Monday, January 17, 2011

Gossips by John Ploughman

Gossips
by John Ploughman
(Charles Spurgeon)

IN WALTON CHURCH, in our county, there is a brank, or scold's bridle, which was used in years gone by to keep women's tongues from troubling their husbands and their neighbors. They did queer things in those good old times. Was this bridle a proof of what our parson calls the wisdom of our ancestors, or was it a bit of needless cruelty?

"It is nothing—only a woman drowning," is a wicked and spiteful old saying, which, like the bridle, came out of the common notion that women do a world of mischief with their tongues. Is it so or not? John Ploughman will leave somebody else to answer, for he owns that he cannot keep a secret himself. He likes a dish of chat as well as anybody; only John does not care for cracking people's characters, and hates the slander which is so sweet to some people's teeth. John puts the question to wiser men than himself: Are women much worse than men in this business? They say that silence is a fine jewel for a woman, but it is very little worn. Is it so? Is it true that a woman only conceals what she does not know? Are women's tongues like lambs' tails, always wagging? They say foxes are all tail, and women all tongue. Is this false or not? Was that old prayer a needful one— "From big guns and women's tongues deliver us"? John has a good and quiet wife of his own, whose voice is so sweet that he cannot hear it too often, and therefore he is not a fair judge; but he is half afraid that some other women would sooner preach than pray, and would not require strong tea to set their clappers going. Still what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and some men are quite as bad blabs as the women.

What a pity that there is not a tax upon words: what an income would come from it; but, alas, talking pays no toll! And if lies paid double, the government might pay off the national debt; but who could collect the money? Common fame is a common liar. Hearsay is half lies. A tale never loses in the telling. As a snowball grows by rolling, so does a story. They who talk much lie much. If men only said what was true, what a peaceable world we should see! Silence seldom makes mischief; but talking is a plague to the parish. Silence is wisdom. By this rule, wise men and wise women are scarce. Still waters are the deepest; but the shallowest brooks brawl the most; this shows how plentiful fools must be. An open mouth shows an empty head. If the chest had gold or silver in it, it would not always stand open. Talking comes by nature, but it needs a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man's mouth, and a bridle upon every good woman's tongue.

If we must talk, at least let us be free from slander, but let us not blister our tongues with backbiting. Slander may be sport to talebearers, but it is death to those whom they abuse. We can commit murder with the tongue as well as with the hand. The worst evil you can do a man is to injure his character. The Quaker said to his dog, "I'll not beat thee, nor abuse thee, but I'll give thee an ill name." All are not thieves that dogs bark at, but they are generally treated as if they were. The world for the most part believe that where there is smoke there is fire, and what everybody says must be true. Let us then be careful that we do not hurt our neighbor in so tender a point as his character, for it is hard to get dirt off if it is once thrown on; and when a man is once in people's bad books, he is hardly ever quite out of them. If we would be sure not to speak amiss, it might be as well to speak as little as possible. If all men's sins were divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins of the tongue. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

Gossips of both genders, give up the shameful trade of talebearing; don't be the Devil's bellows to blow up the fire of strife. Leave off setting people by the ears. If you do not cut a bit off your tongues, at least season them with the salt of grace. Praise God more and blame neighbors less. Any goose can cackle, any fly can find out a sore place, any empty barrel can give forth sound, any brier can tear a man's flesh. No flies will go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut, and no evil speaking will come up. Think much, but say little. Be quick at work and slow at talk; above all, ask the Lord to set a watch over your lips.

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