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downright Reproach and Contumely; so that I think, in handling it, to consider properly our Saviour's Intent, we must do what we can to guard Men against all Expressions of the least Slight or Disrespect towards their Neighbour, as being the usual Beginnings of greater Strife, Quarrels, and even Murder itself.
To guard us then against all Disrespect and Slight, or even Incivility to our Neighbour, there are a few Things I would offer to your Concideration.
1. That this Slight and Disrespeɛt towards our Neighbour proceeds commonly from bad Causes; such as (1) a Pride and Haughtiness in ourselves; and a Conceitedness as to our own Opinions and Ways. (2) At least, a Want of due Consideration of our Neighbour's Cafe ; perhaps that which we are offended at in him is owing to the Uneafiness of his Circumstances; the Pains and Diseases of his Body; the Fatigue of Business; the Stiffness of his natural Temper; or some little Mistake or Oversight, such as are very incident to all Mankind. Or (3) it is owing to our own hasty and impatient Temper, which could not bear with the least Provocation or Contradiction.
2. Let us confider, that as all Disrespect to our Neighbour proceeds from bad Causes, so it is attended with very bad Confequents and Effects. There is no Man so dull, but that he can prefently apprehend every the least Disrespect put upon him ; for Self-love teacheth us all to have so good an Opinion of our felves, as to think that we deserve all manner of Respect. One of the first Consequences then of these lighting Difrespectful Words is, that it begins to alienate our
Neighbour's Affection from us, as Persons that are unjust to him, and take no Care to pay him the common Respects and Civilities due to him. This Alienation of Affection, when brooded upon by our warm and angry Refentments, produces all those Thoughts of Hatred, which are often attended with actual Revenges, by taking all Opportunities to wreck our Malice against those, who did thus flight and disrespect us.
3. Let us consider, that all night and disrespect towards our Neighbour, is exceeding inconsistent with the Laws of Christianity, which require a Spirit of Love, Charity, Humility, Meekness, and Patience ; that we should honour all Men ; that we should curb our Tongues, and govern our Passions ; that we should be courteous and condefcending, and become all Things to all Men, that by all means we may gain some. Christianity requires not only the having of those Duties, that we may use them now and then when there is occasion for them ; but it requires that we wear them continually about us; that they be our daily Garb; and that these Virtues appear in all our Actions. So St Peter advises, that we be cloathea with Humility, 1 Pet. v. 5. And St Paul, Let all your things be done with Charity, 1 Cor. xvi. 14.
4. Let us seriously consider the good Confequences of the contrary Virtue, I mean, true Love and Respect to our Neighbour, manifested by all Expreilions of Christian Friendship and Civility; how it smooths Mens Tempers, calms their Patsions, disposes them for receiving any good Impressions we would make upon them; how it contributes to keep up Peace and good Neighbourhood, and a Spirit of Love and Friendíhip a
mong Men ; than which, there is nothing more necessary towards the Happiness of the World.
And as we are thus to treat our Neighbour with all Love and Respect to his Face; for the very fame Reasons we are to take care to use the same Respect to him behind his Back; for Backbiting has a great Tendency to the Breach of this Sixth Commandment, as uncivil provoking Language. For, though it is poflible these provocations may not come so readily to our Neighbour's Knowledge; yet considering how liable they are to be aggravated by Misreports, they are perhaps the more dangerous of the two; and therefore the best Rule in this Case is, to speak no worse of any Person than we would to himself, either supprefsing our Resentments, or at least, governing them in such a manner, that more Fuel may not be added to the Fire of Contention, or Opportunity given to go on to higher Degrees of Transgression of this Commandment.
So much for flight affronting Words, which our Saviour mentions as the first Ebullitions of the inward Anger. He goes on,
III. In the Third Place, To the higher Proyocations of Contumely and Reproach: Whojoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of Hellfire. Our Saviour brings in this as an higher Degree of Anger and Hatred; for to suppose such Words spoken not from a Spirit of Anger, but from a Spirit of Love, to reprove a Man for his Faults, and with a Design to reform and reclaim him; it would alter the whole Nature of the thing, and excuse it from being the high Crime our Saviour here describes. Thus St Paul addresses the Galatians, Gal. iii. 1. O foolish Ga
latians ! And our Saviour frequently calls the Pharisees, Fools and Blind, Matt. xxii, 17, 19. The Contumelious Words then, must proceed from Anger and Hatred, to make them fall under the high Sin and Punishment in the Text.. And befides, as I told you formerly, in the Explication of the Words, the Word Fool has an harsher Meaning in the Hebrew, than in our English Dialect; for there it is a Word of the greatest Reproach and Contempt, like that of Rake-kell
, or Hell-bound; and from hence I gather, that this last Degree of angry Words is of the bitterest and most provoking Sort. Our Saviour having thus exprefly distinguished this higher from the leffer Sort of Provocations, it is fit that we make a Stand here, and consider a little the Nature of Opprobrious Language, before we adventure upon it, being, as we fee, lo extremely Odious to Almighty God.
1. In all civilized Nations, this fcurrilous, opprobrious Language is exploded, it is every where deservedly reckoned a Piece of ill-breeding; and nothing does morc distinguish a Gentleman from a Clown (or a Gentlewoman from a common illbred Creature) than that the one has an inoffenfive obliging Way of exprefling himself, and can reprove, admonish, argue, and dispute in a genteel, civil, meek and calm Way; but the other runs out into downright Scandal and Outragioufnefs.
2. That the Ways of Meekness, Patience, good Humour, Cheerfulness, and Obligingness, are much more agreeable to right Reaton, than those of Anger and Fierceness, may appear from hence : that when Mien are in the beit Temper
of Mind, when most under the Sway of Religion and Devotion, when they are most in their right Wits, when they are freest from the Intoxication of Drink, or Passion, then are they most apt to be
upon their Guard against all scurrilous and opprobrious Language: On the other Hand, when is it they are most apt to give into this rude Way of Speech, but when they are least at their own Command; when drink drowns Reason, when through Heats of Anger, they forget themselves, have their Reason muddied, their Memory lost, their Passions put into a precipitate Race down Hill, that they cannot stop them; in short, when the hard-mouth'd Beast runs away with the Man, and carries him into a thousand Dangers before he is a ware of them?
3. Is it not a clear Demonstration of the Unreasonableness of this Temper, that the weakest or Mankind are most apt to give into it? Children, and the undiscreetest sort of Women, will fall a wrangling for a meer Trifle, and value themfeives upon laying the bitterest and most scoundrel Things, and upon having the last Word at them: Whereas the wiser and graver sort of Mankind would be ashamed to act the least Part in so Thameful a Contention.
4. But it is not only the Weakness, Rudeness, and Unmannerliness of this contumelious Behaviour, that may justly expose it to wise Men; let us consider the great Danger, and the innumerable evil Consequences that inseparably attend it. It is compared in Scripture to the Lashes of a Scourge, the Wounds of a Sword, the Cutting of a sharp Razor ; and indeed they all fall short (for the Smart of them) of contumelious Language,