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The occasion which called forth the Psalm was no doubt the rebellion of David's son, Absalom. And it may be that in a fit of penitential grief for the hard things he has said, he calls upon God to make him more careful in the future.
I. First, the careless word. Be on your guard against this. You spoke lightly, may be, of the Saviour's Name on some occasion. You spoke slightingly of religion. Some child or little one in the kingdom, some weak one just entering in, perhaps, was standing by and heard you. It changed the course of his life. It changed it for worse. You jested once on sacred things. Some soul was hesitating as to whether it should take this path or that. You decided. It was the wrong path. A careless word from you has wrought a soul's perdition! This is the idle word of which men must give account.
II. Now for a pleasanter word a word which we may well search for in ourselves and be happy if we find it the word of transparent truthfulness. What is truth? Well might Pilate ask. But we at least know that truthfulness is the best thing in words. One of the best traits of any character, and the trait which above all others suffers us to repose our confidence in a man, is his truthfulness. What is required of every man is that he be a truth speaker.
III. The word of minor untruthfulness. This is sometimes called the white lie. We can lie most abominably by half-truths. We may make it a safe rule, that if any statement has any intention of being a half-truth we have no right to use it. White lies and half-truths and insincere speeches are not to be countenanced by Christian men and women.
IV. The angry word. Is this ever justifiable? May we use it and yet be blameless? There are occasions upon which we may. There is a righteous anger. We read of Christ being angered. But it was a just and well-balanced anger. It was never misplaced. It was directed with wholesome purpose, and always against evil. Above all things, avoid words of merely selfish anger.
V. The little word. Only a syllable. Only yes or no. You might have said it or you might not. But, oh, the difference if you had or had not. It had the power to make or mar the day for you or some one else. We never really know what may be the end of any small beginning. We never know what great structure may at last be reared upon a tiny word.
VI. The profane word. We are to guard against the profane word in any shape. And none of us are quite guiltless. Profane speech in all its branches is hateful and an offence unto God. No man can of himself regulate his word: we need the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must invoke His aid in this matter. We must see what His influence is in our hearts.
References. CXLI. 3. Buxton, The School of Christ, p. 87. CXLI. 4. C. Perren, Revival, p. 319. CXLI. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1049. CXLI. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 506.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 141". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany