7. Lastly, Remember the day is coming wherein all wrongs are to be righted, secret things brought to light, and open violence reckoned for. If men were to have no afterreckoning for these things, they might do in them as they list ; but thou shalt be countable for the least farthing. The Judge is infinitely wise, and the most cunning and tricky will not get him outwitted nor shifted. He is omnipotent, and they who force their way now through all bands of justice, shall not be able to make head against him. In all temptations that way, then awe your heart with that meditation, "What then shall I do when God riseth up? and when he visiteth, what shall I answer him? Job xxxi. 14.


Exod. xx. 16.-Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy


[ocr errors]

THE scope of this command is the preservation of truth

amongst men, which is a necessary bond of human society. And forasmuch as all the commands of the second table relate to ourselves as well as others, the meaning of this is, Thou shalt not bear false witness either against thyself or thy neighbour, and so neither wrong tliy own nor thy neighbour's good name.

The positive part of this command is implied in the negative, viz. Thou shalt bear real and soothfast witness (as our law terms it) for thyself and thy neighbour, and

so maintain thy own and thy neighbour's good name, so far as truth will allow. This witnessing is to be understood not only of judicial, but extrajudicial witnessing.

Quest. What is required in the ninth commandment?' Ans. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour's good name, especially in withess-bearing

I shall consider this commandment, as it relates,

1. To truth betwixt man and man in general;
II. To our own good name; and,
III. To our neighbour's good name:

1. As it relates to truth betwixt man and man in the general. Truth is a sacred thing, which we are to cleave to as we would to God, who is true essentially, and therefore called truth itself. It was a notable saying of a philosopher, that truth is so great a perfection, that if God would render himself visible, he would chuse light for his body, and truth for his soul. He was not far out, for the scripture tells us of Christ, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, that he is the light, and the truth. And, on the other hand, it holds out Satan as the prince of darkness and father of lies. And there is a mighty affinity betwixt, light and truth, darkness and lies. Truth is to the soul as light to the body; and they that walk in the light, will walk in truth. Now, this command requires the maintaining of truth. We may take up this in these two things.

1. We must speak truth at all times when we speak, Eph. iv. 25; Speak the truth every man with his neighbour.' I say when we speak, for we must not be always speaking. Nature having drawn a double bar on our tongues, teaches that our tongues must not be in our mouths as a loose window in the wind, ever clattering. And if discretion keep the key of the door of our lips, we will not be of those that cannot rest till all the truth that is in be out, Prov. xiv. 33; But we must never speak any thing but truth.

What is truth? Pilate asked the question at Christ, but did not stay for an answer, John xviii. 38; Truth is a har. mony, a double harmony. Anatomists observe, that the tongue in man is tied by a double string to the heart. To speaking of truth is required, (1.) A harmony of the tongue with the heart. (2.) A harmony of the tongue with the thing itself.

(1.) If we think not as we speak, we do not speak truth; the discord betwixt the tongue and the heart mars the har. mony, Psal. xv. 2; We must speak as we think, then, and the tongue must be a faithful interpreter of the mind, other. wise it is a false tongue. So truth may be spoken by a man, and yet he be a false speaker, because he thinks not as he speaks.

(2.) But that is not all : if we do not speak also as the thing in itself is, we do not speak true. For there must be a harmony betwixt our hearts and the thing as it is in itself. For we must not think that our mistaken apprehensions of things can stamp lies to pass current for truths, just because we think them so, 2 Thess. ii. 11.

The sum of the matter lies here: It is our duty to speak truth, that is, so as our mind agree with the matter, and our mouth with our mind. We must speak things as we think them to be, and think them to be what they are. And hence we may see that modesty is very necessary to preserve us in the truth, in this our weak and dark condition. Self. conceited ignorance, and weakness joined with confidence, whereby people are so pereinptory in their own uptakings of things, without any regard to the different light of others, is a great enemy to truth,

2. We must especially speak the truth at sometimes, that is, in witness-bearing. This is twofold.

ist, Witness-bearing in judgment. This command requires us to bear witness, and that faithfully, when called thereto. Now, we are to speak the truth judicially, when we are lawfully called thereunto, by the authority, whether of church or state.

2dly, Extrajudicial witness-bearing, wherein a man is called to declare the truth, though there be no human authority obliging him thereto, as often falls out in the case of private controversies betwixt neighbours, where a third person is desired to witness the truth. Yea, a man may be obliged to this witness-bearing where he is not so much as desired to speak, as when we hear our neighbour charged with any thing unjustly, we are obliged to vindicate his innocency, it being known to us.

Now, the rule in both these cases is this, that then is á man or woman called to declare the truth under the pain of God's displeasure, when God's glory or their neighbour's good may be procured by it ; when the dishonour of God and their neighbour's hurt, either of soul, body, name, or goods, may be avoided by it.

Both these sorts of witness-bearing are necessary for the maintaining and promoting of truth, the honour of God, and our neighbour's real good, though it appear perhaps to VOL. III,


be for his hurt, in discovering of his wickedness, or the wrong done by him, Zech. viii. 16.

In judicial witness-bearing, God calls men to witness the truth, by the mouth of those to whom he has given authority, making them either gods, or ambassadors for God on the earth. And therefore to decline it in that case, is to decline the divine call, and mar the course of justice, Isa. lix. 14; and so the honour of God and the good of our neighbour.

And in the other case there is a real call from the Lord unto it, as we tender his honour and our neighbour's welfare.

Neither ought people to scare at witness-bearing judicially, because of the oath of God; for a lawful oath, imposed by lawful authority, for the honour of God and the good of our neighbour, is a duty whereby we worship and glorify our God, Jer. iv. 2; Now, in this case of witness-bearing.

1. It is our duty to tell the truth; and, (1.) Not to con. ceal it, or any part of it known to us, which may make for the clearing of the matter in question, 2 Sam. xiv. 18, 19, 20; that is, to tell it fully. (2.) Freely, not being awed by any person, or any evil that may thereby come unto us by the guilty or otherwise, 1 Sam. xix. 4, 5. (3.) Clearly, not mincing, obscuring, and wrapping up the truth, so as they who hear it know not what to make of it, Josh. vii. 19. (4.) Sincercly, 2 Chron. xix. 9;. without any influence of malice, or partial counsel, without feud or favour.

2. It is our duty to tell nothing but the truth; that were to bear false witness with a witness indeed. Truth stands in no need of lies to support it, Prov. vi. 19.

II. As it relates to our own good name, we are to maintain and promote it. It should be every body's care to procure and maintain their reputation; for a good name is a very precious thing, which we should love and be careful of, Prov. xxii. 1; And they who value, not their reputation, will hardly be found to value either their souls or bodies. Now, it must be cared for and maintained in words, and by deeds.

First, In words, and that these three ways. 1. By speaking nothing but the truth concerning ourselves. They that seek a name to theniselves by lying and boasting, ordinarily lose what they have, instead of getting more, Prov. xxv. 14; And they that would preserve their name, let them be careful of their word, to fulfil their lawful

promises, Psal. xv. 4.

2. By concealing prudently those secrets concerning our. selves 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. xxvii. 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 evil things. An ill name will follow an ill life; who can help it? If a man steal, let him thank himself that his good name is lost. A vile practice will at length make a man's name stink.

2. We must not do what is like evil, i 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,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »