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good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." And there can be no doubt, my Christian friends, that this is frequently, in an especial manner, among the means of grace which the Almighty will bless."
Even at this moment I cannot doubt that many of you recollect, and many hearts beat responsive to the consolatory truth and influence of that passage in the prophet Malachi ; that they who feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, &c. Never can those emotions be described which have been experienced by the devout Christian, as those words have come home to his own habits and feelings. There is however in the world a painful reverse to all this. How many, instead of commun. ing together on heavenly subjects till their hearts are elevated above this sublunary sphere, are angry with each other, and even with their brethren, on every slight occasion ; and yet have they been warned of their danger, and that whosoever shall say to his brother, “ Thou fool,” shall ha. zard his soul. The divine commands then being so explicit, nothing further need be said on this part of our subject; and the examples of retributive justice recorded in
the sacred volume as a solemn warning NOTA to swear falsely, you are all so well acquainted with, that I shall here take the occasion of commenting on an erroneous interpretation of our Lord's command not to swear, and also on the injunction of St. James in his 5th chapter, verse 12, which never could have been meant so literal as some pious persons imagine ; for we cannot doubt but that we may, in the most solemn manner, abjure or deny any falsehood, and aver the truth, whenever circumstances shall oblige or compel us to do so. Justice to ourselves, as well as to others, frequently requires this. Our blessed Saviour himself said, “Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths.” And before the Jewish sanhedrim, when he was adjured by the chief priest in these words, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, &c. answered or affirmed, “Thou hast said;" or, “ It is said.” In consequence of which the chief priest rent his clothes, saying, “He hath spoken blasphemy.':
St. Paul, who on all occasions follows the precepts of his divine Master, enforces his affirmations by such appeals as, God is my witness.” Before God I lie not.” “I call God for a record upon my soul. An
bath for confirmation is to be met with in the Old TestamentBesides, byl this we acknowledge the presence, the power, the justice, and the omniscience, of God. He who takes an oath, offers his soul as a bond or pledge in the immediate presence as it were of the Almighty. TO DO IT · I shall now proceed to show some of the fatal consequences which must result from the violation of the divine commands and injunctions against every sort of evil speaking, as well as taking the sacred name of the Lord in vain. Our lives, our property, our character, and all that is estimable to man, might be endangered or wrested from us in a moment, were there no restraints nor punishment imposed on those who swear falsely, who detract or deceive: and indeed our laws are mild as they regard the punishment for the heinousness and daring effrontery of those offenders who brave the vengeance and insult the Majesty of Heaven. Many there are also who take the name of God in vain in the court and in the sanc. tuary. But let such men recollect, that they call for that record upon their soul, which will be indelible for ever 10:35:19 58. :19 But here it must be noticed, that the evil which may be effected by the ungovernable licence of the mind and tongue is so incal
culable and various, that the subject is really overwhelming, when we consider that the hand may be as, culpably made the instru. ment or vehicle of untruth as the tongue; for the pen is only embodying our words to extend the mischief: therefore the crime is aggravated two-fold, being premeditated, and intended, like the most deadly and insidious poison, to destroy, if possible, the very vitals of every thing most sacred and valuable. From this baneful poison, engendered in the human heart, may be traced, forgeries and frauds the most extensive, calumnies the most malignant, treasons the most direful and fatal, and blasphemies the most revolting to Christian feeling ; and which aim not only to sap and undermine governments, and every social compact, but principalities and powers; and would even subvert that divine power by which the universe is upheld, and rase, were it possible, the very throne of God! And I cannot forbear to remark here, that the mere report of the dreadful blasphemies which have of late years issued from the press, makes one ready to exclaim, with the holy indignation of the prophet, “Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and that thou wouldst come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, to make thy name known to thine adversaries that the nations may tremble atithy presencera or, in the language of the psalmist,ve Cast forth thy lightnings and tear them, shoot out thine arrows and consume them!". Butz my Christian friends, it is not that we would implore the divine vengeance on such men, for thus, it is meant, it will be unto them, if they do not repent of their wickedness, and seek pardon from an insulted God. And let us pray, that the thoughts of their hearts may be changed, and that he who is slow to anger may have mercy on them. 752 · I must now endeavour to explain or affix the true meaning of St. James in saying, If any man among you seem to be religious, which is, appears to be religious, and makes that outward profession which leads us to suppose such a one to be what he professes, ---yet, if he bridleth not his tongue, he deceiveth his own heart, as well as others: his religion is vain ; and nothing worth. If it does not influence his words, if it does not teach him to regulate his conversation as becometh the gospel of Christ, it is plain and evident that his heart is neither res newed nor sanctified. And till this change takes place, in vain may we expect the fruits of holiness. This only can be effected by the grace of God, which must be sought