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spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.”2
Suffer then, brethren, the word of admonition on the sinful practice so emphatically prohibited in the words of our text. Happy they whose consciences, awakened and alive to the deadliness of the sin, can, without subterfuge, give them "an answer of peace.” It is indeed lamentable, and a proof of the weakness of man's nature, that the evil against which we are now to speak, the sin of idle and profane swearing, is a sin in itself utterly profitless and vain, a sin for the commission of which it would be difficult to frame any one excuse. The very excuses brought forward in extenuation carry in themselves their own refutation : they do, in fact, aggravate the guilt, displaying either a very criminal thoughtlessness on sacred subjects, or a lamentable want of self-government, or a very ignorant foolhardiness on a point of obedience, which does so intimately concern the respect and honour belonging to the name, and the word of the Lord Jehovah. For we may not flatter ourselves that we do not infringe on the prohibition of “Swear not at all!"--we must not think that the third commandment is not violated, so long as we refrain from making mention of the name of God. Certainly in the third commandment we are expressly told, " Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” But Jesus Christ, who came not only to fulfil the law, but to expound, to explain, and to show its spirit, lath, in his admirable sermon on the mount, taught us to extend the meaning, or principle of this commandment, as forbidding all manner, and every species of idle, rash, and vain swearing, such as was common in those days, and such as, alas ! to the disgrace of a christian nation, is but too common in these present days
2 Isa. lviii. 1.
you,” are the words of our blessed Lord, “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
It would appear that the Jews had accustomed themselves to many improper, many superfluous, and vain affirmations; and that they were wont to make foolish and frivolous distinctions as to the relative weight or importance to be attached unto them. But forcibly and pointedly did our Saviour expose, and denounce the absurdity as well as the error of any such unauthorized explanation. “Woe unto you,” said he, speaking of the Scribes and Pharisees, "ye blind guides, which
3 Matt. v. 34-37,
say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor ! Ye fools and blind : for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold ? And whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing ; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
guilty. Ye fools and blind : for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso sweareth by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.'
Thus sweeping and comprehensive was Christ's condemnation of the slightest approach to the rash and hasty introduction of God's holy name, or of other sacred and hallowed expressions in our
Matt. xxiii. 16-22.
daily and our ordinary conversation. Our conversation is to be “ Yea, yea; nay, nay.” It is to be conducted and ordered in simplicity, and meekness of spirit, without anger, without heat, without intemperance, and without guile. Nevertheless, so habituated are some men to the vile and unchristian custom of making such asseverations, that in their coolest moments, unmoved by passion, and unroused by resentment, God, and heaven, and hell, and the curse, and the imprecation, proceed from their lips to the annoyance and disgust of the sober-minded, and to the peril of those who thus perpetually and daringly disregard the solemn injunction, “ Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” But little can these “ sinners against their own souls,” who thus wantonly give themselves unto cursing, and a profane manner of speaking, --little can they have thought on the solemnand heavy judgment pronounced5 Exod. xx. 7.