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biassed by selfinterest; and knowing his duty, let him as he regards the favour of God, cease to violate his law, repent of his former transgressions, and set himself to act agreeably to the will of God. And let us all guard against such a love of gain, as may lead us to act contrary to either the letter or spirit of the divine law. AMEN.
EXODUS XX. 16.
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."
The object of this commandment is, our own and our neighbour's character. The duties required, and the sins forbidden, in this commandment, are stated in our Catechism in the answers to the 77th and 78th questions, as folłows, viz.
"What is required in the ninth commandment?
The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour's good name; especially in witness bearing.
What is forbidden in the ninth commandment ?
The ninth commandment forbiddeth, whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good
The great duties required in this commandment are truth, and a regard to reputation. The great sins forbidden are lying, and slander. These duties and sins may be subdivided into several particulars.
With respect to truth, this commandment requires us always to speak it, whether in giving testimony before a court of justice, in common conversation, or in the promises we make; and also to defend and promote the truth in others. With respect to lying the opposite of truth, this commandment forbids all falsehood, whether in giving ev
idence, in common conversation, or in making promises. It also forbids concealing the truth, in giving evidence, when we are bound to declare the whole truth; or concealing it though not called upon to declare it, when by such concealment, our neighbour may be injured. And it further forbids, knowingly appearing in favour of an unjust cause, and pleading against the truth, passing unjust sentences contrary to the known truth, forgery, hypocrisy, and all equivocation and mental reservation.
With respect to reputation, this commandment requires in regard to our own good name, that we be careful to conduct in such a manner, as to deserve it, and then that we in a suitable way defend it: and in regard to the good name of others, it requires, that we love, desire, and rejoice in their good; that we sorrow on account of their infirmities and cover them, unless their good and that of the public, manifestly require that they should be made known; that we defend their innocency when they are unjustly defamed; that we readily receive a good report, and slowly and cautiously admit an evil report concerning them and that we discourage talebearers, and slanderers. With respect to reputation this commandment forbids, in regard to our own good name, all such conduct as may justly injure our character in the sight of the world; in regard to the good name of others, it forbids all slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, unreasonable suspicions, misconstruing intentions, words and actions, unnecessary discovering of infirmities, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and rejoiceing in the disgrace and infamy of others.
Having given this brief and general view of this commandment, we shall in further attending to it, particularly treat of the two leading sins forbidden by it, viz. lying and slander; and in doing this we shall naturally attend to the contrary duties.
The object of this discourse is to treat of the sin of lying.
A lie may be defined to be a contradiction of our thoughts, by the signs we make use of to express them.Agreeably to this definition, a person may be guilty of a lie, when at the same time, that which he utters, proves eventually to be true. For instance, should a person inform me that a friend would visit me at a certain time, when at
the same time, he had no reason to believe, and indeed did not believe that the event would take place-in such a case, should the event foretold take place, still the person who foretold it would be guilty of a lie, because his words contradicted the thoughts of his mind. And on the other hand a person may utter that which is not really true, provided he believes it to be true, and yet not be guilty of a lie. For in such a case, his thoughts and his words would agree, his words would be the index of his mind, and he would only be in a mistake or error. Hence when a person makes to another a promise of any thing, if at the time of promising he fully intends to perform, though he afterwards fail to fulfil his promise, he is not guilty of a lie, though he may be criminal in other respects. Again a person may be guilty of lying without using words, viz. by using such signs, or acting in such a manner, purposely to deceive, as does deceive another, and lead him to believe what is not true.
And here while illustrating the nature of lying, we may further remark, that figurative speeches, such as metaphors, allegories, irony, and the like, though not literally true, are not lies. We frequently find such figures used in Scripture. Thus Christ is called a stone, a rock, a vine, &c; and the trees are represented as going forth to anoint a king over them, and addressing the olive, the fig, the vine, and the bramble. In these metaphors and allegories, the meaning is according to truth, and it is understood, and there is no disagreement between the mind of the speaker, and the sense he would convey. And frequently in this figurative way, instruction is conveyed more intelligibly and forcibly, than if the expression had been literal. In irony the gesture and manner of speaking evidently convey the meaning of the mind; so that here again, there is no disagreement between the thoughts of the mind and the signs used to convey them, and therefore no lie. Of this manner of speaking we have several instances in the Scriptures.
Lies are usually divided into three kinds.
1. Jocose, or those which are told with a design to amuse company, without any intention to profit or hurt, either ourselves or others.
2. Officious, or those which are made with a design to excuse or to promote the good of ourselves or others.
3. Pernicious or Malicious made with a design to injure others.
With respect to lies of the last class, there can be no dispute as to their criminality. But some lax casuists have plead in favour of lies of the two former classes, and especially of the second, as innocent.
It is allowed, there are different degrees of guilt attached to the different species of lying; but every kind is sinful. The Scriptures every where condemn lying without excepting any particular kind. A lie is essentially wrong, and therefore cannot be made right without destroying its essence, or its ceasing to be a lie. A lawful lie is as palpable a contradiction, and as great an absurdity, as to say a lawful sin, or a sinless sin.
To the innocence of jocose lying in particular, we may object, that truth is too sacred, and too important to the well being of society, ever to be trifled with even in jest. Further a trifling with truth in jest, has a tendency to lessen a sense of its sacredness, and therefore to render it easier for persons to falsify the truth in a more important sense. And, again I believe, that a practice of violating the truth, even in jest, will lessen a person's character, in popular estimation, and if this opinion be correct the criminality of the practice is confirmed by common
As to officious lies, or those which are made with a design to excuse or promote the good of ourselves or others. we may argue their criminality from the words of the Apostle, Rom. iii. 8; "As we be slanderously repor ted, and as some affirm that we say, let us do evil, that good may come; whose damnation is just." The principle on which officious lies are justified is that they are made for a good end, and that the end justifies the means. This is the very principle that the Apostle condemns in the passage just quoted. Some had reported that the Apostle himself preached this doctrine; but he repelled the charge, and called it a slander; and further declared their damnation to be just, who acted upon this principle.
Having thus explained the nature and pointed out the different kinds of lying, we proceed to prove the evil of
I. It is contrary to the moral character of God. W
soever is contrary to God's moral character, as he is infinitely excellent, must have an intrinsic deformity. Now truth is an essential perfection of God. He is "a God of truth;" Deut. xxxii. 4. "Abundant in truth;" Ex. xxxiv. 6. "God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of a man, that he should repent; hath he said and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken and shall he not make it good" Num. xxiii. 19. He is a "God that cannot lie ;" Tit. i. 2. Such is the character of God as given to us in the Scriptures. Truth is an essential perfection of God; and a lie is directly the opposite. This teaches us the evil of lying, and its odiousness in the sight of God, who has an infinite love to his perfections, and by consequence an infinite hatred of what is opposed to them, and therefore has an infinite love to truth and an infinite hatred of a lie.
2. The wickedness of lying is proved by its contrariety to that pattern of excellence Christ Jesus, who is proposed to us in the gospel for our imitation, and whose temper and conduct, it is our duty to imitate as far as they are imitable. The Scriptures speak of him as "true;" Mat. xxii. 16. As "the faithful and true witness;" Rev. iii. 14. As "full of grace and and truth;" John i. 14. and as "the truth;" John xiv. 6.
3. A lie assimilates us to Satan, whose character is directly the reverse of every thing that is excellent. Christ spake of him, John viii. 44; as follows; "He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." From this text we learn, with whom lying originated, and after whom liars copy. The devil is the father of lies, after him liars copy, and to him are they by this practice assimilated.
4. Another argument to prove the wickedness of this practice, is, that the word of God expressly forbids lying, and requires truth its opposite; as in the following texts; "Behold thou desirest truth in the inward parts;" - Ps. LI. 6. "Ye shall not lie one to another;" Lev. xix. 11. "These things doth the Lord hate, a lying tongue, a false witness that speaketh lies." Prov. vi. 16. 17, 19. "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight;" Prov. xii. 22. "Putting away lying, speak