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smooth'd over with an air of mirth, and feather'd with an affectation of wit; but pointed with ill nature, and drawn to the head with all the strength of infolence and malice. And how many are there that value themselves for being excellent marks-men in this way? While they little think of those judgments that are prepared for scorners, when the malicious laugh shall be quite over with them, and the dreadful hour shall come, which will make them serious, whether they will or no. Their behaviour is doubtless very displeasing to God, who desires the good agreement, peace and comfort of all his rational creatures; and has set the meaneft of them above contempt, by that inestimable price paid for their redemption, the death and sufferings of his Son. And it is very provoking to those that are abused by it, no sting piercing deeper, or caufing greater smart and inflammation in the minds of men, than scornful language and ridicule. As the business of this is to lessen them in the esteem of their neighbours, and to render them despicable where they live; and as the event does usually answer the vile design of it, it becomes a real injury to the persons so reproached, and confequently is a great injustice to them. And as the things for which men are usually derided, are either the defects of their understanding, the deformity of their bodies, or the poverty of their fortunes; it is also barbarous and inhuman, nay, absurd and impious. 'Tis reproaching them for what they cannot help, 'tis loading them with scorn for what deserves pity; 'tis either supposing them to have made themselves, (for else their natural defects in mind or body, could not be imputed to them as a reproach;) or blasphemously reflecting upon God who did create them, and finding fault with the workmanship and order of divine providence ; which for reasons far above our censure, has thought
fit to make a difference in mens understandings, shape and other circumstances. The design of this, so far as we can dive into it, is to exercise our compassion one towards another, and to present continual objects for our good nature to support, and charity to relieve. But this is impiously perverted, if instead of comforting, pitying and allilting, we triumph in their sorrows, sport with their defects, and play upon their misfortunes. God resents this as striking at himself, for he has declared, That * whofo mocketh the poor, reproacheth his Maker; and be that is glad at calamities, shall not be unpunished. And how great the punishinent is that threatens them, we may learn from the prophetical curses uttered against them by the Pfalmift, inspired by God, and recorded in Scripture for our terror. + Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their habitation be defolate, and let none dwell in their tents. And for what cause? For they persecute him whom thou hast Smitten, and they talk to the grief of those whom thou baft wounded. And therefore, says he, Add iniquity to their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. I must add here, that not only derisive words, but all such actions and behaviour as are of the same tendency, must by parity of reason be reduced under the same prohibition. For actions have a language as effectual as any words, and sometimes more expressive. All scornful looks therefore, and all gestures of contempt and mocking, all wilful affronts in our carriage, all designed and evident neglects, and whatever may seem to trample upon our neighbour, and is visibly intended to lessen and ridicule him, cannot but be equally hurtful to the fufferer, and equally odious both to God and Man.
† Psalm lxix. 24, @r.
* Prov. xvii. 5.
(2.) CENSORIOUS railing, or reviling is, in the eye of God, a sin of yet greater consequence, and more offensive. Our Saviour gives us here one instance to represent and include all others of the like kind : Whofoever shall say, Thou fool. Which taken in the ordinary sense, may stand for any bitter and reviling term of pafíon; and as the Scripture language does usually by fool intend a wicked and abandoned finner, the expression here seems especially to point out those rash, uncharitable, and furious censures, which men of angry spirits and ill-governed zeal are apt to caft upon such as oppose them in religion, or any thing else; or on those whom they have taken an hatred to, from some personal and private pique. When men are thoroughly heated against an adversary, they are apt to fancy to themfelves a license (which neither the laws of God nor natural right will authorize) of faying all the bitter things they can against him, without any restraint from charity or good manners, and often with as little regard to truth. Every failing of his shall serve to expose him as an hypocrite; his virtues fhall be all misconstrued, and ascribed to oftentation and self-interest; or his vices shall be fo improved, as if he were the vilest finner upon earth. Now
, 'tis all one whether a man be thus ill treated to his face, or behind his back: The former indeed is more provoking, the latter more ungenerous; but both are included in this fevere denunciation of our Saviour, against whosoever Mall say to his brother, Thou fool. 'Tis spoken of as a greater crime than mocking and derision; because it is much worse to be wicked, than to be either deformed, poor, unfortunate, or of weak understanding; and consequently must strike deeper into mens reputations to be so represented, than only to be rendered contemptible. Reviling, as it is the effect of rage and overheated fpirits, is also a very near approach to
murder; I Pet. iii. 9. Jude 9.
murder; the same degree of spleen and passion that enflames men to the one, having frequently ended in the other: And therefore our Saviour forming his prohibitions here to guard the sixth commandment, had reason to lay the greatest stress upon such fins as would be likeliest to endanger it. Beside, that it is utterly inconsistent with the meekness, patience, and charity of the christian religion, which strictly forbids it, even under the highest provocation.' * Be pitiful, be courteous, says St. Peter, not rendring evil for evil, or railing for railing ; but contrariwise, blefing. And thus the primitive followers of our Lord behaved themselves. Being reviled, says St. Paul, we bless: being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we entreat. And thus their holy Master had taught them by his example: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, threatned not; but cummitted himself to him that judgeth righteously. Now if a Christian suffering under such ill usage is forbid (though natural resentment strongly prompts him, and his adversary deserves it justly) to retaliate, I need not prove he should not give the first provocation. Let me observe only, that this practice of reviling is so hateful to the God of peace and charity, fo contrary to
, the temper of heaven, that || Michael the Archangel contending even with the devil, durst not bring against him a railing accusation; but said, The Lord rebuke thee. And as by the divine authority of our religion, :. a railer is infamous, and every Christian is discharged from keeping company with him upon earth; so by a declarative sentence passed already,
2 the stands excluded by name from the society of the blessed in heaven. For what happiness or peace could we imagine there, and how should the suffer
f 1 Cor. iv. 12. .. I Cor. v. II.
# 1 Pet. ii. 23. ti Cor. vi. 10.
ings of good men be at an end, and charity be made perfect in that state, if fuch reviling spirits were admitted, as must needs disturb them.
Let us now consider, in as few words as may be,
III. The third and last improvement of the sixth commandment, the obliging us to give due and Speedy satisfaction, as soon as is possible. For tho' even the injured and offended person is bound by the precepts of Christianity, to endeavour on his part also a reconciliation, by accepting of reasonable terms when they are offered him, and by a readiness to forgive; yet I take the aggreffor, or him that gives the offence, or does the injury, to be the perfon chiefly (if not only) concerned in this paragraph, as in other parts of the sermon we shall find the duty of the sufferer more distinctly spoken of. So that suppofing us here to be concerned only with the aggresor, the method he must take to reconcile himself to the party injured or offended, must be according to the nature of the wrong or damage he has done him. Either,
(1.) By restitution, when by fraud or violence he has injured him in his estate, or wrong’d him in a way of trade and bargaining. This is a part of justice. Hence we find in the Jewish law many rules and directions for the more exact and regular performance of it. And though there are no precise measures set down in the New Testament for the regulation of this duty, yet that it is still in general, a duty, is evident from natural light, thc Golpel of Christ presupposing (and not always particularly repeating) such obligations as common honesty and reason every day suggest to us. And thus when Zaccheus, to whom our Saviour shew'd fuch respect as to dine at his house, would recommend himself to him and others as a real penitent,