網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

utterance to any thing that shall not promise to be in some way productive of benefit or amusement.

Frankness has its limits, beyond which it would cease to be either advantageous or virtuous. We are not to tell every thing: but we are not to conceal any thing, that it would be useful or becoming in us to utter. Our first duty regarding the faculty of speech is, not to keep back what it would be beneficial to our neighbour to know. But this is a negative sincerity only. If we would acquire a character for frankness, we must be careful that our conversation is such, as to excite in him the idea that we are open, ingenuous and fearless. We must appear forward to speak all that will give him pleasure, and contribute to maintain in him an agreeable state of being. It must be obvious that we are not artificial and on our guard. After all, it is difficult to lay down rules on this subject: the spring of whatever is desirable respecting it, must be in the temper of the man with whom others have intercourse. He must be benevolent, sympathetic and affectionate. His heart must overflow with good-will ; and he must be anxious to relieve every little pain, and to contribute to the enjoyment and complacent feelings, of those with whom he is

permanently or accidentally connected. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

There are two considerations by which we ought to be directed in the exercise of the faculty of speech.

The first is, that we should tell our neighbour all that it would be useful to him to know. We must have no sinister or bye ends. “No man liveth to himself.” We are all of us members of the great congregation of mankind. The same blood should circulate through every

limb and

every

muscle. Our pulses should beat time to each other; and we should have one common sensorium, vibrating throughout, upon every material accident that occurs, and when any object is at stake essentially affecting the welfare of our fellow-beings. We should forget ourselves in the interest that we feel for the happiness of others; and, if this were universal, each man would be a gainer, inasmuch as he lost himself, and was cared and watched for by many.

In all these respects we must have no reserve. We should only consider what it is that it would be beneficial to have declared. We must not look back to ourselves, and consult the dictates of a narrow and self-interested prudence. The whole essence of communication is adulterated, if, instead of attending to the direct effects of what suggests itself to our tongue, we are to consider how by a circuitous route it may react upon our own pleasures and advantage. : Nor only are we bound to communicate to our neighbour all that it will be useful to him to know. We have many neighbours, beside those to whom we immediately address ourselves. To these our

absent fellow-beings, we owe a thousand duties. We are bound to defend those whom we hear aspersed, and who are spoken unworthily of by the persons whom we incidentally encounter. We should be the forward and spontaneous advocates of merit in every shape and in every individual in whom we know it to exist. What a character would that man make for himself, of whom it was notorious that he consecrated his faculty of speech to the refuting unjust imputations against whomsoever they were directed, to the contradicting all false and malicious reports, and to the bringing forth obscure and unrecognised worth from the shades in which it lay hid ! What a world should we live in, if all men were thus prompt and fearless to do justice to all the worth they knew or apprehended to exist! Justice, simple justice, if it extended no farther than barely to the faculty of speech, would in no long time put down all misrepresentation and calumny, bring all that is good and meritorious into honour, and, so to speak, set every man in his true and rightful position. But whoever would attempt this, must do it in all honour, without parade, and with no ever-and-anon looking back upon his achievement, and saying, See to how much credit I am entitled !-as if he laid more stress upon himself, the doer of this justice, than upon justice in its intrinsic nature and claims.

But we not only owe something to the advantage and interest of our neighbours, but something also

to the sacred divinity of Truth. I'am not only to tell my neighbour whatever I know that

may

be beneficial to him, respecting his position in society, his faults, what other men appear to contemplate that may conduce to his advantage or injury, and to advise him how the one may best be forwarded, or the other defeated and brought to nothing: I am bound also to consider in what way it may be in my power so to act on his mind, as shall most enlarge his views, confirm and animate his good resolutions, and meliorate his dispositions and temper. We are all members of one great community: and we shall never sufficiently discharge our duty in that respect, till, like the ancient Spartans, the love of the whole becomes our predominant passion, and we cease to imagine that we belong to ourselves, so much as to the entire body of which we are a part. There are certain views in morality, in politics, and various other important subjects, the general prevalence of which will be of the highest benefit to the society of which we are members; and it becomes us in this respect, with proper temperance and moderation, to conform ourselves to the zealous and fervent precept of the apostle, to "promulgate the truth and be instant, in season and out of season, that we may by all means leave some monument of our good intentions behind us, and feel that we have not lived in vain.

There is a maxim extremely in vogue in the ordinary intercourses of society, which deserves to be

X

noticed here, for the purpose of exposing it to merited condemnation. It is very common between friends, or persons calling themselves such, to say, “Do not ask my advice in a certain crisis of your life; I will not give it; hereafter, if the thing turns out wrong, you will reflect on me, and say that it was at my suggestion that you were involved in calamity.” This is a dastardly excuse, and shews a pitiful selfishness in the man that urges

it. It is true, that we ought ever to be on the alert, that we may not induce our friend into evil. We should be upon our guard, that we may not from overweening arrogance and self-conceit dictate to another, overpower his more sober judgment, and assume a rashness for him, in which perhaps we would not dare to indulge for ourselves. We should be modest in our suggestions, and rather supply him with materials for decision, than with a decision absolutely made. There may however be cases where an opposite proceeding is

proceeding is necessary. We must arrest our friend, nay, even him who is merely our fellow-creature, with a strong arm, when we see him hovering on the brink of a precipice, or the danger is so obvious, that nothing but absolute blindness could conceal it from an impartial bystander.

But in all cases our best judgment should always be at the service of our brethren of mankind. “Give to him that asketh thee; and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” This may not

« 上一頁繼續 »