Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

neighbour is made worfe, and therefore is to be put into that ftate from whence he was forced. That person who intends a small injury to his neighbour, and acts it, and by it a greater evil accidentally comes, is obliged to make an intire reparation of all that injury which he intended, and of that which he intended not; which yet was only consequential upon the former act going farther than he at first proposed it; because his original mischief was the cause thereof. Whoever hinders a charitable person from giving alms to a poor man, is tied to restitution, if he hindered him by fraud or violence. Whosoever refuses to do any part of his duty (to which he is otherwiseobliged) without a bribe, is bound to restore that money, which he has unjustly taken. Such as by fact, or word, or sign, either fraudulently or violently does hurt to a neighbour's body, life, goods, good name, friends, or soul, is bound, as far as is possible to be done, to make restitution in the several instances. The adulterous person is tied to make provision for the children begotten in unlawful embraces, that they may do no injury to the legitimate by receiving a common portion : and, if the injured person demands money, he must satisfy him with money. So the murderer is bound to restitution, by allowing such a maintenance to the children or near relations of the deceased, as they have lost by his death, considering and allowing for all circumstances of the man's age and health. The slanderer and back-biter, who hath really lessened the fame of his neighbour by fraud or violence, is bound to restore it by a confession of his fault, giving testimony of his innocence or worth, doing him honour, or (if that will not do, and both parties agree) by money. Whoever hath wounded his neighbour, is tied to the expences of the surgeon and other incidents, and to repair whatever losses he sustains by his disability to work or trade: and the same is in the case of false imprisonment: in which and all other cases, the injured person is to be restored to that perfect and good condition from which he had been removed by fraud or violence, so far as we are able. A ravisher must repair the temporal detriment or injury done to the maid, and give her a dowry, or marry her if the desire it; because this restores her into that capacity of being a good wife, which by the injury was loft, as far as it can be done. Such as rob a neighbour of his goods, or detain any thing violently, or fraudulently, are bound not only to restore the principal, but all its fruits and profits, which would have accrued to the right owner during the time they detain them. Thus the facrilegious, the detainers of tithes, cheaters of men's inheritances, unjust judges, false witnesses and accusers; those that do fraudulently or violently bring men to sin, that force men to drink, that laugh at and disgrace virtue, that persuade servants to run away, or suddenly to quit their places, or commend such purposes; violent persecutors of religion in any instance, and all of the far:se nature, are all in justice obliged to make restitution. And, in like manner, he who hath wronged so many, or in that manner (as in the way of daily trade) that he knows not in what measure he hath done it, or who they are, must redeem his fault by alms and largesses to the poor, according to the value of his wrongful dealing, as near as he can judge. Whosoever has contracted debts must, as soon as he can, discharge them: for as we read that Jesus Christ pronounced salvation to the house of Zaccheus in the fame day that he had made restitution ; fo, if we do likewise, we have the fame hope that he will grant us his falvation.

IV. The fourth branch of negative justice concerns the Of bis Credit of our neighbour ; because every memcredit. ber of human society has a right to credit and a fair character, if deserving, among his neighbours and acquaintance; for who will trust a man of a lost reputation, or who would willingly have any society with one in whom he cannot confide? So that there is nothing generally more dear and valuable to men than their reputation, or good name, which is rather to be chosen than riches; and it, as a precious ointment, perfumes wherever it spreads : and therefore it is that the wifest and best men have been always very tender of preserving in themselves, and what good christians ought confequently to make great conscience of taking wrongfully from others; because a man's ability to do good to himself, to his friends and neighbours, the success of his affairs, the comforts and interests, and most of the convenien

cies of life, yea and sometimes life itself, depend upon the credit a man hasobtained among his neighbours: and therefore whoever is guilty of defaming his neighbour, does in

effect the same thing as to defraud him of his property; for · so much reputation is always so much power. I shall therefore shew the nature and extent of this sin. And,

First, A man's credit is impaired and injured by false reports : under which head I shall include not only Falle rethe spreading, knowinglyand maliciously, false re- poris. ports concerning any person, either for some private advantage to ourselves; or out of envy towards him ; or in way of revenge for some conceived affront: But, let what will be the cause, this is a fin of the deepest dye, and condemned amongst the most detestable crimes, where it is declared in scripture, that all lyars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. Our Saviour, when the Pharisees spread false accusations against him, told them that they imitated their father the devil; who, when he speaketh a lye, speaketh of his own; for he is a lyar, and the father of it. But there are still lower degrees of this vice; which as they are less scandalous, so there is more danger of men's falling into them. Such are the carelessly spreading of accufations, when we do not certainly know whether they be true or false ; calumny, detraction, slander, evil-speaking, backbiting, tale-bearings, rash judgment, and the like. Among things inconsistent with the profession of a christian, the apoftlealways reckons maliciousness, debate, malignity, whisperings, back-bitings, wrath, strife, hatred, variance, emulations, envyings, railings, evil-furmisings, bitterness, anger, clamour, and evil-speaking: and declares, that if any man seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart; this man’s religion is vain. Our Saviour likewise admonishes us : Judge not, that ye be not judged.

It may be asked, whether it be lawful to speak ill of the dead ? and the answer is, that it either must be or lawful in some cases, and under proper restric- ill of the tions; or we must condemn all historians (the fa- dead. cred ones not excepted) who have transmitted the faults as well as virtues of the dead to posterity. There is a tenderness due to the memories of those, who are no longer in a capacity to speak for themselves : and therefore we ought to be very careful not to charge any crimes upon them, of which we have not strong authentick proofs, either from personal knowledge, or from persons of unsuspected veracity. Where there is even a faint probability, that the fact, of which they are accused, might be otherwise than it is represented; there we ought to be filent. But where the facts are so notorious, that they admit of no doubt; so flagrantly bad, that they need no aggravation; there we ought to consider, that there is a curse denounced upon the wicked, that their memories should rot: as there is a promise to the righteous, that they should be had in everlasting remembrance, and their memories be embalmed. It is wrong likewise to speak evil of the dead, for the sake of evil-speaking, without a view to the information of the living.

well

e Of speaking

Under this head also we must include the careless and rash Conscious custom of spreading cenforious and uncharitable reness. ports to the disadvantage of our neighbour, without at all knowing whether there be any truth in the accusation, or any just ground and foundation for the censure ; and this is the mother of innumerable sorts of calumny, detraction, slander, evil-speaking, back-biting, tale-bearing, rash judgment, and publishing any thing of our neighbour that is really true, yet needless, and contrary to the laws of charity, declaring their neighbour's real infirmities, or real faults, to his disadvantage; without serving the purpose of any true benefit either to him or others: for this isagainst the express command, Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people. The apostle ranks back-biters, with the black crimes of those who aregiven up to a reprobate mind, and which in the judgment of God are worthy of death ; and he puts flanderers and revilers with those that shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and when he reckons up the linsof the last times, evil-Speakers arein the list of that black catalogue, St. Peter joins evil-speaking with malice, hypocrisy, and envy, offsprings of hell; and, notwithstanding the highest pretences to religion, St. James affures us, that he that bridles nothis tongue, that man's religionis vain; and in that it is contrary to that wise dictate of nature, of doing to others as we would they should do to us, it is an open violation of that christian doctrine of charity, and is a sign of a weak mind, which is not able to bear the lustre of merit and virtue. And here I cannot but obferve, with too much truth, that thofe, who knowa great deal of ill of themselves, are apt to suspect ill of every body else. Thou thoughtest wickedly, that I was such an one as thyself, is the character, which the Pfalmift gives of an immoral person. They accule people of wickedness, which they do not know to be true; and censure them for what they cannot know to be true; viz. their intentions, and the thoughts of their hearts. Their talk is a constant fatire upon others, and their actions a living fatire upon themselves. Their foul language is nothing but the overflowings of a much fouler heart. It is the mark of a mean and cruel temper, unworthy of a man, to delight in wounding our neighbour, or to widen thosewounds which have been made by others. If we have any talent for saying keen and fatirical things, let us be superior to the talent we possess, by fhewing how little stress we lay upon it when it comes in competition with our good-nature. Let us have no recourse to low stratagems, atonce to cover, and yet discharge our little spite. And take it for granted, whatever pleasure we may feel in giving utterance to ill-natured suggestions, there is a much greater in stilling them. This frequently puts on the appearance of friendship, and is ushered in with great commendations; that the wound that is given may be deep and fure. Nevertheless, let whatever false reasons be given for this practice, it is always a breach of the great duty of charity, and it is a mark of false devotion to tear in pieces the reputation of those that oppose our designs, and to think to make an agreeable offering to God of what we sacrifice, cither to our interest, revenge, or to our jealous tempers. For, except some instance of justice or charity requires it, we ought not to expose our neighbour's real faults, because we are not willing that all that is true of ourselves should be exposed to publick view. What commendations does he deserve, who, at the same time that he has too much good

that lenfe

« AnteriorContinuar »