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has given me a title to publish to the world that failing of my neighbour which I alone have discovered? The disclosure of it may impair his usefulness and happiness for life; while its concealment could have injured no one; and his activity and talents, exerted under the purifying influence of repentance, might be employed with greater benefit to mankind. I become the instrument of ruin to him and to his family, of sorrow to his friends and connexions ; and I accomplish this without necessity, without subserving any end of justice or of benevolence, without profit to myself, and without any pleasure but that of a deeply depraved heart.
We become accessory to the crime of the slanderer when we patiently listen to him. Did we habitually repel with indignation the first whisper unfavourable to the reputation of our neighbour, we should at once deserve and obtain the gratitude of the person whose character we vindicated, and arrest the progress of the slanderer. But mankind too generally seem to feel a secret satisfaction in listening to the recital of what is censurable in their fellow-creatures ; as if their self-approbation rose in proportion as others' were made to fall; or, as if that censorious spirit which is so natural to them was regaled by an account of the real or imputed failings of the species. Thus encouragement is given to the destroyers of character and reputation, and to the producers of suspicion and discord among mankind.
The object of the slanderer is the destruction, not of property, nor of life, but what is far dearer and more valuable than either ;-character and reputation.
Our reputation is high or low, according to the place which we hold in human estimation. It altogether rests on the good opinion and affections of others. It is justly more precious to every man than silver and gold, and as a source of enjoyment, second only to the approbation of conscience. To be beloved by others, and to feel that we are not unworthy of being thus beloved, are chief elements in the happiness of man. But it is the object of the slanderer, and the direct tendency of his conduct, to deprive us of this happiness.
Our character also, for trustworthiness, depends upon the good opinion of others. Without this character, the great majority of persons could not procure a subsistence. It is necessary in all the offices of human life, and in all the departments of the business of this world. It must therefore be dear to every man whose means of living and of supporting himself and his family, almost entirely rest on his reputation for honesty and integrity. Deprive him of this reputation, that is, succeed in making the world believe that he is void of principle, and unworthy of confidence, and you take bread, comfort, and respectability from himself and his dependents. But is it not the object of the slanderer—at least, is it not the tendency, and may it not be the effect of his most criminal practice, to accomplish this?
Further ; our chief instrument for usefulness in the world, is the hold which we have upon the good opinions and affections of our fellow-creatures. It is just in proportion to the estimation in which they hold us, that we have power to influence others, and
to advance the temporal and eternal interests of man. Deprive any individual of this moral strength, and what good can he achieve? In the midst of crowds he is solitary; no man regards him; and it may even prove a hinderance to what is highly beneficial, that it was he who first proposed it. To be reduced to this condition is indeed a most grievous calamity. If the chief design of man during his residence on earth, is to glorify God, by suggesting and countenancing deeds of benevolence and patriotism, and by doing good to the extent of his opportunity,--and, if in the exercise of this power he experiences pure and perpetual enjoyment,—what is the wickedness, and what the crimiItality, of the person who succeeds in whole or in part in frustrating this design of the Creator, and in de stroying the means which would have increased the virtue and happiness of mankind ?
Our reputation also is in many cases an useful restraint upon us.
I do not say that in the absence of every better motive, the conduct and actions proceeding from this, are entitled to the name of virtue. But if character be an instrument by which we may glorify God, and increase the happiness of man, it: must be lawful to desire it, to guard against the loss of it when acquired, and, in certain circumstances, to refrain from things which in themselves are neither morally good or evil, merely from regard to our reputation. In very many cases, mankind are restrained from doing what is bad, and encouraged in the performance of what is good, by a concern for their reputation. It is the object of the slanderer to remove this restraint, to take away this stimulus, and to afford
the evil passions of his fellows wider scope in the production of sin and misery.
The mischief which he produces is great, in proportion to the respectability, the usefulness, and the eminence of the persons whom he attacks. Are they ministers of the gospel, whose influence chiefly rests on their personal reputation and character ? What a barrier may he be instrumental in raising up, to render inefficient all efforts to win and save souls. Are they magistrates whom he attacks, whose character should be unsullied, and a great part of whose usefulness rests on the estimation in which they are held? Then the slander is the means of producing greater mischief than he can be aware of, till he appear before the tribunal of the eternal Judge.
Finally, the slanderer is under the frown, and exposed to the indignation of Almighty God. “ Lord who shall abide in thy tabernacle! Who shall dwell in thy holy hill! He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a report against his neighbour.”
THE forms in which oaths have been administered have been various in different ages and nations. Among the Jews, the juror lifted up his right hand,
while he repeated the customary words of the oath*,
-a form which is retained in Scotland.
Mr. Paley remarks, and I entirely concur in his opinion, that in no country in the world are the forms of oaths worse contrived, either to convey the meaning, or to impress the obligation of an oath, than in England. “ The juror with us,” says he, “after repeating the promise or affirmation which the oath is intended to confirm, adds, 'So help me God:' or, more frequently the substance of the oath is repeated to the juror, by the officer or magistrate who administers it, adding in the conclusion,' So help me God.' The juror while he hears or repeats the words of the oath, holds his right hand on a bible, or other book, containing the four gospels. This obscure and elliptical form, together with the levity and frequency with which it is administered, has brought about a general inadvertency to the obligation of oaths ; which, both in a religious and political view, is much to be lamented.” There can be no doubt that the requiring of oaths on so many frivolous occasions has a great tendency to diminish the sense of significancy and solemnity in the minds of the people. A pound of tea cannot travel regularly from the ship to the consumer, without costing half a dozen oaths at least; and the same security for the due discharge of their office, namely, that of an oath, is required from a churchwarden, and, an archbishop, a petty constable and the chief justice of England. The cause of public morals requires a considerable change in the manner and in the frequency with which oaths are administered.
• Psalın 144.