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many kinds. But the other is much the more common, and usually the more hurtful, extreme.
We all think it an injury, in the tenderest part, when bad impressions are made on others concerning us; and, therefore, should conscientiously avoid doing the same injury to others. Making them designedly, without cause, is inexcusable wickedness. And even where we intend no harm, we may do a great deal. Whatever hurts, in any respect, the reputation of persons, always gives them great pain, and often doth them great prejudice, even in their most important concerns. For, indeed, almost every thing in this world de pends on character. And when once that hath suffered an imputation, for the most part, neither the persons calumniated, be they ever so innocent, can recover it completely by their own endeavours, nor the persons who have wronged them, be they eyer so desirous, restore it fully to its former state; though, certainly, they who rob others of their good name, or even without design, asperse it, are full as much bound to make restitution for that, as for any other damage, which they cause. But were they not to hurt at all the persons against whom they speak, still they hurt themselves, and lessen their power of doing good in the world; they often hurt their innocent families by the provocations which they give; they grieve their friends; they set a mischievous example in society; and, if they profess any religion, bring a dreadful reproach upon it, by a temper and behaviour so justly hateful to mankind.
easily be understood, that, next to the raisers and spreaders of ill reports, they who encourage persons of that kind, by hearkening to them with pleasure, and by readiness of belief in what they say, contradict the intention of this Commandment. Indeed we ought, far from countenancing scandal and detraction, to express
in all proper ways, our dislike to it; show the uncertainty, the improbability, the falsehood, if we can, of injurious rumours; oppose the divulging, even, of truths that are uncharitable; and set a pattern of giving every one his just praise.
It must now be observed further, that though undoubtedly those falsehoods are the worst, which hurt others the more directly, yet falsehoods in general are hurtful and wrong. And, therefore, lying; all use either of words or actions of known settled import, with purpose to deceive; is unlawful. And those offences of this kind, which may seem the most harmless, have yet commonly great evil in them. Lying destroys the very end of speech, and leads us into perpetual mistakes, by the very means which God intended should lead us into truth. It puts an end to all the pleasure, all the benefit, all the safety of conversation. Nobody can know on what, or whom, to depend. For, if one person may lie, why not another? and at this rate no justice can be done, no wickedness be prevented or punished, no business go forward. All these mischiefs will equally follow, whether untruths be told in a gross barefaced manner, or disguised under equivocations, quibbles, and evasions. The sin, therefore, is as great in one case as the other. And it is so great in both, that no sufficient excuses can ever be made for it in either, though several are often pleaded.
Many persons imagine, that, when they have committed a fault, it is very pardonable to conceal it under a lie. But some faults ought not to be concealed at all; and none by this method; which is committing two instead of one; and the second not uncommonly worse than the first. An ingenuous confession will be likely, in most cases, to procure an easy pardon; but a lie is a monstrous aggravation of an offence; and persisting in a lię
can very hardly be forgiven. But above all, if any persons, who hide what they have done amiss themselves, are so vile as to throw the blame or the suspicion of it upon another; this is the height of wickedness; and, therefore, particalarly all children and servants, who are chiefly tempted to excuse themselves by telling falsehoods, ought to undergo any thing, rather than be guilty of such a sin. And on the other hand, all parents, masters, and mistresses, ought to beware of punishing them too severely for their other offences, lest they drive them into a habit of this terrible
Some again plead for making free with truth, that they do it only in jest. But these jests of theirs often occasion great uneasiness and disquiet; and sometimes other very serious bad consequences. The Scripture, therefore, hath passed a severe censure upon them. "As a madman, who casteth "fire-brands, arrows, and death; so is the man "that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am I "not in sport ?"4 To give another person vexation, or make him appear contemptible, though in a slight instance, is by no means innocent sport. And besides, to speak falsehood on any occasion is a dangerous introduction to speaking it on more, if not all, occasions. For, if so trifling a motive as a jest will prevail on us to violate truth, how can we be expected to withstand more weighty temptations?
However, it may, perhaps, at least be thought, that lying, to prevent mischief and do good, must be permitted. But the Scripture expressly forbids us to "do evil, that good may come."5 And they, who allow themselves in it, will usually be discovered, and lose their end; or, if not, will never know where to stop. They will be enticed
(4) Prov. xxvi. 18, 19.
(5) Rom. iii. 8.
by degrees to think every thing good, that serves their turn, let others think it ever so bad; those others again will think themselves authorised by such examples to take the same liberties; and thus all trust and probity will be lost amongst men; a much greater evil, than any good, which falsehood may do now and then, will ever compensate.
And if telling lies, even from these plausible inducements, be so bad; what must it be, when they proceed from less excusable ones, as desire of promoting our own interest, or that of our party ; and how completely detestable, when we are prompted to them by malice, or undue resentment, or any other totally wicked principle.
Nor is the practice less imprudent, than it is unlawful. Some, indeed, lie to raise their characters, and others do so to gain their points. But both act very absurdly. For they miss of their purpose entirely, as soon as they are found out; and all liars are found out; immediately, for the most part; but in a while without fail. And after that, every body despises and hates them; even when they speak truth, nobody knows how to credit them; and so, by aiming wickedly at some little advantage for the present, they put them. selves foolishly under the greatest disadvantage in the world ever after. "The lip of truth shall be "established for ever; but a lying tongue is but "for a moment."6 Beware, then, of the least beginning of a practice that will be sure to end ill. For if you venture upon falsehood at all, it will grow upon you, and entangle you; and bring you to shame, to punishment, to ruin. And, besides, what you will suffer by it here, your portion, unless you repent very deeply, and amend very thoroughly, will be with the father of lies here
(6) Prov. xii. 19.
"For into the heavenly Jerusalem shall in no wise enter whosoever worketh abomination, " or maketh a lie." "Lying lips are abomination "to the Lord; but they that deal truly, are his "delight."
There is yet another sort of falsehood, often full as bad as affirming what we do not think; I mean, promising what we do not intend, or what we neglect afterwards to perform, so soon, or so fully as we ought. Whoever hath promised, hath made himself a debtor; and, unless he be punctual in payment, commits an injustice, which, in many cases, may be of very pernicious consequences.
Now, in order to secure this great point of speaking truth, besides considering carefully and frequently the before-mentioned evils of departing from it, we should be attentive also to moderate the quantity of our discourse, lest we fall into falsehood unawares. For," in the multitude of "words there wanteth not sin; but he that re"fraineth his lips is wise." Persons who suffer themselves to run on heedlessly in talk, just as their present humour disposes them, or the present company will be best pleased; or who will say almost any thing, rather than say nothing; must be perpetually transgressing some of the duties comprehended under this Commandment; which yet it is of the utmost importance not to transgress. For, with respect to the concerns of this world, "He that loveth life, and would see "good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, "and his lips, that they speak no guile." And, as to our eternal state in the next, "If any man "seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, "that man's religion is vain." 2
(8) Prov. xii. 22. (1) Psal. xxxiv. 12, 13.
(7) Rev. xxi. 27.
(9) Prov. x. 19.. (2) Jam. i. 26.