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3. Pernicious lies; that is, when a person raises and spreads a false report with a design to do mischief to another. This. is a complicated crime, and the worst species of this sin, a thing which is an abomination to the Lord, Prov. vi. 17.
4. Rash lies; that is, when a person uttereth that which is false through surprise, inadvertency, and customary looseness, as in the case of the tidings brought to David, that Absalom had slain all the king's sons at the entertainment he had provided for them at Baal-hazor, 2 Sam. xiii. 30.
Concerning all these species of lying, we may say, that God is a God of truth, but the devil, the father of lies, who incites men to imitate him in this ancient hellish trade, by which he destroyed the founders of the human race; that the word of God expressly condemns every kind of untruth; and that people should never reckon that a small thing which will land the transgressors in hell, Rev. xxi. 8.
II. This command forbids whatsoever is injurious to our own good name. We ought all to be very careful of our reputation, and not to bear false witness for or against ourselves. Now, people may be guilty of the breach of this command with respect to themselves,
1. In their herts, either by thinking too meanly of themselves, or too highly.' Though people can never be too humble, yet they may be too blind to what God has done, for them; and there may be a great deal of bastard self-denial, which hinders men to be thankful to God, and useful to others, as in the case of Moses, Exod. iv. 10,—14. But the most dangerous extreme is thinking too highly of ourselves, Rom. xii. 16: This is a most dangerous piece of false witness, which the false heart gives in favour of self.
2. In their actions, when people either do evil, or that which at least is evil-like.' When Eli's sons lost their tenderness, and gave themselves to debauchery, they lost their good name. An unsavoury report followed their vicious and base life, 1 Sam. ii. 24. And there are such things as are of evil report, suspicious practices, evil-like things, that though they be not the worst of things, yet they make way for them; by these, persons throw away their good name, Prov. v. 8, 9. and witness against themselves, that they are untender and vicious persons, in a near disposition to the greatest evil.
3. In words. And thus men may be guilty by, Vol. III.
(1.) Bearing witness against themselves unnecessarily, without a due call
, discovering their own secret faults and infirmities, especially to those who have notrue sense of piety, but are ready to improve the same to the reproach of them, or of religion, or both, 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.'
(2.) Bearing false witness against ourselves, as accusing ourselves unjustly, denying the gifts and graces of God in us, as Job says, chap. xxvii. 5, 6. God forbid that I should justify you: till I die, I will not remove my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go : my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.' Pride often puts people on this, that they may appear the more humble. But humility never teaches men to rob God of his praise, or to lie against the truth. Lying against our minds can never be good, though it seem to humble us.
(3.) Bearing false witness for ourselves. Thus people are guilty, upon being duly called to confess their sins, they deny them, hide them, and, over the belly of their conscience, cause their tongues witness for them, Prov. xxvüi. 13. He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.' It is sad witnessing when the conscience within tells people they are lying.
Of this sort is vain-glorious boasting and bragging. There are some, who, when they speak of themselves, are sure to speak very big, as the Pharisee did, Luke xviii. 11. A man or woman that is a boaster, will be found to be a liar ordinarily. They will boast of what they have not, or of doing, what they never did, Prov. xxv. 14. · Whoso boasteth of a false gift, is like clouds and wind without rain. Yea, some will accuse themselves of wickedness which they did not commit, for the pleasure that they take in boasting of mischief. And where the man has any ground to walk on in his boasting, he is a liar in magnifying it, as was the case of the Pharisee, Luke xviii. 12. It was one of the basest offices for a man to trumpet his own praise: It is a great evidence there is little in him, that he makes so much noise with it. Such are in the black roll, 2 Tim. iii. 2.
III. I come now to consider this command as it forbids what is injurious to our neighbour and his good name. We may contract guilt in injuring our neighbour, over the belly of this command, several ways.
First, In our hearts; for all the commands of God reach to the heart as well as the outward man. We are injurious in our hearts to our neighbour's good name, by,
1. Unjust suspicions of him, 1 Tim. vi. 4. Thus Potiphar injured Joseph, suspecting him of that villainy which he was far from. Christ bids us beware of men, and so not to be credulous. But there is a medium betwixt vain credulity and evil groundless suspicion, which fills men's heads with a foresight of what others will do when they have such and such temptations, from no light but that of their own uncharitable spirits.
2. Uncharitable judging and condemning of others in ourhearts, Matth. vii, 1. The prevailing of the censorious humour amongst us, is a speaking evidence of this waspish disposition, which is a compound of pride, rashness, harshness, lightness, and emptiness, directly opposite to the love and charity that we owe to our neighbours, which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things,' i Cor. xiii. 7. I grant, that to call an evil action an evil thing, and an habitual grossly profane life a mark of a prophane heart, is no breach of charity, Gal. v. 19. But to lash men in our hearts, beyond what the habitual frame of their lives gives ground for, is that uncharitable judging.
It is the product of pride and self-conceit; for the man makes himself the rule, so all that is beyond him, or does not reach his length, must fall under his condemnatory sentence; he invades the throne of God, setting up one for himself in his neighbour's heart, not confining himself to his outward actions, Rom. xiv. 10. It is rashness, flowing from want of consideration, it is harshness, carrying their judgment farther than the matter will bear ; it is lightness and emptiness, for they are confident of that which really they do not know, How confident were the barbarians, upon seeing the viper fasten on Paul's hand, that he was a murderer! &c. Acts xxvii, 4, Thus men condemn the actions of others, merely from their own rashness, as Eli did Hannah; and, which is worst of all, they will judge their state before God from things utterly unable to bear the weight of their presumptuous sentence, as Job's friends did; and thrust in themselves to the secrets of their hearts, as those mentioned, Rom.
xiv. 4. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant ?' judging their consciences: the like whereto was the horrible judgment some have expressed touching those that took the oath of abjuration, that they had gone over the belly of their conscience, and in other cases too. If you think that I am speaking for it, ye are uncharitable : but I would not for the world judge other men's consciences at that rate. It is sufficient for me to condemn men's evil actions which I see, not to judge their consciences, which I neither see nor can
Were the impressions of the tremendous tribunal of God more on men's spirits, they would not be so hasty to judge before the time.
3. Misconstructing of others, their intentions, words, and actions. No innocence can be a safeguard against that temper, which is always ready to give the worst turn to the intentions, words, and actions of their neighbour, which they are capable to bear. It is like the corrupted stomach, that corrupts whatever is put into it. See Neh. vi. 6. Rom. iii. 8. Psal. Ixix. 10.
4. Contempt of others in our hearts, undervaluing and thinking basely of them; when men stop their eyes from beholding whatever is praise-worthy in their neighbour, and gather together what makes against them, and sit brooding on that. This is evil in all cases, but especially where men contemn others for what is good in them, 2 Sam. vi. 16. We are even in our hearts to give every one their due ; and so far as we with hold it, we are guilty, Luke xviii. 9, 10, 11.
5. Envying and grieving at the just and deserved credit or reputation of any. This is a most unchristian and truly Pharisaical temper, Matth. xxi. 15. It is the nature of envy to torment a man with the good of his neighbour. What refreshes the charitable spirit, vexes and frets theirs. They are like the moon that turns pale and wan whénsoever the sun begins to shine above the horizon. But if men loved their neighbour as themselves, and their God more than themselves, they would rejoice at their neighbour's reputation, though it should outshine their own, Numb. xi. 29.
6. Rejoicing in the disgrace and infamy of others, Jer. xlviii. 27. This is a devil-like sin, for dust is the sepent's meat. Whatever mischief befals men is the devil's delight : and so there are many, that if a black cloud be thrown over the reputation of others, it tickles their hearts, they have a secret satisfaction in it; their hearts say within them, Aha! so we would have it. And many vent their satisfaction in outward rejoicing at it.
7. Lastly, Fond admiration of men, Jude 16. As the former are sins in defect, so this is a sin in excess. And indeed we become guilty by thinking too highly and above what is meet of any man, as well as thinking too meanly of them, 1 Cor. iv. 6. This is both a sin and a snare: for those whom we fondly admire, we are apt to imitate in evil as well as good, and so to follow them to the prejudice of truth. It is a sad evidence of the corruption of a man's heart, that he is ready either to idolize or else to despise others.
Secondly, In our lives and actions. - Men may injure the good name of others without speaking a word against them.
1. Men may be guilty of the breach of this command, to the prejudice of their neighbour's good name, by bare gesture of the body, Prov. vi. 13. He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers.'' A man may with a wink, a nod, a grave look, a sigh; &c. stab another's reputation, filling others by these means with suspicions of him unjustly; or when one is slandered in our presence, making such signs which import our consent thereto.
2. Drawing others into things that are ill or evil-like, and of bad report. Thus many ruin one anothers reputation, till they are made as rotten things laid one upon another, which corrupt each other, till both send forth a stinking smell, Matth. xviii. 7. They that lay the stumbling-block, and they that fall over it, are both ruined together, though double vengeance abides them who ruin others together with themselves.
3. By not hindering what we can in others those things that procure an ill name. The evil that befals others which we might have prevented, will justly be laid at our door. This brought the judgments of God on good Eli and his house too, so that they went all to ruin together, 1 Sam. iii. 13. The Spirit of God records, for the justification of poor Tamor, the care she had of preventing the ill name of herself and of Amnon, 2 Sam. xii. 12, 13. So that neither by terror nor allurements she could be drawn into the villainy, though she was forced, which was her misery, but not her sin,