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THE NINTH COMMANDMENT.
Exodus, xx. 16.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy
In this commandment are forbidden offences of the tongue against a neighbour, as in the third are those against God. In the explanation of the catechism I am “ to hurt no body by word or deed; to keep my tongue from evil-speaking, lying, and slandering." From evil. speaking : for, “ Put them in mind to speak evil of no man,” says St. Paul to Titus. From lying: for, “Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour." From slandering: for, “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.”? And it is said in the commandment “ against thy neighbour," because all falsehood must injure some one. False evidence in favour of a culprit is against the public outraged by his crimes. Ananias and Sapphira “ lied not unto men, but unto God;” yet their hypocrisy involved injustice to the early church. Theudas rose up, boasting himself to be somebody; and a number of men were led astray by him, and brought to nought. Elymas the sorcerer, a false prophet, sought to turn away the deputy from the faith. So that in truth, whether it be calumny or concealment, or self-conceit; whether it be in testimony, or teaching, or promises, or subornation of witnesses; in whatever mode you practise, under whatever veil you conceal
1 Titus, iii. 2.
falsehood, it must be an injustice, and doing an injury to your fellow-creatures.
Truth has been justly said to be the life, not of the body only, but also of the soul. And in accordance with this maxim, the apostle urges, as an incentive to speak truth, that “ we are members one of another;" 1 assuming the fatal consequences of falsehood, and intimating, that, in this matter, we are so dependent upon each other, and so bound together in one body, as to render it impossible, that any part should be cut off without injury to the rest. We are members one of another, both as forming one mystical body in Christ, and constituting society at large. And whether we look on ourselves as the Communion of Saints under the Son of God, or regard our duties to each other, and the happiness of mankind, in every view of our relationship truth is essential to vital energy, and even to existence itself.
1 Ephes. iv. 25.
First, as to the life of the soul in the mystical body of Christ. If our Lord was not true, where would be our salvation ? If the Holy Ghost had not inspired the Evangelists with the truth, what would be the Gospel ? If the Pharisees' bribe had suborned the chosen witnesses of the Redeemer's life and resurrection to disown their Master — if, to escape persecutions, torture, contempt, and death, they had even concealed what they saw, and heard, and the Spirit had inspired — what, my brethren, would have been your condition, and mine, at this hour? We should have been wrapped in the heathen darkness of those vast regions that have apostatised from the faith; in the gloom and superstition of the East, which was once the cradle of intelligence and religion to the West; or worshipping imagined deities, whom we invested with the vices and passions of ourselves, and perhaps offering up each other in sacrifice to the work of our own hands. And but little better must be the condition of most men, if in these days the ministers and teachers of religion pervert the revealed word, and lead astray the flocks they ought to guide. So completely is our spiritual existence as Christians dependent upon truth.
And secondly, as we constitute human society. The Almighty has distinguished us from the unreasoning brute by the faculty of speech, that we may communicate one with another, and a man may know and use, not only what he has himself, but what others in almost all ages and countries have, discovered. If each had but his own thoughts and senses to depend upon, we should know little more than the brute beasts we despise. But we learn what others have said and written. After awhile, we may, a few of us, perhaps add one step of improvement ourselves. We impart to others what we know; and glean from them something in return. And so each subject is handed on from mind to mind, receiving correction and improvement as it proceeds, until it becomes of solid advantage to mankind, and