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Remove from me the way of lying; and grant me thy law graciously.—Ver. 29.
THERE are two parts of Christianity—destructive and adstructive. The destructive part consists in a removing of sin; the adstructive part 276makes way for the plantation of grace; there is eschewing evil, and doing good. We are carried on in a forward earnestness in the way of sin, but there is a great backwardness and restraint upon our hearts as to that which is good. The one is necessary to the other; we must come out of the ways of sin before we can walk in the ways of God. In this prayer David respects both. (1.) In the first he instanceth in one sin, ‘the way of lying;’ not only lying, but ‘the way of lying,’ as being conscious to himself of his too often sinning in this kind. Now, he would not have this settled into a course or way; therefore he beggeth, Remove it, the guilt, the fault of it. (2.) As to the adstructive part, for the regulation of his conversation, he begs the favour and grant of the law, and that upon terms of grace. David had ever the book of the law, for every king of Israel was to have it always by him, and, the rabbis say, written with his own hand. But ‘grant me thy law graciously;’ that is, he desires he might have it not only written by him, but upon him, to have it imprinted upon his heart, that he might have a heart to observe and keep it. That is the blessing he begs for, the law; and this is begged graciously, or upon terms of grace, merely according to thine own favour and good pleasure. Here is—
1. The sin deprecated, remove from me the way of lying.
2. The good supplicated and asked, grant me thy law graciously.
In the first clause you have his malady: David had been enticed to a course of lying. In the second we have his remedy, and that is the law of God.
First, Let me speak of the evil deprecated; here observe—
1. The object, the way of lying.
2. God’s act about it, remove from me, &c.
First for the object, ‘The way of lying.’ It is by some taken generally, by others more particularly.
1. For those that expound it more generally, they are not all of a mind. Some think by the way of lying is meant corruption of doctrine; others of worship; others apply it to disorders of conversation; some take it for error of doctrine, false opinions concerning God and his worship, which are called lying, and so opposed to the way of truth spoken of in the next verse, ‘I have chosen the way of truth.’ Heresy and false doctrine is called a lie, Ezek. xiii. 22, ‘Their diviners speak lies;’ so 1 John ii. 21, ‘A lie is not of the truth;’ and the word used, ‘The way of lying’ is elsewhere rendered a ‘false way,’ ver. 104, and ver. 128 there is the same expression. Now, this he desires to be removed from him, because it sticks as close to us as our skin. Error is very natural to us, and man doth exceedingly please himself with the figments of his own brain. All practical errors in the world are but man’s natural thoughts cried up into a voluble opinion, because backed with defences of wit, and parts, and secular interests, and other advantages; they are but our secret and privy thoughts which have gotten the reputation of an opinion in the world; for we ‘speak lies from the womb;’ even in this sense we suck in erroneous principles with our milk. Nature carrieth us to wrong thoughts of God, and the ways of God, and out of levity and inconstancy of spirit we are apt to be ‘carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men.’ Now, to this sense the latter clause will well agree, ‘Keep me from a 277way of lying,’ that is, keep me from falling into error and mistakes about religion; for he begs that the law may be granted to him, or a certain stated rule, without which all things are liable to deceit and imposture. And according to this sense Austin beggeth that he may neither be deceived in the scriptures, nor deceive out of them; Nec fallar in iis, nec fallam ex iis—let me never be mistaken myself, nor cause others to mistake. Again, by a way of lying some understand false worship, for an idol is a lie: Isa. xliv. 20, ‘Is there not a lie in his right hand?’ meaning an idol. By others, a course of sinning, for a way of sinning is a way of lying, for it deceives us with a conceit of happiness which we shall never enjoy; therefore, Eph. iv. 22, ‘Put off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.’ Lusts are called deceitful, because they promise what they never perform; they flatter us not only with hopes of impunity, but much imaginary comfort and satisfaction; oh, but it is a lie! Satan deceived our first parents, pretending to show them a way of immortality, whereas that brought death to the world. Most go this way, Remove from me the way of lying, that is, the way of sin; and the rather because the Septuagint translation reads it thus, Remove from me the way of iniquity; and Chrysostom in his gloss. He means, every evil deed should be removed from him, or it proves a lie in regard of all those flatterings and blandishments by which it enticeth the soul. Nay, there is a parallel place seems to make good this sense, Prov. xxx. 8, when Agur prays against sin, ‘Remove from me vanity and lies,’ meaning a course of sin. Thus it is taken more generally.
2. Those that take it more particularly for the sin of lying, or speaking falsely in commerce, they again differ. Some take it passively, keep me from frauds or deceits of other men; because it seems to be a hard thing to ascribe a way of lying to a child of God, therefore they rather take it passively. But this is to fear where no fear is. But David begs that he might be kept from a way of lying, that it might not settle into a way, that is his meaning. Therefore I rather take it actively, that he might not run into a false and fallacious course of dealing with others.
Now why would David have this way of lying removed from him? Three reasons:—
1. Because of the inclination of his corrupt nature. We had most need pray to be kept from gross sins: as Ps. xix. 13, ‘Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.’ We need not only pray against lesser sins or spiritual wickedness, but from gross sins carried on presumptuously against the light of conscience. So Col. iii. 5, ‘Mortify your earthly members,’ &c. What members doth he speak of? Not worldliness and unbelief only; but he speaks of adultery, uncleanness, inordinate affections, and the like; and the children of God, if they do not deal with God for grace against their gross sins, they will soon know to their costs. Jesus Christ warned his own disciples, those that were trained up in his school, those that were to ‘go abroad and deliver his gospel to the world: Luke xxi. 34, ‘Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness,’ &c. A candle newly blown out easily sucks light and flame again; and we that are newly taken out of the dominion of sin into a state of grace, may 278suck light and flame again; therefore we had need pray against gross sins.
2. Because he had been tripping and guilty in this kind. In the story of David you may trace too much of this way and vein of lying; as his feigning to Ahimelech the priest, 1 Sam. xxi. 8; and to Achish, 1 Sam. xxvii. 8, compared with ver. 10; his persuading Jonathan to tell his father he was gone about such a business. Now, this we may learn, when we are foiled by any sin, we should take heed lest we settle into a way and course of sin; for in every sin, as there is culpa, the fault, or the transgression of the law, and reatus, the guilt, or obligation of punishment, so there is macula, the blot, an inclination to sin again, in like manner as a brand once on fire is more apt to take fire again. By every act of sin the law of God is lessened, our carnal inclination is increased; therefore we had need be earnest with God, Lord, keep me from a way of lying.
3. Man is strongly inclined to lying; it sticks close to our nature, so that God must remove it from us; as more fully afterwards. Thus for the object, a way of lying.
Secondly, God’s act about it, ‘Remoye from me.’ Sin is removed either in a way of justification, when the guilt of it is done away; this David might intend. But rather in a way of sanctification, when the fault or blot is done away. This is mainly intended, as appears by the antithesis or opposite request, ‘and grant me thy law graciously;’ that is, let it be impressed upon my heart, that such a temptation may be prevented for the future. Let me observe—
Doct. That lying, especially a way or course of lying, should be far from God’s people.
David begs the removal of it, as most inconsistent with the temper and sincerity of a child of God. Examine—
1. What is lying?
2. Upon what grounds this should be far from a child of God?
First, What is lying? Ans. Lying is when men wittingly and willingly, and with purpose to deceive, signify that which is false by gestures or actions, but especially by words. The matter of a lie is a falsehood; but the formality of it is with an intention to deceive; therefore a falsehood is one thing, a lie another. Then we lie when we not only do or speak falsely, but knowingly, and with purpose to deceive. Now this may be done by gestures, as when a scorner counterfeiteth the posture of one that is praying, or as when David feigned himself to be distracted, scrabbling upon the doors of the gate, spitting upon his beard, 1 Kings xxi. 1; and in the pagan story Junius Brutus was taxed for feigning himself a fool to save himself from Tarquin. Aquinas saith gestures are a sign by which we discover our minds. But because these are but imperfect signs, and speech is the usual instrument of commerce, therefore in words do we usually vent this sin. Now in our words we are said to lie two ways—assertorily or promissorily.
1. Assertorily, in a matter past or present, when one speaketh that as false which he knoweth to be true, and that as true which he knoweth to be^false, which is called speaking with a double heart in scripture: Ps. xii. 2. ‘With a heart and a heart;’ that is, when we have one 279heart to furnish the tongue with what is false, and another heart to conceive of the matter as it is. An instance of this falsehood in our assertions, or untrue relating of things done, is Ananias and Sapphira, who brought part of the money for which he sold his possession, instead of the whole; therefore, Acts v. 3, ‘Why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie unto the Holy Ghost, in keeping back part of the price?’ It was a lie, because there was a false assertion in saying that it was the whole; and it was a lie to the Holy Ghost, partly as being pretended to be done by his motion when they were acted by Satan, counterfeiting spiritual actions; or a lie against the Holy Ghost, because the Holy Ghost, being last in order of the persons, is fitly represented as conscious to our ways and the workings of our hearts: it is in condescension to us, because it is most conceivable to us to reflect upon him as knowing our hearts, and all the workings of our souls: Rom. ix. 1, ‘I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost;’ and when the psalmist speaks of hiding himself from God, he saith, ‘Whither shall I flee from thy Spirit?’ Ps. cxxxix. 7. Or else a lie to the Holy Ghost, because of his presidency and superintendency over church affairs: Acts xiii. 2, ‘The Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them;’ and Acts xx. 28, ‘Take heed to the flock over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers.’ Now, because this was an ecclesiastical or church case, therefore they are said to lie to the Holy Ghost, as one that is to supply Christ’s place. It was not the sin against the Holy Ghost, but a lie against the Holy Ghost.
2. Promissorily we lie when we promise things we mean not to perform. This is a great sin. Paul spent the great part of a chapter to excuse himself, because he was necessitated by providence to break promise of coming to Corinth, 2 Cor. i. 16-18. It was grievous to him that he should seem to use lightness, and not make good his word, though he were hindered by the providence of God. Vain and empty promises, wherein we make a great show of kindness to others, without any intent to perform, is a great sin: Prov. xix. 22, ‘The desire of a man is his kindness; and a poor man is better than a liar.’ What is the meaning? Some read it, that which is desired of a man is kindness: you come to a man in power and great place, and beg his favour in such a business and request, and they are too apt to promise you. Ay! but a poor man is better than a liar; you shall find among these great men very little faith. The desire of a man is his kindness, or that which a man should do in a great and high condition is to show you kindness. But now many that covet the praise and reputation of it, are very forward in promises, but fail in performance; therefore a poor man that loves you, and is an honest neighbour, and will do his best, is a surer friend and a thousand times better than such lying great men, that only give you good words, and sprinkle you with court holy water. Now there is a lying to men, and a lying to God.
[1.] A lying to God, which is the worst sort, because it argues un belief and atheism, low thoughts of God, as if he were not omniscient, did not know the heart, and try the reins. How do we lie to God? Partly when we put him off with a false appearance, and make a show 280of what is not in the heart, as if he would be deceived with outsides and vain pretences. So Hosea xi. 12, it is said, ‘Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Judah with deceit.’ God can see through and through all fair shows, and will not be mocked. We are said to lie to God when we perform not those professions and promises which we made in a time of trouble. Oh, when chastenings are upon us, then the vows of God are upon us! Men think they mean as they speak, but they are not conscious of the secrecy of their hearts: Ps. lxxviii. 36, ‘They flattered me with their mouth, and they lied unto me with their tongue.’ Their hearts were not sincerely set against sin, whatever professions of repentance they made. When there is a restraint upon our corruptions, then we think ourselves hearty and serious, because moved a little towards God. Moral integrity is when we intend not to deceive, but there was no supernatural sincerity to perform, as the event showed. They were only the fruit of the present pang, therefore it was said they lied unto him with their tongue. So Ezek. xxiv. 12, ‘She hath wearied herself with lies, and her scum went not forth out of her,’ speaking of her promises; when the pot was over the fire there seemed to be offers to throw off the scum, but she hath wearied herself with lies. And in this sense it is said, Hosea vii. 16, ‘They return, but not to the Most High; they are like a deceitful bow;’ that is, they did not seriously intend when they did promise. As a man that shoots, if he do not level right, and take care to direct the arrow to the mark, it will never hit; so they shoot, that is, they cast out promises to flatter God till they get out of trouble, but they do not seriously set their hearts to accomplish it.
[2.] As to men, there are three sorts of lies—Mendacium jocosum, officiosum, et perniciosum: there is the sporting lie, tending to our recreation and delight; there is the officious lie, tending to our own and others’ profit; and there is the pernicious and hurtful lie, tending to our neighbour’s prejudice.
(1.) The sporting lie, when an untruth is devised for merriment. We have no instance of this in scripture; but it is a sin to speak untruth, and we must not make a jest of sin: Prov. xxvi. 19, ‘As a madman that casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?’ Have we nothing wherewith to refresh our neighbour but with the breach of God’s law? If a Christian ‘will be merry, let him sing psalms,’ James v. 13; let him give thanks, Eph. v. 4, ‘Not filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks;’ that is, let him remember the sweet loves of God in Jesus Christ, and that is spiritual refreshment to a gracious heart. Let him not speak things against the sense of his own mind; let him use honest recreation. Certainly we that are to give an account for every idle word should not allow the sporting lie. Now to this sporting lie a fable or parable is not to be reduced, for that is only an artificial way of representing the truth with the more advantage, and putting of it into sensible terms which most are apt to apprehend; as Jotham brings in the trees that went forth to anoint a king over them, Judges ix. 8. Neither such sharp and piercing ironies as we find used by holy men in scripture, 1 Kings xviii. 27; as Elijah 281‘mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a God: either he is talking,’ &c.; for this is a notable way to make truth strike upon the heart with some force; and therefore this must not be reduced to this sporting lie.
(2.) The officious lie, for the help and relief of others. Many in stances of this we have in scripture. Thus Rebekah teacheth Jacob to lie that he might gain the blessing, Gen. xxvii.; and the Egyptian midwives saved the male children of the Israelites by feigning they were delivered before they came to them, Exod. i. 21; yet it is said they feared God, and it is rewarded by God. Non remunerata est fallacia sed benevolentia—not their lie, but their mercy is rewarded: their mercy is commended as proceeding from the fear of God, and their infirmities are pardoned. So Rahab spared the lives of the spies, by telling the men of her city that they were gone, when she had hid them under the stalks of flax, Josh. ii. 4-6. Thus Michal, to save David from the fury of her father, feigned him sick, 1 Sam. xix. 14; and David advised Jonathan to an officious lie, 1 Sam. xx. 6, 7; so vers. 26, 28, 29. Thus Hushai, by temporising with Absalom, preserved David, 2 Sam. xvi. 17-19, to divide his counsels pretendeth hearty affection to him.
(3.) There is a pernicious lie, that is to the hurt and prejudice of another. Of this nature was the first lie, by which all mankind was ruined—the devil’s lie to our first parents, ‘Ye shall be as gods,’ Gen. iii. 4, 5. And of this nature was the patriarchs’ lie concerning Joseph, when they spake to his father, Gen. xxxvii. 31, 32, ‘This have we found, and know not whether it be thy son’s coat or no,’ yet they knew well enough; and that of the Jewish elders that said, Mat. xxviii. 12, 13, ‘Say ye, his disciples came and stole him away while we slept.’ All these are severely forbidden, but especially in point of witnessing in courts of judicature: Exod. xxiii. 1, ‘Put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness;’ and ver. 7, ‘Keep thee far from a false matter,’ &c. Now some question whether all these lies be sin or no, sporting or officious lies. All these sorts of lies are sins; for—
1. The scripture condemns all without restriction: Eph. iv. 25, ‘Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour;’ Rev. xxi. 8, all liars are shut out of the New Jerusalem, ‘Arid all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone;’ and Rev. xxii. 15, ‘Whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.’
2. They all violate the natural order and conformity which God hath appointed between the heart and the tongue; and though officious lies are not for the hurt, but the good of others, yet it is to the hurt and prejudice of truth. A man is not to lie for the glory of God, therefore certainly not for the good of another man; you hurt your own soul more by sin than you can do him good. Augustine, treating of officious lies, he tells of one Firmus, who was Firmus nomine, et firmior voluntate—Firm by name, but more firm and fixed by will and resolved purpose; therefore, when one was pursued for casual homicide, he concealed him; and being asked for him, answered, Nec mentiri se posse nec hominem prodere—he could neither lie nor betray him. So much for the first thing, namely, what is a lie and lying.282
Secondly, For the reasons why the children of God should be far from it.
1. In regard of outward commerce. That which is contrary to human society should be odious to the children of God, who, as they are in a peculiar sense members one of another, so are also of the same political body, and therefore should ‘speak truth one to another,’ Eph. iv. 25. Human society is mostly upheld by truth. Where there is no truth, there can be no trust; where there is no trust, there can be no commerce; it makes men unfit to be trusted. When a man hath much counterfeit money offered to him in payment, though there may be some true gold and silver, yet he casts it away, and suspecteth it all. Men that are given to lying can have no credit nor faith with man, so they are unfit for human commerce; therefore it should be far from men; nay, it is the right of our neighbour that we should speak truth, for speech is a kind of traffic and commerce, and therefore it is a kind of theft to defraud your neighbour of his right, if you give him false words for true. Now, because it is the band and foundation of human society, therefore it should be far from the children of God.
2. It is a perversion of the order of nature. The tongue is the interpreter of the mind, and therefore if the interpreter of another man speak contrary to what he pronounceth, there were a manifest wrong and disorder; so when the tongue speaks otherwise than the man thinks, there is a great disturbance and deordination.
3. We resemble Satan in nothing so much as in lying, and we resemble God in nothing so much as in truth. Falsehood is the devil’s character: John viii. 44, ‘He was a liar from the beginning;’ that is, the first inventor of lies, as Jubal was the father of them that played upon the harp, the first inventor; and herein we most resemble Satan. On the contrary, there is nothing wherein a man resembleth God so much as in truth. Truth is no small part of the image of God, for he is called ‘the God of truth;’ and it is said of him, Titus, i. 2, that he ‘cannot lie;’ it is contrary to the perfection of his nature; nor command us to lie. God hath commanded many other things which otherwise were sinful; as to kill another man, as Abraham to slay his son; to take away the goods of others, as lord of all, as when the Israelites spoiled the Egyptians of their jewels; but God cannot lie, it is against his nature: Eph. iv. 24, 25, ‘Put off the old man, which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’ Then presently, ‘Wherefore put away lying; speak every man truth with his neighbour.’ Wherefore—that is, from your regeneration, when the image of God is planted in you. So the same: Col. iii. 9, ‘Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.’ There may be sin in the children of God, but there should be no guile in them. Habituated guile is the old man that is deceitful; the new man is framed to truth, and according to the will of God.
4. This is a consideration, that God never dispensed with this precept. He hath upon special occasion dispensed with other commands, but never with the ninth. With the seventh commandment in the polygamy of the patriarchs, and with the second in Hezekiah’s 283passover; but a man must not lie for God, Job xiii. 7-9, because this commandment hath more in it of the justice and immutable perfection of God than others.
5. By the light of nature nothing is more odious. We love a just and true man, one that is without guile; we acknowledge it as a moral perfection. But a lie is counted the greatest disgrace; we revenge the charge of it. It is counted a base thing to lie. Why? Because it comes from fear, and it tends to deceit, both which argue baseness of spirit, and are contrary to the gallantry of a man; therefore it is shameful in the eyes of nature, and those that are most guilty of it cannot endure to be charged with it. When the prophet Micaiah told Zedekiah of his lying spirit, he ‘smote him on the cheek,’ 1 Kings xx. 23. So men take it ill to be charged with a lie. We count it a shameful sin among men. The old Persians had such a great respect to truth, that he that was three times taken with a lie was never more to speak in public, upon penalty of death.
6. It is a sin that is most hateful to God; therefore it should be far from the children of God. We hate that most which is contrary to our nature, so it is contrary to God’s nature. There are six things God hates, and a lying tongue is one of them; twice it is mentioned, Prov. vi. 17, 19, and Prov. xii. 22, ‘Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are his delight.’ Now certainly because God hates it, therefore we should hate it. To will and nill the same thing, that is true friendship. God hates it, therefore a righteous man hates it: Prov. xiii. 5, ‘A righteous man hateth lying; but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.’
7. It is a sin which God hath expressly threatened to punish in this life and in the life to come. In this life: Ps. v. 6, ‘Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing;’ and Prov. xix. 5, ‘He that speaketh lies shall not escape.’ God will cut them off as not being fit for human society. The first remarkable instance we have in the New Testament of God’s vengeance was for a lie, Acts v. 5; yea, it is one of the sins that draws down public and national judgments; and therefore it is said, Hosea iv. 2, ‘By swearing and lying, therefore, doth the land mourn.’ And when God gives advice to his people how they should prevent his judgments, Zech. viii. 16, 17, ‘These are the things that ye shall do, speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour: execute the judgment of truth; love no false oath: for all these are the things that I hate, saith the Lord.’ When men have no care of their speeches, when a people bind themselves by oaths to do that which they mind not to perform, or wilfully do not perform, they are ripe for a judgment. And so in the life to come: Rev. xxi. 27, ‘And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie;’ and Rev. xxi. 8, ‘All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone;’ and Rev. xxii. 15, ‘For without are dogs and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.’
Use. Oh, then, let us beware of all lying and dissimulation with respect to God and men! Let our words consent with our minds, and our minds agree with the thing itself. A lie is most odious to 284God, ‘a proud look, and a lying tongue;’ and therefore a Christian that loves God, shall he do that which God so expressly hates? Will you rush upon the pikes, kick against the pricks, and run against the judgments of God? A lying tongue shall not escape. Nay, God reckons upon his children: Isa. lxiii. 8, ‘Surely they are my people, children that will not lie.’ Disappointment, that is the worst vexation. God reckons upon it, surely you will make conscience of truth, not only in your oaths (certainly that is a barbarous thing to break the most sacred engagements that are among mankind, therefore you will be careful to perform what you have sworn to the Lord with your hands lift up to the Most High God), but also in your promises and ordinary speeches. Good men have been foiled by it (David begs, ‘Keep me from a way of lying’), and it is a sin more common than we imagine; it is very natural to us, Isa. lix. 3. As soon as we are born we speak lies; before we could go we went astray, and before we were able to speak we spake lies; the seed of it was in our nature. It is a sin most natural, for it was the occasion of the first sin, and therefore we had need be cautioned against it.
Consider, there is a lying to God in public and private worship. In public worship, how often do you compass him about with lies! We show love with our mouths when our heart is at a great distance from God. Oh, how odious should we be to ourselves if our heart were turned inside outward in the best duty, and all our thoughts were turned into words! for in our worship many times we draw near to God with our mouths, when our heart is at a great distance. As when their bodies were in the wilderness, their hearts were in Egypt; so we prattle words without sense and spiritual affection. Nay, in our private worship, we confess sin without shame; we pray as if we cared not to be heard. Conscience tells us what we should pray for, but our hearts do not go out in the matter, and we throw away our prayers as children shoot away their arrows, which is a sign we are not so hearty as we should be. We give thanks, but without meltings of heart. Custom and natural light tell us something must be done in this kind, but how hard a matter it is to draw near God with truth of heart?
Again, would we not be accounted better than we are? Who would be thought as ill as he hath cause to think of himself? We storm if others but speak of us half of what we speak of ourselves to God; therefore ail had need look to it to be kept from a way of lying. And for gross lying, how far are we from being willing that should be accomplished which the Lord speaks of, Zeph. iii. 13, ‘The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth.’ Rather we may take up David’s complaint, Ps. xii. 1, 2, ‘The godly man ceaseth; the faithful fail from among the children of men: they speak vanity every one with his neighbour; with flattering lips, and with a double heart do they speak.’ Promises, oaths, covenants all broken; and therefore so many jealousies, because so much lying; all trust is lost among us. This lying is always ill, but especially in magistrates, men of public place: Prov. xvii. 7, ‘Lying lips become not a prince.’ So ministers: Rom. ix. 1, ‘I say the truth in Christ, I lie not;’ 2 Cor. xi. 31, ‘The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ knoweth that I lie not.’ Among 285private Christians, are we not too rash in our suspicions, and speak worse of others than they deserve? do we not take up and vent reports without search? it may be out of envy at the brightness of their profession. Do not unwary expressions drop from us? Much talk cannot be justified. Are there not rash promises we make no conscience to mind and look after? Many ways may we trace ourselves in this sin of lying; therefore look to the prevention of it. What remedies are there against it?
1. Hate it; do not think it to be a venial matter: Ps. cxix. 163, ‘I hate and abhor lying;’ not only hate it, nor simply I abhor it, but hate and abhor, to strengthen and increase the sense, and make it more vehement. Where the enmity is not great against the sin, the matter may be compounded and taken up. Oh, but I hate and abhor it, and hate it with a deadly hatred! Slight hatred of a sinful course is not sufficient to guard us against it.
2. Love to the law of God; if that be dear to you, you will not break it upon any light occasion. In the text, ‘Grant me thy law graciously.’ If a man prize the laws of God, and would fain have them printed in the heart, he will not so easily break them.
3. Remember your spiritual conflict; you never give Satan so great an advantage as by falsehood and guile of spirit. The devil assaults by wiles, but your strength lieth in downright honesty: Eph. vi. 11, ‘That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’ Satan’s strength lies in wiles, but you must beat him down in sincerity. The first piece of the spiritual armour is the girdle of truth that is, the grace of sincerity, whereby a man is to God and men what he gives out himself to be, or seems to be. This is that which will give you strength and courage in sore trials. Oh! when Satan shall accuse and challenge you for your base hypocrisy, then how will you hold up your heads in the day of spiritual conflict, if you have not the girdle of truth? But now uprightness gives us courage, strength, and stands by us in the very agonies of death.
4. Heedfulness, and a watch upon the tongue: Ps. xxxix. 1, ‘I aid I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue.’ Let us speak of what we think, and think of what we speak, that the mind may conform itself with the nature of truth.
5. Avoid the causes of lying. There are three of them—(1.) Boasting, or speaking too much of ourselves. When men are given to boasting, whatever thing of weight is done, they were privy to it; their hand was in the work, in contriving and prosecuting the business, their counsel was for it. Nothing can be acted without their knowledge and approbation. This spirit of vainglory is the mother of vain talking, therefore of a lying tongue: Ps. xii. 3, ‘Flattering lips,’ and ‘the tongue that speaketh proud things,’ are joined together. (2.) Flattery, or desiring of ingratiating themselves with those that are great and mighty in the world, when they have men’s persons in admiration: Ps. xii. 2, ‘With flattering lips, and with a double heart do they speak.’ So Hosea vii. 3, ‘They make the king glad with their lies.’ To please their rulers, they soothe them up with flattering applause and fawning upon them. (3.) Carnal fear and distrust. This was that which put David to his shifts in his dangers; he was apt to 286fail, and deal a little deceitfully in time of temptation and danger. We had need to pray to God to be kept from all ways and counsels that are contrary to God’s word. The scripture speaks, Deut. xxxiii. 29, of counterfeit submissions to higher powers: ‘Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, thou shalt tread upon their high places;’ the meaning is, shall be subdued by thee. So Ps. xviii. 44, ‘Strangers shall submit themselves to me;’ Ps. lxvi. 3, lxxxi. 15, and many other places. The word implieth feigned submission.
Object. But are we openly to profess our mind in all things in time of danger? I answer—Prudent concealment may be without fault, but a professed subjection should be sincere, for open and free dealing doth best become God’s children. It is true we are not bound to speak all the truth at all times to every person. In some cases we may conceal something: Luke ix. 21, our Saviour ‘straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell nobody that he was the Christ,’ 1 Sam. xvi. 2, when the Lord sent Samuel to anoint David, Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the Lord;’ that was a truth, but not the whole truth.
Object. But you will say, Will not this justify mental reservation and Jesuitical equivocation? I answer—There are two sorts of reservations; I may reserve part of the truth in my mind. But the mental reservations the Jesuits plead for is this—when that which is spoken is a lie, if abstracted from that which is in the mind; for instance, if a magistrate say, Art thou a priest? No; meaning not after the order of Baal. So that which is spoken is a lie. But if it be spoken with truth, we may reserve part of it. That in Samuel was not an untruth, but concealing some part of the truth not fit to be discovered. So Jer. xxxviii. 24-27, ‘Then said Zedekiah unto Jeremiah, Let no man know of these words, and thou shalt not die. But if the princes hear that I have talked with thee, and they shall come unto thee, and say unto thee, Declare unto us now what thou hast said unto the king, hide it not from us, and we will not put thee to death; also what the king said unto thee: then thou shalt say unto them, I presented my supplication before the king, that he would not cause me to return to Jonathan’s house to die there. Then came all the princes unto Jeremiah, and asked him; and he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded: so they left off speaking with him, for the matter was not perceived.’
Secondly, We now come to the blessing asked, ‘Grant me thy law graciously.’ Where first the benefit itself, grant me thy law; secondly, the terms upon which it is asked, implied in the word graciously.
The benefit asked, ‘Grant me thy law.’ David had the book of the law already; every king was to have a copy of it written before him; but he understandeth it not of the law written in a book. But of the law written upon his heart; which is a privilege of the covenant of grace: Heb. viii. 10, ‘For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel in those days, saith the Lord: I will put my laws in their minds, and write them in their hearts,’ &c.
Doct. 1. Then is the law granted to us when it is written upon our minds and hearts; that is, when we understand it, and our hearts are 287framed to the love and obedience of it; otherwise it is only granted to the church in general, but it is not granted to us in particular. We may have some common privilege of being trained up in the knowledge of God’s will, but we have not the personal and particular benefits of the covenant of grace till we find it imprinted upon our hearts. Well, then—
1. Press God about this, not only to grant his word unto the church, but to grant it unto you, unto your persons: ‘To reveal his Son in me,’ Gal. i. 16. There is a general benefit, ‘He hath showed his word unto Jacob, and his statutes unto Israel,’ Ps. cxlvii. 19. And there is a particular benefit, ‘Grant me thy law graciously.’ The whole church may be under a covenant of grace, and some particular members of it may be all that while under a covenant of works, if they have only an external law without to show them what is good, but not a law within to urge and enable them to do it—Lex jubet, gratia juvat. Literal instruction belongeth only to the first covenant; but when the word is made ours, that is a privilege of the second covenant, ‘The ingrafted word that is able to save our souls,’ James i. 21, when it is received in our hearts, and doth prosper there, and fructify unto holiness, when it is written over again by the finger of the Spirit.
2. See if this effect be accomplished, if the law be granted to you. It is so—(1.) When you have a sense and conscience of it, and you own it as your rule for the governing of your own heart and life: Ps. xxxvii. 31, ‘The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.’ It is not in his book only, but in his heart, to guide all his actions. (2.) It is so when you have some ability and strength to perform it. Their hearts carry them to it: as Ps. lx. 8, ‘I delight to do thy will, God; yea, thy law is in my heart.’ They have not only a sense and conscience of their rule, but a ready spirit to perform it, and set about this work cheerfully and heartily. A ready and cheerful obedience to God’s will is the surest note that the law is given to us; when the study and practice of it is the great employment and pleasure of our lives.
Doct. 2. (1.) The law that is odious to the flesh is acceptable to a gracious heart. What others count a restraint, they count a great benefit and favour: Rom. viii. 7, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ They shun all means of searching and knowing themselves, wishing such things were not sins, or not desiring to know them to be so; therefore hate the law, and will not come to the light, John iii. 20, ‘For every one that doth evil hateth the light; neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.’ As a man that hath light ware is loath to come to the balance, or counterfeit coin to the touchstone, or as a bankrupt is loath to cast up his estate. They hate the directions and injunctions of the word as contrary to their lusts: 1 Kings xxii. 8, ‘He doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil,’ said wicked Ahab; and therefore would not hear him, and yet he was the prophet of the Lord. They are loath to understand their duty, are willingly,’ ignorant: 2 Peter iii. 5, ‘For this they are willingly ignorant of,’ &c. But now a gracious heart desireth nothing more than the knowledge of God’s will; how contrary soever to their lusts, they approve it: Rom. vii. 12, ‘Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.’ The law and commandment, that which wrought such 288tragical effects in his heart. Therefore they desire the knowledge of it above all things: Ps. cxix. 72, ‘The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver,’ more than all earthly riches what soever; it is the best thing they can enjoy, to have a full direction in obedience. (2.) The practice is welcome to their souls: 1 John v. 4, ‘His commandments are not grievous.’ They are to others, not to them, because of the suitableness of their hearts: to a galled shoulder, the least burden is irksome, but to a sound back it is nothing; love sweetens all.
Use. Do you count the law an enemy or a friend? The law is an enemy to them that count it an enemy, and a friend to them that count it a friend. It is a rule of life to them that delight in it, and count it a great mercy to know it, and be subdued to the practice of it; but it is a covenant of works to them that withdraw the shoulder, count it a heavy burden not to be borne. Well, then, which do you complain of, the law or your corruptions? What are you troubled with, light or lusts? A gracious heart groaneth not under the strictness of the law, but under the body of death; not because God hath required so much, but because they can do no more.
Doct. 3. That the law is granted to us or written upon our hearts out of God’s mere grace. Grant it graciously, saith David. I will do it, saith God; and God will do it upon his own reasons. The conditions of the covenant are conditions in the covenant, and the articles that bind us are also promises wherein God is bound to bestow so great a benefit upon poor creatures; which doth encourage us to wait for this work with the more confidence. We are sensible we have not the law so intimately, so closely applied as we should have. Lord, grant it graciously. It is his work to give us ‘a greater sense and care of it.
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