Against Detraction

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Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Because we are a discussion board, it is to to be hoped that things will be discussed. But because all participants are also fallen sinners, and for some other special reasons relating specifically to online discussions, we have found that we often have to remind one another of the requirements of the 9th Commandment. To that end, there is a pretty comprehensive post in our rules section from the board administrators.

If you haven't read it before, please do so now. If you have read it before, perhaps a reminder is in order. I'd also like to commend Thomas Manton's sermon against detraction, available here. Some extracts to whet the appetite follow:

One great sin wherein the corruption of human nature bewrayeth itself is detraction, or depriving others of a good repute.

God, that hath bidden me to love my neighbour as myself, doth therein bid me to be tender not only of his person and goods, but of his good name.

[The causes of detraction are these]
1. Malice and ill-will, which prompteth us to speak falsely of others, so to make them odious, or do them wrong or hurt.
2. It comes from uncharitable credulity, whereby men easily believe a false report, and so propagate and convey it to others....
3. It comes through rashness and unruliness of tongue....
4. It comes from carnal zeal, which is nothing else but passion for our different interests and opinions.

So many lies walk under the disguise of religion, that not to credit them, or countenance the report, seemeth a decay of affection, but surely not to religion, but only the interest of a faction.

But a question ariseth, Is all speaking evil of another unlawful?
Ans. I cannot say so, but yet it is hard to keep it from sin.
1. He that doth it without just cause is plainly a detractor, and so a grievous sinner before God.
2. He that doth but speak what he hath heard from others, with out any assertion or asseveration of his own, as not knowing the truth of the report, can hardly be excused from sin.
3. He that doth speak that which is true, but tendeth to the infamy of another, may be guilty of sin, if he have not a sufficient call and warrant.

We should carry all things with that quietness and humility as if every one had a better opinion of others’ wisdom and godliness than his own. And this is reasonable enough for every one that is acquainted with himself. Humility will teach him to think meanly of himself or any thing that is his; and his charity will prompt him to give others all that possibly can belong to them, without any retrenchment or defalcation.

[We are backbiting with regard to the evil supposed to be committed by others]
When, in relating any evil action of another, we use harder terms than the quality of the fact requireth, and make evils worse than they are, beams of motes, and mountains of mole-hills. We should lessen sins all that we can; I mean, the sins and faults of others: Acts 3:17, ‘And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers,’ Certainly we should not aggravate things to the height, nor from a simple act determine the state of the person, nor from the failings of a single person conclude the whole party.​

One of the reasons we oppose unwarranted speaking against another is identified by Manton in these words: "They that receive tales and delight to hear other men’s faults, encourage others in their sin, and are accessory to or partakers of the guilt." However much we may fail in practice, it is the official position of the Board that untrue and even unnecessary statements about the failures of others are not welcome.

The concluding exhortation:
"In short, let us keep up a humble sense of our own faults, and looking at home, it will not only divert us from slandering of others, but make us compassionate towards them, and breed comfort in our own souls."
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