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In the private walks of life, there are thousands who say too much. The liar, profane swearer, backbiter, and slanderer; are ever saying too much. The whisperer of scandal, the mysterious guesser, the impertinent meddler, the fiery and passionate, the jealous and suspicious, the malicious and revengeful, the envious and reckless; are usually saying quite too much, and from influences always wrong—often criminal.
There are others, who, in the innocence of their hearts, say too much. The young man, whose stock of knowledge is small, by talking when he should listen; may miss of intelligence that might be of great use to him. The man who engrosses all the conversation in company, to show his learning and superiority; often disgusts his companions by saying too much. The fond and loving twain, who relate long yarns, relative to their conjugal affection, and the shining intellect of their children; often tire their friends by saying too much. Those who are ever relating fish stories, bold exploits of their own, hair-breadth escapes, exulting in their own powers; sometimes render themselves ridiculous by saying too much. Long metre anecdotes are never interesting. They are like a book with the preface longer than the text.
Some persons, when intrusted with a secret, get some half dozen to help them keep it; each of the half dozen get as many more, and so on, ad infinitum; all of whom say too much.
If we know a fault of our neighbor, and, instead of going to him, and kindly endeavoring to reclaim him, we proclaim it to others, we violate the duty we owe him by saying too much.
At parties, at levees, in mixed company, in public meetings, in private conversation; men and women very readily say too much.
Nor does the evil stop here. The printing press has become a trumpet-longued instrument, and is often made to say quite too much.
The organs of our political parties, issued from this magic contrivance, say much more than is necessary, and often in a very uncourteous manner. When the press is made the instrument of circulating error, false hood, calumny, crimination, recrimination; any thing but truth in its simple purity; it is made to say too much
Let us all strive to arrest this evil, by commencing at the fountain head, and, first of all, correct the heart and keep it with all diligence. Let our public business speeches be short and to the point. Let sermons in the pulpit be based on charity, and point to Jesus Christ, and him crucified, and not contain more than twenty-four divisions, each ten minutes long, for morning and evening. I once heard one with thirty-two divisions—the preacher said too much. In exhortations, lay members should be careful and not say too much. The wise man says, A word fitly spoken-not a volume of words.
In private conversation, much will be said, but it should be better said than it usually is. Too much light, unprofitable, uninstructive conversation ; generally occurs, more especially among professors of religion, of whom better things are expected. Let us all remember; that for every idle word, we must render an account at the dread tribunal of the great Jehovah; and let us strive NEVER TO SAY TOO MUCH.
The whisper'd tale
Evil speaking, from the inuendo to perjury, is a violation of the ninth article of the decalogue. Petty scandal, practised, more or less, by almost every person, often produces more mischief than a false oath. The sly whisper, the mysterious hint, the anxious inquiry, the uncharitable inference, gather importance and magnitude, as they pass from one to another, until they become dreadful realities in the public mind. By the small envenomed worm of petty scandal, many a fine ship has been sunk-many a fair character has been ruined, that would have outrode the storm of open and violent slander.
There is a sad propensity in our fallen nature, to listen to the retailers of petty scandal. With many, it is the spice of conversation, the exhilarating gas of their minds. Without any intention of doing essential injury to a neighbor, a careless remark, relative to some minor fault of his, may be seized by a babbler, and, as it passes through the babbling tribe, each one adds to its bulk, and gives its color a darker hue, until it assumes the magnitude and blackness of base slander. Few are without visible faults—most persons are sometimes inconsistent. Upon these faults and mistakes, petty scandal delights to feast.
Nor are those safe from the filth and scum of this
poisonous tribe, who are free from external blemishes. Envy and jealousy can start the blood-bound of suspicion; create a noise that will attract attention; and many may be led to suppose there is game, when there is nothing but thin air. An unjust and unfavorable inuendo is started against a person of unblemished character; it gathers force as it is rolled through babble town—it soon assumes the dignity of a problemis solved by the rule of double position, and the result increased by geometrical progression and permutation of quantities; and before truth can get her shoes on, a stain, deep and damning; has been stamped on the fair fame of an innocent victim, by an unknown hand. To trace calumny back to the small fountain of petty scandal, is often impossible; and always more difficult than to find the source of the Nile. There is real masonry in petty scandal. Every thing is communicated with the finger on the lips, breast to breast. A hypocritical tenderness for the good name of the victim, is the salt that preserves the scandal from taint, and renders it palatable to some, who would be nauseated by any appearance of malice or revenge.
It is a melancholy reflection upon human nature, to see how small a matter will put the ball of scandal in motion. A mere hint, a significant look, a mysterious countenance; directing attention to a particular person; often gives an alarming impetus to this ignis fatuus. A mere interrogatory is converted into an affirmative assertion—the cry of mad dog is raised the mass join in the chase, and not unfrequently, a mortal wound is inflicted on the innocent and meritorious, perhaps by one who had no ill-will, or desire to do wrong in any case, but, from mere impulse, joined the rushing crowd, without having examined the victim, to know if any symptoms of disease were visible.
In this way, but few there are, who have not been involuntarily drawn into the vortex of petty scandal, and have become instrumental agents of injustice, without a desire to injure, or wound a fellow being.
If more caution was used, less mischief would be effected by dealers in detraction. If they had no hearers, they would not preach their tales of scandal. Rebuke has a magic effect upon this tribe of paltry cowards. It suffocates them, and brings them down, as quickly as the fumes of burning brimstone will a wild turkey from a tree. Let the sword of rebuke be drawn upon the dealers in backbiting, wherever they show their Janus faces. The murky waters of falsehood will not then so often stain the fair fame of the innocent, and poison the happiness of the most amiable in community.
Professing Christians are often led astray by this natural propensity. I have known churches that were cursed with envious babblers, who would make a common sewer of their minister, paralyze religion, and convert the sanctuary into a boiling cauldron-disgraceful to those concerned, and a stigma on their profession of religion. Let all deprecate and cautiously avoid petty scandal, as they would a scorpion.