A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
I. THE APT WORD. Compared to "golden apples in silver frames." Carved work adorning the ceilings of rooms is perhaps alluded to. The beauty of the groined sets off the worth of the object. Just so the good word is set off by the seasonableness of the moment of its utterance (1 Peter 4:11). The apt word is "a word upon wheels, not lotted or dragged, but rolling smoothly along like chariot wheels." Our Lord's discourses (e.g. on the bread and water of life) sprang naturally out of the course of passing conversation (John 4.; Luke 14.). So with Patti's famous discourse on Mars' Hill (Acts 17).
II. WISE CENSURE IN THE WILLING EAR IS COMPARED TO A GOLDEN EARRING. (Ver. 12.) For if all wisdom is precious as pure gold, and beautiful as ornaments m that material, to receive and wear with meekness in the memory and heart such counsels is better than any other decoration. "The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness or derogation to their sufficiency to rely upon counsel. God himself is not without, but hath made it one of the great names of his blessed Son, 'The Counsellor'" (Bacon). He who willingly gives heed to wise chastisement does a better service to his ears than if he adorned them with the finest gold and with genuine pearls.
III. A FAITHFUL MESSENGER IS COMPARED TO COOLING SNOW. (Ver. 13.) In the heat of harvest labour a draught of melted snow from Lebanon is like a "winter in summer" (Xen.,' Mem.,' 2:1, 30). A traveller says, "Snow so cold is brought down from Mount Lebanon that, mixed with wine, it renders ice itself cold." So refreshing is faithfulness in service. The true servant is not to be paid with gold.
IV. IDLE PRETENSIONS COMPARED TO CLOUDS AND WIND WITHOUT RAIN. (Ver. 14.) Promise without performance. Let men be what they would seem to be. "What has he done? is the Divine question which searches men and transpierces every false reputation.... Pretension may sit still, but cannot act. Pretension never feigned an act of real greatness. Pretension never wrote an 'Iliad,' nor drove back Xerxes, nor Christianized the world, nor abolished slavery."
V. THE POWER OF PATIENCE. (Ver. 15.) Time and patience are persuasive; a proverb compares them to an inaudible file. Here patience is viewed as a noiseless hammer, silently crushing resistance. "He who would break through a wall with his hand," says an old commentator, "will hardly succeed!" But how do gentleness and mildness win their way! "I Paul beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1). - J.
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.
1. This is the first lesson of the orange-tree — that a happy, a fair and noble utterance of a wise thought gives it a new charm, a new and victorious energy. Distinction of style is almost as potent — if indeed it is not even more potent — on the life and fame of a book as depth or originality of thought.
2. All force becomes most forcible when it is smoothly and easily exerted. It is not effort, strain, violence which tell in action any more than in language, but gentleness, calmness, a gracious mastery and smiling ease. The wiser you are the less passionate, the less vehement, the less overbearing you will be. Great forces are calm and gentle because they are irresistible. Calmness, composure, gentleness are signs of strength.
3. Religion is most potent when it is clothed with grace. A genial and friendly godliness is like the ruddy fruit of the orange-tree encircled and set off by its wealth of white, odorous blooms. There was much that was admirable in the Puritan conception of religion; but though its heart was sound its face wore a frown. And in many of us religion still wears a sour and forbidding face. Some there are who still suspect beauty, culture, scholarship, mirth, and even devotion to God and man, if it take any form other than that which they approve and prefer. Such people do not render religion attractive. Let us learn the lesson of the orange-tree, and the greatest lesson of all — the lesson of charity.
(Samuel Cox, D.D.)
(Hugh Macmillan, D.D.)
I. Words fitly spoken must be words fitted TO EXHIBIT THE TRUTH TO THE BEST ADVANTAGE. They must be to the truth what the basket was to the apples of gold — an instrument for showing them off to the best advantage. There are words that hide the truth; they are so profuse and luxuriant that they bury the priceless flower in their wilderness. There are words that disgrace the truth; they are ill-chosen, mean, suggestive of low and degrading associations.
II. Words fitly spoken must be words ADAPTED TO THE MENTAL MOOD OF THE HEARER.
1. Different men have different mental moods. Some are naturally sombre, imaginative, and practical; others are gay, poetic, and speculative. Words fitly spoken must be adapted to each particular mood: the form in which truth would suit one mood would be inapt to another.
2. The same man has different moods at different times. Circumstances modify the condition of the soul. Hence "a word fitly spoken" must be a word presenting truth adapted to the soul in its existing mood. It must be a word in due season.
III. Words fitly spoken should be words SPOKEN IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT.
IV. NATURALLY-FLOWING WORDS. "Spoken upon his wheels." Not forced or dragged words. Let us all endeavour to use the right words in the family, in the market, in the schools, in the debate, in the pulpit, on the platform, and in the press.
(D. Thomas, D.D.)
1. Words of comfort. We have no distance to go to find a human life that needs a consoling word. On the next foot of land to yours stands a man who craves for comfort. There are times in life when the word of instruction would be an injury and the elaborated argument a great hurt, as neither would minister to the mind diseased; but simple, earnest, heartfelt words, born of sympathy, are veritable "apples of gold."
2. Words of counsel. These are not always welcome. Our independent spirit will not permit us to invite or accept them. Yet many a man traces the turning-point of his career to the time when he acted on some word of good counsel. The word of experience is often the word wanted.
3. Words of encouragement. The world will never know what it owes to those people who have encouraged others. To encourage a man is to help him to turn some of the possibilities within him into actual achievements. Let us give God thanks for all those winsome servants of His who walk their appointed ways across His world, speaking as they go the encouraging word.
(Albert J. Shorthouse.)
From, Life of Dr. JeterA certain Baptist merchant of Richmond became seriously embarrassed in his business. The report went out that he had failed, and caused much painful surprise. A few days after the suspension of his business Dr. Jeter, in passing down the aisle of the church one Sunday morning, met him. He grasped him by the hand with unwonted warmth, and said, " How are you, brother? I have heard fine news about you." Just about that time the sad brother was feeling that all the news concerning him was of the worst sort. With mingled surprise and curiosity he asked the doctor what he had heard. "Why, I heard that you had failed in business, and failed honestly. It is nothing to lose your money if you have been able to retain your integrity." The kind word went far to reconcile the brother to his misfortunes. He did "fail honestly," and not long after started again, and rose to high prosperity.
(From "Life of Dr. Jeter.")
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