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real value of the thing which they would steal, or otherwise possess themselves of unfairly, with the value of a good character, they can hardly fail to resolve to be always honest, though on the maxims of worldly wisdom alone; and this the rather, because that character may be all they have, to which they can trust for their maintenance.
But, always, and above all, let them compare the value of everything else, be it what it will, with the value of God's favour. And surely then their hearts will rise superior to every temptation, and they will say to themselves in the words of David: "My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live."
"Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another." Leviticus xix. 11.
I HAVE already said so much on the subject mentioned in the beginning of this verse, Ye shall not steal," that I shall now proceed to speak of the concluding sentences: "neither deal falsely neither lie one to another." The dealing falsely may in one point of view mean the dealing fraudulently, a vice which, as I have already explained to you, is a species of theft, or of stealing. But to deal falsely means also in a general sense to deceive, and in this sense it comes to the same thing with the vice of " lying one to another." Stealing, deceiving, and lying are all plants of the same growth, and spring from the
You have all of you been taught that we are beset by a bitter enemy, one whom we cannot see with our outward eyes, but who,
from the beginning of the world, has made it his business to draw man away from the living God. This enemy is Satan, against whose artifices you are most especially warned in your catechism, in which you are taught to pray God to "keep you from all sin and wickedness, and from your ghostly or spiritual enemy," the enemy of your souls. Satan (the very word means adversary) is often styled in Scripture" the father of lies," because by deceit and lies he seeks to destroy the children of men; and every lie that is uttered by the tongue is first put into the heart by his instigation. How should this reflection make us shudder! How should it make us recoil from everything like lying or deceit, and reject instantly every impulse which we may ever feel to give utterance to any falsehood whatever!
Few persons, I believe I may say no person, ever began a very sinful course all at once, or by the commission of some great crime. Vice creeps on by degrees from small offences to greater, and the first sin is commonly a lie. Lies sometimes proceed from a studied wish
to deceive, to answer some particular purpose; and lies such as these must be severely dealt with; or else the practice of this sin will corrupt the whole heart, and the moral disease will become incurable.
But the falsehoods to which I would draw your attention are those more unpremeditated lies and prevarications, of which children are often guilty from cowardice and folly, and by which they hope to screen themselves from punishment, or to relieve themselves from any present annoyance. Though such lying as this is not so bad as more deliberate lying, it is still a great and most mischievous vice. One would think that a child who has been taught his duty to God and to his parents, could not have even any wish to deceive. He knows that he cannot deceive God, he ought not to desire to deceive his friends. His own reason and observation will also show him how weak a defence a lie almost always proves to be, even on the point on which he is afraid, or against the consequences which he seeks to avoid. He who tells one lie is commonly drawn on to tell other lies
to hide the falsehood of the first, and thus becomes entangled in a web of his own weaving. Sooner or later the truth becomes manifest, and he then finds that, to avoid a merited punishment, he has increased his first fault. tenfold, and has brought on himself a tenfold degree of shame and disgrace, and, in all probability, of chastisement also.
Nor does this end his punishment.
character for truth is lost. Even when he speaks the truth he is not believed. Every one avoids a liar. He is shunned even by his companions and play-fellows; and even if his deceit succeeds, if his lie is not found out, it is still in appearance only that he is saved from shame, disgrace, and punishment. His fears of detection are, even though he may not actually be detected, a continual punishment to him. The upbraidings of his own heart are even harder to bear than the blame of others; and he cannot hide from himself that his fault, his double fault, though it may be concealed from man, is at all events known to God.
We will now compare the feelings of this