"Do Nothing Rashly"
J. R. Miller, 1902
"You ought to be quiet—and to do nothing rashly!" Acts 19:36
The town clerk was wise when he urged the people of Ephesus to do nothing rashly. He told them they might do injustice to the men concerning whom the disturbance had arisen. He said there was a right way to proceed; if the men had done anything wrong, the courts were open, and it would be easy to have them tried and convicted. Rashness, he assured them, might bring upon themselves serious trouble!
This was good advice that day—and it is good for us all today. Most of us are inclined, at times at least—to act rashly. We are readily carried off by excitement or by feeling, and we do things then, which cost us no end of trouble before we are through with them.
There are many rash words spoken. People get angry, and in anger the tongue is too often like a runaway horse. The driver has lost control; and the horse rushes along the street, perhaps trampling down children, perhaps dashing the vehicle to pieces, and injuring the unfortunate driver himself. A runaway tongue may do even more serious harm—than a runaway horse. It may speak words which will hurt lives irreparably, and it may do incalculable injury to the speaker himself. Rash words hurt tender hearts. They alienate friends. They start suspicion concerning good people, and blast reputations. What cruel things are rash words! "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise!" Proverbs 10:19. "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18. "A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered." Proverbs 17:27. "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." James 1:19
How much better it would be if we all learned never to speak hastily! It were good to be slow of speech in a way; for then we would not talk rashly—we would take time to think before speaking. We were never sorry for not saying the hot word that flew to our lips, when we were excited. It would have been bitter, unloving and ungentle! It could have done no good. It would have wrought only pain and harm. It would have dishonored our Master, for it would have been an exhibition of un-Christlikeness.
Jesus never spoke a hasty word. He kept silent under insult, pain, reproach, and sorest injury—not sullen silence—but silence sweet with patient, peaceful love. We are never sorry for following this perfect example, and restraining the cutting words. But we are sorry always, when we have spoken hastily. If we had taken a little time to think—we would not have made the sharp retort which has done so much harm!
There are other rash words besides those spoken in hot temper. There are people who never wait to hear all of a story—before they express an opinion. Their judgments are only half-formed, for they wait for but half the information they need to form a fair opinion. They jump to a conclusion, when they have only a part of the facts before them. As a consequence, they are often wrong, and not infrequently do serious injustice to others whom they condemn on only one-sided evidence. We have no right to form an opinion in which the character or interest of another is concerned, until we have gone patiently and conscientiously over all the facts—so as to be able to judge fairly. Hastily formed judgments of others—are most likely to be unjust judgments.
There are those also who make rash decisions, and enter into rash engagements. They are carried off by their emotions, and in their excitement give promises which afterward they find themselves unable to keep. Failures in business and losses of money—result ofttimes from rash investing; men are deceived by illusory prospects, and rush into schemes which prove unprofitable. Many people make like mistakes in choosing friends. Young men are charmed by a pretty face or a pleasant manner, and fall in love only to find by and by what silly fools they were! A great many broken engagements and many unhappy marriages would have been averted—if there had been more deliberation at the beginning!
Many people have a reputation for not regarding their promises. Those who know them, put but little dependence upon their word, for it is broken as frequently as it is kept. Sometimes the trouble lies in a lack of conscience on the subject—men seem to think that it is not wrong to break a promise, to fail in an engagement, or to disregard a pledge. Sometimes, however, it is because they make promises rashly, not considering whether they can keep them or not. A truly honorable man never breaks his lightest word—but he never gives his word without having first thought through the matter carefully.
Even in religion, Jesus teaches that men should count the cost before they make their decision—not that there can be any doubt regarding their duty—but because great harm results from beginning to follow Christ, and then giving up and turning back. It is better not to vow—than to vow and not pay. It is better not to profess to follow Christ—than, having made the profession, to fail in keeping it, and to go back again into the world!
Thus in many different departments of life, mischiefs are wrought by rashness. People do not take time to think; and then they do foolish and reckless things, which bring them into trouble, and do incalculable harm to others. We should train ourselves to greater deliberateness in speech and act. We should get such mastery over ourselves, that our tongue shall never betray us by any unadvised word, and that neither appetite nor passion shall ever lead us to do anything we shall be sorry afterward for doing.
It is a safe rule to do nothing in excitement. If one speaks sharply or bitterly to us, we would better not give any rejoinder for some hours, until there has been time for the bitterness to pass away. If we receive a letter which contains something that hurts us, we would better lay it aside, not answering it at once. Then, after we have written our reply, it would be well if we laid that away at least over night, and read it again before sending it. When young people begin to imagine that they are in love—they had better place a firm hand on their feelings, and put a bridle on their tongue, waiting a reasonable time before they make any declaration or confession. Nothing will suffer by delay, and perhaps there will be one less folly committed—if time is taken to think over the matter before saying anything.
If some new project is proposed, with its glowing visions of success and wealth, and young men are tempted to embark at once in the splendid enterprise, perhaps putting all their money into it—they had better wait. They had better be sure that it is not a mere bubble which will burst tomorrow. "Nothing ventured, nothing won." May be a wise enough maxim in some lines; but often it is very foolish motto. At least, before the venture is made, it should be known, of a reasonable certainty, that the project is not a mere visionary one, nor a fraudulent scheme to get the money from credulous investors.
We may well write town clerks' bit of sage counsel down among our maxims for self-government, "You ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly." We shall never be sorry afterward for thinking twice—before we speak, for counting the cost—before entering upon any new course, for sleeping over stings and injuries—before saying or doing anything in answer, or for carefully considering any business scheme presented to us—before putting money into it. It will save us from much regret, loss, and sorrow, always to remember to do nothing rashly. "You ought to be quiet—and to do nothing rashly!"