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say to their wives, their children, and their servants, Behold what great things the Lord hath done for us! He feedeth us with good things; he poureth his benefits upon us ! O come therefore let us worship, and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker;' let us confess our sins together with sorrow and shame; let us, with one voice, pray for the continuance of all his mercies ; let us come before his presence with a song; let us be thankful unto him, and speak good of his name, for it is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto his name; to tell of his loving kindness early in the morning, and of his truth in the night season ??
Upon the whole of this matter, let every master thus question with himself. Is it not for great ends and reasons that God has placed me at the head of a family? Am I not accountable to him for the discharge of this important office? Do not the future welfare of
my children and my servants depend very much upon the education they receive from me? If I do not instruct them in the principles of religion, and breed them up to virtue, where shall they get instruction? Is there any thing dearer to me, than those who work for me, and depend on me? Can there be a greater crime than to neglect and defraud their very souls ? Does not the providence of God govern the world ? Is not God the founder and preserver of societies, and of families in particular ? Can they subsist without religion? Shall I then suffer my family to want religion? Shall I not rather take particular care that my house serve God by daily prayer? Can any thing I do be so useful to us, as to worship him on whom we intirely depend? Can any thing be more agreeable than to serve and praise him, to whom we are so infinitely indebted ? Shall my own idleness, or the scoffs of libertines, deprive us of so great a benefit and pleasure, and force me, like an atheist, ungratefully and impiously to shut out God from my family, to entail ignorance and contempt of God's worship on all my posterity and dependents ? Shall I put my trust in my own endeavours ? Shall I build my hopes upon the sand of this world, and forsake 'the rock of my salvation,' when I so plainly perceive the duty, the necessity, and the power of prayer? No, like the righteous Job, • I will continually sanctify my family, that God may,' as he
did him,' make a bedge about me and my house, and about all that I have on either side. We will seek his strength? in the time of trouble; in all our trials will we rely on it, and in our prosperity praise him with pure lips, and joyful hearts. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will we pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear our voice.'
THE HONOUR DUE TO GOD'S NAME.
LEVITICUS XIX. 20.
Ye shall not swear by my name falsely ; neither shalt thou profane the Name
of thy God: I am the Lord. We know and speak of God as we do in relation to other beings; that is, we know him by his attributes, and speak of him by his name.
When we make a vow to him, we consider him as omnipresent and omniscient, as a Being that searches the heart, and knows our thoughts. When we swear by him, or call on him to witness the truth of what we say, we are obliged to name him, as we do other witnesses; and the rather, as he is not visible, and therefore cannot be pointed to by the eyes or hands, as men, whom we appeal to, may, provided they are present with us. This is the reason why, in my text, in the third commandment, and in many other places of Scripture, swearing by the name of God signifies the same thing as appealing to God for the truth of what we affirm or deny. As, on all occasions, whether of appealing to, or discoursing of God, his name represents him to our apprehension, we are always to pay the same awful respect to his name, that we do to himself; that is, we are never to use it, but on important and necessary occasions, and then with the deepest veneration. It is reported of the famous Mr. Boyle, whose piety kept pace with his knowledge, that he never pronounced the name of God without bowing, or making an observable pause in his
conversation. His practice in this particular may possibly seem a little singular; but it will be a severe reproach to the rest of mankind, to say, the spirit from whence this practice proceeded was singular too. Few men know as much of God, or his works, as he did; but we all know enough, both of his majesty, and our own vileness, to fill us with awe and fear whenever he is suggested to our thoughts; particularly by that sacred and glorious name, which, distinguishing him from all other beings, points him out to our adoration.
Let us now, having found the right use of that only word in the text which might seem to throw any obscurity on the rest, proceed to consider the duties enjoyed us by the whole. Two things are here charged on our consciences; first, that we swear not falsly by the name of our God;' and, secondly, that, we do not profane that name;' and these two are pressed home by God, in the close, with these awful words, 'I am the Lord.'
That we may the better apprehend the nature and importance of an oath, or an appeal to God, and be thereby the better guarded against the danger of falling into either sin forbidden in the text, let us briefly trace the necessity of such appeals, and settle our notions concerning the use of them.
Our thoughts and intentions, till they are expressed by words, or reduced to action, cannot be discovered by others, who, in case they always remain thus concealed, are as little concerned in them, as they are acquainted with them. But, as soon as ever they begin to be of any consequence to the rest of the world, that is, as soon as they are intimated in words, or put in practice, it is then possible for the persons, whom they may concern, to come at the knowledge of them; so that, if they are in any measure injurious to themselves, or detrimental to the community, they may be either wholly, or in part, prevented; or at least, punished.
But when the words or actions are of such a nature, or the persons who speak or do them are so circumstauced, that neither redress nor animadversion can be procured, without application to the magistracy, then such evidence of what was said or done, as shall appear satisfactory, becomes absolutely necessary. The person struck at, can no more give this evidence, in most cases, singly and of himself, than the
party accused can clear himself by his sole testimony. Neither can the evidence of others, although seemingly indifferent, clear or ascertain the point, unless the judge can search their hearts, or they can deposit some pledge, fully sufficient to answer the damages that may arise from false testimony in the case. Nor can this pledge be either released, or finally forfeited, till the matter comes to be tried before a judge, who is able to search the witness's heart, and cannot be deceived.
Till such a judge can be found, the whole proceeding stops, and must remain in the same uncertainty that at first attended the discovery of the truth. It will be as reasonable to suspect the accuser of falshood, as the accused of the bad attempt or action laid to his charge. The characters of the persons concerned, and the circumstances of the case may balance each other; or, being unknown to the judge, may want farther evidence to clear them up; and that farther evidence may be as reasonably suspected as the first : for my saying, that such or such a witness is an honest man, is nothing, unless it is first proved, that I am a man of truth. His testimony, again, who vouches mine, must be vouched by another; and so on for ever. The most that can be made of testimony like this, is some shew of probability. But, generally speaking, the operation of laws, whether they relate to properties or crimes, is not safely to be trusted to probabilities, only in some few uncommon cases, where the probability approaches near to a certainty; which, with such testimony as I have described, is hardly ever to be ex pcted.
How then? Is law a lottery? Is the die thrown for a decree or verdict in every trial ? Do property, liberty, and life itself, depend absolutely on chance? They certainly do, and for ever must, till a witness can be called, who knows what is doing, both openly and in secret, over the whole earth; who searches the hearts, and knows the inmost thoughts of all mankind; whose justice in manifesting the truth, is equal to his knowledge ; and whose power to punish the deposer of a lie, is equal to his wisdom and justice. To such a witness as this all other witnesses must solemnly appeal for the truth of what they testify; and pledge their souls for the integrity of their depositions ; or equity and
iniquity have but the same chance to result from their testimony. This appeal, thus backed by a pledge of infinite value to the appellant, is what we call an assertory oath; because the witness thereby asserts, that some particular fact was, or was not done, or, at least, that he does not with certainty know, whether it was, or not.
Men of this world, whose character it is to look no higher than to laws and magistrates of their own making, and to witnesses as slightly principled as themselves, may make a jest of religion; but we see it as a point evidently demonstrable, that, without it, there can be, in effect, neither law nor justice among men. Whatever they say against religion, is said against the laws of society, if they mean any thing else by law than a mystery of iniquity, contrived for the deception, and executed to the oppression, of all but the initiated.
But taking it for granted, that I have given a just and right notion of an oath, and its use, let us now see what is the duty of him who swears. The text says,' he must not swear falsly.'
In the first place, then, that he may swear with the most scrupulous regard to truth; and, in order to keep this scrupulosity always awake, he ought never to swear but when compelled to it by necessity; that is, when truth and justice must be stifled, the property or life of his neighbour lost, and the legal authority resisted, in case he should refuse. The strict observation of this rule will greatly help to preserve the delicacy of his conscience in the few appeals he finds it necessary to maké to Almighty God; for the old saying, that ‘familiarity breeds contempt,' is not more true of lower things, than it is even of oaths ; although God is invoked, and the soul staked, whenever we swear.
In the next place, as often as he is obliged to swear, he must àwfully consider, what his religion tells him, that God is at his right hand,' nay, 'that God is about him, and within him,' wheresoever he goes, or whatsoever he does ; that God, who knows all things, knows the fact he is going to swear to, and how far he may, if he pleases, be a competent witness in that fact; and, lastly, that, in swearing, he must appeal not only to an infinitely wise, but also to an infinitely