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SPEECH THE PREROGATIVE OF MAN.
product and the vehicle of intellectual power. It is the last seal of dignity impressed by the Creator on the first of his earthly creatures.
In distant times, knowledge was communicated by the living voice from fathers to their children. These, again, adding to the store, transmitted it to their descendants, and thus the amount of intelligence was increased from age to age.
Most admirable, indeed, is the power of speech. But for this, how degraded would have been the condition of those who have been distinguished as the noblest of our race !
At the present time, in circumstances where language may be said scarcely to exist, the people are greatly debased; while, on the contrary, progress in civilization may be traced as one of the results of a larger vocabulary.
“Thoughts shut up, want air,
And spoil, like bales unopened to the sun.
Many instances might be mentioned of human eloquence. To the records of some we may easily turn with pleasure ; but how much greater is the effect when we can hear it from the living voice ! When Æschines, the rival of Demosthenes, struggled in vain to share with him the palm of eloquence, he withdrew from the public gaze.
In his retirement, he had sufficient strength of mind to place the oration which caused his disgrace in the hands of his pupils. He watched their countenances kindling as they read it, and found that, at length, unable to suppress their feelings, they broke out into expressions of unbounded admiration. Nor did he check, he rather stimulated the glowing emotions of their bosoms, exclaiming, “ What then would you have said had you heard him deliver it !” Such freedom from jealousy, such pleasure in the triumphs of another, even to his own disadvantage, casts great honour on the name of Æschines, while the fact pleasingly illustrates the influence of the power which has been granted to man.
It is ours, however, to be familiar with a higher order of eloquence still—the eloquence of the prophets of the Most High, of the apostles of our Lord, of Him who 66
spake as never man spake.” Here the orators of times past, present, and to come, are, and will be, unspeakably surpassed. From them gratification and instruction may often be derived; but it is only in reference to those who “ spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” and to Christ, in whom dwelt “ all the
GOVERNMENT OF THE TONGUE.
treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” that it can be said, “ Hear, and your souls shall live.”
The government of the tongue is of difficult attainment; and yet it is as certainly of great importance. The apostle James expressly says, that the degree of subjection in which the tongue is held is a standard of the power of religion in the heart—a measure of our real Christianity. “ If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, this man's religion is vain," James i. 26.
The whole reasoning of this apostle, in the passage referred to, shows the necessity and the difficulty of controlling this a little member.” As the bridle governs the horse, as the helm guides the vessel, so the influence of the tongue is great in society. It is even “ a fire,” burning and destroying; and “ a world of iniquity." No words could, therefore, more impressively urge us to “ set a watch at the door of our lips.”
A strong reason for placing such a guard may be derived from a recollection of the past. Who can refer to the words he has uttered, considering them in the light which the Scriptures throw around them, without feeling that there is much cause for deep humiliation of spirit ? Here our sins appear as a great mountain. And only can our iniquities be blotted out through the blood of the Lamb.” Now Jesus invites us to trust in Him with whom the Father is always well pleased ; and if he is our confidence, we may say,
66 Who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us,” Rom. viii. 34. Great, inconceivably great, is this blessedness.
Thomson has said, as he contemplated the works of God:
“ For me, when I forget the darling theme,
And truly, the providence of God, and the discoveries of his word, should also employ our tongues now, as in them eternity itself will be occupied. Our rank in the creation, our unfailing supplies, our distinguished mercies, our religious privileges, alike demand our tributes of thanksgiving. On all the followers of Christ it devolves, to show forth the praises of Him who hath called them “out of darkness into marvellous light.” It becomes each one of them to say, with the sincerity and fervour of the psalmist, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul : and all that is within me, bless his holy
PRAISE FOR MERCIES.
name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. While I live I will praise the Lord : I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being," Psa. ciii. 1, 2; cxlvi. 2. And with a modern writer
In every smiling, happy hour,
Be this my sweet employ;
And doubles all my joy.
Nor shall my tongue alone proclaim
The honours of my God;
Shall spread thy praise abroad.
How will my happy spirit mount,
Confined in flesh no more,
In countless ranks adore !
There shall my lips, in endless praise,
Their grateful tribute pay ;
And an eternal day.