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So comprehensive, explicit, and forcible, are the Proverbs of Solomon on this topic, as almost to supersede the necessity of amplification. Let them be seriously pondered and read in connection with the equally vivid description of the apostle James, (James iii.) as they furnish in a brief compass the substance of all which need be written on the subject.
The tongue, as the principal organ of speech, is employed to express the thoughts of the mind and the emotions of the heart, and hence its efficiency in the production of good and evil. According to the internal disposition, it may be used to abuse or conciliate, to
provoke to wrath or to pacify, to tempt to evil or to dissuade, to misrepresent or to speak truth, to destroy reputation or to defend, to blaspheme or to pray, to dishonour God or to celebrate his goodness. An evil tongue, which is not under the government of sound principles, is a mischief of incalculable magnitude. Words are inadequate to portray the havoc it may bring on families, neighbourhoods, and even nations. False, insidious and malignant, it may fatally wound the objects of its attack, and destroy peace, character and life. It is the devil's favourite agency for scattering firebrands, arrows and death, through the world.
The tongue, when properly regulated, is equally potent for good. Its words of truth enlighten; its words of kindness are an excellent oil to mollify and soothe the feelings. It is best employed when engaged in celebrating the praises of God, and in promoting his glory.
How is the tongue to be regulated? is a question of no ordinary importance. The remedy for its unruliness must be radical; no system of rules will be available, unless the fountain of thought and feeling be purified. It is the instrument of the passions, and hence it can be controlled only by first controlling them. Grace in the heart will soon evince itself by grace on the lips. When wrath, envy, and every evil feeling of the heart are kept in proper subjection, the tongue will not err. When those graces, which the Spirit of God infuses, receive a cordial welcome in the soul, the tongue will speak peace and good will to men, Rules, even to the most gracious person, may also be of use. Let there be a determined purpose to control our speech, let there be vigilance in guarding its movements, let caution and deliberation mark our
words, and especially let us learn when to be SILENT. Solomon insists upon this latter as among the most important directions for the government of the tongue.
I would desire always to remember that the wonderful faculty of speech has been communicated to me, not to render myself and others miserable, but happy; not to be an instrument of evil, but of good. May it be my aim to have my conversation always seasoned with grace, speaking lovingly and kindly to my fellow men, and not provokingly or resentfully. I should avoid both foolish and hurtful words. When I can do good by speaking, let me not refrain; when I cannot do good, let me be silent. O for grace to eradicate every feeling from my heart which would prompt vain or sinful words, and which may be in me a fountain sending forth only bitter waters. I am as accountable to God for my words as for my actions; let me remember this, and set a watch on my lips. Above all, may my tongue be employed in celebrating the praises of God; and when, at the resurrection of the just, I shall be clothed with a new body, may I have a seraph's tongue to praise him to all eternity!
"LET your moderation be known unto all men," is a divine precept, designed to repress the extravagant expectations and unlicensed indulgences to which human nature is prone. The passions run riot unless restrained, and "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," exert a dominant influence over the life. There is no sensual enjoyment of which the heart is ready to say, "it is enough;" and wealth, as the means of obtaining them, is sought for with avidity, until its pursuit becomes an engrossing passion. The necessities of our nature are comparatively few and easily provided for; but not content with this, the heart grasps after more than is necessary, and which can only be hoarded or expended in the gratification of artificial wants. It is in the very nature of earthly possessions not to satisfy, and however large and cumbrous they may be, the cupidity of the heart still demands more. "Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied."
In opposition to this general trait of character, the
Christian is admonished to repress covetousness, to moderate his desires, and to rectify his views of the power of the world to produce happiness. "Having food and raiment," that is, the ordinary comforts of life, "be therewith content." It is not the amount possessed, but the spirit in which it is enjoyed that has an influence for good or evil. Wealth may only be a cause of trouble, while a little with the fear of the Lord, may satisfy every wish. Poverty is not desirable, for it brings many discomforts, and wealth should not be desired, for it exposes to many dangers; but there is a golden mean, in which we are provided with things convenient for us. He is the wise man who, instead of being the slave of the world, is only indebted to it for a passing hospitality.
I would call thee, my soul, to a strict account, and ascertain if thou holdest thy passions in subjection. Thou hast learned that the world has little to impart, why then should thy desires be turned towards it? Should it be so liberal as to give thee all it possesses, thou couldest safely do no more than satisfy those wants, which may be satisfied with very little. Many gain the world and lose their souls, and wherein are they profited? Take warning by their fate, and moderate thy desire for earthly things. Hast thou godliness? That, with contentment, is great gain. If thou art covetous, be only covetous of what is good; build not below the skies; grasp after eternal things, and indulge unlimited desire of heavenly happiness, for such wishes, large as they may be, are acceptable to God, and shall be satisfied.