Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 6, 1957
NUMBER 6, PAGE 12-13a

"Bits In The Horses' Mouths"

C. D. Plum, Columbus, Ohio

"For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body." (James 3:2-3.)

I have always been glad that it was my lot to be born in the country, and reared there. So close to God's nature I was able to learn many valuable lessons that help me in a better understanding of such scriptures, as, "We put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us." When I was a boy on the farm we had a very docile horse, and obedient, when he had a bit in his mouth. Without the bit in his mouth this horse indulged in hurtful pranks. I used to ride him to water when he had only a halter on. On these occasions, when I was ready to jump up on his back he would look straight ahead, eyes set, not a twinkle, not a stir of a muscle, but when I made the leap up his side, and before I got upright on his back, he would turn his head quickly and nip at my thigh with his teeth. A few times he connected, and occasioned great pain. Since he would not do this with a bit in his mouth, I found it to my profit to take time to put his bridle on him, always.

I have met a number of church members who are like this old horse of ours. They don't take thought to put on the Lord's bridle, with His gospel bit; and with eyes set, and muscles rigid, and feeling frigid, they 'nip' at their victim with icy, cutting words, that occasion great pain on the part of the one 'nipped.' And this nipping only lowers the nipper in the eyes of all present, just like that nipping horse was lowered in my estimation. Brother, sister, these things ought not so to be. Husbands don't like to be nipped, wives don't like to be nipped, children don't like to be nipped, friends don't like to be nipped, strangers don't like to be nipped, and business people don't like to be nipped. Even nippers don't like to be nipped when it is turned on them. And the Lord doesn't want any one of us to nip at the rest of us.

The Lord wants us to "bridle the whole body." When we do this we will have our tongue bridled. Since "no man can tame the tongue" (James 3:8), the Lord wants us to wear his bridle with the gospel bit, to keep our tongue in check. This tongue of ours that is "full of deadly poison, and is an unruly evil" must be bridled with the gospel bit. That is why the Lord told us: "We put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us." Note: "We" do this to make the horse obey. Alright, now why don't "we" go a step further and put the gospel bit in our mouths, so we will obey God? This is God's lesson for us. Brother, sister, do you get this lesson?

After this lesson is read, if you must nip at any one, nip at me until you get the nipping out of your system. But if your heart is right you won't nip at me or any one else. As Paul said, "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Gal. 4:16.)

With the aid of the Lord's bridle and bit we should control our tongues if it kills us. But it won't kill us. To control our tongue will help save us. "For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words shalt thou be condemned." (Matt. 12:37.) Yes, by the way we use our tongues is a very serious business." A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger." (Prov. 15:1.) "Let every man (woman, too) be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath." (James 1:19.) "If any man (woman, too) among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain." (James 1:26.) In view of these scriptures, and other scriptures, there is a lot of vain religion among us. But we can change from this that causes vain religion instantly. Of course, following the "doctrines and commandments of men is also vain," but so is the tongue responsible for some vain religion. (Matt. 16:9.)

The tongue that is used in gossip peddling is also hurtful to the church, even as is the tongue that is used for nipping. When it comes to gossiping, I have heard a few condemn gossiping in others, but they did more gossiping themselves than the ones they were condemning. In the eyes of some it seems that it all depends on who is doing the gossiping as to how wrong it is. With some it seems that as long as the gossip is about some one else it is all right, but it is wrong if the gossip is about me.

The truth needs to be told, and sin needs to be condemned. One is not meddling in the affairs of others when one goes to one doing evil, or doing that which leads to evil, and lovingly warns that one to turn from such a course. To tell others that such a one has been earnestly entreated to give up the dangerous practice is not gossiping. Gossip is scattering groundless rumor. Only those "who have cast off their first faith" will idly wander from house to house, tattle, and be a busy body. (James 5:12-13.) Neither with our tongue, our approaches, or actual deeds should we give "occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully." (I Tim. 5:14.) Unless the truth is to be defended, a silent tongue often shows a wise heart and when the truth is defended, it should be done lovingly, plainly, and in such a way as to make friends instead of driving them away. But some will not become friends of the truth regardless of the effort we make. This, however, does not justify us in not making the right kind of an effort with them.

Thoughts, tongue, and temper are all pretty close connected. If we control our thoughts and tempers we will not have much difficulty with our tongues. When Jesus was "reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously." (I Peter 2:23.) Christians must take care to follow the example of Christ in this matter. But, too often, when we are reviled, we fly right back with words as bar or worse in trying to inflict pain. To salve our conscience when it is all over we try to say we were not mad, but, and etc. Now why not just admit we are wrong, repent, ask God to forgive us, forget it and try to keep it from happening again? That is the one and only right course.

When some one bawls us out, maybe curses us, even if we are not at fault, we should not retaliate with similar meanness. What did Jesus tell us to do? Listen to it. "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44.) "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

(Rom. 12:21.) It grieves me at my heart to labor hard to build up the church, and then hear some member of the church fail to control the tongue, or tell about what so and so did to the unjustly, and what little mean thing they did back to get even with them. It is a downright shame, that is what it is. We think strange of people for not believing and obeying Mark 16:16: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," maybe it is because we do not obey Matthew 5:44, that teaches us how to treat those who mistreat us.