How May Detraction be Best Prevented or Cured
Psalm 15:3
He that backbites not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.

The abuses of the tongue are many, one whereof is the malignity of it. A man can scarce come into any company but his ears shall be filled with censures, detractions, reproaches; party against party, person against person. Doctrine: It is the duty, and must be the care, of every true Christian not to take up a reproach against his neighbour.


1. Who is my neighbour? It is the peculiarity of the Gospel that every man is made my neighbour. says, "Every man is a neighbour to any other man." Kimchi says, "He is called my neighbour with whom I have any business."

2. What is a reproach?

(1) It is nothing else but an evil report, or an evil speech, unduly uttered concerning another. A report is evil in two ways — when it is evil in itself, a false report, and when it is evil to a man's neighbour, when your speech tends to your neighbour's disparagement and defamation.

(2) When a man publisheth a neighbour's secret infirmities or sins.

(3) When a man aggravates the real or supposed faults of his neighbour either in opinion or practice. Men often censure others for things indifferent and of small moment, as, for example, in their habits and garbs.

3. What is it to take up a reproach against a man's neighbour? It is a defective manner of expression, and therefore is diversely supplied, but especially and most reasonably two ways — when he takes it up into his mouth, and is the first raiser of the reproach, or the spreader and promoter of it; and when he takes it into his ear. This he may do when he quietly permits it, and gives no check to it; when he hears a reproach greedily, and with delight; and when he easily believes a reproach.

II. THE PROOF OF THE DOCTRINE. This shall consist in the representation of the sinfulness and injury of this practice of censuring, backbiting, and reproaching of others.

1. It is injurious to God. As an invasion of God's prerogative: a manifest breach of His laws. It is against particular and express Scriptures; against the fundamental law of love and charity; against the "royal law" of Christ; against the great law of maintaining peace among men; against the great command laid upon all Christians, of excelling other men: it is a sin against the whole design and scope of the Scriptures; it is a great injury to God, because it is a confederacy with God's greatest enemy, the devil.

2. It is an injury done to thyself. Hereby thou dost contract guilt, the worst of all evils. Hereby thou dost expel or weaken that excellent grace of love, that necessary and fundamental grace, that sweet and amiable grace. Hereby thou dost lay a foundation for thy own reproach.

3. It is a great injury to the person whom thou dost censure and reproach. Thou dost rob him of the best treasure he hath in the world. Hereby thou dost disenable him from getting good, both as to his outward and as to his inward man. Hereby thou dost hinder him from doing of good in the world.

4. It is a great injury to other men. Thou corruptest others by thy example. Thou art a disturber of human society. Thou art a great enemy to the Church of God.Two questions —

1. May I not speak evil of another person when it is true? A man may be faulty in so doing. A man may speak evil of another person when necessity requires it. If you will speak evil of others, do it in the right method. In doubtful cases silence is the safest way.

2. If the man I speak against is an enemy of God and His people? Well to remember there is much sinful zeal in the world and in the Church. Con-eider how easy a mistake is in this case, and how dangerous. And you must not go out of your way to meet with God's enemies.


1. Lamentation for the gross neglect of this duty, or the frequent commission of this sin.

2. Take heed that you be not found guilty of this sin.

3. Avoid the causes of this sin. Take heed of uncharitableness, in all its kinds and degrees. Take heed of loquacity and multitude of words. Take heed of pragmaticalness, which is when men are inquisitive and busy about other men's matters. Take heed of man-pleasing.

4. Learn the government of your tongues.

(Matthew Poole, A. M.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

WEB: He who doesn't slander with his tongue, nor does evil to his friend, nor casts slurs against his fellow man;

Evil Speaking not to be Listened To
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