« PreviousContinue »
SERM. self and others; it tends to lessen, both in XIII.
his own breast and in the estimation of those around him, that awful veneration for the divine majesty, which is the surest guardian of his laws. And surely, if this be the effect of a practice, it is not the pretence that our intentions are innocent, and will exculpate or procure us forgive
A third set of swearers are those who
profess that they are obliged to it, that they mean by it to gain observance of what they say, that their oaths are merely intended to procure belief to their assertions, or give importance to their commands, reproofs, and menaces. To say nothing of the very great reflection which, by such a defence, these persons throw on their own veracity and dignity, it is much to be suspected that the very end, which they propose to themselves by the violation of a plain precept of their religion, is not at
tained. The most solemn things, when SERM.
XIII. frequently used, lose much of their consequence; one of the reasons why so great a stress is laid upon an oath in a court of justice, is, that it is a mode of affirmation which is uncommon: and therefore he who binds himself by it, is by so much the less likely to be guilty of a falsity.
Now when the same appeal to God is observed on every trifling occasion in our familiar conversation, oaths become of no greater importance than other assertions; and if I would not believe the common swearer on his bare word, so neither would I believe him, whatever imprecation he might add to it, since he is constantly furnishing me with proof that he himself sets no higher value on the one than he does on the other. Is not this the case ? Let the blasphemer deny it, if he can!-to himself I would refer it, whether the simple affirmation of a serious person does
SERM. not meet with at least equal credit with
his oath ?
As to the plea—that the orders, the reproofs, or the threats of a person in authority, are more efficacious from being attended with imprecations, it is liable to the same objection which I have just made; when oaths and curses are used on every occasion, they are no more regarded than other words, they are looked on as coming of course, and those to whom they are directed are not influenced by them in any additional degree. But if the case were otherwise, supposing them to have all the weight that they were expected, it is worth our consideration, whether the acquisition of a little temporary authority with our fellow-creatures be worth purchasing at the expence of our eternal salvation.
These are the chief reasons and arguments, which men bring in support of this heinous and too common vice : you see how little there is in them.
I shall conclude with observing, that SERM.
XIII. there are many to be met with, who would be shocked at the idea of plain, downright swearing, with whom it is yet grown into a custom to approach very near toit; they dare not take the name of their Creator in vain in a direct manner, but shew the bad. ness of their intentions by disguising solemn words, till they are less disgusting to the ear, though equally offensive to the judgment. These half-bred reprobates prove that they would be wicked, if they durst; and I know not whether the consciousness of being wrong, which their caution declares, does not augment their criminality. Abstain from all appearance of evil; let us not only be virtuous, but let us endeavour to appear so.
He who ventures, in defiance of the remonstrances of his conscience, to approach the borders of any vice, and, much more, he who delights to put on its semblance, too clearly evinces
SERM. his evil principles ; though his words and XIII.
actions may seem outwardly under some little restraint, his heart is certainly unsound.
Be it our care to aim at perfection : notwithstanding our most strenuous efforts, we shall still, alas! fall too short of it; but if we only endeavour not to be openly profligate, not to be notoriously depraved, and content ourselves with even less than negative virtue, we may be assured we shall never attain that degree of holiness, which can alone entitle us to see the Lord.