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effects of

prayer.

vicious customs. By this we preferve a lively fenfe of our duty upon our minds, and are fortified against many temptations that continually affault our fouls and The good bodies. By this our fouls are raised above this world, and spiritual objects are made familiar to us; by this our affections are fanctified, and we are supported under the calamities and croffes of this life: And by this we are led gradually to the perfection of chriftian piety, and preferved in a strict union between God and our fouls, in which confifts our spiritual life. In fine, without this we in vain pretend to discharge those duties that are incumbent upon us as chriftians, or to profper in our temporal affairs; which must have God's bleffing to crown them with advantage to

us.

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SUNDAY VIII. CHAP. VIII.

I. Of Oaths. II. Of Perjury. III. Of common Swearing, or vain Oaths. IV. Of Repentance. V. Of Death-bed Repentance. VI. Times of Repentance. VII. Of Fafting, as part of Repentance. VIII. Of making Satisfaction,

I.

WE now proceed to the third commandment, or the

giving

honour due unto his name.

Of fwear

The highest reverence is due to the name of God ing. in our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions. When we fwear, we are to perform that folemn act of religion in truth, in judgment, and righteoufnefs, Jer. iv. 2. When we vow, we are to confider God as a party, or the object of our vows; not only as a witness and avenger, but as a proprietor; and, if the matter of our vows be lawful, God acquires thereby a title, or an additional title to our performance. When we ufe God's name in prayer, we must guard against irreverence or inattention; otherwife we take God's name in vain, without doing honour to it. When we mention the word of God, or any perfons or things which have a relation to his worship or glory with irreverence, it is by just inter

pretation,

of

pretation, denying to honour God. A furvey of the breaches of this duty of honouring God will inftruct the ignorant. Blafphemy is a curfing of God, or thofe perfons or things that have a peculiar relation to God; or indeed curfing any 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 prophanation. Thus David, speaking of God's enemies, brands their curfing inwardly; and curfing openly, or to the face, is the devil's fuggeftion against Job, ii. 5. Thus St Paul fays, God's name may be blafphemed by our wicked actions, Rom. ii. 23 and 24. By breaking the law, difhonoureft thou God? For the name of God is blafphemed among the Gentiles through you. And your fathers have blafphemed me, in that they have committed a trefpass against me, faith the prophet, Ezek. xx. 27. We describe an oath to be an invocation of God,

An oath is or, an appeal to him to attest what we fay to be true. Whence we infer, that an oath is a facred thing, as being an act of religion, and an invocation of the name of God : and this, whether the name of God be, or be not, expressly mentioned. If a man only fay, I fwear, or, I take my oath, that a thing is true or is not, or that I will, or will not do fuch a thing or if a man answer upon his oath, being adjured and required fo to do: or if a man swear by heaven, or by earth, or by any other thing that hath relation to God; in all these cafes, a man does virtually call God to witnefs; and in fo doing, he does by confequence invoke him as a judge and an avenger, if what he fwears be not true: and if this be expreffed, the oath is a formal imprecation; but whether it be or not, a curfe upon ourselves is always implied, in case our oath be falfe.

Oaths are generally divided into affertory and promiffory oaths. And that is called an affertory oath, when Affertory, a man affirms or denies upon oath a matter of fact, paft, or prefent: when he fwears that a thing was, or is fo, or not fo. And by a promiffory oath, I understand a promife confirmed by an oath, which always refpects fomething future: which promise is called a vow,

Promiffory.

if

it be made directly and immediately to God; but only an oath when made to men.

Unlawful.

There is indeed a great use and even neceffity of oaths, in many cafes; which is fo great, that human fociety can very hardly, if at all, fubfift long without them. Government would many times be very insecure: and for the faithful discharge of offices of great truft, in which the welfare of the publick is nearly concerned, it is not poffible to find any security equal to that of an oath; because the obligation of that, reaches to the most fecret and hidden practices of men, and takes hold of them in many cafes, 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 fatisfied where their eftates or lives are concerned, without the evidence is affured by an oath; it being well known, that God himself requires in a lawful oath, thefe three conditions, truth, judgment, and righteousness *. That is to fay, in every lawful oath there must be truth; we must take great care when we are upon our oaths, that we fay 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 falfhood: befides, to do this, deftroys 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 fwear rafhly and unadvisedly, but in cool and fober thoughts, having duly confidered how facred a thing an oath is. Moreover, we must be fully fatisfied that the occafion is every way fit and deferving of fo facred a feal. And finally, we must fwear in righteousness; we must set afide all refpects of relation or friendship, and all other grounds whatsoever of favour and affection to any party concerned; as alfo the confiderations of intereft or disadvantage that may happen to ourselves: we regard only the juftice of the caufe; whether it be that we give our oaths, for the defence of the innocent, or punishment of the guilty: and we must take care that we swear not

in

* Jer. iv. z.

When law

ful.

in a wrong cafe, though it were our own, and we should reap never fo great a benefit in carrying our point. Hence,

tion.

From these three neceffary conditions of fwearing in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, we may obferve that an oath is an act of religious worship, a part of that glory which we are to give to God, being an open acknowledgment of his justice and truth, and that he is every where prefent, and knows and fees all things, and will avenge himself upon the ungodly, particularly upon those who break this precept of his law. Which also teacheth us the facred obligaIt's obliga- tion of an oath: because it is a folemn appeal to God, as a witnefs of the truth of what we say: to God, I fay, from whofe piercing and all-feeing eye, from whose perfect and infinite knowledge, nothing is, or can be hid, fo that there is not a thought in our heart but he fees it, nor a word in our tongue but he difcerns it's truth or falfhood. As often as we fwear, we appeal to his knowledge, and refer ourselves to his juft judgment, who is the powerful patron and protector of right; and the Almighty Judge and avenger of all falfhood and injuftice. Wherefore, it is not poffible for men to lay a more facred and folemn obligation upon their confciences, than by the religion of an oath, which is binding our fouls with a bond; because he that sweareth, lays the strongest obligations upon himself, and puts his foul in pawn for the truth of what he fwears to. So that this obligation of an oath can never be violated, but at the utmost peril of God's judgment and vengeance. For,

Of perjury.

II. In case of perjury, every oath implies a curse upon ourselves; wherefore, it is necessary to confider how many ways men may be guilty of perjury. Therefore obferve, when a man afferts upon oath what When com- he knows to be otherwife: or promises what he doth not intend to perform; his oath becomes perjury. In like manner, when a man promifeth upon oath to do that which is unlawful for him to do, because this oath is contrary to a former obligation, it is perjury.

mitted.

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 fo fully

and

and directly against his confcience and knowledge. Men ought not to fwear at a venture, but to be certain of the truth of what they affert upon oath. Confequently, no man ought pofitively to swear to the truth of any thing, but what he himfelf hath learned, or feen, or heard; which is the highest asfurance men are capable of in this life. So alfo he is guilty of perjury in the fame degree, who promiseth upon oath what he is not morally and reafonably certain he shall be able to do.

Men are likewise guilty of perjury, who anfwer equivocally and doubtfully, or with refervation of fomething in their minds, thinking thereby to falve the truth of what they say; for oaths should be attended with plainnefs and fimplicity. There can be no greater affront to God, than to use his name to deceive our neighbour. Nothing can more directly overthrow the great end and use of oaths, which are for confirmation, and to put an end to ftrife amongst men. But equivocation and reservation, leave the thing in debate in the fame uncertainty it was before. For, as there is hardly any form of words can be devised fo plain, as not to be liable to equivocation: as a man when he fwears may always referve fomething in his mind, which will quite alter the sense of whatever he can fay or promise upon oath, fo all departure from the fimplicity of an oath is a degree of perjury; for, a man is never awhit the lefs forfworn, because his perjury is a little finer and more artificial than common. Let not men, therefore, think by this device to fave themselves harmless from the guilt of fo great a fin; for, they do really increase it, by adding to their iniquity the impudent folly of mocking God and deceiving their own fouls.

Men are alfo guilty of perjury after the act, who having a real intention when they fwear, 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 ceafeth) but for want of a will and due regard to the oath they

have fworn.

Seeing therefore, that deliberate perjury is acting directly against a man's knowledge, which is one of the greatest aggravations of any crime; I must add that it is equally a fin against both tables, the highest af

It's guilt

and danger.

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