"SMOOTHER THAN BUTTER"
Words, words, words! Some written, others spoken. Words are everywhere to be heard or read. Some are meaningful, others they are there, shouting to be meaningless—but heard.
Words convey thought and the nature of the thought determines the character of the word. Words convey feeling. It is difficult to conceal emotions except through silence. We may with profit ponder our words, for they tell not only what we think but what we are.
Words have been known to kill and to make alive—such is their power. The impact of a word is determined to some extent by the speaker's sincerity. Words that reflect the experimental concepts of the speaker are doubly powerful for good or ill. To the man of Gad, words are vehicles of light and life. That they may serve their intended purpose, may it never be said of him, "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart" (Ps. 55:21).
E. E. C.
RESIDUAL EX-CHRISTIAN ETHICS
The acceptance of Christ's way of life brings a man into a valley of decision. At every turn, Christ forces a decision upon us—right or wrong, light or darkness, heaven or hell? That is the imperative in Christ's electrifying "Follow me!"
We have made this decision apply once at conversion, whereas it faces us every moment of our lives. To live as in His presence involves a perennial choice between clean and unclean, honesty and dishonesty, unselfishness and selfishness, righteousness and evil.
Sometimes the choice is clear, but its implementation in our complicated civilization is difficult. A man in a rich and selfish society thinks he needs a second car, and his wife needs a third TV for the children, and . . . and . . . ! Then the man reads that two thirds of the human mass lies in starvation, disease, and demoralization. What shall he do? In the main, we forget the moral absolutes of human conduct, and we choose the easy path of conformity to community standards, and the pattern of social status engulfs us.
Culture, decency, philanthropy, selflessness, come from a long Christian heritage, but they are not necessarily self-perpetuating. We can organize society on the momentum of sturdy Christian ethics inherited from our rugged, high-principled forebears, but we cannot indefinitely survive on residual ex-Christian ethics. We must meet Christ face to face, and live daily by the motivations of His Spirit within our own hearts.
H. W. L.
THE BOTTOMLESS PIT
"That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour" (1 Thess. 4:4). For the man of God there is eternal timeliness in this counsel. For temptation, like the deadly python, knows not the art of relaxation until its victim is crushed and bleeding, or even swallowed whole. Position offers no immunity and authority no sure defense. In fact, the minister's possibilities for good or evil are multiplied by his office. Be it also remembered that the road back is arduous and steep, and over it few retrace their steps successfully. To quote one unfortunate victim of momentary impulse: "Tell every man you meet that if his conscience is clear, keep it so. On my heart is the indelible stain of the blood of Christ and, like Pilate, I wash and wash, but still it is there. Tell them that a lifetime of guilt, doubt, uncertainty, and loss of influence is not worth a moment of indulgence, however pleasant."
Verse three of our text cites morality as a point on which the minister should be on his guard. And verse six cites financial integrity as another. On both counts have many strong men been cast down. These are afflictions that no congregation deserves and no minister can afford. The writer is convinced that few men of the cloth are deliberate in such matters, but that unlike Joseph they have no preconceived plan of hasty withdrawal. This is essential. Also determination that under God we will not yield, no matter what. The wickedness of the earth approaches that of Sodom and Gomorrah. The righteous witness must not perish from the earth. But the man of God cannot face the world clad in spotted garments. A strong sermon on modesty in dress will drive Jezebel to the balcony, and if seasoned with grace it may inspire to increased coverage. The people must know where God's man stands! He must, in pulpit and in private, in word and in manner, eliminate any uncertainty that might encourage boldness. He must follow the path that he points out to others. And he who fails in this turns the key of the bottomless pit, releasing upon himself the dense smoke as of a furnace, exposing his soul to a plague of locusts whose bite is as the sting of scorpions.
E. E. C.