hear a report of a friend, (to his disadvan
tage,) be careful not to report it again; but go to the person of whom the report is, and inquire if it be true; then deal with such person for it, according to the doctrine of Christ, Matt. xviii. 16, 17; but if false, then endeavor as much as in you lies, to stop such report: for, as Solomon says, “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Prov. xxii. 1. 1719. Whereas it may happen, that some friends may suffer much in their reputation and character, by a detracting spirit, which too much prevails among some bearing our name; who shelter themselves under a pretence that they say no more than they have heard from others, but will not discover who they are; wherefore, to prevent this evil of reporting and tale-bearing, it is agreed that such reporters or tale-bearers shall either discover their authors, or be dealt with, and testified against, as the authors thereof. 1744.