« ForrigeFortsæt »
hibit the manners of a virtuous character. "If man any seem to be religious, and bridle not his tongue, that man's religion is vain." The current of men's language is so exact a criterion of their character, that our Savior says, "For every idle word, which they speak, they shall give an account in the day of judgment; for by their words they shall be justified, and by their words they shall be con
In whatever point of light we view religion, we shall find, that the regulation of speech essentially belongs to it. "Pure religion before God is to visit the widows and fatherless, in their affliction." But to no purpose is the visit, if nothing is spoken; and if evil only is spoken, the visit aggravates their afflic tion. "Religion is to keep ourselves unspotted from the world." But for this we must keep our tongue unpolluted; for the foul tongue defiles the whole body. Religion implies an abstinence from evil, from injustice, deceit and slander. But these are the vices of the tongue. Religion consists in doing good; and "the lips of the righteous feed many, and the tongue of the just is as choice silver." We may do good to others by relieving them in their outward wants; but we may do more good by prudent counsel, friendly exhortation, timely reproof, edifying instruction, and affectionate consolation.— For the former kind of charity, the occasions are rare, and our abilities small: For the latter kind, the occasions are frequent, and most men's abilities are competent. No day passes without an interview with some. In every interview we may suggest something that will be useful; at least we may avoid every thing, that would be hurtful. Almost every man may suggest some good sentiments, and certainly every one may restrain his tongue from uttering evil ones. And this is doing much good,
as it is an example, which may prevent much evil in others. If in doing positive good, we need some ability, yet in forbearing to do evil we need none. If we have not knowledge sufficient to instruct others, yet we have, at least, knowledge sufficient to leave them uncorrupted. If we cannot speak so wisely as some of our neighbors, yet we can be silent as well as they; and silence in some is accounted wisdom. Whatever weakness or ignorance we may plead as an excuse for not being more useful, we cannot plead either as an excuse for being mischievous; and least of all can we plead them as a reason for injuring others by our words; for however unqualified we may be to speak, we are neither too ignorant, nor too impotent to hold our tongues.
2. We see that the due government of the tongue chiefly depends on the government of the thoughts and passions,
There is so near a connexion between sentiment and language, that without attending to the former, we never can wisely regulate the latter. The man who allows his thoughts to run at random-who indulges in his heart evil imaginations-who harbors in his breast impure or malignant passions, will, like raging waves of the sea, foam out his own shame. In spite of his studied reserve, his inward feelings will often burst forth. Hence the Psalmist prays, "Set a watch, O Lord, before the door of my mouth; keep the door of my lips; incline not my heart to any evil thing." If evil inclinations are indulged in the heart, no external watch can effectually guard the door of the lips. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh." Solomon advises, "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life." If the heart be filled with evil thoughts and vile affections, the government of the tongue, if in any degree practicable, will, at best,
be forced and irregular. But let the heart be cleansed from evil dispositions, and replenished with virtuous principles, and the tongue will readily speak what it ought; and that which ought not to be spoken, it will easily repress; not corrupt communication will proceed out of the mouth, but that which is good for the use of edifying. The government of the tongue is like that of a state. Where the people are virtuous and peaceable, government is easy; where they are vicious and turbulent, government is coercive, and no coercion will prevent rebellion.
3. We see the great evil of the sins of the tongue. "The" inflamed "tongue sets on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell."
Many of these sins, as lying, slander, reviling, and seduction, are diabolical in their nature. They are the very works of the devil. The springs, which give motion to the evil tongue, as pride, envy, malice, hatred and wrath, are satanical passions-the very passions which dwell in the prince of darkness. And often it is by the influence of this malignant spirit, that similar passions in the human breast are excited into action; for he works in the children of disobedience.
By the abuse of the tongue, then, we submit to power, imitate the example, and cooperate in the design of the devil, and thus participate in his guilt. The place of punishment to which the devil and his angels are detruded, is called hell, and described as a lake of fire burning with brimstone. The tongue inflamed by diabolical passions, is said to be set on fire of hell; and from it, as from the mouths of the horses in John's vision, issue fire, and brimstone and smoke. Wicked men, who yield themselves up to the influence of infernal spirits, stand exposed to a share in their punishment. The sentence which awaits them, our Savior has announced, "Depart, ye curs
ed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Their horrible condition in this lake of fire, our Savior represents in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. When Lazarus died, he was carried by angels to Abraham's bosom. When the rich man died, he lifted up his eyes in hell being in torments; and seeing Abraham afar off, he prayed, saying, "Father Abraham, send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” The tongue set on fire of hell here, will be tormented by the fire of hell, hereafter, Our Savior's advice with respect to the other members of the body, may be also applied to the tongue: "If it cause thee to offend, cut it off, or pluck it out, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than with all thy members to be cast into hell, into the fire, which shall never be quenched." He in these words solemnly warns us, that the perversion of our members to the service of hell in this world will be punished with the pains of hell in another; and those pains will be so tormenting, that no anguish, which we can conceive in the present life, not even the amputation of a limb, or the extirpation of an eye, can be compared to them; or can be too great to be endured, if thus we may escape them. The amputation of offensive limbs is a metaphor to express the mortification of all sinful lusts and passions, and the cultivation of all heavenly graces and virtues. Our Apostle closes his discourse on the evil tongue, by a representation of the difference between the wisdom from beneath, which brings down to hell, and the wisdom from above, which leads up to heaven. And as he concludes his discourse on this subject, so I shall conclude mine. "Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversa
tion his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not and lie not against the truth. This wisdom defendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish, for where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom, which is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."