Page images

conscious we are doing him secret wrong, while we have any injurious designs against his property.

Let us pray, then, for grace and strength to attain to this holiness, and then robbery and injustice of every kind will soon be banished from the earth : and we shall live and die as Christians are taught to do, and inherit the reward of the just made perfect. God grant that this may be the future conduct and experience of all present, for Jesus Christ's sake.

To whom, &c.



Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy



All liars shall have their part in the lake that

burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

This commandment, like all the rest, contains much matter in few words. I shall follow

my general plan in the explanation of it, and endeavour to inform your mind, and improve your heart at the same time, for wisdom entereth in at the ear; and Solomon assures us (Prov. xix. 2), that it is not good that the soul be without knowledge. In order to render the instruction contained in this commandment more likely to make impression upon you, we will treat the subject in the clearest and most distinct manner possible ;

First, by inquiring into the true nature of the crime forbidden, both as to its positive and more comprehensive signification :

Secondly, By tracing the causes that give rise to this hateful practice :

Thirdly, By adverting to the ruinous effects attending it, even in this life, both to individuals, and society at large : and,

Fourthly, By showing what the commandment requires of us; the ground of it being that charity which thinketh no evil, but enjoins the most conscientious practice, or Christian love and good-will to all men.

1. The primary and more particular sense in which we usually receive these words, “Thou shali not bear false witness against thy neighbour,” relates to the crime of perjury, or false swearing, in a court of justice, by which wicked act the person, the property, or character of our neighbour, may receive irreparable wrong: but still this is a branch of the general sin of lying; for, as the Wise Man observes (Prov. xiv. 5), a faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness doth utter lies. In this respect, the commandment more immediately treats of our duty relating to our neighbour's good name and reputation ; and more generally of all manner of lying, calumny, or evil speaking, and other viees flowing from it. Against the first we have this prohibition in Luke, üi. 14, Accuse no man falsely. And Solomon includes them both in

the account of the things most abominable in the sight of the Lord (Prov. vi. 19); one of which is a false witness, that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among his brethren. By bearing of false witness, then, we understand the false accusing of, or witnessing against a person in judgment; which, as it includes both perjury and lying, is an offence against the third commandment, and the ninth, at the same time, in that we take God's name in vain in the first instance, and injure our neighbour in the second. Now, the end of the commandment, saith the Apostle (1 Tim. i. 5), is charity out of a pure heart ; nor is the law made for righteous men, but (among other sinners) for liars and for perjured persons. But under this head of the commandment we are also to include, not only the guilt of the persons actually perjured, but theirs also, who in any shape are accessory or helping to it, such as the subornation or procuring of false witnesses, and every degree of credit or countenance that is given to them. Such was the crime of Jezebel (1 Kings, xxi. 10), who procured two sons of Belial (that is, wicked men) to bear false witness against Naboth. And in the same degree were the high priests and elders guilty in Matt. xxvi. 59, by seeking false witnesses against Jesus to put him to death. In both these instances, the designers of the evil were equally condemnable with the instir

« PreviousContinue »