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holiness are weak in their souls. Hence they see cause to call in question the reality of their conversion, till they have had time to prove it by its fruits; and even then, they may find it difficult to ascertain the time, when the change took place.
It may also be remarked, that there is a great difference between one's knowing, that there is an alteration in him, and knowing that this is a renovation in the Spirit of his mind. Every sinner, who, at adult age, is reclaimed from a life of gross wickedness, is sensible of a change. He is conscious of the awakenings and convictions which he feels, of the resolutions which he forms, and of the reformation: which he makes; and he will probably remember them all his days; but till he has had time to bring forth, with patience, the fruits of repentance, he may remain in doubt, whether all this is the work of saving grace.
And even improved Christians may, through disorders of body, heavy afflictions, pressing temptations, or misapprehensions of the proper evidences of grace, labor under great bondage to fear, and walk in darkness and doubt much of their time; perhaps all their days.
These observations sufficiently shew, that however great the change of conversion may be in itself, the full assurance of hope is not immediately, or necessarily connected with it. The humble Christian, impressed with a sense of the importance of the change, and the awful consequences of a mistake, will be disposed to entertain a godly jealousy. He will keep under his body to bring it into subjection, lest by any means, after all his experience, and all his hope, he should finally be a cast away.
Let us then give all diligence to make our calling and election sure, and adopt the prayer of the Psalmist, "Search me, O God, and try my heart; prove me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Truth between Man and Man.
EPHESIANS iv. 25.
Wherefore, putting away Lying, speak every man Truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another.
ALL the graces of the Christian temper have a
strict connexion. The renovation of our nature after the divine image lays the foundation for all holy exercises and works. Where this has taken place, there will be a prevailing opposition to sin of every kind, and a governing regard to the whole compass of christian virtues and duties. The apostle observes to the Ephesians, that, by the gospel," they had been taught to put off the old man, which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, and to put on the new man, which, after God is created in righteousness and true holiness, or holiness of truth." But he would not have their religion end here. He reminds them that the tenor of their lives must correspond with this renovation; that they must no longer walk, like other Gentiles, in the vanity of their minds, but according to the pure precepts of that new religion, which they had embraced.
In our text and the verses following, he enumerates the several virtues and duties, which must appear in
the life of the renewed Christian; such as veracity, meekness, justice, industry, purity of speech, kindness, chastity, &c. all which we shall consider in their order.
The virtue, which our text offers to consideration is truth or veracity, in opposition to lying. This naturally arose first to the Apostle's view from his description of the new man, as having put off deceitful lusts, and put on true holiness. We will,
I. Explain the duty here enjoined: "Speak every man truth with his neighbor."
II. Shew, that speaking truth is a necessary part of the Christian character. Ye have been renewedwherefore speak truth."
III. Apply the Apostle's argument: "For we are members one of another."
I. We will explain the duty here enjoined, which, for greater emphasis, the apostle expresses both negatively and positively. "Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor."
Truth or veracity, as opposed to lying, is the agreement between our words and sentiments; as, on the contrary, lying is a disagreement between them, formed with a delusive intention. If by language, writing, or any known and agreed signs, we purposely convey to others false notions of things, we are guilty of that species of deception, which is commonly called lying. In opposition to this, we are to speak truth with our neighbors. In all our intercourse with one another, we are to express the real meaning of our hearts, and to convey, what we suppose to be, right ideas of those matters, which are the subjects of our discourse.
It will be useful to explain and state this point a lit. tle more particularly.
Let it be observed,
1. There are cases, in which one may speak that which is not true, and yet not be chargeable with lying; for he may have no intention to deceive. He VOL. III.
may have wrong apprehensions-may have been misinformed-may have misunderstood his informationmay have forgotten some circumstance of the case; and hence may utter that which is not perfectly true, and yet speak with an upright heart and an honest meaning. Let it be considered, however, that in all matters of importance, of which we may have occasion to speak, a regard to truth will induce us to seek right information, and to retain the information given us. If we take up reports hastily, and communicate them confidently; if we receive doubtful matters without inquiry, and relate them with airs of assurance, we discover, at least, the want of a just reverence for truth, though perhaps our fault will not deserve the harsh appellation of lying.
We are not, in all cases, bound to speak the whole truth. "A fool uttereth all his mind; but a wise man keepeth it in till afterward."—"There is a time to speak, and a time to keep silence."-" And a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment." We are never to violate truth; but we may suppress it, in whole or in part, as we think proper, when the man who demands it, has no right to know it. So we may withhold our property from the man who makes an unjust requisition, though we have no right to injure his. If the character or dignity of the person proposing the question, forbids our making a peremptory denial; or if the case is so circumstanced, that the refusal of an answer would be a discovery of the secret, we may innocently withhold the most material part of the busi ness, and express only so much as to amuse and divert the inquirer. When Samuel was commanded of God to go to Bethlehem, and anoint one of the sons of Jesse, to be king over Israel instead of Saul; the proph et inquired, "How can I go? If Saul hear it, he will kill me." God answered him, "take an heifer with thee, and say I am come to offer sacrifice." Samuel, though he speaks only the truth, yet conceals the main
object of his journey, which Saul had no right to know; for by his wickedness he had forfeited his throne. The prophet Jeremiah had been thrown into a dungeon by the order of king Zedekiah, and by the malicious influence of the princes of Judah. He is afterward admitted to a private conference with the king, in which he instructs the king what ought to be done in the present critical state of the nation. The king well knew that if the princes should discover the subject of his conversation with the prophet, his own person would be in danger. At parting, therefore, he charges Jeremiah to conceal it from them; and, if examined, to say, "I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to the house of Jonathan to die there."-" And when the princes came, he told them according to these words, and the matter was not perceived." This, doubtless, was a part of the conversation; the rest it was dangerous to reveal, and the princes had no right to demand it; the prophet, therefore, did well to withhold it.
Farther: There are certain figures, common to all languages, which express things differently from the literal truth, but yet are innocent, because, being well understood, they convey no wrong ideas. We often use a certain number for an uncertain. Jacob says of Laban, “He hath changed my wages ten times. By an hyperbole, we sometimes exceed the literal truth. David says, "I make my bed to swim with tears." There is also an ironical way of speaking, in which the contrary is intended to that which is literally expressed. Elijah says to the prophets of Baal, "Cry aloud, for he is a god"-i. e. ye call him a god, though we know him to be vanity and a lie. The prophet Micaiah says to king Ahab, "Go up against Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the Lord will deliver it into thine hands;" though he well knew that the king would there be defeated and slain. But here was no deception. The king understood him perfectly. His plain,