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hearkening to the fancies of others, that it is this only which they can like or savor, which they can endure to think or talk of. It is a great pity, that men who would seem to have so much wit, should so little undertand themselves. But farther,
6. Vain-glorious ostentation this way is very blameable. All ambition, all vanity, all conceitedness, on whatever ground they are founded, are absolutely unreasonable and silly but yet those, being grounded on some real ability, or some useful skill, are wise and manly in comparison to this, which standeth on a foundation so manifestly slight and weak. The old philosophers by a severe father were called animalia gloriæ, 'animals of glory;' and by a satirical poet they were termed 'bladders of vanity:' but they at least did catch at praise from praiseworthy knowlege; they were puffed up with a wind which blowed some good to mankind; they sought glory from that which deserved glory, if they had not sought it; it was a substantial and solid credit which they did affect, resulting from successful enterprises of strong reason and stout industry: but these animalcula gloriæ, these flies, these insects of glory, these, not bladders, but bubbles of vanity, would be admired and praised for that which is nowise admirable or laudable; for the casual hits and emergencies of roving fancy; for stumbling on an odd conceit or phrase, which signifieth nothing, and is as superficial as the smile, as hollow as'the noise it causeth. Nothing certainly in nature is more ridiculous than a self-conceited wit, who deemeth himself somebody, and greatly pretendeth to commendation from so pitiful and worthless a thing as a knack of trifling.
7. Lastly, it is our duty never so far to engage ourselves in this way, as thereby to lose or to impair that habitual seriousness, modesty, and sobriety of mind, that steady composedness, gravity and constancy of demeanour, which become Christians. We should continually keep our minds intent on our high calling,' and grand interest; ever well tuned, and ready for the performance of holy devotions, and the practice of most serious duties with earnest attention and fervent affection: wherefore we should never suffer them to be dissolved into levity, or disordered into a wanton frame, indisposing us for * Tertul.
religious thoughts and actions. We ought always in our beha. vior to maintain not only rò pérov, a fitting decency, but also rò seμvòv, a stately gravity, a kind of venerable majesty, suitable to that high rank which we bear of God's friends and children; adorning our holy profession, and guarding us from all impressions of sinful vanity. Wherefore we should not let ourselves be transported into any excessive pitch of lightness, inconsistent with, or prejudicial to, our Christian state and business. Gravity and modesty are the fences of piety, which being once slighted, sin will easily attempt and encroach on us. So the old Spanish gentleman may be interpreted to have been wise, who, when his son on a voyage to the Indies took his leave of him, gave him this odd advice; My son, in the first place keep thy gravity, in the next place fear God' intimating that a man must first be serious before he can be pious.
To conclude, as we need not be demure, so must we not be impudent; as we should not be sour, so ought we not to be fond; as we may be free, so we should not be vain; as we may well stoop to friendly complaisance, so we should take heed of falling into contemptible levity. If without wronging others, or derogating from ourselves, we can be facetious; if we can use our wits in jesting innocently and conveniently; we may sometimes do it: but let us, in compliance with St. Paul's direction, beware of foolish talking and jesting, which are
Now the God of grace and peace make us perfect in every good work to do his will, working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.' Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XV.
JAMES, CHAP. V.-VERSE 12.
ST. JAMES does not in this text mean universally to interdict the use of oaths, which are in some cases lawful and expedient, nay even connected with our duty; but that swearing which our Lord expressly prohibited to his disciples, which is, needless and heedless swearing in ordinary conversation; a practice then frequent both among Jews and Gentiles, and which, to the shame of the present age, is in fashion also among Christians. From such a practice the Apostle dehorts us in terms denoting his great anxiety, and implying the matter to be of the highest importance. Some considerations on this head proposed to us.
I. The nature of an oath, and what we do when we venture to swear. It is, as expressed in the Decalogue, an assuming the name of our God, to countenance and confirm what we say. It is an invocation of God as a faithful witness of the truth of our words or the sincerity of our meaning. It is an appeal to him as an upright judge. It is a formal engagement of him to be the avenger of the violation of our oath. It is a binding of our souls solemnly to answer before God, and to undergo the issue of his judgment about what we affirm or undertake.
Hence we may collect that swearing requires great modesty and composedness of spirit; very serious consideration, that we be not rude with God, in taking up his name and prostituting it to vile or mean uses; that we do not abuse or debase his authority, &c. for we should reflect and consider what a presumption it is, without due regard and reverence to lay hold on
God's name; how grievously indecent it is at every turn to summon our Maker to second our giddy passions; what a wildness it is to dally with that judgment on which the eternal doom of all creatures depends; how prodigious a madness it is, without any constraint or needful cause to incur so horrible a danger, and to defy that vengeance which can thrust us down to endless woe. Even a heathen philosopher, considering the nature of an oath, did conclude the unlawfulness of it on slight occasions.
II. We may consider that swearing, agreeably to its nature and tendency, is represented in holy Scripture as a special part of religious worship; in the due performance of which we avow God for the governor of the world, piously acknowleging his principal attributes and special prerogatives: it also intimates a pious trust and confidence in him. God in goodness to such ends has pleased to lend us his great name; and in many exigences he exacts this practice from us, as an instance of our religious confidence in him, and as a service conducive to his glory this therefore, like all other acts of devotion, should never be performed without serious consideration and lowly reverence. If we do presume to offer this service, we should do it in the manner appointed by God himself; the cause of it must be very needful or expedient, the design honest and useful; otherwise we desecrate swearing, and are guilty of profaning a most sacred ordinance.
III. We may consider that the swearing prohibited is very noxious to human society.
The great prop of society is conscience, or a sense of duty towards God, obliging us to perform what is right and equal, quickened by hope of rewards and fear of punishments from him; without which principle no worldly consideration can hold men fast. Instances given in which, for the public interest, it is requisite that the highest obligations possible should be laid on the consciences of men and such are those of oaths.
To these purposes therefore they have ever been applied; by them nations have ratified leagues, princes have bound their subjects to obedience, and generals have engaged their soldiers to bear hardships and dangers; by them the nuptial league has been confirmed, and on them the decision of the most important causes has depended. The best men could scarcely ever trust the best without this obligation. Instances quoted from Scripture these declare that there is no security which men can yield comparable to that of an oath; wherefore human society will be extremely wronged by dissolving or slackening these most sacred bonds of conscience, and consequently by their common and careless use: for the detriments accruing to the public from this abuse every vain swearer is responsible; nor will he ever be able to make reparation for them.
IV. Let us consider that rash and vain swearing is very apt to bring the practiser of it into the most horrible sin of perjury. He that swears at random, as passion moves or fancy prompts, or the tempter suggests, will often assert that which is false, or promise that which is impossible.
V. Such swearing commonly will induce a man to bind himself by oath to unlawful practices: instances of Saul and Herod.
VI. It will also frequently engage a man in undertakings very inconvenient and detrimental to himself; for a man is bound to perform his vows to the Lord, whatever damage they may cause to himself, if they be not unlawful: this confirmed by Scripture.
VII. Swearing is a sin of all others peculiarly clamorous, and provocative of divine judgment. God is bound in honor to vindicate his name from the abuse, his authority from the contempt, his holy ordinance from the profanation which it
VIII. Passing over the special laws against it, the mischievous consequences of it, and the sore punishments ap