CHAPTER XI

The Holy Spirit's Substitute for Gossip and Evil-speaking

Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.'

THE other day I heard a man of God say, ' We cannot bridle the tongues of the people among whom we live: they will talk'; and by talk he meant gossip and criticism and fault-finding.

You never can tell when you send a word
Like an arrow shot from a bow
By an archer blind-be it cruel or kind,
Just where it will chance to go.

It may pierce the breast of your dearest friend,
Tipped with its poison or balm;
To a stranger's heart in life's great mart
It may carry its pain or its calm.

The wise mother, when she finds her little boy playing with a sharp knife, or the looking-glass, or some dainty dish, does not snatch it away with a slap on his cheek or harsh words, but quietly and gently substitutes a safer and more interesting toy, and so avoids a storm.

A sensible father who finds his boy reading a book of dangerous tendency, will kindly point out its character and substitute a better book that is equally interesting.

When children want to spend their evenings on the street, thoughtful and intelligent parents will seek to make their evenings at home more healthfully attractive.

When a man seeks to rid his mind of evil and hurtful thoughts, he will find it wise to follow Paul's exhortation to the Philippians: ' Brethren, whatsoever things are true . . . honest . . . just . . . pure . . . lovely . . . of good report . . . if there be any praise, think on these things ' (Phil. iv. 8).

Any man who faithfully, patiently and persistently accepts this programme of Paul's, will find his evil thoughts vanishing away.

And this is the Holy Spirit's method. He has a pleasant and safe substitute for gossip and fault-finding and slander.

Here it is: ' Be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Eph. v. 18-20). This is certainly a fruit of being filled with the Spirit.

Many years ago the Lord gave me a blessed revival in a little village in which nearly every soul in the place, as well as farmers from the surrounding country, were converted. One result was that they now had no time for gossip and doubtful talk about their neighbours. They were all talking about religion and rejoicing in the things of the Lord. If they met each other on the street, or in some shop or store, they praised the Lord, and encouraged each other to press on in the heavenly way. If they met a sinner, they tenderly besought him to be reconciled to God, to give up his sins, ' flee from the wrath to come ', and start at once for Heaven. If they met in each other's houses, they gathered around the organ or the piano and sang hymns and songs, and did not part till they had united in prayer.

There was no criticizing of their neighbours, no grumbling and complaining about the weather, no fault-finding with their lot in life, or their daily surroundings and circumstances. Their conversation was joyous, ,cheerful, and helpful to one another. Nor was it forced and out of place, but rather it was the natural, spontaneous outflow of loving, humble, glad hearts filled with the Spirit, in union with Jesus, and in love and sympathy with their fellow-men.

And this is, I think, our heavenly Father's ideal of social and spiritual intercourse for His children on earth. He would not have us separate ourselves from each other and shut ourselves up in convents and monasteries in austere asceticism on the one hand, nor would He have us light and foolish, or faultfinding and censorious on the other hand, but sociable, cheerful, and full of tender, considerate love.

On the day of Pentecost, when they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and a multitude were converted, we read that ' they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people' (Acts ii. 46,47). This is a sample of the brotherly love and unity which our heavenly Father would have throughout the whole earth; but how the breath of gossip and evil-speaking would have marred this heavenly fellowship and separated these ' chief friends'!

Lord, subdue our selfish will;
Each to each our tempers suit
By Thy modulating skill,
Heart to heart, as lute to lute.

Let no one suppose, however, that the Holy Spirit accomplishes this heavenly work by some overwhelming baptism which does away with the need of our co-operation. He does not override us, but works with us; and we must intelligently and determinedly work with Him in this matter.

People often fall into idle and hurtful gossip and evil-speaking, not so much from ill-will as from old habit, as a wagon falls into a rut; or they drift into it with the current of conversation about them; or they are beguiled into it by a desire to say something, and be pleasant and entertaining.

But when the Holy Spirit comes He lifts us out of the old ruts, and we must follow Him with care lest we fall into them again, possibly never more to escape. He gives us life and power to stem the adverse currents about us, but we must exercise ourselves not to be swept downward by them. He does not destroy the desire to please, but He subordinates it to the desire to help and bless, and we must stir ourselves up to do this.

When Miss Havergal was asked to sing and play before a worldly company, she sang a sweet song about Jesus and, without displeasing. anybody, greatly blessed the company.

At a breakfast party John Fletcher told his experience so sweetly and naturally that all hearts were stirred, the Holy Ghost fell upon the company, and they ended with a glorious prayer meeting.William Bramwell used at meals to turn the conversation into spiritual channels to the blessing of all who were present, so that they had two meals-one for the body and one for the soul. To do this wisely and helpfully requires thought and prayer and a fixed purpose, and a tender, loving heart filled with the Holy Spirit.

I know a mother who seeks to have a brief season of prayer and a text of Scripture just before going to dinner to prepare her heart to guide the conversation along spiritual highways.

Are you careful and have you victory in this matter, my comrade? If not, seek it just now in simple, trustful prayer, and the Lord who loves you will surely answer, and will be your helper from this time forth. He surely will. Believe just now, and henceforth ' let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Phil. i. 27).

I ask Thee, ever blessed Lord,
That I may never speak a word
Of envy born, or passion stirred.
First, true to Thee in heart and mind,

Then always to my neighbour kind,
By Thy good hand to good inclined.
0 save from words that bear a sting,
That pain to any brother bring;

Inbreathe Thy calm in everything,
Let love within my heart prevail,
To rule my words when thoughts assail,
That, hid in Thee, I may not fail.

I know, my Lord, Thy power within
Can save from all the power of sin;
In Thee let every word begin.
Should I be silent? Keep me still,

Glad waiting on my Master's will;
Thy message through my lips fulfil.
Give me Thy words when I should speak,
For words of Thine are never weak,

But break the proud, but raise the meek.
Into Thy lips all grace is poured,
Speak Thou through me, eternal Word,
Of thought, of heart, of lips the Lord.

"HAVE YE RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST SINCE YE BELIEVED?'

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