5 Laws Of Speech by Which Our Conversations Should be Governed.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. – Ephesians 4:29


I remember hearing a sermon read, in which the laws of speech were thus laid down, by which our conversation should be governed.

1. “The law of prudence.—This condemns idleness and folly; for no one has a right to talk nonsense. It condemns, also, all that is impertinent and unsuited to the place, the company, and the season. ‘A wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment.’ ‘A word fitly spoken, O how good is it! It is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’ All ‘foolish talking and jesting’ are forbidden by the apostle, while he enjoins, ‘Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how to answer every man.’

2. “The law of purity.—This forbids all ribaldry, and not only everything that is grossly offensive, but all indecent allusions and insinuations, however artfully veiled: ‘but fornication and all uncleanness, let it not be once named among you, as becomes saints.’

3. “The law of veracity.—This condemns everything spoken with a view to deceive, or spoken so as to occasion deception, which may be done by a confusion of circumstances; by an omission of circumstances; by an addition of circumstances. ‘Therefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another.’

4. “The law of kindness.—This condemns all calumny and tale-bearing, the circulation of whatever may be injurious to the reputation of another. This requires that, if you must speak another’s faults, you do it without aggravation; and that you do it, not with pleasure, but with pain; and that, if you censure, you do it as a judge would pass sentence on his son. ‘Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.’

5. “The law of utility.—This requires that we should not scandalize another by anything in our speech; but contribute to his benefit by rendering our discourse instructive, or reproving, or consolatory. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.’

6. “The law of piety.—This requires that we should never take God’s name in vain, never speak lightly of his word or worship, never charge him foolishly, never murmur under any of his dispensations. It requires that we extol his perfections and recommend his service.”

William Jay, Sermons