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the grace of God, never to speak only for the sake of speaking, but to weigh each word before I speak it, and consider the consequence and tendency of it, whether it may really be the occasion of good or evil, or tend to the edifying or scandalizing of the person I speak

it to.


I am resolved, by the grace of God, not only to avoid the wickedness of swearing falsely, but likewise the very appearance of swearing at all.

PERJURY is a sin condemned by the very laws of nature; insomuch that I should wrong my natural faculties, should I give way to, or be guilty of it. For, the same nature that tells me the person of God is to be adored, tells me likewise his name is to be reverenced; and what more horrid impiety can possibly be imagined, than to prostitute the most sacred name of the most high God, to confirm the lies of sinful men? I know, swearing in a just matter, and right manner, may be as lawful under the New, as under the Old Testament; for thus I find St. Paul saying, As God is true, 2 Cor. i. 18. and ver. 23. I call God for a record upon my soul ; wherein is contained the very nature of an oath, which is, the calling God for a record and a witness to the truth of what we speak but when it is to maintain falsehood, which is to an ill purpose, or lightly and vainly, which is to no purpose at all, it is a sin of the highest aggravation, that ought, with the greatest detestation and abhorrence, to be shunned and avoided. God saith, by Moses, Lev. xix. 12. Thou shalt not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord. And, Exod. xx. 7. Deut. v. 11. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. But farther, God says, by

Christ, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool, &c. So that not only by God, and by Jesus, are oaths, but swearing by any of God's creatures, is, in a manner, to swear by God himself. I swear by the heavens; can the heavens hear, or witness what I say? No, it is the glorious Majesty that rules there, that I call upon to witness the truth of the words I speak, and the sinfulness of my heart for swearing to them. Do I swear by my faith? But how is that? Can faith testify what I say? No, it is only he that wrought this faith in my heart can witness the truth of my words. And if I swear by the gifts of God, I do, in effect, swear by God himself; otherwise, I ascribe that to the creature, which is only compatible to the glorious Creator, even the knowledge of the thoughts of my heart, how secret soever they be.

But again, there is more in the third commandment, than the devil would persuade the world there is; for, when God commands me not to take his name in vain, it is more than if he had commanded me only not to swear by it: for I cannot persuade myself, but that every time I speak of God, when I do not think of him, I take his name in vain; and, therefore, I ought to endeavour to avoid even mentioning of God, as well as swearing by him, unless upon urgent occasions, and with reverence and respect becoming his majesty; for, questionless, O Lord, and O God, may be spoken as vainly, as By Lord, and By God. And, therefore, I ought never to speak such words, without thinking really in my heart, what I speak openly with my mouth, lest my name be written amongst those that take the name of God in vain. But farther still, I am resolved not only to avoid downright swearing, but likewise the very appearance of it: so that what doth but look like an oath, shall be as odious to me; as what looks like nothing else.



I am resolved, by the grace of God, always to make my tongue and heart go together, so as never to speak

with the one, what I do not think in the other.

As my happiness consisteth in nearness and vicinity, so doth my holiness in likeness and conformity, to the chiefest good. I am so much the better, as I am liker the best; and so much the holier, as I am more conformable to the holiest, or rather, to him who is holiness itself. Now, one great title which the Most High is pleased to give to himself, and by which he is pleased to reveal himself to us, is, the God of truth: so that I shall be so much the liker to the God of truth, by how much I am more constant to the truth of God. And the farther I deviate from this, the nearer I approach to the nature of the devil, who is the father of lies, and liars too, John ii. 44. And hence it is, that of all the sins the men of fashion are guilty of, they can least endure to be charged of lying. To give a man the lie, or to say, You lie, is looked upon as the greatest affront that can be put upon them. And why so? But only because this sin of lying makes them so like their father the devil, that a man had almost as well call them devils, as liars; and therefore, to avoid the scandal and reproach, as well as the dangerous malignity of this damnable sin, I am resolved, by the blessing of God, always to tune my tongue an unison to my heart, so as never to speak any thing but what I think really to be true. So that, if I ever speak what is not true, it shall not be the error of my will, but of my understanding.

I know, lies are commonly distinguished into officious, pernicious, and jocose; and some may fancy some of them more tolerable than others. But, for my own part, I think, they are all pernicious, and therefore not to be jested withal, nor indulged, upon any pretence or colour whatsoever. Not as if it was a sin, not to speak exactly as a thing is in itself, or as it seems to me in its literal

meaning, without some liberty granted to rhetorical tropes and figures; (for so the Scripture itself would be chargeable with lies; many things being contained in it, which are not true in a literal sense.) But I must so use rhetorical, as not to abuse my Christian, liberty; and, therefore, never make use of hyperboles, ironies, or other tropes and figures, to deceive or impose upon my auditors, but only for the better adorning, illustrating, or confirming the matter.

But there is another sort of lies most men are apt to fall into, and they are promissory lies; to avoid which, I am resolved, never to promise any thing with my mouth, but what I intend to perform in my heart; and never to intend to perform any thing, but what I am sure I can perform. For this is the cause and occasion of most promissory lies, that we promise that absolutely, which we should promise only conditionally: for, though I may intend to do as I say now, yet there are a thousand weighty things may intervene, which may turn the balance of my intentions, or otherwise hinder the performance of my promise. So that, unless I be absolutely sure I can do a thing, I must never absolutely promise to do it; and, therefore, in all such promises, shall still put in, God willing, or, by the help of God; at the same time lifting up my heart to God, lest I take his name in vain.


I am resolved, by the grace of God, to speak of other men's sins only before their faces, and of their virtues only behind their backs.

To commend men when they are present, I esteem almost as great a piece of folly, as to reprove them when they are absent; though I do confess, in some cases, and to some persons, it may be commendable, especially where the person is not apt to be puffed up,

but spurred on by it. But, to rail at others, when they hear me not, is the highest piece of folly imaginable; for, as it is impossible they should get any good, so it is impossible but that I should get much hurt by it. For such sort of words, make the best we can of them, are but idle and unprofitable, and may not only prove injurious to the person of whom, but even to whom, they are spoken, by wounding the credit of the former, and the charity of the latter, and so, by consequence, my own soul; nay, even though I speak that which is true in itself, and known to be so to me: and, therefore, this way of backbiting ought, by all means, to be avoided.

But I must, much more, have a care of raising false reports concerning any one, or of giving credit to them that raise them, or of passing my judgment, till I have weighed the matter; lest I transgress the rules of mercy and charity, which command me not to censure any one upon others' rumours, or my own surmises; nay, if the thing be in itself true, still to interpret it in the best sense. But, if I must needs be raking in other 'men's stores, it must not be behind their backs, but before their faces; for the one is a great sin, and the other may be as great a duty, even to reprove my neighbour for doing any thing offensive unto God, or destructive to his own soul; still endeavouring so to manage the reproof, as to make his sin loathsome to him, and prevail upon him, if possible, to forsake it: but there is a great deal of Christian prudence and discretion to be used in this, lest others may justly reprove me for my indiscreet reproof of others. I must still fit my reproof to the time when, the person to whom, and the sin against which, it is designed; still contriving with myself, how to carry on this duty so, as that by converting a sinner from the evil of his ways, I may save my soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins, James v. 29. Not venting my anger against the person, but my sorrow for the sin that is reproved. Hot, passionate, and reviling words, will not so much exasperate a man against his sin that is

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