THOU SHALT NOT BEAR FALSE Witness(5){#ex 20:16.}

VIII. (41) This is the ninth of the ten commandments, being the fourth in number of those in the second table; but one which is calculated to bestow ten thousand benefits on human life if it be kept, as, on the other hand, it may injure men in innumerable ways if it is neglected; (42) for the false accuser is to be blamed, but he who bears witness to what is false is more guilty still; for the one acts only from a desire to protect himself, but the other is wicked from his wish to co-operate with another in iniquity. And in the comparison of wicked men he who does wrong for his own sake is less unrighteous than he who does so for another. (43) And every judge looks with suspicion on an accuser, as likely to pay but little attention to truth for the sake of coming off in safety himself, on which account the accuser stands in need of a preface to beg the attention of the hearer while he is speaking; but if the judge has no prejudice against a witness on any personal grounds he receives his evidence with a willing mind and open ears, while he is covering over those most excellent things, truth and good faith, which specious language. And the false witnesses use seductive words as a sportsman uses bait for the purpose of attaining the objects which he desires and aims at. (44) For which reasons, in many parts of his enactment of the law, he commands that we should not approve of any wicked man or Action.{6}{#ex 23:1.} For any approbation of what is not virtuous is likely to lead to giving false evidence; since every one to whom iniquity is a disagreeable and hateful thing is a friend of truth. (45) Now there is no great wonder in a man’s having connected himself with one wicked person, who has incited him to an action resembling his own character; but it is a sign of a noble soul, and of a disposition practised in manly resolutions not to follow a multitude to do evil, like a man borne down over a precipice by the collective force of a torrent. (46) For some people, among the multitude, think some things lawful and just, even though they be most flagitious, not judging correctly; for it is well to follow nature, but this impulse of the multitude is wholly at variance with the following of nature. (47) If, then, some persons, being assembled together in companies and numerous multitudes, attempt to make any innovations, one must not consent to them, since they are adulterating the ancient and approved coinage of the state; for one wise counsel is superior to many attempts, but ignorance, in conjunction with numbers, is a great evil; (48) but some persons practise such an excess of wickedness that they not only accuse mortal men, but adhere and cling to their unrighteousness, so as even to raise their lies as high as heaven, and to bear their testimony against the blessed and happy nature of God. And by these men I mean soothsayers, and diviners, and augurs, and all other persons who practise what they call divination studying, an art without any art, if one must tell the plain truth, a mere bare imitation of the real inspiration and prophetic gift; (49) for a prophet does not utter anything whatever of his own, but is only an interpreter, another Being suggesting to him all that he utters, while he is speaking under inspiration, being in ignorance that his own reasoning powers are departed, and have quitted the citadel of his soul; while the divine spirit has entered in and taken up its abode there, and is operating upon all the organization of his voice, and making it sound to the distinct manifestation of all the prophecies which he is delivering. (50) But all those persons who pursue the spurious and pretended kind of prophecy are inverting the order of truth by conjectures and guesses, perverting sincerity, and easily influencing those who are of unstable dispositions, as a violent wind, when blowing in a contrary direction, tosses about and overturns vessels without ballast, preventing them from anchoring in the safe havens of truth. For such persons think proper to say whatever they conjecture, not as if they were things which they themselves had found out, but as if they were divine oracles revealed to themselves alone, for the more complete inducement of great and numerous crowds to believe a deceit. (51) Such persons our lawgiver very appropriately calls false prophets, who adulterate the true prophecy, and overshadow what is genuine by their spurious devices; but in a very short time all their manoeuvres are detected, since nature does not choose to be always hidden, but, when a suitable opportunity offers, displays her own power with irresistible strength. (52) For as in the case of eclipses of the sun the rays which have, for a brief moment, been obscured, a short time afterwards shine forth again, exhibiting an unclouded and far-seen brilliancy without anything whatever coming over the sun at all, but one unalloyed blaze beaming forth from him in a serene sky; so also, even though some persons may deliver predictions, practising a lying art of prophecy, and disguising themselves under the specious name of prophetic inspiration, falsely taking the name of God in vain, they will be easily convicted. For, again, the truth will come forth and will beam forth, shedding around a most conspicuous light, so that the falsehood which has previously overshadowed it will disappear. (53) Moreover there also was an Excellent{7}{#nu 35:30.} commandment that Moses gave when he ordained that the judge should “not receive the testimony of one Witness.”{8}{#de 17:6; 19:15.} First of all, because it is possible that one person may without designing it have a false impression of a thing, or may be careless about it and therefore be deceived. For there are innumerable false opinions, which frequently arise from an innumerable variety of grounds; (54) and secondly, because it is most unjust to trust to one witness against many persons, or indeed against only one individual; in the first place, because many are more entitled to belief than one, since the one is not superior in number to many, and equality of number is inconsistent with any preponderance; for why should the judge trust a single witness, bearing testimony against another, rather than the defendant pleading in his own behalf? But, as it should seem, it is best to suspend one’s opinion, where there is no deficiency and no excess to guide the judgment.