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we then be promising ourselves years of happiness in the enjoyment of earthly things, when we consider how unstable they are?-Again: to-day we are sinning in expectation that we shall, at some future period, repent-To-morrow possibly we may, like Nebuchadnezzar, be deprived of reason; or, like Pharaoh, be sealed up by God under final impenitenceNow is it not madness to risk the salvation of our souls upon the hope of having every thing that can conduce to our eternal welfare continued to us to the latest period of our lives? Should we not rather set ourselves to redeem the present time, and to "work while it is day, lest the night should come wherein no man can work?"—]
2. We know not whether we shall even live to see the
[What man is there that has "made a covenant with death, and an agreement with the grave" so as to be assured he shall live another day? Has he this assurance from within himself, or from those around him, or from God? Not from within himself, since neither youth nor health is any security against the stroke of death: not from others, since physicians, however useful in their place, can afford us no help, when God shall call away our souls: not from God; for though he promised to protract Hezekiah's life for fifteen years, he has not engaged to preserve ours so many minutes-If, with the rich man in the gospel, we are saying," Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years," God may say to us, "Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee"-Who then, that knows the uncertainty of life, will presume upon its continuance? Let us look at the many thousands who, though but lately they seemed as likely to live as ourselves, are gone into eternity, gone too, before they had prepared to give up their account to God; and surely we shall cry with the Psalmist, "Lord, so teach us to number our days, that we may instantly apply our hearts unto wisdom"]
This subject naturally leads us to ADDRESS
1. The careless
[Is it not sufficient that God has exercised such longsuffering towards you, but will you still continue to provoke him?e "O be wise, and consider your latter end"-"To-day while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts;" lest while you are saying, Peace and safety, sudden destruction come upon you']
b Eph. v. 16. John ix. 4. e James iv. 13-16.
c Luke xii. 19, 20.
d Ps. xc. 12.
f Heb. iii. 7, 8, 13. 1 Thess. v. 3.
2. The lukewarm
[Lukewarmness in religion is as odious to God as an utter neglect of it-It is not by a round of formal duties, but a strenuous exertion of all your powers that you are to obtain the prize: for though heaven is the gift of God through Christ, it is bestowed on those only who labour for ith-Whatever then your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might-]
3. The zealous
[Endeavour to realize more and more the uncertainty of life, that, like the apostle, you may "die daily"—And, as you know not but that on the morrow you may be numbered with the saints in glory, let nothing be deferred till the morrow, which you can do for God to-day-Thus will death, however sudden, be welcome to you-]
Rev. iii. 15, 16.
h John vi. 27.
i Eccl. ix. 19.
CCCXCIV. THE EVILS OF THE TONGUE.
James iii. 6. The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. So is the tongue amongst our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell,
AMONGST the most important of all subjects must be reckoned the government of the tongue. The consideration of it is well calculated to convince the profane, to pluck off the mask from hypocrites, to humble the sincere, and to edify every description of persons. St. James, who intended his Epistle as a corrective to the abuses that prevailed in the Christian church, insisted strongly upon this subject: and, in the words before us, has given us such a description of the tongue, as, if it had proceeded from any other than an inspired writer, would have been deemed a libel upon human nature. In order that the text may be fully understood, we shall shew
I. The true character of the human tongue
The Apostle tells us "it is a fire"
[Fire, in its original formation, was intended for the good of man; and, when subordinated to his wishes, is highly beneVOL. IV.
ficial: but its tendency is to consume and to destroy. Thus the tongue was at first made for the Creator's praise; but through the introduction of sin, that member, which was, and, if well used, yet is, the glory of man," is become "an instrument of unrighteousness" and all iniquity.
Fire also, even the smallest spark, is capable of producing incalculable mischief; such mischief as it may not be in the power of man to repair. Thus also will one single motion of the tongue. It may so irritate and inflame a man, as to change him instantly into a savage beast, or an incarnate devil: and, if the whole world should labour to remedy the evil, it would mock their endeavours.]
He further adds, that it is "a world of iniquity”
[There is not any sin whatever, which does not stand in the nearest connexion with the tongue, and employ it in its service. Search the long catalogue of sins against God; then inspect those against our neighbour; and, lastly, those against ourselves; and there will not be found one, no, not one, that has not the tongue as its principal ally———All iniquities whatsoever centre in it, and are fulfilled by it: so justly is it called, "A world of iniquity."]
Its character will yet further appear by considering II. Its effects
1. These are defiling
[Sin, as soon as ever it is conceived in the heart, defiles the soul: but when it is uttered by the lips," it defileth the whole body." Utterance gives solidity and permanency to that, which before existed in idea, and might have passed away: and, inasmuch as the tongue has every other member at its command to execute, according to their several powers, the things it has divulged, the whole man is become a partaker of its guilt and defilement. And, though all its communications are not equally polluting, yet is there a stain left by means of them, a stain which nothing but the Redeemer's blood can ever wash away.]
[To such an astonishing degree has this fire gained the ascendant, that it has " inflamed the whole course of nature." Look at individuals; what malignant passions has it kindled in them! Visit families; what animosities, and inextinguishable feuds has it produced! Survey churches; and you will find the unhallowed fire burning even in the sanctuary of God;
e See Rom. iii. 13, 14.
By means of heretics, cavillers, and proud disputers, and others who cause divisions and dissensions.
a Ps. lvii. 8.
b Ver. 3, 4.
a Eccl. v. 6. Mark vii. 20-23.
and sometimes too, even in the very censers of his ministers. Cast your eyes round upon whole nations; and you will perceive that, times without number, it has kindled the flames of war, and spread desolation through the globe.]
To prove that this account is not exaggerated, we shall point out
III. The reason of its producing these effects
The tongue" itself is set on fire of hell"
[Satan is the source and author of all the evils that proteed from the tongue. Does it falsify? behold, it does so at the instigation of that wicked fiend, "the father of lies." Does it discourage men from the prosecution of their duty? It does so, as the devil's agent. Does it accuse and scandalize the people of God? Who but Satan is the author of such calumnies? Does it disseminate error? the propagator of that error is Satan's minister; however he be transformed into an angel of light: Does it encourage any bad design? It is the devil himself who speaks by it. In every sin that it commits, it is actuated by "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in all the children of disobedience." Its whole wisdom is earthly, sensual, devilish." It comes from hell, and leads to hell: and, if God were to withdraw his retraints here, as he does in hell, it would speedily produce a very hell upon earth.]
This alone can account for the effects that proceed
[Doubtless the wickedness of the heart may account for much: but, if the flames were not fanned by satannic agency, we can scarcely conceive that they should rage with such an irresistible force, and to such a boundless extent.]
1. How great must be the evil of the human heart!
[The heart is the fountain, in which "the evil treasure is;" the tongue is only the channel in which it flows. If the channel then be so vile, what must the fountain be? Yet every one of us has this tongue in his mouth, and this heart in his bosom: and, if God should leave us without restraint,
f Alluding to Lev. x. 1.
What has not been perpetrated under the influence of those two words, liberty and equality!
Acts v. 3. John viii. 44. k Rev. xii. 10.
m 1 Kings xxii. 21, 22.
í Matt. xvi. 23.
1 2 Cor. xi. 3, 13, 14, 15.
Eph. ii. 2.
P Matt. xii. 35.
there is not one of us but would proclain all the evil of his heart, as much as the most loathsome sensualist, or most daring blasphemer.]
2. How much do we need the influences of the Holy Spirit!
[It is absolutely impossible for man to tame this unruly member. Yet restrained it must be, if ever we would be saved. What then shall we do? shall we sit down in despair? God forbid. The Holy Spirit will help our infirmities, and Christ will give us his Spirit if we call upon him. Let us then look to Christ; and we shall prove by sweet experience, that his grace is sufficient for us," and that "through him strengthening us we can do all things.""]
3. How careful should we be of every word we utter!
[Immense injury may we do by one ungarded word. We may take away a character which we can never restore, or inflict a wound which we can never heal. On this account we should 66 set a watch before the door of our lips." " Nor is this a matter of expediency merely, but of necessity; for God has warned us that we shall give account of every idle word, and, that by our words we shall be justified, and by our words we shall be condemned. Let us then be utterly purposed that our mouth shall not offend. Let our tongue be as choice silver, or a tree of life, to enrich and comfort the Lord's people. Let our "speech be alway with grace seasoned with salt" for the honour of God, and the good of our fellowcreatures.b]
Hos. v. 4. They will not frame their doings to turn unto their God: for the spirit of whoredoms is in the midst of them, and they have not known the Lord.
WHEN we exhort men to duty, they plead their inability to perform it
But their inability is, in fact, a want of inclination to serve God