Skeletons of a Course of
By Charles G. Finney
Moral Government.--No. 10.
Exodus 20:16. 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.'
I. What this commandment implies.
1. It implies the duty, under certain circumstances, of being true witnesses for or against our neighbor.
2. It implies that all men are to be regarded as our neighbors.
II. What is not properly a violation of this commandment.
1. Testifying to the truth with benevolent intentions, in a court of justice, whether for or against a neighbor, is not a violation of this commandment.
2. Telling the truth under any circumstances, when the great law of benevolence requires it, does not violate it, whatever the bearing may be upon any particular individual.
3. Stating a falsehood through unavoidable mistake, or misunderstanding, or through failure of memory, is not a violation of this commandment.
4. Withholding truth upon any subject, from one who has no right to know it, is not a violation of this commandment.
III. What its true spirit prohibits.
1. It prohibits all designed, or careless, or malicious misrepresentation of the character, conduct, or views of another, in any way whatever.
2. It prohibits every disposition that naturally tends to slander and misrepresentation.
3. It prohibits taking up, or in any way giving the least countenance to an ill or slanderous report of our neighbor.
4. It prohibits all bearing testimony to the truth of such report, from motives of ill will.
5. Or, giving unnecessary publicity to the faults of any one.
6. It prohibits every kind and degree of false coloring, in our representations of the character, motives, or conduct of our neighbor, or of whatever concerns him.
7. It prohibits every kind or degree of concealment that tends to the injury of any one.
8. It prohibits all withholding the truth upon any subject, from him who has a right to know it.
9. It prohibits every species of artifice, or designed deception, intended to make any impression contrary to truth, on any subject, upon one who has a right to know the truth upon that subject.
IV. Reasons for this commandment.
1. Individual and universal good.
2. This commandment is plainly declaratory of the law of universal benevolence.
Exodus 20:17. 'Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man servant, nor his maid servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.'
I. What this commandment implies.
1. The right of property--that a thing may lawfully belong to a neighbor.
2. It implies a right to the exclusive possession and enjoyment of our wives and husbands as such.
3. It implies that the exclusive enjoyment and possession of our wives and husbands as such is not selfishness.
4. It implies that every desire to interfere with the exclusive enjoyment of wives by their husbands, or husbands by their wives, as such, is selfishness.
5. It implies that we have a lawful interest in, and a right to the enjoyment of our friends.
II. What is not a breach of this commandment.
l. The desire to possess what belongs to another, by rendering the possessor a full equivalent, is not a breach of this commandment.
2. Neither is it a breach of this commandment to purchase, with a full equivalent, and take possession in a lawful way, of that which did belong to a neighbor.
3. The desire to possess whatever in our just estimation would contribute to our highest well being, is not a violation of the spirit of this commandment.
III. What the true spirit of this commandment prohibits and enjoins.
1. It prohibits every selfish disposition to possess what is our neighbor's.
2. It prohibits every selfish disposition to possess any thing which belongs to God.
3. It prohibits every selfish disposition to possess what is our neighbor's, without a disposition on our part to render a full equivalent,
4. It prohibits any disposition to possess whatever of our neighbor's we may not lawfully possess; for example, his wife.
5. It prohibits any disposition to possess that which our neighbor has, and needs as truly and as much as ourselves.
6. It prohibits every degree of selfishness.
7. It prohibits a disposition to possess any thing that is inconsistent with the will of God, and the highest good of the universe.
8. The spirit of this commandment enjoins perfect and universal benevolence.
9. It is plainly a declaratory summing up of the spirit of the law of universal benevolence.
IV. Reasons for this commandment.
1. This commandment is designed to regulate all the moral affections and emotions of the soul.
2. It is designed to show the spirituality of all the other commandments, and that they relate purely to the state of the mind.
3. It is designed to enjoin perfect and universal holiness of heart.
1. The above commandments are to be regarded only as specimens of the manner of declaring and applying by express statute, the common law of the universe, or the one great, universal and only law of love.
2. Every precept of the Bible is a moral precept, and the usual division of the precepts of the Bible into moral, civil, ceremonial, and positive, is arbitrary, and in many respects incorrect.
3. Neither God nor any being can make that obligatory as law, which enjoins the observance of that which is indifferent in its own nature, and obligatory for no other reason, than that such is the will of the law-giver.
4. Neither God nor any other being has a right to require any course of conduct, without some good reason; and therefore, that can never be law, which is wholly indifferent in itself; and for the requiring of which the law-giver has no good reason.
5. That may be law, the reasons of which we are unacquainted with; but it is law only because there are good reasons, either known or unknown to us, for the requirement.
6. The common definition of moral law has been defective. It has been defined to be that which is universally binding on all moral agents, in all circumstances, and in all worlds. Hence what is called the civil, positive, and commercial institutions or laws of the Jews, have been distinguished from moral laws.
7. This distinction is not only inconvenient, but creates a false impression. If these laws were not moral, the violation of them would have no moral character; that is--it would not be the violation of moral principle.
8. The true definition of moral law, and that which I have given elsewhere, is, a rule of action, that is and would be universally binding upon all moral agents in similar circumstances. Hence --
9. The ceremonial code of the Jews were moral laws, in the sense, that under the circumstances, and for the same reasons, they would be, or would have been universally binding on all moral agents.
10. Any precept of the Bible, or any precept whatever, that is not founded in moral principle, or required by the circumstances of moral beings, is utterly null and void, and can never in any case be law.
11. All the prohibitions in regard to agriculture, and diet, and every other regulation and precept under the Old Testament dispensation is binding on all mankind, just as far as their circumstances are similar.
12. The idea, that the positive, civil, and ceremonial laws of the Jews were not moral laws, has done and is doing much to undermine the morality of the Church and the world.
13. All the commandments of God were properly summed up by our Saviour, and condensed into the two great precepts, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and mind, and strength; and thy neighbor as thyself." These two precepts are at once a condensation and a declaration of the whole duty of man to God and to his neighbor.
14. The spirit of moral law is one, and unalterable; dependent on the will of no being. And the duty of God is to declare and enforce it, with such sanctions as the importance of the law demands; but it can never be altered or repealed.
15. Antinomianism, under any form, is an utter abomination, both unreasonable, and impossible for God to sanction.