Psalm 141:3

How needed is a sentinel and guard at the door! For lack of it, what mischief has been wrought! Who can recount all the ills of unguarded speech?


1. Impulsive temperament. Like as a stroke from the whip, which would only make the common cart-horse slowly shake his head, but would send the thorough-bred flying over the hedge in a very tornado of rage, so there are men who are never roused to hasty speech, they never get into trouble that way; whilst others, quick-witted, agile-minded, swift to see what can be said on any given subject, - they are apt to think that all that can be said must be said, and with sad unwisdom they haste to say it. These are the "good talkers;" unhappy ones, they should rather be called.

2. Vanity. A liking to show off, coupled with the consciousness that they can do so if they choose.

3. Want of self-control. There are times when even cautious, well-balanced men are driven out of their wonted self-restraint, so great is the provocation they have received; but there are others who never seem to put any check upon themselves, but yield to every impulse and follow at once every prompting of their uncontrolled thoughts; they need no great provocation, but will pour out their multitude of words on any and every occasion, whether wise or otherwise.

4. Evil temper and mere thoughtlessness are other causes of much of the unguarded and hasty speech with which the world is afflicted; and so is:

5. The lack of real religion, of the fear of God, and of the sense of the seriousness of life and conduct.


1. To the speaker himself.

(1) "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin." The man who lets his tongue run on unrestrained is sure to say something that will bring guilt on his soul and burden on his conscience.

(2) Weakening of the character and will. The invaluable blessing of strength of will is only won by diligent self-restraint and watchful self-recollection; but it is sapped and wasted by unguarded and multitudinous speech.

(3) Loss of reputation. Men reckon one another up, and a man of many words never wins their confidence; they almost instinctively distrust him. Thus the man may do himself real harm, and lessen his influence, and misrepresent his own character.

(4) Such loose unrestrained talk rarely bears reflection; it is generally followed by much regret and sadness and repentance.

2. To the hearer of such unguarded speech. Great harm may be done. "You drop, in the thoughtlessness of conversation, or for the sake of argument or wit, some irreligious, skeptical expression; it lodges in the memory of a child or a servant; it takes root in a soil favorable to such seed; it gradually springs up and brings forth fruit in disregard of religious duty, neglect of the means of grace, and the various steps of a downward course, the end of which no one can tell. This is all too common a case. But there is a Being who knows where it began." We little know what great things from little ones may rise. And how often, in loose unrestrained speech, we inflict cruel and needless pain I We did not think to do harm, but it is done all the same. And what an ill example we set to those who hear us; and one so apt to be followed!

3. And to those spoken of. They are likely to be misrepresented. From careless good nature we may commend some who, if we do not censure and warn against them, we, at least, should be silent concerning them. Or, on the other hand, and a more likely case, those of whom we speak so carelessly are likely to be injured, and perhaps seriously, and a false impression given of them, which they by no means deserve. How repeatedly the Scriptures give warning on this subject (see Proverbs 18:21; Proverbs 15:2, 7; Matthew 13:36, 37; James 1:26, etc.)!


1. Prayer. The text is a prayer. It will be God's special grace that alone can conquer this too common sin.

2. Cultivate the habit of thoughtfulness and self-recollection. Lift up your heart to God for his aid in this matter, when you go into company where temptation to this sin is likely to beset you.

3. Vows of silence for given periods. These will tend to strengthen the habit of self-control.

4. Seek and cherish love to your fellow-men - to do to them as you would they should do to you.

5. And because as the tree is so will be its fruits, therefore seek the grace of God, that you yourself may be possessed and sanctified and kept of the Holy Spirit. Then shall ways and works and words be alike good. - S.C.

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
: —

I. FOOLISH TALKING (Ephesians 5:4).

1. Some persons are so indisposed to sobriety of thought, and have so long accustomed themselves to regard seriousness as bordering upon stupidity or gloom, that the gravest concerns lose in their conversation every symptom of importance. The wisest reflections are encountered with unmeaning laughter; and conclusions of the highest moment are repelled by a paltry effort at a jest.

2. Of another class, more numerous, and, if it be possible, equally thoughtless, the conversation is altogether and uniformly idle. Day after day, at home and abroad, you hear nothing drop from their lips which manifests a cultivated mind, or a desire of mental improvement. Everything is trifling.


1. Of this description is hasty and peevish language in common life. Thus domestic comfort is perpetually invaded by little uneasinesses, little bickerings, little disagreements; and at length perhaps falls a sacrifice to the multiplication of inconsiderable wounds. Is this to be kindly affectioned, tender. hearted one towards another? Is this to walk in love? Is this to imitate the gentleness of Christ?

2. But some men advance to bolder manifestations of impatience and discontent. Not only is their fretfulness querulous, vehement, and acrimonious in domestic and in social life; but, after tormenting man, it shrinks not from insulting God. They repine at His dispensations: they murmur against His providence. Having received so much is this your gratitude, to be indignant that you have not obtained more? Does not He who knows all things discern whether it is better that you should enjoy a greater or a less portion of His gifts?

III. THOSE WHICH MAY BE REGARDED AS THE OFFSPRING OF CONTENTION. "Be ye angry, and sin not" If anger in its lowest degree overtake you, beware of transgression. Sin after sin is the usual consequence of anger; and among the first sins which arise from anger are sins of the tongue. The irritated mind unburdens itself in passionate language. When the heart glows with resentment, heat and vehemence of language betray the inward flame. The tongue of rage blazes fiercer and fiercer; and abstains from no injury towards man or towards God. Is this to be the disciple of the meek and holy Jesus? Is this to imitate Him who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, etc.? Wily does the Almighty permit provocations to assail thee, but to prove thee, to know what is in thine heart, whether thou wilt keep His commandments or no; whether thou wilt obey the headlong impulse of wrath; or strive through the grace of thy God, and for the sake of pleasing Him, to remain unmoved?

IV. THOSE SINS OF THE TONGUE WHICH OWE THEIR ORIGIN TO VANITY AND PRIDE. The boastful man speaketh of himself and seeketh his own glory. His heart is lifted up; his mouth uttereth proud things; he giveth not the honour unto God; he vaunteth himself against the Most High. Not unfrequently wickedness itself becomes his boast. He openly triumphs in the violence with which he has borne down an opponent. Solicitous in every circumstance of life to magnify himself, he speaks contemptuously and degradingly of others; and the more contemptuously and degradingly in proportion as he apprehends that they may be advantageously compared with him, or may stand in the way of his enterprises and projects.

V. CENSORIOUSNESS. Some persons are censorious through carelessness; some through selfishness; some through anger; some through malice; some through envy. According to the difference of the sources from which censoriousness springs, its guilt is more or less flagrant. But even when it arises from carelessness, deem it not a trifling sin. You are not careless concerning your own character, your own welfare. Are you not to love your neighbour as yourself?

VI. THOSE SINS OF THE LIPS WHICH ORIGINATE IN A BUSY AND MEDDLING SPIRIT; sins which, if not in themselves of a deeper hue than some which have already been mentioned, often prove more extensively destructive to the peace of society (Ecclesiastes 10:11; Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 18:18; Proverbs 26:20; Leviticus 19:16; 1 Peter 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:11).

VII. THOSE OFFENCES WHICH FALL UNDER THE GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF DECEIT. Of these the most prominent is open falsehood. The liar destroys the foundation of all confidence, whether in the public dealings of men one with another, or in the retirement of domestic life. The falsehood, however, of the lips frequently shows itself in the form of slander, which is but a more refined, and therefore more mischievous, mode of lying. What were the engines of sin by which ruin was brought upon mankind? An open falsehood and a disguised slander. As the imitators, the slaves, the children of the devil, all liars, whether they deal in open falsehood or in lurking slander, are objects of detestation to Almighty God (Proverbs 6:17; Proverbs 12:22; Revelation 21:8).

VIII. VIOLATIONS OF MODESTY (Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 5:3, 4). There is no sin which is more odious in its nature, more expressive of a depraved and polluted heart. Christ hath called you unto holiness. You are required to be holy, as He was holy; pure, as He was pure.

IX. PROFANENESS. This sin comprehends every irreverent expression concerning the Deity, His titles, His attributes, His providence, His revelation, His judgments.

(T. Gisborne, M. A.)

David, Psalmist, Saul
Door, Guard, Lips, Mouth, O, Watch
1. David prays that his suit may be acceptable
3. His conscience sincere
7. And his life free from snares

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Psalm 141:3

     5164   lips
     5193   tongue
     5330   guard
     5362   justice, believers' lives
     5549   speech, positive
     5868   gossip
     5934   restraint
     8339   self-control
     8476   self-discipline
     8493   watchfulness, believers

The Incense of Prayer
'Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.'--PSALM cxli. 2. The place which this psalm occupies in the Psalter, very near its end, makes it probable that it is considerably later in date than the prior portions of the collection. But the Psalmist, who here penetrates to the inmost meaning of the symbolic sacrificial worship of the Old Testament, was not helped to his clear-sightedness by his date, but by his devotion. For throughout
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

Evening Hymns

Catherine Winkworth—Lyra Germanica: The Christian Year

And Lest it Should Seem that Necessary Continence was to be Hoped for From...
2. And lest it should seem that necessary Continence was to be hoped for from the Lord only in respect of the lust of the lower parts of the flesh, it is also sung in the Psalm; "Set, O Lord, a watch to my mouth, and a door of Continence around my lips." [1810] But in this witness of the divine speech, if we understand "mouth" as we ought to understand it, we perceive how great a gift of God Continence there set is. Forsooth it is little to contain the mouth of the body, lest any thing burst forth
St. Augustine—On Continence

For Acceptance in Prayer, and Daily Guidance. --Ps. cxli.
For Acceptance in Prayer, and daily Guidance.--Ps. cxli. Lord, let my prayer like incense rise, And when I lift my hands to Thee, As on the evening sacrifice Look down from heaven well-pleased on me. Set Thou a watch to keep my tongue, Let not my heart to sin incline; Save me from men who practise wrong, Let me not share their mirth and wine. But let the righteous, when I stray, Smite me in love,--his strokes are kind; His mild reproofs, like oil, allay The wounds they make, and heal the mind.
James Montgomery—Sacred Poems and Hymns

Epistle xxxv. To Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria.
To Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria. Gregory to Eulogius, &c. In the past year I received the letters of your most sweet Holiness; but on account of the extreme severity of my sickness have been unable to reply to them until now. For lo, it is now almost full two years that I have been confined to my bed, afflicted with such pains of gout that I have hardly been able to rise on feast-days for as much as three hours space to solemnize mass. And I am soon compelled by severe pain to lie down, that
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

How Some of the Heavenly Lovers Died Also of Love.
All the elect then, Theotimus, died in the habit of holy love; but further, some died even in the exercise of it, others for this love, and others by this same love. But what belongs to the sovereign degree of love is, that some die of love; and then it is that love not only wounds the soul, so as to make her languish, but even pierces her through, delivering its blow right in the middle of the heart, and so fatally, that it drives the soul out of the body;--which happens thus. The soul, powerfully
St. Francis de Sales—Treatise on the Love of God

That all Hope and Trust is to be Fixed in God Alone
O Lord, what is my trust which I have in this life, or what is my greatest comfort of all the things which are seen under Heaven? Is it not Thou, O Lord my God, whose mercies are without number? Where hath it been well with me without Thee? Or when could it be evil whilst Thou wert near? I had rather be poor for Thy sake, than rich without Thee. I choose rather to be a pilgrim upon the earth with Thee than without Thee to possess heaven. Where Thou art, there is heaven; and where Thou are not,
Thomas A Kempis—Imitation of Christ

In this So Great Conflict, Wherein Man under Grace Lives...
13. In this so great conflict, wherein man under Grace lives, and when, being aided, he fights well, rejoices in the Lord with trembling, there yet are not wanting even to valiant warriors, and mortifiers however unconquered of the works of the flesh, some wounds of sins, for the healing of which they may say daily, "Forgive us our debts:" [1855] against the same vices, and against the devil the prince and king of vices, striving with much greater watchfulness and keenness by the very prayer, that
St. Augustine—On Continence

The Theology of St. Hilary of Poitiers.
This Chapter offers no more than a tentative and imperfect outline of the theology of St. Hilary; it is an essay, not a monograph. Little attempt will be made to estimate the value of his opinions from the point of view of modern thought; little will be said about his relation to earlier and contemporary thought, a subject on which he is habitually silent, and nothing about the after fate of his speculations. Yet the task, thus narrowed, is not without its difficulties. Much more attention, it is
St. Hilary of Poitiers—The Life and Writings of St. Hilary of Poitiers

Wherefore Let this be the First Thought for the Putting on of Humility...
42. Wherefore let this be the first thought for the putting on of humility, that God's virgin think not that it is of herself that she is such, and not rather that this best "gift cometh down from above from the Father of Lights, with Whom is no change nor shadow of motion." [2172] For thus she will not think that little hath been forgiven her, so as for her to love little, and, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish her own, not to be made subject to the righteousness
St. Augustine—Of Holy Virginity.

Annunciation to Zacharias of the Birth of John the Baptist.
(at Jerusalem. Probably b.c. 6.) ^C Luke I. 5-25. ^c 5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judæa [a Jewish proselyte, an Idumæan or Edomite by birth, founder of the Herodian family, king of Judæa from b.c. 40 to a.d. 4, made such by the Roman Senate on the recommendation of Mark Antony and Octavius Cæsar], a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course [David divided the priests into twenty-four bodies or courses, each course serving in rotation one week in the temple
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

The Daily Walk with Others (I. ).
When the watcher in the dark Turns his lenses to the skies, Suddenly the starry spark Grows a world upon his eyes: Be my life a lens, that I So my Lord may magnify We come from the secrecies of the young Clergyman's life, from his walk alone with God in prayer and over His Word, to the subject of his common daily intercourse. Let us think together of some of the duties, opportunities, risks, and safeguards of the ordinary day's experience. A WALK WITH GOD ALL DAY. A word presents itself to be
Handley C. G. Moule—To My Younger Brethren

An Analysis of Augustin's Writings against the Donatists.
The object of this chapter is to present a rudimentary outline and summary of all that Augustin penned or spoke against those traditional North African Christians whom he was pleased to regard as schismatics. It will be arranged, so far as may be, in chronological order, following the dates suggested by the Benedictine edition. The necessary brevity precludes anything but a very meagre treatment of so considerable a theme. The writer takes no responsibility for the ecclesiological tenets of the
St. Augustine—writings in connection with the donatist controversy.

Letter xix (A. D. 1127) to Suger, Abbot of S. Denis
To Suger, Abbot of S. Denis He praises Suger, who had unexpectedly renounced the pride and luxury of the world to give himself to the modest habits of the religious life. He blames severely the clerk who devotes himself rather to the service of princes than that of God. 1. A piece of good news has reached our district; it cannot fail to do great good to whomsoever it shall have come. For who that fear God, hearing what great things He has done for your soul, do not rejoice and wonder at the great
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

But I give myself unto prayer.' Psa 109: 4. I shall not here expatiate upon prayer, as it will be considered more fully in the Lord's prayer. It is one thing to pray, and another thing to be given to prayer: he who prays frequently, is said to be given to prayer; as he who often distributes alms, is said to be given to charity. Prayer is a glorious ordinance, it is the soul's trading with heaven. God comes down to us by his Spirit, and we go up to him by prayer. What is prayer? It is an offering
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

The piety of the Old Testament Church is reflected with more clearness and variety in the Psalter than in any other book of the Old Testament. It constitutes the response of the Church to the divine demands of prophecy, and, in a less degree, of law; or, rather, it expresses those emotions and aspirations of the universal heart which lie deeper than any formal demand. It is the speech of the soul face to face with God. Its words are as simple and unaffected as human words can be, for it is the genius
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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