Too little and yet at the same time too much.
Too little of the true freedom of speech because there is too little of the fear of the Lord to be found in the world today. And too much of the wrong kind of freedom of speech exactly for the same reason.
Speech is a wonderful gift of God unto man. And freedom of speech is also a precious gift of His grace. No, we do not mean that it is a gift of God’s grace that here in our land a man may say well nigh anything that enters into his mind. We do not mean that God is gracious to America because here a man may express his atheism, his evolutionism, his heresy and blasphemy as widely and as freely as he may proclaim the truth from Sabbath to Sabbath. Regardless of what men may think is justice, regardless of what liberty governments may agree to give to their citizens, we are certain that God does not give man the liberty to say what he pleases, to promote his own heresies and denials of God and of His glory. The psalmist was keenly aware of this, and therefore he wrote in Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.” Plainly all the words that proceed out of the mouth of man are not acceptable in God’s sight. And because He is God, or let us put it this way, because He IS God, He cannot give man the liberty to speak that which is not acceptable in His sight. Does not the third commandment plainly forbid speech whereby the name of God is taken in vain? Does not God in this commandment also forbid all speech, all propaganda for heresies and false doctrines whereby His name is denied the glory that is due unto it? There can be no question of that. And freedom of speech may very easily result in freedom of irreligion rather than freedom of religion. Such who feel free to speak their false religions are never freed from fear of God’s terrible wrath. To have true freedom from fear one must have the true freedom of religion according to which he is free only to speak that which is to the praise of God’s name. It is for that reason that we would consider at this time the matter of freedom of speech.
Speech is one of those gifts which we take for granted so easily. Speech comes so easy to us that we just expect our children in time to begin to speak and marvel very little when they begin to speak as fluently as we do. Though we may find public speaking difficult because it makes us nervous and because our minds go blank when we stand before an audience, yet speaking itself, every-day conversation, speaking with the family at home, with friends and neighbors is such an effortless thing. Tongue, lips and vocal cords respond so spontaneously to the thought that arises in our minds that we are conscious of no effort at all on our part to perform the act of speaking.
And that, after all, is the wonder of speech: we are by it able to express and convey to others any thought or desire that has arisen in our hearts and minds. We are, of course, aware of the fact — even by personal experience —that when you are learning a language foreign to your own mother tongue, you may stand with a mouth full of teeth and be utterly unable to convey to those who speak this language your thoughts and desires. You are as far as that language is concerned tongue-tied. Sad to say, there are also so many that are tongue-tied as far as the language of faith is concerned. It reminds me of the man with whom we were speaking who desired to refer to the saints of the Old Testament as an example of the matter he was trying to express. With much stuttering and stammering he finally came up with the statement, “You know, Jacob and those other men . . .” So limited was his knowledge of the Scriptures that he could express himself in no better way at the moment. It is a sad commentary on our present day church-world that there is so little knowledge of Scriptures. Many there are who claim to be members of the church of Christ whose knowledge is so limited that they cannot tell you whether Abraham lived before or after Noah and who would find it extremely difficult to quote two or three verses from the Scriptures from memory. Children —and also adults — there are who can name all the players of their favorite baseball or football teams together with their batting averages or weight and height but cannot name the twelve apostles, the names of the books of the Bible, or tell whether the book of Hebrews is in the Old or in the New Testament. Is it any wonder that such are tongue-tied when they find themselves in a group that is discussing doctrinal matters or things of the Christian faith? These surely do not have the true and proper freedom of speech of which we begin to write in this installment. Instead of being free to speak with others on the things of God’s kingdom, they at best can only sit and listen or else will gradually push themselves farther and farther away from the circle of the discussion until, finding themselves on the outer edges of the group they can quickly flee from this embarrassing position.
All this, however, does not at all overthrow what we said: speech is that wonderful gift of God to man whereby he is able to express all that which is in his heart and mind. That I may not be able to express it in a foreign language does not deny that by speech it can be done. I may not be able to do so, but it still can be done by others. And that I am speechless when I find myself in the midst of those speaking the highly technical language of electronics, of aerodynamics, of rocketry or the like is not due to the fact that speech cannot express these things but simply to the fact that the knowledge of these things is not in my mind. The man likewise who finds himself tongue-tied when spiritual things are discussed has not the freedom of speech about the things of God’s kingdom exactly because the knowledge of the things spiritual is not there in his mind. He has not applied himself to the truth when the opportunity was given to him. He did not do the work set before him as a youth when in question and answer form the truth was set before him to memorize. He did not commit to memory the Word of God when it was demanded of him. Or else he was never taught these things, never given the benefit of such a training wherein these things were demanded of him. To have the freedom of speech in regard to things spiritual he had better get busy and read and study and memorize the things of God’s kingdom. If he finds himself free to speak at length and with ease concerning sports, business, politics, world history and science but tongue-tied when it comes to things spiritual, he would do well to take some serious inventory of himself and get busy in the sphere of the speech of God, His Word. This is very important. Freedom of speech is an extremely important thing when you mean the freedom to speak in the sphere of the things spiritual. It is a thing for which we may offer our prayers daily as the psalmist in that verse we quoted from Psalm 19. And it is also beautifully set forth by the psalmist in Psalm 119:171-172, “My lips shall utter praise; when thou hast taught me thy statutes. My tongue shall speak of thy word; for all thy commandments are righteous.” And we will not understand true freedom of speech until we have that freedom to speak of the things spiritual with ease and joy. Freedom of speech is not something that man can give you and promise you. It is something that God gives us by His grace through the Word which He has spoken.
Let us understand that no one has freedom of speech as God has it.
As the sovereign God He is free in the full sense of the word. In Him freedom is perfect. That, of course, does not mean that He is free to do everything. God is not free to sin. He cannot sin. He cannot be tempted with sin. He cannot will sin. That does not deny that He has perfect freedom. A person is not free according to the measure of things outside of himself that gut a line around him and his actions and hem him in to a certain limited course of action. There is nothing outside of God that hems Him in and puts a curb on His thinking, willing or acting. And that He cannot sin, cannot will sin is not due to anything outside of Him that controls Him. God cannot sin because His own holy being does not allow it. God is free in the full sense because He determines His own actions. And so free is He that no one, absolutely no one, has even the right to deny Him this freedom to decide for Himself what He will think, will and do. Man lost all his freedom exactly through the lie whereby he was convinced that he could be like God and decide for himself what is good and what is evil. He ate of the forbidden fruit in order to try to attain to that position where he need not ask God what was good for him and what was evil in God’s sight but where he might be his own god. He discarded God’s speech and became a hopeless slave to the speech of the devil. As a consequence today he does not have freedom of speech but is, as Paul writes in Romans 8:2 in the slavery of the law of sin and death. The law of sin and death controls and rules him also in all his speech. For that law of sin and death rules and controls his heart and mind, his willing and his thinking. And although the one end for our tongues is loose and must be in order to formulate our words and in order that we may speak clearly and distinctly, the other end is tied firmly to our hearts and minds. The result is that whatever appears there in heart and mind soon spills out of our mouths from off that tongue. It is for that reason that James says, “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man and able to bridle the whole body,” James 3:2. And again very correctly he writes, “And 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,” James 3:6. Indeed, out of hell Satan came into the serpent with the lie and into man’s heart. Now the whole human race, as born from fallen Adam and Eve, does not have freedom of speech, is not free to speak God’s praises, to express true thankfulness to Him, to pray unto Him and confess Him. Instead he is free only to utter the blasphemy, the cursing and swearing, the unbelief, the atheism, the evolutionism, the godlessness of his depraved heart and mind. And it simply is not true freedom of speech when such a man is given the liberty to say what he pleases and to propagate his beliefs and philosophies.
Of that we wish to say more next time, D.V., but let us understand in that light the beauty of David’s prayer which we quoted above, and let us by God’s grace make it ours, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”