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command:-"Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another"."
1. Strictly adhere to truth in your conversation with others, at all times. When When you relate facts, let your narration of all the circumstances attending them be faithful. Do not varnish them over with false ornaments, which may mislead or deceive others; neither exaggerate, nor diminish, but state them as they really occurred, to the best of your knowledge and belief.
Pay the strictest regard to truth in the opinions which you express of others. Shun adulation and flattery in your addresses, as a despicable engine of deceit. Do not compliment any one upon his possessing excellencies not belonging to him; neither speak to him as if you would lead him to believe that you entertain an esteem for his character and person which is not founded in sincerity. Such artifices, though so common "amongst the refinements of the polite and in the commerce of the world, are a species of detestable hypocrisy and dissimulation, in the judgment of God, who requireth integrity in the inward parts, and will punish the breach of it as a heavy offence against his law."
No real Christian can trifle with so sacred a matter as truth, for the sake of a jest, or a humorous tale, or a compliment; much less to gratify anger, malice, or avarice; or to indulge in flattery, slander, and calumny. On the contrary, he will studiously avoid all prevarication and deceitful language, because it has a tendency to lead men into error; remembering, in obedience to the injunction of Christ, "to let his communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay; Ephes. iv. 25.
knowing that whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evild."
He will maintain the same reverence for the truth, when lawfully cited to bear testimony on oath, in a court of justice, respecting any occurrence which he has noticed. He will not injure his greatest enemy, "by bearing false witness against him," to procure his death, or punishment, or loss. In speaking of his offence, he will not magnify it by false colouring, nor conceal any favourable circumstance in the case, by equivocating language. On the contrary, to secure the great ends of justice, which demands the protection of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty, a conscientious disciple of Christ will declare, in compliance with the law of the land, "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," without fear, partiality, or malevolence. "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty; but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour." Of course, then, perjury, or a false testimony borne against another, with a view to affect his life, character, or property, is so heinous a breach of the Divine commandment, that every man who dreads the wrath or values the favour of God will tremble to approach it, though at ever so great a distance. "Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths," "by swearing in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness","
Lying, too, of every species, which is so scandalously common, is a glaring breach of the law of
Mat. v. 37: 'Mat. v. 33.
• Lev. xix. 15.
* Jer. iv. 2.
God. No excuse can be offered to justify a practice which is a total abuse of the confidence which our neighbour reposes in us, independent of the great mischief which it occasions. Christ denounces all liars, as being "the children of their father, the Devil";" and declares, "they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."
2. Truth in our conversation must be coupled with sincerity, in making and performing our engagements and promises. It is a mark of the most palpable insincerity, when, under professions of friendship, a man raises expectations in others which he has neither the power nor the intention of gratifying. Ashamed of such dishonourable and criminal deceit, a sincere Christian feels himself bound to observe the utmost punctuality and fidelity in all his engagements, even when the performance of them may be inconvenient, or injurious to him. A true citizen of Zion is "one who, though he sweareth to his own hurt, changeth not";" but will certainly fulfil his promises and contracts, if it be required, and practicable; provided he was not deceived in the grounds on which he made them, and no command of God be violated thereby.
"When, therefore, you make a promise to confer a benefit, or to do some kind office for another, you should consider, that the right and possession of the. thing promised does, in conscience, really pass from you to the appointed receiver of it; and that, without his leave, you have no more power to recal it, than you have to cancel a legal bond, until its conditions are all fulfilled: and, consequently, you will esteem yourself obliged to perform your word, though John viii. 44. i Rev. xxi. 8.
ji Psalm xv. 4.
it may be much to your prejudice, in every instance where you have made a promise; unless some specified conditions not fulfilled, or something concealed, vacate its obligation." In every case of this kind you will study the most undisguised sincerity; and thus demonstrate, by the rectitude of your actions, that you live under the influence of the Gospel which you profess.
Your motives to the discharge of this duty will be superior to those which actuate men destitute of the fear and love of God. They advocate sincerity, because it is the cement of society, and the only basis of mutual confidence. How weak and inefficient are such motives, when opposed to the violent corruption and selfishness of the heart, under temptation to unjust gain, by the sacrifice of honesty and truth!
Let the command of God, who delights in truth and righteousness, be your incentive to this as well as every other duty. "These are the things that ye shall do, saith the Lord; Speák ye every man truth to his neighbour","
Further; when the Holy Ghost renews our hearts, he implants in them a love of righteousness and truth, an hatred to deceit and iniquity. It is not possible, therefore, to be a Christian, and, at the same time, be false and insincere, for the sake of any temporal advantage whatever. Indeed, so long as we maintain a wish to honour the authority of God, and a fear of incurring his awful displeasure, we shall never think we can meet with any evil great enough to deter, or bribe sufficient to make us violate the rules of truth and sincerity.
Zech. viii. 16, 17.
ON THE LOVE AND PRACTICE OF JUSTICE AND HONESTY.
Rom. xii. 17. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
1. JUSTICE, properly administered according to law and reason, is the guardian of our lives, property, and rights. She sits on the throne of judgment, as the protectress of innocence, and the avenger of guilt. So necessary is this virtue to the very existence and welfare of society, that without a due regard to it the affairs of a State cannot be peaceably and orderly conducted. Where private and public rights are not duly respected, injustice, oppression, fraud, rapine, and robbery, must abound, with all their dire attendants. The necessity of justice to the well-being of a community made an Heathen moralist assert, " that a degree of it must be observed even by thieves, in order to ensure union amongst them in the distribution of their spoils."
With how much better reason may his remark be applied to a well-regulated society, where there are so many distinct and individual rights to be respected!
2. It is incumbent, therefore, on the judge, the magistrate, and all who are entrusted with authority, duly and scrupulously to administer justice to every man, without partiality; not favouring one to the detriment of another. Whilst they guard the oppressed, the poor, and the needy, from injury, they will punish the oppressor, and be active in putting salutary laws into execution against all offenders; "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty."
1 Tim. ii. 2.