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neighbour; if it should tend to effect one's own revenge, or the injury of one's neighbour; if it should forestall the judgment of reason, or be borne headlong with a loose rein. For as Gregory in his Moral 5, cap. 33, well says, The anger which impatience ercites is ovie thing ; the anger formed by a zeal for justice another. We may hence conclude that we are not to cherish apathy,* but that tumultuous and inordinate passion is to be restrained. And thus much as to the sins of the heart: Certain sins of the mouth now follow.
Blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.] The Apostle aptly proceeds from vices of the heart to the sins of the mouth; because they arise from the inordinate affections of the heart.
And first he persuades us to lay aside evil speaking : in Greek βλασφημία; which word is derived from βλαπτείν την onunu, injuring or disparaging the fame of another by reproachful and evil words. This word in its primary and principal signification in the Holy Scriptures, imports a derogation or injury by words offered to the chief and greatest Good, that is, the good and great God. Now God is blasphemed in three ways : ). When that which is repugnant to his nature is attributed to him; as if any one should say that God is corporeal, corruptible, subject to sinful passions; as the Poets formerly imagined and wrote. 2. When that which most befits him, is taken away; as if any one deny that he is good, merciful, omnipotent, &c. which blasphemy has its origin from the same ignorance. 3. When that which is the property of God is attributed to the creature; as if any one should say that the angels created this world, or that they are omnipotent; if any one say that meret men can remit the sins of other men, can dispense with the penalties and punishments of the dead; or that they can by infallible judgment prescribe articles of faith to Christians. From the decree of God himself we find that capital punishment was assigned to this blas
* This was the maxim of the Stoics. + Nudos homines, men in their natural impotence and deformity.-- Trans. VOL. II.
phemy, Levit. xxiv. 16, which we read in ver. 23, was inflicted on the blasphemer. But since in this place the Apostle seems to point out not that blasphemy whereby the Divine Majesty is assailed, but that whereby men are injured, dismissing this blasphemy of the Divine name, let us pass on to that other.
We say, then, that to this evil speaking which assaults one's neighbour, the epithet of blasphemy is also applied not only in this but in many places of Scripture. For instance, in Rom. iii. 8, As we be slanderously reported, &c. 1 Cor. iv. 13, Being defamed, we entreat, &c. Tit. iii. 2, Put them in mind to speak evil of no man.* This blasphemy of one's neighbour arises from that anger and wrath of the heart which the Apostle has advised us above to lay aside. For the heart by the bitter gall of malice, cannot through its instrument the tongue, scatler any thing but bitters, as Bernard truly says. But it has no kind of vengeance so ready as this of evil-speaking.
This evil-speaking kind of blasphemy hath a double way of injury: one secret, called detraction; the other open, called railing. Rash and angry persons take the open course of injury; the crafty and malicious prefer the secret one. Let us consider how grievously both sin.. And the grievousness of this sin is evident,
First, from the magnitude of the injury done to the neighbour who is evil spoken of: For they wound his reputation, which is a principal external blessing : nor is it easy to repair this injury by any just satisfaction ; since here the quantity of loss cannot be estimated, which may be done in the taking away of other external matters.
Secondly, from the magnitude of the injury done to those who hear and take up those reports of evil speakers: For by these means, charity towards their neighbour is put an end to with them; hatreds, suspicions, contentions, and sometimes strifes are the consequence. Which inconvenience we read happened to Saul and David by the ef
* The same word is used in the original Greek and in the Vulgate in each of these passages. viz. blaspheme.
forts of evil speakers and detractors. Hence that prayer of the Psalmist, cxx. 2, Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
Thirdly, from the magnitude of the injury done to God himself. For as God is praised in the saints when his works which he effects in them are praised; so when the saints are blasphemed and defamed by evil reports, God himself is blasphemed : for as a consequence, this blasphemy redounds against God who is the author of holiness : For the servants being wounded an injury is done to their lord, Justinianus, Instit. imp. lib. 4. cap. 4, De injuriis.
Fourthly, from the punishment due to evil speakers and detractors ; and that according to civil, ecclesiastical, and divine laws. Justinian's pandects have this passage, lib. 4, cap. 4, De injuriis ; An injury is committed not only when any one shall have been struck with the fist or a stick ; but likewise when he shall even have been reproached. And the punishment is awarded according to the quality of the reproach, and also to the quality of the person affected by it. Gratian, Caus. 2. quæst. 1, has this passage, If any one of the clergy shall have offered reproach or contumely to his bishop, let him be suspended. And Caus. 6, quæst. 1, Let the calumniators and revilers of their brethren be held infamous (Cap. infames). As to the rule of Scripture; in Levit. xix. 16, there exists a law of the same kind, Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among thy people. The punishment is assigned, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10, Neither thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, &c. shall inherit the kingdom of God.
We will now deduce some Corollaries from these considerations; and first, such as respect the blasphemers themselves.
1. The passion and habit of evil speaking argues an unregenerate man, and one still in a state of death and condemnation : for it is reckoned among the principal . deeds of the old man.
2. Nothing is more unhappy than evil speakers and slanderers : for as Nazianzen elegantly says, It is the ertreme of misery to place one's comfort not in one's own happiness, bul in the evils of others.
. 3. Those who exercise this art are not disciples of the Apostle, but of the devil, and to him they give their assiduous labours : for he is called, Rev. xii. 10, The accuser of the brethren. Hence Parisiensis not unwisely calls evil speakers and slanderers, the devil's dog-teeth, De moribus, cap. 11.
We will now add other Corollaries which regard those who willingly lend an ear to these detractors. · 1. If, therefore, evil speaking is so great a crime, then to hear evil speakers with delight cannot be void of sin. For not only they who commit the sin are worthy of punishment, but they also who applaud these sinners. I cannot easily affirm which of these two is most censurable, to slander, or to listen to slander, says Bernard, lib. 2, De consid. ad Eugenium; which is most true of the hearing wkat is agreeable (to use a Scholastic phrase). Each hath a devil; this in the ear; that in the tongue.
2. It behoves a pious man to turn away from and to reprove blasphemers and slanderers; nay, also to defend and to extricate his brother, when wounded by their detractions. We should withstand them; because, as the north wind driveth away rain, so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue, Prov. xxv. 23. We ought to succour a wounded brother also: Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off, says the Psalmist, ci. 5. I brake also the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth, was among the consolations of Job, xxix. 17.
Respecting those injured and wounded by slander, the pious in this case have their consolation :
1. Because they may hence understand that the wicked break out into these attacks upon the good, not so much from their judgment, as from long-standing hereditary disease in their minds. They ought not, therefore, to grieve so much for their neighbour, as at the disease and madness of their slanderers.
2. Because slander harms not a good conscience. Neither does any one suffer prejudice from the opinion of those who have no judgment: nor, if prejudice doth arise aguinst them in this world, will it in the judgment of God, as Ambrose well remarks, De interpret. lib. 2. cap. 3.
3. The opinion of good men, together with the testimony of the conscience, is sufficient for pious persons in this evil world, against the lip of those speaking lies; for as the Poet wisely sang,
False praise can charm, unreal shame control
Hor. Epist. lib. 1. Ep. 16. 4. Let not the godly ever be provoked by the example of evil speakers to speak evil again; but let them say with the Apostle, Being reviled we bless : being persecuted we suffer it: being defamed we intreat, 1 Cor. v. 12. He cannot be moved by slander, who excludes the slandering of men by the gift of the Divine blessing, Ambrose, Serm. 6, in Ps. cxviii. And the Psalmist says, cix. 28, Let them curse, but bless thou. Thus much concerning this first sin of the mouth.
Filthy communication] al Xpomoylar, which the same Apostle calls corrupt communication Royov oampov, Ephes. ii. 29. And well does he call it corrupt : for it grows and buds forth from a corrupt root and also brings corruption, if I may so say, to the morals of men (for foul discourse is the daughter of luxury; since the libidinous, whose hearts are on fire with corrupt desires, easily break out into foul language). Hence says the Apostle, in those words cited from Menander, 1 Cor. xv. 33, Evil communications corrupt good manners.
This filthy communication is to be avoided by the Christian on many accounts,
1. Because it makes that which is most precious and peculiar to man, namely his faculty of speech, foul and ridiculous; a gift not granted us for this purpose, as it is well observed in Virgil, Æn. 4. 647. For obscene and scurrilous language is generally used for the purpose of raising a laugh. Against those who endeavour by obscene language to excite the laughter of fools, Clemens Alexandrinus gravely inveighs, Pædag. 2, cap, 5, If no one, says he, would willingly assume a ridiculous bodily shape, why should we try to become ridiculous in words. Ridiculing the power of speech, the most honoured of all the possessions of man.
2. Because it indicates and proves a corrupt mind. For