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he will lodge the black scandal in a mind prepared to receive it; and seek a union of spirit with such persons, in the bond of illwill. Nor is the sly assassin wanting in attention to TIME; but watches and improves the opportunity, when any circumstance occurs to give the appearance of probability to the insinuation. The manner of conveying the lie, bears the same character of artifice, by demanding of the person to whom it is related, the closest secrecy, with the assurance that it has never been mentioned to any other person; that they are tenderly concerned for the person they injure; and would not mention it even now, if they thought it would ever go any farther. Should, however, the slanderer suspect that his secret will come out, he will feel his ground, and deal in broad hints and intimations of what he could reveal, if he were so disposed.
But the perfection of this black art, consists in retaining the appearances and professions of friendship or good-will to a person's face, at the very time they are "shooting at him in secret" the envenomed arrows of slander.
The criminality of slander is singularly aggravating. It is falsehood, deceit, and lying. It is injustice of the worst kind. It is contrary to love, to truth and friendship. It is hatred itself: for what can prove hatred, if slander does not ?--"A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it."
The skulking slanderer bears false witness against his neighbour. He is worse than a highwayman, who robs you of money, which may be restored, or the loss repaired; but the slanderer steals your good name, which is rather to be chosen than riches;" and your friends, your peace, your usefulness, which are " rather to be chosen than silver and gold!"
The causes of secret calumny mark its criminality. The first is envy, which looks with a malignant eye on any person whose misfortune it is to be praised as handsome, sensible, or well-educated; as prosperous, popular, prudent, or possessed of distinguished gifts; and sickening at the mention of any excellence in another, in which the slanderer may be supposed inferior, he endeavours to cloud it by some detraction.
Fear of being justly exposed by the faithfulness of any person, will induce the little mind of the whisperers to slander the motives and character of the person whose fidelity they dread. Slander is their shield.
Covetousness slanders the minister from whom it withholds due support, as a justification of its selfishness; and belies the tradesman whose fair dealing and numerous customers it cannot imitate.
Jealousy backbites its rival. The guilty defames the honest soul, from which it dreads detection; and prejudice blackens the good actions of those it wishes to degrade.
It is sometimes seen, that a man or woman will secretly slander the person with whom they have been in habits of friendship for
twenty years. Why? Because he has reproved them-their pride is strong-they are afraid openly to resent it, and conceal the true motive by assigning a false one.
The sin of hypocrisy is an ingredient in this "deadly poison," for the most fatal slanders are told under the cloke of friendship! Thus one near relation, a member of the same church or congregation, will "speak against their own brother, and slander their own mother's son." The secret slanderer is a cowardly assassin, who pierces you in the dark, and does the mischief before you know it was intended. "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword," Prov. xii. 18. The whisperer's tongue is that sword. How harmless was Shimei's conduct, who openly railed at David, cursing him as he passed along, compared with that which "PRIVILY slanders a neighbour !" One of the names of that being who slanders God to man, man to God, and one man to another, is Diabolus-A SLANDERER. The sin therefore is diabolical, and a disposition to indulge it characterises "the children of the wicked one.”`
This sin excludes a person from the heavenly kingdom. It is classed with the foulest crimes. 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10; Rev. xxi. 27. "Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God."
"Not the malicious or profane,
The sensual or the proud,
Nor thieves nor SLANDERERS shall obtain
The kingdom of our God."
ON THE MORAL EXCELLENCES OF THE YOUTHFUL
MORAL excellence is peculiar to rational beings, and is distinguishable from excellences merely intellectual and corporal. A person with an enlarged understanding, a strong memory, and a handsome face, if destitute of good qualities of the heart and life, becomes the more odious to God, and dangerous to society. Should he aim at merely external conformity to the moral law, he is but an hypocrite.
God is the great original and standard of moral excellence, or holiness, which is the combination of all moral excellence; and Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God." In him was no sin—he was holy." He" loved righteousness and hated ini
quity." By the miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit, he was born without sin; as the Angel, addressing Mary, called him-" That HOLY offspring which shall be born of thee." His childhood was marked by filial subjection to his parents, and ardent devotion to God. At twelve years of age, he enquired in the Temple," which he called "his Father's house," in such a manner, as "to astonish all that heard him, with his understanding and his answers." The Evangelist says "The child grew and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom."
This lovely child was inquisitive after, and diligent in the pursuit of divine knowledge. His first visit to the temple, exhibited him sitting at the feet of the public teachers, thirsting for divine instruction, attentively hearing them; and, with teachableness of spirit, "asking them questions."
Such love to God, to his house and ordinances-such diligent inquiries in a spirit becoming his years, accompanied with such filial respect and obedience, render this "child, to us given," worthy the name of "the wonderful." Nay, the children which attend the House of God, learn at once to admire and imitate him.
From twelve to thirty years of age, he lived a private character. "As he increased in stature, he advanced in wisdom, and in favour with God and man."-Luke ii. 40. This implies, that in his private life, his temper and behaviour were such as engaged the affection of those who best knew him; and that he enjoyed repeated tokens of the divine favour.
The reputed father of Jesus was a carpenter, and it is very probable that Jesus learned the trade, and laboured with him, "obtaining his bread by the sweat of his brow." The Jews had a maxim, that he who did not teach his son some useful trade, it was the same as teaching him to be a thief. Even some of their great doctors were mechanics. And considering the poverty of Joseph, the reproach attached to an idle youth, the growing reputation of Jesus in his youth, and his being called by his enemies the carpenter's son, and the carpenter; we may presume that he followed that employment with honest industry.
Temperance and moderation, submission and contentment, cherished by the highest enjoyments and devotional exercises, were sufficiently apparent to ensure the esteem of those who had an opportunity of knowing his real character." He grew in favour with man." He accommodated himself to the humble and private station in which God had placed him, fulfilling its offices with integrity and diligence, till "he began to be about thirty years of age." Born in a fallen world, and surrounded by the worst of examples, he was "undefiled and separate from sinners."
How can we account for this pre-eminence of character? Why was he, in this respect, "fairer than the children of men?"
Two causes are assigned for this distinction from "all who have
sinned and come short of the glory of God." The first is his miraculous birth of a virgin, by the overshadowing and power of the Holy Ghost;" which secured him from defilement and sin.
The second cause, the Prophet and Evangelist record, is the continued influences of the Holy Spirit. The Prophet says "The spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, to make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord." The Evangelist, marking his singular progress in intellectual and moral excellence, says The grace of God was upon him.”
"From a child he knew the Holy Scriptures ;" and under the innocent infirmities of human nature, the labours and discomforts of poverty, by reading, meditation and prayer, accompanied by the influences of divine grace, he became "strong in spirit and was filled with wisdom." Blessed Jesus!“ Many in childhood, youth, and maturer age, have done virtuously; but thou excellest them all." Some are lovely in a few things-others in many; but thou in "the beauties of holiness, art altogether lovely!"
With that perfection of character, and those extraordinary talents for which Jesus Christ was distinguished, he never forced himself into any public office. When he was about thirty years of age, he was directed from Galilee to Jordan, to request John to baptize him. Conscious of his superior dignity, the Baptist at first hesitated, but his objection was removed, and Jesus was baptized; and he was marked out by three extraordinary tokens of divine approbation. The heavens opened, the spirit descended upon him with a visible representation in the form of a dove, gradually hovering over, until it rested upon him. His heavenly Father's voice was distinctly heard, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." From this period he sustained a public character, which was immediately tried by painful temptations, and supported by the exercise of those principles which formed a rich assemblage of moral excellences. The first which was eminently apparent, and by which he quenched "the fiery darts of the devil," was faith in the Word of God.
THE AGENCY OF SATAN, AS REFERRED TO IN THE BOOK OF JOB.
THIS part of the book of Job, which relates to the agency of Satan, has been considered by some men of eminence for theological learning, as a literal history; and by others of equal eminence, as a piece of allegorical scenery, under which are veiled the most interesting instruction; or a paraborical representation of the divine Providence.
The imagery is natural, and the whole contains a representation of those sentiments, passions, arguments, and manners, which might in such a situation be expected from the different speakers.
The reasons for preferring the parabolical to the literal sense, which have been thought conclusive, are:
1. The apparent inconsistency of such a formal order, or permission, of that evil genius to do mischief, with the divine glory.
2. That Satan should be admitted into the divine presence, to request the gratification of his cruel malice.
3. It is the less probable that an appointed time, a certain day, should have been appointed for such a strange meeting.
4. Add to which, the condition of fallen angels.-2 Pet. ii., 4. God spared them not, cast them down into hell, reserves them in chains of darkness, unto judgment. Neither is there place found for them any more in heaven.-Rev. xii., 7-9.
This manner of conveying truth attracts by the pleasure it affords ; strikes the mind more forcibly-is more easily understood, and better retained, than abstract sentiments. Witness the story of the good Samaritan, and the affecting parable of Dives and Lazarus
Having marked the rule of interpretation, we may offer a few remarks, explanatory of the different agents which take a part in the afflictive dispensation.
The first is Job--an illustrious character for godliness, and every moral excellence. He obtained from his Maker the honourable testimony, that "he feared God and hated evil;" and, that" there was none like him in the earth."
The united testimony of the Prophet Ezekiel, and the Apostle James, proves that he was a real person, and not an imaginary character.-Ezk. xiv., 14; Jam. v., 14,
The "sons of God presenting themselves before him," may be the professed worshippers of the true God.-Gen. vi., 2.
Such, in Seth's time, are mentioned as assembling to call on
the name of the Lord.-Gen. iv. 26.
These sons of God, some of whom were sons by ade