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31. By faith Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
Answ. To which it may be replied, that the apostle says, indeed, that she received the spies with peace, that is, she protected, and did not betray them into the hand of their enemies: But this act of faith does not relate directly to the lie that she invented to conceal them; for, doubtless, she would have been more clear from the guilt of sin, had she refused to give the messengers any answer relating to them, and so had given them leave to search for them, and left the event hereof to providence. This, indeed, was a very difficult duty ; for it might have endangered her life ; and her choosing to secure them and herself, by inventing this lie, brought with it a degree of guilt, and was an instance of the weakness of her faith in this respect.
But, on the other hand, that faith which the apostle commends in her, respects some other circumstances attending this action; and, accordingly, it is not said, that by faith she made the report to the messengers concerning the spies ; but she received therh with peace : And there are several things in which her faith was very remarkable, as,
[1.] That she was confident that the Lord would give them the land, which they were contending for, Josh. ii. 9.
[2.] In that she makes a just inference relating to this matter, from the wonders that God had wrought for them in the red sea, ver. 10. And,
[3.] In that noble confession which she makes, that the Lord their God, is God in heaven above, and in the earth beneath, ver. 11.
(4.) Her faith appears, in that she put herself under their protection, and desired to take her lot with them ; which was done at the hazard of her own life; which she might have saved, and probably, have received a reward, had she betrayed them. This, I conceive to be a better vindication of Rahab's conduct, than that which is alleged, by some who suppose, that by entering into confederacy with the spies, she put her. self into a state of war with her own country-men, and so was not obliged to speak truth to the men of Jericho ; since this would have many ill consequences attending it, and give too much countenance to persons deceiving others, under pretence of being in a state of war with them. And, as to what the Papists say in her vindication, that a good design will justify a bad action ; that it is not true in fact; and therefore not to be applied to her case.
(3.) It might be farther enquired, what judgment ought we to pass on the method that Jacob took to obtain the blessing, then he told his father, I am Esau, thy first-born; I hate done according as thou badest me, Gen. xxvii. 19. whether he was guilty of a lie herein ?
Answ. There is not the least doubt but that he was. Some, indeed, endeavour to excuse him, by alleging, that he had, before this, bought the birth-right of Esau ; and, upon this account he calls himself Isaac's first-borp. But this will not clear him from the guilt of a lye; since it was an equivocation, and spoken with a design to deceive. Others own it to have been a lye ; but extenuate it, from the consideration of God's having designed the blessing for him before he was born, chap. XXV. 31. But these do not at all mend the matter : For, though God may permit, or over-rule the sinful actions of men to bring about his own purpose; yet this does not, in the least, extenuate their sin.
That which may therefore be observed, with reference to this action of his, and the consequence thereof, is, that good men are sometimes liable to sinful infirmities, as Jacob was ; who, was followed with many sore rebukes of providence, which made the remaining part of his life very uneasy.
1st, In his living in exile twenty years, with Laban, an hard master, and an unjust and unnatural father-in-law.
2dly, In the great distress that befel him in his return; OCcasioned first by Laban's pursuit of him, and then by the tidings that he received of his brother Esau's coming out to meet him ; (being prompted hereto by revenge which he had long harboured in his breast) with four hundred men, from whom he expected nothing less than the destruction of himself, and his whole family.
3dly, He did not obtain deliverance from the hand of God without great wrestling, chap. xxxii. 24–25. and this attended with weeping, as well as making supplication, Hos. xii. 4. and, though he prevailed, and so obtained the blessing, and therewith forgiveness of his sin ; yet God so ordered it, that he should carry the mark thereof upon him, as long as he lived, by touching the hollow of his thigh, which occasioned an incurable lameness.
(4.) Another enquiry is, whether the prophet Elijah did not tell a lie to the Syrian host, who were before Dothan, in quest of him, when he said, in 2 Kings vi. 19. This is not the way, neither is this the city : Follow me, and I will bring you to the man you seek. But he led them to Samaria ?
Answ. If what he says to them be duly considered, it will appear not to be a lie ; for he told them nothing but what proved true, according to the import of his words; for,
1st, He does not say, I am not the man ye seek, which would have been a lie; neither does he say, the man is not here :
but he tells them, I will lead you to the place where ye shall find him, or have him discovered and presented before you.
2dly, When he says, This is not the way ; neither is this the city; he does not say, this is not the way to Dothan ; neither is this the city so called ; for then they would have been able to have convicted him of a lie ; for they knew that they were at Dothan before they were struck with blindness : But the plain meaning of his words is, that this is not your way to find him; since the men of this city will not deliver him to you ; but I will lead you to the place where you shall see him ; and se he led them to Samaria, upon which their eyes were opened, and they saw him : So that this was not a lie. And the reason of his management was, that the king of Israel, and the Syrian host, might be convinced, that they were poor creatures in God's hand, and that he could easily turn their counsels into foolishness, and cause their attempts to miscarry with shame, as well as disappointment.
(5.) It may be farther enquired, whether the apostle Paul was guilty of a lie; when, being charged, in Acts xxiii. 4, 5. with reviling God's high priest, he says, I wist not that he was the high priest? How was it possible that he should entertain any doubt concerning his being the high priest; which none, who were present, could, in the least, question?
Answ. We may suppose, that the apostle, when he says, I wist not that he was the high priest, intends nothing else, but I do not own him to be the high priest, as you call him; for he is not an high priest of God's appointing or approving; which, had he been, he would have acted more becoming that character; and then I should have had no occasion to have told him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall; for that would have been a reviling him; since I know that scripture very well, that says, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people; therefore he intimates, that, though he was an high priest of man's making, he was not one of God's approving; and accordingly he was to be treated with contempt, instead of that regard which was formerly paid to the high priests, when they were better men, and acted more agreeable to their character. No one, that deserves to be called God's high priest, would have ordered a prisoner, who came to be tried for his life, instead of making his defence, to be smitten on the mouth.
But, suppose we render the words agreeably to our translation, I did not understand that he was the high priest, he may be vindicated from the charge of telling a lie, if we consider,
1st, That this was a confused assembly, and not a regular court of judicature, in which the judge, or chief magistrate, is known to all, by the place in which he sits, or the part he acts in trying causes.
2dly, The high priest, in courts of judicature, was not known by any robe or distinct habit that he wore, as judges now are ; for he never wore any other but his common garments, which were the same that other people wore, except when he ministered in offering gifts and sacrifices in the temple. Therefore the apostle could not know him by any distinct garment that he wore.
3dly, Through the corruption of the times, the high priest was changed almost every year, according to the will of the chief governor, who advanced his own friends to that dignity, and oftentimes sold it for money; it is therefore probable, that Ananias had not been long high-priest; and Paul was now a stranger at Jerusalem, and so might not know that he was high priest. Thus, if we take the words in this sense, in which they are commonly understood, the apostle may be sufficiently vindicated from the charge of telling a lie.
(6.) It may be farther enquired, what judgment we may pass concerning David's pretence, when he came to Abimelech, in 1 Sam. xxi. 2. that the king commanded him a business, which no one was to know any thing of; and that he had appointed his servants to such and such a place; and also of his feigning himself mad, before the king of Gath, ver. 13. which dissimulation can be reckoned no other than a practical lie.
Answ. In both these instances he must be allowed to have sinned, and therefore not proposed as a pattern to us; and all that can be inferred from it is, that there is a great deal of the corruption of nature remaining in the best of God's people. What he told Abimelech was certainly a lye ; and all that he expected to gain by it, was only a supply of his present necessities; the consequence whereof was, the poor man's losing his life, together with all the priests', except Abiathar, by Saul's inhumanity. And David seems to be truly sensible of this sin, as appears from Psal. xxxiv. which, as is intimated in the title thereof, was penned on this occasion ; in which he arms others against it, in ver. 13. Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile : And in ver. 18. he seems to relate his own experience, when he says, The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
As to his behaviour before the king of Gath, which was a visible lie, discovered in his actions ; it can, by no means, be excused from being a breach of this Commandment. It is, indeed, alleged by some, to extenuate his fault ; that he was afraid that his having killed Goliah, would have induced Achish to take away his life ; as appears from what is said in Ver. 11, 12. Nevertheless, it may be considered as an aggrava- . tion of his sin,
[1.] That his fear seems to have been altogether groundless ; für, why should he suppose that the king of Gath would break through all the laws of arms and honour, since Goliah had been killed in a fair duel, the challenge having first been given by himself? why then should David fear that he would kill him for that, more than any other hostilities committed in war? Besides, it is plain from what Achish says, in ver. 15. Have I need of mad-men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad-man in my presence ? should ihis fellow come into mine house ? that the king of Gath was so far from designing to' rcvenge Goliah's death on him, that he intended to employ him in his service, and take him into his house ; but this mean action of his made him despised by all ; for it seems probable, by Achish's saying, Have ye brought this fellow to play the mad-man ? that he perceived it to be a feigned, and not a real distraction. And this was overruled by the providence of God, to let the Philistines know, that the greatest hero is but a lowspirited man, if his God be not with him.
[2.] If we suppose that there had been just ground for his fear, the method taken to secure himself, contained a distrust of providence ; which would, doubtless, have delivered him without his dissembling, or thus demeaning himself, or using such an indirect method in order thereunto. Thus concerning the violation of this Commandment, by speaking that which is contrary to truth.
2. This Commandment is farther broken, by acting that which is contrary to truth ; which is what we call hypocrisy : And this may be considered,
(1.) As that which is a reigning sin, inconsistent with a state of grace; in which respect an hypocrite is opposed to a true believer. Such make a fair shew of religion ; but it is with a design to be seen of men, Matt. vi. 5. They are sometimes, indeed, represented as seeking God, and enquiring early, or with a kind of earnestness after him, when under his afflicting hand; but this is deemed no other than a flattering him with their mouth, and a lying unto him with their tongues ; inasmuch as their heart is not right with him, Psal. lxxviii. 34,--37. And elsewhere, they are said to love the praise of men more than the praise of God, John xii. 43.
(2.) It may be farther considered, as that which believers are sometimes chargeable with, which is an argument that they are sanctified but in part; but this rather respects some particular actions, and not the tenor of their conversation : Thus the apostle Paul charges Peter with dissimulation, Gal. ii. 11,–13. though he was far from deserving the character of an hypocrite, as to his general conversation. And our Saviour cautions his disciples against hypocrisy, as that which they were