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presented him to be, as it is possible to conceive; as so full of mercy and love to have sent his only begotten Son to die for sinners. Wonderful display of goodness! This one fact affords a luminous exhibition of the true character of God, which may stand in the place of the most laboured comment. It proves to us that his goodness must be infinite; that his yoke must be easy; that his commands must be light; that his care and tenderness for his creatures must be unlimited; for "he that spared not his own son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
My reason for dwelling so long upon this part of my subject is to convey an adequate idea of the nature and value of truth. There is, perhaps, no sin which is regarded in so slight a point of view as that of lying. In general the evil of it is estimated entirely by its consequences. If, for instance, a person tells a lie in order to injure his neighbour, he is thought to have committed a very criminal act, because it is an act of injustice, and is attended with injurious effects. But if a person tells a lie merely to screen himself from punishment, or to advance his own interests, without any apprehension of immediate injury to others, his fault is considered as of a very venial kind. "It does no harm,” it is said, "to any one." Now, in opposition to this erroneous idea, I would wish to inculcate upon the minds of my readers the evil of lying in itself, as a branch of that general system by which the devil maintains his empire in the world; and to lead them to consider it as a practice entirely contrary to God, to godliness, to excellence, to knowledge, to wisdom, to every thing that is great and good and useful in the world. I wish them to be thoroughly convinced that it is absolutely impossible to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, unless the foundation is laid in an inviolable regard to truth, and a sacred reverence for its authority and that, therefore, to tell a lie, on whatever account, is a heinous sin in itself: and that a liar, so far as he is justly chargeable with this sin, is necessarily under the influence of the father of lies.
But there remains another view to be taken of the intrinsic evil of lying: I mean its being most positively and directly for bidden by God. And this it is which in any case constitutes the grand malignity of sin. It is utterly unchristian therefore to reason, as many do, only upon the injurious consequences of an action, as if in these consisted its whole guilt. It ought surely to be sufficient to satisfy the mind of a christian, that a thing is sinful, to say that it has been forbidden by God. Now God has
marked the practice of lying with peculiar reprobation. Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel, for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. By swearing and lying they break out," break out as it were in open defiance of God, "therefore shall the land mourn." "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight." "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things, who have said, with our tongue will we prevail, our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?" "Lie not one to another." "ALL liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."
These passages will be sufficient to impress those who value the word of God with a dread of lying in general. Permit me, however, to consider more particularly some of the branches of this evil.
It is a common thing for a person, when he has done wrong, to tell lies in order to escape the blame which he justly deserves. And this is with many a very early habit, formed even in childhood, and continued throughout the whole course of life. Now, whenever such an occasion for lying occurs, let me request the person who is tempted to it to pause for one moment, while he thus reasons with himself. "If I acknowledge my fault, I shall, it is true, be blamed; but what then? I shall have maintained my character for veracity. If I attempt to conceal my fault by telling a lie, it is probable, that I shall be suspected, and my character for truth may be lost. And what confidence can be afterwards reposed in a person who is detected in telling a lie. Besides, I shall commit probaby a much greater sin by telling a lie than I have already done. I shall also violate my conscience: and surely it is better that the whole world should know that I have done wrong, than that God and my conscience should be witnesses against me that I have told a lie."
I cannot but here remark, how seldom it is that people pay much regard to conscience. If they can conceal their faults from others, they think it a small matter that these faults are known to themselves. Now, a sacred reverence for conscience is the grand characteristic of a real christian. He does not abstain from sin because his fellow-men would become acquainted with what he had done, and his character would be lost; neither does he do good in order to be seen and applauded by men: but in both cases he consults his own conscience; and it is because it is right, that he either does, or forbears to do any particular action. We should learn, therefore, to fear and reverence ourselves more than
we do any one else. How many persons do we meet with, whose consciences are perfectly at ease, although they are in the habit of lying whenever they can thereby promote their worldly interests! If an appeal were made to their consciences whether they had committed any evil action during the day, they would, perhaps, boldly answer in the negative: and if reminded that they had told a lie, they would probably reply, "Oh, that is a mere trifle, not worth mentioning." Thus do men deceive themselves, while they adopt a standard of right and wrong, wholly opposed to that which God has established in his word.
It is here important to remark, that the true excellence of christian principles is shown by our willingness to submit to loss or blame, rather than to commit sin. We are likely to be blamed for having done wrong; and this blame we may perhaps have it in our power to escape by telling a lie, which there is no chance that any one will be able to detect. Now such cases as these, occur perpetually in common life: and it is by our conduct on such occasions, that we may ascertain whether we will preserve our integrity at the expense of suffering blame or reproach: whether, in short, we are true christians: for a true christian had rather suffer the extremity of worldly evil, than incur the displeasure of his God.
If direct lying is thus to be avoided as highly sinful, all approaches to it ought equally to be avoided. The christian, therefore, will take care, that he does not, for instance, hastily make promises which he may be unable to perform. For though he may intend, at the time, to perform them; yet, if they are made rashly, and without due consideration, and especially if he is conscious that he has been in the habit of promising too readily, he exposes himself to the danger of uttering a falsehood.
The christian will also guard as sedulously against equivocation as against a direct lie. The miserable ingenuity of some persons, who think they have not been guilty of lying, because their words have been so managed, as to convey the false idea which they were intended to convey, while they admit of a construction consonant to truth; argues both a want of good sense, and a mean and disingenuous mind. Let such remember that God is not deceived by their sophistry. Liars they are, unquestionably, with cowardice and a mean and despicable subtlety added to their lie. Such conduct ought, therefore, to be abhorred by every upright and ingenuous character.
I conclude this paper with a caution to my readers against. indulging a habit of exaggeration in common discourse. The
reverence due to the sacred majesty of truth cannot be too strongly enforced upon the mind: and becomes every person, therefore, to measure and guard his words habitually, that that reverence may be cherished, and may appear on all occasions. There may, indeed, be an unnecessary and ridiculous preciseness, as there is a counterfeit of every thing that is excellent; but the indispensable obligation which lies upon us to keep truth inviolate in every relation, and even in our common modes of expression, ought strenuously to be maintained. Who shall say that one slight transgression may not be a step to another: and that the want of reverence for truth, which now appears only in lesser matters, may not, when wilfully indulged, become so strengthened by habit as to discover itself on the most imporant occasions.
RURAL OBJECTS SPIRITUALLY OBSERVED.
[From the Evanvelical Magazine.]
I HOPE it will not be altogether unprofitable to offer a new species of pleasure to the religious world, through the medium of your Magazine. Alas! the christians' pleasures often seem restricted; and some authors write as if the middling class, who love the gospel, might not venture to sip any of those streams which the worldly are encouraged to drink in copious draughts.
I am, sir, a mechanic, in a close part of London, where I have passed my life; and through the divine blessing on my industry, can now venture to leave my shop occasionally. But as I am a constant hearer of the gospel, and I hope a partaker of divine grace, I dare not associate with those people who resort to fairs, shows, and other ordinary places, where they take their wives and children for a treat, as it is called. Yet I have often desired to give them a reward for their orderly conduct, industry, and obedience: and though they have not said so, I am sure their hearts have longed for a holiday too.
One Sabbath I was greatly affected by our minister's sermon, which, in a sweet manner, described the faithfulness of God to his promises, from the works of nature: he quoted many passages from the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles; all which attracted my attention. Ah! thought I, how happy those are who see the fields and the gardens, which bear testimony to God's faithfulness! I eat my bread indeed, blessed be the Lord! but how it grows I know not; nor can I well imagine how the corn and
the grass illustrate the truths of the Bible; but if I am spared, I will go and see.
Accordingly I arranged my plans for the next holiday season; and told my wife and little ones (who have all been taught to read) to search their Bibles for those passages of scripture which mention the trees, and flowers, and grass; and every evening we looked over the precious book of God to see what promises were attached to these things, what similitudes were conveyed, and what we could learn from them.
When the day came, with each our Bibles folded down against these passages, I hired a little chaise, and drove them into a retired part of Essex; where I asked a child, bred in those parts, to walk with us, and tell us the names of the birds and flowers which principally attracted the children's notice. The first we saw was a knot of lilies; which my eldest boy eagerly examined, and said, "Our Lord has commanded us to examine the lilies how they grow." Oh, sir, what a fund of delight this one flower afforded the lively imaginations of my young ones! and to me and my wife, as we looked at each other, and observed their innocent expressions, enlivened by the pure air, and under the broad expanse of heaven, who can tell what we felt, when, turning to St. Luke's Gospel, we pursued the passage, and read the gracious assurance that Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these! and that precious promise to clothe us, also, sealed, as it were, by the virgin whiteness and beauty of the flower! I will not detain you by all we saw to corroborate the truth of God's book, during this first day's pleasure; but only remark, that our succeeding holidays have all been conducted upon the same plan. So much indeed was I delighted with the view of nature, prepared by the precious truths of the gospel in my mind, that I promised to devote four days in every year (God willing) to the same pursuit; and now, as we go in the various seasons of the year, we have learned the seed-time and harvest; understand how faithfully the promise made to Noah is fulfilled; and how the grass and the corn, as well as the wind and the storm, fulfil his word.
My children read the word of God with more awakened attention, as it becomes the source of their pleasure; and I often bless God that we were born in the midst of a city, that the images we find in the fields lose none of their importance from being common, for we are careful always to be prepared from the word of God for the objects we seek after; and my children naturally look for the sheep and the birds with some sacred allusion.