Wisdom from a hundred years ago…
“A holy man used to say when he returned home from a night of table-talk that he would never accept such an invitation again, so remorseful did such nights always leave him; so impossible did he find it for him to hold his peace, and to speak only at the right moment, and only in the right way.
And, without his holiness, I have often had his remorse, and so, I am quite sure, have many of you. There is no table we sit at very long that we do not more or less ruin either to ourselves or to someone else. We either talk too much, and thus weary and disgust people; or they weary and disgust us. We start ill-considered, unwise, untimeous topics. We blurt out our rude minds in rude words. We push aside our neighbour’s opinion, as if both he and his opinion were worthless, and we thrust forward our own as if wisdom would die with us.
We do not put ourselves into our neighbour’s place. We have no imagination in conversation, and no humility, and no love. We lay down the law, and we instruct people who could buy us in one end of the market and sell us in the other if they thought us worth the trouble.
It is easy to say grace; it is easy to eat and drink in moderation and with decorum and refinement; but it is our tongue that so ensnares us. For some men to command their tongue; to bridle, and guide, and moderate, and make just the right use of their tongue, is a conquest in religion, and in morals, and in good manners, that not one in a thousand of us has yet made over ourselves.
[But Christ was such a one.]
And much as I would have liked to see how He acted in everything, especially would I have watched Him how he guided, and steered, and changed, and moderated, and sweetened the talk of the table.” –Alexander Whyte
(I love the droll way he wrote that, and how applicable it is even now, many years later. Enjoy these next quotes from Mrs. Elliot, who is a very precious and wise lady.)
From Elisabeth Elliot:
“Rather late in my life, I’ve been trying to learn the importance of silence. I’ve been trying to discipline myself to simply stand or sit before the Lord in silence, without saying anything to Him. Placing myself in His presence.
It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s worth a try. Instead of rushing into your daily devotional time by talking to God, it might be a good idea to practice spending the first few minutes silently. Saying nothing, thinking nothing except, Lord, here I am in Your presence. Speak to me.
This is one of the hymns that I use in my own devotional life; I use it as a prayer:
Speak, Lord, in the stillness,
While I wait on Thee;
Hush’d my heart to listen,
Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour;
Let me see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of pow’r.
Begin with silence. Put yourself in His presence. Realize His omnipresence. He is here with you in this room.
Ask for grace to serve and worship acceptably. ‘Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my Redeemer.’ Psalm 19:14
And then, read a portion of Scripture, perhaps a Psalm, perhaps a chapter in the Gospels. Try to put yourself in the place of the psalmist or in the story if it’s from the Gospels. Ask yourself, ‘What do I learn about God? The Holy Spirit? Jesus? Is there here a command to be obeyed, a sin to be confessed? Is there some cheer here for me or for others who need it?’ Read and pray. Pray and read.”
Another quote from Mrs. Elliot:
“It is always easier to add to the noise of the world than to be silent. Silence is a very precious thing—‘There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour’ (Rev. 8:1), when the seventh seal was opened in the Book of the Revelation. Thunder and horses and martyrs and earthquakes had preceded the opening of this seal. Hail, fire, blood, and fearful judgment followed it–but in between, angels stood in the presence of God and there was utter silence.
Have we learned to stand in God’s presence, mouths shut, hearts open? ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ We must be quiet in order to know Him and to hear Him and to hear Him answer us.
‘If any of you lack wisdom let him ask his friends.’ No. That is not the Word of the Lord. ‘If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God’ (James 1:5) is His Word to us. There is a place for asking wisdom of godly friends, but let us always go first to God.”
May the Lord help us each to guard our tongues and use them for good! (I’ll pray for you if you pray for me:)
(Go back to read Words, Part 1 and Words, Part 2.)