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Previous: 6. Eating Up: The Language of Parable Next: 8. Hands and Feet

7. Speech

are our spoken words simply sounds, vibrations of the air? or is there something spiritual contained within these sounds? Our thoughts and feelings are within them. We wish to give these spiritual treasures to others, and we clothe them in words. Our friends hear the words, and opening them, almost as they tear open an envelope and unfold a letter, discover the thought and feeling we wished to communicate. The speech thus corresponds to the feelings and thoughts which it contains. (A. C. 2271; A. E. 817.)

There are these two things, feeling and thought, to be conveyed by speech. And there are two elements in speech, the tone, and the articulation which shapes the tone into words. What does the tone especially express? and what the articulation? Could you perhaps discover whether one's feeling was of anger or kindness, even if he spoke a strange language? The feeling would show itself in the tone of his voice; the distinct thought you could not learn till you understood the words. Suppose a mother's voice is too distant for you to hear more than the tone in which she speaks; can you perhaps judge whether she is scolding or soothing her child? When we speak to very little children is it more important to articulate our words clearly or to speak in a kindly tone? We often say the same meaningless words over and over again, but the child hears our love in the pleasant tone. Animals understand little of the exact thought of our speech, but they do understand our feeling. Therefore the tone rather than the words is important in addressing them. Animals themselves make sounds, very expressive sounds, but do not articulate words. Why is it? Because they have feelings, but not distinct thoughts, to express. When we feel sudden suffering or joy or anger we do not wait to find words, but make simply a sound. The thought follows more slowly, and finds expression in words. (A. E. 1216.)

There is a kind of expression which is entirely by tone, without articulation it is music. Is it adapted rather to express thought or feeling? Tender music touches our hearts, martial music stirs them with courage, but till words are joined with the tone, no distinct thought is communicated. (A. E. 323, 326.)

Can we listen very closely to our speech and discover whether some letters among those that compose our words contribute more to their tone than other letters do? If so, they are the chief means of expressing feeling. Are they the consonants or the vowels? The vowels give the tone, and therefore are the chief means of expressing feeling, but on the consonants depends the articulation which has most to do with expressing distinct thought. And among the vowel sounds there are some like oo, o, ah, which have a fuller tone than others such as a, e, i. You will notice that writers and speakers, especially poets, instinctively choose words with round, full vowels when the feeling to be expressed is deep and tender.

The importance of the very letters, on account of the thought and feeling they contain, is especially great in the Bible, where the message within the letters is one of Divine love and wisdom. "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail." (luke xvi. 17; A. C. 9349.) Two letters, alpha and omega, the first and last of the Greek alphabet, are even used as a name of the Lord. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord." (Rev. i. 8.) Does it not mean that all things of wisdom and of love which letters are capable of expressing are in the Lord and from Him? And the fact that both the letters are vowels emphasizes the thought that the Divine love of the Lord reaches from the highest to the lowest. (A. R. 29; T. C. R. 19.)

The correspondence between spoken words and the thought and feeling they contain is still more perfect in the spiritual world. Speech in that world is an exact and spontaneous expression of feeling and thought. There is nothing that is arbitrary and artificial which must be laboriously learned. It is only needful there to gain distinct feelings and thoughts, and they, as it were, express themselves. (H. H. 331; S. D. 5668.) Can we see what general difference there must be between the speech of celestial angels, whose ruling characteristic is love, and the speech of spiritual angels, who are characterized by intelligence? With which must speech be more soft with more of full, round vowels? (H. H. 241; T. C. R. 278.) And singing in heaven; what holy, tender affections must breathe into the angels' hearts through that sweet music! It is as if affection itself sounded in their ears. (T. C. R. 745 2, 746 end.)

Speech is double. Its outer part is tone and articulation; its inner part is the feeling and thought which they express. The process of speaking is also double. On the physical side we find the lungs pressing out the air through their little pipes, the larynx stretching its delicate vocal cords and tuning them to the shade of tone desired, the tongue and teeth and lips by their many forms and combinations articulating the words, and the chest and throat and nose by their sympathetic vibration giving richness to the voice. Within this is a spiritual process similar tothe physical, but even more complex and delicate. (D. P. 279 end.)

The mind is "inspired" by wise perceptions. It cannot keep them to itself, but feels impelled to express them for others. This desire to express is like the pressure of the lungs. Still we must with careful effort determine the exact shade of affection which we will express, which is like the work of the larynx in tuning its vocal cords; and we must shape our inspiration into clear-cut and intelligible thoughts, which is like the careful articulation in the mouth. Notice that the same lips and teeth and tongue receive and examine our food and articulate our words; for the same faculties which discriminate wisely in receiving instruction also give clear definition to our expression of our own thoughts. (A. C. 4795.)

If the organs of speech are unable to produce intelligible sounds, one is physically dumb. But suppose the failure to speak intelligibly on any subject is from a mental cause one has himself no perception of delightful truth which he feels impelled to express, or he has not the ability to put his perception into clear, intelligible form then he is spiritually dumb. In the Bible one is called dumb who from ignorance is unable to confess the Lord and the genuine truths of the church. (A. E. 455; A. C. 6988.)

One of the joyful promises about the Lord's coming says, "The tongue of the dumb shall sing." (Isa. xxxv. 6.) Does it mean that men had not the power of physical speech till the Lord loosed their tongues? or that they were in such ignorance about the Lord and heavenly life that they could not confess Him and teach His laws, till they learned from the Lord? Then the silent world broke forth in joyful confession and praise. (A. E. 518.) There were indeed some physically dumb who were brought to the Lord for healing. "They brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake." (matt. ix. 32, 33, xii. 22.) What spiritual infirmity of mankind did this dumbness typify? and what spiritual benefit is represented by the healing? (A. C. 6988.) What spiritual meaning has the prayer, "O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise"? (Ps. li. 15.) It is a prayer that learning truly of the Lord we may make grateful confession of Him from an overflowing heart. (P. P.) Remember how dumbness came upon Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, because he believed not the promise of the angel. (luke i. 20, 64, 68.) It was an outward picture of his spiritual inability to receive the inspiring news and to thank the Lord. When with the fulfilment of the promise, the father's heart overflowed with a deep sense of Divine mercy, "his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God . . . saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel."

The Psalms call upon us to sing unto the Lord. "O come, let us sing unto the lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation." (Ps. xcv. 1, xcvi. 1, xcviii. 1.) It is a call to let grateful affections go forth to the Lord with glad heart. (A. C. 8261; A. E. 612; A. R. 279.) We sing a "new song" when with a new sense of what the Lord has done for us our hearts overflow with new thanksgiving. Thus the "new song" sung by those about the throne (Rev. v. 9), means the joyful confession of the Lord in His Divine Humanity as God of heaven and earth. The church is only now learning to make this acknowledgment, and it is therefore called a "new song." (A. R. 279; A. E. 326.) " Sing unto the lord," in its fullest meaning, is but the first great commandment in another form. It means to love the Lord with all the heart and soul and mind and strength. Love is the song; it finds expression not in the voice alone, but in obedience, and in every useful and kindly work. Such is the unending song of heaven. (C. L. 9.)

The natural idea of speech is of spoken words; the spiritual idea is of the feeling and thought which the words express. We read in the Bible of the voice of the Lord. "The voice of the lord is powerful; the voice of the lord is full of majesty." (Ps. xxix. 4.) The natural idea is of spoken words, and the Lord's message has at times come down even into this natural form, but the spiritual idea is of the Divine thought or the Divine truth expressed in whatever way. (A. C. 9926, 10182; A. E. 261.) This helps us to understand more spiritually what is said of each step of the creation, that "God said," and it was (gen. i.); also what is said in John, "In the beginning was the Word. ... All things were made by him " john i. 1, 3); and again in the Psalm, "By the word of the lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth." (Ps. xxxiii. 6.) The natural idea is that creation was accomplished by a spoken word. The spiritual and true idea is that it all is an expression of the Lord's Divine thought, the work of Divine truth. (A. C. 9926, 10182; A. E. 261.) Because a word is the embodiment of affection and thought, we call the book which contains and brings to us the Lord's Divine love and wisdom, His Word.


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Language of Parable
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7. Speech

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