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xxv. 14; And they that would preserve their name, let
2. By concealing prudently those secrets concerning ourselves which we are not obliged to discover. They sin against God and themselves who unnecessarily give another their reputation to keep, Prov. xxv. 9, 10; Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another; lest he that heareth it, put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.' This is not to be extended to the conceal. ing of scandalous sins, which people are lawfully called to confess: for in that case the name of a confessing penitent is better than that of an obstinate scandalous sinner, Prov. xxviii. 13; He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.'
3. By defending our good name when it is unjustly at tacked, as our Lord did, when he said to the Jews, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me,' John viii. 49; It is a tender point to be wounded in; and if it be done wrongously, we are enemies to ourselves, if we use not all means competent to clear ourselves.
Secondly, By deeds, we are to care for it practically.
1. If we would maintain our good name, let us not do
2. We must not do what is like evil, 1 Thess. v. 22; They who take a liberty to themselves in suspicious practices, throw away their own reputation. And if they be innocent as to gross things, they are in the nearest disposition to be guilty. We should follow the apostle in this case, Phil. iv. 8; Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, 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.' Julius Cæsar having divorced his wife, was called to witness against her; and being interrogated, declared he knew nothing of the business; and being asked, Why then he had put her away? Because, said he, I would have all my relations as free from the suspicion as the guilt of a bad action,
III, As it relates to our neighbour's good name. We are to maintain, and promote it too, as far as is consistent with truth. And for this cause there is required of us,
1. A charitable opinion and esteem of our neighbours, 1 Cor. xiii. 7; being ready to hope the best of them, unless the contrary be evident,
2. A desire of, and rejoicing in, their good name and reputation, Rom. i. 8; We are to love them as ourselves, and therefore should be glad of the sweet savour of their name, though their reputation outshine ours,
3. Sorrowing and grieving for their faults, 2 Cor. xii. 21; The blasting of any body's name by their sins, should make us mourn, and the rather that the same root of bitterness is in all naturally: and they are the deeper in God's debt that get through the world with an unblemished reputation.
4. Covering of their infirmities with the mantle of love, 1 Pet. iv. 8; Every body has some weak side, and needs a cover from others in love: and it is a dangerous business to aggravate and blaze abroad this to their dishonour.
5. Freely acknowledging of the gifts and graces that are in any, 1 Cor. i. 4,-7; As none are so good but they have some discernible infirmity, so hardly is one so bad but there is some one thing or another praise-worthy in them, And if it were but one thing, it is our duty frankly to own it.
6. Defending of their innocence, as Ahimelech did David's, 1 Sam. xxii. 14; Who is so faithful,' says he, among all thy servants, as David, which is the king's sonin-law, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honourable in thine house?' It is necessary and just to defend the innocent, espe cially if absent, against the poisonous bites of a viperous tongue lest we be held consenting to the tongue-murder of him, in God's account.
7. An unwillingness to receive an ill report of them, and a readiness to admit a good report of them, 1 Cor. xiii, 6, 7. Psal. xv. 3; Love readily opens the door to a good report of our neighbour, but is not very hasty to let in an evil one, being truly sorry if it should be true.
8. Discouraging of tale bearers, flatterers, and slanderers, who go about gathering all the filth they can find to throw upon the name and reputation of others. These should be discouraged as the pests of human society, as David did,
Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour,' says he, him will I cut off,' Psal. ci. 5.
9. Lastly, Watching over one another giving sound and seasonable admonitions, checks, and reproofs, for what is ill or ill like in others, Lev. xix. 17; and telling themselves of it, so as it may not be blabbed out without necessity: whereby both their souls might be timely preserved from the snare, and their good name preserved too.
Having thus given a view of the duties required in the ninth commandinent, I proceed to consider what is forbidden in it.
Quest. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?" Ans. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name.'
The sins forbidden in this commandment are here reduced to three heads.
1. Whatsoever is prejudicial to truth.
2. Whatsoever is prejudicial to our own good name. 3. Whatsoever is prejudicial to our neighbour's good
These I shall consider in order.
I. This command forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth. The God of truth has set this command as a hedge and fence about truth, that it be not wronged. For it cannot be prejudiced but by the same means that we wrong God and our neighbour too. Now there are two cases in which truth is apt to suffer hurt.
First, Judicially, in judgment, in judicatories, whether ecclesiastical or civil. There truth is to make its most solemn appearance, Zech. viii. 16; and lies there are most sinful. The judges judge for God, and so the solemnity of the thing ought to strike the greater awe on all to do or say nothing prejudicial to truth. Now truth is prejudiced in judgment, and this command broken.
1. By judges when they pervert judgment, respecting persons, and passing unjust sentences, Prov. xvii. 15. calling evil good, and good evil, and rewarding the righteous as the wicked, and the wicked as the righteous: and iniquitous laws can never bear men out in this, Isa. v. 23. and x. 1.
2. By the complainer, while he falsely accuses or charges
another, Luke xix. 8; forges writs, Psal. cxix. 69; or suborns false witnesses, Acts vi. 13.
3. By the defender, when he denies a just charge, being called to a free confession, Prov. xxviii. 13. And seeing judges are set to judge for the Lord, this must be reckoned a lying to the Lord.
4. By the witnesses, and that when they either conceal the truth, not discovering freely and fully what they know, or when they tell any thing that is not truth, Lev. v. 1. Prov. xix. 9. And thus people may prejudice truth, when they keep up what might make the truth appear, and the cause go right in judgment.
5. Lastly, By the pleaders, while they appear for an unjust cause to bear down truth and justice, Acts xxiv. 2, &c.
Secondly, Extrajudicially, in common conversation and otherwise. Wheresoever we go, we should carry truth along with us; but out of judgment truth is often prejudiced; and that these three ways.
1. By unfaithfulness in conversation, when people slip the bond of their word, and make nothing of breaking lawful promises, Rom. i. 31. A man ought to value his word highly, as a man, and much more as a Christian. That is a sad complaint There is no truth in the land,' Hos. iv. 1; when men do with their promises as an ape with its collar, slipping it on and off as it sees meet.
2. By undue silence. Strange is the disorder that sin has brought into the world; as in the tongue, which is often going when it should be quiet, and often quiet when it should speak. Our tongues are our glory; but they are often found wrapt up in a dark cloud of silence, when they should be shining forth. Truth is prejudiced by silence, when the honour of God, or the good of our neighbour, either in the way of justice, or charity, calls for the discovery of it. Thus men sin against God, the truth, and their neighbour, when they hold their peace, (1.) When iniquity calls for a reproof from them. (2.) When it calls for a complaint to, or giving information thereof, unto others, Lev. v. 1. Deut. xiii. 8. God has given men a tongue as a banner to be displayed for him. To run away then with flying colours, in such a case, is very dishonourable to God, and dangerous to ourselves, Mark viii. 38. It is most injurious to our neighbour, whom we think so to gratify, being a snare to his soul, Lev. xix. 17;
and to ourselves, by involving us in their guilt, Eph. v.
3. By undue speaking. The world is a world of iniquity, and several ways speaks to the prejudice of truth. Truth may be prejudiced thus,
(1.) By speaking it unseasonably. Truth hath suffered much prejudice by the unseasonable venting of it: therefore people must take heed, not only what but when they speak; for there is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak,' Eccl. iii. 7. A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards, Prov. xxix. 11.
(2.) By speaking truth maliciously, as Doeg did. It was both unseasonable, while Saul was in a rage against David, 1 Sam. xxii. 8, 9; and malicious, Psal. lii. 2, 3. This is the way how the devil speaks truth; as he stirred up the damsel possesssd with a spirit of divination, to cry concerning Paul and Silas, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation,' Acts xvi. 16, 17; and this very maliciously, as the context shews.
(3.) By perverting of truth to a wrong meaning, as the false witnesses did against Christ, Matth. xxvi. 60, 61. What he spoke of his body, they turned it to the temple of Jerusalem. So it is not enough that we speak truth, but it must be seasonable and charitable too.
4. By equivocal expressions to the prejudice of truth or justice; in which the sense goes doubtfully, either true or false. Of the same nature are mental reservations. Thus Isaac sinned in denying his wife, and calling her his sister, Gen. xxvi. 7, 9. They are indeed lies, an untruth, spoken with an intention to deceive; for words must be taken according to the common use of them, and answers are understood as given according to the question. The devil, who is the father of lies, brought this manner of speaking into the world, Gen. iii. 5. and that way he was wont to deliver his oracles; for he never speaks truth, but either maliciously or equivocally, as he moved the false prophets to speak in the affair of Ahab's going up to Ramoth-Gilead, 1 Kings xxii. 6, 12.
5. Lastly, By lies, Eph. iv. 25. Lying is prejudicial to truth, as darkness to light, and is from the devil. But observe some speeches that are like lies, but are not so.
(1.) Figurative speeches, though not literally true, are not