QUESTION 78. What is forbidden in the Ninth Commandment?
ANSWER: The Ninth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name.
Q. 1. What does this command forbid in general?
A. Whatsoever is prejudicial to truth.
Q. 2. What are we to understand, by that which is prejudicial to truth?
A. All falsehood and lying of whatever kind, James 3:14 -- "Lie not against the truth."
Q. 3. What is the formal nature and meaning of a LIE?
A. It is voluntarily to speak or express what we know to be false, as the old prophet at Bethel did to the man of God, 1 Kings 13:18.
Q. 4. How is a lie aggravated?
A. When it is uttered with a design to deceive, and to harm others by it; like the devil, when he said, "Ye shall not surely die. -- Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil," Gen. 3:4, 5.
Q. 5. May not persons utter what is untrue or false and yet not be guilty of a lie?
A. Yes; and that either through ignorance or misinformation.
Q. 6. When may they be said to utter what is false through ignorance, and yet not be guilty of lying?
A. When they speak rashly, according to their present conception of things, without due examination; as the barbarians, when they "saw the venomous beast hang on Paul's hand, said: among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer," &c., Acts 28:4.
Q. 7. When may we utter what is false through misinformation, and not be guilty of a lie?
A. When we speak according to the report we have had from others, without any suspicion of being imposed upon; as Jacob did, when, by the imposition of his sons, (who had sold Joseph into Egypt, and dipped his coat in he blood of a kid) he said, "It is my son's coat; an evil beast, hath devoured him: Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces," Gen. 37:33.
Q. 8. How many sorts of lies are there?
A. They are commonly ranked into three sorts; namely, ludicrous, pernicious, and officious lies.
Q. 9. What is a ludicrous or jocose lie?
A. It is when persons relate things they know to be false, with a design to make a jest or diversion to others.
Q. 10. What is it to be guilty of a pernicious lied?
A. It is to contrive or spread some malicious report we know or suspect to be false, on purpose to bring about some hurt or damage to another, as Ziba did against Mephibosheth, 2 Sam. 16:3.
Q. 11. What is the aggravation of a pernicious lie?
A. It is the very worst sort of lying, being both a contempt of the omniscient God, who is witness to the falsehood; and a deliberate intention to do injury to our neighbour, though in our conscience we believe him innocent of what we lay to his charge.
Q. 12. What is it for a person to make an officious lie?
A. It is to tell a downright untruth, for their own, or their neighbour's safety and security in time of danger, as Rahab did who hid the spies in the roof of her house, and yet alleged they were gone out of the city, and that she knew not where they went, Josh. 2:4-6.
Q. 13. Does not the apostle ascribe this action of hers to her faith, when he says, Heb. 11:31 -- "By faith, Rahab, the harlot, perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace?"
A. No; What he ascribes to her faith is, her having received the spies with peace, that is, her having consulted their safety and preservation with the greatest care and diligence; but not the lie she invented in order to conceal them. Her protecting the spies is commended, but not the manner in which she did it.
Q. 14. Who are they that plead in favour of officious lies?
A. The Papists, Socinians, and most of our modern moralists.
Q. 15. What arguments do they allege in defence of this sort of lying?
A. That it has been practised by saints in scripture; and that it is so far from being hurtful to any, that it has been beneficial to some in certain cases.
Q. 16. What answer is to be given to the practice of the saints in this matter?
A. That their sinful failures, in this and other instances, are not recorded in scripture for imitation, but for caution and warning, that we fall not into the same snares.
Q. 17. How do you answer the other argument for officious lying, "That it is so far from being hurtful to any, that it has been beneficial and advantageous to some, in certain cases, particularly in saving the life of a dear friend, or useful member of society, which might otherwise have been manifestly endangered?"
A. It is answered thus, that in no case are we to do evil that good may come, Rom. 3:8. If we are not to speak wickedly for God, nor talk deceitfully for him, according to Job 13:7, neither are we to do so, though it were for the benefit of all mankind, or the best among them.
Q. 18. How do you prove lying to be sinful, or unlawful, in itself?
A. From this, that lying of all sorts, without exception, is condemned in scripture, as hateful and abominable to God, Prov. 6:17, 19, and 12:22; Col. 3:9.
Q. 19. Who is the author and father of lies?
A. The devil, John 8:44 -- "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it."
Q. 20. How does God testify his displeasure against lying of all kinds?
A. By declaring that "he who speaketh lies shall perish," Prov. 19:9; accordingly it is said, "ALL liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone," Rev. 21:8.
Q. 21. What is more particularly forbidden in this commandment, according to the answer?
A. Whatever is injurious to our own or our neighbour's good name.
Q. 22. How may we injure our own good name?
A. By a vain-glorious commendation of ourselves, 2 Tim 3:2; by despising of others who ought justly to be esteemed, Luke 18:9, 11; or by doing any thing scandalous and offensive in the eye of the world, 1 Sam. 2:17, 30.
Q. 23. In what may we be injurious to our neighbour's good name?
A. By flattering him to his face, Prov. 28:4; by defaming him behind his back, Psalm 50:20; or by bearing false witness against him in public judicature, Ezek. 22:9.
Q. 24. What is the evil of flattering our neighbour to his face?
A. It tends to foster and foment his pride, and thus to bring on his ruin, Prov. 26:28 -- " A flattering mouth worketh ruin."
Q. 25. What is the evil of defaming him behind his back?
A. Nothing can be more devilish and malicious, than to fix calumny and reproach upon one, when he is not present to vindicate and defend himself: hence the same original word, which is rendered slanderer, 1 Tim. 3:11, is used also to signify the devil, 1 Pet. 5:8.
Q. 26. Who are they that maybe guilty of bearing false witness against their neighbour in public judicature?
A. The prosecutor, defendant, witness, advocate, and judge, may each of them be guilty in this way.
Q. 27. How may the prosecutor be guilty?
A. In making an unjust demand upon the defendant, Acts 24:5; or laying to his charge that of which he believes him to be innocent, chap. 25:7.
Q. 28. How is the defendant, upon the other hand, chargeable with guilt in this matter?
A. By artful and dilatory evasions, by which the plaintiff is put to needless trouble and charge in the obtaining of justice.
Q. 29. How may witnesses, in public judicature, be injurious to their neighbour's good name?
A. Not only by the heinous sin of bearing testimony to a downright falsehood, but likewise by denying, mincing, or keeping back the truth, or any part of it.
Q. 30. When are advocates or attorneys guilty in this way?
A. When they take in hand to plead and maintain a bad cause, looking on it as a part of their profession to be as warm and zealous in defending what is wrong, as what is just and right.
Q. 31. How may the judge be guilty of bearing false witness?
A. By a rash, partial, and iniquitous sentence; thus perverting justice, and injuring the innocent, like Pilate, Matt. 27:24, 26.
Q. 32. What is the evil of injuring our neighbour in his good name?
A. It robs him of a most valuable treasure; for, if once his good name or character is sunk, his further usefulness in the world is, to all appearance, irrecoverably gone.
Q. 33. What should affright and deter us from the sins of the tongue, forbidden in this commandment?
A. That we are to answer, in the last and great day for our words, as well as our actions, Matt. 12:36, 37 -- "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment; for, by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."