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5 fure of the truth, and very punktual in the per☆ formance of whatever ye have sworn. If due 6 care be taken of this, ye conclude the law is 6 strictly enough observed, and fully satisfied. But, " I who come to declare to you the divine will “ and law more perfectly than ye have yet been able “ to discern, or willing to apprehend it, require “ of you much more than this; that ye not only « swear not falsly, but not at all; that in your « common conversation, ye, upon no account, and " in no manner or form of speech, invoke the fa6 cred name of God, tho' the matter concerning " which ye have occasion to speak be never so
Nor yet think, that the fin of swearing “ may be evaded by indire& oaths: For swearing " by God's creatures is in effect swearing by him 6 who created them, and for whose glory they are, 6 and were created. For instance, swearing by “ heaven, is swearing by him whose throne and “ palace it is ; and as the splendor of his Majesty « fines chiefly there, so do's the glory of his pro6 vidence in this lower world; the whole earth is “ but one mighty kingdom, under the inspection 4 and government of God; and therefore he that “ swears by the earth, swears by that sovereign
power that formid, supports, and governs it. " What has Jerusalem in it that is venerable, but “ the ark and temple, the signals of God's special « presence? 'Tis this peculiar relation to God, as ss the capital city of his residence in the Church, “ that stamps a sacred character upon it, and there6 fore whosoever swears by Jerusalem, swears by that
great God, who has chosen to place his name
and worship there. And the case is still the “ famc, when ye fwear by creatures, which have “ not that peculiar sanctity and relation to God, “ as when ye swear by your own heads: For the object of an oath must be some powerful being;
now:ye your selves cannot change the colour of hair
upon your heads, and therefore the oath “ must be underitood to be by him that can, and " that is no other thản God. If then ye have « occafion in your familiar converse to affirm or
promife, or deny any thing ; let a simple affirmation, assurance, or negation, fuffice: 'tis enough
to say it is, or it is not; thall be, or shall not be « so; for whatsoever is more than these, is finful.
The general terms in which our Saviour has couched this prohibition, swear not at all, &c. have occasioned some to imagine, that prohibitsand condemns therein, as unlawful, all manner of oaths, without distinction; not only fuch as are rash, needless and prophane; but such also as are admi
ftred for the peace and good of human focieties, the security of governments, and the judicial difcovery of truth. But that this is an inconfiderate and erroncous extending of the precept beyond the real design, is evident, because an oath religioufly, and folemnly taken * in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, as the Prophet expresses it upon weighty occasions, or for the public good, is an fact of divine worship, and the name of God is I reverenced, not prophaned thereby. The author to the || Hebrews also acknowledges that an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife; and therefore surely controversies may be determined by it, and cannot be determined any other way more properly, or more effectually. The Apostles and primitive Christians, never scrupled to take an oath on such occasions as deserved it. Nay, our :: Saviour himself, who to be sure would not do any thing unlawful, answered upon oath, when it was required of him in the high-priests court of judicature. All which being considered, 'I shall need * Jer. iv. 2. + Deut. vi. 13. # Deut. X. 20. # Heb. vi. 16. ::: Mat. xxvi, 63, 64.
superior being, hon hans
to enlarge no farther against the opinion of such interpreters; but proceed to fhew, what use of God's name; or what fort of swearing it is which is indeed forbidden (over and above the case. of perjury) in this third commandment. , And here is forbidden,
I. All swearing in common conversation, whether directly, by God, or by his creatures; or indine&tly, in any terms whatsoever, which imply an oath, and were only introduced to qualify the harshness of it. That the prohibition here is intended as a restraint upon our ordinary conversation, appears from thefe words, Let your COMMUNICATION be yea, yea; and nay, nay: And that this restraint is not laid without good reason, will be plain, if we consider the nature of an oath, which is an appeal for our sincerity and truth to fame fus perior being, that thoroughly knows our conscien ces, and will certainly punish falfhood. Now, this it, can be no other than God. And though luch oaths may be taken, when required by authority; and then the importance of the affair makes them acts of justice and duty, as in form and substance they are acts of religion ; yet surely they are too solemn things to be prostituted to every trifling and flight occasion, and much more to a prophane and detestable custom of filling up a discourse with them upon no occasion at all. Let the matter we speak of be never so true, let our intention in promising be never so honest and ingenuous, it is not fit that with such an insolent and saucy freedom, we should summon the great God, whenever we please, to be a witness of it. For as no private man can of his own authority slay a malefactor, without finning against the sixth commandment, and being guilty of murder ; To neither can he, but by the
command or direction of the magistrate, appeal to God as witness of his truth, without offending against this third commandment, and taking the name of God in vain. Our Saviour therefore charges us to content our felves with barely affirming or denying in our conversation; or however with repeating such affirmation or denial, by way of assurance, , that we really speak as we mean. For whatsoever is more than this, faith he, cometh of evil; that is, (1.) From the evil one, the devil, that great promoter of wickedness: the tongue that is exercised in oaths and curfes, being set on fire of hell; and customary swearing being so void of temptation either from pleasure or from profit (and I may add from bonour too; for no man generally meets with less respect, or is hearken’d to with less regard than a common swearer) that it would be difficult to account for the practice of fo fruitless a vice, if it did not proceed from the instigation of a malicious spirit, who tempts men chiefly to those fins that are most affronting to God. Or, (2.) This expression [cometh of evil) may signify that the very use of an oath, and all occasions for it, proceeds from the evil praćtices of falfbood and treachery, so very common amongst men: Or rather, (3.) That common swearing proceeds from something evil and finful within our selves; an evil want of reverence to God, and of a due sense of religion, or consideration of what we say ; an evil affectation of conforming to the wicked customs of our company; or from a secret distrust of our own credit, as when men are conscious they have ly'd themselves out of any reasonable expectation to be believed, without giving the strongest security for their truth by swearing to it: For certainly continual appeals of this kind must look as if the swearer knew his character and veracity to be fufpicious. But in which way foever of all these, the words be taken,
it is apparently true, that swearing in ordinary conversation cometh of evil; and that methinks should be reason enough againit it. Let us only now take a short view of the several kinds of swearing here prohibited. As,
1. SWEARING direčtly by God, by Chrift, or by the Holy Ghost, under any of their names or titles, as, Jehovah, the Lord, the Almighty, our Maker, Saviour, and the like. For the ground of the commandment being the reverence that is duc to the name of God, every person in the sacred Ttinity is equally intituled to that reverence, as God; and
every way of expressing or describing him is the name of God; whereby we make him known, and therefore is to be reverenced. To this head may be reduced the swearing by any thing which immediately relates to the great work of our redemption, as by the life, death, blood, or wounds of Chrift, or by the facrament; wherсin these awful mysteries are solemnly represented, and Christ himself is spiritually present.
2. SWEARING by any creature. Now to swear by a creature, is to swear by any angel, by any saint, by heaven, by earth, or the like: And this, by our Saviour's express doctrine, is swearing by God himself, in effect'; for all these were created by him, depend entirely upon him, and are nothing at all without him. They have no power of their own to do justice upon such as swear falfly by them; whatever any of them can do is but as instruments in the hands of God, and therefore God must be supposed to be meant, when they are sworn by: or elle in swearing by them, we set up them for Gods, by attributing a divine power to them, which is rank idolatry. And so it is when men swear by any of those names the heathens gave to what they worshipped. For, as I said before, the very nature of an oath implies, that such an appeal is