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judgments which they soon after experienced. Zech. v. 1, 3, 4. We find an awful curse resting upon the false swearer and his house. "Then I turned, and lif ted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying rollThis is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth; for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side, according to it. I will bring it forth saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name; and it shall remain in the midst of his house." And the nation of Israel was severely punished, because Saul their king brake the oath which their fathers had sworn to the Gibeonites; and the wrath of God was revealed against king Zedekiah because he perjured himself.
From these passages, it is clearly evident that perjury is a very heinous sin in the sight of God, and one which, without deep repentance, he will most severely punish.
Besides, the nature of perjury teaches us the same. It is a practical denial of the divine omniscience; for an oath is an appeal to God as every where present; but the language of the false swearer is, God doth not see me. Or if the false swearer does not deny the omniscience of God, he practically denies the divine justice or the will of God to punish iniquity; or else the divine power or ability to punish; for what is the practical language of perjury, but either that God will not punish sin, and therefore is not just; or else that he cannot punish and therefore is not almighty in power, and is unworthy of being feared by his creatures? and will not God punish for such indignities cast upon himself? Further, the false swearer uses the name of God to gain credit to his falsehoods, pervert justice, and oppress the innocent. And certainly an infinitely righteous God will not suffer his name to be thus used with impunity.
Besides the false swearer has voluntarily put himself under the curse of God. In taking the oath which he has violated, he expressed a willingness that God should deal with him according as he kept his oath or not; for the imprecation of God's wrath, in case of perjury, is either expressed or implied in every oath as its sanction.
And after this, can a person expect any thing else, if he swear falsely, but the execution of that curse which he has imprecated?
From all that has been said, we conclude that perjury is a sin very dangerous to society, and exceedingly displeasing to God; and a sin which renders the person guilty of it, worthy of the abhorrence and punishment of men, and exposes him to the dreadful judgments of God, which without repentance will assuredly fall upon him.
We proceed as was proposed,
II. To inquire into some of the causes of this sin.
The great cause is the corruption of the human heart, which weakens and destroys the fear of God; and whatever has a tendency to increase this corruption, and lessen a reverence for God, and banish his fear, increases the liability to perjury. But there are some causes which have a more direct influence.
1. The frequency of oaths is probably one great cause of perjury. Oaths are so multiplied that they are required frequently to be taken on very trivial occasions. This undoubtedly has a tendency to lessen the solemnity of an oath; for by means of the frequency of oaths, we have reason to fear they are often considered as a mere legal formality. Even the Heathen thought, that the frequency of oaths, would increase the danger of perjury. For we are told that the ancient philosophers were so afraid of perjury, that an oath before a judge was never admitted, but for want of other proof. Plato's precept was, "not to administer an oath wantonly, but on deep grounds and with the strictest caution." And Clinias, another Heathen, was so very scrupulous, that rather than take an oath (though lawful) he suffered the loss of three tal
2. Another cause of perjury is the manner in which oaths are often administered. To impress the minds of those who take an oath with a fear of perjury, it ought to be administed in a solemn manner. But it is doubtless a fact that oaths are frequently administered with little or no solemnity. This want of solemnity in the administration of oaths, is undoubtedly one cause of perjury; and men would less frequently commit this crime, if oaths were always administered to them in a manner calculated to make them feel their solemnity, and fill them with a fear of the God whom they call to witness.
3. Another, and a principal cause of perjury is the common practice of profane swearing. This in itself is an exceedingly wicked practice, and it is rendered more so by the consequences to which it naturally leads; and this is one of its evil consequences. For swearing in common conversation, doubtless has a tendency to lessen and destroy the fear of God in the person who practices this vice. But whatever tends to lessen the fear of God, undoubtedly, tends to lessen security against perjury. For the fear of God is the grand security against this vice.Otherwise, why does the law require an oath, or an appeal to be made to God? It is true, the fear of God is intended to be strengthened by the penalties of human laws. But if human penalties were the only, or the chief security, against perjury, simple affirmation, or denial, or promises, would answer every purpose of an oath. The fear of God is the great security against perjury; and whatever therefore tends to lessen or destroy this fear, must tend to open a door to perjury. But profane swearing, undoubtedly tends to lessen and destroy the fear of God.He that can without remorse trifle with the tremendous name of God, and take it in vain in common conversation, can certainly have little or no fear of God before his eyes. And can we suppose that he who can break, without remorse,, the oaths which he makes in common conversation, will have the fear of God before his eyes to restrain him from perjury, when under an oath administered by lawful authority? The fear of man, or a sense of honour may be some security; but when the passions of such an one, or his worldly interest, or the interests of his friends prompt him to perjury, and he is in no danger of detection and punishment by human laws, we have no reason to suppose that the fear of God will prevent him; when he manifests by his oaths, which he makes and breaks in common conversation, almost every day, that he has no fear of God before his eyes.
4. Another cause of perjury may be, that those who commit this crime, are seldom brought to punishment. This may arise from two causes, viz. the difficulty of convicting a false swearer, and the remissness of men to endeavour to bring such to justice.
5. I mention one other cause of perjury, and that is, a disregard to truth in common conversation. A man who
is addicted to lying in the ordinary occurrences of life, will certainly have a much stronger propensity to withhold the truth, or speak untruth, when under oath, and thus perjure himself, than one who has a strict regard to veracity in common conversation.
In view of this subject, let us seriously consider the evils of perjury to society, and how much it provokes the wrath of God; and let us as we regard the welfare of society and the favour of God, most sacredly and strictly keep our oaths. When called to bear testimony under oath, let us always feel a fear of that God whom we have called to witness; and remembering that his eye is upon us, let us speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And when we are about to promise under oath to perform any duty, let us well consider what we are about to engage, and when we have sworn let us sacredly adhere to what we have engaged to do. And let those especially who take oaths of office, which are promissory oaths, study well what they promise and what they call God to witness they will perform. And unless they intend at all hazards, sacredly and strictly to perform the duties, they had far better relinquish their offices than risk the awful wrath of God which awaits the perjured. Let not ease or popularity or any other consideration outweigh their regard to their oath. If they do, let them remember, that although they may escape punishment from men, there is a day of judgment coming, when the Lord will not hold them guiltless that take his name in vain. And this brethren, permit me to say, we have reason to fear will be an awful day to many persons, who have taken and violated oaths of office.
And if there be any present who are guilty in the sight of God of having ever violated their oaths, either by speaking, when under oath, any thing but the truth, or keeping back part of the truth; or by not performing all that they promised under oath they would perform; let them be sensible that they are guilty of a very great crime; and although their character may stand fair before men, let them remember they must soon stand at the bar of a righteous Judge, whom they have called to witness, and who will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in But notwithstanding the sin of perjury is very hein: yet if even the perjured will truly repent they shalt
find mercy. For the penitent shall find mercy, though their sins have been as scarlet and of a crimson die. If then any such atrocious sinners are present, let them repent without delay, and flee by faith to the blood of Christ which cleanseth from all sin.
And since perjury is a vice so dangerous to the interests of society, and so much exposes to the wrath of God, let all who love their country, and who regard the favour of God, be exhorted to guard against those causes which may lead to this sin in themselves, and as much as in them lies to prevent their influence on others. Live in the fear of God, and pursue those courses which may cherish this fear, and avoid those which may tend to lessen or destroy it. Let those who administer oaths do it with solemnity. Let a sacred regard to truth ever be maintained in the common occurrences of life. Let those who are addicted to the heart hardening sin of profane swearing, break off from it; and let all guard against it, shun it, frown upon it, and endeavour to suppress it in others, as one of the greatest causes of perjury, and the bane of society; and let us never overlook or connive at perjury in others, when we have reason to believe they have been guilty of it; but according to our station and opportunity endeavour to bring them to justice, as dangerous members of society.
We have now, brethren, in a series of discourses attended to the duties required and the sins forbidden in the third commandment. It will be proper now to consider the reason annexed to this commandment, the more to enforce obedience to it. The reason we have contained in these words," for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Or as our Catechism explain it in answer to the 56th question.
"What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment."
This reason implies that breaches of this commandment often go unpunished by man; and it appears to contain a tacit reproof that it is so much the case. It is true that some of the breaches of this commandment lie out of the reach of human censures; but there are some that