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We should not indulge in foolish talking and jesting, which, as Paul says, are not convenient, but should rather give thanks. Ephesians 5:4. Again he says, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man." Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6 KJV.
A good remedy for foolish talking and jesting is, giving thanks to the Lord. Foolish talking, jesting and joking are generally indulged in, when the mind is cheerful and feels well; and cheerfulness is good if it is rightly used. If any one has reason to be cheerful it is the Christian; and how appropriate it is to thank the Lord when we feel well. To do this, would keep our minds on the Lord and prevent us from talking foolishly. Says James, "Is any merry? let him sing psalms." James 5:13 KJV. Singing psalms and giving thanks unto the Lord, and speaking with grace, and in a manner to edify, would be more profitable and would leave a greater and more lasting satisfaction than to engage in a vain, empty, filthy and foolish conversation. Many have had to weep over foolish and trifling expressions; but no rational person was ever known to weep over a pure, elevating, graceful and instructive conversation.
The tongue should be employed in exalting and defending the truth, and in giving a reason of our hope. In doing this in a proper manner, we can be a blessing to ourselves and to others. "A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth." Proverbs 12:14 KJV. Again, "The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life." Proverbs 10:11 KJV. It invigorates, refreshes and gladdens the hearts of many. "A wholesome tongue (or the healing of the tongue, margin) is a tree of life;" and "the lips of the wise disperse knowledge and feed many." Proverbs 15:4, 7; 10:21 KJV.
But the tongue should use knowledge aright. Proverbs 15:2. To use knowledge aright, we must speak right words at the right time, in the right manner, with the right spirit and actuated by right motives.
"The tongue of the just is as choice silver." Proverbs 10:20 KJV. Its words are choice words. They are well chosen. Among the many things that could be said on different occasions, we must speak the proper things, -- the things that are needed and that can be understood and appreciated; the things that will glorify God and do others good. Those who speak promiscuously, and say all they know on every occasion, cannot be said to use knowledge aright, and must injure and be a disgrace to any honorable cause in which they may engage. In this way the cause of truth has often been brought into disrepute by its professed friend.
"A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it till afterward." "He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit (or a cool spirit, margin)." Proverbs 29:11; 17:27. He is swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath. James 1:19. "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise." Proverbs 10:19 KJV. See also chapter 29:20; Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.
Said Christ on a certain occasion, "I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now." John 16:12 KJV. We are so weak and our minds are so limited, that we cannot bear the whole truth at once. We must first learn and practice the alphabet of truth, and then we are prepared to understand and learn more truth and more difficult portions of truth. And we should learn from our own weakness and experience and from the dealings of the Lord with us, how we ought to deal out knowledge to others. To deal out difficult portions of truth at first, and present too many new ideas at once, would clog and confuse the minds of our hearers, and perhaps make them conclude that we have a confused mass of ideas, and give them an unfavorable opinion of the truths we advocate.
"A word fitly spoken, is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." Proverbs 25:11 KJV. It often operates like a good medicine administered at the right time and in a proper manner. A physician who would be successful in his line of business, must first consider the physical condition of his patients and the nature of their diseases, and then he is prepared to administer unto them the proper kind of medicine. So he who would be successful in doctoring sin-sick souls, should first consider the moral condition of his patients and the nature of their moral diseases, and then he can tell what portions of truths are adapted to their respective cases, and at what time and in what manner they should be presented. And wise and successful is the person that can give to each a portion of truth in due season. Some are not prepared to bear the same portions of truth that others can. Some can receive at one time and under certain circumstances, what they cannot receive at a different time and under different circumstances. Some need to be cheered and encouraged; others need to be checked. Some cases and circumstances call for sharp (yet meek) rebukes; others for moderate rebukes. Some cases call for open reproofs; others for secret reproofs. But every truth and every case should be handled with love.
There is a time to speak and a time to keep silence. "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." Proverbs 17:28 KJV. There are many seasons when we ought to keep silence; and in many instances by speaking when we ought not to speak, we use knowledge wrong.
We use knowledge wrong when we say much about the truth, and yet obey not the truth. It would be wiser to talk less and live better. Those who have much to say about the truth, but whose lives do not agree with their profession, may be compared to a farmer who extols the qualities of a certain apple-tree in his orchard, and immediately presents a basket of miserable apples to those that hear him. If his hearers are not acquainted with him or with the tree he extols, they will say, The tree is bad and his taste is perverted; or he knows the tree is bad and wishes to deceive us. Many, not having an understanding of the truth because they have not examined it, will judge of the truth by the fruit that those bear who profess it; and if the fruit is bad, they will conclude that the profession or theory is also bad. True, this is not a logical conclusion. But we see how necessary it is for those who talk the truth to live out the truth.
Knowledge is used wrong when the truth is constantly urged upon others, as though all success depended on much urging. In this way, many are wearied and disgusted, and made to feel that too much of one thing is good for nothing. Let us remember that God has something to do in enforcing the truth, that we cannot do. We should give God a chance to work by his Spirit and good angels, and should not get in the way and retard the progress of truth by overacting and going beyond the limits assigned unto us. If a clear presentation of truth, backed up by a consistent life and the spirit of truth, will not convince the honest, and lead them to action, what will?
Knowledge is used wrong when the truth is used as a club, and to get the ascendancy over others. By this course, honest souls are driven away from the truth and oppose it, who would otherwise ponder and receive it. We must not feel like a certain class whom David represents as saying, "With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" Psalms 12:4 KJV. It is not those who whip and drive souls who are accounted wise. The wisest of mean says, "He that winneth souls is wise."
Knowledge is used wrong when the truth is spoken from selfish motives, to get wordly gain, or to receive the praise of men, etc. Those who speak the truth from such motives, and with such objects in view, may prosper with those who love smooth things, as long as they keep in a popular channel, and dwell upon truths that are generally acknowledged, and that have no special cross connected with them; but let them leave this popular channel, and speak the whole truth, with the glory of God and the good of souls in view, whether men will hear or whether they will forbear, and many will lose their worldly support and the praise and honor of men, to receive the salary of those who have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God; viz., persecution, reproach, want, privation, the honor and praise that come from God, with the promise of eternal life in the world to come. Doubtless if all who now profess to preach the truth were shut up to this salary, not a few would leave off preaching to adopt some other avocation.
Those who have an undue anxiety to fill the place of teachers while they overlook the necessary qualifications to teach the truth, would do well to consider the following injunction of James. "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation," or judgment, margin. James 3:1 KJV. Mr. Whiting's translation reads as follows: "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that as such we must receive greater condemnation."
"The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth knowledge to his lips." Proverbs 16:23 KJV. If we are careful to think before speaking, and with reference to speaking, we shall have more knowledge and know how to use it. We shall know when to keep silence, and when, what and how to speak, and will keep our souls from troubles. "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles." Proverbs 21:23. "He that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile." 1 Peter 3:10 KJV.
Dear reader, if so much depends on the right use of the tongue, let us see to it that we weigh our words. Let us keep our mouths as with a bridle, and take heed to our ways that we sin not with our tongues.
By D. T. Bourdeau, from his book: “Sanctification - SANCTIFICATION OR, LIVING HOLINESS”, 1864, p. 67 - 73.
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, and soul, and body, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
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