And you shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
I. AN OATH IS AN APPEAL TO THE SUPREME BEING, as Judge of the truth of what we assert, whose omniscience knows the secrets of our hearts, knows whether what we declare be correspondent or not to the conviction of our minds, and whose justice will accordingly either favour or be avenged of us; it is the submitting to God, the invisible Judge, and imploring His protection, or imprecating His vengeance, according to the truth or falsehood of what we affirm.
II. Let us next observe WHAT IT IS TO PROFANE THE NAME OF GOD.
1. This is done when we use it without due consideration and reverence, or when we use it in an unlawful action. We are directed to sanctify the Lord our God, i.e., to form such holy conceptions of His great and adorable nature as may lead us to a suitable return of reverential homage. And yet how common is it, on the most slight and unimportant occasions, to hear men utter inconsiderately the name of God when neither the subject of their thoughts is so weighty, nor the temper of their minds so serious, as to justify the use of it.
2. But further, the name of God is in a peculiar manner profaned when we invoke His presence to an unlawful action, and summon Him, as it were, to be a spectator of our guilt. This is a sin of more than common magnitude; it is an open defiance to the power and justice of the Almighty, and an insult on almost all the perfections of the Divine nature.
III. I PROCEED TO OFFER SOME CONSIDERATIONS ON THE GUILT OF HABITUALLY PROFANING THE NAME OF GOD IN CONVERSATION. No one instructed in the first rudiments of religion can be ignorant .of the flagitious nature of this sin (Exodus 20:7). In the New Testament our Saviour says, "Swear not at all." And by the vehemence expressed by St. James we may reasonably judge that he considered this sin of habitually profaning the name of God as a sin of no small weight. "Above all things, my brethren," says he, "swear not." But why "above all things," if not because it is a sin in a peculiar manner hateful and offensive in the sight of God? The passionate man may plead the fire of a warm disposition; the gloomy sullenness of the morose may urge the power of an unhappy complexion; but the profaner of the name of God has no such plea. Common reason teaches us to reverence the majesty of the Supreme Being; and no corruption of our nature tempts us to profane that name which we all know it is our duty to adore. But further, besides the guilt of this practice in itself, it unhappily leads to a sin of a still more enormous magnitude — to that of perjury. This should incline all to contribute their endeavours by advice, by example, by reproof, or any other method, to suppress the common practice of profaning the name of God; since the pernicious sin of perjury, by which the character, property, or life of any person whatever may be endangered — a sin which has a tendency to destroy all mutual confidence, and to subvert all civil society — is in a great degree owing to it. I shall conclude with some short admonitions, in order to prevent the growth or continuance of this sin.
1. He who would avoid the habit or custom must beware of the first step or tendency to it. It is a maxim in spiritual as well as bodily disorders, to check the first appearance of a disease, lest it should grow inveterate, and at length incurable. And, therefore, we should do well to avoid all vehemence of assertion, all violence of passion, as dangerous approaches to this sin.
2. We may observe the danger of yielding to the first impulses of passion, since even an apostle, in a short space of time, was led on from a bare denial to bitter and violent imprecations. When the mind is hurried on by the impetuosity of violent passion, oaths are often found the readiest way to discharge the heat of resentment; and the mind, not under the conduct of reason, vents a sinful passion by a more sinful execration.
3. Let us possess our minds with the most respectful and awful sentiments of the greatness and goodness and majesty of the Supreme Being. This is the most rational and effectual means to prevent us from prostituting and profaning His sacred name. Let us ever preserve an awful and reverential regard for the majesty of Heaven; let us not speak or think of God but with veneration; let the words of our mouth, as well as the meditations of our heart, be ever acceptable in His sight; let us ever consult His honour, and "Hallowed be His name."
(G. Carr, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.