Proverbs 10:19

from
An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
by
Charles Bridges

"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking,
but he who restrains his lips is wise."

Hypocrisy and slander are not the only sins of the tongue. Indeed, considering the corrupt fountain from whence they flow, we cannot conceive of words -- much less a multitude of words -- without sin. There is the sin of egotism. "Our own mouth praises us, not another" (Pr. 28:2). We love to hear ourselves talk and present our own judgment intrusively. There is also the sin of vain babbling. The fool talks forever upon nothing; not because he is full but because he is empty, not for instruction but for the pure love of talking. This wantonness is a sin of the flesh, trifling with the most responsible talent. As Bishop Butler truly remarks, "Conversation is merely the exercise of the tongue; no other human faculty has any place in it."

The government of the tongue is therefore a searching test of the soundness of our religion. Considering, therefore, the sin connected with the multitude of words, it is surely our wisdom to refrain our lips, not indeed in silence, but in caution; to weigh our words before uttering them, never speaking except when we have something to say; speaking only just enough -- considering the time, circumstances, and person -- and speaking what is solid, suitable, and profitable.

Indeed, a talent for conversation is valueless both to the possessor and to the hearers except it be connected with a talent for silence. The sphere of social intercourse that stimulates the conversational powers teaches at the same time the wholesome discipline of the tongue -- that beautiful accomplishment of silence, which however alike with its opposite grace derives its chief loveliness as the fruit of Christian humility and kindness. The wisdom is especially valuable under provocation. And even in the unbending of innocent recreation, the discipline of godly sobriety is of great moment. The sins of this "little member" are not trifles. They need the full application of the gospel. What but "the blood of sprinkling" could enable us to meet "the account for every idle word at the day of judgment?"

Light words weigh heavy in God's balance. Woe to us if the great Surety did not bear the sins of our vain words no less than of our grosser wickedness! Never let us think of these sins as anything less than the nails that pierced his hands and his feet. And will not this sensibility of sin quicken our prayer for an increase of this refraining wisdom? "Set a watch, O Yahweh, before my mouth, and keep the door of my lips" (Ps. 141:3).

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