A CHECK TO AN UNGOVERNED TONGUE: Part Seven, Final Part. How lewd, and filthy talk, is the breath of hell, and how to keep away from it.

Taken and adapted from, “THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY” Volume I
Published in 1833.

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Lewd, obscene, and filthy talk, is another of the vile evidence of an unsanctified, ungoverned tongue.

It is a thing to be greatly lamented, that this impudent sin, which bids open defiance to virtue and honor, and wages war with them, like a spreading leprosy, stains the beauty of our land, turns a Canaan into a Sodom, and is become an epidemical disease. For the relief of those who are infected with it, and who are not incurably unclean, I would in a few words show you the evil of it.

1     Consider what an offence it is to the pure and holy God, who takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the uncleanness of your lips, as well as of your hearts and lives. It is a violation even of the law of nature, which prescribes modesty, and teaches us to blush at everything that is immodest. The Law of Moses provided for the keeping up of this hedge of chastity, and in many instances punished that which broke through this hedge. It was one of the laws of Romulus, (some of the most ancient human laws that are extant,) Nequis obsccena verba facit—none should dare to speak an obscene word. But (which to us is above all) the law of Christ is very express against all filthiness and foolish talking and jesting, and appoints, that fornication and all uncleanness should not be once named among Christians without the greatest abhorrence, Eph. 5: 3, 4. And is the law of Christ nothing with you? Can you go so directly contrary to it, and yet hope to prosper? God has told you plainly there, (vs. 5.) that such unclean persons have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God, and (vs. 6.) that because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. And you cannot suppose that the fixed laws of heaven should be dispensed with to gratify your base lusts. The law of Christ shall either rule you or judge you.

2     Consider what an evidence it is against yourselves that you are possessed by the unclean spirit and are under his power. Out of the abundance of the filthiness that is in the heart the tongue speaks thus filthily, and from that root of bitterness arises this gall and wormwood. The abominable lewdness that is in the heart, and is harbored and indulged there, boils up in this noisome dross. Stinking breath is a sign of putrid lungs. While you please yourselves and your companions with this dirty language, you do but foam out your own shame, and sport yourselves with your own deceivings. You think you show your wit by it, but indeed you show your wickedness, and declare your sin as Sodom, as those who are not ashamed, and cannot blush. Chastity and modesty have been virtues, are so, and will be so, howsoever much they are despised and disdained by the first-rate sinners of the age; and that which is a virtue, is a praise, is an honor: which if you want, yet you need not proclaim that you do so, nor be proud of your shame.

Unclean thoughts may, through the infirmity of the flesh, and for want of watchfulness, come into the minds of those who disallow them, lament them, and strive against them, knowing that even these thoughts of foolishness are sin: but unclean discourse is much worse, and more exceeding sinful, for thereby you signify your approbation and allowance of those unclean thoughts; you put an “Imprimatur” to them, and consent to the publication of them for the common service of the devil’s kingdom.

3     Consider what a great deal of hurt it is likely to do to others. Though this sin does not so immediately reflect upon the blessed name of God as swearing does, and, therefore, has not so much malignity in its nature, yet it does more toward the corrupting of the minds of others, and the propagating of vice and wickedness, than perhaps any other tongue-sin whatsoever, and so is more mischievous in its consequences. Such tinder is the corrupt heart of man to these sparks, that one unclean word to an unguarded soul may be the unhappy occasion of a thousand unclean thoughts, which may produce a world of iniquity. If this root of bitterness thus spring up and sprout forth, thereby many are defiled, (Heb. 12:15) more than perhaps you are aware of: and your account in the great day will rise high, if you must be answerable for all that uncleanness which has been spawned in the minds of others by your lewd talk.

Filthy stories, and songs, and jests, are the pestilential breath of hell, which propagates the infection of sin; old Satan’s wiles, by which he betrays unwary souls into their own ruin. And those unclean lips which help to lay those snares, are factors for the unclean spirit, and by debauching the minds of others with their vile discourses, perhaps serve the devil’s kingdom, and the interests of it, as effectually as those who debauch the bodies of others with their vile adulteries. Evil communications corrupt good manners. If those who hear your lewd talk be not so bad as to be infected by it, certainly they are so good as to be offended at it. He is unfit for civil company, and breaks the law of good manners, who takes a pleasure in saying that which a wise and good man must frown upon, and hear with shame, or with an angry countenance.

Therefore, let all who have accustomed themselves to this language, be persuaded to leave it off, and henceforward to set such a careful watch before the door of your lips, that they never more offend thus with their tongue: and if at any time they think this evil, let them lay their hand upon their mouth, (Proverbs 30:32) that it go no further. That mirth is dear bought, which is purchased at the expense of the favor of God, the honor of virtue, and the purity and peace of our own consciences. Better to lose your jest, than to lose all these jewels. Dread the consequences of it, not to others only, but to yourselves. Those who allow themselves in the transgression of the laws of modesty, it is to be feared, will not long be governed by the laws of chastity.

The way of sin is downhill.

And let me bespeak all who are well-wishers to religion and virtue, not only to be very cautious themselves never to say anything that looks like lewdness, or looks toward it, but in all companies to contrive how they may put this vice to the blush, expose it to contempt, and dash it from your presence. They who would approve themselves strictly modest, must never seem pleased at the hearing of that which is otherwise, nor laugh at an immodest jest or story, lest they should have fellowship with these unfruitful works of darkness, which ought to be frowned upon, and reproved rather. Let it be seen that you can be merry and wise, merry and modest. Reckon it a burden to dwell among a people of unclean lips, (Isaiah 6:5) and pray to God that (according to his promise, Zeph. 3:9) he would turn our people to a pure language, that we may be fit to call upon the name of the Lord.

Having thus mentioned some of the vices of an ungoverned tongue, (especially those that are most common with such as are openly profane,) and given some particular hints of argument against them, I shall now close with some general directions for the reducing of the exorbitant power of an unruly tongue.

1     See that the heart be truly and thoroughly sanctified by the grace of God. If you would have the disease cured, you must lay the axe to the root, and meet it in its causes. The offensive humor within must be purged out, else these eruptions, though they may be checked for a time by external restraints, yet will never be healed. The right method prescribed by the great Physician, is first to keep the heart with all diligence, and then by that means to put away the disobedient lips. See Prov. 4:23, 24. The way to heal the poisonous waters is, like Elisha, (2 Kings 2:21.) to cast salt into the spring, Make the tree good, and then the fruit will be good. It is out of an evil treasure in the heart that evil things are brought; men speak slightly of God, and spitefully of their brethren, because they think so; let but the thoughts be rectified, and the language will be soon reformed.

If the law of holy love to God and your neighbor were written in your hearts, and you were, as you should be, actuated and governed by these as a living commanding principle, you would not dare to offend either the one or the other with your tongue; that good treasure laid up in the heart would bring forth good things to the use of edifying, which would manifest grace in him that speaks, and minister grace unto the hearers. The fear of God always before your eyes will be an effectual restraint upon you from saying that by which either his name is dishonored, or his law violated. The grace of God is a coal from the altar, which if it touch the tongue, the iniquity of it will be purged away, Isaiah 6:7.

Let the throne of Christ be set up in your hearts, and his love shed abroad there, and then you will not call it a needless preciseness to be thus careful of your words, but a necessary strictness, because by our words we must be justified or condemned. Then you will not call it a task and a slavery to be thus tied up, and to speak by rule, but an honor and a pleasure; for assuredly this blessed change, wrought in the soul by the renewing grace of God, will open such surprising springs of present joy and comfort, as will abundantly balance all the uneasiness which corrupt nature will complain of in these restraints.

2     Solemnly resolve against these and all other tongue-sins. Let holy David’s vow be yours, and bind your souls with it this day, “I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue”; and remember, as he does there, that you have said it, that you may not break your promise, Ps. 39:1, 2.

While the result of your convictions is no more but this, that you hope you shall govern your tongues better for the future, and that, for ought you know, you will not swear so much as you have done, and in the mind you are in, you will not speak so many idle filthy words as you have spoken—if this be all, you leave room for Satan to thrust in with his temptations; faint purposes are soon shaken, and prove to no purpose: but when you are come to a point, and without equivocation, or mental reservation, will solemnly promise that by the grace of God you will never swear nor curse anymore; you will never take God’s name in vain anymore; you will never speak a lewd or scurrilous word anymore; this fortifies the stronghold against the tempter, who (like Naomi, Ruth 1:18) when he sees you are steadfastly resolved, will leave off speaking to you.

Renew this resolution every day, especially if you have a prospect of any occasion which will be a more than ordinary temptation to you. Thus set a guard upon the door of your lips, and at some times double your guard, where you find yourselves weakest and most exposed. Try the strength of your resolutions, and do not for shame suffer yourselves to be baffled in them. Only remember to make and renew these resolutions, in a dependence upon the grace of Jesus Christ, which alone is sufficient for you. Peter resolved against a tongue-sin in his own strength, but it failed him, and he was made ashamed of his confidence; confide therefore in divine strength only.

3     Keep out of the way of bad company. Speech is learned by imitation, and so is corrupt speech. We are apt in discourse to conform to those will whom we do associate; and therefore, if we would keep those commandments of our God which relate to the government of the tongue, we must say to evil doers. Depart from us, Ps. 119:115. Converse not familiarly, and of choice, with those who accustom themselves to any evil communication, lest you learn their way, lest you learn their words, and get such a snare to your souls as you will not easily disentangle yourselves from.

That dread and terror, and abhorrence of swearing and cursing, and all profane discourse, which all who are virtuously and piously educated, are conscious to themselves of at first, is apt to wear off by frequent and free conversation with those who use such language. It is excused as a slip of the tongue, which does nobody any harm; nay, it I justified as a fashionable ornament of speech; and so by degrees the debauched conscience comes to be reconciled to it, and at last the tongue is taught not only to lisp the same cursed language, but, with a great deal of art and assurance, to speak it plain. Joseph himself, in the court of Egypt, had unawares got the courtier’s oath, by the life of Pharaoh.

If you love your souls, therefore, be very careful what company you keep; choose to converse familiarly with those of whom you may learn that which is edifying, and by those whose discourse and example you may be made wiser and better; and avoid the society of those by whom, without a greater degree of wisdom and watchfulness than you can pretend to, you will certainly get hurt to yourselves. Improper words are sooner learned than unlearned. Therefore, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not, (Proverbs 1:10) though they do not say, (as they there, v. 11 Come, and let us lay wait for blood,) “Come, and let us swear and curse, and bid defiance to all that is sacred;” but palliate the temptation, and make it look very harmless, “Come, and let us take a glass and be merry over it.” If they be such as are commonly profane and lewd in their discourse, fear a snare in their company, and keep at a distance from it. Walk not in their counsel, stand not in their way, sit not in their seat, Ps. 1:1. Make no friendship with those who make no conscience of their words, and who show that they have no veneration for the blessed name of God. Remember Solomon’s advice, (Proverbs 14:7) and be ruled by it; “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.”

4     Think twice before you speak once. We often speak amiss, because we speak in haste; when that comes out which comes uppermost, what can it be but froth and dross? Moses spoke unadvisedly with his lips, not consulting with himself before he spoke, and then he said that which shut him out of Canaan, Ps. 106:33. What we speak in haste, we often find cause afterwards to repent of at leisure. David more than once reflects with regret upon what he said in his haste, and we have all a great deal of reason to do so. Our second thoughts, if we would take time for them, would correct the errors of the first; and we should not offend with our tongues so often as we do, if we would but consider what we say, before we say it. The heart of the righteous studies to answer that which is fit and seasonable, while the mouth of fools pours out foolishness.

Be sparing of your words, and then you will not have so many bad words to answer for as most have; for, in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, and different vanities. You have often been the worse for speaking, but seldom the worse for keeping silence. Many a thing which you have said, you would have smothered and suppressed if you had but allowed yourselves the liberty of a serious and impartial thought upon it. “Little said, soon amended.”

You dare not profane God’s blessed name with your unhallowed breath, if you would but think seriously what a God he is whom you thus blaspheme and provoke. You durst not curse yourselves or others if you would but consider the weight of the curse, and what a fearful thing it is to fall under it. You dare not scoff at religion if you did but consider how sacred and honorable it is. Reason in other cases is of use to rectify the mistakes of imagination; use it here then.

5     Have a care to the account that is now kept, and must shortly be given, of all your idle wicked words. You believe the Holy Scriptures, you do well. Now they tell you what will be in the end hereof. The word of God will judge you shortly, therefore, let it rule you now.

Notice is now taken of all you say, whether you are aware of it or not. There is not a word in your tongue, though spoken in haste, and not regarded by you, but God knows it altogether, and a book of remembrance is written. God told the prophet Ezekiel what the people said of him by the walls, and in the doors of their houses, (Ezek. 33:30) and he can make a bird of the air to carry the voice of that which is said in the heart, or in the bedchamber, Eccl. 10:20. You think you may curse and swear securely when you are out of the reach of those who would reprove you, or inform against you; and because God for the present keeps silence, you think he is altogether such a one as yourselves, as careless of his government as you are of your duty; but he will reprove you, and set them in order before you, and make it to appear that he kept an exact account of all you said: Now consider this, ye that forget God, (Ps. 1:21) stand in awe of this, and sin not with your tongues. Take heed, God hears; were you in the presence of some grave men that you had a reverence for, you would have a care what you say, and shall not the presence of the great God strike an awe upon you?

But this is not all, the day is coming when there will be a review; when the books that are written will be opened, and all your profane oaths and curses, and corrupt communications, will be found upon record there, and produced as evidence against you. He that is to be the Judge in that day, has himself expressly told us, (Matt. 12:36) every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment; and if for every idle word, much more for every profane and wicked word. What an account will they have to make, all whose breath was corrupt, till their days were extinct; who always allowed themselves a boundless liberty of speech from under the dominion of religion and right reason, and never took care by repentance, and prayer, and reformation, to empty the measure of guilt they had filled, nor to balance the account in the blood of Christ which cleanses from all sin.

Think not that any profession of religion which you make will excuse you, or stand you in any stead in that day, while you thus contradict it, and give the lie to it, by the extravagances of your tongues. The word of God has laid it down as a certain rule, (Jam. 1:26) If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, that man’s religion is vain; and if your religion be vain, it will never bring you to heaven, and then I need not tell you whither your irreligion will bring you.

It will be the eternal doom of those who persisted in their tongue-sins, and would not be reformed, that their own tongues shall fall upon themselves, (Psalms 64:8) and if they do, they will sink them to the lowest hell, in which the remembrance of all the sins of an ungoverned tongue will be very bitter, and bring oil to the flames.  We read of it, as the misery of condemned sinners, that they are tormented in a flame, where they have not a drop of water to cool their tongues. Words are soon spoken, and when they are spoken are soon gone, and yet words spoken against an earthly prince, though repented of, have cost many a man his life; and shall it then be difficult to us to believe, that words spoken against the King of kings, and never repented of, shall exclude men from his kingdom, and lay them forever under his wrath? It is commonly said, “Words are but wind,” but wicked words will prove such a mischievous wind, as will not only keep the soul out of the blessed haven of rest and happiness, but sink it into the gulf of everlasting destruction.

6     Reflect upon it with sorrow and shame, and great regret, if at any time you have, ere you were aware, spoken any wicked word. Keep conscience tender in this matter, and if, through the surprise of temptation, you any way offend with your tongue, let your heart presently smite you for it, humble yourselves greatly before God for it, pass it not over with a slight careless, ” God forgive me,” but be in pain and bitterness at the remembrance of it; abhor yourselves, as holy Job, when he was reflecting upon his tongue-sins, and repent in dust and ashes. If you can easily forgive yourselves what is past, it is to be feared you will easily be brought to do the like again.

Lastly, Pray earnestly to God for his grace, to keep you from sinning with your tongue. Though the tongue be an unruly evil, yet he can tame it who sets bounds to the proud waves of the sea, and once stopped the lions’ mouths. To him, therefore, you must apply yourselves by faithful and fervent prayer, and put yourselves under the conduct and custody of his grace, which will be sufficient for you if you seek it, and improve it, and go forth in the strength of it. Let David’s prayer be yours daily, (Ps. 141:3.) Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips; for without his assistance we can do nothing. Pray against provocations to these sins, and pray for wisdom wherewith to govern yourselves in the midst of provocations; Watch and pray, that either you may not be led into temptation, or, however, not overcome by it. If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God.

And now what shall be the success of this endeavor? Shall all our reasoning with you, in love to your souls, be slighted and laughed at like the foolish banter of your vain companions? Can we not prevail for a reformation of your language, when we plead the honor of God, the law of Christ, the good of your brethren, and the welfare of your own souls, and you have nothing to plead to the contrary but a foolish, wicked custom? I hope better things, and things that accompany salvation.

Your tongue is your glory, do not turn this glory into shame, but use it as your glory, by honoring God and edifying one another with it; so shall the tongue which is thus accustomed to the language of Canaan, sing Hallelujahs eternally in the New Jerusalem.

A CHECK TO AN UNGOVERNED TONGUE: Part Five, The Malignancy of Scoffers

Taken and adapted from, “THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY” Volume I
Published in 1833.

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Scoffing at religion and godliness, and jesting with sacred things, is another evidence of an ungoverned tongue.

By the commonness of this sin, in this loose and degenerate age of ours, it appears that we live in the dregs of time; for the Scripture speaks expressly that in the last days, those corrupt and perilous times, there should arise scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 2 Pet. 3:3. Profane people, when they set up for wits, think they cannot better show their wit than in endeavoring to justify their profaneness.

To show you the evil of it, consider,

1   The malignant principles whence it flows. When there is in their heart a habitual contempt of divine things, and an antipathy to them, a reining enmity to the power of godliness vents itself, and holds itself up in jest and banter. When men are resolved not to make themselves serious with the things of God, they will make themselves merry with them, and think they gain their point if they can but turn godliness off with a jest. Being pleased to make the subject of their laughter looked upon as a just object of contempt. They endeavor to represent the Word of God as a sham, heaven as a fool’s paradise, and hell as merely the creature of a disordered imagination. Therefore, by playing upon the things of God, and turning them into burlesque; they sport themselves with their own deceptions. But it will prove, like the Philistines’ making sport with Samson, that it will eventually prove too strong for them, and their profane mirth will be a prologue to their own ruin. Be ye not mockers lest your bands be made strong, Isa. 28:22.

2   The mischievous consequences that flow from it. You who thus make a jest of holy things, though you make a light matter of it, ought to consider what you do, and what will he in the end hereof. Think what an affront you hereby put upon the blessed God, imputing folly to infinite wisdom, and vilifying him who is the fountain of honor. Think what an injury you hereby do to religion, and how much you serve the interest of the devil and his kingdom, as those who are retained of counsel in his cause. Does it seem like a light thing to you, that you are not only wicked yourselves, but will you do what you can to make others wicked too, that you may, besides your own torments hereafter, share in the torments of all the souls you help to ruin? Think how you will answer it at the great day, and what bitter reflections you will then make upon your daring impieties of this kind, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven to execute judgment upon all, for all their hard speeches spoken against him.

It is better to reflect, and repent, and reform now, while there is a possibility of your reconciliation to the God you have provoked, than to be forced to remember it in hell to your utter confusion, in a state of endless and hopeless separation from God.

A CHECK TO AN UNGOVERNED TONGUE: Part Four, Making a Mockery of God When We Use His Name As a By-Word

Taken and adapted from, “THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY” Volume I
Published in 1833.

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The common, careless using of the blessed name of God, without due application, is another instance of the ill government of the tongue, which needs a check.

Many who never curse or swear, yet allow themselves in the taking of God’s name in vain, and either know not, or consider not, the evil of it, and the dishonor done (though not intended) to God by it. When you use those forms of speech, which are properly expressive of a pious ejaculation, in a light and careless manner, and to any other purpose than their genuine and original signification, which appears by your way of speaking not to be intended, but something else, you profane that which is sacred, and alienate to a common use that which appears to have been dedicated to God, and has holiness to the Lord written on it. To say, “O Lord,” when you mean no more but “I am hurt;” and “God knows,” when you mean no more but “I do not know;” and “God bless me,” when you mean no more but “I am surprised;” and “God help you,” when you mean no more but “I pity you,” or any the like, is certainly taking the name of the Lord your God in vain, and to no purpose, that is, to no good purpose.

Now will you who accustom yourselves to this language consider this…

1   That it is a great affront to the God of heaven. You hereby make his blessed name a by-word, and put that slight upon it which you would not bear to be put upon your own names. That is a great example which the bishop of Sarum tells us was observed of the honorable Mr. Boyle, that he never mentioned the name of God but with a discernible stop or pause in his discourse, in token of a reverence for that glorious and fearful name, and to leave room for a devout thought. Great and serious things ought to be spoken of with great seriousness, and they are abused if they are prostituted to a common use.

2   That it is certainly a breach of the law of the third commandment, which is very express. Thou shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, and it is backed with a threatening that the Lord will not hold them guiltless that do so, in which certainly more is implied than is expressed; it is supposed that many such will hold themselves guiltless, and think they do no harm, and others will hold them guiltless, but God will severely reckon with them, for he is a jealous God.

3   That it is a great profanation of the holy ordinance of prayer. The better any thing is, the worse it is when it is corrupted. There is nothing better than the devout and serious mention of the name of our God as there is occasion, nothing better than pious addresses to God when the heart goes along with them; but if this degenerate into a mockery, if the dead carcass hereof only is retained, and there is no spirit or life in it, if there be not so much as an outward solemnity and decorum observed, but the manner of using those good words plainly shows and avows it, that there is nothing pious and devout intended by them, it is in effect a banter upon prayer, turns it into burlesque and ridicule, and is exceeding offensive to God and good men.

It will be hard to use those words seriously, when they should be used so, when you have so often used vainly when you should not; and what comfort can you expect in prayer, when you are serious and need the comfort of it, if at other times you use the words of prayer thus lightly and profanely.

And now, shall I prevail with you to never to mention the name of God but with seriousness, and in a holy and reverent manner? Say not that you are so used to these expressions that you cannot leave them; resolution, by the grace of God, will change the dialect. Can you completely commit your lives for Christ if you will not leave off sinful, and inconsiderate words for him? One would think this is a small piece of self-denial. Let the fear of God rule in your hearts, and always maintain a holy awe and reverence of him, and then out of the abundance of that the mouth will speak of him with reverence, and will not dare to speak otherwise.

The description which the Scripture gives of hypocrites, (Isa. 48:1.) is, that they make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth; but the description of true saints is, that they think on God’s name, Malachi  3:16. Act with reason, and either think of what you say, or do not say what you do not think of.

A CHECK TO AN UNGOVERNED TONGUE: Part Three, The Outrageous Evil of Lying

Taken and adapted from, “THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY” Volume I
Published in 1833.

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Lying is another of the outrageous evils of an ungoverned tongue, and a very pernicious one.

It has been said of some, that though they do not swear yet they will lie; it is to be feared there are those, of whom it is too true; and let them bear their own burthen; but let not those, who would not for a world do either, suffer for the same; nor let swearers think it will in the least excuse their sin, that there are liars who are no swearers. It is certain they are both damning sins, and either of them persisted in will undoubtedly be the ruin of the sinner. But if we may guess at one sin by another, it is more probable, (as I hinted before,) that they who make no conscience of swearing will not stick at lying; and we may charitably hope, unless we know the contrary, that they who dread a profane oath, will be as much afraid of telling a willful lie.

Let me, therefore, in God’s name, seriously apply myself to those who (as the prophet speaks) have taught their tongue to speak lies, Jer. 9:5. For there is an art in it, whether they be such lies as seem to do good, or such as are directly intended to do hurt, or such as are idle, and intended neither for good nor hurt. If they are lies, they are sins against God. And all liars shall have their portion in the bottomless pit, if they repent not; and the nice distinction, with which they think to justify, or at least excuse, themselves, will prove, in the great day, but a refuge of lies, which the hail will sweep away, Isaiah 28:17.

A few words, one would think, may serve for the conviction and discovery of these sinners. Surely you need not be told what lying is; your own consciences will tell you, if they be not seared, or bribed, or forbidden to deal plainly with you.

In your bargains and contracts, if you say that either for selling the dearer, or buying the cheaper, which you know to be false, it is a lie. Yet how common is it, in the multitude of those words, for the seller to call the commodity good and cheap, and to aver that he gave so much for it, when he knows that it is neither so nor so! And the buyer in his bidding will call that worthless and dear which he has no reason to call so, and will say he can buy it cheaper elsewhere, when he does not know that he can. It is nothing, it is nothing, says the buyer; but when he is gone away, then he boasts of a good bargain, not considering that he was helped to it by a lie, Prov. 20: 14.

In your excuses which you make, either to superiors or equals, if you deny, extenuate, or conceal a fault, by representing a thing otherwise than it was, though you may gain your point, and not be so much as suspected of falsehood, yet the guilt is there, nevertheless. When you are charged with any neglect or injury, you are ready to say you did not know, or did not remember, that which you are conscious to yourselves you did know, and did remember; you plead that you thought or intended so and so, when really you did not think or intend any such thing. These are the common refuges of those who are culpable, because the profession of a man’s thoughts and purposes is not easily disproved. But though men cannot convict us of falsehood in those professions, he that searches the heart can. Men may be shammed with a frivolous excuse, but God is not mocked.

In your commendations of yourselves or others, if you give a better character than you know there is cause or ground for; if you boast of a false gift, and represent your abilities, possessions, and performances, to greater advantage than they deserve, and then the truth will bear witness, though these may pass for innocent hyperboles with those who take the same liberty themselves, yet your own consciences will tell you, if they be faithful, that hereby you add the sin of lying to the sin of pride, than which there are not two sins that God hates more.

In your censures, if you put false constructions upon the words and actions of your neighbors, making a great crime of that which was nothing, or next to nothing, unjustly aggravating faults, and making them worse than really they are, or representing that as certain, which is but suspected and doubtful, much more, if it should prove that you lay to men’s charge things that they know not, hereby you involve yourselves in a double guilt, falsehood and uncharitableness.

In your promises, if you engage that you will do so or so, pay such a debt, or finish such a piece of work within such a time, or do such a kindness for your friend, when either you do not at all intend it, or foresee you cannot perform it, or afterward take no care either to fulfil the promise when it is in the power of your hand, or if disabled to do that, in due time to recall it, hereby there is guilt contracted. Either the promise should not have been made, or it should have been kept.

In your common reports, and the stories you tell fur discourse sake, and the keeping up of conversation, if you report that as true and certain which you know to be otherwise, and do not make conscience of representing everything as near as possible lo the truth, and to your own sober thoughts, you became transgressors.

Sure there need not many words to persuade you to repent of this sin of lying, and carefully to watch against it for the future, and all appearances of it.

Consider how contrary it is to God; it is a breach of his law, it is a defacing of his image, for he is the God of truth; and it exposes us to his wrath, for lying lips are an abomination to the Lord. Consider how conformable it is to the devil, and how much it makes you to resemble him, for he is a liar, and the father of it. It is an injury to your brother, not only to the particular person, who, perhaps, is wronged by it, but to human society in general. And it will be the ruin of your own precious souls, if you persist in it. They who thus do the works of the devil, shall have their portion with the devil and his angels.

A lie is soon told, and perhaps as soon forgotten, and a light matter made of it; but the punishment of it will be everlasting, in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, out of which there is no redemption.

A CHECK TO AN UNGOVERNED TONGUE: Part Two, The Madness of Evil Cursing

Taken and adapted from, “THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY” Volume I
Published in 1833.

tongue-sharpening

Cursing is near akin to profane swearing…

...and it is the common companion of it, and is another of the exorbitances of an ungoverned tongue. Cursing is wishing evil to ourselves or others, absolutely or conditionally; a sin exceeding sinful; as great an instance of the corruption and degeneracy of the human nature, and as sure an evidence of the reigning power of Satan in the soul, as any other whatsoever. Nothing is more naturally the language of hell than this. To show you the evil of it, I will only recommend two things to your thoughts:

1  Consider, what a brutish piece of madness it is to curse yourselves.

If you do it absolutely, it is of the same nature with self-murder; wishing harm to yourselves is in effect doing it; and is a breach of one of the first and great laws of nature, that of self-preservation. If you do it conditionally, it is of the same nature with profane swearing, and incurs the same guilt, with this additional stain, that it is not only a mocking of God’s government, by a ludicrous appeal to him, but a defying of his judgment, a challenge to the Almighty to do his worst.

O the daring presumption of these sinners, sinners against their own heads, their own souls! The devils begged of our Savior, whose power they were not ignorant of, not to torment them before the time; but these presumptuous wretches, as if they thought their judgment lingered, and their damnation slumbered too long, pull vengeance down upon their own heads, and pray to God to damn them; and they need not fear but they shall be heard, for so shall their doom be, themselves have decided it. They challenge the devil to take them, and he is ready enough to seize his prey. But, shall I ask you, are the arrests of devils, and the flames of hell, such delectable things that you should court them? Or are they only the creatures of fancy and imagination, that you should make so light of them? Be not deceived, God’s judgment is not a jest, nor hell a sham; if you persist in this impious contempt of divine revelation, you will feel too late what you would not believe in time.

If you have no regard to God, nor any concern for his honor, yet have you no good-will to yourselves, nor any love to your own souls? Is it not enough that you are doing that every day which deserves damnation, but will you be solicitous to demand sentence against yourselves? It is but a moderate curse with you to wish yourselves hanged, yet, I have read of a person of quality in our own nation, who, coming to die upon the gallows for murder, publicly reflected upon it with bitter regret, that he had accustomed himself to that wicked imprecation, “and now,” says he, “I see the Lord is righteous.”

But as if this were a small matter, you challenge God to damn you, and the devil to take you: and what if God should say “Amen” to the next curse, and immediately order death to fetch you, and hell to receive you? What if the devils should be ready at the next call, and take you presently? And can thine heart endure, or your hands be strong, when God shall deal with you? Art you able to dwell with devouring fire, and to inhabit everlasting burnings?  Do you know the power of God’s anger? Is your eternal salvation of such small account with you, that you are willing to pawn it upon every trifling occasion, and to imprecate the loss of it, if such or such a thing be not so, which it is very possible may prove otherwise? How dare you thus provoke the Lord to jealousy, whilst you can not pretend to be stronger than he? 1 Cor. 10:22. Woe unto you that thus desire the day of the Lord! You know not what you do, for the day of the Lord, whatever it is to others, will be to you darkness, and not light, Amos 5: 18.

2  Consider what diabolical malice it is to curse others.

It is the highest degree of hatred, nor can anything be more contrary than this to the royal law of love and charity. He who prays to God to damn his neighbor, plainly intimates that he would do it himself if he could; and if he who hates his brother is a murderer, surely he who thus curses him is the worst of murderers, he is Abaddon—a destroyer.

That tongue is doubtless set on fire of hell, which is for sending everybody thither at a word, and which, by cursing men who are made after the similitude of God, would set on fire the whole course of nature, and is an advocate for the devil, that roaring lion which seeks to devour precious souls, James 3:6, 9.

Must the righteous God be summoned to execute your angry resentments, and called upon to destroy those whom he sent his own Son into the world to save, and to whom he is waiting to be gracious? Because you are out of humor, must all about you be sunk and ruined presently? As a madman in his frenzy throws about him firebrands, arrows, and death, so is he who curses his neighbor; nay, perhaps his wife, his child, his friend; and says, “Am not I in passion?” or, “Am not I in sport?” have you no other way of signifying your displeasure (if it be just) but by the imprecation of evil, the worst of evils, which bear no proportion at all to the offence given?

Put this case close to your own heart. When you wish your child, or servant, or neighbor hanged, confounded or damned, or sent to the devil, either you mean as you say, or not. If you do not wish it, (as I charitably hope you do not,) you are guilty of a manifest falsehood, and must own yourself a liar: if you do really wish it, (and what wickedness is it that will not enter into the heart of a furious man?) you cannot but acknowledge your self-guilty of the most barbarous and inhuman malice imaginable. So that every curse proves you a willful transgressor, either of the law of truth, or of the law of love, two as sacred laws, and which have as much of the image of the law-maker, as any mankind is bound by.

Consider further, that the curses you are so liberal of will not hurt those against whom they are levelled; you do but show your ill-will; for as the bird by wandering, and the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come, Prov. 26: 2. But they will certainly return upon your own head, to your confusion, As he loved cursing so let it come unto him: —into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones, Ps. 109:17, 18. They who are called to inherit the blessing, are commanded to bless and not to curse, Rom. 12:14. Believe it, sirs, curses are edge-tools, which it is dangerous playing with.

In your furious and outrageous cursing of the brute creatures, or that which is inanimate and in capable of the harm you wish it, what is wanting in malice is made up in folly and absurdity; like that which the apostle calls the madness of Balaam, when he wished he had his sword to kill his own ass with. By such silly nonsensical curses as you sometimes throw about in your passion, ‘you make it to appear, that with your religion you put off common sense.

You are men, you are rational creatures; speak with reason then, and act with reason, and be you not as the horse and the mule, that have no understanding; as natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed.