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On the other hand, “ The tongue is an unruly evil, * full of deadly poison:—it is a fire, a world of iniqui
ty;-it sitteth on fire the whole course of nature,
and is set on fire of hell.”* The fact is indeed undeniable, that the gift of speech, when abused, is the grand instrument in the propagation of atheism, infi. delity, impiety, blasphemy, heresy, licentiousness, discord, and every other evil, through private circles and large communities, all over the earth. Yet this same gift, under the influence of divine teaching and holy affections, is also principally instrumental in diffusing the light of the gospel among mankind: not only by publick preaching; but by the private instructions of parents and masters, and by familiar conversation. The speech of prudent zealous Christians, being “seasoned with salt,” being pure, pious, and affectionate, “ministers grace unto the hearers.” It is therefore emphatically true, that “ life and death “ are in the power of the tongue;" “ for out of the “ abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” If then we be the disciples of Christ, and partakers of his grace, we shall, after his example, " from the good “ treasure of our hearts bring forth good things." For even if we keep our mouth, as it were with a bridle, from all corrupt discourse; but do not embrace opportunities of profitable conversation; we shall be found guilty of burying our talent in the earth.
All indeed have not the gift of properly introducing religious topicks in mixed companies, where they are too generaliy unwelcome, however prudently and sea
* Jam. iii.
sonably managed: but every man has a little circle, in which he may speak with freedom on the great concerns of salvation. Most persons have relatives, and many have families, among whom they are peculiarly bound to communicate the knowledge of the gospel. There are also seasons, in which almost any one will endure the serious and affectionate introduction of religious subjects; especially in times of peculiar afliction, or when death hath visited his house. In some companies a man is, as it were by common consent, called to take the lead in discourse, and may select his subject: and in most situations some opening will be found for a serious remark, which may be after. wards recollected, if it do not at the time introduce further conversation. The event of such reflections frequently give us reason to say, “A word spoken in “ due season, how good is it!” And upon careful examination it will be found, that far more good is done in this way, than is in general supposed.
An objection, however, will naturally arise in the mind of many, from the consideration of the aversion and contempt commonly expressed for this kind of conversation. But it is certain, that the rules, prescribed by the Lord himself to his people, could not be reduced to practice, without exciting the same disgust and reproach.* Even the conduct of Christ must be involved in the same censure: for he hath set us an example of this duty, and also of the manner in which it ought to be performed. In fact, the opposition of men, who have no habitual seriousness in
religion, rather recommends, than forms an objection to pious discourse: and surely we ought not to neglect any part of our duty from that “ fear of man “ which bringeth a snare!” “ Thus saith the Lord,“ hearken unto me, my people, who know righteous. “ness, in whose heart is my law: fear ye not the re
proach of men, neither be afraid of their revilings: “ for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and “ the worm shall eat them as wool: but my righte
ousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from “ generation to generation."'*
They, who timidly and cautiously keep silence or these subjects, who leave men in ignorance and under delusion, even among their own acquaintance; and make no effort to enlighten them with saving truth, lest they should be censured and stigmatized with some reproachful name, must act in direct contradiction to this solemn admonition. Whereas a prudent and suitable attention to this duty forms one of the most efficacious means of diffusing the savour of truth and piety, in families and neighbourhoods; and of opening a door of usefulness to those who labour in the word and doctrines.
There are indeed many vain talkers, who disgrace the gospel; disregarding relative duties and every rule of propriety, by an ostentatious zeal and officious boldness in disputing about doctrines; while it is often too plain that the truth has little sanctifying effect upon their own hearts. It is therefore peculiarly iocumbent upon us to ask wisdom of God, in order to
* Isaiah li. 7, 8.
a right performance of this duty; and to be very care
. ful that our religious discourse be recommended by the ornament of a consistent behaviour in all other re. spects. i his is especially the way to “ let our light u shine before men." Thus Peter, exhorting Chris. tians to “ have their conversation honest among the « Gentiles: that whereas they spake against them as “ evil doers, they might by their good works, which
they should behold, glorify God in the day of visi. “.tation,” inculcates the duties of subjects to their rulers; “ for,” says he, “ so is the will of God, that “ with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance " of foolish men.” He then states the duties of servants, even to severe and froward masters; adding, “ for what glory is it,” (what proof of grace or recommendation of the gospel)“ if when ye be buffet" “ ed for your faults ye take it patiently? But if when
ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, “ this is acceptable with God; for even hereunto ye
were called.” Afterwards he exhorts “ wives lo “ be in subjection to their own husbands, that if any
obey not the word, they may without the word be
won by the conversation of the wives.” And have ing mentioned some other subjects, he thus concludes the exhortation," Having a good conscience, that " whereas they speak evil of you, as of evil doers,
they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good “ conversation in Christ."*
In like manner, magistrates, masters, husbands, parents, children, and all others, have various relative
1 Pet. ii. ii.
duties to perform for the common benefit: and if they be known to profess the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, which are generally accused of tending to laxity of morals, their conduct will be severely and minutely scrutinized. But when believers study to understand and aim to practise the duties of their several relations, in all respects more exactly than before; when they habitually give up their own humour, interest, or indulgence, provided conscience be not concerned, to oblige and serve those that are most prejudiced and unkind; and when this conduct is adhered to with meek perseverance, notwithstanding discouragements and ungrateful returns: then the excellency of evangelical religion is exhibited in the clearest and most affecting light. In this manner we ought
" adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things."
A conscientious exactness, as to every part of our conduct in the ordinary transactions of life, is likewise indispensably necessary: that they may be conducted with the strictest integrity, veracity, sincerity, and punctuality. We ought to “ let our moderation be “known unto all men:" it should be evident, “that
our conversation is without covetousness;” and nothing ambiguous or suspicious should be observable in any of our dealings. . A harmless and inoffensive deportment also is peculiarly necessary: we ought to keep at a distance from intermeddling in other men's affairs; from slander and discord; and from every word and action, which may prove injurious to the interest, peace, reputation, relative comfort, or case