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Thoughts and Apprehensions of things, that we shall have when we are sick and dying : let us now despise this World as much, and think as ill of Sin, as seriously of God and Eternity, as we shall then do: for this is the mendation of the righteous Man, that every one defires to die his Death, that at last all Men are of his Mind and Persuasion, and would chuse his Condition ; Let me die the death of the Righteous, and let my last end be like his..
I end all with those Words of the wise Son of Syrach. Learn before thou speak, and usë Physick, or ever thou be fick; before Judgment examine thy felf, and in the day of Visitation thou shalt find Mercy. Humble thy self before thou be fick, and in the time of Sins. Therw Repentance. Let nothing hinder thee to pay thy Vows in due time, and defer not untik Death to be justified. Make no tarrying to turn to the Lord, and put it not off from day to day ; for suddenly shall the Wraib of the Lord come forth, and in thy Security thou shalt be destroyed, and perish in the day of Vengeance.
A SE R
SE R M ON
The EIGHTH SERMON.
St. MATTHEW V. 34. But I say unto you, Swear not at all.
OR our more clear understanding the
our Blessed Saviour, Swear not at all, these two things must be obferved:
I. That it was a common practice amongst the Jews to swear by some of God's Creatures, which Custom prevailed amongst them from a pretended Reverence of God's Holy Name : whenever they would affirm any thing with more than ordinary vehemence and earnestness, or beget an Assurance of what they said, in another they thought it not fit or decent presently to invoke the Sovereign God of Heaven and Earth, and on every slight and trivial occasion to run to the great Maker and Father of all things; but in sınaller Matters, and in ordinary Talk, they would swear by their Parents, by the Heavens, by the Earth, by Jerufalem, the Altar, Temple, their Head, or the like: nor did they count such Forms of swearing cqually obliging with those Oaths wherein the Name of God was solemnly and expresly called upon. To this our Saviour in probability refers in the Verse foregoing myText; Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Tlcu Malt not for swear thy self, but Malt perform unto the Lord thine Oaths : they thought fuch only incurr’d the Guilt and Penalty of Perjury, who stood not to those Promises they had confirm’d by explicit calling the Lord him. self to witness, but that there was but little Evil or Danger either in the common use of Swearing by Creatures, or in breaking such Oaths.
Now our Saviour here absolutely forbids not only swearing by the sacred Name of God, but also by any of his Creatures; Swear not at all, no not so much as by the Heavens, by the Earth, or by Jerusalem: and the reason he gives is, because in all such Forms of
swearing by Creatures, tho God is not expresy named, yet he himself is really referred to, and tacitly invoked, who is the supreme Lord and Maker of all: when you swear by the Heavens, you call upon him whose Throne is there plac’d; when
by the Earth, you appeal to him whose Footstool it is; when by Jerusalem, you implicitly and by just Interpretation swear by Him that is the great King thereof. This our Saviour as plainly delivers on another Occasion, Mat.23. 20. W boso shall fwear by the Altar, fweareth by it, and all things thereon ; and whoso Mall fwear by the Temple, sweareth by it, and by bim that dwelleth therein; and he that shall fwear by Heaven, fweareth by the Throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. So that in this case, the truth is, if in such kind of Oaths, when Men fwear by the Heavens, the Earth or the like, they mean only the material fenfible Heaven and Earth, besides the Irreli. gion of vain Swearing, they are guilty of plain Idolatry, in giving to the Creatures that Worship that is due only to God; as (supposing those inanimate Beings able to hear them, and judg their Thoughts, and witness to the Sincerity of their Purposes, or to punish them for their Falseness and Hypocrisy; but) if rhey do not believe any such thing of those Creatures they swear by, then must luch Oaths, if they have any fense at all, refer to God, and his Name must be understood to be invoked, even tho he be not expresly mentioned. So that this Prohibition of our Saviour may be accounted to extend to all such Forms of Speech amongst us, as are used as Oaths (and so understood) to beger Credit to what we fay, tho God be not named. In short, all manner of Oaths, whether by the Majesty
of God, or any of his Creatures, or any Words, Signs, or Gestures, which by common Custom and Interpretation are accounted swearing, may be understood to be hereby forbidden, as well as direct express Swearing; for a Man may swear without ever saying a word, if by receiv'd Usage fuch a Gesture doth signify our calling God to witness : and so the Forms and outward Modes of Swearing are different in several Nations, tho the Reason and Sense of them be the same in all Places, whatever Words or Signs are used. If therefore such Phrases as thele, Faith, Troth, and many others which I might name, are in ordinary Esteem and Practice thought to contain something more than an Affirmation, and are used and understood amongst us as Oaths, they are here forbidden to Christians under this Rule of Swearing not at all, tho such words in themselves have not the Force of Oaths, nor is God immediately appealed to by them.
II. It is farther here to be observ'd, that tho all manner of Swearing, whether by the Name of God, or any of his Creatures, be thus prohibited, Swear not at all; yer this must be understood only of arbitrary voluntary Swearing in ordinary Talk and Discourse, when there is no great Reason, no justifiable Occasion for it. It is to be acknowledged that some of the antient Fathers from these words did conclude it utterly unlawful for a Christian at any time to lwear; some of their Sayings to this purpose