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sal distrust would, to yourselves and others, be universal misery; would unhinge every expectation, and every hope; would annihilate all the business of intelligent beings; would set them at variance with each other, and with God; and would make the Universe a solitude and a desert.
Remember, that every human concern is decided by testimony; that he, who weakens it, is an enemy to mankind, and makes havoc of human happiness. Realize, that, if by influence, or example, you destroy, or diminish, the confidence of men ; it you lessen the sense of the obligations to veracity; you will become pests of the Universe, and foes of every intelligent being, which it contains.
Call to mind, that by falsehood you will debase yourselves beyond measure ; cut off all your hopes of becoming virtuous; arm your consciences against your peace; and make yourselves objects of contempt, indignation, and abhorrence.
Recollect daily, that the first step, which you take in falsehood, is the commencement of this boundless evil; that the way to become an abandoned liar is to conceal truth; to equivocate; to evade ; to utter sportive falsehood; to rehearse marvellous stories; to recite the tales of private history; and to colour what you recite with hues, and stains, mixed by yourselves. In all these things you may feel at your ease ; may profess yourselves to be, and may often actually be, in sport. So is the madman, who scatters fire-brands, arrows, and death.
Remember, last of all, that the time, in which your lot is cast, is pre-eminently a time, in which the sense of truth is weokened, and the consciousness of moral obligation to a wonderful degree forgotten. In this day, falsehood has come forth to the public eye with her brazen front unveiled; her cheek without even a linge ; and her snaky tongue newly dipt in poison. Her professed enemies are changed into friends; her friends into worshippers. The whole world wonders after her. Afraid, no longer, of the contempt of society, or the brand of public justice, she enters familiarly into the study of the philosopher, the hall of deliberation, and the palace of power; and dictates instructions, laws, edicts, and manifestoes, to nations. In her train, parties, princes, and nations, are proud to be enrolled. How immense, then,
how unceasing, how universal, is the danger to you. Awake to that danger, and feel, that you are struggling for your all.
Above all things, commit yourselves to God in prayer. Ask him ; and he will make you watchful, wise, and steadfast in your duty. Ask him; and he will teach you to love, and enable you lo speak, truth only ; until you arrive at that glorious world, where truth only is spoken by its happy inhabitants, and where all its blessings are realized with increasing delight, throughout ages which know no end.
Exodus xx. 16.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
In the last discourse, but one, I proposed to consider Falsehood under the two Heads of
The former of these I have discussed at length. I shall now proceed to the consideration of the latter; and shall arrange my Observations under the following heads.
I. The Nature of Slander ;
1. Slander may be thus defined. It is that Conduct, which in. juriously lessens, or destroys, another's Reputation.
In most cases, Words are made the vehicle of Slander. It may, however, be accomplished without words. When we are reasonably expected to give a fair character of another, we may casily, and deeply, slander him by our Silence. We may also accomplish the same purpose by our Actions : as when we withhold our countenance from a man, who, in ordinary circumstances, might fairly expect to enjoy it; withdraw from him bu. siness, with which he has heretofore been entrusted; or turn him out of our service without alleging any reasons for our conduct. In these and the like cases, we give such proofs of suspecting him, ourselves, as to entail upon him, in greater or less degrees, the suspicion of others.
Slander is perpetrated sometimes with design, and sometimes through inattention. In the former case, it is perpetrated with an intention to destroy happiness: in the latter from indifference to it.
In the former case, it springs from malice: in the latter, from that sordid insensibility to the interests of others, which is little less censurable. It will be unnecessary to distinguish them
II. Slander is most frequently practised in the following Modes.
1. In direct and false Aspersions.
The Slanderer commences this malignant employment by indeni. ing, and fabricating, tales of falsehood concerning the person, who is either the object of his hatred, or the subject of his diversion. To the fabricator of these tales all the subsequent mischief, which arises from them, is supremely chargeable.
The second step is the rehearsing of such stories, after they have been told to us by others. In this step, we do not participate in all the guilt, which is attendant on the first. But both the guilt, and the mischief, are often greater. The spirit, with which we rehearse tales of slander, may be more malignant than that, which gave birth to them; and the consequences may be incomparably worse. The inventor may have been a thoughtless, ignorant, giddy-minded man; without consideration, and without character. We, on the contrary, may possess reputation, forecast, and a correct knowledge of human concerns; may comprehend the whole efficacy of the tale; may perceive its false. hood; and may enjoy a base pleasure in giving it the most effectual operation. Thus, although not chargeable with the guilt of fabricating falsehood, we may becomo much more criminal than the fabricator.
Whatever is our situation, we lend, in this case, our own weight to the story; and, in this manner, we sometimes do all, and not unfrequently most, of the mischief, of which the story becomes the instrument. The inventors of such tales are usually persons of no reputation; and, if reputable at first, they soon destroy their character by this very employment. Were they, then, disregarded, and their tales not repeated; both would sink at once into absolute contempt. But when persons of a fair character take up such stories, and soberly rehearse them; the falsehood acquires new strength, and spreads with a new and most unhappy influence. This base coin they have not, indeed, made ; but they have passed it; and given it a currency, which it could never have derived from the maker. Let no person, then, think himself at all justified in reciting a tale of slander by the very common indeed, but very wretched, excuse, dictated, and adopted, only by the coarsest and most vulgar morality; that they heard it from others. Guilt fastens on every traveller in this base and by-path, and at every step in his progress.
Some persons perpetrate this iniquity with designs directly malicious. Some, from a busy, meddling disposition, always unsatisfied, unless when interfering in the concerns of others : and some, from a wish to be thought extensively acquainted with private history. All these are characterized in the Scriptures by the significant names of busy-bodies, and tale-bearers; and are considered there, and every where else, as the disturbers and pests of society. They are characterized in the most disadvantageous manner, Levit. xix. 16. Thou shall not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people ; neither shall thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour. I am the Lord. And again, in Prov. xxvi. 20, &c. The words of a tale-bearer are as tounds. Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out. They are classed with the worst of mankind, 1 Pet. iv. 15. Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evil doer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
The character, given of them in the Scriptures, is the character, given of them by Common sense. In every age, and country, they have been objects of contempt and abhorrence. Prudent men have every where shunned them; and pointed them