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3. Taming the Tongue

1Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment. 2For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. 3Now if we put the horses' bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also. 4Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth. 5So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! 6And the tongue is a fire: the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell. 7For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind. 8But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. 9Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God: 10out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. 11Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? 12Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet. 13Who is wise and understanding among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom. 14But if ye have bitter jealousy and faction in your heart, glory not and lie not against the truth. 15This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed. 17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy. 18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for them that make peace.

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Verses 1–12

We are taught to dread an unruly tongue, as one of the greatest evils. The affairs of mankind are thrown into confusion by the tongues of men. Every age of the world, and every condition of life, private or public, affords examples of this. Hell has more to do in promoting the fire of the tongue than men generally think; and whenever men's tongues are employed in sinful ways, they are set on fire of hell. No man can tame the tongue without Divine grace and assistance. The apostle does not represent it as impossible, but as extremely difficult. Other sins decay with age, this many times gets worse; we grow more froward and fretful, as natural strength decays, and the days come on in which we have no pleasure. When other sins are tamed and subdued by the infirmities of age, the spirit often grows more tart, nature being drawn down to the dregs, and the words used become more passionate. That man's tongue confutes itself, which at one time pretends to adore the perfections of God, and to refer all things to him; and at another time condemns even good men, if they do not use the same words and expressions. True religion will not admit of contradictions: how many sins would be prevented, if men would always be consistent! Pious and edifying language is the genuine produce of a sanctified heart; and none who understand Christianity, expect to hear curses, lies, boastings, and revilings from a true believer's mouth, any more than they look for the fruit of one tree from another. But facts prove that more professors succeed in bridling their senses and appetites, than in duly restraining their tongues. Then, depending on Divine grace, let us take heed to bless and curse not; and let us aim to be consistent in our words and actions.

Verses 13–18

These verses show the difference between men's pretending to be wise, and their being really so. He who thinks well, or he who talks well, is not wise in the sense of the Scripture, if he does not live and act well. True wisdom may be know by the meekness of the spirit and temper. Those who live in malice, envy, and contention, live in confusion; and are liable to be provoked and hurried to any evil work. Such wisdom comes not down from above, but springs up from earthly principles, acts on earthly motives, and is intent on serving earthly purposes. Those who are lifted up with such wisdom, described by the apostle James, is near to the Christian love, described by the apostle Paul; and both are so described that every man may fully prove the reality of his attainments in them. It has no disguise or deceit. It cannot fall in with those managements the world counts wise, which are crafty and guileful; but it is sincere, and open, and steady, and uniform, and consistent with itself. May the purity, peace, gentleness, teachableness, and mercy shown in all our actions, and the fruits of righteousness abounding in our lives, prove that God has bestowed upon us this excellent gift.




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