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But let us remember that this was the saying of our Lord Jesus, whom we all profess to believe, and to imitate in all things : but more especially let us do so in this, because it was not a bare speculation, a fine and glorious saying, like those of the philosophers, who said great and glorious things, but did them not; but this was his constant practice, the great work and business of his life. He who pronounced it the most blessed thing to do good, spent his whole life in this work, and went about doing good. To this end all his activity and endeavours were bent. This was the life which God himself, when he was pleased to become man, thought fit to lead in the world, giving us herein an example that we should follow his steps. He made full trial and experience of the happiness of this temper and spirit; for he was all on the giving hand. He would receive no portion and share of the good things of this world ; he refused the greatest offers. When the people would have made him a King, he withdrew and hid himfelf; he was contented to be worse accommodated than the creatures below us. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests : but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head. He would not so much as have any
fixed abode and habitation, that he might be at liberty to go about doing good. He received nothing but injuries and affronts, base and treacherous usage from an ungrateful world, to whom he was fo great and so universal a benefactor. The whole business of his life was to do good, and to suffer evil for f doing. So fixed and steady was he in his own principle and saying, It is a more blesed thing to give, than to receive. He gave away all that he had to do us good, he parted with his glory and his life, emptied himself, and became of no reputation ; and being rich, for our fakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.
So that he adviseth us nothing, but what he did himself; nor imposeth any thing upon us, from which he himself delired to be excused. And surely we have great reason to be in great love with this pattern, when that very goodness which he propounds to our imitation, was all laid out upon us, and redounds to our benefit and advantage ; when our salvation and happiness are the effects of that goodness and compassion which he exercised in the world. He did it all purely for our fakes ; whereas all the good we do to others, is a greater good done to ourselves.
So that here is an example and experiment of the thing in the greatest and most famous instance that the whole world can afford. The best and happiest man that ever was, the Son of God and the Saviour of men, and who is the most worthy to be the pattern of all mankind, went about doing good, and governed his whole life, and all the actions of it by this principle, that it is more blessed to give, than to receive. Let the same mind be in us that was in Jesus Chrift: let us go and do likewise.
S E R M ON CCXIV.
The evil of corrupt communication.
EPHES. iv, 29. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth;
but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers,
s discourses against sin and vice in general are of great use, so it is likewise very neceffary to level whereof the generality of men are less sensible than almost of any other, that is so frequently and so expresly branded in scripture. And to this purpose I have pitched upon the words which I have read unto you, as containing a plain and express prohibition of this vice, Let no corrupt communication, &c.
them against the particular vices of men, and to endeavour by proper and intrinsical arguments, taken from the nature of that vice we treat of, to dissuade and deter them froin it, because this carries the discourse home to the consciences of men, and leaves them no way of escape. For this reason, and in compliance with their Majesties pious proclamation, for the discountenancing and suppressing of profaneness and vice, I have chosen to treat upon this subject, of corrupt and filthy communication, as being one of the reigning vices of this wicked and adulterous generation ; of the evil
I remember St. Austin in one of his epistles tells us, that Tully, the great master of the art of speaking, says of one of the great orators, Nullum unquam verbum quod revocare vellet, emifit. " That no word ever fell from
him, that he could wish to have recalled.” This, I doubt, is above the perfection of human eloquence, for a man always to make such a choice of his words, and to place them fo fitly, that nothing he ever said could be changed for the better. But the greatest faults of speech are not those which offend against the rules of eloquence; but of piety, and virtue, and good manners: and who can say that his tongue is free from all faults in this kind, and no word ever proceeded from him, which be could wish to have recalled? In many things, says St. James, chap. iii. 2. we offend all; and in this kind as much perhaps, and as often as in any. He is a good and a happy man indeed, that seldom or never offends with his tongue. If any man, as St. James goes on, offend not in word, the fame is a perfect man ; that is, he hath attained to an eminent degree of virtue indeed, and is above the common rate of men, and ably be presumed blameless in the general course of his life and practice; and able, as it follows, to bridle the whole body; that is, to order his whole conversation eright. To
govern the tongue is a matter of great difficul. ty, and consequently of great wisdom, and care, and circumspection ; and therefore one of the great endeavours of a wise and good man, should be to govern
his words by the rules of reason and religion ; and we should every one of us resolve and say, as David does, Pfal. xxxix. 1. I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. For as the virtues, so the vices of the tongue are many and great. In respect of the virtues of it, David calls it the best member w have; because of all the members and instruments of the body, it is cap
able of giving the greatest glory to God; and of doing the greatest good and benefit to men.
And in respect of the vices of it, it may be as truly faid to be the worst member that we have; because it is capable of doing the greatest dishonour to God, and the greatest mischief and harm among men. So that upon all accounts, we ought to have a great care of the government of our tongue, which is capable of being so useful and serviceable to the best and worst purposes, according as we restrain it and keep it in order, or let it loose to sin and folly.
And among all the vices of the tongue, as none is more common, fo none is more misbecoming, and more contrary to the modesty of a man, and the gravity of a Christian, than filthy and obscene talk ; of the odious nature, and the evil and mischievous consequences thereof, both to ourselves and others, Į design by Got's assistance to treat at this time, from the words which I have read unto you, Let no corrupt communication, &c.
That by corrupt or rotten communication, is here meant filthy and obscene talk, is generally agreed among interpreters. By that which is good to the use of edifying, is meant such discourse, as is apt to build us up in knowledge and goodness, to make the hearers wiser and better. That it may minister grace unto the hearers, that is, such kind of discourse, as is acceptable to all; not nauseous and offensive to sober, and virtuous persons, not apt to grate upon chaste and modest ears, and to put the hearers cut of countenance.
So that the Apostle doth here strictly forbid all lewd and filthy discourse among Christians; and enjoins them so to converse with one another, that all their discourses
minister mutual benefit and advantage to one another, and tend to the promoting of piety and virtue;
likewise be grateful to the hearers, carefully avoiding every thing that might put them to the blush, or any ways trespass upon modesty and good manners, as all filthy communication does.
This sort of argument, though it be frequently mentioned in scripture, yet it is very seldom treated of in the pulpit, because it is a matter hard to be handled
in a cleanly manner, and the preacher must always take good heed to himself, that his discourse be free from the contagion of that vice, which he reproves and designs to correct and cure. And therefore to diffuade and deter men from this evil practice, so rife and common in the world, and that not only among the prophane and dissolute sort of persons, but thofe likewise who would feem to be more strict and religious, I hope it may be fufficient to all considerate persons, plainly to represent to them the heinous nature of the thing itself, together with the evil and dangerous consequences of it, both to ourselves and to others. And this I shall endeavour to do in the most general and wary terms, keeping all along, as much as is possible, aloof, and at distance from any thing that might either offend the chaste and modest, or infečt lewd and diffolute minds, which like tinder are always ready to take fire at the least fpark.
Having premised this in general, my work at this time shall be to offer such particular considerations, as may fully convince men of the great evil and danger of this practice ; and I hope may effectually prevail with them to leave it, and break it off. And they shall be these following:
I. That all filthy and corrupt communication is evidently contrary to nature, which is careful to hide and suppress, whatever in the general esteem of the sober part of mankind hath any thing of turpitude and uncomeliness in it: and where ever nature hath thought fit to draw a veil, we should neither by words nor actions expose such things to open view. Qua natura occultavit, says Tully, de offic. lib. i. eadem omnes, qui sana funt mente, remodent ab oculis, “ Those things which na" ture hath thought fit to hide, all men that are in their “ wits endeavour to keep out of sight.” Nos autem naturam fequamur, says the same excellent moralist, ibid, do ab omni quod abhorret ab oculorum auriumque approbati. one fugiamus. “ Let us, says he, follow nature, and filee
every thing that is offensive either to the eye or ear " of men.” And this is so plain a lesson of nature, that an actor in a play will never fall into that abfurdity, as to represent a grave and virtuous person offering any obscene or immodeft word; and as the fame author reaVOL. IX. M