We judge strangers in two principal ways,— first, by their appearance; second, by their speech. When a stranger approaches us, his dress, his walk, his general bearing unconsciously make an impression upon our mind. As soon as he speaks, this impression is either deepened or in some measure dissipated, according as his speech comports with his appearance.
The apostle Paul exhorted the church at Colosse, "Let your speech be alway with grace." And in his epistle to Titus this apostle requests his disciple to exhort the young men under his instruction to be sober-minded, of "sound speech, that cannot be condemned." If it is needful for the Christian believer to manifest in his speech sobriety and sincerity, how much more necessary it is that the Christian minister should do this.
I was talking recently with an earnest Christian woman, a member of one of our churches. She said, "There came to me today one of our ministers. He spoke very earnestly about the seriousness of the present day, and the fact that many of our brethren and sisters do not sense the times upon which we have entered. And then he remarked, 'I must jack our people up on this matter.' " The crude slang expression entirely dissipated from this particular sister's mind the impression created by his former remarks.
It is painful to see the extent to which slang words and phrases are employed by public speakers. If they could realize how these words grate upon the sensibilities of truly refined people, they would be more careful of their language. How can the minister of Christ proclaim from the pulpit Heaven's solemn message, setting forth oftentimes the meekness and tenderness and purity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then inject some foolish illustration or some slang phrase which destroys in large measure the impression his solemn words may have created? To too great an extent these unfortunate forms of speech are being employed by some of our own ministers. They are encouraged in this practice by the amusement which such remarks may cause on the part of some in the congregation; but this is poor compensation for the rude shock it brings to those of mature thought and keener sensibilities.
It ill becomes the minister of Christ to use slang on any occasion. He should recognize that not alone when he stands in the pulpit is he to bear the character of Christ's representative, but in every relationship of life. In business he is to represent Christ the Lord. At the social gathering he is still the minister of Christ, and his speech and actions will be such as will commend to others the religion he professes.
We can excuse in the ignorant and unlearned the use of ungrammatical words and even crude expressions, but their use by those who know better is indeed reprehensible. When we do the best we can, we make mistakes enough in the use of our mother tongue, especially when we speak extempore. It is not only the privilege but the duty of every disciple, and especially the one who stands in the sacred desk, to present his message as far as possible in such phraseology as shall not shock the sensibilities of those who hear him, but will rather commend to their hearts and minds the truth he utters.
Washington, D. C.