Chapter 8: Of Company in General. Rules Concerning It. Part 3
Fourthly, your conversations amongst all must be loving: you should be kind and courteous towards all men, Tit. iii.2. Do good to all, according as you have ability and opportunity, Gal.vi.10. Give offence willingly to none, I Cor,x.32. Do wrong to no man, 1 Cor.vi.1-8, either in his name, life, chastity, or estate, or in any thing that is his; but be ready to forgive wrongs done to you, Col.iii.13, and to take wrong, rather than to revenge, or unchristianly to seek your own vindication. As you have calling and opportunity, do good to the souls of your neighbors; exhort and encourage unto well-doing, 1 Thess.v.14. If they show not themselves to be dogs and swine, Matt.vii.6; that is, obstinate scorners of good men, and contemnors of the pearl of good counsel, you must, so far as God gives you any interest in them, admonish and inform them with the spirit of meekness and wisdom, Lev.xix.17. With this cloak of love you should cover and cure a multitude of your companions; infirmities and offences, 1 Peter iv.8. In all your behavior towards him, seek not so much to please yourself as your companion, in that which is good to his edification, Rom.xv.2.
- Speak evil of no man, Tit.iii.2; nor yet speak the evil you know of any man, except in these or the like cases.
(1) When you are thereunto lawfully called by authority.
(2) When it is those whom it concerns, to reform and reclaim him of whom you speak, and you do it to that end, 1 Cor.i.11.
(3) When it is to prevent certain damage to the soul of estate of your neighbor, Acts xxiii.16, which would ensue, if it were not by you thus discovered.
(4) When the concealment of his evil may make you guilty and accessory.
(5) When some particular remarkable judgment of God is upon a notorious sinner for his sin, then, to the end that God may be acknowledged in his judgments, and that others may be warned, or brought to repent of the same or like sin, you may speak of the evils of another, Psa.lii.6,7. But this is not to speak evil, so long as you do it not in envy and malice to his person, nor with aggravation of the fault more than is cause, nor yet to the judging of him as concerning his final estate.
- When you shall hear any in your company speak evil of your neighbor, by slandering, whispering, or tale-bearing, whereby he detracts from his good name; you must not only stop your ears at such reports, but must set your speech and countenance against him, like a north wind against rain, Prov.xxv.23.
- When you hear another well reported of, let it not be grievous to you, as if it detracted from your credit; but rejoice at it, inasmuch as God has enabled him to be good, and to do good; all which makes for the advancement of the common cause of religious, wherein you are interested; envy him not therefore his due praise.
- Detract not from any man’s credit, either by open backbiting, Psa.xv.3, or by secret whispering, Prov.xvi.28, or by any cunning means of casting evil aspersions, whether by way of pitying him, or otherwise: as, He is good or does well in such and such things; but, &tc. This but mars all.
- And, in a word, in all speeches to men, and communications with them, your speech must be gracious, Col.iv.6, that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace, not vice, to the hearers. If must not be profane, nor any way corrupt, Eph.iv.29, as defiled with oaths, curses, or profane jests; it must not be flattering, Job xvii.5, nor yet detracting; not better, not railing, censorious, or injurious to any man, Eph.iv.31. It must not be wanton, lascivious, and filthy, Eph.v.3,4. Col.iii.8. It must not be false, Col.iii.9; no, nor yet foolish, idle, and fruitless; for all evil communication does corrupt good manners, I Cor.xv.33. And we must answer for every idle word which we speak, Matt.xii.36. Besides, a man may easily be discerned of what country he is, whether of heaven, or of the earth, by his language; his speech will betray him.
- There is no wisdom, or power here below, can teach and enable you to do all, or any of the aforementioned duties. This wisdom and power must be had from above, James iii.13-18. Wherefore, if you would in all companies carry yourself worthy the gospel of Christ:
First, Be sure that the law of God, and the power of grace be in your heart, else the law of grace and kindness cannot be in your life and speech, Psa.xxxvi.30,31. Prov.xxxi.26. You must be endued, therefore, with a spirit of holiness, humility, love, gentleness, long-suffering, meekness, and wisdom; else you can never converse with all men as you ought to do. For such as the heart is, such the conversation will be. Out of the evil heart come evil thoughts and actions, Matt.xv.19; but a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and according to the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Matt.xii.34-35. A man must have the heart of the wise, before the tongue can be taught to speak wisely, Prov.xvi.23.
Secondly, you must resolve beforehand, as David did, to take heed to your ways, that you sin not with your tongue; and that you will keep your mouth as with a bridle, Psa.xxxix.1. Before your speech and actions, be well advised; weigh and ponder in balance of reason, all your actions and words, before you vent them.
Thirdly, let no passion of joy, grief, fear, anger, &tc. get the head, and exceed their limits. For wise and good men, as well as bad, when they have been in any of these passions, have spoken unadvisedly with their lips, Job iii.3,23. Psa.cvi.32,33. Mark ix.5,6. Jonah iv.8,9. Mark vi. 22,23. And experience will teach you, that your tongue never runs before your wit so soon, as when you are over-afraid, over-grieved, over-angry, or over-joyed.
Fourthly, you must be much in prayer to God, before you come into company, that you may be able to order your conversation aright; let your heart also be lifted up often to God when you are in company, that he would set a watch before your mouth, and keep the door of your lips, and that your heart may not incline to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity, Psa. cxli. 3,4; and that he would open your lips, that your mouth may show forth his praise, Psa. li. 15; and that you may speak as you ought to speak, knowing how to answer every man, Col.iv.6; for the tongue is such an unruly evil, that no man, but God only, can tame and govern it, James iii.8.