James 4:11-12
Speak not evil one of another, brothers. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law…

1. A detractor is wont to represent persons and actions under the most disadvantageous circumstances he can, setting out those which may cause them to appear odious or despicable, slipping over those which may commend or excuse them.

2. He is wont to misconstrue ambiguous words, or to misinterpret doubtful appearances of things.

3. He is wont to misname the qualities of persons or things, assigning bad appellations or epithets to good or indifferent qualities.

4. He doth imperfectly characterise persons, so as studiously to veil or faintly to disclose their virtues and good qualities, but carefully to expose, and fully to aggravate or amplify any defects or failings in them.

5. He is wont not to commend or allow anything absolutely and clearly, but always interposing some exception to which he would have it seem liable.

6. He is ready to suggest ill causes and principles, latent in the heart, of practices apparently good; ascribing what is well done to bad disposition, or bad purpose.

7. He derogateth from good actions by pretending to correct them, or to show better that might have been done in their room: it is, said he, done in some respects well, or tolerably; but it might have been done better, with as small trouble and cost: lie was overseen in choosing this way, or proceeding in this manner.

8. A detractor not regarding the general course and constant tenor of a man's conversation, which is conspicuously and clearly good, will attack some part of it, the goodness whereof is less discernible, or more subject to contest and blame.

9. The detractor injecteth suggestions of everything anywise plausible or possible, that can serve to diminish the worth of a person, or value of an action, which he would discountenance.


1. Ill nature and bad humour: as good nature and ingenuous disposition incline men to observe, like, and command what appeareth best in our neighbour; so malignity of temper and heart prompteth to espy and catch at the worst.

2. Pride, ambition, and inordinate self-love.

3. Envy.

4. Malicious revenge and spite.

5. Sense of weakness, want of courage, or despondency of his own ability.

6. Evil conscience.

7. Bad, selfish design.


1. Injustice: a detractor careth not how he dealeth with his neighbour, what wrong he doeth him.

2. Uncharitableness: it is evident that the detractor doth net love his neighbour, for charity maketh the best of everything; "charity believeth everything, hopeth everything" to the advantage of its object.

3. Impiety: he that loveth and reverenceth God will acknowledge and approve His goodness, in bestowing excellent gifts and graces to his brethren.

4. Detraction involveth degenerous baseness, meanness of spirit, and want of good manners.

5. In consequence to these things, detraction includeth folly; for every unjust, every uncharitable, every impious, every base person is, as such, a fool; none of those qualities are consistent with wisdom.

III. THE FOLLY OF it will particularly appear, together with its depravity, by THE BAD AND HURTFUL EFFECTS which it produceth, both in regard to others and to him that practiseth it.

1. The practice thereof is a great discouragement and obstruction to the common practice of goodness; for many, seeing the best men thus disparaged, and the best actions vilified, are disheartened and deterred from practising virtue, especially in a conspicuous and eminent degree.

2. Hence detraction is very noxious and baneful to all society; for all society is maintained in welfare by encouragement of honesty and industry.

3. Detraction worketh real damage and mischief to our neighbour.

4. The detractor abuseth those into whose ears he instilleth his poisonous suggestions, engaging them to partake in the injuries done to worth and virtue, causing them to entertain unjust and uncharitable conceits, to practise unseemly and unworthy behaviour toward good men.

5. The detractor produceth great inconveniences and mischiefs to himself. He raiseth against himself fierce animosity — hence are they stirred to boil with passion, and to discharge revenge on the detractor.

6. The detractor yieldeth occasion to others, and a kind of right to return the same measure on him.

7. Again the detractor, esteeming things according to moral possibility, will assuredly be defeated in his aims; his detraction in the close will avail nothing, but to bring trouble and shame on himself; for God hath a particular care over innocence and goodness, so as not to let them finally to suffer.

(I. Barrow, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.

WEB: Don't speak against one another, brothers. He who speaks against a brother and judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge.

Conscience Subject to God Alone
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