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First, to enquire, what it is to speak the truth. « Speale ** every man the truth with his neighbour."
Secondly, whar lying is and the evil of-it. “Put away Slying."
Thirdly, give some reasons and directions against this fin of lying, and in favour of speaking the truth. « For we are “members one of another."
First, we shall briefly enquire what it is to speak the truth; u Speak every man the truth with his neighbour."
Truth contains in its nature an intrinsic beauty, fomething excellent, amiable and praise worthy, independent of all laws and external rules, therefore ought to be admired, loved, and practised for its own fake. On the other hand, a lye comprehends in its very nature moral turpitude and baseness, and therefore ought to be avoided for its odiouíness, and abhorred for its own vileness. But it is not my purpose to treat either of this virtue or vice in an abstra&t or metaphysical way. This would not, in my apprehension’tend much to the edification of a common christian assembly. Neither would it be proper for me to follow the writers of moral systems upon this subject, and explain to you what they mean by logical and phy. fical as distinguished from moral truth. Physical truth is nothing but expressing the reality of the existence of things as they stand in our conceptions, or in the view of our judgments. Logical truth is the agreement of our words with the reality of things, whatever may be the intention of mind. A person may speak th at which is true, when he does not intend it. His declaration is verified in fact. His words and the reality of the thing perfectly correspond, yet thro' ignorance or wilfulness he bad a purpose to deceive. But moral truth is that
which is recommended in our text and elims our confidera tion at this time.
Moral truth is the agreement of our words and minds, And when our expreflions are adapted to inform those with whom we speak, with a real intention of communicating to them the knowledge of things as they are in our own minds, without any defigo to deceive, this is moral truth. . The words, mind and intention of the heart, when they all correspond, the person can never be said to lye ; even tho' in this, be may fpeak that which is not true. He may honestly commit a mistake, utter an error, and not be guilty of falsehood. It may be said such a person ought to have been better informed before he spoke ; this is readily granted, yet he delivers what he conceives and believes to be true, and has no design of deception, therefore he does not lye. Perhaps, it may be a lin in him not to have his understanding better enlightened, but while his words agree to his mind and judgment, however mistaken or erroneous he may be, he has not committed the fin of lying. There are many who are stiled heretics, who teach do&rines that are not true, yet they are never denomi. nated liars. Thro' the imperfe&ion of human nature, in our daily converse with men, we are often retailing matters which are unfounded, but we believe them to be true and have no intention of deceit, therefore all that can be said in those cases, We were milinformed or mistaken. Truth is a declaration of thiags as they really exist as far as we know and understand, with a fincere purpose of heart to give just information to those with whom we converse. We often speak of matters we do not perfectly understand, and it is duty to do fo; but when we communicate the knowledge we have, that is all that is required of us in the maintaining of truth. When we say, we think, believe, or judge a thing to be such, all we do in this case is delivering our own thoughts
, opinions, or judgment, and whe
ther the matter be true or falfe, while we have no intentios of deceit, we cannot be faid to lye.
Having thus attempted to describe the nature of truth, there are various inquiries arise upon the discuffion of this subject.
It will be here inquired, are we bound to speak the truth to all who ask us ? To which it is answered, we are bound never to lye. But instead of being bound to speak the truth to all who ask us, in many cases, we are not under obligation to speak at all. And silence is often the best reproof for impertinent questions. And when it is deemed expedient to make fome ane swer to querilts, it may be couched in such language confiftent with trath as will afford no certain information. David was guilty of no fin when he feigned himself mad before the enemies of his nation, but a wise stratagem which it was his duty to employ in those circumstances. Thus our Lord made ofe of a pretende on a certain occafion. “ They drew nigh "unto a village whither they went, and he made as tho he “would bave gone farther.” This concealment of our Saviour's purpose, in pretending to go farther than he designed, was not finful, but a lawful pretence, to try the friendship, affection and hospitality of his disciples, and to awaken their innportunity for his tarrying with them. So physicians may use various and innocent pretences with their patients to induce them to take medicine to heal their diseases. Thus weak. minded persons and children may be induced to do things for their good, which otherwise they would not, by a kind of charitable guile, which can never be termed lin.
It will be further asked, are we obliged at all times to tell the whole truth?--At certain seasons, and when we are pro. perly called thereto, this becomes an indispensable duty. But at times a concealment of the whole is ft and righe. Thus Samuel was sent on an important errand to Bethleham, under pretence of offering facrifice to anoint another king instead of Saul, and to save his life, and by the direction of God himselt,he was to use a stratagem whereby Saul was deceived. When Samuel objected to the bufiness, saying, “ If Saul hear it be o will kill me. The Lord said, take an heifer with thee, and. " say, I am come to facrifice to the Lord. Ard call Jesse to “the facrifice, and I will thew thee what thou shalt do.” Here was a compleat imposition upon the reigning sovereign by the direction of heaven, without sin.-So the midwives of Egypt deceived their civil rulers, and were recommended and rewarded by God for their conduct. They told part of the truth. All they said was, “ The Hebrew women are not as “ Egyptian women, for they are lively and they are delivered here the midwives come unto them.” This was undoubtedly true. The one would delay sending as long as poffible, and the other would delay coming. Thus the officers were decei. ved and imposed upon, and for the midwives to tell the wholetruth in all its circumstances was not their duty.
It is time to proceed to the
Second head proposed, which was to show what lying is, and the evil thereof, “put away lying." Were I to give a definition cf lying in order to distinguish it from error and mistake, I would say, it is speaking a known falfefhood in or der to deceive. It is not speaking that which is false, when we believe it to be true, which is an error or a mistake only ; it is not every purpose to deceive, or every impofition, that is fin. ful and wicked, as has been manifested; but it is altserting a known and wilful falsehood, with a design to deceive and impofe upon the person or persons who hear it. This comprehends not only the gross forts of lying, but likewise all the more refined. And every species of lying, whether serious of
jocose, whether in jef or earnest, is condemned by reason, by she light of nature, and by the word of God.
The evils of this heinous iniquity are great and many. It outrages that which is beautiful, dishonors God, violates both law and gospel, grossly injures society, a flagrant insult of our fellow men, and intails certain ruin upon the immortal foul. "Here is a picture that nothing can exceed for deformity.
It outrages that which is beautiful. Truth contains in its nature intrinsic beauty and superlative excellency. What more amiable, beautiful and excellent than truth? God is ftiled truth, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, is the truth and the life, the Holy Ghost is the spirit of truth, the holy scriptures are truth, and the glory of all creation is truth. Now what can be a greater outrage than to attempt the def. truction of all this beauty, worth and excellency ? But this is the nature and tendency of every falsehood. How inconceiveably dreadful then must be its evil? To blot out all the glory of created and uncreated existence is the evil genius of this ini. quity.
It in a diftinguishing manner dishonors God. It denies his omniscience, omnipresence, and almighty power, his holiness, his purity and his justice. Now a thing of such a nature, must be an infinite evil indeed. But this is the awful nature and evil of lying ; bence it ought to be held in abhorrence by all the children of men. “ Put away lying." It ought to be the sole property of the atheistial tribe, and none othors ought to intermeddle with it. This shows us how highly it reflects difhonor upon the glorious Jehovah, his existence and all his perfections.
It is a violation both of the law and of the gospel. It is a transgression of the ninth commandment, and is abundantly