acter of a good citizen, says, "He walketh uprightly, worketh righteousness, speaketh the truth in his heart, backbiteth not with his tongue; doth not evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against him. In his eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth them that fear the Lord; and though he swear to his own hurt, he changeth not.”

If oaths are important to the good administration of government, and religion necessary to the efficacy of oaths, then every good government will, in regard to its own security and success, patronize and encourage religion.

It has been thought, and perhaps justly thought, by many serious persons, that, in most communities, oaths have been unnecessarily multiplied; that in some of the smaller offices of society, and in some less important matters of controversy, common responsibility might be sufficient; and that if oaths were not exacted in such cases, they would have greater efficacy in cases of higher importance. For the frequency of them, it is supposed, diminishes the reverence, which ought to be attached to them. This, however, is a question, which concerns the legislator in his official character, rather than the citizen in his private station. In the general principle, perhaps, most will agree; but to draw the line of discrimination may be a matter of difficulty. One thing ought always to be considered, that though the immediate object of an oath may be small, yet the oath itself, being prescribed by law, and demanded by authority, may in this view be really important; because the probable consequences of a refusal under these circumstances, would be dangerous. A thing small in itself, if it be in its nature innocent, becomes weighty, when it is actually required by law; for a non-compliance in smaller instances may lead to disobedience in greater, and thus weaken the authority of

government, and relax the bands of society.And besides; when we are called to take an oath, especially in matters of controversy between citizens, we are not usually competent judges of the magnitude of the case in question; for we seldom have opportunity to view it in its connexions and consequences. And even the lower offices in society, though small in comparison with others, yet considered in their relation to the good of many, in their influence on the higher grades of office, and in their usual connexion with religion, may be judged important.

I have now fully discussed the first branch of my subject, which was to shew, that oaths, in many cases, may be lawful, and that to prohibit them was not our Saviour's intention in the passage under consideration.

I shall shew, in another discourse, what are the sins here condemned, and represent the atrocity and danger of them.

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MATTHEW, v. 33-37.

Again, ye have heard, that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths; But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king; neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black: But let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil.

A TRULY religious man is one who, being wholly devoted to God, aims to glorify him in all things. As the love and fear of God rule in his heart, so by these his outward conversation is directed. He not only watches over his actions, but takes heed to his words. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." The drift of a man's speech indicates the disposition of his mind. Therefore "by our words we shall be justified, or by our words we shall be condemned.”

There are various ways in which men offend by word; but none of the offences of the tongue are

more sure indications of a corrupt heart, more prejudicial to morals, and more injurious to the interests of society, than profane swearing; the sin condemned in the text. Our Saviour says, "Swear not at all," or by any thing, so we render the words; but they properly signify, "Swear not by every thing," as the Jews were wont to do in their ordinary discourse." He that sweareth, let him swear by the God of truth," or the true God.

We have shewn, in a former discourse, that our Saviour, in the words now read, does not forbid swearing, absolutely and upon all occasions, that the words themselves in fair construction will not admit this sense, and that many other passages of scripture necessarily exclude it. The example of God himself, of Jesus Christ, of angels, of the patriarchs, prophets and apostles; and the plain commands and institutions of the supreme lawgiver, make it evident, that, on some great and important occasions, oaths may, and ought to be used. This is agreeable to the sense of all civilized nations, especially of nations favoured with divine revelation. Nor do I know of any who deny it, but such as refuse to admit the authority of the written word in its plain literal acceptation.

An oath is a solemn appeal to God for the truth of what one declares, or for his own sincerity in what he promises. He therefore who takes an oath must be supposed to believe the being and perfections of God, his moral government and a fu. ture retribution; and to feel in his mind some reverence of the supreme majesty. Otherwise his oath adds no credit to his word. Absurd is it therefore to impose an oath on a man of atheistical principles, on one who denies all future punishment; or on one of notorious impiety; for such a person feels no obligation from it.

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By the Jewish law great care was taken to guard against false testimony, especially in cases where life was concerned. When one was accused of a capital crime, the matter was to be examined by the Judges with diligence, and the verification of it was to depend on the testimony of two or three reputable witnesses; and that the sincerity of the witnesses might appear as fully as possible, their hands were to be first on the condemned person to put him to death; for if they would not venture to be his executioners, it was presumed, they had spoken falsely, and their hearts, in this serious moment, misgave them.

To this rule in the divine law our Saviour alludes in his answer to those who brought to him a woman taken in adultery. They tell him, The law of Mo. ses ordained, that such should be stoned, and ask, what was his opinion. He says, "Let him who is without sin among you first cast a stone at her." He plainly signifies, that unless they were free from notorious violations of the law, their testimony, by the law itself, could not be a just ground of her condemnation; for by the law none are admitted as witnesses to condemn another, who are themselves involved in the same guilt. The accusers felt the force of our Lord's reply, and retired with conviction and shame.

It being manifest, that oaths, in some great and important cases, are not only lawful, but necessary, and are both allowed and enjoined by divine authority, we cannot understand our Saviour as giving an unlimited prohibition of them. It will be asked then, What does he prohibit?

The answer to this question is the second part of our subject.

1. He condemns perjury.

This is in scripture forbidden in express terms and under awful comminations. "Thou shalt not

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