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(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 pafs current for truths, just because we think them so, 2 Theff. ii. 11.
The sum of the matter lies here: It is our duty to fpeak 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. Selfconceited ignorance, and weakness joined with confidence, whereby people are so peremptory 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,
ift, 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 ine nocency, it being known to us.
Now, the rule in both these cases is this, that then is a 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 foul, body, name, or goods, may be avoided by it.
Both these forts 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 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, Il. lix. 14. ; and fo 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 conceal 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.) Sincerely, 2 Chron. xix. 9.; without any in- . fluence 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 pro. cure 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 thefe three ways. 1. By speaking nothing but the truth concerning ourselves. They that seek a name to themselves by lying and boasting, ordinarily lose what they have, instead of getting more, Prova XXV. 14. And they that would preserve their name, let them be careful of their word, to fulfil their lawful promises, Pfal.
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 concealing of scandalous fins, which people are lawfully called to confess: for in that case the name of a confefsing penitent is better than that of an obstinate fcandalous finner, Prov. xxviii. 13. “ He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper : but whoso confefseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
3. By defending our good name when it is unjustly attacked, 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 vii. 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 loft. A vile practice will at length make a man's name stink.
2. We must not do what is like evil, 1 Theff. v. 22. They who take a liberty to themselves in suspicious practices, throw away their own reputation. And if they be innocent as to grofs 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. 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 favour 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 fins, 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 fide, 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, i Cor. i. 4.-7. As none are so good but they have some discernible infirmity, so hardly is one fo bad but there is fome 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 Da. vid's, 1 Sam. xxii. 14. “ Who is so faithful,” says he, “ among all thy servants, as David, which is the king's son-inlaw, and goeth at thy bidding, and is honourable in thine house?” It is necessary and just to defend the innocent, especially 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. xii. 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 forry if it should be true.
8. Discouraging of tale-bearers, flatterers, and flanderers, 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 perts of human society, as David did, Whoso privily flandereth 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 : where. by 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 commandment, I proceed to consider what is forbidden in it.
Quest. " What is forbidden in the ninth commandment. ?”
Anf - The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name.”
The fins forbidden in this commandment are here reduced to three heads.
1. Whatsoever is prejudicial to truth.
3. Whatsoever is prejudicial to our neighbour's good name.
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 fame 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 folemn appearance, Zech. viii. 16.; and lies there are most finful. The judges judge for God, and so the folemnity 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 comand 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, Il. v. 23. and x. 1.
2. By the complainer, while he falsely accuses or charges