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malicious generation, and the thoughts of men's hearts will of course shew themselves by their words. They arise immediately from the fund within, and will necessarily discover whether it be good or bad.
Then follows another very remarkable declaration of our Lord's in the 36th verse: I say unto you, that
idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” From hence some have imagined, that at the day of judgment we shall be called to an account, and punished for every idle and unprofitable, every trifling and ludicrous word that we have ever uttered in the gaiety of the heart during the whole course of our lives. If this be the case, how hard is it, will the enemies of the Gospel say, in the Author of your religion, to exact from you what is utterly inconsistent with the infirmities of human nature, and which must completely destroy all the freedom, all the ease, all the cheerfulness, all the comforts of social converse, X 4
and render it necessary for every man that hopes to be saved, to seclude himself from society, and, like the once celebrated fathers of the order of La Trappe, impose upon themselves an everlasting silence! That this must be the consequence of the sentence here pronounced by our Lord, if it is to be understood in that strict, literal and rigorous sense, which has just been stated, and which at the first view the words seem to import, cannot be denied; and therefore we may fairly conclude, that it is not the true meaning of the passage in question ; because we know that we do not serve a hard master, who requires more from us than our strength will bear; but one who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and who has declared, that “ his yoke is easy, and his burthen light.”
In order then to set this text of Scripture in its true light, we must look back to what had just passed; we must remember that the Pharisees had a little before reproached our Lord with having cast out
devils through Beelzebub the prince of the devils; and it is this calumny that he alludes to in the words before us; for they are a continuation of that very same conversation which he was holding with the Jews. Now the words made use of by the Pharisees in the above-mentioned charge, are not merely idle, or foolish, or trifling words, they are in the highest degree malevolent, false, and wicked; they constitute one of the grossest, most detestable, and most infamous calumnies that ever was uttered by man. Consequently by idle words our Saviour plainly meant, false, lying, and malicious words, such as those which the Pharisees had a few minutes before applied to him.
In confirmation of this, it should be observed, that the language then spoken by the Jews was not their primitive tongue, but one mixed and made up of the dialects and idioms of the several nations that surrounded them, particularly of the Chaldeans, Syrian's and Arabians. In this, our Saviour delivered all his instructions,
and held all his discourses. In this (as some learned men think) St. Matthew originally wrote his Gospel for the use of the Jewish converts; and it has been remarked, that in almost all the languages of which this miscellaneous one is made up, by idle or unprofitable words, are meant, false, lying, malicious and scandalous calumnies.
But though in the passage before us, , the phrase of idle words, refers more immediately to the malignant calumny of the Pharisees against Jesus; yet it certainly includes all false, slanderous, and vindictive accusations of our neighbour; all discourse which is in any respect injurious to God or man, which is contrary to truth, to decency, and evangelical purity of heart. All conversation of this sort is plainly inconsistent with the sanctity of our religion, and must of course subject us to God's displeasure here, and his judgments hereafter. And even in the literal and most obvious sense of idle words, though we are not excluded from
the innocent cheerfulness of social converse, yet we must be aware of giving way too much to trifling, foolish, unprofitable, and unmeaning talk. Even this, when carried to excess, becomes in some degree criminal; it produces, or at least increases a frivolous turn of mind; unfits us for the discharge of any thing manly and serious; and indicates a degree of levity and thoughtlessness, not very consistent with a just sense of those important interests, which as candidates for heaven we should have constantly present to our thoughts, nor suitable to those awful prospects into eternity which the Christian revelation opens to our view, and which ought to make the most serious impressions on every sincere believer in the Gospel of Christ.