The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Aquinas’ Homily Notes on James 1:17-21

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 29, 2010


Fourth Sunday after Easter. — (From the Epistle.)
“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.” — S. James i. 19.

In these words the Apostle S. James bids us be more slow in speaking than in bearing, and these considerations ought to move us to this — Firstly, the testimony of nature. Secondly, the harm of much speaking. Thirdly, the benefit of little speaking.

I. On the first head it is to be noted, that nature teaches us in a threefold way that we should rather hear, than speak.

  • (1) Nature gave to man a double instrument of hearing, and only a single instrument of speaking, and this in itself shows, that in a twofold degree man ought rather to hear than to speak.
  • (2) Nature gave to very many animals the faculty of hearing, but not the faculty of speech save to the rational animal, man ; so that speech ought to be rational: (Coloss 4:6), “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt.”
  • (3) Nature gave the instruments of  hearing ever open, but the instruments of speech she closed by two barriers or protections : for man has his ears ever open, but his tongue closed in by his lips and teeth. The tongue is like an evil monarch, and therefore God enclosed it with many barriers; (Mich 7:5)”Keep the doors of thy mouth “

II. On the second head it is to be noted, that a threefold
evil comes through much speaking —

  • (1) The evil of sin” (Prov 10:19), “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.”
  • (2) The evil of punishment: Ecclus (20:8), ” He that useth many words shall hurt his own soul.”
  • (3) The evil of infamy: Prov (18:3), ” He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Of these three: (Jam 3:6), ” The tongue is a world of iniquity;” behold the first. “The tongue is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison;” behold the second. ” The tongue among our members defileth the whole body;” behold the third.

III.  On the third head it is to be noted, that a threefold advantage flows to him who hears much and speaks little —

  • (1) The good thing of grace: (Ecclus 32:9) ” Hear in silence, and for thy reverence good grace shall come unto thee.”
  • (2) The good thing of wisdom: (Ecclus 3:4) ” If thou wilt incline thine ear thou shalt receive instruction, and if thou love to hear thou shalt be wise.”
  • (3) Happiness and tranquillity of mind: (Prov 21:21),  “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles,” &c.

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