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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel


Of the Ninth commandment.

Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, [Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.]

Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbour’s good name, especially in witness-bearing.

Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own or our neighbour’s good name.


Q. 1. What is the general scope and aim of the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth command aims chiefly at the preservation and promoting of truth amongst men; Zechariah 8:16. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour, &c. This being of indispensible necessity to the subsistence and welfare of human society; Ephesians 4:25. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour, for we are mcrnbers one of another.

Q. 2. What is the first thing required particularly in this command?
A. This command requires every man to take care of preserving his own good name, by ordering his conversation in universal integrity; 1 Peter 3:15-16. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to every one that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience; that whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Q. 3. What is the second thing required in this command?
A. It requires all due care to preserve the good name and honour of other men as well as our own; for Christians are not to be of narrow and private spirits, which centre only in their own interests and concernment; Philippians 2: 4. Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others.

Q. 4. How are we to preserve the good names of others?
A. We are to preserve the good names of others by an inward esteem of all the good that is in them; Philippians 2:3. In lowness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. And manifesting our inward esteem of them by a wise and seasonable expression thereof for their encouragement in the ways of godliness; Romans 1:8. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Q. 5. How else are we to defend other men’s names?
A. By our readiness to receive with joy the reports of that good that is in them; 3 John 3. For I rejoiced greatly when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. And discountenancing all reproaches maliciously vented against them; Psalm 15:3. Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Q. 6. But what if the report be evidently true?
A. In that case we are to grieve for their miscarriages, as the effect and fruit of our love to their souls; 2 Corinthians 2:4. For out of much affliction and anguish of heart, I wrote unto you with many tears, not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. And to discharge our duties privately and faithfully, in order to their recovery; Matthew 18:15-17. Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone, &c. Winking at, and concealing in love, their lesser and common infirmities; 1 Peter 4:8. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: For charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

Q. 7. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. It forbids us to injure others, by raising or receiving lies, and false reports which are highly injurious to their good names; Colossians 3:9. Lie not one to another, &c.

Q. 8. What else is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. It especially forbids perjury, or false swearing, whereby not only the names, but estates and lives of the innocent are injured and ruined; Psalm 35:11. False witnesses did rise up. They laid to my charge things that I knew not; Proverbs 19:5. A false witness shall not be unpunished: And he that speaketh lies shall not escape. A sin which God will punish; Malachi 3:5. And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, &c.

Q. 9. What else is forbidden in this commandment?
A. It forbids all whispering and backbiting of others secretly; 2 Corinthians 12:20. Lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, &c. And all tale-carrying from one to another, to our neighbour’s injury; Leviticus 19:16. Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among the people, &c. And 1 Timothy 5:13. And not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy-bodies, speaking things which they ought not.

Q. 10. What else doth the ninth commandment forbid?
A. It forbids all rash and unwarrantable judging of other men’s hearts and final estates which is usually accompanied with ignorance of our own; Matthew 7:1, 3. Judge not, that ye be not judged. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Q. 11. What else is forbidden in this commandment?
A. It forbids the eclipsing of the true worth and honour of others, by a proud exalting of ourselves; 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, &c. Or by crying up one to the disparagement of another good man; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not carnal? &c.

Q. 12. What is the first inference from hence?
A. That the best Christians have cause to be humbled for the sins of the tongue whereby God is dishonoured, and others are injured; James 3:2. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. And verse 5, 6. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things: behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth. And the tongue is afire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue amongst our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

Q. 13. What is the second inference from hence?
A. It is our great concernment to walk with that piety and justice towards God and men, as to cut off all just occasions of reproach from our names; 2 Corinthians 11:12. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasions, &c. 1 Timothy 5:14. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Q. 14. What is the third inference from this commandment?
A. To bless God that our names are kept sweet and honourable in the world among good men; 3 John 12. Demetrius hath a good report of all men, &c. Or if we be reproached, it is by none but wicked men, and that for our duty to God; Daniel 6:5. Then said these men, we shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

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