Speak not evil one of another, brothers. He that speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law…
The original of this evil is from Satan, and the pedigree of evil speech is to be derived from the devil, the great dragon, the old serpent. This is he that begetteth all slanderous persons; he it is who raiseth these motions in our hearts, and bloweth the fame of these affections in the minds of the wicked. This is that poison of Apis, the venomous serpent which lurketh under the lips of the reproachful slanderer. These wound and slay at hand, and far off, at home and abroad, the quick and the dead; these spare neither prince nor people, neither priest nor prelate, neither friend or foe, rich nor poor, base nor honourable, man nor woman, one nor other, these destroy whole houses and families. Now the common causes for which men speak evil of one another are chiefly these five:
1. Men slander and speak evil of — thereby to be revenged of — such as either have done them hurt, or else are thought to have done them injury. Thus men and women, not able with violence to make their part a good, use their slanderous tongues as instruments and weapons of their revenge.
2. As desire to be avenged pricketh men forward to this mischief, so also desire of gain moveth men thereunto, for we see sometimes that the bringing of others by slander into contempt may breed our commodity wherewith all we moved, give over our tongues as weapons and instruments of slander.
3. Neither for these causes only do we speak evil of our brethren, but also stirred up by envy; for the graces and benefits of God poured in plentiful manner upon our neighbours, whereat we being moved through envy, we speak evil of them as unworthy of those graces and benefits received.
4. And as for these causes men are moved to slander, so through desire that men have to please others they give themselves to slander. Now it is the nature of many men to delight in hearing others slandered, whose humour flatterers following do therefore often slander their brethren.
5. Finally, and that which properly concerneth this place, our evil speaking proceedeth of pride, and therefore as a mischief and effect of pride it is here condemned. For as the ape and raven think their own young ones fairest and best favoured, yet is there not a more deformed thing almost among beasts than the ape, neither a fouler among the birds than the young raven; so men like their own doings, be they never so bad, and condemn all others in comparison of themselves.This mischief is manifold, and sundry ways are men said to speak evil one of another.
1. When men misreport of us, and charge us with that which is not true, then speak they evil of us.
2. Neither thus only speak men evil one of another, but also when they amplify, exaggerate, aggravate, and make the infirmities and faults of men far greater by their reports than indeed they be, to make them odious in the sight of men; as when our neighbor is something choleric and hasty to report him to be so mad, furious and headstrong, that norm can abide it.
3. Besides this, men speak evil of their brethren when they blaze abroad the secret sins and infirmities of their brethren — when they should have covered them in love — only to discredit and defame the offenders.
4. Again, men sin by speaking evil of their brethren when they deprave the good deeds and well-doings of them, when they extenuate and make less than indeed they be.
5. Not thus only, but also when men excel in learning, be singular for virtue, renowned for faith, or any such gift and grace of God's Spirit. To diminish and extenuate these things and make them, by our envious reports, far less than indeed they are; what is this then but evil speech here condemned? Wherefore as to exaggerate and amplify the vices so to extenuate the virtues and good gifts in the saints is and to be accounted a kind of slander and evil speech also.
6. Moreover, men speak evil, though they speak that which is true, touching the sins and infirmities of their brethren, when they speak those things, not for love of the truth, but for the slandering of the person which hath offended.
7. Finally, this evil is committed when in the pride of our hearts we would have all men live according to our pleasures and wills, which, when they do not, we arrogantly condemn them, we slanderously report of them, we maliciously censure them, we rashly judge them.And this evil he dissuadeth by four reasons.
1. From the violating God's law, which is broken and violated of us when in the pride of our minds we condemn and speak evil of our brethren. How doth the law sustain injury in thus injuring of our brethren! How is it violated, how is it evil spoken of and condemned when our brethren are evil spoken of and condemned by us! God's law teacheth us not to condemn nor to speak evil of the brethren. When, notwithstanding this law, we do and will speak evil and condemn our brethren then we speak evil of the law and condemn it in effect. Because we will not be bridled thereby. Now, whoso speaketh evil of and condemneth any law, speaketh evil of and condemneth him whose law it is; proud and wicked men then speaking evil of the law of God, and condemning it, speak thereby evil of God and condemn Him by whose finger this law was written. And thus blasphemously speak we evil of God and presumptuously also prefer we our wits and wills before God's, and as wiser than God, we in all impiety condemn Him of folly. And to find fault with the wisdom of God, and to speak evil of His eternal Spirit and the unsearchable counsels of His heart, to take upon us to control and correct His laws, statutes and ordinances, what intolerable impiety, what desperate iniquity, what singular ungodliness were it!
2. A second reason why we should not speak evil of, or condemn the brethren, is drawn from the duty of the saints, it is the duty of God's children to do the law, not to judge or condemn it. We may not speak evil of the brethren, because in so doing we are not doers of the law which duty requireth, but judges, which becometh not the saints.
3. A third reason why men may not proudly condemn and arrogantly judge their brethren is drawn from the usurping of the office of God and of Christ.
4. The fourth reason why we should not speak evil, or rashly condemn our brethren, is from the frailty of our own common state and condition. There is no better bridle to the heady and hasty judging of other men than to be plucked back by the reins and bit of our own frailty, and view of our own infirmities, which thing greatly abateth our pride, assuageth our hatred, cooleth our courage, and tempereth the hastiness of our judgments against our brethren. When the peacock beholdeth his tail, beset with such varieties of beautiful colours, then he swelleth in pride, contemning and condemning all other birds in comparison of himself; but when he looseth upon his black feet and vieweth the deformity thereof, his comb is something cut and his courage abated. So when we lift up our eyes to the graces and gifts which God bestowed upon us, then we wax proud and insolent; but when we cast our eyes down upon the manifold infirmities whereunto we are subject, then is our pride abated and our insolency of spirit diminished, and we made more moderate and temperate in judging of our Christian brethren.
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.