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James 3:7-12

7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:

7 Omnis enim natura ferarum et volucrum et serpentium et marinorum, a natura humana domatur et dimota est:

8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

8 Linguam vero nullus hominum domare potest, incoercibile malum, plena veneno mortifero.

9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

9 Per ipsam benedicimus Deum et Patrem; et per ipsam execramur homines ad similitudinem ejus factos.

10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

10 Ex eodem ore procedit benedictio et maledictio. Non onvenit, fratres mei, haec ita fieri.

11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?

11 An fons ex codem foramine ejicit dulce et amarum?

12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

12 Non potest, fratres mei, ficus oleas proferre; aut vitis ficus; sic nullus fons salsam et dulcem gignere aquam.

 

7 For every kind of beasts. This is a confirmation of the last clause; for that Satan by the tongue rules most effectively he proves by this — that it can by no means be brought to due order; and he amplifies this by comparisons. For he says that there is no animal so savage or fierce, which is not tamed by the skill of man, — that fishes, which in a manner inhabit another world, — that birds, which are so quick and roving — and that serpents, which are so inimical to mankind, are sometimes tamed. Since then the tongue cannot be restrained, there must be some secret fire of hell hidden in it.

What he says of wild beasts, of serpents, and of other animals, is not to be understood of them all; it is enough that the skill of man should subdue and tame some of the most ferocious of them, and also that serpents are sometimes tamed. He refers to present and to past time: the present regards power and capacity, and the past, usage or experience. He hence justly concludes that the tongue is full of deadly poison.

Though all these things most suitably refer in the first place to the subject of this passage — that they claim an unreasonable command over others, who labor under a worse vice; yet a universal doctrine may be understood as taught here, — that if we desire to form our life aright, we must especially strive to restrain the tongue, for no part of man does more harm.

9 Therewith, or, by it, bless we God. It is a clear instance of its deadly poison, that it can thus through a monstrous levity transform itself; for when it pretends to bless God, it immediately curses him in his own image, even by cursing men. For since God ought to be blessed in all his works, he ought to be so especially as to men, in whom his image and glory peculiarly shine forth. It is then a hypocrisy not to be borne, when man employs the same tongue in blessing God and in cursing men. There can be then no calling on God, and his praises must necessarily cease, when evil-speaking prevails; for it is impious profanation of God’s name, which the tongue is virulent towards our brethren and pretends to praise him. That he may therefore rightly praise God, the view of evil speaking as to our neighbor must especially be corrected.

This particular truth ought also to be borne in mind, that severe censors discover their own virulence, which they suddenly vomit forth against their brethren whatever curses they can imagine, after having in sweet strains offered praises to God. Were any one to object and say, that the image of God in human nature has been blotted out by the sin of Adam; we must, indeed, confess that it has been miserably deformed, but in such a way that some of its lineaments still appear. Righteousness and rectitude, and the freedom of choosing what is good, have been lost; but many excellent endowments, by which we excel the brutes, still remain. He, then, who truly worships and honors God, will be afraid to speak slanderously of man.

11 Doth a fountain. He adduces these comparisons in order to shew that a cursing tongue is something monstrous, contrary to all nature, and subverts the order everywhere established by God. For God hath so arranged things which are contrary, that inanimate things ought to deter us from a chaotic mixture, sure as is found in a double tongue. 123123     There is a different reading at the end of the James 3:12, adopted by Griesbach, though rejected by Mill and others: οὕτως οὔτε ἁλυχὸν γλυχὺ ποιὢσαι ὕδωρ, “So neither can salt water produce sweet.” This reading is favored by the Syr. and Vulg., though the words are somewhat different.


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