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way of Affirmation or Negation, without backing it with any thing like an Oath.
And this would lead me to the last thing in the Words, Our Saviour's Direction, (for avoiding of common Swearing) to the Veracity and Simplicity of Discourse. But this, for want of time, I must refer to another Opportunity.
Now to God the Father, Son, and Holy Gbost, be all Praise, &c.
37. But let your Communication be yea, yea; nay, nay;
for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of Evil.
The Fourth Sermon on this Text.
AVING, in some former Discourses on
our Saviour's Explication of the Third Commandment, observed both what was good and commendable, and what was faulty and defective in the Doctrine of the Jewish Teachers upon this Commandment; I came at last to our Saviour's Improvements upon it, of which I took Notice of these Four,
I. That he condemns all rafh customary Swearing in Conversation.
IĮ. That he disallows of all swearing by the Creatures,
III. That he Afferts the Obligation of several Oaths which they made void and elusory.
IV. That he enjoins such a Simplicity and Veracity in Conversation, that we may be trusted upon our Word without an Oath.
Now having spoke to the Three first of these, I come now to the Fourth and Last, our Saviour's
Doctrine concerning the Simplicity and Veracity we are to use in Conversation, from these Words which I have read; But let your Communication be
yea, yea ; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than thejë, cometh of evil. In which Words we have, 1. First a Precept; but let
Communication be yea, yea; nay, nay.
2. Secondly, The Reason of this Precept; For whatsoever is more than thesè, cometh of evil.
I. I begin with the Precept, in which, for finding out the Meaning of it, we must enquire what is to be understood by the Word Communi, cation, and then what by its being yea, yea; nay, nay.
1. As to the Word Communication, it is in the Original nógos, Speech, or Discourse,
2. And as to its being, yea, yea; nay, nay; there are two things which I take to be meant by that; first, as to the Form of our Speech, that it should be plain and simple, not involved in Equivocation, not stuffed with Compliments, or interlarded with Oaths; but by bare Affirmations or Negations expressing our Mind. Secondly, as to the Matter, that our Speech be True and Sincere, not flattering, false, dissembling, or inconstant, but that we be Men of our Word; which will lo establish our Reputation, that there will be no need of backing our Words with Oaths,
From the Words of the Precept then, thus explained, there are these Three Things worthy of our Observation.
1. That our Saviour's Doctrine about Oaths is to be restrained to Speech or Discourse, and not
be extended, as the Quakers and Anabaptists do, to the whole Life and Conversation.
2. That it is our Duty to use a Simplicity in Discourse, by plain Affirmation or Negation.
3. That it is our Duty to be True and Sincere in our Speech and Discourse ; contrary to Flattery, Falíhood, Inconstancy, and all other Species of Infincerity.
I. That our Saviour's Doctrine about Oaths, is to be restrained to Speech or Discourse, and not to be extended to the whole Life and Conversation; for which I will offer briefly these two or three Reasons. 1. That the Original Word ayos, fignifies Speech, but never the Life and Conversation. 2. That there are several Sentences and Precepts in Scripture, which, taken alone, are manifestly too general, and must be limited by the Antithesis or opposite Sentence which follows. I will give you an Instance or two of this for your clearer understanding it. Solomon says, Prov. xv. 15. All the Days of the Aflisted are Evil. To take this Sentence alone, it is a very strange Doctrine; and seems utterly Inconsistent with one of our Saviour's Precepts, where he commands us to rejoice and be exceeding glad, when we are perfecuted for Righteousness fake: But the following Antithesis clears the whole Matter, which is in these Words ; But be that is of a inerry Heart hath a continual Feast. By which we understand, that by the Aflicted in the former part of the Sentence, is to be meant only the Melancholy, Dejected, Heart-broken Person, of whom it is certainly true, that he has never a good Day; for he it is who is the opposite to him that is of a merry Heart : So when our Saviour fays, Lay
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not up for your selves Treasures upon Earth, Matt. vi. 19. This would be very strange Doctrine, that Parents are not to lay any Thing up for their Children; that in a Year of Plenty we may not lay up for a Year of Scarcity; or that in those Callings which require great Stocks to manage them, Men may not lay in such Stocks. But the following Antithesis clears the whole Thing; But lay up for your selves Treasures in Heaven; from which we understand, that the preceding Prohibition relates only to such a laying up of Treasure upon Earth, as withdraws our Hearts from Heaven. So when our Saviour says, Joh. vi, 27. Labour not for the Meat which perisheth; This would be a strange Precept, as if we were forbid Diligence in a lawful Calling ; but the following Antithesis explains it, but Labour for that Meat which endureth to everlasting Life ; for this thews us, that the Meaning of the Precept, is only that the Labour forbid, is such a Labour as hinders our Labouring for Heaven. So here, to look on the first Part of the Discourse, one would think all Oaths whatsoever are forbid, till we come to what our Saviour fets in Opposition to it; but let your Speech or Communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; which shews us that his Intent was only to banish the common Oaths which Men bring in, in their ordinary Speech one with another : Oaths being to be reserved for graver Purposes, than our common Talk and Discourse. 3. And that this must be the Sense, and not a total Prohibition of all Oaths, appears from several other Passages of Scripture, where they are Honourably spoke of, and made a Part of the Honour peculiarly due to Almighty God. But having spoke to this at the