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ly meant the church in this world. The tabernacle was bailt for the worship of God in the wilderness, and continued the residence of the divine glory till the erection of the temple, therefore it here evidently intends the church militant. By holy hill is meant the holy hill of Zion, which was emblemati. cal of the celestial state, or the church triumphant in leaven, Hence the question divested of its figures is this, " What is the character of the person who is a true member of thy church on earth, and who is he that shall be admitted to dwell with thee in the regions of felicity forever?" To which the Most High, vouchsafes to give the following reply. First, “ He that walketh uprightly.” He who refpeéts and loves and conscienciously endeavours to walk in all the commandments. Secondly, “And worketh righteousness.” He employs himself in those acts of duty, faithfulness and justice which he ought to perform to God, himself, and his neighbour. Thirdly, " And speaketh the truth in his heart." He avoids lying lips, bis words pronounce his intention, express his purpose and agree to his thoughts and judgment. Then our text is introduced as a further description of the good man. “ He that backbiteth “not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour, nor ta“ keth up a reproach against his neighbour.” He is not one who flanders his neighbour, or takes the advantage of his ab. sence to vilify or depreciate his character ; he wilfully injures him not in name, person or property ; he does not easily take up tales of reproach, or propagate them to his neighbours hurt.
Whosoever fancys himself to be religious and his heart and life is not in a habitual measure conformed to this description, let him fear, tremble, repent and reform, left he should not be fit to enter into the tabernacle of God on earth, and be ex. cluded from the glorious privilege of becoming a citizen of the heavenly hill of Zion. That which commands our attention at present is the evil and danger of a backbiting tongue. This is not an evil peculiarly incident to the openly ungodly; but many who are striet in their morals, many profcffors of chrittianity, and fome who make a high profellion of an experimental acquaintance with religion, stand in exceeding need of instruction, correction and reproof upon this head. One branch of the character of him who is intitled to heaven is, that he backbiteth not with his tongue. Confider, this is only a part of the description of an holy person. Perhaps some may be free from this vice, yet allow themselves in others which must ex. clude them from the celestial bliss. But it is abfolutely certain, all who prevailingly indulge themselves in this iniquity, whatever their profession may be, or however orderly, regu. lar and circumspect in other respects, they will never enter into the holy hill of Zion. The adjudication and censure may seem fevere, but it is not mine, but God's. Some will be ready here to exclaim, if this be true, who then can be saved ? The scriptures teach us that few are saved. The number of faints is comparatively small; and charity must have a broad mantle, and cover a multitude of infirmities and lins, even to . collect these few. We must hope favourably of many, who tranfgress in this matter, that it happens in the hurry of conversation, their inattention, and not from wilsul and malignant delign. De-ent christians will not commonly curfe or swear, yet it is hardly known or considered by them as an evil to backbite a neighbour. If a professor of religion, or even a man of common reputation was to steal his neighbour's goods, we would be surprised and shocked; but we stand by and hear him destroy his neighbour's character and good name, and a feeling of disapprobation hardly arises in our hearts. The old adage is, a common vice is commonly overlooked. He who fleals my money takes only trash, but he that robs me of my good name is an assassin and stabs me to the heart.
Wherefore to be explicit and plain upon this subject, for our instruction and reformation, I shall endeavour to lay before you
First, when we may lawfully speak of the faults of our neighbours in their absence without being guilty of the fin of backbiting.
Secondly, explain to you wherein backbiting confifts.
Thirdly, attempt to exhibit to view the evil and danger of this fin. As to the
First, it will be a delineation of what is not backbiting, It may be a duty to speak of the faults of others in many infiance's behind their backs. To tell to his brother various evils in love and christi.in privacy in hopes of convincing him of his wrong; there is nothing of evil in this, but a hope of convin cing him of his error or mistake, and bringing him to friend. Thip and reconciliation. ' If after private conferrence, and the difference is not adjusted, we take two or three friendly and christian neighbours to settle the difficulty, and the matter be related tu them; all this can never be termed backbiting. We may lay the faults of a neighbour before the church or the civil magistrate, and retail all we have to say behind his back, which we are afterwards to prove, and this can never be construed as flander cr backbiting. When it is useful to the preleivation of anothers property, when we fee friends enticed into the company of kraves and villains, by whom they may be ruined, it is our duty to late to them the characters of those by whom they may be ensnared, and to warn them against the dangerous connection. When we know of a combination against others, or conspiracy against good government, to refrain from ducovery of private or public injury, tho’ behind the backs of the defigners, would not only be wrong but it gros iniquity. It would be an o-fence against reason, again fociety, against God and man; and he who charges himself with the concealment, becomes a culprit equal with the principal.
Moreover ween by unreasonable fell jultiicalion, wrong is
thrown upon the innocent, and the innocent is compelled to re. crimination, he stands acquitted and vindicated at the bar of reason and of God.
Further, when the notorious iniquity of any individual, hath erected such a beacon of warning, that his crimes cannot be hid, has forfeted all reputation, and his conduct transcends the rules of concealment, duty to our families and others is not to liide fuch a character. Duty in this case is to give warning to others to avoid the abominable example.
Moreover, when called to give a narrative of public facts, fallen under our own observation, such as rebellion, blasphemy, murder, perjury, cruelty, &c. and to give in the names of offending absentees, this is right and duty. Alas, how many blaze forth the failings of others without occasion, and intrude themselves into the office of backbiters, to their own detri. ment and the exceeding unhappiness of society.
Secondly, I am to explain wherein this evil of backbiting confifts.
First, if persons spread abroad the faults of their neighbours, when they ought previously to have mentioned them to them. felves; and proceeded according to the rules of reason and the gospel, for reclaiming a brother. In violation of friendship, neighbourhood and christianity, how many, and that religionifts too, will tell a fault real or supposed, to almost every body, and never mention it to the person himself? This is destroy ing a neil gbour, wounding his fame, and backbiting with the keenest severity.
Secondly, when persons speak of the failing of others in in their absence, with apparent plcasure and delight, conceal I!eir good qualities and dweil upon and magnify their evil
ones. It is very common to profess forrow for hearing of the misconduct of others, while pleasure is exhibited in retailing the unhappy fory. Let the report be true or otherwise, the retail is generally grofs backbiting. The reporting the evil has no tendency to amend, but to injure the character and spread the evil of his name. Were it not for the larent expectation of this kind, to render the person more contemptible and odious, they would be entirely filenti
Thirdly, when persons, to spend a vacant hour, and to entertain their company, fill up the time with impertinently converfing of the faults and infirmities of their neighbours. This is often done merely for the diversion and amusement of others, yet hereby they flain, if not itab, their neighbour's reputation. When such speeches flow from passion, envy, prejudice, faction, hatred, or to exalt themselves, it is certain, that is a backbiting tongue. And when the language expresses things devious from the truth, magnifying small failings as is frequently the case, concealing all that is worthy and good, and exhibiting only fome deformities, this has allo the fin of lying, slandering and reproaching annexed to it. It has been generally remarked, those who are much addicted to backbiting, rarely avoid lying. But here perhaps it will be asked, may we not speak evil of that which is evil, and state every thing as it truly is? It is readily granted, that we are not, under a mistaken notion of charity, to speak a known falsehood, terming a man's vices, virtues ; but we are to be very careful iespccling the speaking evil of others. When we are about to discover the faults of our neigbours, we ought to consider, whether we are duly called hereto, whether we are entering upon a duty which we owe to God or society. If consideration was practised, it would put a stop to much of the backbiting that is in the world. But fome will say, may we not tell such things which honest and religious persons report. This must not be done without sufficient evidence and