James 3:5
In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze.
The TongueFrederick W. RobertsonJames 3:5
The Ethics of SpeechT.F. Lockyer James 3:1-12
The Tower of the TongueC. Jerdan James 3:2-6
A Fiery TongueBaxendale's AnecdotesJames 3:5-6
A World of IniquityJ. Trapp.James 3:5-6
Act and HabitM. G. Pearse.James 3:5-6
Boastful SpeechT. Manton.James 3:5-6
Fire a Dangerous PlaythingJames 3:5-6
From Little to GreatJames 3:5-6
From Little to GreatPhilo.James 3:5-6
Importance of Little ThingsSon of Sirach.James 3:5-6
Influence of Little ThingsC. Stanford, D. D.James 3:5-6
Mischief of the TongueQuarles.James 3:5-6
Misuse of the TongueJames Bolton.James 3:5-6
Setting on .Fire the Wheel of LifeJ. T. Mombert, D. D.James 3:5-6
Sins of the TongueBp. Stevens.James 3:5-6
Sins of the TongueT. Watson.James 3:5-6
Small in Origin, Widespread in IssueJ. F. B. Tinling, B. A.James 3:5-6
Talk the Devil's AmmunitionJames 3:5-6
The Evil Tongue DestructiveA. Plummer, D. D.James 3:5-6
The Government of the TongueT. Boston, D. D.James 3:5-6
The Gradual Progress of EvilJ. Venn, M. A.James 3:5-6
The Great Effects of the TongueR. Wardlaw, D. D.James 3:5-6
The Injury Which May be Wrought by an Insignificant ThingH. O. Mackey.James 3:5-6
The Lawless TongueJ. B. Shaw, D. D.James 3:5-6
The Power of the TongueMonday Club SermonsJames 3:5-6
The Tiny Mother of MischiefJames 3:5-6
The TongueF. W. Robertsort, M. A.James 3:5-6
The Tongue a .FireT. Manton.James 3:5-6
The Tongue a World of WickednessR. Turnbull.James 3:5-6
The Tongue AfireJames 3:5-6
The Tongue Captured, All Else May FollowJ. H. A. Ebrard, D. D.James 3:5-6
The Tongue DefilesJ. Trapp.James 3:5-6
The Tongue Hell IgnitedJohn Adam.James 3:5-6
The Use of the TongueJames 3:5-6

Passing from the peculiar responsibility which attaches to teachers of religion, James proceeds to speak generally of the enormous influence of the faculty of speech, especially upon the speaker himself, and of the abuse to which it is liable.

I. A DIRECT STATEMENT OF THIS POWER. "If any stumbleth not in word, the same," etc. (ver. 2). In most cases, the capacity to control one's utterances indicates the measure of one's attainment as regards the keeping of his heart. Sins of the tongue form so large a portion of our multitudinous "stumblings" - they so frequently help to seduce us into other sins - and they afford such a searching test of character, that any one who has learned to avoid riffling into them may without exaggeration be described as "a perfect man." Of course, no person lives in this world of whom it can be affirmed that he never errs in word. James has just remarked that "in many things we all stumble." But he is now suggesting an ideal case - that of a man who is perfectly free from lip-sins; and he asserts that such a person would be found to be both blameless and morally strong over the whole area of his character. The power which can bridle the tongue can control the entire nature. So great is the influence of human speech!

II. SOME ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS POWER. (Vers. 3-6.) The apostle here compares the tongue first to two familiar mechanical appliances, and then to one of the mighty forces of nature. In all the three selected cases very insignificant-looking means suffice to accomplish great results. The illustrations are extremely graphic; each is more telling than the preceding. They together show that James, the apostle of practical Christianity, possessed the perceptions and the instincts of a poet.

1. The horse-bridle. (Ver. 3.) The first illustration only emphasizes the thought which underlies the word "bridle" in ver. 2, and in James 1:26. The wild horses that roam at will over the American prairies seem quite unsubduable. Yet how complete is the control which man acquires over the tame horse! By means of the bit - the part of the bridle, which the animal bites - he is kept completely under command. The horse is controlled literally by the tongue. Now, in like manner, a man may "turn about his whole body" by subjecting his speech to firm self-government. The spirited steed of this verse may be regarded as a symbol of the flesh, with its lusts and passions. But the man who uses his tongue aright will find its influence very powerful in helping him to subdue his depraved carnal nature.

2. The shifts rudder. (Ver. 4.) Both romance and poetry gather round the idea of a ship. Even the old "galley with oars" was a "gallant" spectacle; and in our time there is no sight more picturesque than that of a sailing-vessel.

"Behold! upon the murmuring waves
A glorious shape appearing!
A broad-winged vessel, through the shower
Of glimmering luster steering!

"She seems to hold her home in view,
And sails as if the path she knew;
So calm and stately in her motion
Across the unfathomed, trackless ocean."

(John Wilson.) The merchantmen of the ancients were of considerable size (Acts 27., 28.); but in our day naval architecture works on a colossal scale of which the ancients never dreamed. And what is it that directs the largest vessel so steadily on its course, and enables it to persevere even in spite of furious storms? It is simply that little tongue, or rudder, at the stern. The steering apparatus is "very small" in proportion to the bulk of the ship; but how wonderfully great its influence! It not only "turns about" the body of the vessel itself; its action is also powerful enough to counteract the driving force of "rough winds." Now, the faculty of speech is the rudder of human nature. The tongue "boasteth great things;" and well it may, for "death and life are in its power" (Proverbs 18:21). If the spirited horse is a symbol of the flesh, the "rough winds" which beat upon the ship are suggestive of the world. The rudder of speech, rightly directed, will help us to continue straight on our heavenward course, despite the fierce gusts and gales of external temptation.

3. The little fire. (Vers. 5, 6.) What a terrific power there is in fire! One tiny neglected spark may kindle a conflagration that will consume a city. The great fire of 1666 in London, which began in a little wooden shop near London Bridge, burned down every building between the Tower and the Temple. And how terrible are the seas of fire, kindled often by some casual spark, which roll along the prairies of North America! The power of a little tongue of flame is simply stupendous; and thus it is a most apposite illustration of the destructive energy of human speech. For "the tongue is a fire." Sometimes this tremendous power is exerted for good; indeed, the "tongue of fire" is the appropriate emblem of Christianity as the dispensation of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3). More usually, however, fire is contemplated as an instrument of evil. So "the tongue is a fire" as regards its intense energy. Unsanctified speech scorches and consumes. The liar scatters firebrands; the slanderer kindles lambent flames; the profane swearer spits the fire of hell into the face of God. "The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue;" i.e. a whole microcosm of evil resides within the sphere of its operation. It "defileth the whole body;" just as fire soils with its smoke, the tongue stirs up the heart's corruption, and uses it to stain one's own life and character. It "setteth on fire the wheel of nature;" - for the whole circle of an unsanctified life, from birth onwards, is kept burning by the evil tongue. And it "is set on fire by hell;" for the ultimate inspiration of this destructive agency is of internal origin. This fire is devil-lighted, hell-kindled. Satan loaded the human tongue at the Fall with dynamite; and every day he ignites the treacherous magazine from the unquenchable fire. Thus, as the spirited horse represents the flesh, and the fierce winds the world, the raging fire leads us to think of the devil - the power of "the evil one."

CONCLUSION. Let us earnestly seek the grace of God, to deliver our tongue from the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Let us guard the portals of our lips, so that no uncharitable or slanderous words may issue from them. Let us welcome the Pentecostal "tongue of fire," that it may purify us from the evil tongue which is "set on fire by hell." - C.J.

The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things.
Monday Club Sermons.
I. WORDS ARE THE EXPRESSIONS OF THOUGHTS. Says Max Muller, with concise truth, "The word is the thought incarnate." The Greek word translated "brotherly love" was unknown until Christianity coined it to declare a new relation revealed to men. It depended upon the Christian Church to exemplify the virtue expressed in the word "humility." Every word we speak has its history, and in its appointed time each has been added to the library of the world's thought. "Words are things," said Mirabeau, and he was right.

II. WORDS, AS INCARNATE THOUGHTS, ARE REVELATIONS OF CHARACTER, The morality both of nations and men is stamped in their words. "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality-, and without hypocrisy." The speech of every Peter betrays the man. Just as the despatches of Napoleon were of "glory," while those of the Iron Duke centred in "duty," so may their respective characters be known. He whose thoughts are on noble things will never grovel in speech. The "Incarnate Word" was compelled to reach men through their own vernacular, yet the purity of His teaching is as matchless as His own Divine nature. Humanly speaking, the voice of Jacob will always be Jacob's, though he dissemble Esau. Conversation touching impurity photographs for the world an impure heart. Ecstatic language, like purling brooks, denotes shallowness of thought. Repeated quotations of others' opinions are proofs of having no substantial opinions of our own. Willingness to speak freely about others' business is proof positive that we are not attending to our own affairs.

III. THIS POWER OF LANGUAGE DECLARES THE SOLEMNITY OF ITS USE. The spoken word, like an arrow from the quiver, has its mark. Said Hawthorne, "Nothing is more unaccountable than the spell that often lurks in a spoken word." A kind word has given courage to more than one despondent heart; and, struck by a cruel word, more than one gentle spirit has sobbed itself into the grave. Each word has a meaning, and the word is that meaning sent home to another — a word alive with fear, or joy, or love, or hate. It matters not as to their derivation, the words we speak mean ourselves back of them.

IV. THIS POWER OF SPEECH EMPHASISES THE NECESSITY OF SELF-CONTROL. Man is at the same time a king to rule his tongue and a slave to suffer from its abuse. The school of life deals with a double danger — the arrogant assumptions of self and the oppositions experienced from without. The first is illustrated in the control of the nervous horse held in with bit and bridle; the other means the steadfastness of the ship that no tempest can turn from its course. The helmsman's duty on the tongue is no easy calling. It requires strength to hold the bits. The small rudder firmly held gives the promise of safety to the ship.

V. OUR WORDS SHALL CONFRONT US AT THE JUDGMENT. We often unwittingly send them on before us, as though they were sand to be blown into the eyes of others, forgetting that they shall blind or bless ourselves. It is serious business to write a book like the "Pilgrim's Progress," or its opposite, "The Age of Reason." It is serious business to declare in speech even the gospel of Christ. It is no meaningless service to expound the Bible in the Sabbath school. It is no less serious when every word of father and mother makes its impression upon the children's lives, to see that such words are rightly spoken.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

He speaks of the tongue. He compares the tongue to the helm of a ship. The helm is a little thing in itself, and still more insignificant when compared with the mighty fabric which it controls, and yet it holds the ship to her course. Let the rudder be swept away, or let any part of its gearing break, and the ship is at the mercy of the winds and the waves. Such is the power of the human tongue. Under the control of a sanctified will it keeps the man to his courses headed, as he should be, for the harbour of eternal repose. But the power of the tongue is much more apparent when we consider the widespread mischief which it may cause. A spark will be enough, and if the fire be once started who shall stay its progress? There is hardly a more hideous sight in the world than one of the burnt districts in our Adirondack Mountains; and the saddest thought of all is, that this fated district can never regain what it has lost, can never be what it was. And perhaps a lighted match carelessly thrown among the dry leaves was the cause of it all. "Behold how great a forest a little fire kindleth!" Many families have been broken up, many churches have been disbanded, many communities have been set by the ears — sometimes a whole land has been laid under reproach — by a word maliciously or heedlessly spoken. Then the injuries which the lawless tongue inflicts are for the most part irreparable. There is nothing so hard to heal as a wounded reputation — the scar will always be there — and at the same time there is nothing so sensitive. Scarcely anything cuts so deep as an unkind word. How many hopes the slanderous tongue has blighted I how many hearts it has broken I how many graves it has dug! And they are irreparable wrongs. We may bitterly repent of the sin committed against our brother, we may put forth our utmost endeavours to undo the evil which we have done, but unless we can bring back the dead we cannot repair the injury. And this evil tongue, which gives our brother a wound which can never be healed, is no respecter of persons. It spares neither age nor sex. Genuine goodness, exalted worth, a life devoted to charity, are no protection. Nay, the purest, the sweetest, the holiest, the highest, the most revered and the most beloved, are the surest to be assailed. There is no such joy for an envious man as to drag some great name through the dust. We may, then, well believe what St. James tells us, that the evil tongue is under a diabolic inspiration. The tongue of the liar or the slanderer or the profane swearer is touched by a coal brought from the pit. The man speaks as he is moved by that fallen spirit who wanted to be something more than an archangel, who wanted to be something higher than the Highest. He inspires the talebearer, the gossip, the heedless talker, the obscene jester, and, above all, the malicious libeller. And if this heedless talker, this man so regardless of the feelings of his fellow-men — if this man is a follower of Christ, then his evil-speaking is the profanation of a holy thing. To use this consecrated tongue for any evil purpose is like taking a lamp from the sanctuary to hang up in some den of infamy; it is a desecration, a profanation, a sacrilege in fullest meaning of that awful word. The tongue is spoken of in Scripture as the glory of our frame. It is the tongue which lifts us so far above the inferior orders of creation. They can plan and build, they can love and hate, they can sing and moan; but they cannot speak. They have their cities and governments and granaries; they have their armies and wars and conquests; but they have no words. The tongue arouses a righteous indignation, it awakens a holy enthusiasm, it inflames a people with heroic resolves, and it has won multitudes and multitudes more to the obedience of the faith. The tongue, as if on eagles' wings, bears our thoughts and thanks and aspirations to the ear of our Father. And shall we let Satan take possession of this glory of our frame? Shall we let him use it to bring his nefarious purposes to pass — this tongue with which we bless man, this tongue with which we praise God? Shall Satan use it to hurt my brother or insult my Father? If the fallen archangel would spread a scandal, if he would wound some good man to the death, if he would send some saintly woman to a premature grave, if he would publish some deadly heresy or cover the slandered daughter of Zion with a cloud, he must have a human tongue to do it; and, to our shame be it said, he has never been hindered by the want of a tongue. I am sure that no man can better begin the day than with this petition: "Set a watch before my mouth." Nay, even that may not be enough: "Keep Thou the door of my lips." Let no word this day go forth from my mouth that can hurt my brother or harm the cause or grieve my God. The man who has brought his tongue under complete control has solved the great problem of the Christian life; nothing after that can hold out against him.

(J. B. Shaw, D. D.)


1. The first license given to the tongue is slander. I am not of, course, speaking now of that species of slander against which the law of libel provides a remedy, but of that of which the gospel alone takes cognisance; for the worst injuries which man can do to man are precisely those which are too delicate for law to deal with. Now observe, this slander is compared in the text to poison. The deadliest poisons are those for which no test is known: there are poisons so destructive that a single drop insinuated into the veins produces death in three seconds, and yet no chemical science can separate that virus from the contaminated blood, and show the metallic particles of poison glittering palpably, and say, "Behold, it is there!" In the drop of venom which distils from the sting of the smallest insect, or the spikes of the nettle-leaf, there is concentrated the quintessence of a poison so subtle that the microscope cannot distinguish it, and yet so virulent that it can inflame the blood, irritate the whole constitution, and convert day and night into restless misery. In St. James's day, as now, it would appear that there were idle men and idle women, who went about from house to house, dropping slander as they went, and yet you could not take up that slander and detect the falsehood there. You could not evaporate the truth in the slow process of the crucible, and then show the residuum of falsehood glittering and visible. You could not fasten upon any word or sentence, and say that it was calumny; for in order to constitute slander it is not necessary that the word spoken should be false — half truths are often more calumnious than whole falsehoods. It is not even necessary that the word should be distinctly uttered; a dropped lip, an arched eyebrow, a shrugged shoulder, a significant look, an incredulous expression of countenance, nay, even an emphatic silence, may do the work: and when the light and trifling thing which has done the mischief has fluttered off, the venom is left behind, to work and rankle, to inflame hearts, to fever human existence, and to poison human society at the fountain springs of life.

2. The second license given to the tongue is in the way of persecution: "therewith curse we men which are made after the similitude of God." "We!" — men who bear the name of Christ — curse our brethren! Christians persecuted Christians. Thus even in St. James's age that spirit had begun, the monstrous fact of Christian persecution; from that day it has continued, through long centuries, up to the present time. We congratulate ourselves that the days of persecution are gone by; but persecution is that which affixes penalties upon views held, instead of upon life led. Is persecution only fire and sword? But suppose a man of sensitive feeling says, The sword is less sharp to me than the slander: fire is less intolerable than the refusal of sympathy!


1. The first evil consequence is the harm that a man does himself: "so is the tongue among the members, that it defiles the whole body." I will take the simplest form in which this injury is done, it effects a dissipation of spiritual energy. There are two ways in which the steam of machinery may find an outlet for its force: it may work, and if so it works silently; or it may escape, and that takes place loudly, in air and noise. There are two ways in which the spiritual energy of a man's soul may find its vent: it may express itself in action, silently; or in words noisily: but just so much of force as is thrown into the one mode of expression, is taken from the other. Few men suspect how much mere talk fritters away spiritual energy, — that which should be spent in action, spends itself in words. In these days of loud profession, and bitter, fluent condemnation, it is well for us to learn the Divine force of silence. Remember Christ in the Judgment Hall, the very symbol and incarnation of spiritual strength: and yet when revilings were loud around Him and charges multiplied, "He held His peace."

2. The next feature in the guilt of calumny is its uncontrollable character: "the tongue can no man tame." You cannot arrest a calumnious tongue, you cannot arrest the calumny itself; you may refute a slanderer, you may trace home a slander to its source, you may expose the author of it, you may by that exposure give a lesson so severe as to make the repetition of the offence appear impossible; but the fatal habit is incorrigible: to-morrow the tongue is at work again. Neither can you stop the consequences of a slander; you may publicly prove its falsehood, you may sift every atom, explain and annihilate it, and yet, years after you had thought that all had been disposed of for ever, the mention of a name wakes up associations in the mind of some one who heard the calumny, but never heard or never attended to the refutation, or who has only a vague and confused recollection of the whole, and he asks the question doubtfully, "But were there not some suspicious circumstances connected with him?" It is like the Greek fire used in ancient warfare, which burned unquenched beneath the water, or like the weeds which when you have extirpated them in one place are sprouting forth vigorously in another spot, at the distance of many hundred yards; or, it is like the wheel which catches fire as it goes, and burns with a fiercer conflagration as its own speed increases. You may tame the wild beast, the conflagration of the American forest will cease when all the timber and the dry underwood is consumed; but you cannot arrest the progress of that cruel word which you uttered carelessly yesterday; that will go on slaying, poisoning, burning beyond your own control, now and for ever.

3. The third element of guilt lies in the unnaturalness of calumny. "My brethren, these things ought not so to be"; ought not — that is, they are unnatural. That this is St. James's meaning is evident from the second illustration which follows: "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" "Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olive berries, or a vine, figs?" The truest definition of evil is that which represents it as something contrary to nature: evil is evil, because it is unnatural; a vine which should bear olive berries, an eye to which blue seems yellow, would be diseased: an unnatural mother, an unnatural son, an unnatural act, are the strongest terms of condemnation. It is this view which Christianity gives of moral evil: the teaching of Christ was the recall of man to nature, not an infusion of something new into humanity. Now the nature of man is to adore God and to love what is god-like in man. The office of the tongue is to bless. Slander is guilty because it contradicts this; yet even in slander itself, perversion as it is, the interest of man in man is still distinguishable. What is it but perverted interest which makes the acts, and words, and thoughts of his brethren, even in their evil, a matter of such strange delight? Remember therefore, this contradicts your nature and your destiny; to speak ill of others makes you a monster in God's world: get the habit of slander, and then there is not a stream which bubbles fresh from the heart of nature, — there is not a tree that silently brings forth its genial fruit in its appointed season, — which does not rebuke and proclaim "you to be a monstrous anomaly in God's world.

4. The fourth point of guilt is the diabolical character of slander; the tongue "is set on fire of hell." Now, this is no mere strong, expression — no mere indignant vituperation — it contains deep and emphatic meaning. The apostle means literally what he says, slander is diabolical. The first illustration we give of this is contained in the very meaning of the word devil. "Devil," in the original, means traducer or slanderer. The first introduction of a demon spirit is found connected with a slanderous insinuation against the Almighty, implying that His command had been given in envy of His creature: "for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." There is another mode in which the fearful accuracy of St. James's charge may be demonstrated. There is one state only from which there is said to be no recovery — there is but one sin that is called unpardonable. To call evil, good, and good, evil — to see the Divinest good, and call it Satanic evil — below this lowest deep there is not a lower still. There is no cure for mortification of the flesh — there is no remedy for ossification of the heart. Oh I that miserable state, when to the jaundiced eye all good transforms itself into evil, and the very instruments of health become the poison of disease. Beware of every approach of this! Beware of that spirit which controversy fosters, of watching only for the evil in the character of an antagonist! Beware of that habit which becomes the slanderer's life, of magnifying every speck of evil and closing the eye to goodness! — till at last men arrive at the state in which generous, universal love (which is heaven) becomes impossible, and a suspicious, universal hate takes possession of the heart, and that is hell! Before we conclude, let us get at the root of the matter. "Man," says the Apostle James, "was made in the image of God"; to slander man is to slander God: to love what is good in man is to love it in God. Love is the only remedy for slander: no set of rules or restrictions can stop it; we may denounce, but we shall denounce in vain. The radical cure of it is Charity — "out of a pure heart and faith unfeigned," to feel what is great in the human character; to recognise with delight all high, and generous, and beautiful actions; to find a joy even in seeing the good qualities of your bitterest opponents, and to admire those qualities even in those with whom you have least sympathy — this is the only spirit which can heal the love of slander and of calumny. If we would bless God, we must first learn to bless man, who is made in the image of God.

(F. W. Robertsort, M. A.)

1. A usual sin of the tongue is boasting. Sometimes the pride of the heart shooteth out by the eyes (Proverbs 6:17); but usually it is displayed in our speech. The tongue trumpeteth it out —(1) In bold vaunts (1 Samuel 2:3; Isaiah 14:13).(2) In a proud ostentation of our own worth and excellency. It is against reason that a man should be judge in his own cause. In the Olympic Games the wrestlers did not put the crowns upon their own heads; that which is lawful praise in another's lips, in our own it is but boasting.(3) In contemptuous challenges of God and man.(4) Bragging promises, as if they could achieve and accomplish great matters above the reach of their gifts and strength: "I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil," &o. (Exodus 15.).

2. Small things are to be regarded; and we must not consider matters in their beginning only, but progress, and ultimate issue. A little sin doth a great deal of mischief, and a little grace is of great efficacy (Ecclesiastes 10:13).

(T. Manton.)

Talk, chat, confer, converse. But don't gossip, and don't slander. It is not often that the tongue is accused of laziness. It is generally thought to be quite too busy. It is called "the unruly member," and so it is, not because it will wag, but because it will not wag in the right direction. What volumes have been written upon restraining this most important article of speech! Quaint old Quarles says: "Give not thy tongue too great liberty lest it take thee prisoner." "Evil speaking," said the great Brighton divine — and he knew too well what he said — "is like a freezing wind, that seals up the sparkling waters and tender juices of flowers, and binds up the hearts of men in uncharitableness and bitterness of spirit, as the earth is bound up in the grip of winter." Half the lawsuits and half the wars, it may be safely asserted, have been brought about by the tongue. Husband and wife have separated for ever, children have forsaken their homes, bosom friends have become bitter foes — all on account of fiery arrows shot by this little member. And yet, rightly used, the tongue is a most valuable factor of society. "The music of the tongue:' has passed into a proverb, along with its kind and timely words, earnest words, sincere words, good words, cheery words, hopeful, helpful words. What a blessing it has been and is! God be thanked for speech, the head and heart utterances which have been the hope, the joy, the comfort, the warning, the help of all people, all races, through all the ages! Next to proclaiming the everlasting truths of a free gospel, and the raising of the voice in prayer and praise, one of the best uses to which the tongue can be put is conversation. There is altogether too little of it. People talk, and we know some who can listen; but conversely the generality of people do not. Yet no other form of speech is so interesting or so edifying. How Socrates discoursed — not talked only, but could listen, compare options, and discuss them! And Plato: is it any wonder that when he discoursed the Greeks thought that Jupiter had visited the earth? All truth is two-sided; and he who sees but one side when he might have both, is like the knights, each of whom saw but one side of the shield, and that the one hidden from the other; and happy for him if the issue be not so serious. The truth is, in the hurry and worry of our life of to-day — more hurried than ever before — the race of conversationists is fast dying out, and bids to disappear with the moose and the elk, which naturalists tell us will not survive the century; and scarcely anything is a subject for more profound regret. Conversation ought to be cultivated, and especially should homely people qualify themselves for conversation, and they would not be thought homely then, just as the brilliancy of Madame de Stall's conversation triumphed so far over the plainness of her features that Curran said that she had the power of talking herself into a beauty.

"Boasteth great things" — does not mean vaingloriously boastful — magnifying its own powers and its own doings. It rather means, it has great things to boast of — to boast of with truth. The object being to show the wonderful power and efficacy of so "little a member," this is the only sense of the words that is at all to the apostle's purpose. How prodigious have been the effects of the tongue! How marvellously has it both stirred and stilled the passions of men! How often has it, by a very whisper, infuriated millions, and roused a desolating tempest of popular commotion! and how often by the charms of its eloquence, laid the conflicting elements of such a storm to rest! The great things which it has done have many a time, alas! been bad things: and then, when it boasts, it "glories in its shame." But not the less may they be manifestations of power. It has a power for evil, as well as for good: and more frequent have been the proofs, alas! of the former than of the latter; as, indeed, the corruption of our nature might have led us to anticipate.

(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)

In the Fisheries Exhibition there was exhibited a "cable-worm" that had pierced through the Atlantic Cable and stopped the communication between two continents. It was a very insignificant little creature, but its power for mischief was unlimited.

(H. O. Mackey.)

How great a matter a little fire kindleth.
It is a great point of wisdom to know how to estimate little things. Of those which are evidently great every one can see the importance; but true wisdom looks at these great objects before they have arrived at their full size. She considers that it is principally in this earlier state that they come under the power of man, and can be arranged, modified, increased, or extinguished at his pleasure; whereas in a more advanced stage, they set at defiance all his efforts. Behold a conflagration! With what dreadful fury it rages! The largest houses are devoured by it in a moment! Yet this fire, which now resists the united wisdom and .power of man, originated from a small spark, and might at first have been extinguished by a child. Look also at yon tree, which is now so firmly rooted in the earth, which rears its lofty head so high, and bears its flourishing honours so thick upon it! It was once only a small seed; it was then a tender plant, so slender and so weak that the foot of accident might have crushed it, or the hand of negligence or wantonness have torn it up. Thus does Nature point out to us the growth of the strongest things from weak and almost imperceptible beginnings. And if we look into the moral world we shall find that they are not there to be considered as of less importance. Behold an abandoned and hardened murderer, who is about to receive from the hands of public justice the ignominious punishment due to his crimes! Would you know by what means he arrived at such a dreadful pitch of sin? It was one little step taken after another which brought him to it! Contemplate also the unhappy woman whose licentious conduct has banished her from the society of her own sex, and whose shameless impudence makes her shunned by all but the most worthless. To what shall we attribute this dreadful accumulation of crime? Perhaps it may have been one, the evil of which is little suspected. It is, indeed, a small spark which kindleth such a fire. It may have been only the love of admiration.

1. Let me remark, then, that evil passions in their early stage do not wear the disgusting appearance which they afterwards do when they are carried to excess. The buds even of the most noxious weeds appear pretty. The most savage animals, while yet young, only amuse us with their gambols as they lie in ambush for their prey or spring upon it. But however harmless their mirth may then be, it is easy to perceive in it the spirit which by and by will tear to pieces with fury the quivering victim.

2. I observe, further, that the foundation of all great vices is laid in those little things which often are scarcely noticed, or scarcely appear to need correction. It is by little things that habits are formed and principles become established. They resemble the spots or eruptions which sometimes appear in the human body, which are of no material importance in themselves, but are of great consequence when they are considered aa indicating a general unsoundness of constitution. It should be remembered that principle is as truly sacrificed by little offences as by great ones.

3. I remark, also, that little sins are the steps by which we travel on to greater acts of transgression. Temptation has, in general, but little force, except when it solicits to those sins which have often before been committed, or which are but a single degree beyond what we have been accustomed to commit. Thus persons are brought imperceptibly to practices and principles which would once have shocked them.

4. It follows, therefore, that little sins are what, most of all, ought to be attended to and resisted. Watch against the beginnings. The spark may soon be extinguished, but the conflagration rages with irresistible fury. The first channel by which confined waters run over their banks may soon be stopped; but by and by it becomes a torrent which tears down the mounds and spreads itself with desolating fury. Here, therefore, religion will most successfully operate in restraining at first the evil disposition as soon as it arises; in watching against those little sins by which corrupt principles and corrupt dispositions are chiefly gratified and nourished.

5. This subject presents useful lessons of instruction to parents. They form the minds of their children. And it is too much to be feared that many of those unhappy persons who have been brought to ruin have been brought to it chiefly by the operation of those very principles which their parents instilled into them and encouraged.

6. The consideration of the subject of my discourse should lead us also to deep humiliation on account of our great corruption, and to earnest prayers for the grace of Christ to pardon and to cleanse us.

7. And as we see evil arrive at its perfection by small gradations, so let us remember that good advances in the same manner. We should not despise little things, either in what is good or bad; for "he that despiseth little things shall fall by little and little." The character is formed very much from the repetition of little acts; and a progress in religion is made by small successive steps, none of which ought to be despised. Try to do a little, and that little will prepare you for more. Take the first step, and that will prepare the way for a second.

(J. Venn, M. A.)

A circumstance, probably without a parallel even in the history of the United States, is reported in advices received from Ashland, Wisconsin territory (1888), viz., the destruction of the town of Wakefield by fire through the mischievousness of a monkey. The monkey was located in the Vaudeville Theatre, and had the freedom of the place. During the evening of the 25th ult. he got to some kerosene and covered himself with the oil. He then set fire to himself with a lamp which was burning in the room, and then appeared at the window of the theatre amusing the people. Presently the building was in flames, and the monkey running about in its frenzy set fire to other places. The buildings in the town were of wood, and the conflagration spread from place to, place, until the whole of the town was burnt down. Gangs of roughs during the progress of the fire commenced looting the stores, and in most instances the flames had scarcely reached the respective places before the robbers commenced sacking the premises. The owners tried to protect their stores, and in the encounters many pistol shots were exchanged. The proprietor of the theatre was a man named O'Brien, and between him and a storekeeper named Lewis, whose premises were destroyed, an altercation took place, Lewis blaming O'Brien for allowing the monkey to be in the theatre. O'Brien became enraged, and shot Lewis twice with a revolver, wounding him mortally.

(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

He that despiseth little things, shall perish by little and little.

(Son of Sirach.)

A fire at first no bigger than the flame of a taper may consume a mansion or a palace. One Roman soldier's torch flung into the holiest of all, burned down to the ground the temple of the Lord, in the days of Titus.

As the smallest spark will, if duly fanned, kindle a vast pyre, so is the least element of virtue capable of growth till the whole nature of the man glows with a new warmth and brightness.


I knew a lad once, a pleasant, open-hearted, merry boy as you ever saw. He was grown old enough to leave school and go to work. "Come," said a companion one day, "come into the publichouse and have a glass." He held back for a minute; he had never done it before, and he felt it was wrong. "Oh, come on! "cried his friend, laughing, and taking his arm. "You must not be too particular, you know." "Well," thought the lad to himself, "it's only once and only just a little." It was the same thing over again the next day. Then two or three times a day, and still it was only just once and only just a little. Down this wretched alley, with its miserable houses and its miserable people and its miserable children, see what looks like a heap of rags. And now he lifts the foul face of a drunkard, a face so bleared and blotted that you shrink back from it frightened. "Only just once, and only just a little" — this is what it has turned him into.

(M. G. Pearse.)

A little wheel in a vast machine may, if neglected, throw the results of that machine into destructive confusion. A little miscalculation in some process of high mathematical thought may issue in an enormous and damaging mistake. A little spark may fire a prairie; a little leak may sink a ship; a little seed may hold a future forest growth of good or evil. A dislodged stone in your pathway may seem to you to be a thing too trivial for notice, yet it may draw down the notice of an angel. That stone may cause a fall, the fall a fracture, and the fracture death; therefore it is written, "He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Some slight unchronicled incident in your experience may colour your life for eternity. Some noteless action may be the germ of a power that shall spread through all the earth, and fill all hell with heightened sorrow, or all heaven with praise.

(C. Stanford, D. D.)

The mother of mischief may be no bigger than a gnat's wing.

A child playing with a box of matches caused the destruction of two hundred and thirty-two houses in the Hungarian village of Nemedi, reducing the whole population to bankruptcy.

The tongue is a fire.
St. James goes on to say that the tongue "setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell." The word "course" is, in the original, wheel or circle of nature, and may mean the generations of men succeeding each other with the rapidity of the revolutions of a wheel; or the course of a man's life; or the circle of human affairs. Each of these ideas might have been in the mind of the apostle, because the tongue does set on fire a whole generation of men; does ignite the whole course of a man's life; and does make the circle of social life to blaze under its fiery appliances. But St. James goes on to say of this tongue, which is itself a fire, that "it is set on fire of hell." The idea is that the tongue derives all its power to do harm from the evil influences which have their origin in hell. St. James illustrates still further the power of the tongue by comparing it with ferocious beasts and other animals, and pronouncing it more ferocious and untamable than anything on earth. You can sooner make the condor of the Andes perch upon your wrist; you can sooner make leviathan sport with you in the cresting surf; you can sooner make the boa-constrictor coil harmlessly around your neck; you can sooner make the lion so gentle that a little child can lead him, than tame the tongue; for "the tongue," he says, "can no man tame." What a strong declaration this is concerning the power of the tongue! Well may he say" it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." If we look into other portions of the Bible we shall find further metaphors to indicate the power of the tongue. Job calls it "a scourge or a whip" whose every blow inflicts severe wounds on the character and leaves its purple welts on the lacerated peace and reputation. Daniel styles the tongue "a sharp sword," a murderous weapon, which hews down those upon whom it falls, and drips with the gore of slaughtered innocence or virtue. Jeremiah says of the tongue, it "is an arrow, shot out." A pointed arrow shot by wicked archers, against those whom they wish to pierce through with anguish, and yet themselves keep at a distance from the one whose good name they aim to destroy. St. Paul, speaking of the lips through which the tongue speaks, says "the poison of asps is under their lips"; and St. James says it is full of deadly poison. Such being the general outlines of the character of an evil tongue, let us now descend to some particular sins of the tongue, because only as we expose those sins can their vileness and influence be made apparent.

1. The first tongue-sin which I will name is that of tattling; by this I mean a thoughtless, trifling, heedless talking. There is a process in chemistry by which you can arrest the invisible gas, and weigh it, and separate it into its constituent elements; and were there moral re-agents by which we could arrest the gaseous tattle of these busybodies, and resolve it into its elements, its constituent parts would be folly, slander, falsehood, flattery, and boastfulness.

2. The second tongue-sin is slander. Under this head I enumerate backbiting, or speaking evil of one behind his back; defaming one's good name by absolute or implied censure; detraction, envious jealousies, secret whisperings, and innuendoes, and all other ways by which the tongue wounds and injures the name and reputation of another. The devil, then, is, as Christ says, "the father of lies"; and every one who gives his tongue to slander, and maligns his neighbours, or utters words of falsehood or detraction, comes into the class of those false accusers, those Diaboloi of which Jesus truly said, "Ye are of your father the devil." The grossest kind of slander is bearing false witness: that is, saying a person did things which he did not do. This false witness is sometimes spoken openly, sometimes in secret, but always with malicious intent; and in every instance the tongue which utters it, not only setteth on fire the course of nature, but is set on fire of hell. Another way of slandering is to impute false motives to good actions. When we say of a liberal man that he is vainglorious; of an active man in Church affairs, that he is a Diotrephes; of a prudent man, that he is miserly; of a devout man, that he is hypocritical. Another way is to distort views, words, and actions; giving them a false construction; suppressing what might appear good; magnifying what might seem to be evil. This is taking a man's words and deeds, and, like Romish inquisitors, stretching them upon the rack until they become disjointed, and the once symmetrical form is all distorted and awry by reason of the unjust treatment to which slander subjects it. Another way is by insinuations, sly suggestions, expressions of doubt, intimations as to something concealed, a qualifying of the praise of others by some question implying distrust, or lack of confidence.

3. The third tongue-sin which St. James mentions is the fretful, scolding tongue. There are those who are always complaining. Even if blessings come, they murmur because they are no greater, and are ready to find fault, not only with all the dealings of their fellow-men, but with all the providences of God.

4. Falsehood is another grievous tongue-sin; and in this I would include all kinds of lying. The lie positive, and the lie negative; the lie direct, and the lie by implication; the lie malignant, and the lie sportive; every designed departure from truth is falsehood; and every falsehood is a sin against one's own soul, a sin against your fellow-men, and a sin against God, which He will punish with fearful severity.

5. The tongue commits a great sin when it is used in filthy talking and indecent speech. It .is greatly to be lamented that even in polite, and what would pass for modest, society there is too much of tampering with this sin.

6. Another tongue-sin is boasting. "The tongue is a little member, but boasteth great things." Boasting results from an overestimate of ourselves, and an underestimate of others. It is selfishness manifesting itself in words. It is the inflated mind, venting itself in windy words. It betrays weakness, littleness, ignorance, vanity, self-conceit, arrogance, presumption.

7. Another sin of the tongue is flattery, or the giving of undue and undeserved praise. The desire to say something that will please the person we are speaking to, or that will secure his favour, or elevate us in his regard; or the desire, perhaps, to have him reciprocate the compliment, and flatter us, is the usual motive for this sin of the tongue.

8. Lastly, there is the sin of profanity, the taking of God's name in vain. With what caution use an instrument of speech which has under it "the poison of asps"! With what assiduity should we seek to tame that most untamable of things, that it rends us not by its fierceness, and ravin not upon society by its brute-like goadings! Yet we cannot do this in our own strength or wisdom, and our prayer must be that of the Psalmist, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth. Keep the door of my lips." We must seek for Divine grace to aid us in subduing and controlling the tongue. We must seek to have hearts created anew in Christ Jesus; for if our hearts are right with God our speech will be also.

(Bp. Stevens.)

The keeping of the tongue is one of those duties that entitles a man to safety from evil times, and therefore must now be urged as a seasonable duty. The wisest monarch could hardly govern a great part of the world; how difficult then must it be to govern a world, and that a world of iniquity. The tongue is a world of iniquity, a heap of evils; as in the world many things are contained, so in the tongue. This world of iniquity is divided into two parts, undue silence, and sinful speaking. These are the higher and lower parts of this world, yet quickly may men travel from the one to the other.

I. UNDUE SILENCE, WHEN THE TONGUE RESTS IDLE, WHEN GOD CALLS IT TO WORK. Our tongues are our glory, and should not be involved in a dark cloud of silence when God calls them to shine forth.

1. Silence is unseasonable when sin rageth and roareth. Oar tongues testify that we are men, and they should show we are Christians and in a covenant with God, offensive and defensive. By this undue silence we are injurious to God, in that we do not vindicate His glory, bespattered with the sins of others. His glory, I say, Who hath given us a tongue as a banner to be displayed because of truth. This undue silence is also injurious to our neighbour. We see him pulling down the house about his ears, and yet we will not help him; selling his soul for a trifle, and yet we do not bid him rue his bargain. It is injurious likewise to ourselves, for thereby we adopt the devil's children brought forth by others, and set down their debts to our own account (Ephesians 5:7-11). This silence also leaves a sting in our conscience, which remains inactive in the hearts of some for a while; but when the opportunity of bearing testimony against sin is gone, it bites dreadfully the hearts of those whose consciences are not seared.

2. When an opportunity of edifying others inviteth us to speak. Oh, what iniquity is contracted by the neglect of heavenly discourse among professors! A dumb Christian is a very unprofitable servant. A philosopher, seeing a man with a fair face and a silent tongue, bade him speak that he might see him. When scholars or merchants meet, we know what they are by their discourse; and why should not Christians also discover themselves?(1) Dumb Christians are very unlike Christ, whose ordinary way it was to spiritualise all things, and turn the current of the discourse toward heaven.(2) Either there is no religion at all, or but very little, in that heart. Nearest the heart, nearest the mouth. If fire be upon the hearth, the smoke will come out at the chimney.(3) They are very useless sort of people; like the vine that is fruitless.

3. Silence is unseasonable when our wants are crying. These should make us cry to God, like that woman who cried to the king of Israel, saying, "Help, my Lord, O King."

II. SINFUL SPEAKING: WHEN THE TONGUE IS EXERCISED, BUT ILL EXERCISED; AND THIS IS A STRONG PIECE OF THIS WORLD OF INIQUITY. I may divide it again into two parts — one against our duty to God, the other against our duty to man.

1. Against our duty to God.(1) Rash swearing by the name of God.(2) A light, irreverent, and profane using of the name of God in common talk.(3) Cursing; whereby we wish some horrid ill to ourselves or neighbours; but, because it is a kind of profane prayer, I speak of it under this head.(4) Profaning of Scripture phrases, by jesting or scoffing on the Scriptures; or using them to express the conceptions of men's wanton wits, alluding to them in common talk, and the like.(5) Mocking of religion and seriousness.(6) Reasoning against religion, and defending sinful opinions and practices.(7) Murmuring and complaining. Proud hearts make us fret at the dispensations of providence (Jude 1:14-16).

2. Against our duty to man.(1) Idle speaking — that is, words spoken to no good purpose, tending neither to the glory of God, nor the good of ourselves or others, either in spiritual or temporal things. A gracious soul will beware of idle words, as of vain thoughts.(2) A trade of jesting. It is not unlawful to pass an innocent jest, to produce a moderate recreation. But if a jest be allowed to be sauce to our conversation, yet it is impious to make it the meat.(3) Lying. Pernicious; officious; the sporting lie; the rash lie, when men through inadvertency and customary looseness tell an untruth. This is so common that we may say truth hath fallen in the streets. Few so tender as to avoid making a lie. Consider God is a God of truth, and therefore it is most contrary to His nature, and the devil is the father of lies. It is a badge of the old man.(4) Uncharitable speaking of truth, to the wounding of the reputation of others. It is not enough that what ill we speak of others be true, but the speaking of it must bring a greater than the disadvantage the party gets by it.(5) Slandering or backbiting. Of this three sorts of persons are guilty.(a) He that raiseth a false report of his neighbour (Exodus 23:1). Here is a true son of the devil, with malice and lying in conjunction.(b) He who readily reports it, though he knows it to be false, as readily receives, though he is not sure it is true.(c) He that spreads it.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

1. The evil tongue is the silent tongue; it is wholly mute in matters of religion; it never speaks of God or of heaven, as if it cleaved to the roof of the mouth.

2. The evil tongue is the earthly tongue. Men talk of nothing but the world, as if all their hopes were here, and they looked for an earthly eternity.

3. The evil tongue is the hasty or angry tongue; they have no command of passions, but are carried away with them as a chariot with wild horses.

4. The evil tongue is the vain tongue, that vents itself in idle words: "under his tongue is vanity." A vain tongue shows a light heart; a good man's words are weighty and prudent: "the tongue of the just is as choice silver," but "the mouth of fools pours out foolishness."

5. The evil tongue is the censorious tongue: "who art thou that judgest another?" Were men's hearts more humble, their tongues would be more charitable.

6. The evil tongue is the slanderous tongue. A slanderer wounds another's fame, and no physician can heal these wounds. The sword doth not make so deep a wound as the tongue.

7. The evil tongue is the unclean tongue that vents itself in filthy and scurrilous words: "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth."

8. The evil tongue is the lying tongue: "lie not one to another." Nothing is more contrary to God than a lie; it shows much irreligion; lying is a sin that doth not go alone, it ushers in other sins. Absalom told his father a lie, that he was going to pay his vow at Hebron, and this lie was a preface to his treason.

9. The evil tongue is the flattering tongue, that will speak fair to one's face but will defame: "he that hateth, dissembleth with his lips." When he speaketh fair believe him not; dissembled love is worse than hatred.

10. The evil tongue is the tongue given to boasting: "the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things." There is a holy boasting: "In God we boast all the day," when we triumph in His power and mercy: but it is a sinful boasting when men display their trophies, boast of their own worth and eminency, that others may admire and cry them up; a man's self is his idol, and he loves to have this idol worshipped: "there arose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody."

11. The evil tongue is the swearing tongue. Some think it the grace of their speech; but if God will reckon with men for idle words, what will He do for sinful oaths?

12. The railing tongue is an evil tongue; this is a plague-sore breaking out at the tongue when we give opprobrious language.

13. The seducing tongue is an evil tongue. The tongue that by fine rhetoric decoys men to error: "by fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple." A fair tongue can put off bad wares; error is bad ware, which a seducing tongue can put off.

14. The evil tongue is the cruel tongue, that speaks to the wounding the hearts of others. Healing words are fittest for a broken heart: but that is a cruel, unmerciful tongue which speaks such words to the afflicted as to cut them to the heart: "they talk to the grief of those whom Thou hast wounded."

15. The evil tongue is the murmuring tongue: "these are murmurers." Murmuring is discontent breaking out at the lips; men quarrel with God, and tax His providence as if He had not dealt well with them. Why should any murmur or be discontented at their condition? Doth God owe them anything? Or can they deserve anything at His hands? Oh, how uncomely is it to murmur at Providence I

16. The evil tongue is the scoffing tongue.

17. The evil tongue is the unjust tongue: that will for a piece of money open its mouth in a bad cause.

(T. Watson.)

1. There is a resemblance between an evil tongue and fire.(1) For the heat of it. It is the instrument of wrath and contention, which is the heat of a man — a boiling of the blood about the heart (Proverbs 17:27).(2) For the danger of it. It kindleth a great burning. The tongue is a powerful means to kindle divisions and strifes. You know we had need look to fire. Where it prevaileth it soon turneth houses into a wilderness: and you have as much need to watch the tongue (Proverbs 26:18).(3) For the scorching. Reproaches penetrate like fire.(4) It is kindled from hell. When you feel this heat upon your spirit, remember from what hearth these coals were gathered.

2. There is a world of sin in the tongue. Some sins are formal and proper to this member, others flow from it. It acteth in some sins, as lying, railing, swearing, &c. It concurreth to others, by commanding, counselling, persuading, seducing, &c. It is made the pander to lust and sin. Oh! how vile are we if there be a world of sin in the tongue — in one member!

3. Sin is a defilement and a blot.

4. Tongue sins do much defile. They defile others. We communicate evil to others, either by carnal suggestions, or provoke them to evil by our passion. They defile ourselves. By speaking evil of them we contract guilt upon ourselves.

5. All evil tongue hath a great influence upon other members. When a man speaketh evil, he will commit it. When the tongue hath the boldness to talk of sin, the rest of the members have the boldness to act it (1 Corinthians 15:33).

6. The evils of the tongue are of a large and universal influence, diffuse themselves into all conditions and states of life. There is no faculty which the tongue doth not poison, from the understanding to the locomotive; it violently stirreth up the will and affections, maketh the hands and the feet "swift to shed blood" (Romans 3:14, 15). There is no action which it doth not reach; not only those of ordinary conversation, by lying, swearing, censuring, etc., but holy duties, as prayer, and those direct and higher addresses to God, by foolish babbling and carnal requests; we would have God revenge our private quarrel. There is no age exempted; it is not only found in young men that are of eager and fervorous spirits, but in those whom age and experience hath more matured and ripened. Other sins decay with age, this many times increaseth; and we grow more forward and pettish as natural strength decayeth, and "the days come on in which is no pleasure."

7. A wicked tongue is of an infernal origin. Calumnies and reproaches are a fire blown up by the breath of hell. The devil hath been "a liar from the beginning" (John 8:44), and an accuser of the brethren, and he loveth to make others like himself. Learn, then, to abhor revilings, contentions, and reproaches, as you would hell flames; these are but the eruptions of an infernal fire; slanderers are the devil's slaves and instruments. Again, if blasted with contumely, learn to slight it; who would care for the suggestions of the father of lies? The murderer is a liar. In short, that which cometh from hell will go thither again (Matthew 5:22).

(T. Manton.)

Some time ago I saw a terrible fire, or rather the reflection of it in the sky; the heavens were crimsoned with it. It burned a large manufactory to the ground, and the firemen had hard work to save the buildings which surrounded it. They poured streams of water on it from fifteen engines, but it licked it up, and would have its course till the walls gave way. That terrible fire was kindled by farthing rushlight! Some years ago I saw the black ashes of what the night before was a cheerful farmyard, with its hay-ricks, corn.stacks, stables, and cow-sheds; and lying about upon them were the carcases of a number of miserable horses and bullocks which had perished in the flames. All that was done by a lucifer-match! In America the Indians strike a spark from a flint and steel, and set fire to the dry grass, and the flames spread and spread until they sweep like a roaring torrent over prairies as large as England, and men and cattle have to flee for their lives. "And the tongue is a fire." A few rash words will set a family, a neighbourhood, a nation, by the ears; they have often done so. Half the law-suits and half the wars have been brought about by the tongue.

(James Bolton.)

Give not thy tongue too great a liberty, lest it take thee prisoner. A word unspoken is, like the sword in the scabbard, thine; if vented, thy sword is in another's hand. If thou desire to be held wise, be so wise as to hold thy tongue.


A world of iniquity.
It is a world of wickedness, because most mischiefs and greatest sins among men by unbridled and wicked tongues are attempted and performed. By the tongue thieves confer together and determine of robberies; murderers by their tongues raise up brawlings, the causes of cruel murder. By their tongues adulterous and treacherous persons first tempt the chastity of others, and with their words agree upon the wickedness. By the tongue lying, dissembling, flattery, and counterfeiting is committed. By the tongue slander, backbiting, swearing, blasphemy, and perjury is uttered. By the tongue false sentence is pronounced, either to the condemning of the righteous or absolving of the wicked, both which are abominable before the Lord. By the tongue men are led into error through false doctrine, drawn to wickedness by lewd counsel. Through the tongue, by false reports, private men and princes, kingdoms and countries, towns and cities, societies and families, are set at variance. By the tongue familiars and friends have been set at daggers drawn, and their quarrels thereby have ended in blood. By the tongue quarrels are picked, contentions caused, brawlings grow, to the great hurt of private estates, and the marvellous hurt and disturbance of public weals; with filthiness of speech it corrupteth, with dissembling and flattery it deceiveth, with lying and cogging it beguileth, with false reports it slayeth, with slanders it defameth, with vain swearing it blasphemeth, with enticing it inveigleth, with smoothness of talk it enforceth, yea, almost every wickedness among the children of men is either determined, attempted, executed, or finished by the tongue. Insomuch that Sirach, having great experience thereof, falleth into a large discourse of those evils which come of the wicked tongue, as that it hath destroyed many which were at peace, that it hath disquieted many and driven them from nation to nation, that it hath broken down strong cities and overthrown the houses of great men, abated the strength of the people, and been the decay of mighty nations; that it hath cast down many virtuous women and robbed. them of their labours, that it causeth that such as hearken unto it shall never rest and live quietly, that it striketh deeper than any rod, and devoureth more than the sword of the enemy, and such like.

(R. Turnbull.)

A new-found world, Not a city or country only, but "a world of iniquity"; a sink, a sea of sin, wherein there is not only that leviathan, but creeping things innumerable (Psalm 104:26).

(J. Trapp.)

Leaving a stain upon the speaker, and setting a stain upon the hearer, even the guilt and filth of sin.

(J. Trapp.)

The tongue is a centre from which mischief radiates; that is the main thought. A wheel that has caught fire at the axle is at last wholly consumed as the fire spreads through the spokes to the circumference. So also in society. Passions kindled by unscrupulous language spread through various channels and classes, till the whole cycle of human life is in flames. Reckless language first of all "defiles the whole" nature of the man who employs it, and then works destruction far and wide through the vast machinery of society. And to this there are no limits; so long as there is material the fire will continue to burn.

(A. Plummer, D. D.)

Bet on fire of hell.
The tongue is a fire, but how is it ignited? Whence come the sparks which make it blaze so fiercely and fatally? The answer is here plainly given. It is hell-lighted. The devil perverted man's powers at first; and he still inflames the corruption which he was the means of introducing into our nature. He applies the torch to the combustible materials which are stored up in every part of our mental and physical constitution. He is still the great tempter and destroyer. He is an actual and an active being. His prison-house, the pit of hell, is a terrible reality. Men may doubt or deny its existence — they may regard it as a mere bugbear, but that only proves how effectually Satan can yet blindfold, mislead, hoodwink, as he did at the beginning — "Thou shalt not surely die." It is the region of devouring flames, of unquenchable fire; and to it we are ultimately to trace those baleful conflagrations which the tongue is the instrument of kindling. It is here identified with the devil and his angels, for whom it has been provided, and who send forth from it all evil and destructive influences.

(John Adam.)

The devil keeps an arsenal in every man's breast, which he fills with supplies in advance of a siege, just in the same way that a great general places his stores in a country he means to invade before he marches into it his entire army. Satan is more artful, as well as more potent, for he gets inside of a citadel that he means to besiege, and lays there a train which in the moment of assault he hopes to ignite. The powder which he thus trusts to touch is passion, for he knows that if that once explodes, the whole edifice must go. Take the temptation of anger. Suppose an irritating circumstance occurs: it is silence alone that can preserve the heart from an explosion. If a single word is uttered, it is apt, like the making of a pinhole in a steam boiler, to cause the whole fabric to burst. Talk, to use the word in its popular sense, is extremely impolitic in temptation. There is a majestic power in silence, particularly when it is silence of that kind which stands as a suppliant before the throne of grace.

Baxendale's Anecdotes.
Of Dr. Annesley it is recorded that, taking coffee one evening at an hotel, he heard one of two gentlemen in the next compartment swearing violently in conversation with the other, upon which he rang for the waiter and ordered a glass of water. When brought to him he said, "Take it to the gentleman in the next box." The gentleman was surprised, and said he had ordered no such thing. "I thought," said the venerable doctor, gravely, "to cool your tongue after the fiery language you have been uttering."

(Baxendale's Anecdotes.)

Just before crossing the Hackensack River, on the New York and Erie Railroad, I noticed by the roadside a large sign bearing, in very boldly painted letters, the words," Shut your ash-pan." I wondered what the singular and impertinent counsel meant, when in a moment I found the train on a long levy wooden bridge. I at once saw the force and propriety of the signboard suggestion. Burning coals dropping from the open ash-pan of the locomotive might destroy the bridge, interrupt travel, imperil life, and cause numberless embarrassments in a financial way. So it is very important that the faithful engineer heed the sigfiboard, "Shut your ash-pan." I saw in the admonition a reminder of the words of James, "The tongue is a fire."

The functions of a wheel, set on fire by the internal friction of its own axis, are deranged; and so the organisation of human society is disturbed and destroyed by the intestine fire of the human tongue — a fire which diffuses itself from the centre, and radiates forth to the circumference by all the spokes of slander and detraction, and involves the social framework in combustion and conflagration.

(J. T. Mombert, D. D.)

Let him who has one member belonging to hell take care lest he do not altogether belong to it. He is like a bird whose foot the fowler has bound with a thread: he can fly about apparently free, but still he is in the fowler's power; and if he does not break the thread while it is yet time, the fowler draws him to himself by means of it, and at the fitting moment catches him and kills him.

(J. H. A. Ebrard, D. D.)

Ablaze, Aflame, Behold, Boast, Boasteth, Boastful, Boasts, Body, Consider, Credit, Fire, Flames, Forest, Greatly, Immensely, Insignificant, Kindle, Kindled, Kindles, Kindleth, Large, Lighted, Makes, Matter, Member, Mere, Remember, Spark, Spread, Takes, Thus, Tongue, Vast, Wood, Yet
1. We are not rashly or arrogantly to reprove others;
5. but rather to bridle the tongue, a little member,
9. but a powerful instrument of much good, and great harm.
13. The truly wise are mild and peaceable, without envy and strife.

Dictionary of Bible Themes
James 3:5

     4448   forests
     5793   arrogance
     5813   conceit
     5961   superiority

James 3:1-12

     5547   speech, power of
     8339   self-control

James 3:2-12

     5934   restraint
     8476   self-discipline

James 3:3-6

     5193   tongue

James 3:3-8

     5330   guard

James 3:3-12

     5193   tongue

James 3:4-5

     4847   smallness
     5517   seafaring

James 3:5-6

     5345   influence
     6130   corruption

James 3:5-8

     5922   prudence
     8493   watchfulness, believers

January the Twenty-Sixth the Fire of Envy
"Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work!" --JAMES iii. 13-18. In Milton's "Comus" we read of a certain potion which has the power to pervert all the senses of everyone who drinks it. Nothing is apprehended truly. Sight and hearing and taste are all disordered, and the victim is all unconscious of the confusion. The deadly draught is the minister of deceptive chaos. And envy is like that potion when it is drunk by the spirit. It perverts every moral and spiritual sense.
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

The Tongue.
Preached April 28, 1850. THE TONGUE. "Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell."--St. James iii. 5-6. In the development of Christian Truth a peculiar office was assigned to the Apostle James. It was given to St. Paul to proclaim Christianity
Frederick W. Robertson—Sermons Preached at Brighton

How to Make Use of Christ for Taking the Guilt of Our Daily Out-Breakings Away.
The next part of our sanctification is in reference to our daily failings and transgressions, committed partly through the violence of temptations, as we see in David and Peter, and other eminent men of God; partly through daily infirmities, because of our weakness and imperfections; for, "in many things we offend all," James iii. 2; and, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," 1 John i. 8; "a righteous man falleth seven times," Prov. xxiv. 16; "there is not
John Brown (of Wamphray)—Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life

Whether Wisdom Should be Reckoned among the Gifts of the Holy Ghost?
Objection 1: It would seem that wisdom ought not to be reckoned among the gifts of the Holy Ghost. For the gifts are more perfect than the virtues, as stated above ([2705]FS, Q[68], A[8]). Now virtue is directed to the good alone, wherefore Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. ii, 19) that "no man makes bad use of the virtues." Much more therefore are the gifts of the Holy Ghost directed to the good alone. But wisdom is directed to evil also, for it is written (James 3:15) that a certain wisdom is "earthly,
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Prudence of the Flesh is a Sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that prudence of the flesh is not a sin. For prudence is more excellent than the other moral virtues, since it governs them all. But no justice or temperance is sinful. Neither therefore is any prudence a sin. Objection 2: Further, it is not a sin to act prudently for an end which it is lawful to love. But it is lawful to love the flesh, "for no man ever hated his own flesh" (Eph. 5:29). Therefore prudence of the flesh is not a sin. Objection 3: Further, just as man is
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Inconstancy is a vice Contained under Prudence?
Objection 1: It would seem that inconstancy is not a vice contained under imprudence. For inconstancy consists seemingly in a lack of perseverance in matters of difficulty. But perseverance in difficult matters belongs to fortitude. Therefore inconstancy is opposed to fortitude rather than to prudence. Objection 2: Further, it is written (James 3:16): "Where jealousy [Douay: 'envy'] and contention are, there are inconstancy and every evil work." But jealousy pertains to envy. Therefore inconstancy
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Wisdom is in all who have Grace?
Objection 1: It would seem that wisdom is not in all who have grace. For it is more to have wisdom than to hear wisdom. Now it is only for the perfect to hear wisdom, according to 1 Cor. 2:6: "We speak wisdom among the perfect." Since then not all who have grace are perfect, it seems that much less all who have grace have wisdom. Objection 2: Further, "The wise man sets things in order," as the Philosopher states (Metaph. i, 2): and it is written (James 3:17) that the wise man "judges without dissimulation
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether the Seventh Beatitude Corresponds to the Gift of Wisdom?
Objection 1: It seems that the seventh beatitude does not correspond to the gift of wisdom. For the seventh beatitude is: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Now both these things belong to charity: since of peace it is written (Ps. 118:165): "Much peace have they that love Thy law," and, as the Apostle says (Rom. 5:5), "the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Ghost Who is given to us," and Who is "the Spirit of adoption of sons, whereby
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Backbiting is a Mortal Sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that backbiting is not a mortal sin. For no act of virtue is a mortal sin. Now, to reveal an unknown sin, which pertains to backbiting, as stated above (A[1], ad 3), is an act of the virtue of charity, whereby a man denounces his brother's sin in order that he may amend: or else it is an act of justice, whereby a man accuses his brother. Therefore backbiting is not a mortal sin. Objection 2: Further, a gloss on Prov. 24:21, "Have nothing to do with detractors," says: "The
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Fasting is a Matter of Precept?
Objection 1: It would seem that fasting is not a matter of precept. For precepts are not given about works of supererogation which are a matter of counsel. Now fasting is a work of supererogation: else it would have to be equally observed at all places and times. Therefore fasting is not a matter of precept. Objection 2: Further, whoever infringes a precept commits a mortal sin. Therefore if fasting were a matter of precept, all who do not fast would sin mortally, and a widespreading snare would
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether any one Can be Perfect in this Life?
Objection 1: It would seem that none can be perfect in this life. For the Apostle says (1 Cor. 13:10): "When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away." Now in this life that which is in part is not done away; for in this life faith and hope, which are in part, remain. Therefore none can be perfect in this life. Objection 2: Further, "The perfect is that which lacks nothing" (Phys. iii, 6). Now there is no one in this life who lacks nothing; for it is written (James
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether Our Atmosphere is the Demons' Place of Punishment?
Objection 1: It would seem that this atmosphere is not the demons' place of punishment. For a demon is a spiritual nature. But a spiritual nature is not affected by place. Therefore there is no place of punishment for demons. Objection 2: Further, man's sin is not graver than the demons'. But man's place of punishment is hell. Much more, therefore, is it the demons' place of punishment; and consequently not the darksome atmosphere. Objection 3: Further, the demons are punished with the pain of fire.
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether a Religious Sins More Grievously than a Secular by the Same Kind of Sin?
Objection 1: It would seem that a religious does not sin more grievously than a secular by the same kind of sin. For it is written (2 Paralip 30:18,19): "The Lord Who is good will show mercy to all them who with their whole heart seek the Lord the God of their fathers, and will not impute it to them that they are not sanctified." Now religious apparently follow the Lord the God of their fathers with their whole heart rather than seculars, who partly give themselves and their possessions to God and
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Whether the Separated Soul Can Suffer from a Bodily Fire?
Objection 1: It would seem that the separated soul cannot suffer from a bodily fire. For Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii): "The things that affect the soul well or ill after its separation from the body, are not corporeal but resemble corporeal things." Therefore the separated soul is not punished with a bodily fire. Objection 2: Further, Augustine (Gen. ad lit. xii) says that "the agent is always more excellent than the patient." But it is impossible for any body to be more excellent than the separated
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

The Doctrine of Man
Rev. William Evans—The Great Doctrines of the Bible

Man's Inability to Keep the Moral Law
Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God? No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but does daily break them, in thought, word, and deed. In many things we offend all.' James 3: 2. Man in his primitive state of innocence, was endowed with ability to keep the whole moral law. He had rectitude of mind, sanctity of will, and perfection of power. He had the copy of God's law written on his heart; no sooner did God command but he obeyed.
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Of the Weight of Government; and that all Manner of Adversity is to be Despised, and Prosperity Feared.
So much, then, have we briefly said, to shew how great is the weight of government, lest whosoever is unequal to sacred offices of government should dare to profane them, and through lust of pre-eminence undertake a leadership of perdition. For hence it is that James affectionately deters us, saying, Be not made many masters, my brethren (James iii. 1). Hence the Mediator between God and man Himself--He who, transcending the knowledge and understanding even of supernal spirits, reigns in heaven
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

"If we Confess Our Sins, He is Faithful and Just to Forgive us Our Sins, and to Cleanse us from all Unrighteousness. If we Say We
1 John i. 9, 10.--"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar," &c. And who will not confess their sin, say you? Who doth not confess sins daily, and, therefore, who is not forgiven and pardoned? But stay, and consider the matter again. Take not this upon your first light apprehensions, which in religion are commonly empty, vain, and superficial, but search the scriptures, and
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

Whether it is Lawful to Swear?
Objection 1: It would seem that it is not lawful to swear. Nothing forbidden in the Divine Law is lawful. Now swearing is forbidden (Mat. 5:34), "But I say to you not to swear at all"; and (James 5:12), "Above all things, my brethren, swear not." Therefore swearing is unlawful. Objection 2: Further, whatever comes from an evil seems to be unlawful, because according to Mat. 7:18, "neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit." Now swearing comes from an evil, for it is written (Mat. 5:37): "But
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica

Attributes of Selfishness.
Formerly we considered the attributes of benevolence, and also what states of the sensibility and of the intellect, and also what outward actions, were implied in it, as necessarily resulting from it. We are now to take the same course with selfishness: and-- 1. Voluntariness is an attribute of selfishness. Selfishness has often been confounded with mere desire. But these things are by no means identical. Desire is constitutional. It is a phenomenon of the sensibility. It is a purely involuntary
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

Unity of Moral Action.
CAN OBEDIENCE TO MORAL LAW BE PARTIAL? 1. What constitutes obedience to moral law? We have seen in former lectures, that disinterested benevolence is all that the spirit of moral law requires; that is, that the love which it requires to God and our neighbor is good-willing, willing the highest good or well-being of God, and of being in general, as an end, or for its own sake; that this willing is a consecration of all the powers, so far as they are under the control of the will, to this end. Entire
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

Concerning Peaceableness
Blessed are the peacemakers. Matthew 5:9 This is the seventh step of the golden ladder which leads to blessedness. The name of peace is sweet, and the work of peace is a blessed work. Blessed are the peacemakers'. Observe the connection. The Scripture links these two together, pureness of heart and peaceableness of spirit. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable' (James 3:17). Follow peace and holiness' (Hebrews 12:14). And here Christ joins them together pure in heart, and peacemakers',
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

The Tribute Money
"And they send unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, that they might catch Him in talk. And when they were come, they say unto Him, Master, we know that Thou art true, and carest not for any one: for Thou regardest not the person of men, but of a truth teachest the way of God: Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye Me? bring Me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought
G. A. Chadwick—The Gospel of St. Mark

The Third Commandment
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.' Exod 20: 7. This commandment has two parts: 1. A negative expressed, that we must not take God's name in vain; that is, cast any reflections and dishonour on his name. 2. An affirmative implied. That we should take care to reverence and honour his name. Of this latter I shall speak more fully, under the first petition in the Lord's Prayer, Hallowed be thy name.' I shall
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

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