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CHAPTER XIV


OF GOOD AND EVIL SPEAKING


The man who speaketh good words and such as are profitable to the soul is truly the mouth of the Holy Ghost; and the man who speaketh evil and useless words is certainly the mouth of the devil.

When good spiritual men meet at times to converse together, they should always discourse concerning the beauty of virtue, that they may increase in the love thereof, and that virtue may increase in them; that so delighting in it more and more, they may exercise themselves the more diligently in all virtues, and by this continual exercise may attain to a greater love of them; and by this love and this continual exercise and delight in virtue, they may ascend to an ever increasing and more fervent love of God, and to a higher degree in the spiritual life, thus obtaining from the Lord greater gifts and a larger measure of divine grace.

The more strongly a man is tempted, the more needful it is that he speak continually of holiness and virtue; for as by means of unholy talk of evil things a man is easily led to do evil, so oftentimes by speaking of virtue a man is led and disposed to virtuous actions. But what shall we say of the good which proceedeth from virtue? It is such and so great that we cannot worthily express its sublime, admirable and infinite excellence.

And again, what shall we say of evil, and of the eternal penalty which follows sin? For it is an abyss so fearful and so deep, that it is beyond the power of our mind to think, or of our mouth to speak. I do not think that there is less virtue in keeping silence well, than in speaking well; and therefore it seems to me that a man ought to have a neck as long as a crane’s, that, when he has to speak, his words may have a long way to travel before they reach his mouth; to wit, that when a man would speak, let him think and think again, and examine and re-examine very diligently, the how and the why, the time and the manner, the state and condition of his hearers, and his won motive and intention.


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