Speak not evil one of another, brothers. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law…
I. AS TO ITS ORIGIN. Calumny, like every other evil that embitters the happiness or tarnishes the present good name of mankind, may finally be traced to the original corruption of human nature and to the want of that abiding principle of true religion which alone can ensure the mastery over every evil propensity and fit all, individually, to comport themselves aright in the ever-varying and multifarious relations of social life. Of the secondary and more immediate causes, however, of this baneful and prevailing vice, idleness, envy, revenge, malice, and spiritual pride may perhaps, without much uncharitableness in the supposition, be naturally assigned as the chief and most common sources from whence it flows. It has often been said that when the devil finds a man idle he generally sets him to work; for as the mired of man is essentially active, and cannot long bear the languor and irksomeness of mere idleness, so when he is not habitually employed in the acquisition of learning and knowledge, the pursuits of science, the cultivation of the fine arts, or engaged in one or other of the more common yet not less useful occupations of humble life, he will most likely soon become busied in pursuits of an opposite kind! And hence mere idleness is not only a useless, but even a highly dangerous state of existence — an inlet to every evil which can either disgrace or embitter the life of man; and to none does it afford a more ready and direct access than to that of calumny. But to a habit of idleness may be mentioned also envy as not an unfrequent cause of evil speaking among mankind. Fallen perhaps, through habits of idleness and dissipation, from that rank in society which greater prudence and exertion might have enabled him to maintain, or, finding himself outstripped in the journey of life by those who were but his equals or even inferiors in the outset, and whom, but for his own misguided conduct, he might still have equalled or surpassed, the man in whose bosom is fanned the spark of envy sickens at the sight of that prosperity which he cannot reach vilifies as crooked and suspicious that line of conduct by which it has been obtained; affects to undervalue that happiness which worldly success seems to confer; ascribes to penuriousness of disposition or to an unaccountable flow of good luck whatever a more amiable or generous mind would naturally be disposed to set down to the credit of commendable economy united to a system of virtuous and undeviating industry. But, farther, revenge also not unfrequently prompts men to the indulgence of evil speaking. Few modes of attack seem to unite so completely safety to the assailant and injury to the person assailed as that which is presented through the medium of calumny; and hence it is so frequently adopted by the cold-blooded, cowardly, malicious, and revengeful! No matter how innocent and unoffending, how distinguished and exemplary, may be the object of their hatred, to have incurred their displeasure, however unwittingly, is cause sufficient for Jetting loose all the envenomed shafts of slander! But yet farther. There are some who appear to indulge in a habit of evil speaking for whose conduct no possible reason can be assigned but the innate malice of their hearts or the secret desire of mischief. Such are those who, without any personal provocation or the least shadow of excuse, wantonly attack without discrimination the characters of all around them. Human only in appearance, they are in heart and dispositions but demons in disguise. But yet farther again. The only remaining topic, to which we here claim your attention, as one of the many sources from which a habit of evil speaking may sometimes proceed, is that of spiritual pride. Nothing has a stronger tendency to render a man arrogant and contemptuous in his conduct towards others than a false idea of his own superior attainments in knowledge and in religion; while, at the same time, not a surer evidence can well be given of the presence of ignorance and of the want of the true spirit of the gospel.
II. And hence we would remind you that calumny or evil speaking Is A MEAN AND COWARDLY VICE. If you would blush to have yoUr names associated with the thief and the robber, can you for a moment think it less mean or less criminal to assassinate the character of your neighbour, which to every good man is dearer than life? To filch from him that which constitutes his most valued possession, which, to many, is all they have whereon to depend for the support of themselves and family, and to all is absolutely necessary to the true enjoyment of the good things of this life with which Providence may have blessed their condition? But we would have you to recollect, farther, that evil speaking is not only mean and cowardly in the extreme, but is also characterised by the blackest injustice. Is it justice, though he may in some instances have failed in duty towards us, to represent him as deficient in all, to go about privily slandering him in his absence, fabricating stories to his hurt, without once, perhaps, having acquainted him with the cause of our displeasure; to condemn him, in short, without a hearing in his defence, and for that, too, of which perhaps the cause lies chiefly with ourselves?
III. Let us now ADDUCE A FEW CONSIDERATIONS WHICH NATURALLY, AS WELL AS POWERFULLY, OUGHT TO LEAD ALL MEN TO GUARD AGAINST OR TO FORSAKE A HABIT SO ODIOUS AND UNCHRISTIAN. And these are chiefly suggested to us by the concluding word of our text, namely, that we are "brethren."
1. We are brethren by creation. To indulge, therefore, in calumny and malignant sarcasm against our fellow creatures is a gross and unnatural perversion of all those exalted faculties by which our race has been distinguished — a habit which at once degrades us beneath the rank of the lower animals, and insults the wisdom and majesty of God the Creator, by thus vilifying the noblest of His works.
2. We are brethren in the original corruption of our nature.
3. We are brethren by one common faith in Christ Jesus. Therefore, if we are really Christians, one temper, one spirit of peace, must pervade the whole. Seeing also that we look for the coming of Christ and the glorious fulfilment of His promises, "let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into His rest, any of us should seem to come short of it" through lack of brotherly love.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.