Page images
PDF
EPUB

10. The unkindness of many relations ought not to be passed by without a censure. How often have wealthy uncles and aunts turned their backs on orphan destitute nephews and neices: instead of seasonably administering even the cheap solace of a friendly look, they have frowned them from their doors; or if they have bestowed any actual assistance, it has been done with the most visible and dispiriting reluctance. I could adduce very striking confirmations. Instances are not wanting of providence so reversing circumstances, as ultimately to bring the hard-hearted and their once pampered children to crouch for bread to those to whom they once refused the crumbs from a plentiful table.

11. Even sickness sometimes fails to command common attention from the nearest of kin: I knew a quiet decent kind of working man who had a Turkish-tempered wife. In his last illness, unable to help himself, or move the sympathy of his wife, he spat upon the wall, for which the unfeeling brute struck him on the face as he lay in bed till his eyes flashed with fire: and yet at his death, shortly after, she could cry and rave as though she had loved him tenderly! I could supply many other exemplifications of the unkind temper.

12. The unkind temper is both negative and positive; negative, as not possessed of natural sympathies nor exercising the common charities; and positive, as evincing peculiar hardness of disposition, which prompts to vicious and outrageous violence. It is truly said, "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel; " nor is their cruelty confined to the human species, but is liberally exer

cised toward dumb creatures, which God has made for the use, not the abuse, of man: yea, many brutish animals, in human shape, can affect to find their chief amusement in cruelties of this kind, as dog-fighting, bull-baiting, &c. And what surer proof can we have of a depraved mind, and of a wicked temper?

13. Many people are possessed of a very uncharitable temper. They will not only judge or condemn without evidence, but are radically and habitually addicted to depreciate others, detract from their just merits, or add what they well know must tend to their prejudice; and that too, upon the slightest, or upon no foundation whatever, except their own ill-conceit. Some are genteel enough to do it with what is miscalled 'a good grace,' which in reality is fraught with more venom than an open attack. I hate inuendoes, hints, whispers, significant nods, looks, half sentences, pretended confidence, &c. they are most disingenuous and unmanly, and palpably indicate an inward lurking of some thing in the heart, which, for their own interest, they are afraid or ashamed to divulge. Even if the matter were true, it would be more discreet to conceal it, or at least speak in proper English, than intimate it by such unmannerly signs; or if false, it is only refined in humanity thus to stab a fellow-creature in the dark.

14. The suspicious temper is a foul exuberance of the uncharitable, and more poisonous than a branch of the Upas tree. Like envy, it corrodes the breast of its possessor, and inflicts upon its victims far more serious injury than any open charge could do. How often have respectable

persons been wrongfully suspected of crimes, as dishonesty, incontinence, intemperance, &c. and secretly traduced among neighbours and acquaintances until some more ingenuous individual has kindly informed the accused of the report: I say kindly, because, though the task is painful, the act is one of the best proofs of sincere friendship. Indeed we may justly doubt the sincerity of that person, who, while he avows himself a friend, will yet suffer the most injurious, not to say libellious, rumours to circulate, and that from a pretended delicacy that he should hurt the feelings of his friend. Such conduct betrays a sycophant under the garb of friendship. One may, perchance, stand against the most violent of open attacks, but who can elude the pestilence that walketh in darkness?'

15. Back biters and secret retailers of scandal are condemned both by God and men, and ought to be expelled, like secret smugglers, from all creditable society. Many have said truly, that it is far more safe to live in the heart of London than in a large village, or a small country town, where every one's business is known to all, and where many idle gossips, from sheer distaste of more honest employment, engross their whole time and wits to get at the privacies of all families by every base device, and in raking together every morsel of their favourite spice, which they freely expose till its fragrance become vapid for want of a fresher supply of the like commodity. I range this uncharitable temper under the same planet as the deceitful, the jealous, the unkind, the vicious,

&c.

16. I am again confirmed by Mrs. More: Some

have the disingenuous habit of throwing out hints and inuendoes, which do more mischief than speaking out; for whatever is left for the imagination to finish, will not fail to be overdone; every hiatus will be more than filled up, and every pause more than supplied. It is not uncommon for the envious, after having attempted to deface the fairest character so industriously, that they are afraid you will begin to detect their malice, to endeavour to remove your suspicions effectually, by assuring you that what they have just related is only the popular opinion; they themselves (as they affect) can never believe things are so bad as they are said to be; for their part, it is a rule with them always to hope the best; it is their way never to repeat ill of any one. They will, however, mention the story in all companies, that they may do their friend the service of protesting their disbelief of it. More reputations are thus hinted away by false friends, than are openly destroyed by public enemies. An if, or a but, or a mortified look, or a languid defence, or an ambiguous shake of the head, or a hasty word, or affectedly recalled expression, will demolish a character more effectually than the whole artillery of malice when openly levelled against it.'

[ocr errors]

17. Against slander there is no defence. Hell cannot boast so foul a fiend, nor man deplore so fell a foe. It stabs with a sword, with a nod, with a shrug, with a look, with a smile. It is the pestilence walking in darkness, spreading contagion far and wide, which the most weary traveller cannot avoid. It is the heart-searching dagger of the assassin. It is the poisoned arrow whose wound is incurable. It is as mortal as the sting of the

deadly adder; murder is its employment, innocence its prey, and ruin its sport.'

18. Poets, moralists, and divines unite in reprobating the slanderous temper. Shakespeare has the following strong, but just lines :

Slander,

Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie

All corners of the world, kings, queens, and states;
Maids, matrons; nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters.

19. The following remarks, though lengthy, are too appropriate to be omitted: There is no stronger proof of a little and contracted mind than the constant indulgence of a habit of slander and backbiting. The individual who indulges this disposition, proclaims to the world the meanness or the worthlessness of his character. It is beneath an honourable mind to manifest so base and so cowardly a spirit as to delight in speaking evil of a neighbour behind his back; and while it is revolting to every manly, and noble, and generous feeling, to see such a petty and paltry temper exhibited, it is at the same time diametrically opposed to every Christian principle. It is strictly forbidden in the word of God, and it is altogether unbecoming those who profess to be actuated by the high and sacred motives which the gospel of peace inspires.

20. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." This command must be considered as extending to the raising and propagating any malicious report whereby the character of our neighbour may be vilified, and his reputation injured.

« PreviousContinue »