The Voice in Speech and Song


Chapter 2—Design for Communication

Words the Expression of Thought—Our words index the state of our heart; and whether men talk much or little, their words express the character of their thoughts. A man's character may be quite accurately estimated by the nature of his conversation. Sound, truthful words have the right ring in them.—Sons and Daughters of God, 180. VSS 17.1

Communication With God and Man—Speech is one of the great gifts of God. It is the means by which the thoughts of the heart are communicated. It is with the tongue that we offer prayer and praise to God. With the tongue we convince and persuade. With the tongue we comfort and bless, soothing the bruised, wounded soul. With the tongue we may make known the wonders of the grace of God. With the tongue also we may utter perverse things, speaking words that sting like an adder. VSS 17.2

The tongue is a little member, but the words it frames have great power. The Lord declares, “The tongue can no man tame.” It has set nation against nation, and has caused war and bloodshed. Words have kindled fires that have been hard to quench. They have also brought joy and gladness to many hearts. And when words are spoken because God says, “Speak unto them My words,” they often cause sorrow unto repentance. VSS 17.3

Of the unsanctified tongue the apostle James writes: “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” Satan puts into the mind thoughts which the Christian should never utter. The scornful retort, the bitter, passionate utterance, the cruel, suspicious charge, are from him. How many words are spoken that do only harm to those who utter them and to those who hear! Hard words beat upon the heart, awaking to life its worst passions. Those who do evil with their tongues, who sow discord by selfish, jealous words, grieve the Holy Spirit; for they are working at cross-purposes with God.—The Review and Herald, May 12, 1910. VSS 18.1

A Power for Good—The apostle, seeing the inclination to abuse the gift of speech, gives direction concerning its use. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth,” he says, “but that which is good to the use of edifying.” The word “corrupt” means here any word that would make an impression detrimental to holy principles and undefiled religion, any communication that would eclipse the view of Christ, and blot from the mind true sympathy and love. It includes impure hints, which, unless instantly resisted, lead to great sin. Upon everyone is laid the duty of barring the way against corrupt communications.... VSS 18.2

Guard well the talent of speech; for it is a mighty power for evil as well as for good. You cannot be too careful of what you say; for the words you utter show what power is controlling the heart. If Christ rules there, your words will reveal the beauty, purity, and fragrance of a character molded and fashioned by His will. But if you are under the guidance of the enemy of all good, your words will echo his sentiments. VSS 19.1

The great responsibility bound up in the use of the gift of speech is plainly made known by the Word of God. “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned,” Christ declared. And the psalmist asks, “Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in Thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoreth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” [Psalm 15:1-5]. VSS 19.2

“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” [Psalm 34:13]. The wild beast of the forest may be tamed, “but the tongue can no man tame” [James 3:8]. Only through Christ can we gain the victory over the desire to speak hasty, unChristlike words. When in His strength we refuse to give utterance to Satan's suggestions, the plant of bitterness in our hearts withers and dies. The Holy Spirit can make the tongue a savor of life unto life.—The Review and Herald, May 12, 1910. VSS 19.3

An Index of Character—Your words are an index of your character, and they will testify against you. Here we see the importance of carefulness in the employment of speech. This talent is a great power for good when it is used aright, but it is just as great a power for evil when the words spoken are poisonous. If this talent is abused, out of the heart proceed evil things. The words are either a savor of life unto life or of death unto death.... VSS 20.1

Shall we not all, old and young, learn to converse in the language that is spoken by those who are translated into God's kingdom? Shall not our words be such as will be heard with pleasure by our Heavenly Father? VSS 20.2

As those who claim to be Christians, we are under solemn obligations to reveal the truth of our profession by our words. The tongue is a little member, but what an amount of good it can do if the heart is pure! If the heart is stored with good things, if it is stored with Christlike tenderness, sympathy, and politeness, this will be shown by the words spoken and the actions performed. The light shining from the Word of God is our guide. Nothing so weakens a church as a wrong use of the talent of speech. We dishonor our Leader when our words are not such as should come from the lips of a Christian. VSS 20.3

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” [Philippians 2:12, 13]. The quality of our works is shown by our words. When our words and works harmonize in Christ, we show that we are consecrated to God, perfecting holiness in His fear. As we give ourselves, soul, body, and spirit, to Him, He works in us, both to will and to do of His good pleasure. VSS 21.1

The love of Christ in the heart is revealed by the expression of praise. Those who are consecrated to God will show this by their sanctified conversation. If their hearts are pure, their words will be pure, showing an elevated principle working in a sanctified direction. The mind will be absorbed in holy contemplation, and there will be a sense of the presence of God.—The Review and Herald, January 18, 1898. VSS 21.2

Means of Declaring God's Love—Speech is a talent. Of all the gifts bestowed on the human family, none should be more appreciated than the gift of speech. It is to be used to declare God's wisdom and wondrous love. Thus the treasures of His grace and wisdom are to be communicated.—Counsels on Stewardship, 115. VSS 21.3

Words Seasoned With Wisdom and Purity—By our words we are to be justified or condemned. When in the final judgment we stand before the tribunal of God, it is our words that will justify or condemn us. Much more than we realize is involved in the matter of speech Let your lips be touched with a live coal from the divine altar. Utter only words of truth. Watch and pray, that your words and deeds may ever confess Christ. Let your words be seasoned with wisdom and purity.—Letter 283, 1904. VSS 21.4

Impartation of Christ's Grace—The riches of the grace of Christ which He is ever ready to bestow upon us, we are to impart in true, hopeful words. “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” If we would guard our words, so that nothing but kindness shall escape our lips, we will give evidence that we are preparing to become members of the heavenly family. In words and works we shall show forth the praises of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Oh, what a reformative influence would go forth if we as a people would value at its true worth the talent of speech and its influence upon human souls!—Medical Ministry, 213. VSS 22.1

Counsel, Encouragement, and Reproof—The talent of speech was given to us that we might speak, not words of faultfinding, but words of counsel, words of encouragement, words of reproof.—The Review and Herald, July 20, 1905. VSS 22.2