THE U BRIDLED TO GUE BY REV. . P.

K APP

" If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." — James i. 26. It is a wise maxim, and one which is fully recognised by the gospel of Jesus Christ, that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." And as the word of God is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, laying bare the secret motives and hidden springs of action, to bring them into judgment, words are as much subject to condemnation as deeds. Such seems to be the doctrine of Jesus when he says to the Jews, that " every idle word that men speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." And this is only carrying out the principle that true religion is seated in the heart. "A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good, and an evil man, out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil." " Out of the heart proceed all evil thoughts." Hence it becomes a fair test of the religious character of any person, according to the maxim of our Saviour already quoted, what is the spirit of conversation, and what is the control of that unruly member, the tongue, which such person habitually displays ; for, however religious any man may seem to be in all other matters, yet, if he does not bridle his tongue, and bring it into subjection to the rule of the gospel, that man's religion is vain : he deceiveth his own heart with the show of religion. " The powers of speech," says one who knew well the proper use of her own, " are among the most important committed to our

284 SERMO XXXIII.

charge ; and as capable as any other of a right or a wrong cultivation ; there is this only difference, that while other powers lie dormant from neglect, these will be in action whether cultivated or not, and if we do not direct them to the right, will most certainly expend themselves on the wrong." The truth of this general remark will hardly be disputed. It may be followed by another more nearly connected with the matter of our text, that it is often found much easier to control the appetites, and refrain from doing wrong, than to restrain the tongue within the bounds of sobriety and peace. Even professing Christians fail in this respect, when they have succeeded in establishing their religious character in all other points ; and he must be a meeker man than Moses, who has never "spoken unadvisedly with his lips." Indeed the apostle regards it as the perfection of the religious character, to be able to govern the tongue so as to commit no offence. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." For every kind of beasts and of birds and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind ; but the tongue can no man tame." This notion of the difficulty of refraining the lips from evil, and subjecting the speech to the rule of Christian morality, while it should serve to make us patient under any wholesome correction, — ought not be an encouragement to license ; it should rather excite shame and a diligent effort to overcome the evil, which is so prevalent and seemingly incorrigible. For, what is the state of the case ? — Every wild beast of whatever nature, has been subdued by the reason, skill and courage of man ; and the mischief which might have been caused by them, is in some measure prevented. But the tongue, which, in its proper employment, should only show forth the glory of God, and be made subservient to the best interests of society, is suffered to be " an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." . o way could ever be found to subdue the tongue, or to prevent the wicked from corrupting the principles, polluting the imaginations, and inflaming the passions by their mischievous discourse.

Men will slander and revile each other, and will not set a watch upon their lips, that they speak no evil. Ah ! here is a glancing at the remedy for the evil. The apostle speaks of the want of power

SERMO XXXIII. 285 in man to curb the tongue. The natural powers which give him the mastery of the beasts of the forest, are foiled here. How strongly he intimates the need of the grace of God, causing the constant watch over the lips, and keeping it. As David prayed that God would set a watch upon his lips, so must the Christian always seek the same divine aid in his efforts to curb an unruly member. We propose to consider, at this time, evil speaking — its prevalence and various modes ; and the most effectual check to it. Evil speaking, which of course includes what is generally called scandal, as well as slander, is a fault which pervades every class of society, high and low, fashionable and polite, sedate and religious. Go where you may, you will hardly escape its varied tones — "their sound has gone out into all the earth." You may as well pillow your head upon the ocean's rock and say you will not hear its surges, as seek to escape from the voice of evil speaking. It admits of great variety of shade and feature, and of every degree of guilt, from the idle word which is uttered in self-indulgence, reckless of the wound it may cause, to the deliberate and malicious insinuation which stabs the fair fame of an enemy or a rival. In some classes of society it partakes of the frivolous character of the pursuits and occupations of the circle, and turns upon persons, fortunes and connexions, doing little injury, perhaps, and only to be deprecated as an abuse of one of the gifts of God, which might and should be used for the well-being of society. But in a more rational society, as if, the better the soil the ranker the weed, evil speaking assumes a more dangerous character. There the conduct and reputation of individuals are made the objects of attack. ot only are faults eagerly exposed,

but thoughts, motives and feelings ascribed, when only the mere acts could be known. How many a fatal stab has been given to the character of the innocent by a sly innuendo, or a malicious and significant question ! What a world of meaning lies in an ominous "But! " How much wide-spreading mischief lurks in the emphatic '-''Tliey my" — which belongs to every body and can be traced to nobody ! These and various other words of disparaging others, or of giving them pain, are so many instances of evil speaking. Such wantonness, although there may be no falsehood, and no violation of confi-

286 SERMO XXXIII. dence — although nothing be said but what is believed to be true, is nevertheless, a breach of that charity which " thinketh no evil," and tends to loosen the bonds of society, by exciting distrust, jealousy and suspicion, and imbittering the feelings of those who should dwell together in unity. It may be said in justification of some sorts of evil speaking, that " there can be no harm in saying what we know to be true." But how little of what we say, do we know, or can we know, to be true ? And how seldom do we stop at the precise point where knowledge ends, and conjecture begins? Examine yourselves, brethren, and see how often you ascribe thoughts and impute motives, to others, when you only undertake to relate mere facts — to declare what was said or done ! You may know the fact, but when you presume to read the motives which led to it, you pass the bounds of knowledge, and usurp the prerogative of Him who alone knoweth the heart, and Avho has said, " Judge not, that ye be not judged." Any imputation of bad motives — any suspicion cast upon the honesty and sincerity of those of whom you speak, subjects you to the charge of evil speaking, in its most common form. A sneer, or a shaft of ridicule may hurt the character of the absent, in the estimation of a large circle of acquaintances, by whom they had

been counted worthy of respect and honour. And whether this be an expression of malice, or of a reckless and wanton humour, it is in either case evil speaking. There are cases where ill nature, a deliberate desire of giving pain, an envious wish to depreciate what cannot be reached, vents itself in bitter and indiscriminate sarcasm. Such persons as have this feature of character are very Ishmaels, and must be left to the special grace of God, which alone can mend them. There are others who cultivate this talent, (which they take to be wit, but mistake the quality thereof) from a desire to shine and attract notice in company. Of these it may be remarked, that if they like the world's laugh, better than its love, (they cannot have both) they must take their choice. But if they have any consciousness of accountability for the proper use of speech, they must stand convicted of what the Scriptures designate as evil speaking. There are some, hoAvever, who indulge in sarcasm habitually, not from malice, for they seem to be kind and amiable, and even gene-

SERMO xxxiir. 287 rous in character, nor from a desire to be notorious. They seem rather to be subject to a settled habit of saying smart and severe things, which they indulge, without reflecting upon its consequences, or have indulged so long that they are unable now to restrain it. This class of persons should consider the mischief which the indulgence of such a humour may cause; and remember that, although they do not mean to offend, "for every idle word which they utter, they will be called to give an account." Idle words are those which are spoken without regard to consequences. And the class of persons just referred to, come within the application of this warning of our Saviour's. Let them take heed to it, and learn not to scatter fire-brands in mere sport, lest they be held accountable for a world of mischief of which they never dreamed. We have glanced at some of the habits and modes of evil speaking. You have heard how widely the corruption has spread ; and have doubtless observed it

in its various forms. Avoid it, as you would the pestilence. Go not near it, for "Evil communications corrupt good manners." But can you avoid going near it? Does it not show itself in every kind of society ? Are any exempt from it ? Does it not enter within the pale of the church, and infuse its poison into the society of the faithful in Christ Jesus ? Is there a social circle, whose bond of union is the professed love of Christ, and whose object is the promotion of his cause, where this evil does not intrude ? Is it possible that the noxious weed can flourish in such a soil? "Alas! " says a female writer, "it is here it has its most bitter — its most cruel growth. The sinner whom God spares, and waits for, a fellow sinner scofis at and despises. The stain that Jesus washes with his tears, a fellow sinner eagerly exposes: the penitent bosom that Heaven has comforted, has every wound made to bleed afresh by the taunts, and whispers of his fellow-men. It is good for Christians to confess their faults to one another ; or rather it would be good, if there were not danger of their becoming reconciled to what they are so familiar with ; but it is very unprofitable to dwell much upon the faults of others, and to make that prominent, which had better be concealed from public gaze. And is it not true that the tongue is an "unruly evil," in the midst of that company, where it should be employed in the service of God, and in adorning the doctrine of Christ? And is it not a reproach to the cause of

288 SERMO XXXIII. Christ that it is so ? In the wide wilderness of the world, where religion cannot grow, we may expect thorns and briers, and all noxious weeds ; but in the vineyard of the Lord, which he has fenced in and cultivated with great care, (for what could have been done more for his vineyard, that he has not done,) we may well be alarmed, if we find poisonous thistles growing rank, and wounding us at every step. The bright sun of gospel truth shines on it ; the Holy Spirit, like the dew of Hermon, sheds its refreshing and invigorating influence on it, the most precious promises and the sweetest hopes are spread abroad in it, and yet sin is left to flourish

there unchecked. Shall the religion of Christ put no stop to the sin of evil speaking? Are its precepts of no force; its examples nothing; its obligations powerless; its hopes unavailing? But it is expressly forbidden by the Holy Scripture. And it is likewise a proof of the want of that true charity, which is the bond of perfectness, and "which thinketh no evil." Here, then, is the root of the evil, and here the remedy must be applied. They who think no evil, will say none. Cultivate that Christian charity, which will lead you to think as well as possible of your neighbours. Let it be your care so to bridle your tongue as never to speak without a motive, and let that motive be a good one. For the idle word often does as much mischief as the malicious one. If you have an ox that is wont to gore yoi;ir neighbour's, or your neighbour himself, is it not a moral duty to shut him up ? And is not the tongue to be thus restrained? If it is prone to do mischief when it goes at large, you cannot be without guilt, if you do not shut it up. Such an appeal may be made to you as moral beings. As such you should consider whether a word spoken may not wound the character, or mar the peace of a fellow-being. But as Christians, who have professed to believe in the Saviour, and to follow in his steps, let your conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ. "Let your speech be always with grace." These are apostolic maxims. But professing Christians seem not to heed them. Evil speaking abounds. And it is not a mere partisan warfare between difierent folds. It prevails in the midst of a common fold, where there should be a constant endeavour, as there is a strong and constantly appealing motive, for unity and harmony. We do not know that there is,

SERMO XXXIII. 289 in our own parish, a larger measure of this evil than can be found elsewhere. Doubtless we have more than we should have. We

know that there is a sad want of that close intercourse and brotherly love, which should' characterize those who are fellow members of the church of Christ. And when these members come together, as they sometimes do, to make an effort to promote the common good, the stiffness of ceremony is allowed to take the place of warm and affectionate greeting between co-workers in a cause which should draw hearts together in a holy and enduring bond. The Redeemer's kingdom will not, cannot, be established in the world by cold and feeble efforts. either the church universal, nor the church within the bounds of a parish, can be much helped by forces which neutralize or repel each other. The cause demands that all should work together as the members of one body. The root of the evil complained of is the want of a proper appreciation of the common bond which binds the members of the church together, and to Christ their common Head. True church principles will be likely to produce warm church feeling. They who know what it is to be "one in Christ," will soon learn to cherish a feeling of fellowship one with another. It is a holy brotherhood into which Christ brings the joint partakers of his covenant privileges. And it will be strange if they who strive to keep his commandment, to love one another as he loved them all, should speak ill of each other. Love worketh no ill, and love, therefore, is the fulfilling of the law. Let all who profess to be the followers of Christ in the bond of church fellowship, remember that being "members of Christ," they are members one of another. The church is the body of Christ ; and he, the Head, suffers with every member of that body. Let this assurance, while it causes you to appreciate the privilege of membership, prompt you to a careful discharge of all the obligations of it. Whatsoever you do, in word or in deed, do all to the glory of God. Let the words of your mouth, and the meditations of your heart, be always acceptable unto him who is your strength and your Redeemer. Let all your doings show forth his praise on earth, that you may be confessed by him at the final judgment, as sons of God, and joint heirs with Christ of eternal glory. And that this may be the happy lot of us all, may God grant, for Christ's sake.

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