Stacks Image 905




Evils of an inordinate use of the tongue. Can be corrected by faith alone. Faith produces silence by freeing the mind from jealousy and suspicion. And also by placing objects in their true relations and assigning them their true value. Of faith in relation to private trials. Of faith in relation to public trials. Of faith in connection with controversies. Connection of the grace of silence with sanctification.

MANY things, which are good in themselves, become evil in their excess. This is especially true of the faculty of speech, one of the most valuable gifts, which our heavenly Father has seen fit to impart to us. The tongue, which is described by an inspired Apostle as an “unruly member,” is ever in action; but not always in profitable action. Statements are made thoughtlessly and often maliciously; which, if they are susceptible of increase in the first instance, are magnified by repetition. Thus the first exaggerated statement soon becomes positive falsehood. And the falsehood, which at first was modest and mitigated in its manner, becomes bold, noisy, and intense.

2.—Moralists have been in some degree awake to this evil state of things. And they have done well in suggesting powerful motives, drawn chiefly from its pernicious effects, for its counteraction. But there is only one thing, as it seems to us, which holds out any encouraging prospect of effectually eradicating this “root of evil.” And that is faith in God. And we think that we do not ascribe too much to faith, in saying that it is able to do it. Inordinate speech like every thing else has its cause. It is the result of something, which is antecedent, and which lays deeper in our nature. Faith operates upon the consequent by first operating upon the antecedent; it takes away the fact of inordinate conversation by first taking away the desire of it; and establishes outward silence on the basis of inward repose.

3.—In the first place, true faith in God has a tendency to prevent the existence of jealous and suspicious states of mind. As the soul, in the case of those who have such faith, has ceased to place dependence upon men, it has no motive for attaching that importance, which it might otherwise do, to an unfavorable word or look. Being strong in its position, it can afford to put a favorable construction upon such words and actions, or at least to wait for further developments. It is easy to see, therefore, that the man of strong faith would be easy and silent under such circumstances, while the man without faith or with but little faith, yielding as he naturally would to jealousy and suspicion, would be strongly tempted to set loose the “unruly member.”

4.—We may say further in general terms, that strong faith in its results tends to promote the grace of silence, by placing objects in their true position, and by assigning them their true value. To the natural mind all those things, which have a special relation to self, appear distorted and exaggerated. Indeed all things, whether they have a particular relation to self or not, inasmuch as they are perceived out of their true relations, are perceived incorrectly. The ordinary events and occurrences of life, as they are viewed in reference to this life alone, are too much magnified in importance. They expand themselves, in the mind’s eye, out of all just limits. Faith, on the contrary, views them in the light of eternity, which brings them to their true size. Events, therefore, which leave the man of faith in quietness of spirit, disturb and agitate the natural man, unloose the tongue of suspicion and complaint, and fill the world with his outcries. In the storm on the lake of Galilee, Christ was asleep in the vessel, while every thing around was filled with confusion and clamor. His disciples awoke him with the request, that he would interfere in their behalf. His reply was; “Why are ye fearful, oh, YE OF LITTLE FAITH? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.” Matthew 8:26.

5.—True faith is naturally followed by silence in regard to those trials and those interests, which are of a private and personal nature. It is so for the important reason, which has just been mentioned, namely, that it places objects in their true relation and assigns them their true value. And it is so for other reasons, which might be mentioned. When we are tempted and afflicted, it is natural for us to look for assistance and consolation somewhere. We are so constituted that we cannot well avoid it. And in the defect of faith, which attaches us to that which is unseen and spiritual, we turn and rest upon that, which is seen and sensible. We fill the ears of our families; and not contented with this, but looking every where for help except to Him who alone can give aid, we extend the voice of our complaints to every one, who is willing to hear. But it is very different with the person, who has faith; especially if it exists in a high degree. He has but little to say to men in his trials. He as naturally and confidingly goes to his heavenly Father, as the child, in its season of affliction goes to its earthly parent.

6.—Strong faith has the tendency to remove undue fears and anxieties, in relation to existing public evils. The man of strong faith does all that he can to remove such evils, and to prevent the extension of their results; but having done this, he is willing to leave every thing calmly and patiently in the hands of God. His soul is at rest in the consciousness of having done his duty. He remains silent in the Lord. But the anxieties of the man, who is weak in faith, never end. He is looking, first, in one direction and then in another, addressing one with denunciations and appealing to another’s sympathy, making a world of trouble by the constant use of his tongue, without effecting his ultimate object and probably with injury to it. His tongue does not rest, because his heart does not rest. And his heart does not rest, because he has little or no faith. And the movement of the tongue, founded upon the sin of a too weak faith, is necessarily unsanitary. In relation, therefore, to existing public evils, strong faith, having first led persons to do all their duty, leaves them in a state of patient and quiet waiting upon God.
“I waited patiently for the Lord,” says the Psalmist, “and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1.

7.—Inordinate speech, the utterance of the wrong thing or in the wrong spirit, is one of the evils of controversy. Even religious men, as the history of theological controversies evidently shows, are not exempt from it. Faith enables us to give the calm and peaceful answer, which, as it has the power to correct the judgment as well as the spirit or temper, is likely to be the correct answer. We would not have it understood, that the person, who has faith, is indifferent to his opinions; but merely, that having faith he is in that state of mind, which enables him to reply calmly, cheerfully, and thoughtfully. “He has confidence in the truth, because he has confidence in God. ‘GOD IS TRUE;’ and being what he is, God can have no fellowship with that which is the opposite of the truth. He knows, that, if his own sentiments are not correct, they will pass away in due time; because every thing, which is false, necessarily carries in itself the element of its own destruction. He knows too, that, if the sentiments of his adversaries are false, they bear no stamp of durability. God is arrayed against them, and they must sooner or later fall. Hence it is, that his strong faith in God, and in the truth of which God is the protector, kills the eagerness of nature. He is calm amid opposition; patient under rebuke.” [
Interior Life, 2d. Ed. p. 338.]

8.—But the man, who has faith in God, has confidence in the power of love, as well as in the power of the truth. And indeed they are closely related. True love is love without selfishness, which is always a love according to the truth. Such love will win its way against every sort of argument, which is not founded in the truth. Nothing has such efficacy in weakening prejudice, in soothing passion, and in bringing the mind of an opponent, in every respect, into a right position. If we had nothing but nature for a teacher, we could not fail to learn the lesson, that there is nothing so efficacious as the spirit of love in correcting the perversions of prejudice, and in prostrating the falsehoods of passion. But when we know from the Scriptures, that “God is love,” those who are like him can never distrust themselves in being what he is. And accordingly in a multitude of cases, holy love, having faith in God as its source, and having faith in itself as that which God will approve, will be silent, while the weakness and irritation of an unsanctified nature will fill the air with its clamors.

9.—We are aware, that this subject may appear of small importance in the eyes of some persons. They do not clearly perceive the connection between the use of the tongue and the sanctification of the heart. Their want of perception does not alter the fact. They never will know, they never can know the blessedness of purity of heart in connection with a speech unsanctified. It is impossible that the two should go together. It is as true now as it was in the times of the Savior, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If the tongue is unregulated, the heart is unregulated also. Nor is it less true now than it was then, that
“every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” If we really have faith in this declaration of the Savior, it will necessarily have an effect upon us. And the converse of this statement is true. We may lay it down as truth, that the man, who is not careful in his words, is a man wanting in faith; or at least, is a man of weak faith. It was the natural result of the faith of the Psalmist, that he was enabled to say, not merely that it was his delight to do God’s will, but still more specifically, “I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me.” Psalm 39:1.

10.—The Rev. William Law, author of the Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, and other religious works, makes the following remarks in a letter to one of his correspondents.—“The SPIRITUAL LIFE is nothing else but the working of the Spirit of God within us; and therefore our own silence must be a great part of our preparation for it; and much speaking, or a delight in it, will be often no small hindrance of that good, which we can only have from hearing what the Spirit of God speaketh within us. This is not enough known by religious persons. They rejoice in kindling a fire of their own, and delight too much in hearing their own voice, and so lose that inward unction from above, which alone can new-create their hearts. To speak with the tongues of men or angels on religious matters, is a much less thing, than to know how to stay the mind upon God, and abide with him in the closet of our hearts, observing, loving, adoring, and obeying his holy will.”