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pursuits of their neighbours and acquaintances. Against such curiosity Paul frequently and earnestly cautions his Christian brethren. Thus in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, he says, “We hear that there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy-bodies. Now such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work and eat their own bread.” The apostle here takes it for granted—and the truth, we suppose, is unquestionablethat those whom he calls busy-bodies are generally idlers. Indeed, this, from the very nature of things, must be the case, because they devote to the concerns of others, that time and attention which ought to be employed on their
The standing apology of him who is given to detraction, is, that what he says to the injury of another's character is true. But this plea, however plausible, will not avail for his justification. A man is not at liberty, on scriptural principles, to utter even the truth, with a view of detracting from the merits of his neighbour. The apostolic injunction is, “speak not evil one of another.” This phraseology, it has been well observed, is very explicit. The sacred writer, instead of saying, “ speak not evil FALSELY one of another," omits any such qualifying term, and says simply and absolutely, “speak not evil one of another.” We sometimes hear the doctrine of the English law, that “the truth may be a libel," ridiculed as absurd. We know not precisely what the laws of our own country on this subject are. But we feel no manner of hesitation in saying, that the doctrine itself is correct, however inaccurate in a grammatical point of view, may be the language in which it is ordinarily expressed. It ought by no means to be admitted, that the utterance even of the truth, with the design of throwing a shade over the reputation of an individual, is consistent with sound morality and pure religion.
The Psalmist next says, “In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.”
It is a common maxim, that an estimate of a man's character may be fairly formed from the companions with whom he habitually associates. A rational being naturally seeks congeniality of disposition and pursuit. The Christian resorts to the society of those whose deportment attests the controlling influence of evangelical truth, and who feel a lively interest in the cause of virtue and piety. The man devoted to literature and science, delights in the intercourse of the learned and studious. The lover of pleasure betakes bimself to the wine-club, or the oystercellar, in order to meet his cherished associates.
We see, then, that it is with the strictest propriety that the Psalmist here assigns, as one characteristic of the good man, that he avoids, as far as practicable, the society of the wicked. “In his eyes a vile person is contemned.” This language does not, indeed, imply, that the Christian should cherish supercilious or unkindly sentiments towards sinners, or that he should hesitate to mingle with them, if by so doing he may become the instrument of reclaiming them from the error of their ways. Nor should it be understood as conveying the idea, that the Christian cannot receive occasional pleasure from the society of those who, though not pious, are distinguished for the intellectual and moral accomplishments which impart so much grace and attraction to human intercoursc. But the meaning of the passage before us is briefly this, that the Christian derives no satisfaction from habitual compapionship with the irreligious or the immoral. And how can it be otherwise ? Is it possible, that he whose thoughts and affections are fixed supremely on the glories
of the heavenly state-whose purest and dearest joys flow from the love and service of his Maker-should yet delight in the society of those who are entirely occupied with terrestrial objects, and give themselves no manner of concern about the character and the commandments of Jehovah? Well may we ask, in the language of the apostle, “ What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ?”
The same impulse which constrains the Christian to keep aloof from the society of the wicked, leads him to delight in the intercourse of those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth. “He honoureth them that fear the Lord.” A man of real unassuming piety will command the esteem even of those who are strangers to practical religion. From such a character none but the deeply depraved can withhold their respect and admiration. Certainly, then, when the genuine disciple of the Saviour beholds an individual who lives near to his God, and whose deportment in all the diversified relations of life, is regulated by the precepts and the spirit of the gospel, he cannot fail to honour and to love him. He feels a close attachment of soul to those who wear the image of a common Redeemer. He has for them an affection similar in nature, though inferior in degree, to that pure and exalted friendship, whose bonds unite in one fraternal band, the angels that encompass the throne of God. “Behold how these Christians love one another!" is a compliment, wbich, however inappropriate to the state of things in the present day, may be regarded as the most honourable that the religion of Jesus ever procured for its votaries. It is the native tendency of this religion to strengthen the ties of mutual affection among its professors—to foster that chastened and elevated emotion of charity, which the Scriptures beautifully compare to the dew of Hermon, and the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, where the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. Let us be sedulous, Christian brethren, in the cultivation of this charity. Let us devoutly and fervently pray for its increase in our bosoms. And let us rejoice that we live in an age, in which the disciples of the Saviour are beginning again to honour and to love one another. It is true, that we have little ground for exultation, if we compare the present condition of the church, with what was exhibited by apostolic Christianity, when the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.” But it is equally true, that we have abundant cause for joy, when we contemplate the religious history of the last thirty years : when we see how the various denominations of Christians have begun to step over some of those boundaries within which they have been so long entrenched by ignorance and prejudice—when we mark how sectarian jealousy, with all the nameless Shibboleths of party, is receding before the benign radiance of truth, and the hallowed influence of evangelical feeling.
The Psalmist, in this same verse, mentions another trait, as characteristical of the citizen of Zion. 66 He sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.” On this point, however, we need not enlarge, after what has been already said respecting the general obligation of truth. A pious man will ever have the most inviolable regard for his promise. His word is as sacred with him as his oath. It is not necessary to bind bim with signature and seal, in order to secure the faithful performance of a contract. You will, in no instance, see him making his es
cape through some legal technicality, from an engagement just in itself, because he has found out that compliance with it would be prejudicial to his interest.
The Psalmist farther says, “He that patteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent.”
It is not unworthy of observation, that the Hebrew term here rendered usury, radically signifies to bite. “This word,” we are told by critics, “is supposed to mean a contract which converts interest into principal, or conduct which produces the same effect; or a very exorbitant interest or premium, disproportioned to the risk.” In these and similar instances, the person who suffers is very properly and emphatically said to be bitten.
A great deal occurs in the Old Testament against usury. The Jews were permitted to lend money on interest to foreigners, but not to one another. Their law on this subject we find thus laid down in the book of Deuteronomy: “Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all that thoa settest thine hand to, in the land whither thou goest to possess it." The term usury is not here used to denote exorbitant interest, but interest of any kind. We are not, however, to imagine that it is inconsistent with the principles of morality, or with those of religion, to receive a moderate premium for the loan of money. The Mosaic statųte to which we have adverted, was a provision accommodated to the anomalous circumstances of the Jews, who had little trade, and whose legislator, acting under the divine direction, framed his civil code with a view to preserve, as far as could be, an equal distribution of property among all the tribes and families of Judea. His law relating to interest, was certainly not intended to