« AnteriorContinuar »
and by that act has impiously attempted to make God a liar. He has thus defaced from his soul all reverence and fear of God, and has rendered his heart well nigh incapable of receiving such impressions. He cannot call upon God to help him in his need-he dare not hope for his favour; for he has cast the deepest contempt upon his name he has invoked his righteous judgment upon himself. By taking a false oath, he has solemnly prayed for his own damnation, and how can he expect but that his impious prayer will be answered. He has committed the darkest social crime. He has sinned deliberately and deeply against the love of his fellow-men, and by the very fact has steeled his heart against all the tender sympathies which the relationships of life awaken. He is almost shut up to hardened and hopeless impenitence. He has already
tear asunder the very bonds of society-to set | consummation of all woe, to be abandoned by every man against his neighbour-to destroy God-to have the heart hardened, and the conpublic confidence, and not only introduce disorder science seared to be the victim of hopeless, and anarchy, but to establish falsehood as the remediless woe. This is a near and swift judgvery basis of human intercourse and communion. ment which the perjurer may expect-it may Against such a crime, so aggravated in its almost be regarded as a natural and necessary nature, and so pernicious in its tendency, God result of the crime he has committed. He has has spoken with the utmost severity of which invoked the name of God to bear witness to a lie language is capable, that men by the terrors of his denunciations might be taught, if possible, to stand in awe, and commit not this dreadful iniquity. God has declared himself to be a witness of every sin, and that not merely as a beholder of it, and cognizant of the fact, but as one whose testimony has been given against it in his word, and who will give the same testimony in the great day of retribution. But against false swearers he has declared in the text that he will be a swift witness-that he will come near to them in judgment. Such a declaration as this is well fitted to strike the heart with awe. God is very patient and full of long suffering, and in the midst of deserved wrath remembers mercy. How abundantly and graciously hath he manifested these attributes in all his dealings with the children of men! But the text indicates that there are sins, the commission of which over-resisted and overcome the strongest inducement comes and exhausts his patience-sins of so deep a die that even his long-suffering cannot endure them. His judgment is not near; it does not speedily overtake sinners in general. His testimony, though ever true and ever certain, is not generally given forth for hopeless condemnation on the commission of the crime. But against false swearers he will be a swift witness.
Human observation has abundantly confirmed the statement of the text. God in his providence has shown himself to be a swift witness against false swearers. Some visible curse generally descends upon them. God will not suffer them even to flourish in the world. We believe it has been matter of common observation that the perjurer has been thwarted in every object at which he aimed, and that ruin and misery have followed his footsteps; God thereby confirming his word by his visible judgments.
But even were no such results to follow the commission of perjury-though the false swearer might be found flourishing like the green baytree, God might still be a swift witness against him in the hardening of his heart, and giving him over to a reprobate mind. And, whatever men may think of it, this is the severest of all. A man's worldly circumstances, however desperate, may be retrieved, or he soon escapes from the miseries which they may bring; but it is the
whereby man can be bound over to do that which is right, and by the very extremity of his guilt has rendered it in the last degree improbable that his heart will ever be touched or moved either by the love of God or man.
What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper,' Psal. cxx. 3, 4.
WERE man's nature altogether pure, the false tongue would be comparatively powerless. The false report, when raised, would be speedily put down, and the liar obliged to hide his head in shame. But it is altogether different in a depraved and polluted world, in which men do not love their neighbour as themselves. The false and injurious report, instead of being rejected and scorned, is listened to with a willing and attentive ear. It gains a speedy currency, and by its prevalence destroys that which man holds to be as dear to him as life. There is no agent more destructive-no power more dreadfulthan a false tongue. It is an enemy too subtle to be grappled with, and multiplies too rapidly
to be overcome. The preceding context shows that the same evil, which is widely felt now, was experienced in all its terror and power by the Psalmist. In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me. Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. By evil reports he had been brought into deep distress, and he makes it matter of special prayer to God, that he would deliver him from lying lips. The circumstances under which this Psalm is supposed to have been written are strikingly illustrative of the pernicious results of an evil tongue. It was at the time when the enmity of Saul raged most fiercely against David. By the kindness and affection of Jonathan he had made his escape from the king, and in circumstances of considerable destitution arrived at Nob, where he obtained from Ahimelech the priest, the hallowed bread that was before the Lord, to satisfy his hunger, and the sword of Goliath, whom he had slain. On that occasion, Doeg, an Edomite, the chief of Saul's herdsmen, was present, and witnessed the transaction. As was to be expected, Saul soon manifested an anxiety to discover where David was, in order that he might execute his cruel and vindictive designs against him; and when a king is desirous of doing evil, he will generally find some about him who are willing enough to aid him in his purpose. Doeg accordingly told the king what he had seen. The result was, that fourscore and five of the priests were slain, on account of the assistance which Ahimelech had rendered to David. And as if to show that the evil tongue always indicates the cruel and vindictive heart, Saul could find none of his servants to execute his sanguinary edict for the slaughter of the priests, but this very man, whose false and mischievous tongue had been the source of the evil.
no punishment prescribed by human laws, or which human power was capable of inflicting, which was adequate to the crime; and the false tongue is therefore handed over to the judgment of God, who could alone estimate the evils which it caused, and apportion the punishment to the offence.
As he in
There are two forms of punishment here indicated, the one to be inflicted by sharp arrows; the other by coals of juniper. By the former may be understood, either the judgments which God may inflict upon the liar in this life, by making him an object of loathing and contempt among men, and thus piercing his heart with many sorrows: or, more appropriately, the retribution in eternity, whereby God will make his own sin his own punishment. As in this life the false tongue inflicted many and sharp wounds, so in that which is to come, it shall be pierced with sharp arrows. God's arrows will then penetrate the hard heart of the liar, and in the midst of everlasting remorse and despair, it is conceivable that new agony will be given to his torment by the companions of his misery directing against him his own weapons. this life shot his poisoned arrows, winged with enmity, and pierced many a heart, so in the place of torment, where enmity reigns triumphant, his soul may be pierced by arrows dipped in poison more malignant, and directed with stronger and more unerring aim, than his. To such agonies as these will be added, ‘coals of juniper.' This figure suggests at once the fierce and devouring flames of hell. The juniper, from its resinous qualities, gives a fierce heat, and the text thus brings before the mind of the liar, that he stands exposed to that fire which shall never be quenched. His portion is in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone for ever. Surely the terrors of such a punishment should be enough to restrain the false tongue. And when we read these awful threatenings of the God who cannot lie, and whose vengeance is as certain as his mercy is sure, how watchful should we be over our tongues! how guarded in all our conversation-how careful to exaggerate no error
It is not often, in God's providence, that the pernicious results of a wicked and false tongue are so manifest as in this instance; but every one who has in any measure experienced them, will be ready to acquiesce in the propriety and necessity of the Psalmist's prayer: Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful to say nothing with a mischievous designtongue.' God is pointed out in the text as the avenger of the false tongue, and that in such a peculiar way, as not only to indicate his indignation against this pernicious evil, but also to show that no other punishment but that which he can inflict is adequate to the crime. The questions, What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?' are just the strongest of all modes of declaring there was
nothing in enmity! God hears every word we speak, and he knows the purpose for which it is spoken. He has, as the God of truth, an infinite abhorrence of falsehood, and, as the God of love, an infinite abhorrence of enmity.
e the es
'Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight,' Prov. xii. 22. LYING is a very natural result of some other sin. If a man has done any thing which he knows would injure him in the esteem of others, it is very natural he should deny it. The temptation to do so is strong, and it is not often resisted. Much more, if a man has been guilty of an offence which he knows to deserve, and which if discovered will lead to, punishment, it is natural for him to use the most cautious concealment, and if he be charged with the crime steadfastly to deny it. Much has been said by moralists about a natural disposition in all men to tell the truth, and it may be that man's disposition to lie is not so strong, as to lead him to falsify without inducement or object. But if it be natural to seek defence from deserved punishment, it is natural for every one who has done wrong to lie, in order to conceal it. This disposition should be early watched over and checked. Unless children be better instructed, parents may be quite certain that they will seek to screen themselves from punishment by falsehood. In this way the sense of truth is often blunted in early life, and habits of falsehood and deception formed, which increase in strength with increasing years. No parent would desire to see his children act such a part in life, and incur the doom which God has threatened as the sure portion of liars. Parents might do much to prevent such results by exercising that degree of watchfulness and care which their responsible trust imperatively demands. Let them impress upon their children the fear of God, His perfect knowledge of all their ways, and the infinite abhorrence he has of this sin. Let them be solemnly reminded that lying lips are an abomination to God, with whatever view the lie be told; whether with the mischievous purpose of creating strife, or to escape deserved punishment. Let them be spoken to in earnest love, with such a tone and in such a temper as a parent will almost of necessity assume, who vehemently desires the salvation of their souls. Let them know that such is a parent's highest hope, his fondest prayer. When falsehood has been detected, let children be shown that the object of the parent in chastising is to correct, to purify, to save. Let him teach them to deprecate God's judgment, to pray for his forgiveness, and let him show that he also mediates for them -deals with God for their souls.
It behoves a Christian master also to exercise the same kind of watchfulness and care. When
a servant has been guilty of falsehood, told probe most salutary and impressive were a master bably for the sake of concealing a fault, it would able decisively to show that he does not prefer his own interests and honour above the honour of God, and the interests of his kingdom. Let the indignation which is manifested for the crime (and it cannot be too deep and strong) be an indignation for the injury which has been done to God's law, and to the honour of him to whom lying lips are an abomination.
It is possible also, and it is an object which ought ever to be aimed at, to encourage confession. This may be done in various ways, but is chiefly to be effected by inculcating and recommending truth, and causing the misery and disgrace of falsehood to be sensibly and deeply felt. In the case of children generally the task would not be a very difficult one. A child who is not hardened in the ways of vice, must feel miserable under the very consciousness of having deceived his parents. Every act of kindness they show towards him will sting him to the heart, when he knows that he would not have received it had they known his real character. He will feel that he is a traitor in the household, unworthy of the love of its members, and retaining his place in their esteem by deceiving them. The undiminished confidence they repose in him will be a new source of grief, not because he would not desire to enjoy it, but because he retains it by falsehood. A watchful parent might almost in every instance detect a falsehood, if not in the utterance of it, at least in the restlessness, and pain, and conscious unworthiness to which it gives rise. This would be the time to solicit a child's confidence, and were it done affectionately and wisely, the likelihood is that a frank confession would be elicited. It is well worth a parent's while to watch for such an opportunity. A great victory has been gained, when a fault has been voluntarily confessed. The relief of mind which will be felt when the burden of unacknowledged guilt is removed, will be a strong inducement to adopt the same course again.
But in every moral reformation which is attempted, it is of the utmost consequence not only to call in the aid of religion, but to make religion the basis of it. Thus the confession of a fault to a parent, presents an opportunity, an opportunity which ought never to be neglected, of directing his child to the throne of grace, to that heavenly Father whom he has also offended, there to lay open his transgression, and pray for forgiveness. It is easy to see the prodigious influence of such a habit upon the whole charac
ter of him who adopts it. There is nothing tends | courts confidence in order to betray it. None to keep men sinning so much as the neglect of a are so loud in commendation of sincerity as he. full and special confession, in the presence of God It is essential to his character to have a truthful of all the sins of which they are conscious. air. He is the vilest and basest of all liars. His outward appearance is uniformly fair, while in his heart every malignant and hateful passion lives and operates. He is the painted sepulchre, full of all uncleanness within. His whole life is a lie. He is not merely guilty of falsehood when he states what is untrue, but his whole conduct and conversation, being assumed and not real, is false. Every outwardly good deed he does is a falsehood, every profession he makes is hollow and insincere.
It is more difficult confessedly for a master to deal in this way with a servant. But were opportunities watched for with that care which the importance of the case demands, it might be possible to elicit confession, and to encourage it. Masters for their own sakes should, at all events, make the experiment patiently and perseveringly, for it is a source of constant vexation and uneasiness when no confidence can be reposed in a servant's truth. On the other hand, there is nothing from which greater comfort may be derived, nothing in itself more morally beautiful, than unsuspecting confidence, the basis of which is truth. All that unites men together in society, that associates them as friends, that binds them in families, the obligations which arise from such. compacts, and the virtues which the discharge of these obligations originates, and gives occasion for,—all that is lovely and of good report in life, is based upon truth, and hence truth combines in itself the excellence and loveliness of all virtues. They that deal truly are God's delight, he delights in such, because he recognises in them his own image. They are conformed to his Spirit, and it is by them alone that the honour of his name can be upheld. When truth falls, religion falls with it.
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; haring their conscience seared with a hot iron,' 1 Tim. iv. 2. EVERY liar is, in a certain sense, a hypocrite. It is presumed, unless there be manifest reasons to the contrary, that a man is what he appears to be, and that he speaks as he thinks. He that is guilty of falsehood, therefore, wears an aspect different from his real character. But the special crime indicated in the text is of a more base character than that perpetrated by the common liar. He who speaks lies in hypocrisy, assumes a character precisely the reverse of what he really bears. The common liar, though he state what is precisely contrary to the truth, does not think it necessary to profess that his object in making the statement is the most praiseworthy with which a man can be actuated. This is the very aggravation of the hypocrite's guilt. In his intercourse with his companions he wears the mask of friendship. He veils the most malignant purpose with a cover of affectionate interest. He
When he appears most in earnest he
is least so. The kindness he shows is to serve some wicked or selfish purpose. He converts truth itself into a lie, for he converts it from its legitimate uses, and employs it only for the advancement of his own ends.
Such is the character of the accomplished hypocrite as exhibited in his relations to men. His crime appears yet more vile when we reflect that he acts the same part in his relation to God, as if he could deceive him who searcheth the heart. The pattern of the character is presented to us in the history of the ancient Pharisees. There were none among all the Jews who made such a profession of zeal for religion as they did. They were most scrupulous in their observance of the outward rites of religion. They imposed upon themselves many observances which God had not commanded, in order that they might more effectively display their sanctity. They did much that was in itself good-they fasted, they prayed, by them into crimes, from the purpose for which they gave alms; but such acts were converted they were done. The heart had no share in all their religious observances. If they fasted, it was not because they wished to chastise the body and keep it under subjection, or because they were contrite in heart, but that they might estab lish a reputation for themselves. If they prayed, it was not because they were thankful, or because they felt in need of those things which God had promised to bestow, but in order to exhibit their own righteousness. If they gave alms, it was not because they had compassion on the poor, but in order to gain the reward of men's praise. There was not among all the Jews, blinded and hardened as they were, a class of men who showed such bitter and persevering hostility to real and vital religion as the Pharisees did. Him who was the impersonation of all that was lovely and glorious in religion, they hated, and persecuted to the death.
The character of the ancient Pharisees has been
realized in all ages of the world's history; there is too much reason to believe that it is, in some of its most marked features, very common in the Christian church at the present day. All who bear the form of godliness are not under the influence of its power. All profession among us is not real. There are to be found, perhaps in every congregation, some who statedly wait upon public ordinances, who never yet have worshipped God in sincerity and truth. There are many who speak lies to God in hypocrisy, and what renders their character more detestable is, that it becomes essential to its maintenance, not to be satisfied with the exhibition of that cold indifference to divine things which too many nominal Christians manifest. The hypocrite in religion is not a common, he becomes an extraordinary professor. He not only presents himself in the public assembly, but he wears an aspect of extraordinary solemnity and seriousness. He cannot relish the society of the really godly, but he adopts much of their language, and expresses their sentiments in his intercourse with men. Wherever he is seen, he has the same religious air. His object is to deceive men into the belief of his piety, and the issue of his endeavours is to persuade himself of the reality of his own imposture. This was the case with the Pharisees of old. They began by seeking to persuade the multitude that they were righteous, and they ended in hardening their own hearts into the belief of it. This is manifest from the parable of the Saviour, regarding the Pharisee and the Publican who went up to the temple to pray. The Pharisee thanked
God that he was not as other men, and this language is put into his mouth to show his own conviction of his own righteousness. Such is the common event with those who speak lies in hypocrisy.
The hardening influence of such a practice is strongly set before us in the text, when is is said of them that they have their conscience seared as with a hot iron. They have so long and so steadfastly resisted the warnings of that inward monitor-they have in all that they said and did acted so contrary to its dictates, that at length it ceases from the discharge of its functions, and that most dreadful and hopeless of all punishments—a hardened heart and a seared conscience, is inflicted upon the hypocrite as the appropriate award of his guilt. When we consider how prevalent such guilt has become, and how awful the punishment which God has awarded to it-let us be stirred up to diligent and faithful self-examinaThe testimony of God is that the heart is deceitful above all things, and his commandment
Let us Let us
keep thy heart with all diligence.' then keep watch over our own hearts. ever study to ascertain whether there be motives and affections within corresponding to our external demeanour-whether our outward professions, and our inward sentiments harmonize. Without such watchfulness, united with prayer to him who knows the heart, and who alone is able to search out and make manifest its errors to our own consciousness and observation, we are sure to fall into the error of the hypocrite. Our deceitful hearts will betray us into the hateful crime, unless we maintain constant and earnest watchfulness over them. Let us also guard those whom we have in charge, against its first beginnings. Let us teach our children to walk in the truth-let us train them to examine and watch over their own sentiments-expose and punish every false and hypocritical profession which wears the mask of kindness to veil some cruel design. Above all, let us deal with them faithfully to guard them against speaking lies in hypocrisy to God. When they have been engaged in any religious duty, let us examine them, and teach them to examine themselves whether their hearts have entered into it, that we may detect, and check at the very outset, a corruption so gross and odious and fatal in its character.
For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?' Job xxvii. 8.
THE hope of the hypocrite, so far as regards this world, is frequently successful. If the mask he wears be close enough to secure him against detection, he seldom fails in the attainment of his objects. He wishes to obtain a good repute among men, and he succeeds. He has upon his lips the language of love, and his neighbours become his dupes. If he manifest, what in other men would be called hatred and enmity, he seeks to disguise it under the form of some virtue. If he stir up strife by evil insinuations, he professes to do so because he loves the truth so well that he cannot reconcile his mind to any concealment. If he is envious, and seeks revenge upon his neighbour, he professes great regret that he is constrained by a sense of justice to do what seems so opposite to brotherly-kindness. Thus, while his heart is full of hatred, he speaketh the language of kindness and affection, and men are often weak enough to believe him. He reaches the end he