I. TRUE WITNESS. (Ver. 26.) He who gives true and faithful answers - especially in courts of justice - delights, even as the sweetest kiss upon the mouth delights. The poet alludes to the effect upon the ear. The understanding can no more be delighted with a lie than the will can choose an apparent evil. "Strange as it may seem," says one playfully, "the human mind loses truth." We may add, "when passion does not blind the intellect to its beauty." In the court of justice, all but the guilty and those interested in his fate see the beauty of truth, and prize it above all things. Hence to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is the solemn oath of witnesses.
II. FALSE AND UNCALLED-FOR WITNESS. (Ver. 28.) To bear false witness strikes at the very root of conscience and moral obligation. But criminal, though in a less degree, is the volunteering of evidence without cause against another; i.e. when no object but private hatred and revenge is to be served. Compare the case of Doeg (1 Samuel 22:9, 10); the Pharisees with the wretched sinner in John 8; the words of the Lord in John 15:25. Speak evil of no man, not only that evil which is altogether false and groundless, but that which is true, when speaking of it will do more harm than good (Matthew Henry).
III. DELIBERATE DECEPTION. About a court of justice, which represents truth, there gathers a dark shade of roguery and falsehood; "persons that are full of sinister tricks and shifts, whereby they pervert the plain and direct courses of courts, and bring justice into oblique lines and labyrinths."
IV. BLIND INDULGENCE OF VINDICTIVE TEMPER. (Ver. 29; comp. Proverbs 20:22.) Nothing is more deeply impressed in the Bible than the truth of compensation or retribution. But men must not take the law into their own hands. "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith Jehovah." "Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. In taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over he is superior. It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence. The man who studies revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well" (Bacon). - J.
To them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good blessing shall come upon themI. THE DUTY AND ITS OBLIGATION. By "rebuke" we may understand either that friendly office exercised by private persons towards their trespassing brethren, with a design and hope of reclaiming them from their evil ways, or else that severer method of proceeding by public censures and legal punishments, inflicted by persons in authority, with the same charitable end in view. Private Christians have a call and authority sufficient to admonish and reprove, where it can be done prudently and seasonably. We must not think ourselves at liberty to suffer sin and wickedness, committed in our sight and hearing, to pass without correction. The aid of the civil magistrate may be needed for those who will not be reformed and reclaimed from an evil course by arguments fetched from another world, but may be forced into better manners by temporal punishments. When these punishments have no fitness in them to make men better, they are of great use to prevent their growing worse and more hardened in their sins. The infliction of legal penalties is also necessary to prevent the contagion of bad example, that the venom spread no further, to taint the sound members, and corrupt those who are well disposed.
II. THE MOTIVES WHICH EXCITE TO THE PERFORMANCE OF THIS DUTY.
1. Delight, or an inward joy and satisfaction, flowing from the testimony of a good conscience, which is the most agreeable of all comforts. The thought of good done lies easy in men's minds, and the reflection upon it doth ever after minister comfort and delight to them. The greatest good one man can possibly do another is to assist and further him in the way of salvation; to keep him within the lines of duty; and to reclaim him to a better course.
2. A good blessing. A just God will not let this labour of love pass without reward. He will consider it in proportion to the measure of good that is done by it, and the discouragements and difficulties with which it is usually attended. The good blessing includes the blessing of men. Every man who rebukes evil without fear or favour shall, for his integrity, wisdom, and courage, be had in universal esteem. A good magistrate is respected and honoured by those who have no great regard to religion, for reasons of state. How much more may such expect honour and veneration from those who are concerned for religion and the glory of God.
(John Waugh, D.D.)
1. From the consciousness of having done rightly.
2. From the possession of public approbation, affection, and confidence.
3. From a sense of Divine approbation.
4. From the affection and complacency of all good men, and the grateful acknowledgments of those whose causes have been carefully, disinterestedly, and righteously investigated and determined; even those who fail having, notwithstanding, a testimony in their consciences to the soundness of principle, and the sincerity of the desire to do right, with which all has been conducted.
(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)
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