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I am resolved, by the grace of God, never to speak much, lest I often speak too much; and not to speak at all, rather than. to no purpose.
IT is the ‘voice of fools that is known by the multitude of words.’ In which there are ‘diverse vanities,’174174 Eccles. v. 3, 6. and sin too;175175 Prov. x. 19. whereas, ‘he that refraineth his lips is wise.’ This is that piece of Christian wisdom which I am now resolving to look after; and therefore never to deliver my words out to the world by number, but by weight; not by quantity, but quality: not hiding any meaning under ambiguous terms and expressions, but fitting words exactly to express my meaning; not amusing those I converse with, with circles of impertinence and circumlocution, but coming directly to the matter by the strait line of apt expressions, so as never to speak more than the matter requireth; nor to speak at all, when no matter requireth. For, why should I spend my breath for nothing? Alas! that is not all; if I spend it ill, it will be far worse, than spending it for nothing; for, our blessed Saviour has told me that I must answer ‘for every idle’ and unprofitable as well as profane word.176176 Matt. xii. 36. But now, if the vain word, if all the vain words I ever spoke should be written, as I have cause to believe they are, in the book of God’s remembrance, how many vast volumes must they make! and if an index 160should be made, where to find profitable, and where idle words, how few references would there be to the former! what multitudes to the latter! and (what is yet more terrifying) if all these words should be brought in judgment against me at the last day, how would those very words then make me speechless! and what shame and confusion of face would they then strike me with! But I trust, through the blood of my Redeemer, and the tears of my repentance, they will be all washed and blotted out, before I come to appear before him. In order to this, as I heartily bewail and detest my former follies in this respect, so I firmly purpose and resolve to use my utmost endeavours for the time to come, not to give way any more to such idle words and expressions, as are likely to be thus prejudicial to my eternal interest; but always to consider well beforehand, what, and how, and why I speak, and suffer no corrupt communication to ‘proceed out of my mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.’177177 Eph. iv. 29.
I know there are some words, that are purely jocose, spoken with no other intent but only to promote mirth, and divert melancholy; and these words, so long as they are harmless and innocent, so long as they do not reflect dishonour upon God, nor injure the character and reputation of my neighbour, are very lawful and allowable; inasmuch as they conduce to the refreshing and reviving of my spirits, and the preservation of my health. But then, I must always take care so to wind and turn my discourse, that what recreates me in speaking, 161may profit others when spoke; that my words may not only be such as have no malignity in them, but such as may be useful and beneficial; not only such as do not hurt, but likewise such as may do much good to others as well as myself. To this end, I firmly resolve, by the grace of God, never to speak only for the sake of speaking, but to weigh each word before I speak it, and to consider the consequence and tendency of it, whether it may be really the occasion of good or evil, or tend to the edifying or scandalizing of the person I speak it to.
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