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indulgence of such unhallowed gratifications, indulges in a practice which, were it universally to prevail, would sap the foundations of all moral order, exterminate the most endearing relations of society, prostrate man below the level of the brute, open the flood-gates of all iniquity, diffuse misery over the whole mass of human beings, and, at length, empty the world of its inhabitants.
The precept which we have now been considering, is one which, in all probability, is confired, in its references, to the inhabitants of our globe. At any rate, it would be quite nugatory, and therefore can have no place, in the moral code of a world where the distinction of sexes does not exist. And even in those worlds where a similar distinction may exist, the very different circumstances in which their inhabitants are placed, may render the promulgation of such a law altogether unnecessary. It appears to be a temporary regulation, to remain in sorce only during the limited period of the present economy of Providence; for, in thin future destination of the righteous, we are told, that “they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” And, therefore, it is probable, that the recognition of such a law will not be necessary, in the intercourses which take place among redeemed men in the eternal world; but the principle on which it is founded, and from which it flows, will run through all the other new relations and circumstances in which they may be placed. In the existing circumstances of mankind, however, the operation of this law is essentially necessary to the stability and the happiness of the moral world; and, were its requisitions universally observed, the melancholy scenes to which I have alluded would no longer exist; the present and everlasting ruin of thousands, and of millions, would be prevented; and a scene of happiness and love, such as the world has never yet witnessed, would be displayed among all the families of the earth.
When the Creator had arranged our globe in the form in which we now behold it, he furnished it with every thing requisite for the sustenance and accommodation of living beings, and bestowed the whole of its riches and decorations as a free grant to the sons of men. To man he said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Ever since the period when this grant was made, God has not left himself without a witness to his benignity, in that he has unceasingly bestowed on mankind “rain from heaven, and fruitoul seasons, filling their hearts with food and
gladness.” The earth has, in every age, brought forth abundance to supply the wants of all the living beings it contains ; and there is still artple room on its surface, for the accommodation and support of thousands of millions of the homan race, in addition to those which now exist. But mankind have never yet agreed about the division and allotment of this free and ample gift of the Creator; for every one is disposed to think that his share in it is too small, and is continually attempting to make inroads upon the allotment of his neighbours. And to this disposition is to be ascribed more than one half of all the evils which have afflicted the world in every age since the fall of man. To counteract such a propensity in mankind, and to regulate their dispositions and conduct in relation to property, is the great object of this command, “Thou shaft not steal.” To steal, is to take the property of others, without their knowledge or consent, and to apply it to our own use. The most flagrant and violent breaches of the law, consist in robbery, housebreaking, pilfering, plunder, and pillage. But it may be violated in a thousand different ways of which human laws seldom take any cognizance. It is violated by every species of fraud by which our neighbour may be injured in his wealth or property. It is violated in the ordinary commerce of mankind, by the use of false weights and measures; by selling deteriorated commodities as if they were sound and good; by depreciating the value of what we wish to buy, and concealing the defects of what we wish to sell; by contracting debts which we have no prospect of discharging, and neglecting to pay them when they are due ; by breaches of trust, in the case of servants, guardians, executors, or public officers, embezzling and squandering away the substance of others, or applying it to their own use—It is also violated by tres. passing on the property of others; so as to injure fences, gardens, orchards, plantations or cornfields; and by that disposition to vulgar mischief which delights in breaking lamps, windows, and fences: in injuring and defacing public buildings, walks, and ornamental improvements; in hacking and carving walls, wainscottings, doors, and balustrades; and in cutting down trees and shrubs planted for use or sor ornament.—It is violated when we retain borrowed articles beyond a reasonable time, when we suffer them to be injured through negligence, when we circulate them from one person to another, without the knowledge or consent of the proprietors, and when we apply them to purposes for which they were never intended, and which \he lender never contemplated.—In short, this law is violated by every species of idleness, pride, vanity, gaming, and prodigality, which has a tendency to injure the external prosperity, either of our own family, or of the families of others.
Were the law which forbids those actions to be entirely set aside, or universally violated, it is easy to foresee, that, in a very short time, the whole assemblage of human beings would be transformed into a set of lawless banditti. Peace, harmony, and good neighbourhood, would be unknown among men; the strong would plunder the possessions of the weak, and deprive them of every enjoyment; children would rob their parents, and parents their children; brothers would plunder brothers, and servants their masters; buying and selling would cease, and all regular trade and commerce would be destroyed: every man's covetous eye would be directed to the wealth and property of his neighbour, with a view of depriving him of his enjoyments; and a thousand schemes, either of treachery or of open violence, would be contrived to effectuate his purpose. Murders would be daily contrived and perpetrated, for the purpose of more easily obtaining possession of the wealth and estates of the powerful and the opulent; and every man's life and happiness would be at the mercy of his covetous neighbour. The inhabitants of one province would rise up against those of another, and, by force of arms, plunder them of all their earthly treasu-es. One nation would invade the territories of another, for the purpose of ravaging its cities and provinces, and of appropriating its wealth and riches ; and, in the midst of such lawless depredations, towns would be demolished, villages consumed to ashes, the fruits of the earth destroyed, men. women, and children, trampled under foot, and crushed to death, and every city and fertile field would present a scene of carnage and desolation. In such a state of society, no man could have confidence in his brother; fear would be on every side; uncertainty would attend every pursuit and possession; of the wealth which any one had acquired, and of the enjoyments which he possessed to-day, he might be deprived before to-morrow; and if, by means of circumspection and vigilance, and the strong arm of power, he were enabled to maintain possession of his property for one year, he could have no rational ground to expect, that he would enjoy it in security for another. And, as no one would think of engaging in regular labour, while he could subsist in plundering his weaker neighbours –the earth would soon be left uncultivated, the useful arts would be abandoned, agricultural intlustry and improvement would cease, and a universal farmine would overspread every land, which would thin the human race, and gradually exterminate them from the face of the earth.
Such scenes of plunder and depredation, have -n fact been partially realized in every age and nation of the world, and are still realized, to a certain extent, even in nations which boast of their progress in religion, in civilization, and in science. The annals of the human race contain little more than a number of inelancholy records
of wholesale robbery, committed by one tribe of human beings upon another. One public robber and desperado has arisen after another, in constant succession, and, at the head of numerous armies, has violated the territories of peaceful industry, demolished the habitations of their unof fending inhabitants, broken down their furniture, and consigned it to the flames ; wasted and devoured the fruits of their ground, and plundered them of every thing which could render existence desirable. And the inserior ranks of mankind, stimulated by the same principles which actuate their superiors, have supported a system of peculation, of cheating, of litigation, of injustice, and oppression, which, were it left solely to its own native energies, would soon undermine the foundations of the moral world. That such principles and practices have never yet become universal in their operation, is not owing so much to any deficiency in their malignant tendency, as to the over-ruling providence of the Moral Governor of the world, who has, by his influence, and his physical arrangements, confined the lawless passions of men within certain bounds, beyond which they cannot pass. Were a principle of honesty and of Justice, in regard to property, to pervade the mind of every human being ; or, in other words, were the law to which I am now adverting universally recognised, a new scene would open upon the moral world, altogether different from what has hitherto been displayed in the transactions of mankind. The iron rod of oppression would be shivered to atoms, and destroying armies would no longer ravage the habitations of men. The crowds of sharpers, cheats, and jockeys, that now stalk through the world, with unblushing fronts, to entrap the unwary, would forever disappear from the world; and impartial justice would reign triumphant over every department of society. No malignant purpose would ever be formed to injure any one in his wealth and property; and all the harassing law-suits and prosecutions, which now distress so many thousands of families, would be swept away. Every loan osmoney, books, furniture, or utensi's, would be returned without injury, and without unnecessary delay; and every debt punctually discharged, according to the nature of the obligation, and at the period at which it was due : Every bargain would be
transacted on the principles of immutable justice,
and the conditions of every contract faithfully performed : No suspicions of knavery would ever harbour in the breast, nor the least alarm at the possible consequences of any mercantile transaction. Public buildings would be secure from the inroads of the genius of mischief, and gardens and orchards from every wanton depredation. Locks, and bars, and bolts, would no longer be required for securing our substance from the pilserer and the robber; and the iron gratings of a bridewell or a jail, would never again remind us
106 of the dishonesty and the depravity of man. Servants would be universally honest and trustworthy, and the property of their masters would be regarded as a sacred deposit. And what a happy change would such a state of society introduce among mankind ' What a host of cares, anxieties, suspicions, vexations, and perplexities, would be chased away ! and what a world of conveniences, and of delightful associations, would thus be created! Every merchant, by marking the price and the quality of each commodity, might leave his goods open to the inspection of the public, and enjoy himself in the bosom of his family, or in active services for the good of the community, without the east risk of loss or of depredations; and every purchaser might depend upon procuring the articles he wanted at their just value. Every traveller would prosecute his journey, either by day or by night, without the least apprehension from sharpers or robbers, and without being harassed by the impositions of inn-keepers, coachmen, carriers, and porters. Every one's mind would be at perfect ease, in regard to his property, whether he were at home or abroad, in health or in sickness; being firmly persuaded that every trust would be faithfully discharged, and every commercial concern fairly and honourably transacted. Selfishness and rapacity would give place to a spirit of justice, equity, and benevolence; contentions, jockeyings, and altercations would cease; peace and concord would prevail, and righteousness and truth would shed their benign influence over the whole brotherhood of mankind.
THE NINTH COMMANDMENT.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”
This command, like most of the others, is expressed in a negative form. It is directed against every species of falsehood, and, consequently, must be viewed as inculcating a sacred and universal adherence to truth, in all our thoughts, words, and actions. In the remarks I may throw out in relation to this precept, I shall consider it chiefly in its positive form, as commanding an unviolable attachment to truth. Truth may be considered in two different points of view—logical truth, which consists in the conformity of a proposition or assertion with the actual state of things; and moral truth, which consists in the agreement of our words and actions with our thoughts. Logical truth belongs to the thing or the fact asserted: moral truth, or what is termed veracity, has a reference to the person who utters it. In both these respects, truth is of immense importance to all intelligent beings.-The imdortance of truth and veracity will appear from the following considerations.
In the first place, it is the bond of society, and the foundation of all that confidence and in
THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION.
tercourse which subsist among ratienal being . By far the greater part of all to knowledge v. possess, has been derived from the testimony co others. It is from the communication of others, and from a reliance on their veracity, that those who were never beyond the limits of Great Britain, know that there are such cities as Paris, Vienna, Constantinople, and Cairo; and that there are such countries as Canada, Nova Scotia, Brazil, Peru, P. rsia, China, and Hindostan. It is from the same source that we have learned the facts of ancient and modern history, and that there once existed such empires as the Greek and Roman, the Persian, Assyrian, and Babylonian. On the same ground, the veracity of others, we confide in all the domestic relations and intercourses of life; and on this ground all the transactions of commercial society, and all the arrangements and operations of government are conducted. On the implied veracity of others, we retire from our employments at certain hours, and sit down to breakfast or dinner; and, on the first day of the week, we assemble in a certain place, at an appointed hour, for religious worship. On this ground, the pupil confides in his teacher, sor instruction—the child in his parents, for sustenance, clothing and protection, the master in his servant, for the execution of his orders, and the wise in her husband for provision and support. We confide every moment in the Jaithfulness of the Almighty for the regular returns of day and night, of summer and winter, of seed-time and harvest. Could the veracity of God be impeached or rendered liable to suspicion, we should remain in awful suspense, whether another day would again dawn upon the world, or whether the earth would be shattered to pieces, and its fragments dispersed throughout surrounding worlds, before the sun again appeared in the horizon. A Being possessed of boundless knowledge and omnipotence, without veracity, would be the terror of the whole intelligent universe, and would fill them with universal agitation and alarm. Again, truth is the foundation of our present comfort and of our future prospects. On the veracity of those illustrious characters that have gone before us, whose declarations were confirmed by signs and miracles, we depend for the hope of forgiveness and acceptance with God. and for those rich sources of consolation which are calculated to support the mind under the asflictions of mortality, and to cheer and animate us in the prospect of a future world. Our hopes of happiness beyond the grave, of the resurrection of our bodies at the termination of the present plan of providence—of the renovation of the physical system of our globe—of a complete restoration to holiness and virtue—of a re-union with departed friends—of associating with vir. tuous beings of a superior order—of mineling ir a happier world with all those illustrious saints
who have gone before us—of contemplating the manifestations of Deity on a more extensive scale ; and of enjoying unmixed felicity without interruption and without end; depend upon the testimony of the inspired writers, and the light in which we view the truths or declarations which they have recorded. And, therefore, the man who endeavours to undermine the authority of the sacred records, or to distort or misrepresent their meaning by sophistical reasonings, ought to be viewed as a deceiver, and as an enemy to his species, who wishes to deprive his fellow-men of their most substantial enjoyments, and of their most cheering prospects. Again, truth and veracity are of the utmost importance in relation to the views we ought to take of the character of God. The moral character of the Deity is delineated in the Scriptures, and we are enabled to contemplate this character, in its true light, in so far as we understand and appreciate the delineations of the sacred writers. But his character is also exhibited in the works of creation and providence. Every physical law of nature, every arrangement in the material system, every movement which exists in the boundless universe; every apparent deviation from the general course of nature, as in the case of earthquakes and volcanoes; every event in the history of nations, every fact in relation to the physical and moral condition of the different tribes of the human race, and every arrangement in reference to the lower ranks of animated beings—embodies in it an exhibition of certain aspects of the divine character; and these aspects, is fairly represented, ought to harmonize with the delineations contained in the sacred records. To ascertain such facts as those to which I now allude, requires, in many instances, the exercise of profound reasoning, and of accurate investigation, and that the mind should be free from the influence of prejudice and of every improper bias, and that the facts, when ascertained, be fairly represented, and accurately recorded ; otherwise, nothing but a distorted view of the divine character will be exhibited to the mind. For example, if the earth be represented as among the largest bodies in nature, and as placed at rest in the centre of the universe, and that the sun, moon, and all the other celestial orbs revolve around it every day, and consequently, that the planetary bodies move in orbits which display inextricable confision— such a representation is not a true exhibition of the God of heaven, but a phantom of our own imagination: and, if carried out to all its legitiin use consequences, would involve an impeachment of the wisdom and intelligence of the Deity, and of the sublime simplicity and order, which characterize his operations in the universe. Is the planet Saturn be represented as a globe 900 times larger than the earth, and surrounded with a ring 600,000 miles in circumference, it conveys
a very different idea of the majesty of the divine Being who formed it, from what we are led to entertain, when we consiser it as only a taper, or a brilliant stud, fixed in the vault of heaven. If the eye of a fly be exhibited as containing ten thousand polished transparent globes, nicely adjusted for the purpose of vision, it displays the character of its Maker in a different light from that in which we might be disposed to view it, when this animal is represented as a nuisance in creation, and designed only to be mangled and tortured by a cruel and unthinking schoolboy. w I some instances the inaccurate statement of a plysical fact, or the false colouring put upon it, may have a tendency to endanger the eternal interests of mankind. Mr. Brydone, in his “Tour through Sicily,” states, on the authority of a priest, named Recupero, that, in sinking a pit near Jaci, in the neighbourhood of Mount AEtna “they pierced through seven distinct lavas, one under the other, the surfaces of which were parallel, and most of them covered with a bed of thick earth.” From suppositions founded on questionable data, he concluded, that “it requires 2000 years or upwards to form but a scanty soil on the surface of a lava,” and, consequently, that “the eruption which formed the lowest of these lavas, must have flowed from the mountain at least 14000 years ago. This pretended fact was, for a while, triumphantly exhibited by sceptics, as an unanswerable argument against the truth of the Mosaic history ; and its publication has, no doubt, tended to stagger weak minds, and to confirm the infidel in his prejudices against the truth of Revelation. But it has been shown by eminent geologists, that the facts alluded to are grossly mis-stated, and that no vegetable mould exists between these beds of lava; and, consequently, the argument founded upon them goes for nothing. Mr. Brydone himself, in the very same volume in which these pretended facts are stated, before he had advanced twenty pages farther in his account of the regions about Mount AEtna, states a fact which completely overturns all his preceding reasonings and calculations. In describing the country near Hybla, as having been “overwhelmed by the lava of AEtna, and having then become totally barren,” he adds, “in a second eruption, by a shower of ashes from the mountain, it soon resumed its ancient beauty and fertility.” So that it is here admitted, that, instead of requiring a period of 2000 years, a bed of lava may speedily be transformed into a beantiful and fertile region. But even although such facts were fairly represented,—yea, although Mr. Brydone and the Canon Recupero could have proved, to a demonstration, that the strata of the earth is not only fourteen thousand, but fourteen hundred thousand years old, it would not in the least invalidate a singie assertion contained in the Mosaic history; for Moses de
s ribos only the arrangement of the earth into its present form, but no where asserts, that the materials of which our globe is composed were created, or brought out of nothing, at the period at which his history commences. The circumstance, however, to which I have now adverted, shows us of how much importance it is, in many cases, that even a physical fact be fairly stated, as well as the rooral facts and the doctrines contained in the Scriptures. For, since every fact in the economy of nature, and in the history of providence, exhibits a certain portion of the divine character, a very different view of this character will be exhibited, according to the different lights in which we view the divine operations. And therefore, every one who wilfully misrepresents a physical fact or law of nature, is a deceiver, who endeavours to exhibit a distorted view of the character of the Deity. It is nothing less than a man “bearing false witness” against his Maker. Again, veracity is of infinite importance in reference to our future improvement in the eternal world. In that world, we have every reason to believe our knowledge of the attributes of God will be enlarged, and our views of the range of his operations in creation and providence extended far beyond the limits to which they are now confined. But the Divine Being himself, from the immateriality and immensity of his nature, will remain forever invisible to all finite intelligences; and hence he is described by the Apostle, as “the King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible, whom no man hath seen or can see.” It is, therefore, not only probable, but absolutely certain, that a great portion, perhaps the greatest portion of our knowledge in that state, will be derived from the communications of other intelligences. With intellectual beings of a higher order we shall hold the most intimate converse; for we are informed, that “just men made perfect” will join “the innumerable company of angels.” These beings are endued with capacious powers of intellect, and have long been exercising them on the most exalted objects. As messengers from the King of heaven to the inhabitants of the earth, they have frequently winged their way through the celestial regions, and surveyed many of those glorious systems which lie hid from the view of mortals. We have every reason to believe, that they have acquired expansive views of the dispensations of the Almighty, not only in relation to man, but in relation to numerous worlds and intelligences in different provinces of the empire of God. And, therefore, they must be admirably qualified to impart ample stores of information on the sublimest subjects, to the redeemed inhabitants from our world. From the communications of these intelligences we may derive information of the order and arrangements of other systems; of the natural scenery of other worlds; of the different
orders of intellectual beings who people them; of the means by which they are carried forward in moral and intellectual in provement; of the most remarkable events which have happened in the course of their history; of the peculiar displays of divine glory that may be made to them, and of the various changes through which, they may have passed in the course of the divine dispensations. But the utility of all such sublime communications, and the delightful transports with which they will be accompanied, will entirely depend upon the immutable veracity of these moral intelligences who shall be employed in conveying information respecting the divine plans and operations. No fictitious scenes and narrations will be invented, as in our degenerate world, to astonish a gaping crowd; nothing but unvarnished truth will be displayed in that world of light; and the real scenes which will be displayed, will infinitely transcend, in beauty, in grandeur, and in interest, all that the most fertile imagination can conceive. Were a single falsehood to be told in heaven, were the tongue of an archangel to misrepresent a single fact in the divine economy, or were the least suspicion to exist that truth might be violated in such communications, the mutual confidence of celestial intelligences would instantly be shaken ; and, from that moment, their intercourse and their happiness would be destroyed. Hence, we are repeatedly told, in the book of Revelation, that, “Whosoever loveth, or maketh a lie, shall in no wise enter within the gates of the new Jerusalem.” And, therefore, every one who expects to be an inhabitant of that happy world, ought now to cultivate a strict regard to truth and veracity in all its researches, intercourses, and communications ; otherwise he cannot be admitted, from the very constitution of things, to the society of saints and angels in the realms of bliss. Thus it appears, that truth is of the utmost importance to all rational beings, as it forms the source of our knowledge, the foundation of all social intercourse, the ground of our present comfort and future prospects, the basis of all the views we can take of the Divine character and operations, and of all our prospects of future improvement in the eternal world. It is the bond of union among all the inhabitants of heaven; it is the chain which connects the whole moral universe ; and it constitutes the immutable basis on which rests the throne of the Eternal. In the depraved society of our world, truth is violated in ten thousand different ways. It is violated in thoughts, in words, in conversation, in oral discourses, in writings, in printed books, by gestures and by signs, by speaking, and hy remaining silent. It is violated in reference to the character of our neighbour, when we invent tales of falsehood respecting him ; when we lis. ten with pleasure to such tales when told by