Proverbs 29:11

An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
Charles Bridges

"A fool utters all his mind,
but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards."

"There is a time for everything," the wise man elsewhere writes--"a time to keep silence and a time to speak." It is a mark of true wisdom to discern the times. Indeed, the discipline or lack of discipline upon the "little member" is a sound test of character. The man who speaks hastily and with conceit will be put to shame in his folly. He might have been counted wise in his silence; but silence is beyond his power--he utters all his mind. He tells all he knows, thinks, or intends, and runs on until he has poured out all his foolishness. It is sometimes thought a proof of honesty to utter all our mind. But it is rather a proof of folly, for how many things it would be far better never to speak, indeed to suppress in the very thought! How much of foolish talking and jesting, how many angry, detracting, uncharitable words do we utter because we have neglected to watch, or rather to entreat "the Lord to set a watch upon our lips" as the door of our hearts! (Ps. 141:3.) And what wrong judgments we often pass upon men's actions because we utter all our mind, as it were in one breath, without pondering, or perhaps without materials to form a correct judgment.

Indeed the words of the fool, as Cartwright remarks, "are at the very door, so to speak, of his mind, which being always open they readily fly abroad. But the words of the wise are buried in the inner recess of his mind, whence the coming out is more difficult." This is the wisdom to be valued and cultivated. Many things we may keep in till afterward, which will then be far better spoken than at the present moment (1 Sam. 25:36). We may find reason afterward to suspect what at the time we were fully persuaded of. There is often a lightness of faith--the fruit of sudden impulse, breaking out in sudden profession. Beware of a loose foundation. Men under the present excitement run through all the sects and parties of the Church, everywhere uttering their whole mind--"tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine"--"seeking rest and finding none." (Eph. 4:14). How much better to take time for second thoughts, to wait and weigh again. We should then, instead of exhibiting a changing and doubtful face, gain that "good thing--a heart established with grace" (Heb. 13:9).

This godly prudence holds in common life. Samson fell a victim to the folly of uttering all his mind. Samuel was restrained by God from this imprudence, from a regard to his own safety. Never speak against our mind. But it is not always necessary to utter our whole mind. Take care that we speak nothing but the truth. But the whole truth (as in the instance of Samuel) may sometimes be legitimately restrained (1 Sam. 16:1,2). The Apostle was two years at Ephesus without uttering all his mind against the worship of Diana. But was this cowardice, shrinking from the truth? His weeping ministry and unceasing efforts proved his faithfulness. His open protest kept in till afterwards was self-discipline, consistent with Christian courage and decisiveness.

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