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if he does not; and he ought to study his duty, and however difficult or unpopular the faithful performance of it may be, he cannot neglect it without great guilt in the sight of God; and the oath under which he has brought himself ought to weigh down every consideration of personal ease or popularity. Alas! have we not reason to fear that oaths of office are too often considered, as mere introductory forms, while the great obligations under which they bring a person are forgotten, or slighted, and neglected, and thus great guilt incurred?
There are two other points which ought to be considered while treating of oaths.
The first is whether equivocations and mental reservations can release a person from the obligation of an oath, according to the received meaning of its expressions. Many, especially in the church of Rome, have plead for the lawfulness of equivocations and mental reservations. But they defeat the very end of an oath, which the apostle tells us is for confirmation, and the end of strife. They are a species of deceit; for the words which are intended to communicate the thoughts of the heart convey an impression different from the reality; and this deceit is covered, and mankind the more easily imposed upon, by an appeal to God. Breaking an oath under such pretences, as that we meant something different from the plain meaning of the words we used, or that we made a reserve in our own minds, is perjury, and may we not add perjury aggravated by intentional deception.
The other point is, whether oaths made to those we esteem heretics ought to be kept. The Papal church in the Council of Constance determined this question in the negative. On this principle they acted towards the pious John Huss and Jerome of Prague. To induce them to appear before the Council at Constance, the Emperor of Germany had sworn to them that they should be protected from violence, and sent back safe; but when they appeared, the Council determined that faith was not to be kept with heretics, and accordingly condemned and put them to death. On the same principle when kings were excommunicated, or embraced the principles of the Reformation, the Pope undertook to absolve their subjects from their oaths of allegiance to them.
Many arguments might be adduced from Scripture to
refute this pernicious error. Let the following examples suffice. The Gibeonites were Heathen, and they belonged to those very wicked nations whom the Lord had devoted to destruction, whom the Israelites were commissioned to destroy, and with whom they were at war. To these Heathen the Israelites, in the days of Joshua bound themselves by oath, that they would not cut them off. This oath was obtained by stratagem. But notwithstanding their character, and the manner in which they had obtained the oath in their favour, the Israelites dare not cut them off. And when many years after, Saul slew some of them, the Lord sent a famine of three years upon the land, as a punishment for the breach of the oath; and the judgment was not removed until satisfaction was made to the Gibeonites, by the execution of such a number of the posterity of Saul as they demanded-2. Sam. xxi. Another example in point we have in the history of Zedekiah king of Judah. Zedekiah bound himself by oath to the Heathen king Nebuchadnezzar, to be his tributary; and this oath he afterwards brake by revolting from him. Did he do right? The Lord himself has answered the question, Ezek. xvii. 15, 16. "Shall he prosper? Shall he escape that doeth such things or shall he break the covenant and be delivered? As I live saith the Lord God, surely in the place, where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die." These instances are a sufficient refutation of the principle that oaths made to heretics are not binding.
We shall now conclude this discourse with a few words on vows and lots.
A vow is of the same nature with a promissory oath. The only difference is that in vows the thing promised to be done, is promised to God. A vow is a solemn act of religious worship, in which we solemnly devote any thing to God. Most of the observations which have been made respecting oaths may be applied to vows.
The lot is also a religious ordinance, as it is a referring the decision of an affair to God, and is an appeal to him for an immediate determination. We have many instances of the use of the lot in Scripture. By lot the land of Canaan was divided to the Hebrew tribes. By lot it was
determined which should be the goat for sacrifice, and which the scape-goat, on the great day of atonement. By lot was Achan pointed out as having the accursed thing. By lot was Saul designated to be king-and by lot was Matthias marked out for the apostleship in the place of Judas. Whether the lot, as a religious ordinance, is still proper to be used, is a doubtful question. But if it is, it ought to be used only in cases of importance, and which cannot otherwise be determined; but I doubt whether it be right for a christian in any case since the canon of Scripture has been completed, to take this method to find out the will of providence in a doubtful matter.
I conclude with exhorting you my brethren to a reverent use of every thing by which God maketh himself known. He is a God jealous for the glory of his name, and will not suffer it to be trifled with, with impunity.AMEN.
SINS AGAINST THE THIRD COMMANDMENT.
EXODUS XX 7.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain : for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in
In the last discourse, the duties required in this commandment were illustrated. The sins forbidden next
claim our attention.
"What is forbidden in the third commandment? The third commandment forbiddeth the profaning or abusing of any thing whereby God maketh himself known."
God maketh himself known, by his names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works. Therefore this commandment forbids the profaning or abusing of any of
The particular ways in which this commandment may be broken are numerous. We shall endeavour in the ensuing discourse to particularize them, omitting the two leading sins of profane swearing and perjury, which will require distinct discourses.
I. In respect to God's names, titles, and attributes, this commandment is broken.
1. As the law is spiritual, and this commandment as well as the others refers to the heart, by thinking slightly and irreverently of the names, titles, or attributes of God.
2. Much more is this commandment broken, by using them in common conversation, ina light and irreverent manner. Thus the common practice of exclaiming in conversation, O Lord! O God! Lord of mercy! God Almighty! God forgive me! and the like; and even those common exclamations, gracious! mercy; &c. are a taking God's names in vain, and a breach of this commandment. In this way is this commandment often broken, and the solemn caution is forgotten," that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the LORD thy GOD." Deut. xxviii. 58.
3. This commandment is broken by ascribing any of the divine names, titles, or attributes, to the creature. The application of the names lord and god to men in a certain sense, is made in Scripture. Thus Sarah called Abraham lord, Gen. xviii. 12. And she is commended for it in the New-Testament, 1. Peter iii. 6. And we have other instances of the application of the name to men. And magistrates are called gods. "Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people." Ex. xxii. 28. “I have said ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High." Ps. Lxxxii. 6. In these places these names are simply expressive of authority; and are not intended in the least to give divine honour to the creature. But whenever these names are applied to creatures, to ascribe divine honours to them, such a use of them is sinful, and a palpable breach of this commandment; as when Herod" made an oration unto the people, and they gave a shout, saying it is the voice of a god, and not of a man." Acts xii. 21, 22. This was a most wicked application of the name to a creature intended to ascribe to him divine honours; and God was displeased with it, and in a signal
manner, punished the proud mortal who dared to receive it. And here we may remark, that many of the titles which are given to the kings of the earth, and which they proudly assume are, as belonging to God alone, in opposition to this commandment.
4. This commandment is broken by blasphemy. Blasphemy is a speaking reproachfully of God, or of any of the persons of the Trinity, either by denying the divine being, perfections, or providence; or cursing, or ridiculing them; or ascribing to God something sinful. According to this definition which is agreeable to the definitions, both of Theologians and Civilians, the Atheist who denies the being of God, the Epicurean who denies the providence of God, the Deist who denies the word of God, the Unitarian, as he proudly calls himself, who denies divine nature and honours to Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, the Scoffer who reviles or ridicules revealed religion-all these are blasphemers, as well as those who speak directly against God.
Blasphemy is an exceedingly great sin, and shows dreadful depravity of heart. That heart must truly be depraved to an uncommon and very great degree, that dares thus to bid as it were open defiance to God himself and explicitly assail his character and arraign his conduct. The Lord has in his word, showed the most marked and decided abhorrence of this sin. According to the law, delivered by God himself to Moses, the blasphemer was to be punished with death. As we read. Lev. xxiv. 15, 16. "And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him; as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death." It was for this crime, that an Israelitish youth, of whom we have an account in this same chapter, was by the express direction of God, stoned to death by the congregation. And it was particularly for this crime, that the Lord visited Sennacherib king of Assyria with signal and awful judgments. One hundred and eighty five thousand of his army were slain in one night. And vengeance followed the king himself, in his own person, until he was shortly after cut off by the hands of his own children. As