The slanderer! The backbiter!
(From Octavius Winslow's, "The Power of the Tongue")
The slanderer is not merely the idle gossip,
he is more. He is the inventor, or, what is equally criminal, he is the
propagator of calumny itself! Envious of a rival, resolved upon shading the
luster, or bent upon the total extinguishment of a star circling in a wider and
brighter orbit than his own, he either coins, or propagates a lie injurious to
the character of some public servant of God, or the reputation and happiness of
some private individual moving in the quiet and unobtrusive walks of usefulness.
Is there not death in this unhallowed use of the tongue? Is there not 'slaying
power' in that false report, that base insinuation, that cruel surmise, that
"Soft buzzing slander, that eats an honest name"? Most assuredly! The
treacherous moth is not a more insidious and dangerous foe to the beautiful
fabric it secretly and slowly destroys; nor the worm a more searching and
wasting enemy of the costly vellum whose heart it pierces and devours, than he
whose tongue is sharper than a sword, "Cutting honest throats by whispers."
It has been remarked that against slander there is no effectual armor of
defense. Nothing is easier than to invent a slander, and nothing more difficult
than to annihilate it. It generally selects for its victims the most good and
worthy, as the birds peck at and destroy the best and loveliest fruit. I do not
think that Tophet boasts of a darker fiend, or man can deplore a fouler foe than
he who deals in it. Like the Indian, it dips its arrows in deadly poison; like
Judas, it betrays the innocent with the kiss of villainy. Assassination is its
employment, the guiltless its victims, ruin its sport, and the loud laugh of
hell its reward!
It is a moral pestilence veiled in darkness; a thousand fall beside it and ten
thousand at its right hand, so unmercifully and deeply wounded as often never to
recover the anguish of heart it has occasioned.
The backbiter is the destroyer of the absent
one. Of all evil speaking this is, perhaps, the lowest, the most cruel and
dastardly. Taking advantage of the defenseless position of his victim, asserting
behind his back what he would not dare to utter before his face; by dark
insinuations, by mysterious innuendoes, by a tragic tone; the backbiter will
give affected importance and authenticity to what all the while he knows to be
unfounded in truth; and by this despicable means do serious and, perhaps,
irreparable injury to the character and good name of an innocent, and, it may
be, useful servant of the Lord; who, by his absence, is precluded from either
defending his innocence or confounding his calumniator.
How sad and unenviable the character of the slanderer, the whisperer, the
backbiter, the talebearer, the gossip! What are all these but domestic pests;
propagators of a social moral plague?
"Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues." Psalm 120:2