Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.…
St. James uses three special arguments to restrain Christians from the unruly use of the tongue: the first is the inconsistency of the thing — that the heart touched by the Holy Spirit should do the works of the flesh — that the fountain which hath been purified should again flow with bitter waters and the servants of Christ should serve Belial We have promised to study the strains of angels, and become familiar with and adopt them as our own; so that instead of being now a Babel of confusion, the Church may utter but one language in the presence of the Lamb; and how very inconsistent that from such lips cursing should proceed — how very inconsistent if any of you who have been now repeating David's psalms, the notes of heaven, should to-morrow be found uttering an oath, or even using a passionate expression. It is bad enough for one who only professes Christianity to use the language of the devil, but it is a greater inconsistency when out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing — when you, the same person, bless God, yet curse His image. Let the wicked do it; the heathen who is without God, and without Christ, if it must be. "He that is unjust," &c. But a Christian man — a man who has been baptized into the Holy Trinity; a man who reads the Bible, and comes into God's house and worships there: a man who joins himself to the company of the saints, dead and living, and takes into his mouth the same words, the same prayers, the same Scripture passages with them; — nay, the man who perhaps approaches the awful mystery of the Body and Blood of His Lord;-that from such a mouth should proceed the gibes and imprecations of lost spirits, is it not shockingly inconsistent? Next, St. James reminds us of the consequences both to others and ourselves. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth, awed the tongue is a fire." How far may a single spark dropped among stubble reach! Bow does it steal along the floor, creep up the wall, envelop the roof, spread from house to house, and seize churches and noble buildings, till it wrap a whole city in conflagration! So does a single word dropped unadvisedly. If a soft answer turneth away wrath, on the other hand "grievous words stir up anger." If you reply quietly to a provocation, or refuse to answer, the quarrel dies; but one word draws on another, and wrath kindleth wrath; and that is made eternal which might have been extinguished if only one had been a Christian. You see, then, how great a matter a little fire kindleth. Is it surprising "if of every idle word we shall give an account at the judgment"? But again, you say something injurious of .your neighbour. There is a little truth in it, but much more falsehood. It has been added to, and enlarged, and swollen into a crime. But you repeat it. The story spreads. It is told everywhere, and though it wounds your neighbour to death, and from the calumny he loses all acquaintances and friends, yet you cannot recall it now. See "how great a matter a little fire kindleth." Again, you utter impure words before a child, the child treasures them up all through his life; though he lives sixty or seventy years, unhappy being, his thoughts and language take their complexion from your words; but besides, to how many has lie communicated what he first heard from you! Mark again, "how great a little fire kindleth." Surely the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity, and setteth on fire the course of nature. To conclude: if we will not restrain our members by the aid of God's Spirit, and especially that member which St. Peter calls "an unruly evil, full of deadly poison"; if we will, in the indulgence of a wilful spirit, scatter fire-brands about, unkind, malicious, polluting, or injurious words, wide-spread as the evil may be, will it stop short with others? No, it will return upon ourselves; which "setteth on fire the course of nature, and it is set on fire of hell." The fire which hath gone forth spreading and consuming, at the judgment hour is stopped in its course, and rolling back again is concentrated on the tongue which gave it existence. You who uttered the word, which has done such mischief to thousands, and ruined so many souls, now feel its burning effects in your own person. Ought not this to make you careful of your words, those winged words, which once launched forth take a flight you know not whither?
(J. M. Chaunter, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.