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vent to our angry feelings, or in saying anything unkind, unwise, or unholy.
This is a wide field, and I might enlarge greatly on it. But I shall here confine myself to speak of those evil and injurious, or, in the sense of the text, those idle words, which are intended to express ridicule and contempt. A habit of ridicule is very catching, and young people often begin it without any other meaning than that of amusing themselves, or their own set of companions, at the expense of others. But the consideration that it is at the expense of others ought to make a good heart shrink from indulging in it; and, indeed, it is not often that any really amiable person is seduced to give way to this propensity. The foolish and the
self-sufficient are the most addicted to it. There are some also who delight in ridicule out of a malicious temper, out of a desire to bring into notice the foibles and peculiarities of others. Such persons as these, (I trust there are but few of them,) care not what pain they inflict, provided they have their laugh and their sneer.
But though there may be but few who are thus actually malignant, there are doubtless many who produce the same evil through thoughtlessness. And this thoughtlessness is of itself a very great fault. To think before we speak, is one of those maxims which cannot be too often enforced; and they who attend to this maxim as they ought will be secured by it from saying many an idle and many an evil word, which they might else have to reproach themselves with.
I have already said to you that the foolish and the self-sufficient are commonly those who are most prone to ridicule. But I can also assure you, that the indulgence in this fault is a mark of having seen but little of the world, and a characteristic of those who have not cultivated their minds by reflection and reading. These are the persons who are most apt to fancy that everything is strange or absurd which is different from what they have been accustomed to see. And thus, while they think that they are giving proofs of their own wit and discernment by deriding what is new to them, they
are in reality exposing their own ignorance and folly.
The lowest and silliest kind of ridicule is that which is called quizzing, and descends to the most trifling matters imaginable. I have seen young people who have fallen into this contemptible habit, rendered by it utterly insensible to the superiority, or merits, or agreeableness of persons from whose company they might otherwise have derived the greatest delight and advantage. But their whole attention is devoted to observe some trifling peculiarity which strikes on their fancy. A particular motion of the head, or pronunciation of a word, the pattern of a riband, or the colour of a gown, are things which are not too trifling to engage their thoughts, and shut them out from giving their attention to more important things. Perhaps they will say that they do not mean to be ill-natured; and that the laughing at mere trifles can do nobody any harm. And certainly the wise and the good will not be pained by any harm which it does to them. But the habit itself is a bad habit; and those
who begin by merely quizzing, will end with being ill-natured. And it should be remembered that an ill-natured jest is seldom forgot, and gives more pain than many a greater injury.
There are also few faults against which young people ought to struggle more than against a satirical spirit. The temptations to it are, I own, great, particularly to those who are of a gay and volatile turn: but the efforts to resist it ought, for this reason, to be the greater.
One argument against indulging this propensity is, that it soon brings its own punishment along with it. Everybody dreads a satirical person. Even the hearts of those who cannot help smiling at a sarcastic saying will shrink from fellowship with the person who says it. Thus a satirical person has commonly few friends, and is sure to have many enemies. And how forlorn, how desolate, must be the condition of all those who have closed the hearts of their companions and acquaintance against them? How many of their idle words must they
wish unsaid! And if now, and in this present life, they wish them unsaid, how much more will they wish hereafter that they had never been said! How much will they wish this, when that great and awful day shall arrive in which they must give account of all their words, as well as of all their deeds! What shame, what anguish will they then feel at many of those things which, in the thoughtlessness, or in the conceit, or in the malice of their hearts, they have permitted themselves to utter! for then the secrets of every heart will be known, and its weaknesses and its wickednesses will be exposed.
Oh! then, my dear children, set instantly about the cleansing and purifying of your hearts, that nothing wrong may issue thence; "for out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh." Check, I intreat you, the habit of seeking out the defects and foibles of others for the sake of holding them up to ridicule. If you suppose that anything which you are about to say will give needless pain to any fellow-creature, you may be sure that it will be wrong to say it. The precept of our Lord