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Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.
IN this, and in the preceding and following verses, the Apostle instructs us, how the renewed Christian ought to walk, that he may prove the sincerity of his heart, do honor to the religion of Christ, and serve the interest of his fellow men.
Having assumed the new man, which is created after the image of God, he must put away lying, speak the truth to his neighbor, rule well his passions, and give no place to the devil: He must defraud no man; but by industry in his calling, provide an honest supply for his own wants, and a charitable relief for the needy and helpless He must govern his tongue with wisdom, and order his speech with gravity, that he may not corrupt the manners, but assist the virtue of those with whom he is conversant.
The general end to which we must direct our speech is, "that it be good to the use of edifying." In pursuance of this design, we must avoid such communication, as would corrupt the minds and manners of
others; and, on the other hand, we must so speak as = to minister grace to the hearers.
- We will shew, first, what is this corrupt communication, which we must avoid; and, secondly, in what manner we may minister to the edification of those whom we converse with.
I. We will, first, consider, what the communication is, which the Apostle cautions us against.
Corrupt communication stands here opposed to that which is profitable for edifying, and which ministers grace to the hearers. It must therefore intend such discourse, as would corrupt the principles, and vitiate the manners of those who hear us.
As it was the design of the Creator, that we should live together in society, so he has made us, not only capable of communicating our thoughts, but susceptible of impressions from the thoughts which are communicated to us. The mind is influenced to a virtuous or vicious choice by the thoughts. And as good thoughts suggested to us, aid a virtuous choice, so the suggestion of evil thoughts tends to a vicious choice. Every kind of discourse, which offers arguments in favor of sin, which strengthens the operation of dangerous sentiments-which excites evil desires and inclinations or weakens the motives to virtue and piety, may be called corrupt communication, because it tends to corrupt good manners.
David says, "I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love." He considers the indulgence of vain thoughts as inconsistent with a real love of, and sincere obedience to the law of God. Now if evil thoughts, however suggested, are dangerous, peculiarly so are those suggested in conversation; for these we receive as thoughts which have already existed in the minds of others-in the minds of Christian professors. If we esteem the person who suggested them, there is then a presumption in their favor. They come to us, not simply as thoughts, but as thoughts recommended by
example. Christians, therefore, should be careful that no corrupt communication proceed out of their mouth; for, coming from them, it tends much more to corrupt the hearers, than if it came from persons of a different character and profession.
1. We may understand the Apostle as cautioning us against all loose and licentious language.
The precepts, institutions and doctrines of the gospel uniformly dissuade from vice, and urge to purity of heart and manners. If, in our conversation, we throw out sentiments, which contradict this holy design-sentiments which lower the terms of salvation, weaken the obligations to virtue, and make vice appear less infamous or dangerous, than the gospel represents it-if we call in question the important truths of relig ion, make light of divine institutions, and treat with an air of contempt a strictly virtuous and godly character, our communication is corrupt in its nature, and pernicious in its tendency.
2. Enticing language is forbidden,
They who themselves rejoice to do evil, delight in the frowardness of the wicked." The number of transgressors is some defence against the reproaches of the world, and some security against the upbraidings of conscience. Hence determined sinners are industrious to draw others into a partnership with them. But Christians profess to have put off the old man, and to have put on the new man. It may therefore be expected of them, that they should be grieved when they behold the transgressions of the wicked, and be humbled when they see the falling of their fellow Christians. Surely they will not lie in wait to deceivethey will not strengthen the hands of evil doers-they will not cause a brother to offend, nor rejoice even when an enemy falleth.
3. Corrupt communication includes all kinds of vain discourse-all such language as offends Christian sobriety, seriousness and gravity, savors of profaneness
and impiety, or borders on obscenity and lewdness. The Apostle recommends such speech as ministers grace to the hearers-such as is savory and grateful. To this he opposes corrupt speech-that which is offensive and disgustful to the sober and virtuous-that which indicates a carnal taste, and tends to vitiate and debauch the hearers. This corrupt communication he more fully explains in the next chapter. "Let not uncleanness be once named among you, who are saints, neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient.".
The Apostle speaks, as if he would not suspect that a professor of religion can addict himself to this kind of language. He intimates his fears however, that in some unguarded hours; in some seasons of uncommon cheerfulness, one may happen to be betrayed into it. He therefore says, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." Watch over your heart and tongue, on all occasions and in all companies, that you never admit a sentiment which would pain your own conscience in the reflection, nor once let slip an expression, which would corrupt the minds of others in its consequences. Remember that you are called saints. Let your language be such as becomes your character. Let not uncleanness, foolish talking, or bitter jesting, be once uttered by you, in such a manner as contradicts this sacred character, wounds the virtuous feelings of your Christian brethren, or encourages vice among the looser part of mankind.
St. James says, "if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." David resolved," I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle." The most watchful Christians may probably confess, that they sometimes have been off their guard; and in the free hours of social conversation have uttered those things, which on sober reflection they would wish to recal. The recollection of
these heedless moments should awaken a severer caution. Saints should remember that their reputation, their usefulness, yea, their very religion depends on the good government of their tongue. "For every idle word they must give an account. By their words they will be justified or condemned. If they seem to themselves to be religious, and bridle not their tongue, their religion is vain."
II. We are, secondly, to consider that communication, which is good to the use of edifying, and which ministers grace to the hearers.
The end of speech is, that we may be useful to others, either by mutual conversation, public instruction, or social devotion. To regard this benevolent purpose, Christians are under special obligations, as they have expressly covenanted together to assist one another in the great concerns of religion and immortality.
Solomon observes, that "the lips of the righteous: feed many." The good man's aim is not merely to serve himself, but to diffuse knowledge, virtue and happiness, according to the measure of his ability, and the extent of his influence. If he would impart his bread to the hungry, and his raiment to the naked; no less will he instruct the ignorant, warn the thoughtless, and guide the wandering.
There are various ways in which our speech may be useful to edifying.
1. Instruction is useful to edifying.
Parents are to edify their children by teaching them the commandments of God, and talking of them, when they sit in the house, and when they walk by the way, and when they lie down, and when they arise. They must early begin this important work, while the minds of their children are tender, and before corrupting sen. timents and stupifying habits have gained a preoccupancy. And considering the proneness of youthful age to forget religous instructions, and the dangerous Temptations which attend that critical period, they