Temperance or Self-Control

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:5-7).

The word "temperance" means a great deal more than what is usually understood by that term. It is customary to apply the expression "temperance" to a habit of moderation in reference to eating and drinking. No doubt it fully involves this, but it involves very much more. Indeed, the Greek word used by the inspired apostle may be rendered "self-control." It gives the idea of one who has self habitually well reined in.

This is a rare and admirable grace, diffusing its hallowed influence over the entire course, character, and conduct. It not only bears directly upon one, or two, or twenty selfish habits, but upon self, in all the length and breadth of that comprehensive and most odious term.

Some may ask, "How can we control self?" The answer is blessedly simple: "I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). Salvation in Christ means more than deliverance from the wrath to come, the pardon of our sins, and the assurance of exemption from the lake of fire. It is far more than these, precious and priceless though they be. In a word, "salvation" implies a full and hearty acceptance of Christ to guide me out of folly’s dark and devious paths, into paths of heavenly light and peace. Hence, therefore, it is evident that "self-control" is included in the salvation which we have in Christ. It is a result of that practical sanctification with which divine grace has endowed us.

Now, in presenting to my reader a few practical sentences on the subject of self-control, I shall contemplate it under the three following divisions, namely, the thoughts, the tongue, and the temper.

OUR THOUGHTS

I suppose there are few Christians who have not suffered from evil thoughts. They are truly hateful and should be judged, condemned, and expelled. I cannot prevent birds from flying over me, but I can prevent their alighting upon me. In like manner, I cannot prevent evil thoughts, but I can refuse them a lodgment therein.

But how can we control our thoughts? No more than we could blot out our sins, or create a world. What are we to do? Look to Christ. This is the true secret of self-control. The more excellent way to be preserved from the suggestions of evil is by the power of pre-occupation with good. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are venerable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things which ye have learned and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:8,9).

OUR TONGUE

That influential member, so fruitful in good, so fruitful in evil. How deeply important is the grace of self-control in its application to such a member! Mischief, which years cannot repair, may be done by the tongue in a moment.

Who, then, can control the tongue? No man can do it; but Christ can; and we have only to look to Him, in simple faith, which implies the sense of our own utter helplessness and His all-sufficiency. How often, when suffering under the effects of some outrageous blunder of the tongue, have we resolved to command that unruly member somewhat better next time. But, alas, our resolution proved to be like the morning cloud that passes away, and we had only to retire and weep over our lamentable failure in the matter of self-control. Now, why was this? Simply because we undertook the matter in our own strength, or, at least, without a sufficiently deep consciousness of our weakness. We must cling to Christ as the babe clings to its mother.

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison....Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter (Ja. 3:8-11)?

OUR TEMPER

The temper is intimately connected with both the tongue and the thoughts. When the spring of thought is spiritual, and the current heavenly, the tongue is only the active agent for good, and the temper is calm and unruffled. Christ dwelling in the heart by faith regulates everything. Without Him, all is worse than worthless. I can no more control my temper than my tongue or my thoughts; and if I set about it, I shall be sure to break down every hour. Let us look to Christ to control our temper. No amount of knowledge, either of doctrine or the letter of Scripture, will preserve the soul from this awful condition. Nothing but "the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" will avail.

Put off anger.....put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him (Col. 3:8,10).