Archibald Forbes.

The Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 online

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reth up strifes, but love covereth all sins."

It is the wish and the act of love, to conceal from
the pMic all the faults, which the good of the of-
fender, and the ends of public justice, do not require
to be disclosed. There are cases, in which to con-
ceal ofienceaL whatever kindness it may be to one,
would be unxindness to many. If a person living
in sin, has so tar imposed upon a minister, as to in-
duce him to propose him for admission to the f<^l-
lowship of the church, it is the bonnden duty of any
individual, who knows the real character of Uie
candidate, to make it known to the pastor ; and the
same disclosure should be made in refiurence to a
person already in communion, who is actually liv-»
mg in sin : concealment in these cases is an injury
to the whole bodj of Christians. If a person is like-
ly to be injured m his temporal concerns, bv repos-
ing confidence in one who is utterly unworthy of it,
it IS the duty of those who are acquainted with the
snare to warn the destined victim of his danger. If
any are so far regardless of the pc;ace of society and
the laws of the country, as to be engaged in great
crimes against both, concealment on the part of
those who are aware of the existence of such prac-
tices, is a participation in the crime. As our love
is to be universal, as well as particular^ it must
never be exercised towards individuals in a way
that is really opposed to the interests of the com-
munity.

But where no other interest is concerned— where
no claims demand a disclosure— where no injury
is done by concealment, and no benefit is conferred
by giving publicity to a fault,— there our duty is to
cover it over with the veil of secrecy, and maintain
an unbroken silence upon the subject

Instead of this friendly and amiable reserve, how
different is the way in which many act I No sooner
have they heard of the commission of a f^ult than
they set off with tiie intelligence, as ^lad as it they
bore the tidings of a victorv, proclaiming the me-
lancholv fiut with stran^^ deheht in every compa-
ny, ana almost to every mdividual they meet ; and
as there is a ereedy appetite in some persons for
scandal, they nnd many ears as open to listen to the
tale, as their lips are to tell it : or, perhaps, they re-
late the matter as a secret, extorting a promise fVom
those to whom they communicate it, that they will
never mention it again. But if it 1)ns not proper to
publish it to the world, why do thev speak 01 it at
all 1 If it be proper for publicitv^ why lock up others
in silence 1 Sometimes the telling faults in secret
is a pitiable kind of weakness, an utter impossibili-
ty or keeping any thin^ in the mind, accompanied
by an intention of publLshing it only to a single per-
son; but not unfrequently it is a wish to have the
gratification of being the first to communicate
the report to a large number of persons ; each is
made to promise that he will not disclose it, that
the original reporter may not be anticipated aa
he pursues his round, and thus have his delight
diminished, in being every where the first to tell
bad news.

Then there are some who jnMisk ike fa^iJUs of
otkersundertkekvpocritical pretence of lamenting over
them, andproducmg in others a caution against the
same thing. You will see them in company putting
on a grave countenance, and hear them asking the
person who sits near them, but with a voice loud
enough to reach every comer of the room, whether
he has heard the report of Mr. Snch^an-one's con-
duct: and when every ear is caught, every tt>ngue
is silent, and every eye fixed, he will proceed, in a
strain of deep lamentation and tender commisera-
tion, to bewail the misconduct of the delinauent,?-
•eaaoniag the narration of the offisnoe, aa ne goes



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44



CHRI8TIAN CHARITY.



through all its circnuistaDces and all its aimava-
tions, with manv expressions of pity for the onender,
and many woros or cahtioii to tne company. Thos,
nnder the hypocritical euise of pity and the abhor-
rence of sin, has he indulged in this mischicTons,
yet too common propensity, to publish the failings
of some erring brother. Has he mentioned the
subject to the mdividual himself 1 If not, and he
has withheld this mode of expressing his pity,
what avails his public^ commiseration *? What
possible sympathy with the offender can it be, to
placard lum m public, and blazon his faults in com-
pany 1

Some there are^ who suppose that there is HtUe
harm in talking, tn^their ovm particular cirdes, of
the failings of their neighbors : they would not speak
of these things before strangers, or society in gene-
ral ; but they feel no scruple in making them matter
of conversation among their select friends. But
these friends may not all be prudent ; and if it be
not desirable that the fact should not be known
without the circle, the best way is, that it be not
known within it. Where there is no benefit likely
to be obtained by publicity, it b, best, in reference to
character, to lock up the secret in our' own mind,
and literally to observe the injunction of the pro-
phet — " Trust ye not in a (Hend, put ye not confid-
ence in a jgnide ; keep the doors of thy mouth from
her that beth in thy bosom.*'

Love, not only will not originate, but will not
help to circulate, an evil report. When the tale
comes to her, there, at least, in that direction it
stops. There are gossips, who, though they would
shudder at slander^ and, perhaps, would not be the
first to give publicity to an idle report of another,
yet would feel no scruple in telling what many al-
ready know. "It is no secret," ttey sar, "else I
would not mention it." But we should not do even
this : we should neither invent, nor originate, nor
propagate, an evil report. While every tongue is
voluble in spreading oad tidings, charity will be si-
lent ; while all seem anxious to enjoy communion
in backbiting and detraction, and to sip the cap of
detraction, as it passes round the company, she says
to the person who has told the stonr, "I have no
ears for defamation, or even for the tale of another's
fkults. Go, and affectionately speak with the indi-
vidual of his failings, but do not talk of them in
public." If all men acted on these principles, slan-
der would die upon the lips which eave it oirth :
tale-bearers would cease, for want of customers, to
carry on their trade, as pedlars in detraction ; back-
bitinff v^ould go out or fashion ; and the love of
scandal be starved for want of food.

The evils, then, to which love is opposed, are—
calvmny^ which invents a slanderous report to in-
jure the reputation of another; detraction, which
magnifies a fault ; censoriousness, which is too offi-
cious and too rigid in condemning it | tale-bearing,
which proptu^tes it; enriosit/y, which desires to
know it ; malignity, which takes delight in it. Of
this list of vices, calumny is, of course, the worst ;
but a tattling disposition, though it may have little
of the malignity of slander, is a servant to do its
work, and a tool to perpetrate its mischief. Persons
of this description are far too numerous. They are
to be found in every town, in every village — ^yes.
and in every church. They are not the authors or
libels, but they are the publishers ; they do not draw
up the placard, but only paste it up in all parts of
the town; and are amenable, not for the malice
which invented the defamatory lie, but for the mis-
chief of circulating it. Their minds are a kind of
common sewer, into which all the filthy streams of
scandal are perpetually flowing: a receptacle Of
whatever is offensive and noxious. ' Sucn gossips
might be pitied for their weakness, if they were not



still more to be dreaded for the injury they do. —
They are not malignants, but they are mischief-
makers; and, as' such, should be shunned and
dreaded. Every door should be closed against them,
or, at least, every ear. They' should be made to
feel that, if silence be a penance to them, their idle
and injurious tales are a much more afflictive pen-
ance to their neighbors. Now such persons would
not onl3r be rendered more safe, but more dignified
by charity: this heavenly virtue, by destroying their
propensity to gossiping, would rescue them from re-
proach, and confer upon them An elevation of char*
racter to which they were strangers before. Ii
would torn their activity into a new channel, and
make them as anxious to promote the peace of so*
ciety, as they were before to disturb it by the din of
their idle and voluble tongue. They would per-
ceive that no man's happiness can be promoted by
the publication of his faults; for if he be penitem,
to have his failings made the butt of ridicule, is like
pouring nitre and vinegar upon the deep wounds of
a troubled mind ; or if be be not, this exposure will
do harm, by producing irritation, and by thus plac-
ing lym farther off from true contrition.

If it be essential to chanter, to feel a disposition ta
cover the faulti which we witness, and to treat with
tenderness and delicacy the offenaer, it is (juite dis-
tressing to consider how little of it there is in thd
world. How much need have we to labor for an
increase of it ourselves, and to diffuse it, bcHh by our
influence aAd example, that the harmony of society'
may not be so frequenUy interrupted by the lies of
the slanderer, the exaggerations of tne detractor,
the harsh judgments of the censorious^ or the idk
gossip of tne tale-bearer.



**Chafi^ belitveth aU things,"

Neaklt allied to the property we have just const*
dered, and an essential part of candor, is that which
follows: — "Charity believeth all thiMp;"— t. e. not
all things contained in the word of CkkI, — for faith
in divine testimony is not here the subject treated
of,— but all things which are testified concerning
our brethren ; not, however, such as are testified to
their disadvantage, but in their favor; This pro-
perty or operation of love is so involved, and has
been to such an extent illustrated, in what we have
already considered, that it cannot be necessary to
enlarge upon the subject. As charity regards with
benevolent desire the well-being of all, it must feel
naturally disposed to believe whatever can be stated
in their favor. Tell a fond mother of the faults of
her child : does she immediately and entirely be-
lieve the testimony 1 No. You will perceive an
aspect of unbelief on her countenance : you will hear
inquiries and doubtful insinuations from her lips :
and after the clearest evidence has been adduced in
support of the testimony, you will still discern that
she belie ves you not. But on the contrary, carry to her
a report of her child's good ccmduct— tell her of his
achievements in wisdom or in virtue, — and yx)U see
at once the look of assent, the smUe of approbation,
hear the language of conviction, and, in some cases,
witness a degree of confidence which amounts to
weakness. How can we account for this ? On the
principle of the apostle, that "lore believeth all
thin^ :" the mother loves her child; she is sincerely
anxious for his well-being; and as our wishes have
an influence upon our convictions, she is forward
to believe what is said to her child's honor, and as
backward to believe what is said to his discredit.

Here, then, is one of the brightest displays of
charity, as exhibited in the man who believeth aU
things which are related to the advantage of others.



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45



Qe bears the report with anfeigned pleasure, listens
with the smile of approbation, the nod of assent ;
be does not tarn to tne snbject of homan depravity,
to find ground kad reason for discrediting tne fact,
nor does he search with inquisitive eye for some
flaw in the evidence to impeach the veracity of
the testimony ; he does notcaationsly hold his judg-
ment in abeyance, as if afraid of beueving too well
of his neighbor ; bat, if the evidence amount to pro-
bahiUty, he is ready to believe the accoant, and de-
lights to find another and another instance of hainan
excellence, by which, he may be more reconciled
and attached to the fomily of man, and by which
he discovers that there is more goodness and hi^
piness on earth than be knew of before.

The strongest proof and power of love, in this
mode of its operation, is its disposition to believe
all good reports of an enemy or a rwal. Many per-
sons can believe nothing good, but every thing bad,
of thoEse whom they consider in this light. Let
them have once conceived a prejudice or a dislike :
let them only have been injured or offended, opposed
or humbled, by any one j — and from that moment
theit ears are closed against every word te his cre-
dit, and open to every tale that may4end to his dis-
grace, rrejudice has neither eyes nor ears tor
good; but is all eye and ear for eviL Its influence
on the judgment is prodigious ; its bewildering ojje-
ration upon our convictions is reallj most surpris-
ing and frif^htful. In many cases, it gives up evi-
dence as bright, clear, and steady, as the meridian
splendor of the sun, to follow that which is as dim
and delusive as the feeble light of an ignis fataus.
How tremblingly anxious should we be to keep the
mind free from this misleading influence! How
careful to obtain that candid, impartial, discrimi-
nating judgmeni, which can distinguish things that
differ, and approve of things that are excellent, even
in reference to persons that are in some respects op-
posed to ns! This is candor; and a more impor-
tant disposition of the kind we can scarcely ima-
gine. Through that ppreat law of our nature, which
we call the association of ideas, we are too apt,
when we have discovered one thing wrong in tne
character or conduct of another to unite with it
nothing but wron^, and that continually : we scarce-
ly ever think of him, or repeat his name, but under
the malign influence of this onhapp}^ association.
What We need is more of that power of abstrac-
tion of which we have already spoken, by which
we can separate the occasional act from permanent
charactei^—ihe bad qualities fVom the good ones, —
and still be left at liberty to believe what is good,
notwiihstandinc: what we know of the bad.

If; in accordance with the principles of revclar
lion, the testimony of our senses, and the evidence
<xf experience, we believe that there is none so per-
fect in the view of God as to be destitute of all
ihiws; we at the same time believe that, so far as
mere general excellence goes, there are few so bad
as to be destitute of all approveable traits. It is
the business of candor, to examine, to report, to be-
lieve with impartiality, and candor is one of the
operations of love. This heavenly disposition for-
bids the prejudice which is generated by differences
on the subject of religion, and enables its possessor
to discredit the evil, and to believe the favorable
testimony which is borne to those ot other denomi-
nations and of other congregations. All excellence
belongs not to oar society or sect ; all evil is not to
be found in other societies or sects: yet how pre-
pared are many persons to believe nothing good, or
every thing bad, of other sects or other societies.
Away, away, with this detestable spirit I cast it out
of the.eharcn of the living Qod! like the lesrion

Sirit which possessed the man who dwelt among
e tomb9, and made him a torment to himself, and



a terror to others, this demon of prejodlce has uto
long possessed, and torn, and iniuruUed, even tha
body of the church. " Spirit of love ! descend, and
expel the infernal usurper. Cast out this spoiler of
our beauty, this disturber of our peace, this oppo^
nent of our communion, this destroyer %jt our honor.
Before thy powerful yet gentle sway, let prejudice
retire, and prepare us to believe all tmngs- that are
reported to us to the credit of others—be they of
our party or not-*whether they have offended us or
not-— and whether in past times they have done evil
or good."



**ChaHlfkop€tk all things**

Hope has the same reference here, as the fiuth jtiit
considered ; it relates not to what Qod has prOmii-
ed in his word to them that love him, but to the
good which is reported to exist in our neig^bors.-
m a report of a doubtful matter^ where the evidence
is apparently againat an individual, love will stiU
hope that something may yet torn up to his advan-
tage — that some lifht will yet be thrown on the
darker features of tne case^ which will set the mat-
ter in a more favorable pomtof view; it will not
^ive full credit to present appearances, however
mdicative they may seem to be of evil, but hope,
even against nope, for the best.

If the acHon itself cannot be defended, then love
will hope thai the motive was not bad; that the in-
tention in the mind of the actor was not so evil as
the deed appeared to the eye of the spectator; that
ignorance, not malice, was the cause of the trans-
action ; and that the time will come when this will
be apparent.

Love does not speedUy abandon an ojfender in de-
spondency—does ikoi immediately give him up as
incorrigible, nor soon cease to employ the means
necessary for his reformation ; but is willing to ex-
pect that he may yet repent and improve, however
discouraging present appearances may be. Hope
is the main spring of exertion ; and as love mean^
a desire for the well-being of otbenf, it will not soon
let go that hope, in the absence of which all its ef-
forts must be paralyzed.

There are reasons which make it wise, as well
as kind, to believe and hope all things for the best.
Presumptive evidence^ however strongs is often faUa-
dons. Many circumstances in the case may look
very suspicious; and yet the afler-discovery of
some little event may alter the aspect of the whole
a&ir, and make the innocence of the accused fhr
more apparent than even his ruilt seemed before.
The various instances in which we have ourselves
been deceived by appearances, and have been led
by defective, though at the time convincing, evi-
dence, should certainly teach us caution in listening
to evil reports, and dispose us to believe and hope
all things.

When we consider, also, how common is slander^
detraction and tale-bearing, we should not be hasty
informing an opinion; nor should we forget the
anxiety which is oflen manifested by each party en-
gaged in a contention to gain our alliaQce to their
cause, hy being first to report the matter, and to pro-
dwx an impression favorable to themsehes, Solomon
has given us a proverb, the truth of which we have
seen proved in a thousand instances, and which,
notwithstanding, we are continually forgetting, —
" He that is flrst in his own cause, seemeth to be
just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him
out." It ii a proof of great weakness, so to ^ive
our ear to the first reporter, as to close it against
the other party; and yet we are all prone to do this.
A plaosible tale produces an impreeaion, which no



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CHRISTIAN CHARITY.



gobneaoeBt oppotiiif tCBdmoDjr, though attended
with ni dearer evidence of truth than the first
•tatement, can efl^tually obliterate. We know
that eTery case has two aanects— we have ail been
eiqwriincntally acquainted with the fdllj of decid-
inf till we have heard both sides; and yet, in oppo-
«ti0B to our reason, and to our experience, we are
«pt to take up a prejudice upon ex-{«rte statements.
Another circumstance, by which we are in danger
of being misled in our opinion of our neighbor's
eonduc^ is the mischievous propensity of many
persons to exaggtrate every thing they relate. —
Whatever be the philosophical cause, into which a
fondness for the marvellous, and a delight in ex-
citing surprise, may be resolved, its existence, and
i^ prevalence, are unquestionanle. Perhaps, we
all like to relate what is new, and strange^and in-
teresting; not excepting even bad news. To such
a pitch IS this carried, by those who are deeply in-
fected with the propensity, that they never tell any
thing as they heard it: every fact is embellished or
ma^ified. If a neighbor has displayed a little
warmth of temper, they saw him ragingllke a ftiry ;
if he was a hitle cheerful after dinner, he was
tippling; if he was evasive, they protest that he
oommitted palpable falsehood, if not perjury ; if he
had not been so generous in his transactions as
could be wished, he was an extortioner, and devoid
of common honesty. Nothing is moderate and
sober in the hands oif such persons: every thin^ is
extravagant, or extraordinaiy. All they meet with,
is in the form of adventure. Out of the least inci-
dent they can construct a tale ; and on a small basis
cf truth, raise a mi^ty superstructure of fiction^ to
interest and impress every company into which
they come. tJnoeterred by the presence of the in-
dividual from whom they received the original &ct,
they will not scrapie to go on magnifying and em-
belushing, till the author of the statement can
scarcely recognize his own narrative. How strange
it seems,, thai such people should either not know
or not remember, that all this while they are telling
iUsehoods. They do not seem to understand, that
if we relate a circumstance in such a manner as is
calculated to give an impression which, either in
nature or de|;ree, does not accord with reality, we
aire guilty oTthe sin of Iving. Where character is
concerned, the sin is still greater, since it adds de-
traction to falsehood. Many a man's reputation
has been frittered awav by this wicked and mis-
chievous propensity. Eveiy narrator of an instance
of nusconduct, not, perhaps, heinous in the first in-
stance, has added something to the original fhct,
till the ofience hfs stood before the public eye, so
blackened bv this accumulative defamation, that,
for a while, ne has lost his character, and only par-
tiallv recovered it in the end, and with extreme dif-
ficulty. Remembering the existence of such an
evil, we should be backward to take up an unfavor-
able opinion upon first appearance; and where we
Oannot believe all things, be willing to hope: such
is the dictate of charity, and such the conduct of
those who yield their hearts to its influence.

CHAPTER XV.

TBI SBLT-DBNUL OP LOVE.

''Lave tndwrdk aU things/'

CHiamr is not fickle, unsteady, and easily discou-
nted ; not soon disneartenea, or induced to relin-
quish its object: but is persevering, patient, and
self-deiiying, in the pursuance of its design to relieve
the wants, assuage the sorrows, reform the vices,
and allay the animosities, of those whose good it
seeks. It is as patient in oearing, as it is active in
doing} oniting the oncomidaiiable submianon of



the lamb, the plodding perseverance of the ox, with
the courage or the lion.

It is no mvolous and volatile afiection, relinquish-
ing its object ihnn a mere love of change; nor is it
a feeble virtue, which weakly lets go its purpose im
the prospect of difficulty ; nor a cowardly grace,
which drops its scheme, and flees from the face of
danger ; no, it is the union of benevolence witli
strength, patience, courage, and perseverance. It
has feminme beauty, and gentleness, and sweetness,
united with masculme energy, and power, and he-
roism. To do good, it will meekly bear with the
infirmitieB of the meanest, or will Srave the scorn
and f^ of the mightiest. But let us survey the
opposition, the difficulties, the discouragements, the
provocations, which it has to. bear, and which, with
enduring patience it can resist

SacriJUis of uue, tf Umtf of fetlimg^ and ^/pf^
pertjff must all be endured : for it is imposs&te to
exercise Christian charity without making these. —
He that would do good to others, without practising
self-denial, does but dream. The way of philan-
thropy is ever up hill, and not unArequently over
ragged rocks, and through thorny paths. If we
would promote the happmess of oar fellow creap-
tnres, it must beby parting with something or other
that is dear to us. if we would lay aside revenge
when they have injured us, and exercise forgive-
ness, we must often mortify our own SBelings. If
we would reconcile the difi»rences of those who are
at variance, we must give up our time, and some-
times our comfort. If we would assuage their grieft,
we must expend our property. If we would reform
their wickedness, we must part with our ease. If we
would, in short, do good of any kind, we most be
willing to deny ourselves, and hear labor of body
and pain of mmd. And love is willing to do this ;
it braces itself for labor, arms itself for conflict, pre-



Online LibraryArchibald ForbesThe Christian library: a weekly republication of popular religious ..., Volume 6 → online text (page 14 of 121)