in all our words, and faithfulness in all our promises. Put away lying, fays the apoftle, lye not one to another, but let every man speak truth with his neighbour.

Ufe no e

How a lye

We who worship the God of truth ought to quivocation. fpeak truth; to use plainnefs and fincerity in all our words, to abhor falfhood and diffimulation, and those more refined ways of lying by equivocation of words, and secret reservations of our minds, on purpose to deceive the innocent. Methinks there is not a more fhocking fign of the decay of chriftianity, and of the little power and influence that the gospel hath upon us, than that there is fo little regard had by christians to these moral duties; which, because moral, (however men may flight that word) are therefore of eternal and indifpenfable obligation, having their foundation in the nature of God who made us. In a word, that man who can dispense with himself as to moral duties, who makes no conscience of telling a lye, or breaking his word; what badge foever he may wear, what title foever he may call himself by, it is as impoffible that fuch a man should be a true christian, as it is to reconcile the God of truth and the father of lyes. Yet as all untruths cannot be properly reduced may be re under this fin, let it be obferved, that it is no lye to peated. repeat a known falfhood in the way of a narrative, if a man mentions it not as his own fenfe, but declares it to be false at the fame time. Neither is it a lye to use figurative expreffions, which are not strictly true in a literal fenfe; if by common use or speech, the design of them is eafy to be understood by the perfon that hears it. Neither is an intention to deceive others always criminal, if no falfhood be uttered: as for example; it is lawful to deceive an enemy in war by strategem, though I may not tell him a lye. Again, though my filence, or forbearance to fay all that I know of a matter, leads my neighbour into a mistake; yet I may lawfully forbear to inform him of the truth; yea, in fome cafes it may be my duty, where a greater good requires, that he should be kept in ignorance: or fometimes for his own good; as in this cafe; a fick perfon would refufe a medicine, likely to be of service to him, if he was acquainted what it was, a phyfician, a parent, or a friend,


When deceit is not criminal.

may lawfully endeavour to deceive him by any method confiftent with truth: or if a matter be intrufted with me as a secret, and another would fain discover it, who has no right to know it; if by filence, or by a partial but true account, I can divert his enquiry, it will be no falfhood. But it is not lawful to lye for God, or for the greatest advantage to our neighbours or ourselves; and, a mischievous lye, that is defigned to the prejudice of any, is more hienous and aggravated, than an officious, or a lye in jeft: but lying in any kind is a violation of truth, which the best end cannot juftify, because we must 1 not do evil, that good may come. Therefore,


Obferve, truth is not to be disguised nor violated in com1 mon conversation. Many that allow themselves to tranfgrefs in trivial inftances, only make way for The bad confequences the difregard of truth in confiderable matters. Do of lying. not men often proceed gradually from customary breach of their word, to break their oaths alfo? Truth feldom remains long unfhaken in cafes of greater importance, when it is not strictly regarded upon common occafions.

not to flat


Neither are we at liberty to make profeffions of kindness, where none is meant. Civility is fit to be profeffed and practised to all, but profeffion of refpect and We ought esteem is another thing; and when there is nothing to answer it, is inconfiftent with the candour and fimplicity of a difciple of Chrift. Commendations given to men which we think they do not deferve; or flattering them upon excellencies, they are not poffeffed of, if they pass with us for words of course now, will not pass so easily in the day of the Lord.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Facetious lyes may not be a direct breach upon charity, but they are upon truth, and weaken mens regards for it; and if fuch inventions produce fome mirth and entertainment for the company, yet they can give none in the reflection applied to ourselves.

II. Again, many who make a flight of violating truth in common converfation, will strictly infift it must be kept in bearing teftimony, and cannot allow themselves to bear false witness, where they think their neighbour directly concerned in his life, pro

Nor ufe jo

cofe lyes.

Do not bear

falfe witnefs.


perty, reputation, or otherwife. Should not fuch be careful, that they spread nothing to the reproach of a neighbour, of which they have not good affurance as to the truth thereof: that they publish no defamation upon hear fay only? And it would be well for those, who are guilty of fuch evil devices, to remember that if we haftily put an uncertain ftory out of our power by making it publick, we may prove false witnesses of a scandal, to many who take it upon our authority, without having inclination or opportunity to examine the grounds on which we told it. In like manner, if we are called to give publick teftimony, between man and man, a fincere recording to spect to truth will engage to a careful recollection knowledge. before we give we give our teftimony, upon the matter: it will difpofe to lay afide affection on one hand, and prejudice on the other, and impartially to speak the whole truth, without disguise or concealment. For though we are not bound in every cafe to speak the whole truth; yet when a matter depends in whole, or in part, upon our evidence, we are bound not only to avoid all falfhood, but also not to omit any thing which may give light to the true merits of the caufe; for fuch concealment has the nature of a lye, because partial evidences may have the fame evil effects, as thofe evidences have which are directly false. And

Nor spread falfe reports.

Give evi

dence ac

III. Therefore, this ought to be facred to every honeft man, when he is heard on his bare word only. And as truth must take place in our promises and engagements, fo veracity requires that we intend to perform; because, where we were at full liberty before, promises oblige us, and give our neighbour a right; and we should never allow ourselves to make them, unless there be an intention to put them in execution. So to engage to do a thing, when we cannot accomplish it, or have it not in our intention, is really to injure our neighbour, and to wrong our own fouls at the last day. And we must not only intend, but be careful to perform, our promises. Yet, if we are unexpectedly difabled by the providence of God; God and confcience and all reasonable men, will discharge us from the guilt of falfhood, in not

Speak truth always.

Promise nothing out of thy power.

making good our word: for, we are fuppofed to promise what we are able to perform; and what we fuppofe to be lawful; but if it appears otherwife, we must repent of our rafhnefs, and not add fin to fin, by executing an unlawful act. Befides,


greater engagements require our attendance, at the time when a promise was to be performed, they must take place. As for inftance, you have undertaken to do a fervice to a perfon at such a time, but afterwards you understand that a wife or a child are in danger of life without your immediate affiftance; the promise is evidently fuperfeded by greater engagements that must not be omitted. So that, it is plain that no promise can be made in bar of all future contingencies, nor release a man from that which the providence of God makes much more his duty. Therefore, veracity obliges us to perform when we lawfully may do it, when we are in a capacity, and not called off therefrom by a more evident duty.

of no body.

Seeing then, that truth is what every man expects and defires from another; and unless truth be inviolably obferved, the bands of human fociety are weaken- Speak evil what shall we say now of the fcandalous practice of evil fpeaking, which is the feed of all evil and the pest of civil fociety? Sacred writ has placed it, as it justly deserves, in the company of the worst of wicked actions: out of the heart, fays our Saviour, proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, false witness, evil speakings. The apostle ranks backbiters, with the black crimes of those who are given up to a reprobate mind, and which in the judgment of God are worthy of death; and he puts flanderers and revilers with those that shall not inherit the kingdom of God; and when he reckons up the fins of the last times, evil fpeakers are in the lift of that black catalogue. St Peter joins evil fpeakings with malice, hypocrify, and envy, offsprings of hell; which we must lay afide entirely, if we defire the fincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby. And notwithstanding the highpretences to religion, St James affures us, that he that bridles not his tongue, that man's religion is vain. This is the fin that robs our neighbour of one of the most valuable things in the world, which is often purchased at the hazard of his life, hisreputation and good name, which in Solomon's opinion, is





better than precious ointment. In that it is contrary to that wife dictate of nature, of doing to others as we would they fhould do to us, it is an open violation of that chriftian doctrine of charity, fo dear to our Saviour, by which he distinguished his difciples, and which was to remain as the true character of the children of God the Father. This is a fign of a weak mind, which is not able to bear the luftre of merit and virtue. 'Tis the mark of a mean and cruel temper, unworthy of a man, to delight in wounding our neighbour, or to widen those wounds which have been made by others. This puts on the appearance of friendship, and is ufhered in with great commendations; that the wound that is given may be deep and fure. This counterfeits the shape of zeal for God's glory; and pretends to the love of juftice, and a compaffionate fenfe of the faults of our neighbour, or a violent and just sorrow caused by the outrage that is done to God our Maker. Nevertheless, let whatever falfe reafons be given for this practice, it is always a breach of the great duty of charity, and it is a mark of falfe devotion, to tear in pieces the reputation of thofe that oppose our defigns, and to think to make an agreeable offering to God of what we facrifice, either to our revenge or to our jealous tempers.

For except fome inftance of juftice or charity require it, we ought not to expofe our neighbour's real faults, because we are not willing that all that is true of ourselves should be expofed to publick view; and it is contrary to that love we owe to our neighbour, which should make us ready to cover and conceal all things that are defective in him, and which if known, may tend to leffen that good name and reputation he hath obtained. But this is not all our duty: for under this branch of charity to our neighbour, we must also include the divulging any ill we hear or know concerning our neighbour, whether true or falfe, whereby his good name is impaired. For, if the matters we object against him are false or doubtful, it is calumny or flander; if the evidence we proceed upon be true, but not fufficient, it is rath judgment; and a proneness to blame and condemn others, is cenforiousness.

Let us therefore endeavour to divert fuch difcourfe, and difcourage fuch fort of converfation, by all prudent means;


« VorigeDoorgaan »