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But let us remember that this was the faying of our Lord Jefus, whom we all profefs to believe, and to imitate in all things: but more especially let us do fo in this, because it was not a bare fpeculation, a fine and glorious faying, like thofe of the philofophers, who faid great and glorious things, but did them not; but this was his conftant practice, the great work and bufinefs of his life. He who pronounced it the most bleffed thing to do good, fpent his whole life in this work, and went about doing good. To this end all his activity and endeavours were bent. This was the life which God himself, when he was pleased to become man, thought fit to lead in the world, giving us herein an example that we should follow his fteps. He made full trial and experience of the happiness of this temper and spirit; for he was all on the giving hand. He would receive no portion and fhare of the good things of this world; he refufed the greateft offers. When the people would have made him a King, he withdrew and hid himfelf; he was contented to be worfe accommodated than the creatures below us. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nefts: but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head. He would not fo much as have any fixed abode and habitation, that he might be at liberty to go about doing good. He received nothing but injuries and affronts, bafe and treacherous ufage from an ungrateful world, to whom he was fo great and fo univerfal a benefactor. The whole bufinefs of his life was to do good, and to fuffer evil for fo doing. So fixed and fteady was he in his own principle and faying, It is a more bleed thing to give, than to receive. He gave away all that he had to do us good, he parted with his glory and his life, emptied himself, and became of no reputation; and being rich, for our fakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.
So that he advifeth us nothing, but what he did himfelf; nor impofeth any thing upon us, from which he himself defired to be excufed. And furely we have great reason to be in great love with this pattern, when that very goodness which he propounds to our imitation, was all laid out upon us, and redounds to our benefit and advantage; when our salvation and happinefs
nefs are the effects of that goodnefs and compassion which he exercifed in the world. He did it all purely for our fakes; whereas all the good we do to others, is a greater good done to ourselves.
So that here is an example and experiment of the thing in the greatest and most famous inftance that the whole world can afford. The belt and happiest man that ever was, the Son of God and the Saviour of men, and who is the most worthy to be the pattern of all mankind, went about doing good, and governed his whole life, and all the actions of it by this principle, that it is more blessed to give, than to receive. Let the fame mind be in us that was in Jefus Chrift: let us go and do likewife.
The evil of corrupt communication.
EPHES. iv. 29.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth; but that which is good to the ufe of edifying, that it may minifter grace to the hearers,
S difcourfes against fin and vice in general are of great ufe, fo it is likewife very neceffary to level them against the particular vices of men, and to endeavour by proper and intrinsical arguments, taken from the nature of that vice we treat of, to diffuade and deter them from it; becaufe this carries the dif courfe home to the confciences of men, and leaves them no way of escape. For this reafon, and in compliance with their Majesties pious proclamation, for the discountenancing and fuppreffing of profanenefs and vice, I have chofen to treat upon this fubject, of corrupt and filthy communication, as being one of the reigning vices of this wicked and adulterous generation; of the evil where
whereof the generality of men are lefs fenfible than almost of any other, that is fo frequently and fo exprefly branded in fcripture. And to this purpose I have pitched upon the words which I have read unto you, as containing a plain and express prohibition of this vice, Let no corrupt communication, &c.
I remember St. Austin in one of his epiftles tells us, that Tully, the great master of the art of speaking, fays of one of the great orators, Nullum unquam verbum quod revocare vellet, emifit. "That no word ever fell from him, that he could wish to have recalled." This, I doubt, is above the perfection of human eloquence, for a man always to make fuch a choice of his words, and to place them fo fitly, that nothing he ever faid could be changed for the better. But the greateft faults of fpeech are not thofe which offend against the rules of eloquence; but of piety, and virtue, and good manners: and who can fay that his tongue is free from all faults in this kind, and no word ever proceeded from him, which be could wish to have recalled? In many things, fays St. James, chap. iii. 2. we offend all; and in this kind as much perhaps, and as often as in any. He is a good and a happy man indeed, that seldom or never offends with his tongue. If any man, as St. James goes on, offend not in word, the fame is a perfect man, that is, he hath attained to an eminent degree of virtue indeed, and is above the common rate of men, and may reafonably be prefumed blameless in the general course of his life and practice; and able, as it follows, to bridle the whole body; that is, to order his whole converfation aright.
To govern the tongue is a matter of great difficulty, and confequently of great wifdom, and care, and circumfpection; and therefore one of the great endeavours of a wife and good man, fhould be to govern his words by the rules of reafon and religion; and we should every one of us refolve and fay, as David does, Pfal. xxxix. 1. I will take heed to my ways, that I fin not with my tongue. For as the virtues, fo the vices of the tongue are many and great. In refpect of the virtues of it, David calls it the best member we have; because of all the members and inftruments of the body, it is cap
able of giving the greatest glory to God; and of doing the greatest good and benefit to men. And in refpect of the vices of it, it may be as truly faid to be the worst member that we have; because it is capable of doing the greatest dishonour to God, and the greatest mischief and harm among men. So that upon all accounts, we ought to have a great care of the government of our tongue, which is capable of being fo ufeful and ferviceable to the beft and worst purposes, according as we reftrain it and keep it in order, or let it loose to fin and folly.
And among all the vices of the tongue, as none is more common, fo none is more misbecoming, and more contrary to the modefty of a man, and the gravity of a Chriftian, than filthy and obfcene talk of the odious nature, and the evil and mifchievous confequences thereof, both to ourselves and others, I defign by God's affiftance to treat at this time, from the words which I have read unto you, Let no corrupt communication, &c.
That by corrupt or rotten communication, is here meant filthy and obfcene talk, is generally agreed among interpreters. By that which is good to the use of edifying, is meant fuch difcourfe, as is apt to build us up in knowledge and goodness, to make the hearers wifer and better. That it may minifter grace unto the hearers, that is, fuch kind of difcourfe, as is acceptable to all; not naufeous and offenfive to fober, and virtuous perfons, not apt to grate upon chafte and modeft ears, and to put the hearers cut of countenance.
So that the Apoftle doth here strictly forbid all lewd and filthy difcourfe among Chriftians; and enjoins them fo to converfe with one another, that all their dif courfes may minifter mutual benefit and advantage to one another, and tend to the promoting of piety and virtue; and may likewife be grateful to the hearers, carefully avoiding every thing that might put them to the blush, or any ways trefpafs upon modefty and good manners, as all filthy communication does.
This fort of argument, though it be frequently mentioned in fcripture, yet it is very feldom treated of in the pulpit, becaufe it is a matter hard to be handled
in a cleanly manner, and the preacher must always take good heed to himself, that his difcourfe be free from the contagion of that vice, which he reproves and defigns to correct and cure. And therefore to diffuade and deter men from this evil practice, fo rife and common in the world, and that not only among the prophane and diffolute fort of perfons, but thofe likewife who would feem to be more strict and religious, I hope it may be fufficient to all confiderate perfons, plainly to represent to them the heinous nature of the thing itself, together with the evil and dangerous confequences of it, both to ourselves and to others. And this I fhall endeavour to do in the moft general and wary terms, keeping all along, as much as is poffible, aloof, and at diftance from any thing that might either offend the chafte and modest, or infect lewd and diffolute minds, which like tinder are always ready to take fire at the leaft fpark.
Having premifed this in general, my work at this time fhall be to offer fuch particular confiderations, as may fully convince men of the great evil and danger of this practice; and I hope may effectually prevail with them to leave it, and break it off. And they fhall be thefe following..
I. That all filthy and corrupt communication is evidently contrary to nature, which is careful to hide and fupprefs, whatever in the general esteem of the fober part of mankind hath any thing of turpitude and uncomelinefs in it: and where-ever nature hath thought fit to draw a veil, we should neither by words nor actions expofe fuch things to open view. Quæ natura occultavit, fays Tully, de offic. lib. i. eadem omnes, qui fana funt mente, removent ab oculis, "Thofe things which na"ture hath thought fit to hide, all men that are in their "wits endeavour to keep out of fight." Nos autem naturam fequamur, fays the fame excellent moralift, ibid. & ab omni quod abhorret ab oculorum auriumque approbati. one fugiamus. "Let us, fays he, follow nature, and flee every thing that is offenfive either to the eye or ear "of men." And this is fo plain a leffon of nature, that an actor in a play will never fall into that abfurdity, as to represent a grave and virtuous perfon offering any obfcene or immodeft word; and as the fame author reaVOL. IX. M