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Oaths, and Execrations, be banished out of our common Conversation : It remains then, that our Words be Few, Plain, Sincere, and Modest; and this is the Christian Simplicity required in Speech by this Precept, Let your Communication be yea, yea; nay, nay.
III. And so now I am come to the last Thing I observed in this Precept of our Saviour's; namely that it is our Duty to be exactly true and honest in our Speech and Discourse: For this likewise I take to be meant by these Words, let your Communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; as if he had said, let your Words and
Heart gether ; let your Promises and Perforınances exactly answer one another. Thus St James, Chap. v. 12. seems to give the Sense of this Precept ; But above all things, my Brethren, says he, swear not, neither by Heaven, neither by the Earth, neither by any other Oath: But let your yea,
tour này, nay left ye fall into Condemnation. There is another Reading of these last Words, preferred by many Learned Men, where, instead of "Torpioiy, which we render into Condemnation, it is, eis utórglowy, into Difimulation, q. d. let your yea, yea; nay, nay; that is, be Men of your Word, left ye be found Lyers and Diffemblers. And this Sense agrees with a common Maxim of those Times, that the yea of the Righteous is yea; Justorum etiam eft etiam, that is, his Promises are always attended with Performances. And on the contrary, when they would describe a Man whose Word and Deeds were not alike, such a one's Word was said to be yea and nay; backward and forward; that is, a thing not to be depended on. And this we may plainly gather from St Paul's
'and your Dialect, 2 Cor. i. 18, 19. As God is true, says he, our Word towards you was not yea and nay, that is, it was not wavering or uncertain ; but as it follows there, The Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Sylvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea: For all the Pròmises of God in him, are yea, and in him Amen. Where it is plain, that yea and nay is put for Inconstancy and Uncertainty ; and yea for Constancy and Certainty. Now in this Sense it will answer our Saviour's Design as well as the other. For Veracity, as well as Simplicity, makes Oaths needless; the accustoming our selves to Modesty, and to Truth, is the best way to set a value on our Word, and consequently to make Oaths in Conversation fuperfluous.
This truth and sincerity in Discourse, so much recommended by our Saviour, should chiefly guard us against these Vices. 1. Flattery. 2. VainGlory, 3. Lying and Equivocating. 4. Calumniating. 5. Inconstancy and Perfidy. For there is a general Falfhood runs through all these, and they all tend to lessen a Man's Reputation and Credit : For the repairing of which, he flies to Oaths, that he may be believed. But I shall not enter upon the particular Consideration of these Vices, but shall content myself in general, to tell you that Truth is from God, who Styles himself the God of Truth; and Lies and Falfhood are from the Devil, who is the Father of them. And this leads me to the
II. Second Thing in the Words; namely, the Reason annexed; for whatsoever is more than trese, cometh of Evil: Of which Words there are two very commodious Senses given, and no way in: consistent with each other. 1. One is, that if we exceed the Plainness and Veracity of Speech, this flows from some bad Principle or other. For example, from a Principle of Pride and Vanity; we depart from the Truth in speaking of our selves, and set off all our own things, by making them much finer and better than they truly are: And from a Principle of the fame Pride, mixed with a Spice of Malice to others, we depart from the Truth, by detracting from their Worth, and by throwing in some spiteful thing or other to lefsen them. From a Principle of Covetousness, or Ambition, we coax and flatter our Superiours, and others from whom we have any Expectations, and care not what aggravating Speeches, or Oaths, we use to gull and deceive them. When we have done an ill thing, from a Spirit of Obstinacy and Impenitency, we either deny and abjure it, or we justify and defend it, instead of taking Shame to our selves, and confessing our Error, or our Fault. In the Heat of Dispute, instead of being convinced by our Adversary, we do obstinately contend for Victory, be the Cause ever so bad, and to help out with it, misrepresent Matters of Fact; and perhaps when we are not readily believed, help them out with Oaths and Imprecations. And especially, Anger is a common Principle and Occasion of Oaths. What our Saviour means then, when he says, that whatsoever is more than a modest Affirmation or Negation, cometh of Evil, is this, That it is not only the running into a new Sin, but that it proceeds from some evil Principle. 2. Another Sense of the Words is this, for whatsoever is more than these,
cometh of the evil one, meaning the Devil
, who, in the New Testament, is often called the evil, or wicked one : as Matt. xiii. 19. The wicked one cometh and catcheth away the Seed; and ver. 38. the Tares are said to be the Children of the wicked one : and it follows immediately, The Enemy that Jowed them is the Devil. What we are to learn then from this, is, that whenever our Discourse exceeds the due Bounds of Simplicity and Modesty; particularly, when Anger, or Malice, or Pride and Vanity, or any other Lust, or Passion, stirs us up to great Aggravation of our Matters, we are immediately to take the Alarm, as beginning then to be under the Temptation of the Devil, and to what Intemperance of Language he may carry us, from one Degree of Passion to another, till at last he involves us in Oaths and Imprecations, no body can tell. The furest way is to keep our Ground, for if once the Devil moves us from our calm steady Temper, and gives us a push down Hill, it will be a very hard Matter to stop till we tumble headlong to the bottom.
Thus now I have done with my Text, and have, in four Discourses, explained to you our Saviour's Doctrine concerning the Third Commandment; but I am afraid I have done no good all this wbile, and that the evil one, from whom this Spirit of Swearing and Lying comes, will be abundantly too hard for all that I can say or do to fortify you against his Devices. Learn, I beseech
you, this easy part of Christianity, to be Men of your Word, and to refrain from this evil Custom of Swearing, and to refrain from it out of a right Principle of the Fear of God. I know no Vice brings more Scandal to our Church of 4. VOL. II.
England; the Church may be in danger from other Enemies, but perhaps she is not so much in danger from any Enemy, as from the great Number of profane Persons that pretend to be of her, enough to make all serious People afraid of our Society, and to bring down the speedy Judgments of God upon us, for by reason of Swearing the Land mourns.
But be not deceived, our Church has no Principles that lead to Swearing, more than the Diflenters; but whatever Church is uppermost, there are always a great many who have no Religion at all, crowd into it, and bring it under Disgrace and Disreputation. But the time is coming, when the Tares shall be separated from the Wheat, and they shall be cast with the evil one, the Devil that sowed them, into Hell ; but the Angels shall carefully gather the Wheat into God's Barn. If ye know these Things, happy are ye if ye do them,
Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost be all Praise.