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prehend, will be best understood by a due consideration of those particulars, whereby it is dishonoured : for Sin again! the avoiding of those things will be the best way it." to honour his holy name. .
The first is BLASPHEMY, or speaking any evil thing of God; the highest degree of which is cursing him, blaspbes or those persons or things that have a peculiar rela- my.“ tion to God; or indeed cursing of any of God's creatures, which are all the works of his hands. And this may not be committed in thought, word, or deed, without the utmost outrage and profanation; for this is what the Psalmist reckons in the highest degree of fins, where he distinguishes offenders into three several ranks, Pf.i. i. The man that walketh in the counsel of the ungodly; the man that standeth in the way of finners; and the man that fitteth in the seat of the scornful; that is, of those who not only neglect, but also fcoff at religion, and make a mock at that, which of all things in the world is of the greatest importance. Thus David, speaking of God's enemies, brands their cursing inwardly; and curfing openly, or to the face, is the devil's suggestion against Job. Thus St. Paul says, God's name may be blafphemed by our wicked actions : By breaking the law difhonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you. And your fathers have blafpnemed me, in that they committed a trespass against me, faith the prophet Ezekiel. .
Secondly, we dishonour God by swearing falsely or rashly; because an oath is an invocation of God, or an ap- Swear. peal to him to attest what we say to be true, whe- ing. ther the name of God be or be not expressly mentioned: For in all these cases a man does virtually call God to witness: and, in so doing, he does by consequence invoke him as a judgeand an avenger, if what he swears be not true. There is indeed a great use and even neceffity of oaths, in many cases; When lacuwhich is so great, thathuman society can very hard- ful. ly, if at all, subsist long without them, Government would many times be very infecúre: and for the faithful discharge of omices of great trust, in which the welfare of the publick is nearly concerned, it is not possible to findany security equal to thatof an oath; because the obligation of that reaches to the
most secret and hidden practices of men, and takes hold of them, in many cases, where the penalty of no human law can have any awe or force upon them: and especially it is the best means of ending matters in debate. So mankind can never be fully satisfied, where their estates or lives are concerned, without the evidence is assured by an oath ; and it is well known, That God himself requiresin a lawful oath these three conditions, truth, judgment, and rightcousness. Hence it is that the Church declares, That as we confess, that vain
and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord • Jesus Christ, and James his apoftle: So we judge, that . Christian religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may .swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and • charity; so it be done according to the prophet's teaching, • in justice, judgment, and truth.' * In which sense oaths, are generally divided into allertory and promissory oaths. Asertory And that is called an assertory oath, when a man caths. affrms or denies upon oath a matter of fact, past or present; when he swears that a thing was, or is so, or not so. Premisory And a promissory oath is a promise confirmed byan oaths.. oath, which always respects something future : which promise is called a vow, if it be made directly and immediately to God; but only an oath, when made to man. I say then, that * In every lawful oath there must be truth: we must take When uns great care, when we are upon our oaths, that we lawful. say nothing but what we know or believe to be true; for there cannot be a greater provocation offered to almighty God, who is the God of truth, than to bring him in for witness and voucher to a falihood; besides, to do this destroys the very end of taking oaths, which is to bring truth to light. Again, in every lawful oath, there must be judgment: we must not swear rashlyand unzdvisedly, but in cool and sober thoughts, having duly considered how facred a thing an oath is. Moreover, we must be fully satisfied that the occasion is every way fit and deserving of fo facred a seal. And finally, we must swear in righteousness, we must set aside all respects of relation or friendship, and all other
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grounds whatsoever of favour and affection to any party concerned; as also the considerations of interest or disadvantage that may happen to ourselves; regarding only the justice of the cause; whether it be that we give our oaths for the defence of the innocent, or punishment of the guilty: and we muit take care that we iwear not in a wrong caie, though it were our own, and we should reap never so great a benefit in carrying our point. Hence,
From these three necessary conditions of swearing in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, we may The oblica. observe, that an oath is an act of religious worship, tion of an a part of that glory which we are to give to God; carb. being an open acknowledgement of his justice and truth; and that he is eyery-where present, and knows and sees all things and will avenge himself upon the ungodly, particularly upon those who break this precept of his law, Wherefore it is not possible for men to laya more sacred and solemn obligation upon their consciences, than by the religion of an oath, which is binding our souls with a bond ; because he that sweareth lays the strongest obligations upon himself, and puts his soul in pawn for the truth of what he swears to, So that this obligation of an oath can never be violated, but at the utmost peril of God's judgment and vengeance. And,
VI. This will lead us to a true sense of that dishonour done to God by the fin of Perjury, which is a God crestha solemn calling of God to witness the truth of that disponoured which we either know to be false, or do not know by perjury. to be true. Such an oath inplies a curse upon ourselves; and is a crime of so high a nature, that no man can possibly be guilty of it, who has any sense at all of religion remaining upon his mind: for he who knowingly and deliberately calls God to witness a falfhood, in order to deceive or wrong his neighbour, does openly disclaim the mercies of God, and challenges the Almighty to shew him no favour. Therefore
Observe, when a man asserts upon oath what he knows to be otherwise, or promises what he does not in- When her. tend to perform, his oath becomes perjury. In jury is coma like manner, when a man promises upon oath to miltza,
do that which is unlawful for him to do, because this oath is contrary to a foriner obligation, it is perjury, Again, when a man is uncertain whether what he fwears to be true, his oath is perjury, in the act, though not of the fame degree of guilt with the former ; because it is not so fully and directly against his conscience and knowledge. Men ought not to fwear at a venture, but to be certain of the truth of what they affert upon oath. Consequently, no man ought positively to swear to the truth of any thing, but what he himself hath learnt, or seen, or heard; which is the highest afsurance men are capable of in this life. So also he is guilty of perjury in the same degree, who promiseth upon oath what he is not morally and reasonably certain he shall be able to do. Men are likewise guilty of perjury, who answer equivocally and doubtfully, or with reservation of something in their minds, thinking thereby to falve the truth of what they say; for oaths should be attended with calmness and simplicity: the use of oaths being to assure the persons to whom they are made, they must be taken in the sense of those that impose them, Sothere can be no greater affront to God, than to use his name to deceive our neighbour. Nor can anything more directly overthrow the great end and use of oaths, which are for confirmation, and to put an end to strife amongst men; because equivocation and reservation leave the thing in debate in the same uncertainty it was before. Let not men, therefore, think by this device to save themselves harmless from the guilt of so great a sin; for they do really increase it, by adding to their iniquity the imputed folly of mocking God, and deceiving their own souls. "Men are also guilty of perjury after the act, who having a real intention, when they swear, to perform what they promised, yet afterwards neglect to perform their oath ; not for want of power (for, fo long as that continues, the obligation ceaseth, but want of a will, and due regard to the oath they have (worn,
Seeing therefore that deliberate perjury is acting directly The ouile against a man's knowledge, which is one of the and danger greatest aggravations of any crime; I must add, of it.
that is is equally a fin against both tables, the high
' est affront to God, and of the most injurious consequence to our neighbour ; by which the name of God is horribly abused, his judgment contemned, and his vengeance insolently held at defiance : by which also not only this or that particular person suffers wrong, but human society is injured thereby; the foundations of public peace and justice, and the private security of every man's lifeand fortune, areatonce overthrown: and the best and last way that the wisdom of men could devise for the decision of doubtful matters, is here by defeated. Where it should be observed, that, as there is no threatening added to any other commandment but to this and the second, it intimates to us, that, next to idolatry and the worship of a false God, perjury is one of the greatest affronts that can be offered to our Creator ; and may, without aggravation, be accounted one of those sins that the punish. cry so loud to heaven, and quicken the pace of ment of it. God's judgment upon the obstinate finner, who will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. And also,
VII. From hence we learn the great sin of that indecent as well as wicked custom of rash SWEARING in
" Of common common conversation. Of which sin the first ag- wearing gravation is, that they who are guilty of it are in or vain perpetual danger of the crime of perjury: For he oaths. who uses himself to swear frequently and habitually, will never attend carefully, that what he swears be leads to true. Nay, it is too just an observation, that they perjury. who are accustomed to this vice at all, are then apt to be most guilty of it, when they are most provoked, and most suspicious that what they affirm is not credible. To call upon God perpetually as 'a witness to mean and trivial matters is a manifest want of reverence, and of a just sense of God and religion,
Cursing also is another part of the profanation of the name of God; for when men in common conver- .
Of curfing. fation use curses and imprecations against their brethren or themselves, as the Jews did, when they answered Pilate, and said, let his (Christ's blood be upon us and on our children, it is either with an intention and desire that mischief may befall them; which is both malicious towards men,