“He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor; nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.” Psalm 15:3
Among the many sins for which God is contending with England, and especially with the professors of religion in it, I doubt not but one, and that none of the least, is, the gross misgovernment of their tongues. The abuses of the tongue are many, one whereof is the malignity of it. And whereas in David’s time a malignant and virulent tongue was the badge and cognizance of an atheist: “Behold, they belch-out with their mouth: swords are in their lips: for who, say they, doth hear? “Psalms 59.7; now, alas! this spot is become the spot of God’s children, and high professors of religion. A man can scarce come into any company, but his ears shall be filled with censures, detractions, reproaches; party against party, person against person. Instead of that old Christian love and charity for which the ancient Christians were noted and applauded even by their adversaries, ” Behold,” said they, “how the Christians love one another!” men’s hearts are generally full of rancor, and their tongues of sharp reflections, contemptuous and reproachful expressions, censures, and slanders, against their absent, and ofttimes innocent and more worthy, brethren. This is the disease which I would endeavor to administer some physic to from these words.
The coherence is plain. David proposeth a question: “Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle ? Who shall dwell in your holy hill?” (Psalm 15.1) By which you may understand either Sion, where the ark then was, or Moriah, where the temple was to be built; and by either of them, the church of God here, and especially the heavenly temple hereafter.
So that it is as if David had said, and asked, ” What is the qualification of the true members of God’s church, of the citizens of the New Jerusalem? By what properties are they known and distinguished from other men ? ” To this, David does not answer, that they are so differenced by their high talks, by their crying-out upon the sins of other men, or the wickedness of the times by their frequent attendance at God’s tabernacle; but by the uprightness of their hearts, by the good government of their tongues, by the holiness of their lives: ” He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.” verse 2.) And in this third-verse that I have now read: He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.” It is the last Clause which I intend to speak to, because it will comprehend the former: “Nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.” The Words I Shall explain in the handling of the doctrine, which is this:–
DOCTRINE: It is the duty, and must be the care, of every true Christian, not to take up a reproach against his neighbor. I shall first explain the point, then prove it, and lately apply it
I. For EXPLANATION, three things are to be inquired into:–
QUESTION I. ” Who is my neighbor ? “–There are some men of fame in the world that will tell you, that, ” in the language of the Old Testament, by ‘neighbor’ is to be understood’ one of the same country and religion,’ popularins Israelita; ” and it is the peculiarity of the gospel, that every man is made my neighbor. But if we examine Scripture, we shall find this to be a gross mistake. I need not go farther for the confutation of it than to the Decalogue itself: ” You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exod. 20. 16.) I suppose it will seem a very hard saying to affirm, that it is lawful to bear false witness against a stranger. So when God commands, ” You shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife,” (Lev. 18. 20) I presume these gentlemen would not allow themselves that liberty with the wife of a stranger. If God may be his own interpreter, this controversy will quickly be ended from Lev. 19., where, if you compare two verses,–verse 18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” with verse 34, “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; “–you will not need the help of an artist to form this conclusion, that” the stranger is, in God’s account, and ought to be in mine account, my neighbor.” To the same purpose you may please to compare two other places of scripture together: Deut. 22. 4, “You shall not see your brother’s ass nor his ox fall down by the way, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely help him to lift them up again; ” With Exod. 23.4, 5: ” If you meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, you shall surely bring it hack to him again. If you see the ass of him that hate thee lying under his burden, you shall help with him.” He who is my ” brother, “which is nearer than a neighbor, in the one place, is mine ” enemy,” and he that ” hates me” in another place. And it is further observable to this end, that the Hebrew word and the Greek a “neighbor,” is usually rendered in Scripture by eteros ”another;” as: “He that loves another hath fulfilled the law, for the law saith, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Rom. 13. 8, 9.) Most true therefore is that of St. Augustine, Proximus est oamnis homo homini” Every man is a neighbor to any other man.” Nay, the more intelligent part of the Jews were of this opinion; and Kimchi upon these words saith, ” He is called my neighbor with whom I have any business.” And the scribe, of whom we read, Luke 10, knowing tile mistakes of many of his brethren, asks our Savior this question, ” Who is my neighbor ? ” (Verse 29.) And our savior gives him an answer, the sum of which is this, that even the Samaritan was to be looked upon as his ” neighbor.”