The movement called the New Calvinism has been around for quite a long time now, but still hasn’t solved one of its most basic questions: Do the miraculous or revelatory gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to the present time or have they ceased (positions that are generally labeled “continuationism” and “cessationism” respectively)? And is there room within the movement for people who hold to opposite positions? At the beginning of 2018 I suggested this would be one of the themes of the year and I continue to believe this will prove to be the case. My cause is helped by Tom Schreiner’s new defense of cessationism, Spiritual Gifts: What they Are and Why they Matter. Click to read full article
A Faithful Life Calvin’s health was never very good in the latter part of his life. His overwork had certainly contributed to his physical decline. He died at age fifty-four, worn-out. Yet he had worked with great energy, faithfulness, and productivity throughout his life. He had written commentaries on all the books of the New Testament except 2 and 3 John and the book of Revelation. He had published commentaries or lectures on many of the Old Testament books. He had written many theological treatises and volumes of correspondence in addition to all of the sermons he had preached. Much of his work had been done in great haste and under great pressure. For example, late in his life he expressed regret that he had not had time to revise the Genevan Catechism that he had written on his return from Strassburg. The city council had promised to encourage people to learn this catechism. So Calvin wrote it quickly, fearing that the council would change its mind and he would miss a great opportunity. In fact, when he finished writing a question or two, someone would rush the text to the printer to be typeset. Calvin had no chance to review or revise what he had written and no opportunity to get advice from others. He wished he could have taken more time in preparing it. But Calvin was an active pastor, not a leisurely academic in all that he wrote. A Life of Suffering For much of his life he slept relatively little and ate little. As early as his days in Strassburg, the strain of his life was beginning to tell. By 1559 his health problems were becoming great—regular bouts of malaria-like fever, tuberculosis, ulcerated veins, kidney stones, and hemorrhoids. His letters, usually reflecting little of his personal life, did express something of his physical suffering. Out of his own sufferings and the sufferings of the people of God that he observed as a pastor he often thought about the contradictions of the Christian’s life. He identified with the people of God because he wrestled with the same problems that they faced—sin, sickness, persecution, exile, hatred, divisions in family and church. He gave poignant expression to that suffering in his commentary on Hebrews 11:1.
Eternal life is promised to us, but it is promised to the dead; we are told of the resurrection of the blessed, but meantime we are involved in corruption; we are declared to be just, and sin dwells within us; we hear that we are blessed, but meantime we are overwhelmed by untold miseries; we are promised an abundance of all good things, but we are often hungry and thirsty; God proclaims that He will come to us immediately, but seems to be deaf to our cries . . . Faith is therefore rightly called the substance of things which are still the objects of hope.1
These words of John Calvin in commenting on Hebrews 11:1 were not just theological abstractions for him but reflected the struggles of his own faith. Calvin certainly saw great successes in his life—his writings widely distributed and eagerly read, Reformed churches growing in numbers and influence in many parts of Europe, and a thorough reform of the church in Geneva. Calvin also, however, faced great sorrows and difficulties in his life. He suffered emotionally and spiritually. His wife died after only a few years of marriage, and their only child died in infancy. His stepdaughter was guilty of adultery. Faithful Christians were martyred for the gospel he preached, and some friends apostatized from the faith. Unshakeable Confidence The struggles of his life tested his faith. At the heart of his faith was the confidence that for the sake of Jesus, God was his loving heavenly Father. But that confidence had to surmount the temptations and sins, the frustrations and losses, the weakness and death that made up so much of his life. He knew that his struggles were the very ones that all God’s children faced: “The pious heart, therefore, perceives a division in itself, being partly affected with delight, through a knowledge of God’s goodness, partly distressed with sorrow, through a sense of its own calamity; partly relying on the promise of the gospel; partly trembling at the evidence of its own iniquity; partly exulting at the expectation of life; partly alarmed by the fear of death.” But faith overcomes that division. With great assurance Calvin declared, “For the invariable issue of this contest is that faith at length overcomes those difficulties, from which, while it is encompassed with them, it appears to be in danger.”2
At the heart of his faith was the confidence that for the sake of Jesus, God was his loving heavenly Father.
Late in his life, as his health deteriorated and his strength ebbed, his friends pled with him to work less diligently, but he refused. By early 1563 he at times was unable to walk due to gout and arthritis. By early 1564 it was clear that his strength was failing seriously. In early February 1564 he gave his last lectures and sermons. Calvin prayed that his mind would remain clear to the end so that he could work. From his bed he continued to dictate letters and his final commentary, on the book of Joshua. His fellow ministers appealed to him to get more rest. He responded, “What! Would you have the Lord find me idle?”3 He was determined to work hard to the end.
Thanksgiving to God In April he dictated his will, although he did not have much to leave (contrary to the lies his enemies told about his great wealth). He gave expression to his faith in that last testament:
I give thanks to God, that taking mercy on me, whom he had created and placed in this world, he not only delivered me out of the deep darkness of idolatry in which I was plunged, that he might bring me into the light of his gospel, and make me a partaker in the doctrine of salvation, of which I was most unworthy; and not only, with the same mercy and benignity, kindly and graciously bore with my faults and my sins, for which, however, I deserved to be rejected by him and exterminated, but also vouchsafed me such clemency and kindness that he has deigned to use my assistance in preaching and promulgating the truth of his gospel. . . .
I have no other defence or refuge for salvation than his gratuitous adoption, on which alone my salvation depends. With my whole soul I embrace the mercy which he has exercised towards me through Jesus Christ, atoning for my sins with the merits of his death and passion, that in this way he might satisfy for all my crimes and faults, and blot them from his remembrance. I testify also and declare, that I suppliantly beg of him that he may be pleased so to wash and purify me in the blood which my Sovereign Redeemer has shed for the sins of the human race, that under his shadow I may be able to stand at the judgment-seat. I likewise declare, that, according to the measure of grace and goodness which the Lord hath employed towards me, I have endeavoured, both in my sermons and also in my writings and commentaries, to preach his Word purely and chastely, and faithfully to interpret his sacred Scriptures.
I testify and declare that I trust to no other security for my salvation than this, and this only, viz., that as God is the Father of mercy, he will show himself such a Father to me who acknowledge myself to be a miserable sinner. As to what remains, I wish that, after my departure out of this life, my body be committed to the earth, (after the form and manner which is used in this city,) till the day of a happy resurrection arrive.4
His final declaration was a reiteration of the gospel that he had preached and a confession of his own need for the saving work of Christ held out in the gospel. Final Farewells He said many good-byes in the final weeks of his life. On April 27 the city council came to see him. On April 28 the ministers came to say good-bye. His words to them are somewhat rambling but show what was on his mind:
Brethren, after I am dead, persist in this work, and be not dispirited; for the Lord will save this Republic and Church from the threats of the enemy. Let dissension be far away from you, and embrace each other with mutual love. Think again and again what you owe to this Church in which the Lord hath placed you, and let nothing induce you to quit it. It will, indeed, be easy for some who are weary of it to slink away, but they will find, to their experience, that the Lord cannot be deceived. When I first came to this city, the gospel was, indeed, preached, but matters were in the greatest confusion, as if Christianity had consisted in nothing else than the throwing down of images; and there were not a few wicked men from whom I suffered the greatest indignities; but the Lord our God so confirmed me, who am by no means naturally bold, (I say what is true,) that I succumbed to none of their attempts.
I afterwards returned thither from Strassburg in obedience to my calling but with an unwilling mind, because I thought I should prove unfruitful. For not knowing what the Lord had determined, I saw nothing before me but numbers of the greatest difficulties. But proceeding in this work, I at length perceived that the Lord had truly blessed my labours. Do you also persist in this vocation, and maintain the established order; at the same time, make it your endeavour to keep the people in obedience to the doctrine; for there are some wicked and contumacious persons. Matters, as you see, are tolerably settled. The more guilty, therefore, will you be before God, if they go to wreck through your indolence.
But I declare, brethren, that I have lived with you in the closest bonds of true and sincere affection, and now, in like manner, part from you. But if, while under this disease, you have experienced any degree of peevishness from me, I beg your pardon, and heartily thank you, that when I was sick, you have borne the burden imposed upon you.5
On May 2 Calvin, knowing that his death was near, wrote to his old friend William Farel. In fact, Farel, who had insisted that Calvin join him in the work of reforming the church in Geneva in 1538 and brought Calvin into the official ministry, received one of Calvin’s last letters. Calvin wrote: “I draw my breath with difficulty, and every moment I am in expectation of breathing my last. It is enough that I live and die for Christ, who is to all his followers again in life and in death.”6 Although Calvin urged Farel not to travel for a final visit, Farel, seventy-five and in weak health, made the journey for a personal good-bye. Calvin’s friend and colleague Theodore Beza recorded of his last days:
The interval to his death he spent in almost constant prayer. . . . In his sufferings he often groaned like David, “I was silent, O Lord, because thou didst it.” . . . I have also heard him say, “You, O Lord crush me; but it is abundantly sufficient for me to know that this is from your hand.”7 Calvin may also have remembered the words that he had written long ago in his Catechism: “For death for believers is now nothing but passage to a better life. . . . Hence it follows that death is no longer to be dreaded. We are rather to follow Christ our leader with undaunted mind, who, as he did not perish in death, will not suffer us to perish.”8
One of western civilization’s most influential men, Calvin considered himself a pilgrim and pastor first. This book introduces his essential life and thought to modern readers upon the five-hundredth anniversary of his birth.
Called to Triumph
Calvin died peacefully and quietly on Saturday, May 27 at 8 p.m. Beza wrote, “The night and the following day there was a general lamentation throughout the city . . . all lamenting the loss of one who was, under God, a common parent and comforter.”9 The popular image of Calvin today does not think of him as a comforter, but Beza accurately saw that the message of comfort was central to all the pastoral work that Calvin did for the faithful. He was buried on Sunday in an unmarked grave at a secret location somewhere in Geneva. In one of the last commentaries he wrote, he commented on the death and burial of Moses, “It is good that famous men should be buried in unmarked graves.”10 This conviction guided his own burial. He rejected the superstitious veneration of the dead and wanted no pilgrimages to his grave. He had lived to make Christians, not Calvinists. He had perhaps written his own best epitaph in his Institutes: “. . . we may patiently pass through this life in afflictions, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other disagreeable circumstances, contented with this single assurance, that our King will never desert us, but will give what we need, until having finished our warfare, we shall be called to the triumph.”11 This article is adapted from John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor by W. Robert Godfrey. Notes:
Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), 157–158
John Calvin, Institutes, III, 2, 18, altered.
Theodore Beza, The Life of John Calvin, in Selected Works of John Calvin, Vol. 1, ed. H. Beveridge and J. Bonnet (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1983), lxxxiv.
Quoted in ibid., lxxxvi–lxxxvii.
Quoted in ibid., xciii–xciv.
John Calvin, Selected Works, Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1983), 364.
Beza, “Life of Calvin,” xcv.
”Genevan Catechism,” Q. 64–65, 99
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses, Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979), on Deut. 34:6, 406.
Calvin, Institutes, II, 15, 4, altered.
A Practical Exposition of the Ten Commandments
The Lord having in the foregoing commands us how to walk with others in reference to their honour, life, chastity, and estate: Now, because men and human societies are generally concerned in the observing of truth and ingenuity, he comes to this command to direct us how to be tender of this, that by us our neighbour be not wronged in that respect, but that on the contrary, all means may be used to preserve truth for his good, to prevent what may load [reproach] his name, and remove what lies on it. The scope of it is the preservation of verity and ingenuity amongst men (Gal. 3:9). Lie not to one another; Eph. 4:25, 15 speak every man the truth, etc. and speak the truth in love; because if otherwise spoken, it is contrary to the scope of this command, which is the preservation of our neighbour’s name from a principle of love. The sin, forbidden here is expressed by false witness bearing, which is especially before judges, because that is the most palpable gross way of venting and untruth, under which (s in other commands) all the lesser are forbidden.
Although there are many sorts of sins in words, whereby we wrong others, yet we think that are not all to be reduced to this command, for injurious and angry words belong to the sixth command, and filthy words to the seventh; but we take in here such words as are contrary to truth, and fall especially under lying or wronging of our neighbour’s name. Now truth being an equality or conformity of men’s words to the thing they speak, as it is indeed, and in itself; and lying being opposite there to; we may consider it two ways: 1. In reference to a man’s mind, that is, that he speak as he thinks in his heart (as it is Psa. 15:2), this is the first rule whereby lying is discerned, if our speech is not answerable to the inward conception which it pretends to express, and this is that which they call, formale mendacium, or a formal lie, which is an expressing of a thing otherwise than we think it to be, with a purpose to deceive. Then 2. There must be a conformity in this conception to the thing itself, and so men must be careful to have their thoughts of things suitable to the things themselves, that they may the more falsely express them, and thus when there is a disconformity between men’s words and the thing they seem to express, it is that which they call materiale mendacium, or a material lie, and a breach of this command that requires truth in men’s words, both as to matter and manner.
That we may sum up this command (which is bound) into some few particulars, we may consider it first, as it is broken. 1. In the heart. 2. In the gesture. 3. In right. 4. In word.
First, in heart a man my fail, 1. By suspecting others unjustly: this is called evil surmising (1 Tim. 6:4), or as it is in the original; evil suspicion; which is when men are suspected of some evil without ground, as Potiphar suspected Joseph, or it is jealousy, when this suspicion is mixed with fear of prejudice to some interest we love, so Herod was jealous when Christ was born, and the neighbouring kings when Jerusalem was a-building. There is, I grant, a right suspicion, such as Solomon had of Adonijah, and wherein Gedaliah failed in not crediting Johannan’s information about Ishmael’s conspiracy against his life.
- By rash judging and unjust concluding concerning a man’s state, as Job’s friends did; or his actions, as Eli did of Hannah, saying that she was drunk, because of the moving of her lips; or his end. As the Corinthians did of Paul, when he took wages, they said it was covetousness, and when he took it not, they said it was want of love (see Rom. 14:4; 2 Cor. 12:4, etc.).
- By hasty judging, too soon passing sentence in our mind from some seeming evidence of that which is only in the heart, and not in the outward practice, this is but to judge before the time, and hastily (Matt. 7:1).
- There is light judging, laying the weight of conclusions upon arguments or midses [means] that will not bear it, as Job’s friends did, and as the Barbarians suspected Paul to be a murderer, when they saw the viper on his hand (Acts 25:4). Thus the King Ahaseurus trusted Haman’s calummy of the Jews too soon.
- The breach of this command in the heart may be when suspicion of our neighbour’s failing is kept up, and means not used to be satisfied about it, contrary to that, Matt. 18:15, If thy brother offend thee, etc; and when we seek not to be satisfied, but rest on presumptions, when they seem probable.
Secondly, in gesture this command may be broken, by nodding, winking, or such like (and even sometimes by silence) when these import in our accustomed way some tacit sinister insinuation, especially when either they are purposed for that end, or when others are known to mistake because of them, and we suffer them to continue under this mistake.
Thirdly, by writing this command may be broken (as Ezra 5:6; Neh. 6:5). Where calumniating libels are written, and sent by their enemies against the Jews and Nehemiah; in which respect many fail in these days.
Fourthly, but words are most properly the seat wherein this sin is subjected, whether they be only or merely words, or also put in writing, because in these our conformity or disconformity to truth does most appear.
- Lies are commonly divided into three sorts, according to their ends: (1) There is mendacium perniciosun, a malicious or pernicious lie, when it is hurtful to another, and so designed, as were the lies those that bare false witness against Christ and of Ziba against Mephibosheth. (2) There is officiosum mendacium, or an officious lie, when it is for a good end, such was the midwives’ lie (Ex. 1:9), thus denying of a thing to be, even when the granting of it would infer hurt and damage to another, is contrary to truth, and we ought not to do evil that good may come of it, and it overturns the end for which speaking was appointed, when we declare a thing otherways than we know or think it to be. And as no man can lie for himself for his own safety, so can he not for another’s; thus to lie even for God is a fault, and accounted to be talking deceitfully and wickedly for him, when to keep off what we account dishonourable to him, we will assert that he may, or may not do such a thing, when yet the contrary is true (Job 13:4, 7). (3) There is jocosum mendacium, when it is for sport to make others laugh and be merry, which being sinful in itself can be no matter of lawful sport to make others laugh. (4) We may add one more, and that is mendacium temerarium, when men lie and have no end before them, but through inadvertency and customary looseness, speak otherways than the thing is, this is called the way of lying (Psa. 119:29), and is certainly sinful; as when they told David when Amnon was killed, that all the king’s sons were killed, being too hasty in concluding before they had tried.
- Consider lies or untruths, either in things doctrinal, or in matters of fact. In things doctrinal so false teachers and their followers are guilty, who teach and believe lies, so such teachers are said (1 Tim. 4:2), to speak lies, and so when they foretell vain events, this is a high degree of lewd lying on the Lord, to say he means or says another thing than ever he thought, or than ever came into his heart, and to pretend a commission from him when he gives no such commission. In matters of fact, men a guilty when things are said to be done when they are not done, or otherways done than they are done indeed.
- We may consider this sin in men’s practice, either in reference to God, so hypocrisy and unanswerableness to our profession is lying (Psa. 78:36; Isa. 29:13), or we may consider it as between man and man, which is more properly the scope here. Again, we may consider the wronging of am man three ways. (1) By false reports, speaking what is indeed untrue. (2) By vain reports, which tend to his shame; so Deut. 5:20, this command is repeated in these words. Thou shalt not take up any witness (as it is in the original) against thy neighbour. (3) When the reports are malicious, whether they be true or false, and intended for that end that our neighbour may lose his good name. Further, consider it in reference to the person guilty, either as he is, (1) the raiser or carrier of a tale, true or false, yet tending to the prejudice of his neighbour; thus he is the maker of a lie. Or (2) as he is a hearer or receiver of tales (Prov. 17:4); thus he is to lying as a resetter [receiver of stolen goods] is to theft. And would not men hear tales, few would carry them; whereas when men will harken to lies, especially great men, all their servants ordinarily become wicked tale-bearers and whisperers. Or (3) as he is the sufferer (albeit he be not the venter) of a lying tale to pass on his neighbour (so he loves a lie, as it is, Rev.22:8) or but faintly purges him of it, but lets it either lie on him, or possibly takes it up and repeats it again, which is condemned, Psa. 15:3, where a man that takes up an evil report of his neighbour, even when others possibly have laid it down, is looked upon as a person who shall never dwell with God. Thus one invented a lie, another vented and outs it, and a third resets it, like coiners, spreaders and resetters of false money; for, that one said such a thing, will not warrant our repeating it again.
- We may consider wrongs done to our neighbour by words, as unjust and without ground, and so a lie is a calumny; as was that of Ziba, made of his master Mephibosheth; this is in Latin calumnia. Or when there is ground, yet when they are spoken to his prejudice, this is convitium, if especially in this they suffer for the truth’s sake; or if after repentance, former faults be cast up to a person, as if one should have called Paul a blasphemer still, even after his conversion and repentance; of this was Shimei guilty by railing on David.
- Both these sorts of lies are either spoken or received, and not afterward rejected, as David too hastily received that false report made of Mephibosheth by his servant Ziba, and thinking it not unlikely, because the reporter made it seem to be so, did therefore conclude it was truth, and did not reject it afterwards; or when at first received, yet after upon better information it is rejected.
- Again, this wronging of our neighbour by words is either of him when absent, and is backbiting, which often is done under pretence of much respect (that the report may stick the faster0, in such words as these. He is one I wish well, and should be loath to have him evil reported of, but this is too evident, this is the truth etc; this is susurrare, to whisper. Or it is of him when present, so it is a reproach and indignity, or upbraiding.
- Again, this backbiting and reproaching is either direct, so that men may easily know we bait such persons, or it is indirect, granting somewhat to his commendation, and using such prefaces as in show bear our much love, but are purposely designed to make the wound given by the tongue the deeper; such persons are as butter in their words, but as sharp swords in their hearts. This is that dissembling love which David complains of.
- Sometimes this reproaching and slandering of our neighbour is out of spleen against him, and is malicious; sometimes out of envy to raise and exalt one’s self on the ruins of another (this is grassari in famam proximi); sometimes it is not of design, thereby to insinuate upon them whom we speak unto, as to signify our freedom unto them, to praise them, or praise them, by crying down another, that is to serve the itching humor of such who love the praise of others, when it may be we know more faults of those we speak to, yet never open our mouth to them of one of these, nor are we free with them anent [about] them if the things are true.
- We may break this command by speaking truth, (1) For an evil end, as Doeg did (Psa. 52:2). (2) By telling something that is truth out of revenge. (3) When it is done without discretion, so it shames more than edifies. Christ’s word is (Matt. 18:15). Tell him his fault betwixt thee and him alone; and we on the contrary make it anupcast to him; this is certainly is not right. (4) When it is minced, and all not told; which if told might alleviate; or construed and wrested to a wrong end, as did the witnesses who deponed (deposed) against Christ.
- We may break this command, and fail in the extremity of speaking too much good of, or to, our neighbour, as well as by speaking evil of him, if the good be not true, and here comes in, (1) excessive and rash praising and commending of one,  beyond what is due,  beyond what we do to others of as much worth; this is respect of persons;  beyond what discretion allows, as when it may be hurtful to awaken envy in others, or pride in them who are thus praised. (2) Praising inordinately, that is before a man’s self, or to gain his affection, and that possibly more than when he is absent and hears not; much more is it to be blamed when spoken groundlessly. This is flattery, a most evil, which is exceedingly hurtful and prejudicial to human societies, yet exceeding delightful to be flattered. (3) We fail in this extremity, when our neighbour is justified or defended, or excused by us in more or less, when it should not be.
- Under this sin forbidden in the command, comes in all beguiling speeches, whether it be by equivocation, when the thing is doubtfully and ambiguously expressed; or by mental reservation, a trick whereby the grossest lies may be justified, and which is plainly of all truth in speaking, when the sentence is but half expressed; as suppose one should ask a Romish priest. Art thou a priest? And he should answer, I am no priest; reserving this in mind, I am no priest of Baal; for by giving or expressing the answer so, an untruth and cheat is left upon the asker, and the answer so conceived does not quadrat [square] with the question as it ought to do, if a man would evite (avoid) lying.
- This falsehood may be considered with reference to things we speak of, as buying and selling, when we call a thing better or worse that it is indeed, or then we think it to be. Ah! how much lying is there every day this way with many.
- Under this sin forbidden in this command are comprehended, (1) Railing. (2) Whispering. (3) Tail-bearing (spoken of before). (4) The Tattling of busybodies, that know not how to insinuate themselves with others, or pass time with them but by some ill tale of another. (5). Prevarication, which is the sin of persons who are inconstant, whose words go not all alike, saying and unsaying; saying now this way, and then another way, of the same thing, their words clashing together, and they not consisting with themselves.
- Consider falsehood or false witness-bearing, as it infers breach of promise, which is forbidden (Psa. 15:4), when one performs not what he promises, or promises that which he intends not to perform, which is deceit and falsehood.
- As we may sin in speaking evil against others, so we may in respect of ourselves many ways: (1) When we give occasion to others to speak evil of us (1 Cor. 6:2; 2 Cor. 6:3). (2) When we are not careful to entertain and maintain a good name, and by suitable ways to wipe what may mar the same. It is generally observed, that while men have a good name, they are desirous and careful to keep it; and when they have lost it, they grow careless of it. We ought not to be prodigal of our names more than our lives and estates, for the loss of them incapacitates us much to edify others. (3) When we vainly boast of ourselves, and set forth our own praise; that is, as if a man should eat too much honey (Prov. 25:7). (4) When we will not confess a fault, but either deny, excuse, or extenuate it; this Joshua exhorts Achan to eschew. (5) When we say that things are worse with us than indeed they are, and deny, it may be even in reference to our spiritual condition, somewhat of God’s goodness to us, and so lie against the Holy Ghost. (6) When we are too ready to entertain good reports of ourselves, and to be flattered, there is (if anything) an open door to this in us; and as the heathen Seneca said, Blanditiae cum excluduntur placent, so it may be ordinarily seen that men will seemingly reject what they delight should be insisted in; there is in us much self-love, that we think some way, that men in commending us do what is their duty. Therefore, we often think them good folk because they do so, and men that do not commend us we respect them not, or but little, or at least less than we do others, because we think they are behind in a duty by not doing so; and which is very sad, and much to be lamented, few things do lead us to love or hate, commend or discommend (and that as we think not without ground) more than this, that men do love and commend, or not love and commend us.
- We also may by withholding a testimony to the truth, and by not clearing of another, when it is in our power to do it, be guilty of this sin. But especially is forbidden public lying and wronging of another judicially, either in his person, name, or estate, and that:
(1) By judge, when he passes sentence, either rashly, before he hears the matter, and searches it out, which Job disclaims, asserting the contrary of himself (Job 29:16), or ignorantly, or perversely for corrupt ends, as being bribed to it, or otherwise.
(2) By the recorder, writing grievous things (Isa. 10:1), or making a clause in a decree, sentence, or writ, more favourable to one, and more prejudicial to another than was intended.
(3) By the witnesses, who either conceal truth, or express it ambiguously, or refuse to testify, or assert what is not true.
(4) By the advocate, by undertaking to defend or pursue what righteously he cannot; or by hiding from his client that which he knows will prejudge his cause; or by denying it when he asked about it; or not bringing the best defenses he has. And as to the first point here about advocates, it is to be regretted (as a great divine in the neighbour church has most pathetically, according to his manner, lately done) as a sad matter, that any known unrighteous cause should have a professed Christian in the face of a Christian judicatory, to defend it; but incomparably more sad, that almost every unjust cause should find a patron; and that no contentious, malicious person should be more ready to do wrong, than some lawyers to defend him for a (dear bought) feel I speak not here of innocent mistakes in cases of great difficulty; nor yet of excusing a cause bad in the main from unjust aggravations; but (says that great man) when money will hire men to plead for injustice, and use their wits to defend the righteous, and to spoil his cause, and vex him with delays for the advantage of their unrighteous clients. I would not have the conscience of such for all their gains, nor their account to make for all the world. God is the great patron of innocence, and the pleader of every righteous cause; and he that will be so bold as to plead against him, had need of a large fee to save him harmless.
(5) By the accuser or pursuer, when unjustly he seeks what does not belong unto him, or charges another with what he should not, or justly cannot.
(6) By the defender when he denies what he knows, or minces it, etc. And by all of them, when business is delayed and protracted through their respective accession to it, as well as when justice is more manifestly wronged: this is the end of Jethro’s advice to Moses (Ex. 18:23), that the people return home, being quickly, and with all convenient diligence dispatched; which, to their great loss and prejudice many ways, the unnecessary lengthening of processes obstructs, and makes law and lawyers, appointed for the case and relief of the people, to be a grievous and vexatious burden to them; for which men in these stations and capacities will have much to answer to God, the righteous Judge of all the earth, when they shall be arraigned before his terrible tribunal, where there will be no need of leading witnesses to prove the guilt, since every man’s conscience will be in place of a thousand witnesses, neither will the nimblest wit, the [most] eloquent tongue, the finest and smoothest pen of the most able lawyer, judge, advocate, notary or litigant that shall be found guilty there, be able to fetch himself fair off. Oh! Then all the gig leaves of their fairest and most flourishing, but really frivolous pretenes, wherewith they palliate themselves, will be instantly blown away by the breath of the Judge’s mouth, and so be utterly unable to cover the shame of their nakedness in the manifold breaches of his command; then the greatest stretches of wit, and highest strains of eloquence made use of to the prejudice of truth and justice, will be found and pronounced to be poor, silly, and childish wiles, yea, very fooleries and babblings; after which they will not speak again, but laying their hands on their mouths, eternally keep silence. It will therefore be the wisdom and advantage of the guilty in time to take with it, and resolving to do so no more, to betake themselves, for the pardon of it, to that Advocate with the Father, even Jesus the Righteous, who thoroughly pleads, and without all peradventure or possibility of losing it, does always carry the cause he undertakes to plead.
In sum, that which in his command in its positive part is leveled at as the scope thereof, is the preserving and promoting or truth, honest simplicity and ingenuity amongst men; a sincerity and cordially loving regard to the repute and good name of one another; and a sweet inward contentment, joyful satisfaction and complacency of heart therein; with a suitable love to, and care for, our own good name.
Edited by Chris Coldwell
SOLOMON, THE WISE KING
It is a wonderful thing to be a king. Solomon, David’s son, knew this well. To be a real king, a great ruler and guide, a man must be just and wise and strong. And here was he. Solomon, but newly come to man’s estate, called to sit upon the throne and carry on the work of his father David. To him was to be given the great task of building God’s house and ruling His people. The hands of David had been stained with blood, for he had been a great fighter; and so God had not allowed him the honor of building that temple. Solomon, the young king, whose very name meant “peace,” could at least bring clean, unstained hands to the work.
But how was he to learn to be wise enough and strong enough to rule and govern God’s chosen people—to be a real king? The great responsibility weighed heavily, and the question troubled him, even in his dreams, until at last one night the answer came. He had laid down to rest as usual, and had fallen asleep, when in the midst of his dreams he heard a voice speaking to him. He listened, and knew at once that it was the voice of God.
“Ask what I shall give you,” said the Voice. Solomon was not startled or afraid. David, his father, had taught him to love and trust God, and he answered at once.
“O Lord my God,” he said, “You have made Your servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad.”
It was wisdom that Solomon wanted more than anything else, and his answer pleased God. He might so easily have asked instead for a long life or for great riches, or triumphant victory over all his enemies; but because he had chosen well, God granted his request.
“Lo, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart,” said the Voice: “so that there was none like you before you, neither after you shall any arise like unto you. And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto you all your days.”
While that Voice still sounded in his ears Solomon awoke. Had it indeed been only a dream? It had been something more than that, he knew. Everything was changed. All his doubts and difficulties had vanished. He was sure of himself, and was no longer afraid of fulfilling the duties of a king. And before long the change was noticed by others too as the young king began to rule.
The first case he was called upon to judge was a difficult one.
Two women stood before him: one, with angry, flashing eyes, held in her arms a little dead baby; the other, whose face was full of sorrowful pleading, clasped to her breast a living child.
The angry woman pushed forward and spoke first. They both lived in the same house, she said, and in the night that other woman’s child had died, and she had crept out and changed the babies, carrying away the living child, and leaving the dead baby in its place.
“No, no,” said the other woman, holding the living baby closer in her arms, “the child is mine, the dead one is your.”
The angry woman would not listen; the living child belonged to her, she declared again.
All eyes were turned on the young king. How would he decide? There was no possible way of finding out the truth.
“Bring me a sword,” rang out the order.
In great astonishment they brought a sword and placed it in the king’s hand.
“Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other,” he said calmly.
The woman with the sorrowful eyes sprang forward, and a great cry burst from her lips: “O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it.”
But the angry woman was more than content, and her voice drowned the other’s as she cried: “Let it be neither mine nor your, but divide it.”
The king looked down on the little helpless baby and on the sword in his hand. Of course, he did not mean to hurt the child. It was only a wise test, and it had answered well. With a kindly glance at the poor, weeping woman, he gave his judgment.
“Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it,” he said: “she is the mother.”
He knew that a real mother would rather give up her child than have it killed; and it was only a pretended mother who could ask to have it cut in half.
So Solomon’s wisdom began early to be proved, and the people grew very proud of their wise young king. Never before had the country been as rich and prosperous as under his rule, and very soon the work of building that great temple of God’s house was begun.
It would take a whole book to tell of the building of that wonderful place, of the gold and silver and precious stones, of the beautiful wood and marbles and ivory that went to make it the wonder of the world. But at last it was finished, and when it was dedicated to God King Solomon stood forth in all his kingly robes, and amidst the splendor of the great festival spoke words of great wisdom to the people.
Far and wide the fame of Solomon spread. People talked of his riches and the splendor of his court, but, above all, of his great wisdom. From far away Sheba the dark queen came with her great train of camels laden with gold and precious stones, to see for herself if this king was as great and wise and rich as people said. She meant to test him with difficult questions, and she also wished to show him that she too possessed great riches.
But the wealth and splendor of Solomon’s court went far beyond her dreams. She saw him arrayed in his royal purple robes, sitting upon his ivory throne overlaid with gold, each ivory step guarded by a golden lion. She listened to his quick, wise answers to all her puzzling questions, and she could only hold out her hands to him in deep humility, and confess that there were no words to describe his glory.
But all these riches and all this splendor and honor could not make Solomon a contented or happy man. His great navies swept the seas, and brought him cargoes of rich silks, of gold and silver and ivory, apes and peacocks, horses and mules, and everything that heart could desire, but they could not bring him happiness. At the end of his life, weary of pleasures and of learning, he called all these things “vanity of vanities.” Looking back to the time when he was an eager boy, when God’s voice had spoken to him in that long-ago dream, he knew now that there was something even better than the wisdom he had asked for.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter,” wrote the weary old king, he who had enjoyed every pleasure of life, with all its honor and glory, all its wisdom and learning. “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”