« VorigeDoorgaan »
dently, safely, and usefully,—it is not contumely; but when men, upon all occasions, revile an offending person, lessening his value, souring his spirit, and his life, despising his infirmities, tragically expressing his lightest misdemeanour, οἱ ὑπὸ μικρῶν ἁμαρτημάτων ἀνυπερβλήτως ὀργιζόμενοι, • being tyrannically declamatory, and intolerably angry for a trifle;'these are such, who, as Apollonius the philosopher said, will not suffer the offending person to know when his fault is great, and when it is little. For they, who always put on a supreme anger, or express the less anger with the highest reproaches, can do no more to him that steals, than to him that breaks a crystal; non plus æquo, non diutius æquo,' was a good rule for reprehension of offending servants; but no more anger, no more severe language, than the thing deserves; if you chide too long, your reproof is changed into reproach; if too bitterly, it becomes railing; if too loud, it is immodest; if too public, it is like a dog.
Τὸ δ' ἐπιδιώκειν, εἴς τε τὴν ὁδὸν τρέχειν
Ἔτι λοιδορουμένην, κυνός ἐστ ̓ ἔργον, Ρόδη. Μenand. Cler. p. 90. So the man told his wife in the Greek comedy; 'To follow me in the streets with thy clamorous tongue, is to do as dogs do,' not as persons civil or religious,
4. The fourth instance of the calumniating, filthy communication, is that which we properly call slander, or the inventing evil things, falsely imputing crimes to our neighbour: "Falsum crimen quasi venenatum telum," said Cicero;* "A false tongue or a foul lie against a man's reputation, is like a poisoned arrow," it makes the wound deadly, and every scratch to be incurable. "Promptissima vindicta contumelia," said one; to reproach and rail, is a revenge that every girl can take. But falsely to accuse, is as spiteful as hell, and deadly as the blood of dragons.
Stoicus occidit Baream, delator amicum †.
This is the direct murder of the tongue, for Life and death are in the hand of the tongue,' said the Hebrew proverb: and it was esteemed so vile a thing, that when Jezebel commanded the elders of Israel to suborn false witnesses against Naboth, she gave them instructions to take two men, the sons of Belial;' none else were fit for the employment.
Quid non audebis, perfida lingua, loqui ?*
This was it that broke Ephraim in judgment, and executed the fierce anger of the Lord upon him; God gave him over to be oppressed by a false witness, "quoniam cœpit abire post sordes," therefore he suffered calumny, and was overthrown in judgment. This was it that humbled Joseph in fetters, and "the iron entered into his soul;" but it crushed him not so much as the false tongue of his revengeful mistress, "until his cause was known, and the word of the Lord tried him." This was it that slew Abimelech, and endangered David; it was a sword in manu linguæ Doeg,' 'in the hand of Doeg's tongue.' By this Ziba cut off the legs of Mephibosheth, and made his reputation lame for ever; it thrust Jeremy into the dungeon, and carried Susanna to her stake, and our Lord to his cross; and therefore, against the dangers of a slandering tongue, all laws have so cautiously armed themselves, that, besides the severest prohibitions of God, often recorded in both Testaments, God hath chosen it to be one of his appellatives to be the defender of them, a party for those, whose innocency and defenceless state make them most apt to be undone by this evil spirit; I mean pupils, and widows, the poor, and the oppressed. And in pursuance of this charity, the imperial laws have invented a juramentum de calumnia,' an oath to be exhibited to the actor or plaintiff, that he believes himself to have a just cause, and that he does not implead his adversary calumniandi animo,' with false instances,' and indefensible allegations; and the defendant is to swear, that he thinks himself to use only just defences, and perfect instances of resisting; and both of them obliged themselves, that they would exact no proof but what was necessary to the truth of the cause, And all this defence was nothing but necessary guards. For, a spear, and a sword, and an arrow, is a man that speaketh false witness against his neighbour.' And therefore, the laws of God added yet another bar against this evil, and the false accuser was to suffer the punishment of the objected crime: and, as if this were not sufficient, God hath in several ages wrought miracles, and raised the dead to life, that, by such strange appearances, they might relieve the oppressed innocent, and load the false accusing tongue with † Levit. vi. Zech. vii. Luke iii.
* Mart. 7. 24.
shame and horrible confusion. So it happened in the case of Susanna, the spirit of a man was put into the heart of a child to acquit the virtuous woman; and so it was in the case of Gregory, bishop of Agrigentum, falsely accused by Sabinus and Crescentius; God's power cast the devil out of Eudocia, the devil, or spirit of slander, and compelled her to speak the truth. St. Austin, in his book 'De Cura pro Mortuis,' tells of a dead father that appeared to his oppressed son, and, in a great matter of law, delivered him from the teeth of false accusation. So was the church of Monts rescued by the appearance of Aia, the deceased wife of Hidulphus, their earl, as it appears in the Hanovian story; and the Polonian Chronicles tell the like of Stanislaus, bishop of Cracovia, almost oppressed by the anger and calumny of Boleslaus, their king; God relieved him by the testimony of St. Peter, their bishop, or a phantasm like him. But, whether these records may be credited or no, I contend not; yet, it is very material which Eusebius relates of the three false witnesses accusing Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, of an infamous crime, which they did, affirming it under several curses + the first wishing, that, if he said false, God would destroy him with fire: the second, that he might die of the king's evil; the third, that he might be blind; and so it came to pass; the first being surprised with fire in his own roof, amazed and intricated, confounded and despairing, paid the price of his slander with the pains of most fearful flames : and the second perished by pieces, and chirurgeons, and torment which when the third saw, he repented of his fault, cried mightily for pardon, but wept so bitterly, and found at the same time the reward of his calumny, and the acceptation of his repentance : κακουργότερον οὐδὲν διαβολῆς ἐστί πως said Cleanthes; Nothing is more operative of spiteful and malicious purposes, than the calumniating tongue.' In the temple at Smyrna, there were looking-glasses which represented the best face as crooked, ugly, and deformed; the Greeks call these ἑτερόσχημα and παράχροα : and so is every false tongue; it lies in the face of heaven, and abuses the ears of justice; it oppresses the innocent, and is secretly revenged of virtue; it defeats all the charity of laws, and arms the supreme power, and makes it strike the innocent; it + L. 6. c. 7.
* C. 11.
makes frequent appeals to be made to heaven, and causes an oath, instead of being the end of strife, to be the beginning of mischief; it calls the name and testimony of God to seal an injury; it feeds and nourishes cruel anger, but mocks justice, and makes mercy weep herself into pity, and mourn because she cannot help the innocent.
5. The last instance of this evil I shall now represent, is cursing, concerning which I have this only to say; that although the causeless curse shall return upon the tongue that spake it, yet, because very often there is a fault on both sides, when there is reviling or cursing on either, the danger of a cursing tongue is highly to be declined, as the biting of a mad dog, or the tongue of a smitten serpent. For, as envy is in the evil eye, so is cursing in the reproachful tongue; it is a kind of venom and witchcraft, an instrument by which God oftentimes punishes anger and uncharitableness; and by which the devil gets power over the bodies and interests of men for he that works by Thessalic ceremonies, by charms, and nonsense words, by figures and insignificant characterisms, by images and by rags, by circles and imperfect noises, hath more advantage and real title to the opportunities of mischief, by the cursing tongue; and though God is infinitely more ready to do acts of kindness than of punishment, yet God is not so careless a regarder of the violent and passionate wishes of men, but he gives some over to punishment, and chastises the follies of rage, and the madness of the tongue, by suffering it to pass into a farther mischief than the harsh sound and horrible accents of the evil language. By the tongue we bless God and curse men," saith St. James; ordogia is zarága, reproaching is cursing,' and both of them opposed to shoyia, to blessing;' and there are many times and seasons in which both of them pass into real effect. These are the particulars of the second.
3. I am now to instance in the third sort of filthy communication, that in which the devil does the most mischief; by which he undoes souls; by which he is worse than ABoλos, an accuser :' for though he accuses maliciously, and instances spitefully, and heaps objections dilligently, and aggravates bitterly, and, with all his power endeavours to represent the separate souls to God as polluted and unfit to come into his presence, yet this malice is ineffective, because · 17
the scenes are acted before the wise Judge of men and angels, who cannot be abused; before our Father, and our Lord, who knows whereof we be made, and remembereth that we are but dust; before our Saviour, and our elder brother, who hath felt our infirmities, and knows how to pity, to excuse, and to answer for us: but though this accusation of us cannot hurt them who will not hurt themselves, yet this malice is prevailing when the spirit of flattery is let forth upon us. This is the 'Amoλλúr, the destroyer,' and is the most contrary thing to charity in the whole world; and St. Paul noted it in his character of charity, Η αγάπη οὐ περπερεύεται, " Charity vaunteth not itself;" so we translate it, but certainly not exactly, for it signifieth easiness,' complying foolishly, and flattering; charity fattereth not;” Τί ἐστι τὸ περπερεύεσθαι; πᾶν ὃ μὴ διὰ χρείαν, ἀλλὰ διὰ καλλωπισμὸν παραλαμβάνεται, saith Suidas, out of St. Basil; "It signifies any thing that serves rather for ornament than for use," for pleasure than for profit.
Et eo plectuntur poetæ quàm suo vitio sæpiùs,
saith the comedy; "The poets suffer more by your easiness and flattery, than by their own fault." And this is it which St. Paul says is against charity. For if to call a man ⚫ fool and vicious,' be so high an injury, we may thence esteem what a great calamity it is to be so; and therefore, he that makes him so, or takes a course he shall not become other, is the vilest enemy to his person and his felicity: and this is the mischief that is done by flattery; it is a design against the wisdom, against the repentance, against the growth and promotion of a man's soul. He that persuades an ugly, deformed man, that he is handsome,-a short man that he is tall,—a bald man that he hath a good head of hair,—makes him to become ridiculous and a fool, but does no other mischief. But he that persuades his friend, that is a goat in his manners, that he is a holy and a chaste person, or that his looseness is a sign of a quick spirit, or that it is not dangerous, but easily pardonable,—a trick of youth, a habit that old age will lay aside as a man pares his nails,—this man hath given great advantage to his friend's mischief; he hath made it grow in all the dimensions of the sin, till it grows in
1 Cor. xiii. 5.