ŇBut let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.Ó   Matthew 5:37


This verse containeth two parts: A rule for the framing of our speech in common talk; and a reason thereof.



The rule is this: Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; where He sheweth that though men may not swear in their common talk, yet they may use a simple affirmation or negation to the thing they speak. This rule is diversely expounded; some take it to respect the truth of our speech, as if Christ had said: Whatsoever you affirm in speaking, affirm it truly; and whatsoever you deny in speaking, deny it truly. But by the circumstances of the place, it rather seemeth that Christ here propoundeth a rule for the very form of our common talk to this effect: If you would affirm anything in your ordinary speech, let your affirmation be yea; and if you would deny anything, let your negation or denial be no, and in your ordinary communication say no more, though you be urged thereto. So must we take communication for ordinary talk; for in some cases it hath been lawful to swear, as hath been shewed.


1. First, by this rule is condemned the adding of invocations to our common affirmations or negations; as O Lord, yea; nay, good God, and such like. In some cases, and at some times these may be used; but in ordinary and familiar communication, these invocations are abuses of GodŐs name. An earthly prince will not suffer his name to be tossed in every manŐs mouth; and much less will the Lord, who herein is jealous of His glory.


2. Secondly, here note that asseverations [solemn declarations] may not be ordinarily used in common talk, as verily, yea; no in truth, and such like; these are more than simple affirmations and negations, and therefore in common speech may not be used. Our Saviour Christ, the pattern of piety, never used them but in weighty matters, which were careful to be remembered; and then He said, verily, verily, I say unto you.


3. Thirdly, here is condemned the use of execrations, when we affirm or deny a thing in our common talk; as to say, yea, or else I would I were dead, and such like.


4. Fourthly, ordinary swearing is here again plainly forbidden, whether it be by the name of God, or by any other creatures. Some to avoid swearing (as they think), in their common talk, for yea, and nay, use to say, by yea, and by no; but herein they offend; for these phrases are oaths, as well, by faith, and by troth; and in a word all speeches in common talk, added to confirm our speech above yea and nay, are abuses against this rule of Christ, for ordinary communication.




For whatsoever is more than these, that is, whatsoever exceedeth a simple affirmation or negation in common speech, comes of evil; that is, of the evil one, the devil; so (6:13), Deliver us from evil; that is, from the devil, that evil one. This is a most excellent reason to move men to put in practice this rule; for all abuses of oaths, asseverations, invocations and deprecations, in common speech, are abuses of GodŐs name, and they come from the devil; he is the schoolmaster that teacheth men to use them.


Question: Whether doth every temptation come from the devil? Answer: Every temptation to evil is of the devil; so much this text proveth, and (Matt. 4:3) the devil is called the tempter, because he gives himself to tempt men, by all means, at all times. True it is that some temptations come from our corrupt hearts, but yet the devil hath an hand in them to further them.


Question: How can this be, seeing that the devil is but one, and can be but in one place at once? Answer: There is indeed one head of wicked spirits called Beelzebub, and the devil, who hath innumerable wicked angels ministering unto him, as may be gathered (Matt. 25:41), where hell is said to be prepared for the devil and his angels; and it is not unlikely, but that they are more in number than all the men upon the earth; for where can any man be in this life, but some wicked spirit will be ready to tempt him unto sin? Doth he not provoke the filthy person to uncleanness, and every man to such sin whereunto he is most inclined? And say the evil motion ariseth from our own corruption, yet the devilŐs help is never wanting to bring it into action.


This serveth to confute the folly of our common people, who never fear the devil, but when he appears unto them in some shape; they think he is never near them, but when they see him. But they must know that the devil by his wicked spirits, is always about them day and night, and in all places; and therefore they must learn more to fear his temptations, than his appearances; for that is not so terrible to the sight, as his temptations are hurtful to the soul. Secondly, this presence of the devil with every man, to tempt him at all times, must teach us to keep strait watch against all sin, and the occasion thereof. We are easily persuaded to watch against thieves that would deprive us of our temporal goods, or natural life. Now the devil, our spiritual enemy, is daily about us, to seek the ruin of our souls, and therefore we must always have an eye to his temptations. And indeed, if we would well consider his presence, and malice against us, it would make us watch and fear, lest he should take us in his snare.


But why is the devil called the evil one? Answer: By a kind of excellency of speech, for these reasons:


First, because he is evil in excess, his sins are in the highest degree; for it is likely that his first sin was directly against the Holy Ghost, which may be one reason why God chose not angels, but men, on whom He would shew mercy after their fall. Secondly, because he commits wickedness and evil without ceasing, and therefore is compared to an hunger-bitten lion, who goeth about continually, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). The most wicked man that is, or ever was, will sometimes do good. Pharaoh humbled himself (Exod. 10:16), and confessed his sins to Moses; and Saul (1 Sam. 15:30) desires to worship God with Samuel. Herod (Mar. 6:20) also heard John Baptist gladly, and did many things according to his ministry. But the devil here differs from all wicked men, in that he doth practice nothing but wickedness; he is always murdering, and never ceaseth to seek menŐs destruction. Thirdly, because he practiseth sins of all sorts and degrees, in himself and by his ministers; for the sins that be in the world, be all from him, either originally or by furtherance. The vilest man that is, doth abstain from sin sometimes; yea, by nature he hateth some sins; the proud and prodigal man cannot abide covetousness; and the drunkard may abhor idolatry; but the devil continually practiseth sins of all sorts; and therefore is justly called the evil one.


Here then we may see a reason why we are called the children of wrath, and of the devil by nature; namely, because by nature we carry in us, and about us, as lively an image of the devil in sin, as any child doth of his natural father. For first, in our conception we are guilty of AdamŐs sin, in eating the forbidden fruit. Secondly, our nature is stained with original sin, which is (not a practice, but) a proneness to all manner of mischief and wickedness that is committed in the world. Seest thou a man kill his father or mother, or betray his master, as Judas did to Christ, though it may be thou abhorrest such sins, yet doubtless the seed thereof is in thee. Yea, if God in mercy did not keep us from it, our corruption would carry us to the blasphemy against the Spirit. And thirdly, from this natural corruption, do arise innumerable evil thoughts, words and deeds, in the course of our lives, in all which we bear the image of the devil, till God bring us to repentance; and therefore justly may we be called the children of wrath, and of the devil by nature, having the same corruption in us that is in the devil, though not in the same degree and manner.


Hence we learn, first, to be ashamed and confounded in ourselves, yea, to hang down our heads; for what cause hath he to be puffed up with self-love, that is by nature in himself like unto the devil? Secondly, this teacheth us above all things, to labour to have the image of God renewed in us, in righteousness and true holiness, which was lost in Adam, that so the devilŐs image, in sin and wickedness, may be defaced. Thirdly, this must cause us to make no account of any worldly thing that pertains to us; but all our joy must be in Christ; He must be our wisdom and righteousness, our riches, and all things else, because by Him we are renewed from the devilŐs likeness to the image of God.