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THE DUTIES OF THE TONGUE.
But that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.-Ephes. iv. latter part of ver. 29.
"LOQUENDI magistros habemus homines, tacendi Deos," said one; "Men teach us to speak, and God teaches us to hold our tongue." The first we are taught by the lectures of our schools; the latter, by the mysteries of the temple. But now, in the new institution, we have also a great master of speaking; and though silence is one of the great paths of innocence, yet holy speaking is the instrument of spiritual charity, and is a glorification of God; and therefore, this kind of speaking is a degree of perfection beyond the wisdom and severity of silence. For, although garrulity and foolish inordinate talking are a conjunction of folly and sin, and the prating man, while he desires to get the love of them he converses with, incurs their hatred; while he would be admired, is laughed at; he spends much and gets nothing; he wrongs his friends, and makes sport to his enemies, and injures himself; he is derided when he tells what others know, he is endangered if he tells a secret and what they know not; he is not believed when he tells good news, and when he tells ill news he is odious; and therefore, that silence, which is a cure of all this evil, is an excellent portion of safety and religion:-yet it is with holy speaking and innocent silence as it is with a hermit and a bishop; the first goes to a good school, but the second is proceeded towards greater perfection; and therefore, the practical life of ecclesiastical governors, being found in the way of holiness and zeal, is called 'status perfectionis:' a more excellent and perfect condition of life, and far beyond the retirements and inoffensive life of those innocent persons, which do so much less of profit, by how much charity is better than meditation, and going to heaven by religion and charity, by serving God and con
verting souls, is better than going to heaven by prayers and secret thoughts: so it is with silence and religious communication. That does not offend God, this glorifies him: that prevents sin, this sets forward the interests of religion. And therefore Plutarch said well," Qui generosè et regio more instituuntur, primum tacere, deinde loqui discunt:" "To be taught first to be silent, then to speak well and handsomely, is education fit for a prince ;" and that is St. Paul's method here: first we are taught how to restrain our tongues, in the foregoing instances,—and now we are called to employ them in religion.
1. We must speak" that which is good,” ȧyalóv Tɩ, any thing that may serve the ends of our God and of our neighbour, in the measures of religion and usefulness. But it is here as in all other propositions of religion. To us,-who are in the body, and conducted by material phantasms, and understanding nothing but what we feel, or is conveyed to us by the proportions of what we do or have,--God hath given a religion that is fitted to our condition and constitution. And therefore, when we are commanded to love God, by this love Christ understands obedience; when we are commanded to honour God, it is by singing and reciting his praises, and doing things which cause reputation and honour : and even here, when we are commanded to speak that which is good, it is instanced in such good things which are really profitable, practically useful; and here the measures of God are especially by the proportions of our neighbour: and therefore, though speaking honourable things of God be an employment that does honour to our tongues and voices, yet we must tune and compose even these notes so, as may best profit our neighbour; for so it must beλóyos ayalòs,' good speech,' such as is εἰς οἰκοδομὴν τῆς χρείας, ‘for the edification of necessity: the phrase is a Hebraism, where the genitive case of a substantive is put for the adjective; and means, that our speech be apted to necessary edification, or such edification as is needful to every man's particular case; that is, that we so order our communication, that it be apt to instruct the ignorant, to strengthen the weak, to recall the wanderer, to restrain the vicious, to comfort the disconsolate, to speak a word in season to every man's necessity, iva d Xápiv, that it may minister grace;' something that may
please and profit them, according as they shall need; all
1. To instruct.
2. To comfort.
3. To reprove.
1. Our conversation must be didaкTIKòs, apt to teach.' For since all our hopes on our part depend upon our obedience to God, and conformity to our Lord Jesus, by whom our endeavours are sanctified and accepted, and our weaknesses are pardoned, and all our obedience relies upon, and is encouraged and grounded in, faith, and faith is founded naturally and primarily in the understanding,—we may observe, that it is not only reasonably to be expected, but experimentally felt, that, in weak and ignorant understandings, there are no sufficient supports for the vigorousness of a holy life; there being nothing, or not enough, to warrant and strengthen great resolutions, to reconcile our affections to difficulties, to make us patient of affronts, to receive deeper mortifications, and ruder usages, unless where an extraordinary grace supplies the want of ordinary notices, as the Apostles were enabled to their preaching; but he, therefore, that carries and imports into the understanding of his brother, notices of faith, and incomes of spiritual propositions, and arguments of the Spirit, enables his brother towards the work and practices of a holy life: and though every argument, which the Spirit of God hath made and recorded in Holy Scripture, is of itself inducement great enough to endear obedience; yet it is not so in the event of things to every man's infirmity and need; but in the treasures of the Spirit, in the heaps and variety of institution, and wise discourses, there will not only be enough to make a man without excuse, but sufficient to do his work, and to cure his evil, and to fortify his weaker parts, and to comply with his necessities: for although God's sufficient grace is present to all that can use it, yet, if there be no more than that, it is a sad consideration to remember, that there are but few that will be saved, if they be helped but with just so much as can possibly do the work: and this we may well be assured of, if we consider that God is never wanting to any man in what is simply necessary: but then, if we add this also, that of the vast numbers of men, who might possibly be saved, so
few really are so, we shall perceive, that that grace which only is sufficient, is not sufficient; sufficient to the thing, is not sufficient for the person; and therefore, that God does usually give us more, and we need more yet; and unless God "works in us to will and to do," we shall neither 'will' nor do;' though to will be in the power of our hand, yet we will not will; it follows from hence, that all they, who will comply with God's method of graciousness, and the necessities of their brethren, must endeavour, by all means, and in all their own measures and capacities, to lay up treasures of notices and instructions in their brother's soul, that, by some argument or other, they may be met withal, and taken in every corner of their conversation. Add to this, that the duty of a man hath great variety, and the souls of men are infinitely abused, and the persuasions of men are strangely divided, and the interests of men are a violent and preternatural declination from the strictnesses of virtue, and the resolutions of men are quickly altered, and very hardly to be secured, and the cases of conscience are numerous and intricate, and every state of life hath its proper prejudice, and our notices are abused by our affections, and we shall perceive that men generally need knowledge enough to overpower all their passions, to root out their vicious inclinations, to master their prejudice, to answer objections, to resist temptations, to refresh their weariness, to fix their resolutions, and to determine their doubts; and therefore, to see your brother in a state of ignorance, is to see him unfurnished and unprepared to all good works; a person safe no longer than till a temptation comes, and one that cannot be saved but by an absolute, unlimited predestination, a favour of which he hath no promise, no security, no revelation; and although, to do this, God hath appointed a special order of men, the whole ecclesiastical order, whom he feeds at his own charges, and whom men rob at their own peril, yet this doth not disoblige others: for every master of a family is to instruct, or cause his family to be instructed, and catechised; every governor is to instruct his charge, every man his brother, not always in person, but ever by all possible and just provisions. For if the people die for want of knowledge, they who are set over them, shall also die for want of charity. Here, therefore, we must remember, that it is the duty
of us all, in our several measures and proportions, to instruct those that need it, and whose necessity is made ready for our ministration; and let us tremble to think, what will be the sad account which we shall make, when even our families are not taught in the fundamentals of religion; for how can it be possible for those, who could not account concerning the stories of Christ's life and death, the ministries of their redemption, the foundation of all their hopes, the great argument of all their obediences; how can it be expected, that they should ride in triumph over all the evils, which the devil, and the world, and their own follies, daily present to them, in the course of every day's conversation? And it will be an ill return to say, that God will require no more of them than he hath given them; for suppose that be true in your own sense, yet he will require it of thee, because thou gavest them no more; and, however, it is a formidable danger, and a trifling hope, for any man to put all the hopes of his being saved upon the only stock of ignorance; for if his ignorance should never be accounted for, yet it may leave him in that state, in which his evils shall grow great, and his sins may be irremediable.
2. Our conversation must be waρákλnтoç, apt to comfort' the disconsolate; and than this, men in present can feel no greater charity: for, since half the duty of a Christian in this life consists in the exercise of passive graces, and the infinite variety of Providence, and the perpetual adversity of chances, and the dissatisfaction and emptiness that are in things themselves, and the weariness and anguish of our spirit, do call us to the trial and exercise of patience, even in the days of sunshine, and much more in the violent storms that shake our dwellings, and make our hearts tremble; God hath sent some angels into the world, whose office is to refresh the sorrows of the poor, and to lighten the eyes of the disconsolate; he hath made some creatures whose powers are chiefly ordained to comfort; wine, and oil, and society, cordials, and variety; and time itself is checkered with black and white; stay but till to-morrow, and your present sorrow will be weary, and will lie down to rest. But this is not all. The third person of the holy Trinity is known to us by the name and dignity of the "Holy Ghost, the Comforter," and God glories in the appellative, that he is " the Father of mer