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It will make us disliked and abhorred by good persons, and scarce recommend us to the very worst. No person is the sooner believed for his frequent swearing; on the contrary, a modest, serious affirmation, is always much more regarded. And if any one's character one's character is so low, that his word cannot be taken, he must think of other methods to retrieve it. For he will not at all mend matters, by adding his oath ever so often over. Then if swearing be affected, as becoming, it is certainly quite otherwise, in the highest degree. The very phrases used in it, as well as the occasions on which they are used, are almost constantly absurd and foolish; and surely profaneness can never lessen the folly. Besides, they make the conversation of men shocking and hellish. They are acknowledged to be disrespectful to the company in which they are used; and if regard to their earthly superiors can restrain persons from swearing, why should not the reverence owing to our heavenly Father do it much more effectually? But indeed the indulgence of this sin wears off by degrees all sense of religion, and of every thing that is good.
Justly therefore doth our Saviour direct: "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, for 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."9 That is, avoid, not only the grosser oaths, but all the silly refinements and softenings of them, which men have contrived, in hope to make them seem innocent; for, though the name of God be not expressed, yet if it be implied, by mentioning
(9) Matth. v. 34, 35, 36, 37.
something relating to God, instead of himself; indeed whatever form is used to disguise it, the intent is the same, and the effect will be, bringing a sacred obligation into familiarity and contempt. Keep yourselves, therefore, throughout the whole of your common conversation, within the bounds of a plain affirmation or denial; for whatever goes beyond these, proceeds from a bad turn of mind, and will produce bad consequences.
If, indeed, we be required to swear before a magistrate, or public officer, for the discovery of truth, and the doing of justice, this is, notwithstanding, lawful. For our Saviour forbids it only in our communication, our ordinary discourse; and he himself, our great pattern, answered upon oath to "the high priest, who adjured him by the "living God." Or, though we be not called upon by law, yet if some other weighty and extraordinary occasion should oblige us to call our Maker to witness, as St. Paul hath done, in more places than one of his Epistles; then also we may allowably do it, provided it be always with sincerity and reverence. For by oaths, thus taken, men are benefitted; and the name of God not profaned but honoured. But in our daily talk and communication with each other, it is our Saviour's peremptory precept, "Swear not at all:" a rule so evidently right and important, that even Heathens have strictly enjoined and followed it, to the shame of too many, who call themselves Christians.
Together with common swearing, should be mentioned another sin, very near akin to it, and almost always joined with it, that monstrous custom of cursing; in direct contradiction to all humanity, and to the express words of Scripture, "Bless, and curse not."2 To wish the heaviest
(1) Matth. xxvi. 63.
(2) Rom. xii. 14.
judgments of God, and even eternal damnation to a person, for the slightest cause, or none at all; to wish the same to ourselves, if some trifling thing, that we are saying, be not true, which frequently after all is not true; amount to the most desperate impiety, if people at all consider what they say. And though they do not, it is even then thoughtlessly treating God, and his laws, and the awful sanction of them, with contempt; and blotting out of their minds all serious regard to subjects, that will one day be found most serious things." His delight was in cursing," says the Psalmist, "and it shall happen unto him; he loveth "not blessing, therefore shall it be far from him."5
3. Besides the offence already mentioned, all indecent and unfit use of God's name in our discourse, though it be not in swearing and cursing, comes within the prohibition of this commandment. All irreverent sayings, and even thoughts, concerning his nature and attributes, his actions and his commands, fall under the same guilt; unless we are tormented with such thoughts, whether we will or not; for then they are only an affliction, not a sin. All sorts of talk, ridiculing, misrepresenting, or inveighing against religion, or whatever is connected with it, incur the like condemnation. Nay, even want of attention in God's worship, "drawing near to him with our mouths, "whilst we remove our hearts far from him," if it be wilfully or carelessly indulged, makes us chargeable, in its degree, with the sin of taking "his name in vain."
4. Though we no way profane his name ourselves; yet, if we entice others to perjury and falsehood, or provoke them to rash oaths and curses, or give them any needless temptations to blaspheme God, to speak disrespectfully, or think
(3) Psal. cix. 16.
(4) Isa. xxix. 13.
slightly, of their Maker, or his laws, natural or revealed; by such behaviour also we become accessary to the breach of this Commandment; and rank ourselves with those, whom it expressly declares "God will not hold guiltless;" that is, will not acquit, but severely punish.
Let us therefore be watchful to preserve continually such an awe of the Supreme Being upon our own minds, and those of all who belong to us, as may on every occasion effectually influence us to give him the glory due unto his name, both in our more solemn addresses to him, and in our daily words and actions. For, "God is greatly to "be feared in the assembly of the saints; and to "be had in reverence of all them that are round "about him."
IF the worship of God were left at large to be performed at any time, too many would be tempted to defer and postpone it, on one pretence or another, till at length it would be performed at no time. And therefore, though he were to be adored only by each person separately, and in private, it would be very expedient to fix on soine stated returning seasons, for that purpose. But reason shows it to be requisite, and the experience of all ages proves it to be natural, that, as we are social creatures, we should be social in religion, as well as other things, and honour in common our common Maker; that we should unite in giving
(5) Psalm lxxxix. 7.
thanks to him for the blessings of life; a very great part of which we should be incapable of, without uniting; that we should join in praying for forgiveness of the sins which we too often join in committing; petition him together for the mercies which we have need of receiving together; and, by assembling, to learn and acknowledge our several duties, keep alive in one another, as well as ourselves, that constant regard to piety and virtue, on which our happiness depends, here and hereafter.
Since, therefore, on these accounts, there must be public worship and instruction, it is not only expedient, but necessary, that there should be also a fixed time appointed for it by sufficient authority. And how much and what time should be devoted to the purpose, every society must have determined for themselves, and would have found it hard enough to agree in determining, if God hath given no intimation of his will in the case. But happily we are informed, in the history of the creation, that the Maker of the world, having finished his work in six days, (which he could easily have finished in one moment, had it not been for some valuable reason, probably of instruction to us,) "blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it;"1 that is, appointed every return of it to be religi ously kept, as a solemn memorial, that of him, and therefore" to him, are all things."2 It is much the more natural to apprehend, that this appointment took place from the time when it is mentioned; from the time when the reason of it took place. And it is no wonder at all, that, in so short a history, notice should not be taken of the actual observation of it before Moses; for notice is not taken of it in five hundred years after Moses. Yet we know of a certainty, that in his time, at (2) Rom. xi. 36.
(1) Gen. ii. 3.