Why, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:…
The ear, the tongue, and the heart have all much to do with the life or practical conduct of the man of God, whose life-business, according to the law of the text, consists in "working the righteousness of God." The ear for learning, or acquiring what is to be gathered instruction; the tongue for teaching, or giving forth what we have thus acquired in a testimony of our own; the heart for the ordering of the affections or passions which sway the man, and give their own tone to his character, and all for the advancement of the work of righteousness. In reference to that everything that concerns the man is viewed and weighed. In the light of that, as the consummation to be wished for and attained, is the whole character placed, and every element that enters into its composition assigned its due proportion.
I. Every child of the Father of lights, being "swift to hear," is to be one who feels that he is a learner or listener, rather than a teacher, who "has not yet attained, neither is already perfect" in the knowledge of the truth to which he is "begotten" — who has more to get than he has to give. This is the pith and point of the contrast and antithesis between "swift to hear" and "slow to speak."
1. They have a revengeful and fervent love of the truth where-ever it is to be found, and freedom from prejudice, prepossession, and narrow foreclosure of any kind. They are the children of light. The Father of lights is their Father, and, as His genuine children, they like and long above all things to come to His light, to walk in His light, to see more and more, and still more, of His light every day, as long as they live in His world. They have a taste for the truth, an appetite for the truth, whose cravings must be satisfied; a hunger and thirst after the truth which makes them long to see it, or with all saints comprehend it in its length and breadth, and depth and height, as men who are in darkness long for the morning light.
2. These children of the light are meek and lowly in heart, like so many babes; they are conscious of their own ignorance, and know that the truth is a well, or flows from a fountain, too deep for them to sound or fathom with their puny line. Its length and breadth and depth and height, who can tell but the Father of lights? From Him, therefore, they ask instruction. To Him, and the means which He has graciously appointed for the purpose, they come for illumination. What a discipline is required to form this babe-like spirit, and prepare the soil of the heart and understanding for the reception of the good seed that is to be sown, our Saviour explains in many parts of His discourses and parables, and the history of Israel testifies (Deuteronomy 8:2, 3).
3. In this babe-like spirit, thirsting after the truth, the children of light are so teachable, so credulous, if you will, and full of holy curiosity, that they have an open ear, "an ear to hear," as our Saviour so often expresses it, wherever there is anything to be heard, an eye to see if there be a ray of light visible in the horizon revealing God the Father of lights. - A great man, and a great teacher of the truth, once said that the difference between himself and others to whom he was preferred was but this, that he was willing to learn from every one, and that there was no one from whom he did not learn something. He was indeed, a great man, if this was his character; for there is nothing in which one man is more distinguished from another. A man who knows himself, and is not proud and hard, but "swift to hear," makes himself a scholar, a learner, a listener, wherever he goes. Men and things have to him a meaning beyond what they have to others. Poverty and riches, health and sickness, life and death, prosperity and adversity, all come to him charged with a special message. In all, and in each, he hears his Father's voice (Psalm 107:43). Each in its way, and after its kind, is God's minister for good, for "all work together for good."
4. For the truth itself contained in the Word of God they have a special longing and liking, because it is the word and wisdom of God, by which they have been begotten, or made God's children, and by which they are supported in their spirits, as by their daily bread, and carried forward from the feebleness of babes to the strength and stature of the new Man, the Son of God, who is their Model and the spiritual Sun of their firmament.
II. Every child of the Father of lights who acts in character, as one begotten with the Word of truth and by the will of God to newness of life, is one who does not run to seed, or exhaust himself, by talking all he knows, or has, of religion, or allowing his life and light to expire and spend itself in words. We should have this day far more religion in our land, and a far higher style and standard of religion in the Church, as God's witness to the truth —
1. If every man were, as here commanded, slow to speak dogmatically and controversially about knotty or disputed points of doctrine or discipline.
2. We should not have less religion, nor a lower form of Christianity, and less perfect testimony for God, if Christians were slow to speak critically, in a way of judgment on others, or slow to speak of evil, and things that do not concern themselves, in any way.
3. Every man should be slow to speak boastfully of himself, or of himself at all, directly or indirectly, who wishes to be a child and witness of the Father of lights.
III. Slowness to wrath is another seal of the children of light begotten of the Father's own will by the Word of truth to be His witnesses in the new creation.
1. Proneness to wrath is a great and heinous sin, and fertile root of innumerable sins. In itself, in all its varieties of form, it is nothing less than murder, the spirit of murder, if it takes the shape of hatred or ill-will to the party who provokes it, or proceeds, as it most frequently does. from offended self-love, i part it is of that carnal mind which is enmity against both God and man, and is not, and refuses to be, subject to the law of God. Its emblem in the Word of God is some wild and furious beast, such as the bear, the wolf, the dog, the lion, the serpent.
2. This proneness to wrath is a besetting sin against which the man of God must be on his guard at every moment, and throughout his entire life. In the family, in the Church, in social and political life, in the transactions of business, and in hours of leisure and pleasure, slowness to wrath is the highest law of eternal life. None is so often forgotten. Of none is the breach followed by surer, or swifter, or more fearful penalties even in the present life, to say nothing of that beyond the grave.
3. It is by ceasing from wrath because it is sin against God, and being slow to wrath because this is the righteousness of God, that we become new-born babes or living men. Every victory that we obtain over the temptations or provocations to wrath is a victory over the devil, who is thus removed from us to a greater distance, and leaves our spirits, from which he is thus dispossessed, more open for Christ to come in and take lull possession. And He does come in whenever by slowness to wrath, and ceasing from wrath, and striving against wrath, in every form of bad temper, and ill humour, peevishness, fretfulness, rage, uncharitableness, we cease to keep Him out.
IV. Every living child of the Father of lights is one whose whole aim in life is to work the righteousness of God, and to promote it in others by every means in his power, as well as to beware of everything to its prejudice.
1. It is not an imputed righteousness, in the sense of the righteousness of another, but real, and actual, and personal righteousness, that is called here "the righteousness of God."
2. This righteousness is righteousness not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
3. This righteousness of God is the work of God's Spirit.
4. This righteousness is the righteousness of faith working by love, and of faith and love united in a life of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: