I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: see, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, you know.…
There is a recluse and sequestered piety in the world which shuns expression. It preserves decorum and propriety; but it rarely speaks out for Christ. We are all acquainted with praying, pious, upright people, strict observers of the moral law, who yet have never been heard, at any time, to give utterance to their religious convictions, or to stand forth in defence of the faith against its assailants, or in the way of exhortation to holiness.
1. In this matter our age stands in strong contrast to some former notable periods. In the days of Whitefield and Wesley men everywhere and in all conditions made religion a matter of common converse. Then great reforms took place. The traffic in slaves was stopped; the condition of prisoners improved; Church missions and Sunday schools were established. Then society was almost universally stirred and excited by the most glorious themes of the Gospel.
2. Observe how desirable in every way is the practice of converse upon the things of God. Christianity is no private monopoly, no exclusive, personal possession. It is a social religion, because it is made to be talked of, and talked into every sphere of life, and to rule and govern them all.
3. It is, then, very clearly our duty to use the faculty of speech for God's glory, for the health and strengthening of human souls. All the processes of building and uprearing in this world are prized by men. But by just so much as souls are nobler, grander structure than houses or palaces, or bodies, so the vital energy of pure and holy speech, dropped into the outward and inner ears of men, startling, quickening, sobering, prompting, guiding, elevating, sanctifying them, to good resolves, to noble acts, to self-devotion to God and man, to purity, to excellence and heavenly-mindedness; so the work and power of holy speech towers immeasurably above all the constructive work of architects and builders in this outward, visible world.
4. You tell me it is bard to talk about religion. Many people are reluctant and unwilling to speak concerning this most sacred of all themes, lest they should be betrayed into a habit of cant; which is the simulation of feeling when one has no feeling. Others are afraid of becoming flippant about holy things. And, first let me say there can be no general rule given concerning religious conversation. Perhaps the nearest approach one can make to a precept are the words of St. Paul (Colossians 4:6). That is, our conversation should be saturated with pious and religious prudence flowing from the Holy Spirit. In ordinary conversation we should talk with such a sense of sacred propriety, with such Christian cheerfulness, with such generous courtesy for the opinions and feelings of others, that although the name of Christ be never mentioned, people may gather that we have been with Him, and that His Holy Spirit is the prompter of our life and thought. On the other hand, there are times when our discourse should be most direct and distinct. When we are dealing with the sick, with people who are anxious and inquiring, with indifferent and careless people, then circumlocution or indirection is a great fault. Be faithful to souls, in your conversation as well as in your walk and bearing. But bear in mind two things.
(1) That no stilted, formal, unmeaning words on religion will reach any man's soul. If you are not impelled by duty and interest in men to talk with them concerning religious matters, hold your tongue.
(2) Join to this the duty of avoiding all debate and wrangling upon religion. The work of Christians is to persuade and invite the careless; not to dispute with them.
Parallel VersesKJV: I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest.