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vicious customs. By this we preserve a lively sense of our duty upon our minds, and are fortified against many temptations that continually assault our souls and The good bodies.
effects of By this our souls are raised above this oras
18 prayer. world, and spiritual objects are made familiar tous; by this our affections are sanctified, and we are supported under the calamities and crosses of this life: And by this we are led gradually to the perfection of christian piety, and preserved in a strict union between God and our souls, in which consists our spiritual life. In fine, without this we in vain pretend to discharge those duties that are incumbent upon us as christians, or to prosper in our temporal affairs ; which must have God's blessing to crown them with advantage to us,
Sunday VIII. Chap. VIII.
1. 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 Fasting,
as part of Repentance. VIII. Of making Satisfaction, I. W E now proceed to the third commandment, or the
V giving God the honour dueunto his name... The highest reverence is due to the name of God
Of swearin our thoughts, in our words, and in our actions. O When we swear, we are to perform that folemn act of religion in truth, in judgment, and righteousness, Jer. iv. 2. When we vow, we are to consider 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 use God's name in prayer, we must guard against irreverence or inattention ; otherwise we take God's name in vain, without doing honour to it. When we mention the word of God, or any persons or things which have a relation to his worship or glory with irreverence, it is by just inter
pretation, denying to honour God. A survey of the breaches of this duty of honouring God will instruct the ignorant. Blasphemy is a cursing of God, or those persons or things that have a peculiar relation to God; or indeed cursing 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 utmostoutrage and prophanation. Thus David, speaking of God's enemies, brands their cursing inwardly, and cursing openly, or to the face, is the devil's suggestion against Job, ii. 5. Thus St Paul says, God's name may be blasphemed by our wicked actions, Rom. ii. 23 and 24. By breaking the law, dishonourest 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 trespass against me, faith the prophet, Ezek. xx. 27.
We describe an oath to be an invocation of God, An oath is In oath is or, an appeal to him to attest what we say to be true. Whence we infer, that an oath is a sacred 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 say, I swear, or, I take my oath, that a thing is true or is not, or that I will, or will not do such a thing; or if a man answer upon his oath, being adjured and required so 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 cases, a man does virtually call God to witness; and in so doing, he does by consequence invoke him as a judge and an avenger, if what he swears be not true: and if this be expressed, the oath is a formal imprecation; but whether it be or not, a curse upon ourselves is always implied, in case our oath be false.
Oaths are generally divided into assertory and promissory Affertory,
oaths. And that is called an affertory oath, when
a man affirms or denies upon oath a matter of fact, past, or present: when he swears that a thing was, or is fo, Promilor or not fo. And by a promisfory oath, I understand
Y a promise confirmed by an 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 men.
There is indeed a great use and even necessity of oaths, in many cases; which is so great, that human society can very hardly, if at all, subsist long without them.
When lawGovernment would many times be very insecure: and for the faithful discharge of offices of great trust, in which the welfare of the publick is nearly concerned, it is not possible to find any security equal to that of 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 aflured by an oath; it being well known, that God himself requires in a lawful oath, these three conditions, truth, judgment, and righteousness *. That is too
Unlawful. say, in every lawful oath there must be truth; we must take great care when we are upon our oaths, that we 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 falfhood: 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 rashly and unadvisedly, 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 grounds whatsoever of favour and affection to any party concerned'; as also the considerations of interest or disadvantage that may happen to ourselves : we regard 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 must take care that we swear not
* Jer. iv. zi
in a wrong case, 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 observe 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 present, and knows and sees all things, and will avenge himself upon the ungodly, particularly upon those who break this precept of
.. his law. Which also teacheth us the sacred obligaIt's obliga. tion of an oath: because it is a solemn appeal to tion..
God, as a witnefs of the truth of what we say : to God, I say, from whose piercing and all-seeing eye, from whose perfect and infinite knowledge, nothing is, or can be hid, so that there is not a thought in our heart but he fees it, nor a word in our tongue but he discerns it's truth or fallhood. As often as we swear, we appeal to his knowledge, and refer ourselves to his just judgment, who is the powerful patron and protector of right; and the Almighty Judge and avenger of all falfhood and injustice. Wherefore, it is not possible for men to lay a 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. For,
II. In case of perjury, every oath implies a curse erjury. upon ourselves; wherefore, it is necessary to consider how many ways men may be guilty of perjury. There
fore observe, when a man asserts upon oath what
1. he knows to be otherwise: or promises what he mitted.
doth not intend to perform; his oath becomes perjury. In like manner, when a man promiseth upon oath to do that which is unlawful for him to do, because this oath is contrary to a former obligation, it is perjury.
Again, when a man is uncertain whether what he swears 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 swear 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 learned, 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 salve the truth of what they say; for oaths should be attended with plainness and simplicity. 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 strife amongst men. But equivocation and reservation, leave the thing in debate in the same uncertainty it was before. For, as there is hardly any form of words can be devised to plain, as not to be liable to equivocation: as a man when he swears may always reserve something in his mind, which will quite alter the sense of whatever he can say or promise upon oath, so all departure from the simplicity of an oath is a degree of perjury; for, a man is never awhit the less forsworn, because his perjury is a little finer and more artificial than common. 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 impudent 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 so long as that continues, the obligation ceaseth) but for want of a will and due regard to the oath they have sworn.
Seeing therefore, that deliberate perjury is acting directly against a man's knowledge, which is one of the greatest aggravations of any crime; I mustadd that it's guilt.
and danger. it is equally a sin against both tables, the highest af