The Little Flowers of St. Francis, tr. by W. Heywood, , at sacred-texts.com
THE man who speaketh good words and profitable to souls is in truth as it were the mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost, and so likewise the man who speaketh evil and unprofitable words is certainly the mouthpiece of the devil. When, at any time, good and spiritually minded men be met to hold converse together, they ought always to speak of the beauty of virtues, so that virtues may please them more and they may take
more delight therein; for by delighting themselves and taking pleasure in the said virtues they will discipline themselves the more therein; and by disciplining themselves in them they will attain unto greater love thereof; and through this love, and through continual discipline and pleasure in virtues, ever will they advance to more fervent love of God and into a higher state of soul; for the which cause more gifts and more Divine graces would be granted unto them by the Lord. The more a man is tempted the more need he hath to speak of holy virtues; for even as through evil talk of sins a man ofttimes falleth lightly into sinful deeds, so ofttimes through speaking of virtues a man is lightly brought and disposed to the holy deeds of virtue. But what shall we say of the good which proceedeth from virtues? for it is so passing great that we cannot speak worthily of its great excellence, marvellous and infinite. And likewise what shall we say of the evil and of the eternal punishment which proceeds from sin? for it is so great an evil and so bottomless an abyss that it is for us incomprehensible and beyond either thought or speech. I deem it no less a virtue to know well how to keep silence than to know well how to speak; and therefore meseemeth that a man hath need of a long neck like the crane, to the end that when he would speak his words might pass through many joints before they reached his mouth; that is to say that, when a man wished to speak, it might be necessary for him to think and think again, and to examine and consider very carefully, the how, and the why, and the when, and the manner, and the condition of his hearers, and the effect upon himself, and the motive wherefor he spake.