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1 Thess. iv.
Phil. iv. 11.
1 Pet. v.
and industry in our calling, whereby, with God's blessing, we may support ourselves, preventing the need, and escaping the temptation of encroachment upon our neighbour's property; (whereby we may, as St. Paul speaketh, have need of nothing, may eat Eph. iv. 28. our own bread, may even have wherewith to impart 12. to the needs of others ;) contentment in that estate wherein God hath placed us, how mean soever; 1 Tim. vi.8. trusting in God, and relying upon his providence ; Prov. xxx. casting our burden and care upon him, who hath Ps. Iv. 23. promised to sustain us, who hath said, that he will Heb.xiii.5. never leave or forsake us; lastly, charitable relief of our neighbour in his need; for in such a case our neighbour hath a title to the goods we possess, derived from the appointment and donation of God, who is the absolute proprietor of all we have, we being only his stewards and dispensers thereof, according to the rules he hath declared; so that if we do not, according to his order, supply our poor neighbour, we are in just estimation, we shall in God's judgment appear to be, thieves, both in respect to God himself and to our neighbour; for that we thereby detain from God what by original right is his, and bereave our neighbour of what God hath bestowed on him.
Chou shalt not bear false witness against thy IX. ComNeighbour.
IT is in the Hebrew, Thou shalt not answer (to wit, being examined or adjured in judgment) against thy neighbour as a false witness; so that primarily, it seems, bearing false testimony against our neighbour (especially in matters of capital or of high concernment to him) is prohibited: yet that not
only this great crime, but that all injurious (even extrajudicial) prejudicing our neighbour's reputation, and consequently his safety or his welfare in any sort, is forbidden, we may collect from that explication of this law, or that parallel law, which we have Levit. xix. in Leviticus; Thou shalt not, it is there said, go up and down as a talebearer among thy people; neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy - neighbour: as a talebearer,; that is, a merchant, or trader in ill reports and stories concerning our neighbour, to his prejudice; defaming him, or detracting from him, or breeding in the minds of men an ill opinion of him; which vile and mischievous practice is otherwhere under several names condemned and reproved: such are muttering; Prov. xviii. (The words of a mutterer, saith the Wise Man, are as wounds, going into the innermost parts of the Sirac. v. 14. belly :) whispering, propòs, we have often in the
xxviii. 13. Son of Sirach and in St. Paul mentioned with a bad character, or with prohibition and reproof: sup
2 Cor. xii.
Rom. i. 30.
Psal. xv. 3. planting; (so in the good man's description, Ps. xv.
Cor. xii. it is said, He supplants not with his tongue; so the word signifies :) detraction, or backbiting, KaтαAaλía, which is so often in the apostolical writings
Rom. i. 30.
1 Pet. ii. 1. forbidden and reprehended: slander, or calumny,
Luke iii. 14.
and sycophantry; that is, oppressing, abusing, or any way harming men by false tales, suggestions, or pretences: which sort of practices, how base they are in themselves, (nothing being more unworthy of an honest and ingenuous mind, nothing more ugly to the judgment of them who have any sense of goodness,) how contrary they are to justice, which doth not permit us to wrong our neighbour, as well in his credit and good name, as in his other goods,
LXX. ρεύσῃ δόλου.
Ps. lxxii. 4. cxix. 134.
I Cor. xiii. 5,7.
(for they perhaps may be as much valued by him, may really be of as much consequence to him, as any thing that he hath ;) which bindeth us to abstain from hurting him, as well in word as in deed; how opposite they are to charity, which obligeth us Prov. x. 12. to think the best of our neighbour, and to endeavour that others also may do so; to conceal his real faults and blemishes; much more not to devise and affix false ones to him, not to gather and disperse ill reports to his prejudice; of how mischievous consequence also they are, breeding ill-will, and sowing strife in all societies both public and private, (even separating chief friends, as the Wise Man telleth Prov. xvi. us,) common sense and experience do shew they consequently must be very odious in the sight of God, who loveth the peace and welfare of men; and very offensive to men, who do the mischiefs springing from them.
To this law may be reduced our obligations to be candid in our opinions and discourses concerning others, (according to St. Paul's excellent description 1 Cor. xiii. of charity;) to forbear all rash and harsh censure, as you know our Saviour in his most divine sermon on the mount chargeth us; to be veracious, sincere, and faithful in all our conversation; which duties are so often taught and pressed in both Testaments: Ye shall not, saith the Law, steal, nor deal falsely, Levit. xix. nor lie one to another; and, To walk uprightly, Ps. xv. 2. and work righteousness, and speak the truth from his heart, are the first lineaments in the good man's character drawn by the Psalmist; and, These are Zech. viii. the things ye shall do, saith God in the prophet, Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your
Eph. iv. 25. gates and in the New Testament, To lay aside Col. iii. 9. lying, to speak the truth every man with his neigh1 Pet. ii. 1. bour; to lay aside all malice, all guile, all hypocrisies, envyings, and backbitings, are apostolical commands.
X. Com Thou shalt not covet thy Neighbour's House; thou shalt not covet thy Neighbour's Wife; nor his Man-servant, nor his Maid-servant, nor his Dr, nor his Ass, nor any thing that is thy Neighbour's.
THIS law is comprehensive and recapitulatory, as it were, of the rest concerning our neighbour, prescribing universal justice toward him; (whence St. Mark, it seems, meaneth to render it in one Mark x. 19. word, by μn aпоσтeρhons, deprive not, or bereave not your neighbour of any thing;) and this not only in outward deed and dealing, but in inward thought and desire, the spring whence they do issue forth, Matt. xv. (for, from the heart, as our Saviour teacheth, do proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false-witness, blasphemies;) we are obliged to be so far from depriving our neighbour of any good thing belonging to him, that we are not so much as to wish or desire it; not only to abstain from injurious action, but to repress covetous inclinations: wherein is also implied, that we should have a delight and complacence in our neighbour's good; not envying him any enjoyment; being in our minds content with the portion God pleaseth to vouchsafe us; and entirely trusting in him, that he will supply us with what is needful or befitting to us, without the damage of our neighbour. Thus Rom. vii. God's law is, as St. Paul observed, spiritual; not
only restraining exterior acts, but regulating our inmost thoughts, quelling all inordinate appetites and affections of heart within us; the which may be extended so as to respect not only matters of justice toward our neighbour, but all objects whatever of our practice; so as to import that which in the Christian law is so frequently enjoined us, as the life of our religion, circumcising our hearts, cruci- Rom. ii. 29. fying the flesh with its passions and desires, morti- Col. ii. 11. fying our earthly members, putting to death by the Spirit the deeds of the body, putting off the old Col. iii. 5. man, which is corrupted according to the deceitful Eph. iv. 22. lusts: Ovк ÉÐμhoes, Thou shalt not unlawfully or 13. irregularly desire, doth, according to the spiritual intent, import all this.
Phil. iii. 3.
Gal. v. 24.
I have done; and shall only add, that the sum and end of these, and all other good laws, of all religion, and all our duty, is (as we often are taught in the New Testament) comprised in those two rules, of loving God with all our heart, and loving 1 Tim. i, 5. our neighbour as ourselves; seriously and honestly attending unto which, we can hardly fail of knowing what in any case our duty is it remains that we employ our best care and endeavour on the conscientious practice thereof; imploring therewith the assistance of God's grace, and that good Spirit, which God hath most graciously promised to those who duly ask it, by which alone we can be enabled to keep God's commandments: to him be all glory and praise. Amen.