Taken and adapted from, “THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF THE REV. MATTHEW HENRY” Volume I
Published in 1833.
Cursing is near akin to profane swearing…
...and it is the common companion of it, and is another of the exorbitances of an ungoverned tongue. Cursing is wishing evil to ourselves or others, absolutely or conditionally; a sin exceeding sinful; as great an instance of the corruption and degeneracy of the human nature, and as sure an evidence of the reigning power of Satan in the soul, as any other whatsoever. Nothing is more naturally the language of hell than this. To show you the evil of it, I will only recommend two things to your thoughts:
1 Consider, what a brutish piece of madness it is to curse yourselves.
If you do it absolutely, it is of the same nature with self-murder; wishing harm to yourselves is in effect doing it; and is a breach of one of the first and great laws of nature, that of self-preservation. If you do it conditionally, it is of the same nature with profane swearing, and incurs the same guilt, with this additional stain, that it is not only a mocking of God’s government, by a ludicrous appeal to him, but a defying of his judgment, a challenge to the Almighty to do his worst.
O the daring presumption of these sinners, sinners against their own heads, their own souls! The devils begged of our Savior, whose power they were not ignorant of, not to torment them before the time; but these presumptuous wretches, as if they thought their judgment lingered, and their damnation slumbered too long, pull vengeance down upon their own heads, and pray to God to damn them; and they need not fear but they shall be heard, for so shall their doom be, themselves have decided it. They challenge the devil to take them, and he is ready enough to seize his prey. But, shall I ask you, are the arrests of devils, and the flames of hell, such delectable things that you should court them? Or are they only the creatures of fancy and imagination, that you should make so light of them? Be not deceived, God’s judgment is not a jest, nor hell a sham; if you persist in this impious contempt of divine revelation, you will feel too late what you would not believe in time.
If you have no regard to God, nor any concern for his honor, yet have you no good-will to yourselves, nor any love to your own souls? Is it not enough that you are doing that every day which deserves damnation, but will you be solicitous to demand sentence against yourselves? It is but a moderate curse with you to wish yourselves hanged, yet, I have read of a person of quality in our own nation, who, coming to die upon the gallows for murder, publicly reflected upon it with bitter regret, that he had accustomed himself to that wicked imprecation, “and now,” says he, “I see the Lord is righteous.”
But as if this were a small matter, you challenge God to damn you, and the devil to take you: and what if God should say “Amen” to the next curse, and immediately order death to fetch you, and hell to receive you? What if the devils should be ready at the next call, and take you presently? And can thine heart endure, or your hands be strong, when God shall deal with you? Art you able to dwell with devouring fire, and to inhabit everlasting burnings? Do you know the power of God’s anger? Is your eternal salvation of such small account with you, that you are willing to pawn it upon every trifling occasion, and to imprecate the loss of it, if such or such a thing be not so, which it is very possible may prove otherwise? How dare you thus provoke the Lord to jealousy, whilst you can not pretend to be stronger than he? 1 Cor. 10:22. Woe unto you that thus desire the day of the Lord! You know not what you do, for the day of the Lord, whatever it is to others, will be to you darkness, and not light, Amos 5: 18.
2 Consider what diabolical malice it is to curse others.
It is the highest degree of hatred, nor can anything be more contrary than this to the royal law of love and charity. He who prays to God to damn his neighbor, plainly intimates that he would do it himself if he could; and if he who hates his brother is a murderer, surely he who thus curses him is the worst of murderers, he is Abaddon—a destroyer.
That tongue is doubtless set on fire of hell, which is for sending everybody thither at a word, and which, by cursing men who are made after the similitude of God, would set on fire the whole course of nature, and is an advocate for the devil, that roaring lion which seeks to devour precious souls, James 3:6, 9.
Must the righteous God be summoned to execute your angry resentments, and called upon to destroy those whom he sent his own Son into the world to save, and to whom he is waiting to be gracious? Because you are out of humor, must all about you be sunk and ruined presently? As a madman in his frenzy throws about him firebrands, arrows, and death, so is he who curses his neighbor; nay, perhaps his wife, his child, his friend; and says, “Am not I in passion?” or, “Am not I in sport?” have you no other way of signifying your displeasure (if it be just) but by the imprecation of evil, the worst of evils, which bear no proportion at all to the offence given?
Put this case close to your own heart. When you wish your child, or servant, or neighbor hanged, confounded or damned, or sent to the devil, either you mean as you say, or not. If you do not wish it, (as I charitably hope you do not,) you are guilty of a manifest falsehood, and must own yourself a liar: if you do really wish it, (and what wickedness is it that will not enter into the heart of a furious man?) you cannot but acknowledge your self-guilty of the most barbarous and inhuman malice imaginable. So that every curse proves you a willful transgressor, either of the law of truth, or of the law of love, two as sacred laws, and which have as much of the image of the law-maker, as any mankind is bound by.
Consider further, that the curses you are so liberal of will not hurt those against whom they are levelled; you do but show your ill-will; for as the bird by wandering, and the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come, Prov. 26: 2. But they will certainly return upon your own head, to your confusion, As he loved cursing so let it come unto him: —into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones, Ps. 109:17, 18. They who are called to inherit the blessing, are commanded to bless and not to curse, Rom. 12:14. Believe it, sirs, curses are edge-tools, which it is dangerous playing with.
In your furious and outrageous cursing of the brute creatures, or that which is inanimate and in capable of the harm you wish it, what is wanting in malice is made up in folly and absurdity; like that which the apostle calls the madness of Balaam, when he wished he had his sword to kill his own ass with. By such silly nonsensical curses as you sometimes throw about in your passion, ‘you make it to appear, that with your religion you put off common sense.
You are men, you are rational creatures; speak with reason then, and act with reason, and be you not as the horse and the mule, that have no understanding; as natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed.