Images de page

pudently maintained that God is the author of sin, than which there is not any one point whereby they labour in their sermons, and popular orations, to cast a greater odium (though most injuriously,) upon the Reformed churches. We are not for the reverence or esteem of any man's person, to entertain any such opinion, as do in the very words of them, asperse the honor and holiness of God, and are by all the churches of Christ rejected.”

“This premised, I assert positively, and considerately, (yet without obliging myself to make good every phrase that hath fallen unadvisedly from the


of every writer,) that what Protestant churches say in their public Confessions, and allowed Protestant writers in their books, concerning God's having a natural influence upon the sinful acts of creatures, but without a moral influ-ence on the sinfulness of their acts; his inflicting hardness of heart as a punishment to former .sins; his directing and ordering great sins to great good; Joseph's venditition to the church's preservation; yea, the cruciâxion of Christ, to the salvation of the elect, do neither really, nor in due construction amount to the making of God the author of sin.”


For the Religious Monitor,


Your Repository promises to be devoted to the defence of the principles of the Reformation set forth in the Westminster Confession, and by the churches in Holland. It appears to me that in order to redeem this pledge, you must sometime or other turn your attention to what that Confession says about the taking of an oath. It says “A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein upon just occasion, the person swearing, solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth or promiseth; and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used with all holy, fear and reverence. Therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name; or to swear at all by any other thing is sinful and to be abhorred. Yet in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the word of God: under the New Testament as well as under the Old; so a lawful oath imposed by lawful authority is to be taken. Whosoever taketh an oath, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth. Neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing, but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform,” &c. chap. 22. All this is so agreeable to the texts of scripture adduced as proof, that it must be extremely difficult to offer even a plausible objection to it.

And I believe very few if any of your readers will hesitate to subscribe the doctrine as perfectly consonant with scripture. But something more than a correct judgment is required; for if a man does not respect the doctrine in his practice, the end of it is as completely lost as if he honestly denied it, and the effect produced by his example is much worse than if he did so. It surely concerns all who have professed an adherence to that Confession, to enquire whether this portion of the Reformation principles is keeping its ground in the present day or not. And they ought especially to enquire, (if they have any value for consistency, and wish to be found faithful before God as soldiers of Jesus Christ, witnesses for injured truth or friends to man,) whether all the instances of their own gwearing harmonize with this doctrine or not.

An oath is a very solemn thing. It is so accounted by all civilized nations as well as professing Christians. It lies at the foun. dation of all morality, social order, and the fear of God. Whatever a man's speculative views on the subject be, if he feel habitually indifferent about the nature of an oath, he is one of those who fear not God nor regard man. It will be readily granted that swearing in common conversation is directly cor

ary to the doctrine above stated, and a great wickedness; but very few have the least suspicion that themselves are guilty. The very disposition in the mind to frame an oath, though it should not be expressed in words is wickedness of the same nature. He that said “whoso looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her in his heart,” would pronounce it to be the swearing of the heart. Much more all those expressions evidently used instead of an oath which are very common among professors, and even among some who pass for ministers of the gospel. If any of your readers allow themselves in such expressions bless me-my goodness—dear help me-Good heavens -mercy on me—hang-blast-sink &c. they ought to know that in God's sight at least they are guilty of swearing vainly, rashly, and without any proper occasion or lawful authority. This kind of expression is grossly inconsistent with their profession, and criminal in the sight of God. It cannot fail to harden the wicked and profane who hear it;-to sear their own conscience (80 far as its influence goes) and be very grievous to the godly. It


may also cause the weak to stumble, and fall into the very same offence. Each of these effects and consequences ought to be. exceedingly dreaded by every professed follower of the Lamb. If any true child of God be guilty in this respect, he has good reason to expect that the Father will some day lift a chastening hand on account of it and cause him to smart for his iniquity.-He will not then be disposed to consider it a small sin.

It is truly affecting to observe with how little consideration an oath seems to be administered and received in courts, custom houses, &c. It occurs so often that the solemnity of it wears off. It is looked upon as a matter of course. The mind loses sight of its importance and its end, and in process of time the conscience of many a man becomes insensible to the obligation of it, and he is prepared to swear to any thing. Others who do not give way so far to the influence of circumstances, have nevertheless their moral sensibility blunted, and they forget that they are offering, or professing to offer up to the Supreme Being, a tribute of worship. And such indifference will not long continue alone but will produce a train of effects upon the mind all unfavourable to holiness.

When a professor of religion enters into an office having the administering or receiving of oaths as a part of its duties, he ought well to consider this matter, and whether or not he is able to resist the temptation. After he is in office, he ought frequently to use means to impress his mind with the solemnity of an oath. Witnesses and jurors would do well to read over the above chapter of the Confession as often as they are called to take an oath.

Is it not also a matter deserving serious consideration, that some magistrates who profess belief in the said Confession, and lift up a testimony in its defence, without seeming to have any scruple, administer oaths in the superstitious way of kissing the gospels, which have frequently a cross upon them? There is surely an inconsistency between profession and practice in this particular which cannot easily be got over by a tender conscience. Surely they do not mean to assent to the superstitious opinions of popery and others allied to it; and yet, it would be difficult for an intelligent spectator to conceive, that the magistrate and the individual swearing, have not fellowship together even in the manner of it. And I cannot help viewing the magistrate in this instance as practically renouncing Reformation principles so far as concerned in the manner of an oath. Such inconsistency cannot be viewed as a light matter. A magistrate is looked up to as a pattern, and so his authority, and the weight of his example is given to a prac

tice in the whole district, which subverts the cause of the Reformation so far as it goes. If he acts differently sometimes, that only proves that he considers it a matter of indifference, which is still worse.

There is a species of swearing which seems to be growing daily more popular in the United States, which deserves serious attention, viz. the swearing of what is called the Mason oath. Men of the highest rank and influence, who are respected as examples of good order, as friends to their country, and as christians; and it is reported that even some ministers of the gospel, take that oath. Their high standing will, in the estimation of many, supercede all enquiry and sanction its propriety; it will be a strong temptation to others, though not fully satisfied to fall in with them; and it will create difficulties to those who wish to be consistent.

There are numbers of professors who have inconsiderately gone into it, and their conduct would seem to say, that there is nothing in it contrary to the Confession of faith; and they would probably be highly offended were they to be spoken to on the subject; but that, Sir, need not prevent me from speaking the truth in your ear, nor you from listening to it.

First Sir, I would ask whether the occasion on which this oath is taken, be what the Confession calls a just occasion. It is not on the occasion of any duty commanded in the moral law. Nor do I apprehend that the fraternity will plead this. Nor on the occasion of any duty inculcated in the Old or New Testaments. We are indeed told that the principles of Masonry are taken out of the Bible; but though that were unquestionably correct, it would not follow that the Bible enjoined it on us to become Free Masons. It is not on the occasion of any duty required by our country. It is not the oath of allegiance to the government required on entering into the army: neither is it the oath required when one becomes a citizen. It is not required on entering into any office in the nation, nor is it required of jurymen or witnesses, nor of any one whatsoever by the authority of the State, as qualifying for duty, or entitling to privilege; the constitution knows nothing of it at all. I conclude, therefore, that it is not on the occasion of any duty we can owe to the civil constitution.

Sometimes a man is called on to swear when his property or character is at stake, and the case admits of no other evidence; but neither is it an occasion of this kind. Moreover, they by whom this oath is required do not pretend that we are under any obligation to swear it, or to enter into their society, and thereoy to take it we do them no injury, infringe on right of theirs, deprive them of no privilege. These things will not admit of a doubt. What then is it which makes the occasion? There is something in secrecy which naturally excites curiosity. That curiosity excited may be gratified, is one principal part of the occasion. Take this away, and we are persuaded there is not one out of a hundred of those who have taken this oath, that would have taken it. But it will be said, (though not by the scriptures which are able to make the man of Gud perfect,) that this hidden something or nothing called Masonry, has many advantages connected with it. Let a Mason go for example, to any part of the world, and be in need or distress, he will find friends. Besides, it has a long list of great names. Kings and conquerors, philosophers, lawyers, statesmen, and judges, have been, and still are Masons; and a poor man, who is a free and accepted Mason, has the pride of thinking, that he has raised himself, in this point, to equality with all these great men. Each of these things is esteemed weighty, and has a powerful influence on a carnal mind; but what has a Christian to do with them? What has the son of the King of Kings, the heir of a crown and a kingdom eternal, to do with them? What respect does the Confession show them? will any, or all of them together, make what it dermis a “just occasion?” What child of God, would not shudder at the daring impiety of appealing to the Eternal Jehovah, as a Judge upon his throne, on the occasion of gratifying a vain curiosity?-would he not recoil from the danger of profaning that great and glorious Name, for the advantages and honours of an unknown something? Were I, Sir, to propose, in these times when error and division abounds, and when the real sentiments and practice of Christian denominations are so ambiguous, that it is scarcely possible any more to find them out from standard books; and when a spurious charity like some deadly contagion, is polluting our spiritual atmosphere, and affecting almost every community with sympathy; not for, the persons of men, but for their errors and delusions; Were I to propose, that all the Lovers of Reformation principles, of Bible truth, should swear to hold fast these truths even at the risk of their lives, and to use every degree of diligence to transmit them pure and entire to another generation; (than which, there is not an occasion more just on earth, more important to every interest of man, or more countenanced in

« PrécédentContinuer »