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The following hints may tend to improve our intercourse with each other.
We ought never to speak ill, not even by insinuation, of absent persons, except when duty positively requires it; and even then, there should be a marked and sincere regret, that the occasion calls for such an exposure of character.
We must guard against attributing wrong motives to the actions of others; even when appearances might favour such a conclusion: remembering that God alone knoweth the heart; and who are we, that we should judge our brother?
We should avoid every thing that borders upon oily praise and flattering adulation, especially towards those who are present; knowing how pernicious praise is to a fallen creature, and how few are able to withstand its influence.
This does not exclude a proper commendation, or a suitable encouragement, when dictated by Christian simplicity and prudence.
We must not indulge in those high colourings, those strong hyperboles, those varnished representations, which seem to give force to conversation, but which actually destroy its delicacy and beauty.
This mode of speaking, by stretching out too far, touches upon the confines of falsehood. Truth appears most beautiful in its own native simplicity.
Christian conversation is marked by love, humility and purity.
These are the peculiar features by which it is known. Although so attractive from its nature and excellence, yet how few know how to appreciate or relish its charms.
Love leads us to converse with delight on all subjects conected with the glory of God and the good of man.
Humility draws a veil over our own graces, and
delicately discovers the excellencies of others. It frankly confesses our own faults, and carefully conceals the failings of our brethren.
Purity, like the refreshing rose, sheds a fragrance peculiarly its own over our whole conversation; and like that lovely flower, leaves its reviving scent when we are gone.
How different from the conversation of the wicked, whose throat is compared in Scripture to an open sepulchre, loathsome and offensive-disgusting and pestilential.
We naturally love to discourse on subjects which lie nearest our heart. No wonder then, if real Christians, who feel the love of Christ constraining them, delight to talk together on the most glorious of all subjects-the love of God in the gift of his Son.
May not believers now say with the disciples of old: "did not our hearts burn within us, whilst he talked with us by the way?"
But alas! how little is there of this spiritual discourse amongst us.
The men of the world, when they meet together, can enter with enthusiastic ardour on their various objects of pursuit, whether political, commercial, or philosophical. The warrior recounts his battles, the sportsman his pleasures, the merchant his adventures, the politician his schemes, the philosopher his discoveries, the libertine his excesses, with a feeling and animation, which demonstrate at once that their soul is engaged in the subject. And shall Christians be less alive, when they meet together for the avowed purpose of strengthening each other's hearts, and kindling each other's devotion?
If our faith and love were stronger, our intercourse would be more profitable and delightful.
In this our day of outward prosperity and religious liberty, there is great danger of imbibing a
worldly spirit, and of suffering our intercourse to degenerate into religious trifling and religious gossipping.
The conversation of too many, although it may be technically called religious, resembles the cloud and the well without water, so strongly reprobated by St. Jude.
When such persons separate from each other, they feel no real good derived to their souls. And why? Because their conversation was destitute of that "unction from the Holy One," which is life and peace.
Jesus and his salvation-heart experience and genuine godliness, as felt and exhibited in the soul and conduct of the believer-were not the subject matter of discourse. The head, and not the heart, was called into exercise.
Some religious publication-some popular preacher-some recent occurrence-some common-place remarks filled up the hour; and no wonder if the mind, at parting, retained its wonted flatness and leanness, after such an unsubstantial meal.
If it be asked, must our conversation be altogether confined to evangelical subjects? We answer, our conversation must always be in the spirit of the Gospel. If our hearts be right we shall always have one end in view-the glory of God and the edification of our neighbour.
With this aim constantly before us, we shall not wander far from true Christian discourse. The danger arises from entering on religious conversation without religious motives and religious affections; from having a desire to talk, merely for the sake of talking.
The apostolic injunction, "whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," if duly obeyed, would cut off every idle and unprofitable word.
How apposite is Malachi on this point: "Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him."
From the whole tenor of this beautiful passage, we may be assured, that what these believers spake so often one to another, was highly pleasing to the Lord of hosts. He was their theme. Their delight was in him. They feared the Lord and thought upon
The following portions of Scripture may serve to shew the nature and spirit of godly conversation:
Hear, O! Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart. And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them, when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deut. vi. 4 to 7.) My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness, and of thy praise all the day long. (Ps. xxxv. 28.) I will meditate of all thy works, and talk of thy doings. (Ps. lxxvii. 12.) My tongue shall speak of thy word, for all thy commandments are righteousness. (Ps.cxix. 172.) The mouth of the righteous man is a well of life. In the lips of him that hath understanding, wisdom is found. The tongue of the just is as choice silver. The lips of the righteous feed many. The mouth of the just bringeth forth wisdom. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. (Pro. x.) The
lips of the wise disperse knowledge. (Pro. xv. 7.) The lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. (Pro. xx. 15.) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things. (Matt. xii. 35.) Let no 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. (Ephes. iv. 29.) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Col. iii. 16, 17.) Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Col. iv. 6.) Comfort yourselves together, and edify one another. (1 Thess. v. 11.) Speak evil of no man. (Tit. iii. 2.) Exhort one another daily while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Heb. iii. 13.)
The blessed Jesus, who will shortly come in the clouds of heaven to judge the world, hath solemnly declared, 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." (Matt. xii. 36, 37.) Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. vii. 21.) Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say. (Luke vi. 46.) If ye love me, keep my commandments. xiv. 15.)
Blessed Saviour! be pleased to touch my lips with a live coal from thine altar. Preserve me from a vain and trifling spirit.
Spiritualize my affections. portance of eternal things.
Solemnize my mind. Give me to feel the imShed abroad thy love