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every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another;" Eph. iv. 25. "Lie not one to another;" Col. iii. 9. These are some out of many texts in Scripture, which we find on this subject, and they plainly teach that it is our duty to speak the truth, and that lying is a great sin.
And here it may be important to notice some examples in Scripture of holy men appearing to violate this precept of the moral law. And this is the more necessary, because the examples of such are sometimes construed into a license to sin. But before these examples are adduced, it will be proper to reinark that "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not;" Eccl. vii. 20. The Scripture saints were, with all their excellencies, but imperfect men. And their failings are faithfully recorded, not for our imitation, but to show us the weakness of human nature, and as cautions to those who think they stand, to take heed lest they fall. Jacob's conduct in obtaining his father's blessing cannot be justified. It is by no means certain that he was at that time a renewed person; but if he was, his conduct in that af fair was a blot upon his character as a pious man. He was guilty of a lie in declaring himself to be Esau. And God permitted him to receive the blessing, not as the reward, or in approbation of his deceit ; for, for this he was severely chastised in the disasters which afterwards befell him; but in pursuance of his sovereign purpose, that the elder should serve the younger. The conduct of Rahab, in declaring concerning the spies, whom she had concealed, that they had gone out another way, cannot be justified. She also was guilty of a falsehood. And although the Apostle in the epistle to the Hebrews, speaks. in commendation of her; yet it was not for her deception; but for her faith in the threatnings of God against her devoted city; and for her love and hospitality towards the people of God. We must form the same judgment, condemning the conduct of David in what he said to Ahimelech the priest at Nob; and also in his feigning himself mad before Achish king of Gath; and on another occasion telling him that he had been against the South of Judah, when he had been spoiling other nations.
But there are several instances in Scripture, whercin there may appear to have been a departure from truth in
good men, when indeed there was not. Elisha did not lie, when he told the Syrian soldiers, who were in search of him, "This is not the way, neither is this city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek;" 2 Kings vi. 19. For he had come out of the city, whither they were about entering, and if they had gone on in the way they were going, they would not have found him; and according to his promise, he did bring them to the man whom they sought; for after he had, to show them how easy it was for God to turn their counsels into foolishness, led them to Samaria, he discovered himself to them. It is true, he did not tell them the whole truth; but this he was not bound to do. Again, Micaiah the prophet, did not lie, when he told king Ahab, in answer to his question, "shall we go against Ramoth-Gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? Go and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king;" 1 Kings xxii. 15. For he probably spake ironically and was thus understood by the king. Paul also may be vindicated from the charge of telling a lie, when in reply to the charge of reviling Ananias the high-priest, he said, "I wist not that he was the high-priest:" Acts. xxiii. 5. For we may suppose that he did not know that he was the high-priest. It was a confused assembly, and it is probable that neither the place in which the high-priest sat, nor his dress, at this time designated him; and Paul had become a stranger at Jerusalem; and the high-priest in these times of tumult was frequently changed. But if he did know him, he may have meant by the expression, that he did not acknowledge him as the Lord's high-priest.
With respect to such instances in Scripture as have already been cited, I would only further observe, that most of them can be vindicated from the charge of falsehood; and wherever this cannot be done, their conduct must be condemned, in these particulars, and is not to be considered as an example for our imitation. The Scriptures, while they contain the record of their conduct, in these instances, no where commend it; but on the contrary frequently prohibit and condemn all lying, and no where give the least license to the indulgence of this sin.
5. Another argument against lying may be drawn from this consideration, that it is a perversion of the faculty of speech. The power of speech was given to us by the
Creator to be a means of communicating to others the thoughts of our minds. When therefore we use this power for a contrary purpose, we pervert and abuse the gift of God, which is certainly an evil thing.
6. Lying is injurious to the interests of civil society. This the Apostle intimated, when he urged as a motive to speak the truth; "for we are members one of another;" Eph. iv. 25. Truth between man and man is the bond of social union-without this, men would place no confidence in one another; and a general departure from truth would occasion the greatest confusion, disorder and unhappiness in society. Therefore lying is a very great evil. Indeed it has been considered so pernicious to the interests of civil society, that among the ancient Romans, it is said to have been punished with death.
7. Another argument against lying may be drawn from a regard to our own character. Notwithstanding the depravity of mankind, this vice has been, and still is, in a peculiar manner, branded with infamy by popular opinion. Even they, who are themselves addicted to lying, are anxious to have others speak the truth, and will esteem a liar less than a man of approved veracity. Yea, lying is so base a vice in popular estimation, that liars themselves cannot bear to be called by the name. A greater affront can scarcely be given to a person than to call him a liar; nor will any affront be sooner resented. Now, if the name be so odious, the thing itself must be far more so. Solomon said "The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment;" Prov. xii. 19. The truth of this saying our own observation has doubtless confirmed. Whatever advantage a person may gain by falsehood, if he is detected as is generally the case, his advantage will be but momentary: he purchases it at the expense of his reputation, which he will not easily redeem. For being once detected in a falsehood, he will be viewed with suspicion, and will scarcely gain belief when he speaks the truth.
8. Once more, the evil nature of this sin is proved by this consideration, unless it is repented of and forsaken, it will bring down the wrath of God upon the person guilty of it, and issue in his everlasting destruction. Thus we read, "thou (that is the Lord) shalt destroy them that speak leasing," that is falsehood; Ps. v. 6. For curs
ing and lying which they speak, consume them in wrath;" PS. LIX. 12, 13. "He that speaketh lies shall not escapehe that speaketh lies shall perish;" Prov. xix. 5, 9. "There shall in no wise enter into it (that is the heavenly Jerusalem) any thing that maketh a lie;" Rev. xxi. 27. "Without are, whosoever loveth and maketh a lie;" Rev. xxii. 15. "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death;" Rev. xxi. 8. Such are the threatenings of the God of truth against those who practice the sin of lying; and such is the doom of liars. God will destroy them; he will consume them in wrath; they shall not escape; they shall perish; they shall be shut out of heaven; and they shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
How olious and how dangerous is this sin! It is contrary to the character of God, and the example of Christ. It likens a person to Satan. It is a violation of God's law repeatedly expressed. It is a perversion of the faculty of speech. It is injurious to the interests of civil society. It is ruinous to character, and exposes to the contempt of men in this world. And it will unless repented of and forsaken, assuredly draw down the vengeance of God on the person guilty of it, and issue in his everlasting destruction in the future world. "Such a horrid monster (says one*) is this vice in all its shapes, that it needs only to be seen, that it may be hated-only to be discovered that it may be detested. What a detestable wretch then is a liar! suspected by all, despised by the good, the contempt of the bad, a coward through life, a monster in death, and a miserable outcast in eternity."
Are there any present addicted to this sin? Let them reflect on these things, and be filled with an abhorrence of this vice, repent of it, and forsake it. This sin as well as others will be forgiven on true repentance.
And let what has been said, influence us all, ever, sacredly to adhere to the truth in all our intercourse with the world. Let us carefully guard against the causes which may lead to this sin; such as pride and vanity, which may tempt to magnify relations concerning our selves, covetousness which may excite to falsehood for
* See Churchman's Mag. vol. 2. pag. 280.
the sake of gain, distrust of the Lord which doubtless of ten leads to lying to avoid some threatening calamity, the fear of man which bringeth a snare, and those crimes which are esteemed peculiarly disgraceful among men, and which tempt the perpetrators to falsehood to prevent their discovery. And let us always remember, when tempted to swerve from the truth, that God seeth us, and knoweth our hearts that although we may deceive men, we cannot deceive him; and that by lying, to prevent discovery from men, we run into a far greater evil, by subjecting ourselves to the wrath of God.
May the Lord write his law upon our hearts; and especially may he fill us with an abhorrence of lying, and a love of truth; and by his grace help us ever to adhere to the truth-AMEN.
At the time when James wrote this epistle, the sins of the tongue appear to have been very prevalent. Hence, in his epistle, he several times spake of the sins committed by the tongue, and pointed out their evils, and warned against them. The sins committed by the tongue are numerous. Blasphemy, perjury, profane swearing, cursing, lying, and many others belong to this class; as also does speaking evil of our neighbour. It was against the last mentioned sin of the tongue that James exhorted in our text. "Speak not evil one of another, brethren."
This exhortation is addressed to us, and we have need of it, as well as those to whom the Apostle wrote. Evil speaking is a sin, to which mankind have always had a propensity; and perhaps few sins have done, or do, m