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last Occasion, I shall not infift upon it now, but go on to the second Thing I observed from this Precept, namely,
II. That it is our Duty to use a Simplicity in Speech, by plain Affirmation or Negation, But let your Communication be yea, yea; nay, nay, This Simplicity is designed to prevent the Frauduļent use of Speech; and particularly Į take it to be a Prohibition of these four Abuses of Speech. 1. A Multiplicity of Words. 2. A designed Doubleness or Equivocation in them. 3. Vain Complements and Flattery. 4. Oaths and Imprecations. And on the contrary, an Injunction that our Words þe Few, Plain, Sincere, and Mor dest.
(1.) This Expression, let your Speech be yea, yea; nay, nay; signifies, that we should not use many Words, or rather that we should be at'a Word. Solomon observes Prov. X. 19. That in the multitude of Words, there wants not Sin; but be that refraineth bis Lips is Wife. And Eccl. y. 3: That a Fool's Voice is known by multitude of Words. And St James advises us to be swift to bear, but how to speak. And so our Saviour here seems to aim at the same Thing, that we should quickly come to the Point, to an Assent, or Diffent ; an Affirmation, or Negation; a yea, or a nay. And indeed there may be very good Reasons against a multiplicity of Words: For, 1. It presently involves us in that Rashness, which is the Mother of Lies and Oaths, and Calumnies, and Blabbing of Secrets, and every other thing that is bad in Discourse; for the Tongue is such a nimble Mover, that it wants a Bridle, rather than a Spur, and like an Hogshead down Hill, will run too
fast of its own accord, if it is not strongly curbed and restrained. 2. This Multiplicity of Discourse, and Volubility of Tongue, is a great Enemy to serious thinking ; it is a mighty Obstruction of both Judgment and Memory, which ought to guide the Tongue in all its Motions: For as a Clock, or Watch, if you take off the Pendulum or Balance, runs presently into a precipitate noify Motion of the Wheels, bur is of no manner of service for measuring of Time, which is the proper use of it; so the Tongue, if we do not make use of our Judgment and Memory, only rattles off Foolish, Vain, Impertinent, Falfe, Profane, and injurious Words ; and if they meet not with a ready Reception and Belief, most commonly backs them with rash Oaths and Imprecations. 3. I need not tell the dreadful Confequences of this unguarded Talkativeness in Atheistical, Profane, Obscene, Calumniating, Malicious, detracting Discourses, enflaming Men's Passions, and setting whole Neighbourhoods by the Ears; for I might as well attempt to tell all the mischief that Fire would make, if it were not restrained within Bounds, as to Enumerate the dreadful Consequences of an ungoverned Tongue. But for Remedying of this, our Saviour's enjoining a bare Affirmation and Negation, is a very useful Precept; not literally that we are to use the Word yea, or nay, to every Thing; but that we are quickly to come to the Point, to speak to the Merits, without endeavouring to impose upon one another by Oaths, or false Flourishes of Rheto
(2.) Our Saviour's Precept of rea and nay, may signify the plainness we are to use in our Speech,
as thàt is opposite to all equivocal Senses, double Meanings, and enfnaring Obscurity. Our Saviour forbids here all fallacious, dárk, tricking, and designing ways of Expression, by which Men endeavour to outwit and over-reach one another. A Plainness and Ingenuity in the manner of our Expressions, joined with a Sincerity and Honesty, of which I shall say something by and by, is the best way to induce Trust and Belief, without Oaths in our ordinary Conversation one with another : Whereas dark and equivocal ways of Expression occasion Mistrust and Jealoufy, as a Remedy of which, recourse is commonly had to Oaths; and too often false Oaths are swallowed to help out with the Fraud, where Equivocations, and dark Expressions will not do. There is no Virtue in Speech, perhaps, more commendable than this of Plainness, in so far as it avoids all Trickiness and finister Designs. Nor is it always necessary that this Plainness be accompanyed with a rough Bluntness; it may very well be joined with true Friendship and Civility, without feeding our Neighbour with false Hopes, by Words of dark and doubtful Meaning; a Practice that borders upon Knavery and Dishonesty, and is therefore very unbecoming this Christian Simplicity.
(3.) A third Thing which I take to be prohibited in this Precept about Christian Simplicity, is, the Practice of vain Complements and Flattery, which, because they are very often doubted, or disbelieved, occasion Swearing to confirm them. This Vice might perhaps better be reserved for the last Observation I made from this Precept concerning the material Truth and Sincerity of
Speech, that our yea should be yea; and our nay, nay; that is, that we be stanch Men of our Words ; and not brought in here among the forms and manners of Speaking. But because Compliments and Flattery are the most directly contrary to that Simplicity of Speech which is here recommended, and are Errors against the Form, the Decency, and Simplicity of Speech, they justly fall in here to be reprehended. I shall not at present enter into those odious Characters, of which Flattery is commonly composed, Falfhood, Servility, Treachery, Contempt of the Persons Understanding whom we thus think to Bubble, Trickiness, and Self-love; because these belong more to the Matter of the Vice, than to its formal Inconsistency with Simplicity, which now I am upon: And therefore all I shall urge on this Head, shall be, that this way of Compliment and Flattery, doth exceedingly deviate from the Original and native Use of Speech, which is sincerely and frankly to Communicate the Sentiments of our Minds to one another; and the more we depart from this Sincerity, so much the more do we pervert the true Use of Speech. Not that Christianity is against an handsome, neat, proper way of expressing our selves, no more than against Cloathing our selves in a decent Garb, and keeping our selves clean and sweet; but this way of Compliment and Flattery, is like disguising our natural Complexion, and Painting with Artificial Colours on purpose to deceive; than which nothing can be more contrary to the genuine Simplicity required here by our Saviour, in our Communication one with another.
(4.) The last Thing which I take to be prohibited by this Christian Simplicity, is the deep Aggravation of Speech by high Afseverations and Oaths. For the Tendency of all these, is, that we should not be wrought upon by the unbyassed Consideration of the truth of the Things proposed; but that we should have them crammed down our Throats by mere Force and Exaggerations of Expression. This diverts our Consideration from the Merits of the cause, to the way of Anticipating our Judgment in favour of the Person, who pawns his Faith, and Soul, and Conscience, for the Truth of it. This very Aim has occasioned more rash and falfe Swearing than any other thing whatsoever : For when Men have once laid aside Modesty to that degree, as to swear to Uncertainties, they will not long stick out at any piece of Impudence in Speech, by which they think to carry their Point: So that, by degrees, these rash Oaths, instead of being any Proofs or Marks of Truth, are only Signs of Impudence and Profaneness, and of a Mind steeled against all Confiderations of God and Religion. And to be sure, when Men are gone thus far, there is no depending either on their Honour or Honesty. Their Oaths then are only Significations of Profaneness in themselves, and Traps to ensnare others. To reclaim Men from this wicked Practice, our Saviour here banishes all Oaths out of our ordinary Discourse, and calls us back to the Modesty, as well as. Sincerity of Speech, that there may be nothing to byass our Understanding in its Consideration of the Truth, or Falshood, Reasonableness, or Unreasonableness, of the Things proposed, and that therefore all high Afleverations,