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they are angry, or whether they are merry, you can hardly pass by a knot of half a dozen Englishmen, let them be doing what they may, without having your ears wounded by some vain and wicked oath or curse. But why do I say a knot of Englishmen? when you all know that a man does not need company to swear in. Wherever there is a mouth to swear with, you are but too likely to hear swearing. A man will swear at a horse, at a dog, at a bat, at a spade: for everything, and for nothing, many an Englishman will swear. Now is not this strange? May I not call it strange? Does it not seem strange to you, my brethren, in your cooler moments, that among Christians, among a people who know that God himself has forbidden them to swear,-among a people who call themselves Christians, and would be very angry if I told them they were not Christians, is it not passing strange that among such a people, who have been taught by Christ and his apostles to pray always and to swear never,—there should be so little praying and so much swearing? Truly an Indian, on first coming amongst us, might be led to fancy us the godliest people in the world, from hearing the sacred names of God and Christ at every corner of every street. He might say to himself, "What a holy, what a pious people this must
be! Every third man I fall in with is praying." But when he had been a while longer in the country, and had grown better used to our customs, and had found out that this pray. ing, as he fancied it,-this invoking and uttering and repeating of the most sacred names on every occasion, was all swearing, what would he think of us then? Would he not begin to think us most daringly impious and profane? profane, for using the most sacred words in such a light and careless manner; daringly impious, for calling the allpowerful Ruler of the universe to look down from his throne above the heavens, to witness what? a petty dispute. . a trifling accident.. a jest. Truly these are things well worthy the notice of the King of heaven, that we should call on him by name to look down from his throne of glory and behold them.
I am well aware, that many a man has gone on swearing year after year, without ever thinking seriously about the matter. He may have fallen into the habit when he was very young: perhaps he may have caught it from his father: or he may have learnt it at school, or when at work with other lads older and wickeder than himself: hearing them swear, he may have thought it a fine manly thing to do so too: and thus in course of time the trick of swearing may have grown upon
him, until he hardly knows when he is guilty of it. But whether we know it, or whether we know it not, whether we do it thinkingly or thoughtlessly, a sin it is most assuredly and most clearly: for it is a plain breach of one of God's commandments. Nor do I know, when a man is called to account for this his sin at the bar of God's judgement-seat, that he will much mend the matter by pleading, that he had been guilty of it so often, at last it became a second nature to him, and he got to swear ever and anon without so much as intending it. For God perhaps may ask him in return, "How camest thou by that nature ?" What will the swearer answer to such a question? He cannot say, that God gave him this nature. He cannot say, that his tongue was made to curse and swear, rather than to bless and pray. He cannot even say, that he did not know better. For every one knows that swearing is wrong. What answer then can the swearer make to God's just and searching question, "How camest thou by that nature?" He must remain speechless, like the man who came to the marriage-feast without having on a wedding garment. You all know the sentence which was pronounced against him: "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness."
But though every man must know swearing to
be wrong, many, I would fain hope, can never have thought of it as an open breach of God's commandments: many, I would fain hope, if they did so think, would not be guilty of it. They swear, as I said just now, from habit; and unluckily no habit is formed more easily, none, when formed, is harder to break. Therefore let me beg those, who have not yet fallen into this most foolish and sinful habit,-let me entreat all those, whose consciences are not yet so hardened and blunted, that they can take the names of their God and Saviour into their mouths without knowing it, -let me beg and entreat all such persons to beware how they entangle themselves in a besetting sin, from which, if they once fall into it, they may never be able to get free again. You are still safe, I would say to all such, if you will only keep so. Your hearts are still soft: why harden them? Why run with your eyes open into the devil's snare? Why find a pleasure, against nature and against grace, in learning to break one of God's commandments, and to take his holy name in vain ? Let me entreat all parents too, who value the salvation of their children, to check the first beginnings of this evil practice in them. Stop them at the first profane word. Shew them how foolish, how unmeaning, how sinful it is. Should they fancy it manly, teach them what true manliness is, that
there is no manliness in doing wrong, but in doing right,—that the truly manly part is not to follow others in their evil ways, but to act up to what we know to be our duty, not suffering ourselves to be blown out of the straight path by the gust of evil example, but keeping our footing and our course right onward, as we may do in spite of all the evil example in the world, if we will only pray to God for his help. In his might we may all be made strong enough to stand the buffet of a real teinptation, much more to keep our ground against a sin, which we can neither plead any inclination to, nor excuse by any natural infirmity, a sin therefore easily checked, if we are only watchful to stop it at the outset.
To those who have already formed the habit of swearing, to those who are already in the snare, and feel the weight of evil custom clinging to their tongue,-what shall I say to them? I will say to them, Your sin, I would hope, began in carelessness: try if you cannot cure it by becoming watchful. In all your prayers make it a special petition that the Lord will put a watch before your mouth, and will keep the door of your lips. I do not say that even by this means a deeply-rooted habit can be weeded out in a few weeks. Look at a field which has been long neglected. You all know how very difficult it is to get