You must not swear falsely by My name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.
I. INTEGRITY IN DAILY TRANSACTIONS - HONESTY. "Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely" (verse 11). "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him" (verse 13; see verses 35, 36). Nothing could be more explicit than this, nothing more comprehensive in suggestion. No member of the Hebrew commonwealth could
(1) deliberately appropriate what he knew was not his own, or
(2) rob his neighbour in the act of trading, or
(3) deal falsely or unrighteously in any transaction or in any relation, without consciously breaking the Law and coming under the displeasure of Jehovah.
The words of the Law are clear and strong, going straight to the understanding and to the conscience. Every man amongst them must have known, as every one amongst us knows well, that dishonesty is sin in the sight of God.
II. INTEGRITY IN OFFICIAL DUTY - JUSTICE. (Verse 15.) It is a pitiful thought that, in every nation, justice has been open to corruption; that men placed in honourable posts in order to do justice between man and man have either sold it to the highest bidder or surrendered and betrayed it from craven fear. God's clear word condemns such rank injustice, and his high displeasure follows the perpetrator of it. He who undertakes to judge his fellows must do so in the fear of God, and if he swerves from his integrity in his public acts, he must lay his account with heaven if not with man.
III. INTEGRITY IN WORD - TRUTH. "Ye shall not lie one to another" (verse 11). This, too, is a universal sin. Some nations may be more prone to it than others, The weak and the oppressed are too ready to take refuge in it; it is the resort of the feeble and the fearful But it is also used with shameful freedom and shocking unconcern, as an instrument of gain and power. God has revealed his holy hatred of it. "Ye shall not lie." "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord;" "the Lord hateth a lying tongue" (Proverbs 12:22; Proverbs 6:17). Under the gospel of Christ, we are earnestly warned against it (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9). We are reminded that it is
(1) a wrong done to our fellow-men ("we are members," etc.), and
(2) closely associated with heather habits (the "old man," etc.); and we may remember that it is
(3) a habit most demoralizing to ourselves, as well as
(4) something which utterly separates us from our Lord, being so contrary to his Spirit and so grievous in his sight. - C.
1. An oath is a constant and serious asseveration of the truth of a thing, whereunto the Divine Majesty is called to witness.
I. WHAT PERJURY IS, AND HOW MANY WAYS IT IS COMMITTED.
Ye shall not swear by My name falsely.
I. WHAT SWEARING BY GOD'S NAME ENTAILS.
1. Acknowledgment of His Omniscience. It calls Him to witness, and imprecates Him as the avenger of falsehood.
2. Acknowledgment of His righteousness. He is to be the umpire and arbitrator. We call in as a witness to our fidelity only such a one as is himself faithful and true, and will act a right part. Such is God. Man's use of His name is an appeal to the certainty that He will judge aright.
II. WHAT PERJURY IN GOD'S NAME ENTAILS.
1. An insolent affront upon God's character. It is infamy, daring insolence, the degradation of His most holy name for unholy ends. It invokes Him to act as a witness that a lie is true. Yet He loathes falsity. It is defiant trifling, an affront to the God of truth. It "profanes His name."
2. A certain visitation of judgment. He "will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain" (Exodus 20:7). Certainly, therefore, He will punish lying and profanity. Having been called in as a witness to a lie, He will prove that He witnessed it. Thus to insult His love of truth and defy His power to vindicate it, and trail the purity of His character in the mire — before whom the very angels veil their faces as they adore Him — will ensure a just requital (Hebrews 10:30). And "there shall in no wise enter the heavenly city any who loveth and maketh a lie" (Revelation 21:27).
(W. H. Jellie.)
1. Perjury is a swearing by God's name falsely, a calling God to witness for the confirmation of a lie.
2. It is committed several ways.(1) When men do assert and testify upon oath a thing to be true which they know to be false.(2) When men do assert and testify upon oath a thing to be true of the truth of which they are not fully assured.(3) They that promise upon oath, what they intended not to perform, or are unresolved and indifferent whether they shall perform it or not. These are, ipso facto, guilty of perjury, because they swear by God's name falsely; they call God to witness and to vouch for the truth and sincerity of their promise, when the intention of their minds does not concur with the wools of their mouths.(4) They also are guilty of perjury that having promised upon oath sincerely and with an honest intention do yet afterwards fall off and renounce the obligation, do not faithfully and resolvedly endeavour and take care to fulfil their word, do act contrary to their oath when a just occasion requires and calls for the performance of their promise or sworn duty.(5) They are involved in the guilt of perjury who against, or without the consent of the Supreme Power, do frame and impose upon others, or take themselves new oaths contrary to, and destructive of, their former obligations.(6) They are guilty of perjury who make use of tricks and cheats and subtle artifices to evade and elude the obligation of their oaths, who will not understand the words of an oath in their assertions or promises, according to the plain and common acceptation of them, but by fastening a secret sense of their own upon some ambiguous terms, or by some reserves, or exceptions, or additions within their minds, do not quite alter the meaning of the words, and thereby intend neither to be obliged to speak truth nor perform their promises.
II. THE HEINOUSNESS OF THIS SIN OF PERJURY.
1. It is an affront to God, and to all those glorious attributes that shine forth and display themselves in the government of the world.
2. It is also most injurious and mischievous to man.(1) In his private capacity. Life, liberty, reputation, estate are all at the mercy of the perjurer.(2) To conversation and commerce. All our dealings, and trades, and contracts, and friendships are grounded upon and managed by the faith and assurance that we give and take of the sincerity of our minds and purposes, expressed by our words, and in great concerns confirmed by our oaths.(3) As to government and the consequents of it — peace and order, and just liberty — there is nothing but perjury can destroy it and deprive us of them. Nothing but perjury can carry on faction and begin a rebellion. Nothing but the highest profanation of God's name can ruin the monarchy.(4) Perjury is injurious to public justice.
III. THE OCCASIONS OF, OR TEMPTATIONS TO THIS SIN.
1. Atheism. A denying of God and Providence. This indeed were a rational account of, and excuse for, perjury, if atheism itself were rational. An atheist. should he swear falsely every hour, upon every occasion, would do like an atheist, and act consistently to his principles. For what should hinder him from complying with our forms and customs of calling of God to witness when it is for his advantage? He knows of no God to come at his call to look on and be a witness of his words, and the searcher of his heart. He believes no judgment to come, no future state.
2. Lying, and treachery, and customary swearing. These things do qualify and dispose a man to forswear himself upon any convenience or temptation. Because hereby men throw off that reverence and respect to religion, that fear of God's power and justice, which would restrain them.
3. To these I might add the usual occasions and common temptations to this sin. Such are poverty and necessity; covetousness, and hope of reward; also fear, whether of shame or of punishment, or of both. In some, ambition and popularity, a desire and thirst after honour and greatness. In others, or perhaps in the same, revenge and malice; or else favour, affection and partiality. Or, lastly, faction, sedition, and designs against the government. As to all of which it may be enough to remark, that when these furious passions and violent desires are able to overmaster and run down the fear of God, and the reverence of an oath in the hearts of men, then is perjury the most easy and compendious, the most secure, the most proper way to relieve their wants, or satisfy their covetous desires, or to rid them of their fears, or to gratify their ambition, or to pleasure their friends, or despatch their enemies, or to compass and complete their seditious designs.
IV. THE PUNISHMENTS OF PERJURY, and these are severe and dreadful in proportion to the guilt of this great sin. It is a good rule. Men ought to weigh well the damages and mischievous consequences of their false-witnessing and perfidiousness, not to others only, but to themselves; that if conscience and the sense of their duty cannot prevail with them, they may be restrained by the fear of suffering.
(John Allen, M. A.)
2. The use of an oath is common to God, who sweareth by Himself, having not a greater to swear by, to angels and to men.
3. Things affirmed by oath are either uncertain in themselves — as to swear touching things to come; or are certain, but seem uncertain to us, and therefore an oath is required; or they are not only certain but necessary, as are all God's promises, which depend upon His immutable word, yet in regard of our weakness are confirmed by the Lord's oath.
4. As God is the author and institutor of an oath, so His name only is to be used therein, because He alone knows the heart, is everywhere present to hear, and of omnipotent power, able to take revenge both of soul and body.
5. Three things are to be considered in a lawful oath — the necessity, the truth, and the manner.
(A Willet, . D. D.)
I. There are two lights in which an oath principally regards God, THAT OF AN OMNISCIENT WITNESS, AND THAT OF A RIGHTEOUS JUDGE. So help me God, is one of the ordinary expressions in it. So protect me from evil, or abandon me to misery, as I now use Thy name to support truth or to cover falsehood. So help in the hour of solemn devotion, when Thou hearest the prayer of the upright man, and rejectest him who has sworn deceitfully. So help me amidst the dangers and evils of life, through which I have to pass, and from which no man can deliver me. So help me in the awful hour of dissolution, when I must walk through the valley of the shadow of death, when all human help is vain, and our only hope is in God. To swear falsely is to renounce that hope, and to forfeit all title to the Divine protection.
II. Such is the nature of an oath; and from this account it will be easy to ascertain THE GUILT OF FALSE SWEARING, which was the second thing we proposed to consider. In whatever light you view perjury, whether in respect of God or man, you will find it to be a sin of the most enormous nature. Consider the impiety of it towards God, and it will appear to be the grossest indignity which man can offer to his Maker.
1. It is not a sin of ignorance or infirmity, into which he may fall through the weakness of human nature. It is a presumptuous transgression against God. The guilt of perjury is deliberate, which is one of the greatest aggravations of sin. Other sins generally proceed from a forgetfulness of God, a want of due sense of His presence; but to swear falsely by the name of God is at once to remember God and to disobey Him. Other sins are nothing more than acts of disobedience to God; but perjury is much more than disobedience, it is a direct insult offered to the Supreme Being. To call solemnly on God to witness a falsehood, in order to cover our own guilt, and to impose on the ignorance of mankind — what does it imply? It is to invoke the Supreme Being to be present at an unrighteous action; it is to summon in the Almighty to be a spectator of wickedness. Awful as this is, it is not the worst. To call on God to countenance falsehood, and to sanction a lie by His sacred name, contains a still grosser impiety, which I shudder to mention. It is an attempt to draw God Himself into sin, to make the great Creator a party in vice, to make the Holy One and the Just an accomplice in villainy.
2. The guilt of perjury farther appears from its effect on society-. It is not only an act of the grossest indignity to God, but of the greatest injury to mankind. There are some individuals who suffer by every act of false swearing. Consider what loss of property, what hurt of character, or what vexation and distress of mind it frequently brings on an innocent man. Ask the person who has suffered by perjury, and he will describe, from his feelings, what a heinous crime it is. Put yourself in his place, enter into his feelings, listen to the language of your own heart, and you will see clearly the guilt of false swearing. But the mischievous effects of perjury are not confined to the persons who more immediately suffer by it. It is of much more extensive influence; it militates against mankind in general; it is an act of treason against human society. It is an attempt to subvert the foundation of public order, and of private security. It is an attempt to defeat the last method which the wisdom of man has devised in order to maintain the peace and order of society, and to decide doubtful matters. The man who can be guilty of this sin, must be void of all reverence for his Sinker, and of all regard for the interests of his fellow creatures. He is not only a reprobate in the sight of God, but also a traitor against mankind.
III. Need I now proceed to the last head of discourse, to point out THE DANGER OF FALSE SWEARING? A vice of so uncommon a magnitude, every man's conscience must tell him, deserves to be punished both by God and man. Among all nations with which we are acquainted, false swearing has been punished as a triune which strikes at the root of society; and in many places of the world the perjurer, as well as the murderer, has been thought worthy of death. But though the perjurer should escape the scourge of the law, there is another punishment from men which generally awaits him. He forfeits his character, the most precious thing in the world, and is consigned to infamy. But what are all the punishments from men in comparison of the judgments of God, which await the perjurer? This is a degree of guilt which God will certainly punish with more than ordinary vengeance. I will come near to you in judgment, says God Himself by the prophet., and be a swift witness against the swearer. The curse, says another inspired writer, goeth over the face of the whole earth; and God shall bring it forth, and it shall enter into the house of him that sweareth falsely by the name of God, and shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and. the stones thereof. It shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it. But the external judgments of God are not the only punishment to which the perjurer becomes liable. He destroys the foundation of the peace of his own mind, and exposes himself to the greatest of all terrors, to the dread of the great Creator. But what are all the sufferings of this life in comparison to that of everlasting misery which awaits the false swearer in the life to come? With what tremblings of heart, with what confusion of face, will he appear before the Judge of all the earth, whose authority he contain, el, and whose name he prostituted? The whole scene of his iniquity will then be disclosed, in the presence of an assembled world, in the presence of Christ and the holy angels. He must then lie down in shame and everlasting contempt.
Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.I. THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE TERMS.
II. THE NATURE OF THE SEVERAL VICES INCLUDED IN THIS PROHIBITION.
1. The highest and most presumptuous degree is perjury; when a man solemnly calls God to witness to the truth of that which he either knows to be false or does not know to be true.
2. The next degree is that indecent, as well as wicked, custom of rash swearing in common conversation.(1) Of which sin the first aggravation is, that they who are guilty of it are in perpetual danger of the crime of perjury. For he who uses himself to swear habitually will never attend carefully that what he swears to be true.(2) But if the danger of perjury could certainly be avoided (as it never can be by habitual swearers), yet to call upon God perpetually as a witness to trivial matters, is manifest want of reverence and want of a just sense of God and religion. And this fault is the more inexcusable because there cannot here be pretended, as in most other vices, any natural temptation.
3. Scoffing, blaspheming, or speaking reproachfully of religion. This is what the Psalmist reckons in the highest degree of sins, where he distinguishes offenders into three several ranks (Psalm 1:1).
4. Careless and inconsiderate vows. When the matter of them is unjust, as in the case of the Corban among the Jews, who hypocritically dedicated that to the service of God and for the use of the Temple, which they ought to have employed in relieving the necessities of their destitute parents (Mark 7:2). Or when the matter of a vow is impossible or unreasonable, or the thing vowed be unprofitable and of no tendency to promote true religion, or the manner of making the vow be rash and irreligious.
5. Too frequent familiar and irreverent mention of God in ordinary conversation, without an habitual sense and just awe of Him upon our minds; men are very apt to run into some degree of the fault forbidden here.
III. THE ARGUMENT BROUGHT TO ENFORCE THE PROHIBITION. "I am the Lord." The Lord, that is, he whose sovereignty and supreme dominion or authority over us gives Him a right to demand, and whose continual mercy and goodness towards us gives Him reason to expect that we should, in an equal sense both of duty and gratitude, pay all possible obedience to Him. The Lord, who made and governs all things, whose power is irresistible, and His kingdom infinite and eternal, who will not be mocked, nor hold them guiltless that take His name in vain. Will not hold them guiltless; that is, will certainly and severely punish them.
(S. Clarke, D. D.)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.)
New Handbook of Illustration.Profanity is the tribute which the devil's servants pay to their master as token of allegiance.
(New Handbook of Illustration.)
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