( Originally Published 1879 )
"That abominable tittle-tattle,
SLANDER is a blighting sirocco; its pestiferous breath pollutes with each respiration; its forked tongue is charged with the same poison; it searches all corners of the world for victims; it sacrifices the high and low, the king and the peasant, the rich and poor, the matron and maid, the living and the dead; but delights most in destroying worth, and immolating innocence. Lacon has justly remarked, "Calumny crosses oceans, scales mountains, and traverses deserts, with greater ease than the Scythian Abatis, and, like him, rides upon a poisoned arrow." As the Samiel wind of the Arabian desert, not only, produces death, but causes the most rapid decomposition of the body; so calumny affects fame, honor, integrity, worth, and virtue. The base, cloven-footed calumniator, like the loathsome worm, leaves his path marked with the filth of malice, and scum of falsehood, and pollutes the fairest flowers, the choicest fruits, the most delicate plants in a green-house of character. Living, he is a traveling pest, and worse, dying impenitent, his soul is too deeply stained for hell. Oh, reader, never slander the name of another. A writer once said: " So deep does the slanderer sink in the murky waters of degradation and infamy, that could an angel apply an Archimedian moral lever to him, with heaven for a fulcrum, he could not, in a thousand years, raise him to the grade of a convict felon."
Whose edge is sharper than the sword ; whose tongue
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 iglus faluus. A mere interrogatory is converted into an affirmative assertion—the cry of mad dog is raised—the mass join in the chase, and not unfrequentl'y, 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.
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-hound 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 innuendo 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 problem—is 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.
Insects and reptiles there are which fulfill the ends of their existence by tormenting us; so some minds and dispositions accomplish their destiny by increasing our misery, and making us more discontented and unhappy. Cruel And false is he who builds his pleasure upon my pain, or his glory upon my shame.
Shun evil-speaking. Deal tenderly with the absent; say nothing to inflict a wound on their reputation.
They may be wrong and wicked, yet your knowledge of it does not oblige you to disclose their character, except to save others from injury. Then do it in a way that bespeaks a spirit of kindness for the absent offender Be not hasty to credit evil reports. They are often the result of misunderstanding, or of evil design, or they proceed from an exaggerated or partial disclosure of facts. Wait and learn the whole story before you decide; then believe just what evidence compels you to and no more. But even then, take heed not to indulge the least unkindness, else you dissipate all the spirit of prayer for them and unnerve yourself for doing them good. We are nearer the truth in thinking well of persons than ill. Human nature is a tree bearing good as well as evil, but our eyes are wide open to the latter and half closed to the former. Believe but half the ill and credit twice the good said of your neighbor.
A glance, a gesture, or an intonation, may be vital with falsehood, sinking a heavy shaft of cruelty deep into the injured soul—though truth, in its all-disclosing effulgence, will, sooner or later, disperse the mists and doom the falsifier to deserved aversion ; still, the exposure of the guilty does not recompense the injured any more than the bruising of the serpent heals the wound made by his barbed fang. An injurious rumor-originating, perhaps, in some sportive gossip — once attached to a person's name, will remain beside it a blemish and doubt for ever. Especially is this true of the fair sex, many of whom have, from this cause, withered and melted in their youth like snow in ,the spring, shedding burning tears of sadness over the world's unkindness and "man's inhumanity to man."
Among many species of animals, if one of their number is wounded and falls, he is at once torn to pieces by his fellows. Traces of this animal cruelty are seen in men and women today. Let a woman fall from virtue and nine-tenths of her sisters will turn and tear her to pieces, and the next day smile on the man who ruined her ! The cruelty of woman to woman is perfectly wolfish. O, shame ! Reverse the action. Loathing for the unrepentant wretch and tenderness for the wounded sister. Tenderness and pity and help for both alike if they repent and reform. But never trust him who has been a betrayer once. No kindness demands this risk. The smell of blood is too strong for the tamed tiger.
There is a natural inclination in almost all persons to do it—a kind of inhuman pleasure in pelting others with stones. Our right hands ache to throw them. There is such wicked enjoyment in seeing them dodge and flinch and run. This is human nature in the rough. There are so many who never get out of the rough. There are multitudes of respectable people who evince exquisite pleasure in making others smart. There is a good deal of the Indian—the uncivilized man, in us all yet. It has not been wholly eliminated or educated out of us by the boasted enlightenment and civilization of the age. A great deal of pharisaic zeal to stone others who are no more guilty than we are still exists. It is often by the crafty cry of " stop thief" to divert attention from ourselves. A thief snatched a diamond ring from a jeweler's tray and dodged around the corner into the crowded street. The clerk ran out crying "stop thief!" The rascal eluded attention by taking up the cry and vociferating as if of one ahead, "stop thief! stop thief!"
It takes a bloodthirsty wretch to be a prosecutor and inquisitor. The vulture lives to disembowel his victim and wet his beak in blood. Who ever heard of a dove rending the breast of a robin, or a lamb sucking the blood of a kid ? Hawks and tigers delight in this. No! nature will out. If Christianity has not cut off the claws, we incline to scratch somebody. If Christ possesses us wholly, and we have been transformed by His spirit, there will be no disposition to stone our neighbor, even if at fault. It is not in the genius of Christianity to do it. It is a cancer in the soul that must be cut out, or burned out, or purged out of the blood, or it will kill us.
Alexander had an ugly scar on his forehead, received in battle. When the great artist painted his portrait, he sketched him leaning on his elbow, with his finger covering the scar on his forehead. There was the likeness with the scar hidden. So let us study to paint each other with the finger of charity upon the scar of a brother, hiding the ugly mark and revealing only the beautiful, the true and the good.