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the business and company of the world without directing a thought, or addressing a petition to him ?No man knows on any day, but that it may be his last. Every man, then, on each morning of his life, ought to commend himself to God's protection, through the day to walk in his fear, at the close of day to review what he has done, repent of all his follies, acknowledge the benefits received, and dedicate himself afresh to his great Preserver and Benefactor.
We have the sentence of death in ourselves. Our frame speaks its own frailty, and predicts its own dissolution. One would think, we should need no admonitions, but those which we have from ourselves. We are fearfully made. If we hear not the solemn language of our own frail bodies, the language of weakness and pain, of sickness and decay, what language would command our attention, and impress our hearts? How unaccountable is the stupidity of mortals? They complain of infirmities and groan under pains, and yet seem scarcely to know, that these pains and infirmities tell them, that they must die, must pass to another world, must there receive according to the works which they have done.
Let us hear the voice, which speaks within us and around us ; the voice of providence and of scripture, the voice of sickness and of health, the voice of reason and of conscience, the voice which cries, “ All flesh is as grass ; what your hands find to do, do it with your might, for there is no work, wisdom, nor device in the grave, to which you are going.”
Let religion possess our hearts, and peace will attend our path, and hope will brighten our prospect. We may take pleasure in infirmities, for the power of Christ will rest upon us.
For us to live will be Christ, and to die will be gain. Whether life or death, both will be ours.
Again, ye have heard, that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shall not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths ; But I say unto you, Swear not at all; Acither by headen, for it is God's throne ; nor by the carik, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the grcal king ; neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black : But let your communi. cation be yea, yea ; nay, Ray; for whatsoever is more than thess, cometh of coil.
THERE is no institution so good, but that it may be corrupted ; nor so plain, but that it may be perverted. Almost every religious institution, which God has made for men, has in process of time undergone, in their hands, some material alteration.
This was remarkably the case among the Jews. The religion which God gave to them, consisted partly of moral, and partly of ritual iujunctions. The latter, which were in themselves of smaller importance, and designed to be subservient to the former, were by degrees so multiplied, as to be
come almost impracticable ; and the other were, in proportion, disregarded and laid aside. Mint, anise and cummin were tythed with scrupulous exact, ness, while weightier matters, justice, mercy, truth and the love of God, were neglected with little con.
The correction of these abuses is the principal object of Christ's excellent sermon on the mount, In this he recites the words of several precepts, points out the mutilations and corruptions which had been made in them, and then states their true meaning and just extent.
Among other corruptions, he mentions the gen, eral abuse, which had been made of the law relate ing to oaths,
“ Ye have heard, that it hath been said by them,” or rather to them, “ of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself.” This the Jews understood as forbidding only perjury, or swearing falsely by the name of God. But Christ tells them, it extended farther, and forbad all kinds of profane swearing: For these are the words of the law, “Thou shalt not swear by the name of the Lord falsely ; neither shalt thou profane the name of the Lord, and thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain ; neither shall ye make mention of the names of other gods.” By the law, therefore, they were forbidden, in their ordinary discourse, to swear at all, either by heaven), or earth, or Jerusalem, or their heads; for if they regarded these as the creatures of God, to swear by them was to swear by him, and to take his name in vain. It was to depart from that plainness and simplicity, which religion requires. “Let your communication," your ordinary discourse, “be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is inore than these, cometh of evil,”
There is a passage in James's Epistle similar to, and taken from this precept of our Saviour. bove all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by
heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath ; but let your yea be yea, and your nay nay, lest ye fall into condemnation.” Our remarks on the former will be applicable to the latter of these passages.
In explaining this precept of our Saviour, I shall, first, shew, that it does not absolutely and universally forbid the use of oaths ; secondly, what are the sins which it does forbid ; and then shall repre. sent the atrocity of those sins.
First, I shall shew, that Christ's precept does not absolutely forbid all use of oaths. Under this head, I shall be led to prove that oaths, in many cases, are lawful and necessary.
An oath is a solemn appeal to God, as a witness of the truth of what we declare, and of our sincer. ity in what we promise. A man equally binds his soul to utter the truth, or perform a promise, whether he speak the words of the oath with his own mouth, or consent to them when he hears them spoken, or acquiesce in, and answer upon the adjuration of another. And the oath, if it respect a thing lawful to be done, is binding, whether it be made explicitly in the name of God, or indirectly by a creature of God; for our Saviour says, “ He that sweareth by heaven, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein."
Oaths are of two sorts ; assertory and promissory. An assertory oath is the affirmation or denial of any fact in question, with a solemn invocation of God. A promissory oath, is an engagement, in the name, of, and by an appeal to God, to do, or not to do a matter proposed or stated. If this engagement be made immediately to God, and respect a personal duty to be performed to him, it is called a vow. If the engagement be made to men, and respect some duty, which we owe to our neighbour, or to socie. ty, then it is called an oath.
Some have supposed, that all oaths are criminal in their nature, and absolutely forbidden in the passage now under our consideration. This is the opinion of a certain sect called Quakers, who, however virtuous they may be in their general conduct, are fanciful and enthusiastic in many of their opinions. For they reject the gospel-ministry, vocal prayer, water-baptism, and the Lord's supper, and also the authority of the written word, farther than the meaning of it is communicated to them by a special internal light. Arguments from scripture have little effect on those, who have a supposed light within them superior to scripture. But if we may be allowed to take the scripture in its plain and liter. al sense, there is no difficulty in proving the sacred obligation of the above mentioned institutious; nor in shewing the lawfulness and obligation of oaths, which is the subject now before us.
That our Saviour does not absolutely forbid, but, in some cases, allow the use of oaths, I shall shew by examining his own words; and by adducing proofs from reason and from many passages of scripture.
1. We will examine our Saviour's words in the text.
Although a part of the paragraph, taken by itself, may seem like a universal prohibition of oaths, yet the whole, taken in its connexion, shews that a limitation is intended.
It is not uncommon for the scripture to use general expressions, which still are to be understood in a qualified sense. And how to qualify them, other passages and the reason of the case will casily direct us.
Paul says to the Corinthians, “There is utterly a fault among you, that ye go to law with one another. Why do ye not suffer yourselves to be de. frauded ?” But does the apostle forbid Christians,