« הקודםהמשך »
by the corrupt glosses and false interpretations which the Priests and Scribes put on the sacred text; so that by the time at which our Saviour came into the world,
they had made the word of God of none effect through their traditions.” Stripped of its spiritual meaning, and even circumscribed in its literal sense, the Law was neither useful for reproof, nor profitable for instruction in righteousness.
One object, therefore, of Christ's Ministry was to remedy this evil, and to restore the Law to its original purity and legitimate use. Accordingly, in the Sermon on the Mount, having solemnly declared, that “ He was not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it;" he proceeded to expose in several instances that corrupt mode of interpretation, which was become so prevalent: and at the same time to point out the true meaning and spiritual import of the Divine Law. Among other instances He selected the way in which they explained, and by their explanation, in fact, made void the Third Commandment. “ Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
The Prohibition here given, was evidently designed to extend to every disrespectful and irreverent mention of the Name of God, and of things connected with Him, according to that further explication of the Command
ment in Leviticus, “ Ye shall not swear by my name falsely; neither shalt thou profane the Name of thy God. I am the Lord.” * But how did the Jews explain this Law ? They restricted its meaning to the first part of the explication, and totally omitted the second. They represented it as merely saying, “ Thou shalt not forswear thyself
, but shalt perform unto the Lord thy vows." Thus, by their interpretation they made void the Law, for by limiting the prohibition exclusively to perjury, and to the breaking of vows, they indirectly, at least, gave a licence to the custom of profane swearing, and to the introduction of oaths into common conversation, or on unnecessary occasions, as if these practices were not equally forbidden in the original Commandment, and were not equally a violation of its holy and spiritual injunctions. In opposition then to this defective and most mischievous explanation of the Law, our Lord declared in the text, “ But I say unto you, Swear not at all.” And then, lest it should be supposed that this interpretation, however comprehensive, referred only to the irreverent mention of the Divine Name, and not to every kind and description of profane imprecation and oath, He added, “neither by Heaven, for
* Leviticus, xix. 12.
it is God's Throne: nor by the earth, for it is His footstool : neither by Jerusalem, for it is the City of the great King : neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black."
Such was the occasion on which our Lord delivered the admonition in the text, “Swear not at all :" and would that there were no occasion at these times to repeat the admonition! But alas! “ because of swearing the land mourneth.” That corrupt interpretation of the Commandment, which was authoritatively taught among the Jews, is practically adopted by the great bulk of nominal Christians: and numbers of those, who would be afraid and ashamed of committing perjury, are not afraid or ashamed of habitually profaning the name of God. Indeed, the practice of Swearing, and the consequent violation of the Third Commandment, prevails to a most dreadful and a most enormous extent; and is a melancholy, but decisive proof of the little real influence which true Religion has on the minds of a very large proportion of those who bear the Christian Name. It is this consideration of the prevalence and magnitude of the sin in question, that has determined me, on the present occasion, to bring it more immediately and distinctly before you. And may the Lord, whose Name is Holy, and who is
greatly to be feared in the Congregation of His Saints, graciously assist me in the exposition of His Law, and powerfully apply it to your hearts and consciences, for correction or instruction in Righteousness according to your several wants, cases, and circumstances !
I shall endeavour,
I. To explain and illustrate the Sin in question.
II. To show its aggravated Guilt.
III. To point out the aweful State of those who practise it.
I. The Sin in question is one of those which are called sins of the tongue; for it is committed by that unruly member. But sins of the tongue, like all other sins, take their rise in the heart. It is « out of the abundance of the heart, that the mouth speaketh.” The language of the lips is but an indication of the state of the heart. This point must be constantly kept in view during the whole of our discussion, or we shall at last arrive at only very imperfect ideas on the subject. --Our present business, however, is with the overt act of the Sin, which consists in profaning the Name of God. To profane sacred things is to treat them as if they were common and unholy. To profane the Name of God is to treat it in this way; to use it with irreverence and contempt; to
speak of God, and of things relating to Him in an irreligious and ungodly manner, without any aweful impression on the mind of His Presence, His Majesty, and His Holiness. - This is the Sin in question ; but for the clearer explanation of it, I will consider it under three distinct and principal branches.
1. One branch of this Sin, and a very evident breach of the Divine Commandment, is cursing and swearing. Under this head are to be ranged those horrid imprecations by which persons express the passion and enmity of their hearts, and invoke the Divine vengeance on themselves and others. Under this head, also, are to be placed those blasphemous and impious expressions, which men intermingle with their language, and by which they attempt to give either point or weight to their discourse. But on this head there is no occasion to enlarge. Cursing and swearing are unfortunately too well known among us, to require any detailed explanation.
2. Another branch of the Sin in question, is the familiar and irreverent introduction of oaths into common conversation, and about the common concerns of life.
The taking of an oath is a religious act. It is a solemn appeal to God, who seeth and searcheth the heart, as to the truth and sincerity of our words and professions. Whenever therefore