By Hugh Binning
Charity is no tale bearer. It does not go about as a slander to reveal a secret, though true, (Proverbs 20:19) It is of a faithful spirit to conceal the matter. (Proverbs 11:13) Another man’s good name is as a pledge laid down in our hand, which every man should faithfully restore, and take heed how he lose it, or alienate it by back-biting. Some would have nothing to say, if they didn’t have other’s faults and frailties to passionately speak on, but it would be better that such were always made silent, that either they had no ears to hear of them or know them, or had no tongues to vent them. If they do not lie grossly in it, they think they do no wrong. But let them judge it in reference to themselves. “A good name is better than precious ointment,” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) “and rather to be chosen than great riches,”. (Proverbs 22:1)
And isn’t it wrong, to defile that precious ointment, and to rob or steal away that jewel more precious than great riches? There is a strange connection between these. “Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life” it is a kind of murder, because it kills that which is as precious as life to an innocent heart. “The words of a tale bearer are as wounds, and they go down to the innermost parts of the belly,” (Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22). They strike a wound to any man’s heart, that can hardly be cured, and there is nothing that is such a seed of contention and strife among brethren as this. It is the oil to feed the flame of alienation. Take away a tale-bearer, and strife will cease, (Proverbs 26:20).
There are some who seem to have no other occupation than to whisper into the ears of brethren, and suggest evil apprehensions of them, they will separate best friends, as we see it in daily experience, (Proverbs 16:28). “Revilers” are among these who are excluded out of the kingdom of God, (1st Corinthians 6:10). And therefore, as the Holy Spirit gives general precepts for the profitable and edifying improvement of the tongue, that so it may indeed be the glory of a man, (which truly is no small point of religion, as James expresses, in Chapter 3:2 “If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect man,”) so that same spirit gives us particular directions about this, “ Do not speak evil one of another, brethren. He who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law,” (James 4:11) because he puts himself in the place of the Lawgiver, and his own judgment and desire in place of the law, and so he judges the law.
And therefore the Apostle Peter makes a wise and significant connection,”Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1st Peter 2:1) Truly, evil speaking of our brethren, though it may be true, yet it proceeds out of the abundance of these, in the heart, of deceit, hypocrisy, and envy. While we catch at a name of piety from censuring others, and build our own reputation upon the ruins of another’s good name, hypocrisy and envy are too predominant.
If we would indeed grow in grace by the word, and taste more how gracious the Lord is, we must lay these aside, and become as little children, without deceit, and without bitterness. Many account it excuse enough, that they did not invent evil tales, or were not the first tellers of them; but the Scripture joins both together.
The man that “shall abide in his tabernacle” must neither vent nor invent them, neither cast them down nor take them up, “whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;” (Psalm 15:3) or neither receives nor endures it, as in the margin. He neither gives it nor receives he it, doesn’t have a tongue to speak of others’ faults, nor an ear to hear them. Indeed he has a tongue to confess his own, and an ear open to hear another confess his faults, according to that precept, “Confess your faults one to another.”
We are forbidden to have much society or fellowship with tale-bearers; and it is added, “He who goes about as a tale-bearer reveals secrets; therefore don’t keep company with him who opens wide his lips.” (Proverbs 20:19) as indeed commonly those who reproach the absent, flatter the present; a backbiter is a face-flatterer. And therefore we should not only not meddle with them, but drive them away as enemies to human society. Charity would in such a case protect itself, if I may so say, by “an angry countenance,” an appearance of anger and real dislike. “As the north wind drives away rain,” so that hearers would drive away a “backbiting tongue,” (Proverbs 25:23) If we would discredit it, backbiters will be discouraged to open their pack of news and reports: and indeed the receiving readily of evil reports of brethren, is a partaking in the unfruitful works of darkness, which we should rather reprove, (Ephesians 5:11). To join with the teller is to complete the evil report; for if there were no receiver there would be no teller, no tale-bearer.
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