gain of buying or selling, to do any wrong; that in trading of buying or selling we seek not wealth unjustly, nor make our profit by untrue and uneven measures and weights, nor increase our riches with sale of slight and deceitful ware.

Mast. Thinkest thou there is any more to be said of this Commandment?

Scho. Yea forsooth; for not only outward thefts and frauds are forbidden, and we are commanded to use bargaining without guile and deceits, and to do all things else without subtle undermining; but also we are charged to be altogether so minded, that though we were sure to escape unpunished and unespied, yet we would of ourselves forbear from wrong. For that which is wrong before men to do, is evil before God to have will to do. Therefore all counsels and devices, and especially the very desire to make our gain of other's loss, is forbidden by this law. Finally, we are by this law commanded to endeavour all the ways we may that every man may most speedily come to his own, and safely keep that which he possesseth.


Of the Ninth Commandment.


The person and the property of every man, in every rank and station, having formed the subjects of the preceding precepts, his good Name, or Reputation, a possession not less valuable to him than his riches, his. matrimonial honour, or his life, is by the Ninth Com. mandment guarded from the attacks, public or private, of false and malicious tongues.

The prohibition is couched in general terms, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour;" for the meaning of the phrase to "bear false witness" is not to be understood as restricted to the giving false testimony in a court of justice, although this sin, as it includes wilful perjury, and unjustly risks the property, liberty, character, or even the life of a fellow. creature, is, perhaps, the most flagrant and pernicious instance in which the great principle of truth is violated, and as such is specifically denounced in the divine law. The proper regulation of the faculty of speech is here required-that profitable use and general restraint of the tongue which are also enforced under the heads of relative duty prescribed by the Fifth

Commandment. Our social obligations must not only be observed in deed, and our brotherly affections cherished in the heart, but the words of the mouth, which give vent to thought, and which excite to action, must be placed under the most strict controul; and that power of speech by which all the affairs of man are more or less affected, must be made subject to a special law, in order that the harmony, and even the existence of society may be preserved. From the right employment or misuse of the tongue proceed either the greatest benefits or the greatest evils-it is an instrument of conveying to us present and eternal happiness, or of involving us in temporal misery and utter ruin.

By the precept which forbids the bearing of false witness, according to the evangelical interpretation, all misuse of speech in falsehood, deceit, or malice, to the injury of our neighbour, is interdicted; and the proper application of it, in truth and charity, to the glory of God and the benefit of man, is virtually enjoined. As, according to the Apostle's image, from the smallest spark a consuming and unextinguishable fire may rapidly be kindled,-so by a little word uttered without truth, sincerity, caution, or Christian love, an extensive and irreparable injury may be effected every right affection of the heart connected with and sustaining probity and justice is, therefore, required, and every sinful or frivolous propensity which may give rise to gross falsehood, intentional misrepresentation, and thoughtless or offensive expressions, is not less forbidden than the crimes to which it leads.

§ 2. To bear true witness, is the duty immediately

opposed to the sin literally forbidden in this Commandment-that of bearing false witness in judicial matters, to which the phrase refers. The obligation to bear true witness lies on all who in different capacities are engaged in legal offices and litigations; it demands of the judge, that he pass sentence according to justice and equity,-according to the law, but in judgment tempered with mercy-as the minister and representative of God himself;-of the jury, that they give full and patient attention to the whole investigation for which they are summoned, and pronounce a conscientious verdict, without prejudice or respect of persons ;-of plaintiffs and defendants, that they have recourse to law, only when they believe their cause to be good, and that they pursue it upon honest motives, and by unexceptionable means;-of advocates, that they do their duty by their clients to the best of their ability, and consult their interest so long, and no longer, than as they can do so without prejudice to the cause of piety and virtue, of truth and justice ;of witnesses, that, according to the tenour of their oath, they declare, when they are required, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without any concealment, sophistry, or mental reservation.

The primary virtues to be cultivated are Truth and Charity, the combination of which is essential to the keeping of the Ninth Commandment;-to these other subordinate graces and salutary habits must necessarily be added. The fundamental principle is that of Truth in all intercourse between man and man, in the preservation of our own good name and the credit of our neighbour: it obliges us to speak what we think, and to be careful that we think the truth; to affirm the truth on all seasonable and beneficial occasions

without fear or hesitation, without equivocating or dissembling; to love and desire to attain a knowledge of religious truth, and to propagate it by all consistent methods; to adhere steadfastly to it, when we do know it;-to use the gift of speech to the purposes for which it was bestowed, to the honour of God, by setting forth his praises, and promoting the cause of his true religion-to the benefit of man, by affording him spiritual counsel and consolation, by exhorting to righteousness and dissuading from evil, by not omitting any fit opportunity to contribute by good words to his temporal benefit and happiness:-desire and study to preserve our own and our neighbour's reputation; in the first place, to use every laudable endeavour to establish and to confirm our own good name by striving to deserve the favourable opinion which others may be inclined to form of our character and qualifications,by keeping the testimony of a good conscience,—by avoiding even the appearance of evil,-by doing well, not in order that we may be seen of men, and be rewarded with their praise, but that we may be approved of God; and if men, seeing our good deeds, should on account of them glorify God and esteem us for the work's sake, by being justly thankful that we reap a double recompense, and by employing it as an encouragement to still greater exertion for the future;-by disdaining all hypocritical semblance of qualities which we do not possess, and all sinister means of seeking a reputation, which we do not merit;

by being diffident of our abilities, and open to wise counsel and friendly reproof;-by neither imputing to ourselves imperfections and sins of which we are not conscious, and exaggerating the corruption to which we know ourselves to be subject, nor denying those

« VorigeDoorgaan »