He who guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from distress.
I. IT IS AN ARDENT ENTHUSIASTIC LIFE. (Ver. 21.) Literally, he who hunts after justice and love will find life, righteousness, and honour. So in other figures - of hungering and thirsting, of digging eagerly for hid treasures, etc. - the earnest enthusiasm of the true life is depicted.
II. IT IS A LIFE OF PRESENT POSSESSION AND ENJOYMENT. So in the New Testament (Romans 3:26; Galatians 3:21).
III. THE RESISTLESS POWER OF WISDOM. (Ver. 22.) The like penetrative power to that which we ascribe to the subtlest forces of nature - heat, magnetism, etc. - is possessed, but in a higher degree, by the intelligence add the will of man. The barriers of time and space seem to fall before him who knows and him who loves. Let none rely on walls and fastnesses. What man's hands have raised man's hands can break to pieces. We are truly strong only by means of the arts and works at intelligence and love.
IV. THE SAFETY OF THE PRUDENT TONGUE. (Ver. 2.9.) As one quaintly says, "God, as the Creator, has placed a double wail before the mouth - the teeth and lips, to show that we ought to use and guard the tongue with all care." "He that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need to he afraid of others' memory." "Discretion of speech is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably with him with whom we deal is more than to speak in good words or in good order" (Bacon). - J.
Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.
Instead of simply commanding with supreme authority that men should keep their mouths and tongues, he graciously condescends to annex reward and blessings for its own sake. "Keepeth his soul from troubles." In keeping of God's commandments there is great reward. In proportion as any faculty is important in the use and rightful application of it, so is the neglect of it an evil, and the result of its perversion fatal in the same degree. The government of the tongue, on this principle, assumes at once its due importance. Consider the benefits that must accrue to society from the judicious use of this powerful organ on the part of those who in God's providence are fitted to exert influence over their fellows. Consider the Christian governing his tongue, with especial reference to the law and will of God. Of the ten commandments two are assigned, one in each table, to this needful admonition. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain"; "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." A careless, unreflecting use of the holy name betrays a trifling and unstable heart. But with reference to his neighbour, the Christian has the greatest need of caution as to the government of his tongue. What irreparable injury a severe remark, whether carelessly or wickedly whispered against the character of another, is sure to produce. It may be our duty to speak to the prejudice of others, but we must always be very sure that the duty is clear. In cases where the conduct of our neighbour appears doubtful, we are bound to give him the benefit of that doubt, and to feel towards him, and to speak of him, accordingly. When a Christian is reviled and calumniated, how is he to act? He should "in patience possess his soul." One topic remains — the responsible office of the tongue, employed in preaching the gospel of salvation to perishing sinners.
A furious horse needs a bridle to restrain its fierceness, and it seems the tongue of man needs more than a double bridle to keep it in from doing hurt. The wise man never ceases to admonish us about this point. As a high-spirited horse, if its fury is not curbed with a strong hand, will hurry its rider along, without regarding pits, or precipices, or deep waters, and expose him to extreme jeopardy of his life, so an unbridled tongue will make a man hateful to God and men, plunge him into contentions and debates, and expose his estate, and life, and credit, to extreme danger. Who is the man that wishes to enjoy a quiet and peaceable life? Let him set a guard over his mouth, and refrain his tongue from profaneness and corrupt communication, from railing and reviling, and all evil speaking, from foolish talking, and from inconvenient jesting. Let prudence and the fear of God stand continually like sentinels at the door of his lips.
When trouble is brewing, keep still. When slander is getting on its legs, keep still. When your feelings are hurt, keep still till you recover from your excitement, at any rate. Things look differently through an unagitated eye. Silence is the most massive thing conceivable sometimes. It is strength in its very grandeur. It is like a regiment ordered to stand still in the mid fury of battle. To plunge in were twice as easy. The tongue has unsettled more ministers than small salaries ever did, or lack of ability.
Homilist.I. Such a government is NECESSARY. "Whoso keepeth his mouth and tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles." What troubles come through an ungoverned tongue?
1. Troubles on self.(1) The troubles of moral remorse have often been brought into the soul through unguarded language.(2) The troubles of social distress have often come upon a man through unguarded language. Friends have been sacrificed, enemies created, litigations commenced, and fines and penalties enacted.
2. Troubles on others. An ungoverned tongue is like a river, whose embankments have given way, spreading disasters through a whole neighbourhood. In America the Indians strike a spark from flint and steel, and thus set fire to the dry grass, and the flames spread and spread until they sweep like a roaring torrent over a territory as large as England, and men and cattle have to flee for their lives. An unguarded word can produce a social conflagration greater far.
II. Such a government is PRACTICABLE. The tongue is not an involuntary organ, an organ that works irrespective of the will, like the heart and lungs; it is always the servant of the mind; it never moves without volition. Heaven has endowed us with a natural sovereignty equal not only to the government of the tongue, but to all the lusts and passions that set it in motion. A finer manifestation of moral majesty you can scarcely have than in reticence under terribly exciting circumstances.
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