In our previous post, we introduced this topic of the practical application of the Ninth Commandment. In this and the next few posts, we well look at the Westminster Larger Catechism’s detailed treatment of the duties required in the Ninth Commandment. And as we examine our ways, we can come afresh to the blood of Christ for forgiveness, and the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable us to keep this part of the “perfect Law of liberty.”
The Ninth Commandment Requires:
… preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbour, as well as our own;
To preserve something means to keep it from failing, corrupting, rotting, or falling apart. Promoting is a more active verb, meaning to become a “salesman” so to speak. To go out and make something to be respected, embraced, and loved by others.
These actions are required with respect to two things: truth, and good names. Truth is what is actually the case, and extends to theological truth about God, Christ, the Scriptures, salvation, the law, as well as about particular circumstances, actions, thoughts, etc. A good name is what we sometimes call the reputation. How do people think of, speak of, and treat someone else? Do they speak well of him? Do they desire to become a salesman for that person’s reputation, as well as for their own? This is the foundational assumption of what follows in the rest of 144 and 145 of the Larger Catechism.
The answer continues:
…appearing and standing for the truth; and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully,
Part of promoting something is actively taking stands for it. Salesmen do not idly sit at their desks all day hoping that someone will eventually hear about their product. Rather, they make calls, post things on the internet, send emails, make personal visits, etc. All of these actions are with a view to making their product embraced, believed in, purchased, etc.
Standing for truth, however, is not to be done merely by our conduct, but must first be done within the heart. Thus it must be done “from the heart,” and “sincerely.” The blessed man of Psalm 15 is one who “speaketh the truth in his heart,” (Psalm 15:2), and not merely with his lips. Though his father Saul hated David with a passion, yet Jonathan sincerely and freely spoke truth, even though it could have jeopardized his life and reputation (see 1 Samuel 19:4-5). This historical example demonstrates the Ninth Commandment’s requirement to stand for the truth and good name of our neighbor, even at great risk to ourselves
Speaking truth clearly is when we do not hide any part of the truth that is relevant to a particular situation. We can’t say that we’ll speak the part of the truth that is found acceptable to the audience, or that we don’t want to ruffle feathers, and will therefore just speak the parts that are agreed upon, or easy to receive. As Joshua commanded Achan, “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me,” (Joshua 7:19).
To continue reading, see Part 3.