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unto the children of Israel, saying, l'hosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin, and he, that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him. Have you attended to this sentence? It not only regards the blasphemer, it regards all that hear him. If you be sincere members of the congregation of Israel, you ought, though not to stone the blasphemer, yet to declare your abhorrence of his conduct, and, if he remain incorrigible, to endeavour to rid society of such a monster.
Human legislators have treated such people with the utmost rigour. The Emperor Justinian condemned blasphemers to death*. Some have bored their tonguest. Others have drowned thems. Others have branded them with a red hot iron in the forehead $, intending, by fixing this mark ef infamy in a part so visible, to guard people against keeping company with a blasphemer. It was Lewis the ninth, a king of France, who was the author of this law. I cannot help relating the words of this prince in justification of the severity of the law. A man of rank in the kingdom having uttered blasphemy, great intercession was made for his pardon : but the king's answer was this; I would submit, said he, to be burnt in the forehead myself, if by enduring the pain I could purify my kingdom from blasphemy.
We affirmed, further, that some people habituated themselves to swearing from false notions of glory and freedom of conversation. A man sets up for a wit in conversation, he pretends to conciliate the esteem of his company, and affects to put on the air of a man of the world, free from the stiffness of pedants. (This is not an invention of mine, this is a natural portrait, my brethren, and some of you gave me the original.) This man, I say, having taken into his head this design, and not being able to derive means of succeeding from his, genius, or education, calls in the aid of oaths; of these he keeps various forms, and applies them instead of reasons, having the folly to imagine that an oath artfully placed at the end of a period renders it more expressive and polite; and, judging of the taste of his hearers by his own, inwardly applauds himself, and wonders what
* Constitut. Ixxi. a Ixvi.
§ Paul. Emil. de gest. Fraxc. fol. 164. pag. 2. edit. de Vascosan 1576.
heart can resist the power of his eloquence. An elocutiun mean and contemptible, and fitter for an unbridled soldiery than for those that command them. An elocution directly opposite to the words of my text, Let your speech be seasoned with salt. Never let the name of God go out of your lips without exciting such sentiments of veneration in your ininds as are due to that sacred name, Never speak of the attributes of God in conversation without recollecting the Majesty of that being to whom they belong. Accustom not thy mouth to swearing, said the wise son of Sirach, neither use thyself to the naming of thy holy One, for he that nameth God continually shall not be faultless, Eccles. xxiji. 9, 10. The first vice of conversation to be avoided is swearing and blasphemy, the first seasoning of conversation is piety.
2. The apostle prescribes us a seasoning of chastity. Against this duty there are soine direct and some oblique attacks. Direct violaters of this law are those nauseous mouths, which cannot open without putting modesty to the blush, by uttering language too offensive to be repeated in this sacred assembly, yea too filthy to be mentioned any where without breaking the laws of worldly decency. We are not surprised that people without taste, and without education, that a libertine, who makes a trade of debauchery, and who usually haunts houses of infamy, should adopt this style : but that christian women, who profess to respect virtue, that they should suffer their ears to be defiled with such discourse, that they should make parties at entertainments, and at cards with such people, and so discover that they like to have their ears tickled with such conversation, is really astonishing. We repeat it again, decorum, and worldly decency are sufficient to inspire us with horror for this practice. And shall the maximns of religion affect us less than human rules? Fornication, and all uncleanness, said St. Paul, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. Eph. v. 3.
Barefaced immodest discourse is not the most dangerous, for it ought to be then least tolerated, because it is then most execrable, when it is uttered equivocally. There is an art of disguising obscenity, and of conveying poison the most fatally, by communicating it in preparations the most subtil and refined. Men in general choose rather to appear virtuous than to be so, and, to accommodate such people, there is an art of introducing vice under coverings so thick as to scem to respect the modesty of the company, and yet
so thin as fully to expose it. A fine and delicate allusion, a lively and original tour of expression, an ingenious equivocation, a double meaning, an arch look, an affected gravity; these are the dangerous vails, these the instruments that wound us when we are off our guard. For what can you say to a man, who behaves in this manner? If you suffer his airs to pass without censure, he will glory in your
indulgence, and take your silence for approbation. If, on the other hand, you remonstrate, he will tax you with his own crime; he will tell you, that your car is guilty, his language is innocent, that immodesty is in your heart, not in his expressions, and that of two senses, to which his language is applicable, you have adapted the immodest, when you ought to have taken the chaste meaning.
If to talk in this manner he to make an offering of the tongue to the enemy of our salvation, certainly, to lend an ear to such conversation, and by certain expressive siniles to promise a favourable attention to it, is to dedicate the car to him. And, do not deceive yourselves, you will never be able to persuade such as know the humati heart, that you love virtue, while you take pleasure in hearing conver, sation injurious to virtue. You will be told, and with great reason, that you are a friend to nothing but the appearance of it. Were virtue itself the object of your esteem, you would not keep company with such as wound it. But by your indulgence of such people, you give us great reason to presume, that, were not human laws and worldly decency in your way, you would give yourself up to the practice of vice, for, in spite of these, you take pleasure in beholding it when appearances are saved, and even disguise it yourself under specious pretexts.
Further, we include in nur notion of immodest conver. sation, licentious songs, which lawless custom has rendered too familiar, songs, which, under pretence of gratifying a passion for vocal and instrumental music, disseininate a thousand loose, not to say lascivious, maxims, excite a thousand irregular emotions, and cherish many criminal passions. Attend to this article of our discourse, ye parents, who idolize your children, children whom you ought to dedicate to Jesus Christ, but whom you lead into a licentiousness that is a disgrace to your families. Music is an art criminal or innocent, according to the use made of it. Those pious men, whom the holy scriptures propose to us for models, did not deny themselves the enjoyment of it: but
they applied it to proper subjects. St. Paul even recommends it. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richiy in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord, Col. iii. 16. Thus also a prophet formerly applied both his voice and his instrument to celebrate the praises of his Creator. Awake up, my glory, awake psaltery and harp, I myself will awake carly. I will praise thee, O Lord, ainong the people; I will sing unto thee among the nations. Sing aloud unto God our strength: make a jeyful noise unto the God of Jacob. Take a psalm and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery, Psal. lvii. 8, 9. and lxxxi. 1, 2, &c. Thus a christian musician ought to sing : but never, never should his mouth utter licentious verses. An unchaste tongue is a sad sign of a depraved heart. A woman, who paints vice in colours so agreeable, proves that she considers it in a very amiable light, and has no objection to the practice of it. For my part, I shall never be able to persuade myself that any consecrate their bodies to be temples of the holy Ghost, who, to use an expression of St. Paul, make their tongues members of an harlot, 1 Cor. vi. 15.
Slander and calumny are a third defect of conversation, and the third law, which our apostle imposes on us, is a seasoning of charity. I freely acknowledge, my brethren, that I cannot enter on this article without losing that moderation of temper, which is necessary to a preacher, who would treat of the subject properly. Whether it be weakness of mind, or self-interest, or whether it be the enormous lengths, to which you practise this vice in this place, too much practised alas, every where ! or whatever be the cause, I can scarcely retain my temper: for I feel myself at once ready to confound instruction with reproof. Is there any character among you so respectable, any intention so innocent, any conduct so irreproachable, any piery so conconspicuous, as to escape the cruelty of your calumniating conversations ?
What shall I say to you, my brethren? I wish I knew how to collect the substance of inany sermons into this one article. I would endeavour to exhibit calumny in one small portrait, at which you might continually look, and which might perpetually inspire you with holy horror.
1. Consider this vice in its source. Sometimes it proceeds from littleness of mind, for there are people who cannot converse, they neither understand religion or government, arts or sciences, and their conversation would languish and die away were not the void filled up with a detail of the real imperfections of their neighbours, or of others which the most cruel malignity ascribes to them, and the number of these always far surpasses that of real defects. Sometimes it comes from pride. People wish to be superior to their neighbours, and not having the noble courage to rise above them by the practice of more virtue, they endeavour to sink them by slanderous conversation. Sometimes envy is the source. There are persons, who place their happiness in the misery of others. A neighbour's prosperity shocks them, his reputation wounds them, and his rest is their torment. Sometimes a guilty conscience generates slanger. Bad men fear the public eye should discover and fix on their own crimes, and they try to prevent this misfortune by artfuliy turning the attention of spectators from themselves to the vices of their fellow citizens,
? Consider thic fatal consequences of slander. Judge of the hearts of others by your own.
What makes one man invent a caluny induces another to receive and publish it. As soon is over the voice of slander is heard, a thousand cchoes repeat it, and publish vices, which your want of charity, or excess of injustice attributed to your neighbour, What renders this the more deplorable is the usual readiness of mankind to give credit to calumny; a readiness on the one part to utter a calumny, and on the other to believe it, overwhelm a neighbour with all the misery of defamation. . 3. Consider the duties, which they who commit this
. crime, bind themselves to perform ; duties so hard, that some would rather die than perform them, and yet duties so indispensable, that no man can expect either favour or forgiveness, who neglects the discharge of them. The first law we impose on a man, who hath unjustly acquired the property of a neighbour, is to restore it. The first law we impose on a man, who hath injured the reputation of another, is to repair it. There is a restitution of honour as well as of fortune. Which of you, now, who hath dealt in slander, dare form the just and generous resolution of going from house to house to publish his retractions? Who is there among you, that by committing this sin does not hazard all his own reputation ?