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Methinks, if Job abhorred himself, and the Prophet Isaiah complained, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips," a leper in the midst of a leprous population; no humiliation can be too deep for us. Let us walk softly then, every one of us, in the remembrance of our manifold infirmities; and abase ourselves before God, as "less than the least of all saints," yea, very chief of sinners."]

2. Watchfulness


as the

[Never can we tell what an hour may bring forth; or what temptations may arise, to cause us to offend either in word or deed. We should therefore "make a covenant with our eyes," as holy Job did; and "set a watch before the door of our lips," as did the man after God's own heart. We should mark the first risings of inclination, that they may not operate with undue force, and betray us into actual sin. We should mark with jealous care the motives and principles by which we are actuated; remembering, that by them will the quality of our actions be determined, and that by them we shall be judged in the last day. In a word, we must "keep our hearts with all diligence, knowing that out of them are the issues of life."]

3. Dependence upon God


[Here is our only security. If we trust in our own hearts, our folly will very soon appear. Satan can assume the form of an angel of light," and deceive us by specious appearances: and, if we would be preserved from his wiles, our prayer should continually be to God; "Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not:" "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." Then, notwithstanding our weakness and frailty, we may hope to be "preserved blameless till the day of Christ."

"Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, for ever and ever! Amen.'



Jam. iii. 6. The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among 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 beneficial 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,

a Ps. lvii. 8.

b ver. 3, 4.

c See Rom. iii. 13, 14.

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.]

2. Destructive

[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; and sometimes too, even in the very censers of his ministers1. 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"-

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[Satan is the source and author of all the evils that proceed 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 agenti. 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

d Eccles. v. 6. Mark vii. 20-23.

e By means of heretics, cavillers, and proud disputers, and others who cause divisions and dissensions.

f Alluding to Lev. x. 1.

g What has not been perpetrated during the French Revolution under the influence of those two words, liberty and equality!

h Acts v. 3. John viii. 44.

k Rev. xii. 10.

i Matt. xvi. 23.

an angel of light'. Does it encourage any bad design? It is the devil himself who speaks by itm. 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 restraints here, as he does in hell, it would speedily produce a very hell upon earth.]

This alone can account for the effects that proceed from it

[Doubtless the wickedness of the heart may account for much: but, if the flames were not fanned by satanic 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 isP;" the tongue is only the channel in which it flows. If the channel then be so vile, what must the fountain be? every one of us has this tongue in his mouth, and this heart in his bosom and, if God should leave us without restraint, there is not one of us but would proclaim all the evil of his heart, as much as the most lothesome 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 unguarded word. We may take away a character which we can never restore, or

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inflict a wound which we can never heal. On this account we should "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 condemnedy. 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 always with grace seasoned with salt," for the honour of God, and the good of our fellowcreaturesb.]

x Ps. cxli. 3. z Ps. xvii. 3.

▾ Matt. xii. 36, 37. and v. 22. last clause. a Prov. x. 20. and xv. 4.

b Col. iv. 6. Eph. iv. 29.



Jam. iii. 13. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

THE government of the tongue is of all things the most difficult; because every evil that is in the heart seeks for vent through that organ. A man who should be able so to controul it that no unadvised word should ever escape from his lips, would be a perfect man. Yet, if a man profess to be religious, and have not so much self-government as to impose an habitual restraint upon his tongue, he deceives his own soul, and his religion is vain. The gift of speech is to be improved for God by holy and heavenly communications, and the man who suffers it to be a vehicle of sin, discovers himself to be a hypocrite before God. The inconsistency of such conduct is obvious. "A fountain cannot send forth both fresh water and bitter; nor can a tree bear both olives and figs:" so neither can a renewed heart bear such different and discordant fruits". Whoever therefore professes godliness, should take care that no such inconsistency be found in him. "Who is a wise man,

a Jam. i. 26.

b ver. 9-12.

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