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eth receiveth: and he that seeketh find-appeal. Let us consult the apostle James; eth and to him that knocketh, it shall be he seems more than any other of the sacred opened." writers to have enlarged upon the subject. There are many declarations in his epistles which you would do well to read, at least once a week, before you leave your retire
THE REGULATION OF THE TONGUE. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.-Psalm cxli. 3.
PRAYER is not only a duty, but the man ner in which it is commanded shows it to be a duty of universal obligation. "Continue instant in prayer. Pray without ceasing. In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgivings, let your requests be made known unto God."
With these demands, the experience of a man attentive to his spiritual welfare harmonizes. He knows, he feels prayer to be always seasonable; always necessary. There is much to employ him at the throne of grace with regard to others; for, in his intercourse with God he does not forget the world, the nation, the church, the family; his friends, or even his foes. But when he considers himself; and reflects on the grace that is needful to preserve him in prosperity; to support him in adversity; to renew his heart; to govern his life; and to regulate his tongue-no wonder he says with David-"But I give myself unto prayer."
"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips." These words remind us of four things-Importance-Danger -Inability-Application. A man would not ase such language as this unless he was convinced-I. OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT: II. THE DANGER HE IS IN OF TRANSGRESSION: III. HIS INABILITY TO PRESERVE HIMSELF: IV. THE WISDOM OF APPLYING TO GOD FOR ASSISTANCE. Let us examine and exemplify each of these four convictions.
I. A man would never use this language, without a conviction of THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUBJECT. This conviction, I fear, does not very generally prevail. The use of speech is seldom considered morally. Unless on some very particular occasions, people imagine, that it is perfectly optional with them, what they speak, and how they speak, -saying, with those in the time of David, “Our lips are our own, who is Lord over us?" Hence numberless words are daily uttered with indifference, and never thought of again; and if ever people confess, or pray, speech never makes an article either in their confessions or prayers.
Such is the common sentiment. And, to crush it at once; to inspire you with a holy dread; to bring you upon your knees with this supplication, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips;" -let me lead you to a few passages of Scripture-a book to which you all professedly
Religion! It is profitable unto all things; having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Without it, we have no hope beyond the grave, no comfort in death, no solace in affliction, no God with us in the world. But the careless use of the tongue annihilates all title to the possession, and stamps the man who assumes the profes sion, as a self-deluder. What a charge! What a decision! How many thousands does this righteous sentence unchristian and condemn ! "If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain."
Again; the same writer tells us, "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." A Christian, it seems, should not be stationary, but advancing. It is his duty and privilege to "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour." And what is the consequence of this progression? What is the evidence? There is not a better test than the government of the tongue. There is nothing that implies a higher degree of wisdom and goodness; of self-attention; of the power and prevalence of holy principles. Such a man may be consulted in any enter prizes; he may be entrusted with any secret; he may be left in any trying situation; he will betray no friendship; he will punish no confidence: the very discipline and grace he must have exercised before he could have reached his present attainment are securities for every future duty, and pledges of every future excellency. Whoever has accomplished this victory need despair of no other; and it is not a figure of speech, but the language of truth and soberness" If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."
Again; says the inspired author, "Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us: and we turn about their whole body." Do you perceive the force of the image? He who has not the government of his tongue, is like a person riding a horse without a bridle-the consequence of which, especially if the beast be spirited and fierce,
Our danger arises from the contagion of example. There is nothing in which mankind are more universally culpable than in the disorders of speech. Yet with these we are constantly surrounded; and to these we have been accustomed from our impressible infancy.
may be easily conjectured." Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth." Do you see the force of the comparison? The man that has not the control of his tongue is like a passenger on board a vessel without a rudder, rolling as the waves direct, and in constant peril of shipwreck. "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little 'fire kindleth! And 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." As if he should say, Every thing is transacted by speech, in natural, civil, and religious concerns -how much, therefore, depends on the good or evil management of the tongue! What an ardour of holy love and friendship, or of anger and malice, may a few words fan into a flame! The tongue is the principal We are in danger from the frequency of instrument in the cause of God: and it is the speech. "In the multitude of words there chief engine of the devil-give him this, wanteth not sin." We must of necessity and he asks no more-there is no mischief speak often: but we often speak without or misery he will not accomplish by it. The necessity. Duty calls us to intermingle much use, the influence of it, therefore, is inex- with our fellow-creatures; but we are too pressible; and words are never to be consi- little in the closet, and too much in the crowd dered only as effects, but as causes; the-and when we are in company we forget operation of which can never be fully ima- the admonition-" Let every man be swift gined. Let us suppose a case; a case, I fear, to hear, and slow to speak." but too common. You drop, in the thoughtlessness of conversation, or for the sake of argument, or wit, some irreligious, sceptical expression-it lodges in the memory of a child, or a servant-it takes root in a soil favourable to such seed-it gradually springs up, and brings forth fruit, in the profanation of the sabbath; the neglect of the means of grace; in the reading of improper books; in the choice of dangerous companions;-Who can tell where it will end? But there is a Being who knows where it began. It will be acknowledged that some have it in their power, by reason of their office, talents, and influence, to do much more injury than others; but none are so insignificant as to be harmless.
We are in danger from the extent of our obligation. The laws of speech are so numerous and various, that it must be difficult indeed, not to neglect or violate some of them. Observe these laws.
But I must lead you from the servant to the master. Hear the language of the faithful and true Witness, and who knows the nature of the judgment, because he will be the Judge: "I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Did you ever hear this before, and do you believe it now? What! are not only your actions, but your words-every idle wordrecorded in the book of God's remembrance, to be called forth before the whole world, as evidences of your character, and of the
righteousness of the sentence to be passed
II. A man would never use this language without a conviction that HE IS IN DANGER OF TRANSGRESSION. And if David was conscious of a liableness to err, shall we ever presume on our safety?
Our danger arises from the depravity of our nature. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; and who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" The stream will always resemble the fountain.
There is the law of prudence. This condemns silliness and folly-for no one has a license to talk nonsense. This condemns all that is impertinent, and unsuited to the place, the company, and the season:" A wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment. A word fitly spoken, O how good is it! it is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." "All foolish talking and jesting" are forbidden by the Apostle; while he enjoins, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.'
There is the law of purity. This forbids all ribaldry: and not only every thing that is grossly offensive, but all indecent allusions and insinuations, however artfully veiled:
But fornication, and all uncleanness-let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints."
There is the law of veracity. This condemns every thing spoken with a view to deceive; or spoken so as to occasion deception: and which may be done by a confusion of circumstances; by an omission of circumstances; by an addition of circumstances: "Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man
truth with his neighbour; for we are mem- | Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, bers one of another." I know not the man!"
There is the law of kindness. This condemns all calumny and tale-bearing; the circulation of whatever may be injurious to the reputation of another. This requires, that if you must speak-if you must speakof another's fault, you do it without aggravation; that you do it, not with pleasure, but pain; and that if you censure, you do it as a judge would pass sentence upon his son. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice."
This conviction is continually increasing. As the Christian, in the course of his experience, is learning to cease from man, so is he also taught to cease from himself. He knows the truth of Solomon's words, "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool." He has seen how little his practice has kept pace with his knowledge; he has verified the vanity of his purposes and resolutions; his warmest frames and feelings have varied, and left him a wonder to himself; he has fallen, where he once deemed himself most secure no-and is now persuaded-though he will be more strongly persuaded of it ten years hence that if he stands, he is kept by the power of God.
There is the law of utility. This requires that we should not scandalize another, by any thing in our speech; but contribute to his benefit, by rendering our discourse instructive, or reproving, or consolatory. "Let 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."
There is the law of piety. This requires that we should never take God's name in vain; never speak lightly of his word, nor his worship; never charge him foolishly; never murmur under any of his dispensations. It requires that we extol his perfections, and recommend his service: "Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee." So will you render the calves of your lips.
Who can reflect upon all this, and not see his daily, his hourly danger? "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
III. A man would never use this language, without a conviction of INABILITY TO PRE
"Beware of Peter's word; Nor confidently say,
'I never will deny thee, Lord;" But Grant I never may.'
This conviction is well founded. is no subject the Scripture more fully teaches than our natural weakness and insufficiency. It assures us that we are left by the Fall, not only without righteousness, but without strength. "Without me," says the Saviour, "ye can do nothing." The Bible teaches us this truth, not only doctrinally, but historically. The examples of good men, and men eminent in godliness, confirm it, and confirm it in the very article before us. Moses, the meekest man in the earth, "spake unadvisedly with his lips." You have heard of the patience of Job; but he "cursed the day of his birth:" and Jeremiah, the prophet of the Lord, did the same. Peter said, "Though all men should be offended because of thee, I will never be offended-though I should die with thee yet will I not deny thee." But how did he use his tongue a few hours after
It is a conviction the most happy. You need not be afraid of it. This self-acquaintance will only reduce you to the proper condition of a creature, and prepare you for the reception of Divine supplies. Our misery is from our self-sufficiency; it is pride that ruins us. "He filleth the hungry with good things, while the rich he sends empty away. He that humbleth himself shall be exalted. If any man will be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. Let the weak say, I am strong.'
IV. A man should never use this language, without a conviction of THE WISDOM OF APPLYING TO GOD FOR THE ASSISTANCE WE NEED. Prayer is the effect of our weakness, and the expression of our dependence. It confesses the agency of God. They who pray and yet deny the doctrine of Divine influence, offer the sacrifice of fools; but those who believe that God works in us to will and to do, and strengthens us with all might by his Spirit in the inner man, act wisely in addressing him as David does-"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
For, in the first place-God is equal to our preservation. However great our danger, he can keep us from falling. Whatever diffculties we have to encounter, or duties to perform, his grace is sufficient for us. "] can do all things," says Paul," through Christ who strengtheneth me."
Secondly. His succours are not to be obtained without prayer. He has a right to determine in what way he will communicate his own favours; he is infinitely capable of knowing what method is most consistent with his own glory, and conducive to our goodand he has revealed it: and however freely he has promised his influences, he has said, "Nevertheless, for all these things, will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them."
Thirdly. Prayer always brings the assist- | of the abundance of the heart his mouth speakance it implores. "Ask," says he, "and it eth." shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find." So it has always been: "He never said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain."
"What a dry, uninteresting subject !”—It may be so to you! but it was not so to the man after God's own heart. He sung, indeed, of the mercy of the Lord for ever; and exclaimed, "Blessed are the people that know the joyful sound." But he never disregarded the practical influence of religious principles. He prayed "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips."
SPIRITUAL SUCCOUR DERIVED
Who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace.-Acts xviii. 27.
And suppose, my dear hearers, you were now to examine yourselves by this subject? Would you find nothing to induce you to exclaim, "Who can understand his errors?" Nothing to humble you in the dust before God?-Nothing to draw forth your penitential grief!-Nothing to urge you to a Mediator, whose blood cleanses from all sin, and in whom alone our unworthy persons, and our imperfect services, can be accepted?
Let this subject awaken and engage much of your attention in future. Make the resolution of David your own: "I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue." But let it be an enlightened resolution; while it makes you diligent-be humble; while it makes you watchful-be also prayerful. It is the Saviour's own combination; "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
David not only prayed, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips" but he prayed also, "Open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise." Religion is not made up of negatives. There is not only a time to keep silence, but a time to speak. It is not enough," that we are harmless and blameless in our speech; we must do good with it. Pray therefore, that you may be "strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and be filled with the Spirit." Burnet, in the History of his own Times, speaking of the incomparable Leighton, says, "In a free, and frequent conversation with him, for twenty-two years, I never heard him utter an idle word, or a word that had not a direct tendency to edification." But what does he add besides? "And I never saw him in any other frame of mind, than that in which I wish to die!" This justifies the eulogium, and accounts for it. For,
As the man is, so is his strength. "A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for
THE God of nature is the God of grace; and his influence in the one strikingly corresponds with his agency in the other. In the world of nature, God not only brings creatures into life, but provides for their support; and, in the regular economy of his Providence, opens his hand, and "satisfieth the desire of every living thing." So it is in the world of grace. Christians are new creatures: but they are not perfect at once; they require attention and supplies. And "He who giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry," will not overlook the wants of his own children. He taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy. Hence they may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands."
In harmony with this reflection are the words which we have chosen for our present improvement. They were spoken of "a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria." He was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures;" and had come to Ephesus. This man," it is said, "was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John." Here we remark, that natural talent, and actual knowledge, are very distinguishable from each other; and that the heart may be right with God, while the judgment, in divine things, is defective. It is well, however, to see a man using the light he has. It shows that he is sincere and in earnest; and "to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly." This was the case here. "And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
This honours both parties.
It commends Aquila and Priscilla. Though they found Apollos in Christian knowledge, inferior to themselves, yet, as he was truly pious and zealous, and had good and useful endowments, they did not despise or disparage him, saying, "He may do for others; but
such a young, raw, inexperienced preacher is not deep enough for us:"-so many a gifted brother, and many a gifted sister, in our day, would have said-but they encouraged him, by their attendance; and watched and cherished the ripening of the fruit. For they also communicated to him of their own experience. But observe-They did it not superciliously, nor in public; but, with a delicate regard to his feelings, alone, in their own house.
And it looks well in Apollos, that he so willingly received their instruction. He was a young man of great parts and learning; a preacher exceedingly cried up and followed -and it was not an apostle that undertook to teach him; nor even a brother minister; but two of his hearers, and mechanics too-but he listens to them with pleasure and gratitude. And thus he shows us his good sense, as well as his humility. For those who are below us in some qualities, may yet be above us in others; and there is no such thing as independence. In the mystical body, as well as in the natural, "the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you."
Apollos was willing to go where there was least help, and most probability of usefulness. But no preacher ought to be countenanced till he is accredited by some authority better than his own. When, therefore, Apollos was "disposed to pass into Achaia," he traveled with letters of recommendation: for "the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him;" and he fully answered to their contents: "for, when he was come, he helped them much which had believed through grace."
Whence we observe—that CHRISTIANS ARE BELIEVERS-That THEY BELIEVE THROUGH GRACE That THEY NEED HELP; and-That ASSISTANCE IS AFFORDED BY THE MINISTRY OF
I. CHRISTIANS ARE BELIEVERS. To believe is to have a persuasion of the truth of a thing submitted to our attention.
him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
If a man believe any thing with certainty, it is his own mortality; and yet, though he cannot, does not, doubt for a moment, that he is a dying creature, the conviction is completely counteracted by his passions and sins; and he lives as if he were to live here always; and according to the prayer of Moses, God alone can so teach us to number our days, that we shall apply our hearts unto wisdom. Ungodly characters may, therefore, give credit to the Scriptures in general, and to the most interesting doctrines of the Gospel, and yet retain their wickedness-"Holding the truth in unrighteousness."
The hazard of deception, to which we are exposed, arises from the near resemblance there often is between a counterfeit and a genuine faith; and the tendency there is in men to be satisfied with the assent of the mind, which costs nothing, without "obeying from the heart the form of doctrine which is delivered us; and being changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." But such is the disposition of every one that believes to the saving of the soul. See it in his conviction of the exceeding sinfulness of sin; his abhorrence of himself; and his humiliation before God. See it in his consciousness of the need of a Saviour; his reception of him; and his dependence upon him. See it in his profession of his name; and in his adherence to his ordinances. See it in the love he bears to his people; and the reproach he is willing to submit to for his sake. See it in his readiness to "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow him." See it in the little account he makes of things seen and temporal, and the strength of his attachment to those things which are unseen and eternal.
A faith operating in such effects as these, proclaims itself to be of the operation of God's Spirit: and prepares us to observe,
II. That they who believe, BELIEVE THROUGH GRACE.
It is obvious, however, that the credence which characterizes the subjects of divine grace, does not rest in the judgment, without producing a correspondent state of the heart; "for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness. Purifying their hearts by faith. Faith worketh by love. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Such is the influence ascribed to the faith of the primitive Christians. That these are not the invariable effects of believing, it is evident from fact; and the advantage the apostle James took of such a fact, in his days, was to show the inutility of that faith which admits the truth into the understanding, while the possessor is not sanctified by it. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he
hath faith, and have not works? Can faith savesion for them." These are the things with
Here we may observe, that from this source comes the very object of faith, as a revelation. This principally consists in the "record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son." The Gospel assures us that the Lord Jesus is the only foundation of a sinner's hope; that "he was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification;" that "in him we have righteousness and strength;" that "he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make interces