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we are larefully put to our oath, we should yet remember, that it is to be taken with that reverential awe and religious impression which the solemnity imposes. To introduce then this act of religion into our common intercourse with one another, is a great profanation. To invoke God to witness the truth of our words, or to use expressions equivalent to such an invocation, when no oath is lawfully required of us, when no religious feeling is entertained, when nothing but the establishing of our own veracity, on some disputed point, or in respect to some worldly matter, is in view, is evidently to violate both the letter and the spirit of the commandment; “ to take the Name of the Lord our God in vain.” It is to use sacred things as if they were common: to treat the Majesty of God with lightness and contempt; and consequently to profane His holy Name.
3. A third branch of this Sin consists in mingling religious language in our common discourse without any corresponding feelings in our heart. To this head we may refer the light and inconsiderate use of such ejaculations as these, God bless me!'
The Lord have mercy on me!' As I hoped to be saved!' and such like expressions : expressions, which are common indeed in the mouths of men, but which, when used
without becoming seriousness of mind, as is too generally the case, are little better than a profane mockery of real piety. To the same class we may also refer the irreverent mention of sacred words, such as “God,”? and “Christ,” and “Lord,” and “Heaven," and many others of a like description, which men use as mere unmeaning exclamations, for the purpose of filling up, or of connecting their ordinary discourse : but all of which are violations of the divine commandment, and profane the Name of God.
Such is the Sin, against which we are so strongly admonished in the text. unto you, Swear not at all.” I now proceed,
II. To show its aggravated Guilt.
Every transgression of the law is sin, and brings guilt on the transgressor. But every sin is not of equal magnitude, nor involves the transgressor in equal guilt. Some sins are more aggravated than others, and bring with them a larger share of guilt. Such is the case with the Sin before us. It is a great and an aggravated sin, and consequently entails a proportionate degree of Guilt. This representation will be fully proved from the three following considerations of its nature and quality
1. It is a gratuitous Sin.
By a gratuitous sin, I mean, a sin wantonly committed, without any of those in
ducements by which men are usually drawn into the commission of evil. Temptation indeed is no justification of sin. A man cannot plead in defence of a sinful action, that he was tempted to commit it. But yet it is evident, that the circumstances under which a man is induced to the commission of a sin, has a tendency in some degree to increase or to diminish the relative guilt of it. The sin of Peter in denying Christ, was doubtless a very heinous offence, yet being committed under the immediate impression of a sudden and personal fear, strikes us as less aggravated in its guilt, than that of Judas; who, from the sordid love of gain, deliberately bargained to sell his master. But the Sin, of which we are speaking, is totally void of any inducement at all. No man can plead in extenuation of the guilt of Swearing even the poor excuse which strong Temptation furnishes. It is a Sin which offers no gratification to pride, to lust, or to covetousness. It holds out to those who commit it no prospect of credit, of pleasure, or of profit. They cannot say that they are the greater, the happier, or the richer, for profaning the Name of God. It is a sin altogether gratuitous; the mere overflowings of ungadliness; the spontaneous effusion of the enmity and abomination of the heart: a Sin, which men are under no solicitation to commit, and
which they can only commit for the sake of sinping.
2. It is also a wilful Sin.
Every Sin may be said in one sense to be wilful: for it is committed at the time with the consent of the will. It is this consent in fact, which constitutes the very essence of Sin. If the will do not yield to a temptation, no guilt is contracted: but no sooner does the will consent, than the sin is virtually. committed, and the Soul guilty before God.
But wilful, in the sense in which I am using the word, has a still stronger meaning. It means a predetermination of the Will to commit sin, an habitual readiness of mind to comply with the suggestion to evil, whenever it occurs ; an obstinate adherence to the practice of it, without any serious attempt or intention to discontinue and oppose it. Now it is obvious that sin committed under such circumstances, and with such a disposition, is of a nature peculiarly aggravated. Yet such is the case with the sin before us. It is in the sense here given a wilful Sin. It is committed, not only with the consent of the will, but without any serious effort or desire to prevent the commission of it. Persons indeed are apt to deny this position. They are ready to say, that when they swear or profane the Name of God, it is generally without any meaning
at all, and therefore certainly without any deliberate or evil intention; that the words escape from their lips before they are aware; and even against their wishes; and that so far from the offence being wilful and premeditated, it has not even the assent of the will. But these representations are not true. In refutation of them we may,
adduce the following proof. Let a person the most addicted to this sin, be in the company of one of his fellow-creatures, whose authority he fears, or whose favour he desires ; let him be in the presence of his master, of his minister, or of a magistrate : and what is the consequence ? He refrains his tongue from evil. He sets a watch over the door of his mouth, that he offend not. He checks his sinful propensity; and for the time abstains from the use of profane language. Is not this notoriously the case ?
And if it be so, is it not also notoriously the case, that he might at all times abstain from this practice, and check this propensity, if he were so disposed ? Does not this one circumstance proye that the fault is in the Will: and that if this Sin is practised, the practice arises from the Will not being steadfastly and habitually set against it? It is evident that the Will not only consents to the Sin, but is also previously ready to commit it. And what is a sin thus committed but a Wilful Sin ?