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der him obedient to our will ; so he that ruleth his tongue holds all his other members in subjection.--" Behold also the
ships, which, tho' they be so great, and driven of fierce winds, “yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whither. soever the governor listeth.”
As the helm governs the ship, altho' tossed by tumultuous waves, so a well bridled tongue easily governs the whole body. These small things can per- . form great matters, so the tongue is capable of accomplishing mighty deeds, both good and bad.
Having spoken of the great power of this little member, he then proceeds to show the mischievous evils, it produces, when -ungoverned. “Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth.” A small spark blows up a magazine or consumes a city. Thus this little member, the tongue, often throws a parish, a town, or a whole nation into Aames. Then the apostle introduces an hideous pi&ure of the tongue in the words of our text, “ And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; fo is the “tongue amongst the members, that it defileth the whole body, « and fetteth on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire of “ hell.” The images here are bold and the coloring strong A le&ure upon such a disagreeable portrait can never be very plealing to speaker or hearer ; yet it is necessary at times for our edification and reformation, to attend to subjects that are rather grating than acceptable.
First he tells us « the tongue is a fire.” The issues resemble this furious element in many particulars. A small spark will kindle much fuel, so this little member can do much mischief. A raging fire is ungovernable, so is this. Fire bears away all before it with its destructive flames, fo likewise this. Fire is very useful when confined to its proper place, so the tongue is a most important member, when held under proper regu. lations.
Secondly, it is “a world of iniquity." This may admit of two conitructions. Either that it inflames an unhappy worli filled with iniquity. Or the tongue itself is a world of fm. As the worlu is a collection of natural bodies, so the tongue is an aggregate of evils.
Thirdly, “so is the tongue among the members that it defileth the whole body." It infecteth the whole man with sin. It is often the cause of sins being committed by the other members. Tho'sin has its origin in the soul, yet it extends through the whole man, therefore the soul and body is morally pollu. ted.
Again," it setteth on fire the course of nature.” By the course of nature is understood the tenor of a person's life. This is all impregnated and inflanied with iniquity. There is no state nor age
free from the evils of the tongue. Some vices are abated by age, but these often reach through the whole time of aman's life.
Lastly, “it is set on fire of hell.” This expression is full of horror. Must fire be brought from the infernal furnace to enkinule the tongue for the destruction of the souls and bodies , of men ? An unbridled tongue is set on fire of hell, and Satan blows up the fame. How dould all then set a watch before the door of their lips? The more unruly this member, the greater cught to be our exertions for its government. The more mischief it is spt to create, the more it Ihould be watched and restrained within proper limits. Before we proceed fur. ther to be particular in confidering the evils of the tongue, we may take a brief view of its excellencies, the ends for which it was given, and the duties of it.
Fir2, in regard to its excellency. I shall not fpeak of that which is natural, which we hold in common with the brutes, but ot' that which is moral. The longue of man is his glory
How wonderful the work of God, that it should be able to articulate such an infinite number and variety of sounds. The more noble and excellent it is, the more it ought to be respected, and the greater is the evil in perverting it to base uses. The tongue is the index and discoverer of the mind. It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. If the mind is to be regarded, so also is the tongue. By words we read the character of a man's heart, whether it be virtuous and good, or vain and corrupt. Men's works are likewise exceedingly dependant upon their words. Wherefore, if their deeds are to be respected, so are their words. Actions of the most exalted nature, words are cften the cause of them. Daily experience informs us of the power of speech; a speech has faved a nation, and a speech has destroyed one. If the persons with whom we converse are to be respected, our language must be regarded, for this is an eminent instrument either of good or hurt. God employs the tongues of his ministers and others, for the conversion and salvation of men ; and the devil by his emissaries useth the same for their subvere fion and destruction. How many thousands every day are in ured by the tungues of others, fome deceived, some provoked to finful pallions, &c. And on the other hand, how many thousands are daily edified, instructed and comforted there. by ? St. Paul could say, " The weapons of our warfare are
mighty through God.” Ove once declared, that the tongue cuts deeper than a sword, this only pierces the bojy, while the other reaches to the soul.
Morcover, our tongues are the instruments of our Creator's praise. This exhibits its distinguishing excellency and glor; This was one great end for which speech was given us, to hew forth the wonders of the name of the Most Hig!'. A considerable part of the service, which God requires of men, is gerformed by the tongue. The use of the
highest faculties and graces of the foul are manifested by ito By this our knowledge, wisdom, love, friendship, gratitude, &c. are expressed. The declaration of Christ pronounces the high importance of our words. “ By your words you shall “ be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.”So excellent is the tongue, that life and death are said to be in “ Death and life are in the power
of the tongue," faith the royal preacher. The work of heaven which confifts in praising him who fetteth on the throne, and the Lamb forever and ever, holds up to view the transcendent excellency thereof. Hence, say the scriptures, “ If a man offend not in “ words, the same is a perfect man, and able to bridle the whole “ body. And he that will love life and see good days, let “ hím refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking “ guile. He that keepeth his tongue and mouth, keepeth his a foul from trouble.” All these things, to which a multitude of others might be added, display the superior excellency of this member.
Secondly, our attention must be turned to the ends for which the tongue was given, and the duties of it. The grand end for which our Creator endowed us herewith, as well as all the other powers and faculties of body and mind, was for his own glory. And its duties are too numerous for a compleat detail. A few.hints upon this subject mult suffice for the pre. sent. As it was conferred upon us for the honor of the Great Supreme, therefore the sum of all its duties is to glorify him ; to magnify his name and speak forth the praise of his attributes and works. With this we are to fing the songs of Zion, and give thanks for all the mercies we receive-to pray to him for what we want for ourselves, for the church and others-to confels his name, make profeflion of our belief in him, in Chriit Jetus, of our fubjeuion to his grace in the gospel, and obedience to his will in all things. With this, we
are to covenant with and make vows unto him-oto teach and edify those committed to our care--to do good one to another by instruction, counsel and exhortation-to confess our sins to God and our faults to each other as occasion may requirem recommend that which is good in others--to speak well of all men, fuperiors, inferiors and equals, as far as there is juit ground for the fame-to bear witness to the truth when law. fully called thereto-tu defend the cause of the juit and in. nocent against false accusers. Lastly, to be instruments of common communication between man and man; expressing our mutual affections and respects; for transacting all wordly business, for learning sciences, arts, trades, &c. These are only a few extracts of the great ends and important duties of, the tongue.
But it is proper we should attend to the main matters intended to be communicated to us in this text, to wit, the great lins and evils incident to the tongue. In some former lectures we have confidered the iniquities of swearing, curling, backbiting, reproaching, &c. these shall not be repeated. Among the henious offences committed by this member, that of blasphemy is of deep malignity, which is speaking evil of God, debasing his names and titles, reproaching him as a deceitful being. As Rabshehah in his speech to Hezekiah blafphemed the Lord. Perjury, or falfe witness bearing, is another aggra. vated transgression. It is near a kin to blafphemy and the fin against the Holy Ghost. It is a folemn appeal to God in favour of a falsehood, calling the God of truth to witness a lie. This must be exceedingly provoking to the omniscient Jeho. vah, injurious to all the laws of justice, and damning to the immortal foul. One obferves, that it was never known that a person convicted of perjury was ever brought to repentance. Lying is an abomination of a most criminal nature. However common the practice scarcely any thing more injurious--it despises the commandments of God, contemos his menaces,