I. The offences here supposed are, 1. A man’s concealing the truth when he was sworn as a witness to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Judges among the Jews had power to adjure not only the witnesses, as with us, but the person suspected (contrary to a rule of our law, that no man is bound to accuse himself), as appears by the high priest adjuring our Saviour, who thereupon answered, though before he stood silent, Matt. 26:63, 64. Now (Lev. 5:1), If a soul sin (that is, a person, for the soul is the man), if he hear the voice of swearing (that is, if he be adjured to testify what he knows, by an oath of the Lord upon him, 1 Kgs. 8:31), if in such a case, for fear of offending one that either has been his friend or may be his enemy, he refuses to give evidence, or gives it but in part, he shall bear his iniquity. And that is a heavy burden, which, if some course be not taken to get it removed, will sink a man to the lowest hell. He that heareth cursing (that is, that is thus adjured) and betrayeth it not (that is, stifles his evidence, and does not utter it), he is a partner with the sinner, and hateth his own soul; see Prov. 29:24. Let all that are called out at any time to bear testimony think of this law, and be free and open in their evidence, and take heed of prevaricating. An oath of the Lord is a sacred thing, and not to be dallied with. 2. A man’s touching any thing that was ceremonially unclean, Lev. 5:2, 3. If a man, polluted by such touch, came into the sanctuary inconsiderately, or if he neglected to wash himself according to the law, then he was to look upon himself as under guilt, and must bring his offering. Though his touching the unclean thing contracted only a ceremonial defilement, yet his neglect to wash himself according to the law was such an instance either of carelessness or contempt as contracted a moral guilt. If at first it be hidden from him, yet when he knows it he shall be guilty. Note, As soon as ever God by his Spirit convinces our consciences of any sin or duty we must immediately set in with the conviction, and prosecute it, as those that are not ashamed to own our former mistake. 3. Rash swearing. If a man binds himself by an oath that he will do or not do such a thing, and the performance of his oath afterwards proves either unlawful or impracticable, by which he is discharged from the obligation, yet he must bring an offering to atone for his fully in swearing so rashly, as David that he would kill Nabal. And then it was that he must say before the angel that it was an error, Eccl. 5:6. He shall be guilty in one of these (Lev. 5:4), guilty if he do not perform his oath, and yet, if the matter of it were evil, guilty if he do. Such wretched dilemmas as these do some men bring themselves into by their own rashness and folly; go which way they will their consciences are wounded, sin stares them in the face, so sadly are they snared in the words of their mouth. A more sad dilemma this is than that of the lepers, “If we sit still, we die; if we stir, we die.” Wisdom and watchfulness beforehand would prevent these straits.
II. Now in these cases, 1. The offender must confess his sin and bring his offering (Lev. 5:5, 6); and the offering was not accepted unless it was accompanied with a penitential confession and a humble prayer for pardon. Observe, The confession must be particular, that he hath sinned in that thing; such was David’s confession (Ps. 51:4), I have done this evil; and Achan’s (Josh. 7:20), Thus and thus have I done. Deceit lies in generals; many will own in general they have sinned, for that all must own, so that it is not any particular reproach to them; but that they have sinned in this thing they stand too much upon their honour to acknowledge: but the way to be well assured of pardon, and to be well armed against sin for the future, is to be particular in our penitent confessions. 2. The priest must make atonement for him. As the atonement was not accepted without his repentance, so his repentance would not justify him without the atonement. Thus, in our reconciliation to God, Christ’s part and ours are both needful.