Against the sin of saying “I swear to God” and other such uses of God’s name in vain or falsely

November 28, 2021 • 3 min

From The Sinner’s Guide, page 374
By Venerable Louis of Granada

CHAPTER XXXVII.

OTHER SINS TO BE AVOIDED.

Section I.

On taking the Name of God in Vain.

Besides the seven capital sins of which we have been treating there are others which a good Christian should avoid with equal diligence.

The first is taking God’s name in vain. This sin directly attacks the majesty of God and is more grievous than any of which we could be guilty against our neighbor.

And this is true not only when we swear by God’s holy name, but when we swear by the cross, by the Saints, or by our own salvation. Any of these oaths, if taken falsely, is a mortal sin. Holy Scripture frequently speaks of the heinousness of such offences against God.

It is true that if one swear inadvertently to what is false the offence is not a mortal sin, which requires the full knowledge of the intellect and the full assent of the will.

But this restriction does not apply to those who have a habit of confirming their statements by careless oaths without making any effort to correct themselves. Those who swear in this way, without weighing the import of their words, are culpable for this very negligence.

Nor will it avail them to urge that the intention of swearing to what is false was farthest from their thoughts. They persevere in a bad habit without any attempt to overcome it, and therefore they must bear its consequences.

A Christian, if he would not constantly expose himself to the guilt of mortal sin, should earnestly endeavor to conquer a habit so pernicious.

To this end let him follow the counsel given us by our Saviour, and which St. James repeats in these words: “Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath. But let your speech be, Yea, yea; No, no; that you fall not under judgment.” [St. James v. 12.]

By these words we are taught the danger of contracting a habit of careless swearing which may eventually, lead us to swear falsely, and so fall under the sentence of eternal death.

Swearing in “truth, judgment, and justice,” [Jer. iv. 2.] as the prophet declares, is the only swearing that is justifiable. That is, we should swear only to what is true in a just cause, and with deliberation.

But we should not be satisfied with merely shunning the vice of taking God’s name in vain; we should excite a horror of it in our children and servants, and reprove it whenever we encounter it.

If at times we inadvertently fall into it, we should impose upon ourselves some penance of a prayer, or an alms, not only to punish ourselves, but to impress on our minds the determination of avoiding it in the future.

All that has been said applies especially to blasphemy and perjury. Beware also of that vice known as cursing.

The Name at whose mention “every knee in Heaven, on earth, and in hell should bow down” [Phil. ii. 10.] in reverence should be used only with devotion and affection.

Strive, therefore, to speak with piety of the holy Name of God, and do what you can by your prayers, your exhortations, and your example to banish the terrible evil of which we have been speaking.

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