Images de page

I make this distinction because it nities; which inference will be found appears to be employed by the most conformable with the fictitious relarespectable authorities on the subject, tions of the ancient classic poets. who have usually classified oaths un- In our own and other Christian der the heads of assertory and pro- countries, we are supposed in the missory; and this distinction may be act of swearing to call upon the considered logically requisite in the dis- living and true God to visit us herecussion of the question of their utility. after

with eternal punishment in the Mankind, however scepticism may event of violating the promise conseek to avert the thought, possess nected with the oath. Whatever be instinctively a sense or feeling of the form of administration the obliaccountability to a Supreme Being. gation to perform the stipulation is The Divinity is by Christians recog- the same, and on every conscientious nized as revealed in the inspired mind will exert its due influence; Scriptures, which exhibit to us the but I undertake to shew that

every only true God, and Jesus Christ conscientious man will regard his whom he hath sent; yet the Mus- word unsworn equally with his selman in his Ali, the Negro in oath. Whether his religious notions his Obi, the Persians, the Chinese, bind him to the doctrines and acand other eastern countries, in the knowledgment of the hierarchy of several absurdities of their supersti- our established church, or induce tion, exhibit a belief in a superior him to attach himself to the inpower, or powers, to whom they terests of any peculiar sect of relimake the last act of forcible appeal gionists; if he be sincere and confor their veracity. The inhabitants sistent in what he professes, he will of barbarous countries, in dark ages, respect his promise or assertion, prowere accustomed to swear by their vided the tenets of his religion inleader's sword; and the cause seems culcate upon him the necessity of easily assignable, for the people— preserving and observing mutual truth especially those settled down in between man and man. mountainous districts—were associ- In regard to the origin of oaths, ated together under petty chieftains, I agree with Mr. Jeremy Bentham, to whom they shewed every mark of that it must be sought

in the nereverence and attachment founded cessity or convenience, or both, of upon gratitude and policy; gratitude gaining some hold over the minds of for their individual protection, and men in barbarous ages * ;” and that policy from an expectancy of liberal participation in the spoil when suc

* We must interpose a word with our

correspondent. We feel with him so cessful, in case of strict fidelity to

forcibly the moral guilt and inutility, nay, the common cause, and from a fear often the profaneness, of some of the mulof the sanguinary power exerted by tiplied oaths used in this country, and are the chiefs in their respective lands,

so anxious that no trifling or unnecessary

appeal to the Divine Majesty should be and the vengeance of them all com

exacted, that we would not decline inbined in case of infraction of that serting a paper sincerely directed to this fidelity. The Greeks and Romans important object, because it went beyond were addicted to Polytheism, and by

our own ideas, and required, in our opi

nion, and probably might receive by some one or more of their idols they were

of our correspondents, considerable modi. accustomed to swear: to some,

how- fications and exceptions ; but we cannot ever, of them were assigned a greater admit without a disclaimer, a citation power and influence in the councils from Mr. Bentham on the origin of oaths,

which of the gods than to others, whence revealed word of God. Our correspondent,

appears to us at variance with the is deducible the inference, that, ac- in quoting Mr. Bentham, cannot surely cording to the gravity of the matter be aware that that avowedly infidel writer which was the occasion of the requi- under the name of " priesteraft," and the

would include the Mosaic institutions sition of the oath, they swore by the

legislation of " barbarous ages ;” and greater or lesser of these false divi. that one of his chief notions of the im

" in the hands of the priesthood they The most conspicuous occasion in served, not only the purpose of brid- the chronology of the last year was ling anarchy, but despotism.” These the coronation of his Majesty William assigned causes of their origin have the Fourth. In that ceremony was long since died away; for happily observed the oath by his Majesty on despotism, with her iron rod of ty. the one hand, and the oath of alleranny, no longer exerts her sway in giance by the peers and people on this our highly favoured land; nor the other. The kingly power of are we in much danger of priestcraft these realms is never to be consior superstition. Is it then to be said dered extinct; the breath and will that those systems which in the of the king, passing from the body of middle and darker ages might have the expiring monarch, are supposed had their due weight and uses should figuratively to be re-embodied in not now undergo revision --should the person of his successor; hence not in the nineteenth century be the axiom, that the king never done away; when the changes of dies." Now,


this common each succeeding æra have rendered saying may be shewn the inutility them useless--nay, sometimes worse of the coronation oath; for, as than useless ? Is there to be no the successor to the throne becomes accommodation of systems and prin- upon this principle king, without ciples to improved circumstances and passing through the ceremony of the times ? and why should veneration coronation ; so also upon the same for the antiquity of a custom blind principle must he succeed to the us against its present evil conse- throne, upon the terms under which quences ? for in this matter there is it was held by his predecessor; and incurred an absolute amount of moral the assumption of the regal authoguilt, if the continuance of the sys- rity imposes upon him, and in fact tem is not now of any real practical constitutes, a virtual obligation on utility or necessity. In order to his part to perform all the duties shew

that the system is unnecessary, attached to the crown, as well as to I shall just lay before your readers ratify all the promises which were the prominent features of some of the grounds of its being conferred the oaths now most commonly in use, on his predecessor, and for which it in order to ascertain how far the was by him virtually held.

By the object involved in them can be

same constructive mode of reasoning otherwise provided for.

are the people bound to pay alle

giance to their monarch, even before proved state of modern times is, that the sanctions of the Bible are less employed they have themselves by their

reprethan formerly in matters of national le- sentatives engaged so to do; othergislation. But there is no need to take wise, at the period of the decease of Mr. Bentham's ground, in order to shew every monarch, there would be an that the great majority of oaths are unnecessary, and ought to be abolished: it is interregnum of all social and good evinced by the writings of many Chris- order; and there would occur tian writers, who have argued and proved interstice in the harmony of national the point on truly Christian grounds ; to government, which could not for a say nothing of Quaker writers, who set them aside altogether Election oaths,

moment be admitted. state oaths, commercial oaths, academical then, without being installed upon oaths, and even coronation oaths, have the throne in the pomp of coronabeen argued to be all unnecessary by many tion ceremony, without having had authors, who by no means viewed them the oath immediately administered as mere relics of barbarism or paganism. Whether coronation oaths, for example, to him, cannot be considered as exare now necessary may be a proper ques- empt from it; nor can he, with a right tion for discussion : but to speak of them view of the relative duties of himself as only a barbarous usage of dark ages, is and his people, suppose himself freed to cast reproach upon the institutions pointed by God himself under the Old from the obligations of the oath taken Testament dispensation.

by his predecessor, if he has assumed


The king the kingly title; to confirm which same as fulfilling the intent of the title the ceremony of the coronation law. But here is the evil, that there is not actually essential, as is evi- is imposed a solemn oath to the obedent from English history in the in- dience of every and all of these instance of Edward the Fifth, who is junctions. Is there aught of rationrecognized in the line of English ality in this ? and is it not a mockmonarchs, though he was never ery of a form which ought to be held crowned. In short, the constitution as specially sacred; and the conseof our government—the monarchi- quence of the desecration of which is cal portion of it—is so conceived of almost of necessity a general disrethat the king being king in right of gard to its observance ; for we know his birth, the obligation which the oath that in reference even to a common imposed on his predecessor descends precept it is less accounted of if perto him, and with every stipulation, on petually urged under circumstances the self-same principle as the crown considered frivolous. If then the itself. Every object contemplated university oaths are broken as often in it is served by the nature of the as they are taken (and they are so, constitution of the country; and were however a subterfuge may be profeven that to change, it would then fered in the shape of mental reserbe dubious whether the weightiness vation and appended conditions ; of the obligation of the oath would which, if admitted, will create a not still remain, and the folly with fearful contortion of the simple truth the inutility of its imposition be more and character of our national faith), apparent.

no further argument can be necesThe practice of the universities, sary to prove the point of inutility, especially of Oxford, in the admi. which is the present question, and nistration of oaths, cannot be suffi. their inefficiency to enforce their ciently reprobated ; and your cor- intended obligation. The mutability respondent has already and ably of all human affairs has operated on dwelt upon


The impropriety the minutiæ of detail comprehended of the requisition of numerous oaths in the oath of fidelity to the univerby the several colleges, enjoining sity, and has presented the strongest on their students certain rules and possible of arguments against the orders, to whick none of them expediency of prospective legislation ever think of rendering submission, in these matters; and the college suband an obedience to the require- scription by youths of eighteen to ments of which, in regard to the the Thirty-nine Articles of our church discipline enjoined, would be abso- is often not the result of conviction lutely denounced as eccentricity, upon investigation of the doctrinal since they have become obsolete; points severally asserted, but is is, I suppose, too evident and viewed as a matter of course by the preposterous to find in defence a candidate on the faith of the comsingle advocate.

Probably these mon apprehension of their intent, frivolous observances were originally and as embodying the religion of the meant for the enforcing of strict state and of our fathers. But is not discipline; but certainly they are this too light a mode of dealing with so now retained in the letter only for serious a matter? Ought any youth securing some petty pecuniary ad- to be asked, or expected, to sign a vantage from the graces” to be body of divinity which he has not obtained (somewhat analogous to had time or opportunity for studying the popish system of indulgences for and comparing with the inspired orasin) on account of the neglect of lec- cles of God? tures recorded in the Statute Book, The bribery oath administered at and divers regulations as to habits, parliamentary elections is another and even of apparel, just as if the which is constantly evaded by the payment of the penalty were the chicanery adopted in order to keep clear of the fangs of the law. Al- safety of the rights and liberties of though in many cases the letter of his countrymen, while it urges the the law may be preserved by not violation of an oath before God. It receiving a pecuniary equivalent an- is also a lamentable fact that numeterior to voting; yet the spirit of it rous persons among the lower classes is notoriously violated with impu- habitually sell their franchise and nity, and its object, the preservation their consciences for the weightiest of purity of election, remains unat- amount in filthy lucre, with no intained by its imposition. I am in- terest beyond a present sensual inclined to suppose, that under any dulgence in riot and intoxication. mode of elective franchise it will be Such persons as these can have no found equally inefficient. With the great respect for an oath ; and not vote by ballot there would possibly only so, but at periods of high party be : the best agreement; but that political excitement, men are found system is fraught with so much of regardless of its obligations for the evil, that there is little probability mere purpose of forwarding some of its ever being sanctioned by an imaginative public good, further enlightened people and a wise go- proving the light estimation in which vernment. The tenantry in an agri- it is commonly held, and which has cultural country, having the right of been brought about by the lavishness franchise by virtue of certain tenures, of its imposition on all occasions. which often are more or less valuable This, indeed, would happen oftener by the voluntary liberality of the than it has if universal suffrage had landowner from whom they are held, been generally adopted; and this cannot but in some degree be influ- inference is drawn from the circumenced, however trivially, by the cir- stance of the operation of the princumstances in which they are placed. ciple in almost the only town in Some of the aristocracy and other large England where it has been admitfreeholders, with a view to secure this ted *. . The conduct of the Preston species of " in-terrorem” influence, voters, at a late election for that grant no leases to the occupier, thoughborough, will sufficiently bear out an assurance is given of uninter- the opinion. With a man under no rupted possession for defined periods. extraneous influence, bearing about This, indeed, is nothing more than him the principles of uprightness perpetuating in a demoralizing shape and integrity, the bribery oath would the principle of the feudal system, by not be felt as any additional obliwhich the person of the vassal was gation upon him, to perform a duty at the command of the lord of the which he owes to society and his soil; and is now sought to be pre- country, to vote according to the served by a continuance and exten- sense he entertains of the measures sion of that influence to the will and best fitted to promote the general conscience (the physical service being weal; and with a man of vitiated no longer required) for the purpose principles, an oath, against his inof securing political power. In the terest, will go for nothing. I take one instance the vassal had an ap- it then, that the bribery oath, viewed parent interest in common with his under any form of political arrangelord, by the protection of baronial rights; but in the other there is no In the borough of Preston (Lansuch palliative recognition, but cashire) the right of voting is acquired by

six months' residence, and the number of vassalage of mind-an enslavish

voters being consequently very large, poll ment of moral principle-from which stations are erected at different parts of the it is high time emancipation should market-place for facilitating the election ; be sought. The distress of an indi. and it has been stated as a fact that numvidual thus oppressed, is heightened bers of persons of the manufacturing classes by reflecting that the protection of fresh voters at the return of Mr. Hunt as his own interest may endanger the member. Christ. OBSERV. No. 362.



ment for the election of national re- know not these things ?” and might presentatives, may altogether be ac- not such a train of reflection, by the counted useless, as not accomplish- blessing of God, lead him to serious ing its own avowed end.

self-examination and a more solicitShould the above remarks find ad- ous regard to his own salvation, and mission into your columns, I propose the salvation of the souls committed continuing them in a future Number. to his charge? At all events, it is

unfair to take for granted that our pastor will not listen to us till we have tried him.






To the Editor of the Christian Observer,
A CORRESPONDENT under the signa-

To the Editor of the Christian Observer, ture of Q, in your Number for last Would some of your liturgicalreaders November, charges the clergy with inform me on what authority a prayer, a deficiency of a friendly and com- whether a collect or otherwise, is municative spirit towards their pa- used by the clergy before the sermon? rishioners for pastoral purposes; but I Is not this contrary to the rubric think, in the instance mentioned (from which enjoins the sermon to be his own confession) his own ignorance preached after the Nicene Creed, no and unnecessary diffidence were alone intervening prayer being directed? The in fault. Had he given the minister church considers the sermononly as paof his parish reasonable credit for renthetical between the parts of the that charity “ which is not easily Communion Service; and the minis. offended and seeketh not her own," ter is directed to return after it to he would have overcome his “ fear the communion table, and to proceed of intruding himself among persons with the service. I am aware that with whom he had no previous ac- the fifty-fifth Canon directs the quaintance ;", and his schemes of preacher to move the people to pray, utility which he “ knew not how to according to what is called the bidding set about” might thence have been prayer; but thisisnothing but a stateopened and promoted : and even had ment of the heads of the prayer for he been wholly unsuccessful in his the church militant which is to be application, it would have been un- used after the sermon, on returning just that the general body of the to the communion table ; but there clergy should suffer by a sweeping is not a word said of using any collect, conclusion grounded on one parti- as is now customary. cular example.

Where, then, would be the imIn many instances, persons applying propriety of any clergyman's obeying to their parochial instructor with, the rubric in this matter as some perhaps, strong prepossessions against American clergymen do, and this by him, or at least with doubts as to the direction of their bishops? It whether he would attend to their would exscindone of the too numerous case, have found the greatest kindness repetitions of the Lord's Prayer in and solicitude where they least ex- our service, and get rid of the diffipected it; and even where a minis. culty as to whether the clerk and ter is not duly anxious as regards his congregation ought to repeat the responsible charge, who can say how Lord's Prayer after the minister in much his mind might be impressed, the pulpit. The rubric is appealed if he found himself consulted by his to in vain, to settle this litigated flock on subjects of the most serious point; for the rubric never contemimportance : might he not be ready plated the Lord's Prayer being used to ask, “ Am I a master in Israel and in the pulpit before the sermon.


« PrécédentContinuer »