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II. 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 as, 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, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters ought to be taken.
III. 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
c Deut. vi. 13. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
d Jer. v. 7. How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods: when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses. James v. 12. But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea, be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. See the 3d commandment in Ex. xx. 7.
Heb. vi. 16. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Isa. lxv. 16.
f 1 Kings. viii. 31. If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house. Ezra x. 5. Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel, to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.
Jer. iv. 2. And thou shalt swear, The Lord
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. " Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority. i
IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.j It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being
liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. See also Ex. xx. 7.
h Gen. xxiv. 2, 3, 9. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh and I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell. And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master, and sware to him concerning that matter.
i Num. v. 19, 21. And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse. Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing; and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot and thy belly to swell. Neh. v. 12. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
j Psa. xxiv. 4. He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully Jer. iv. 2. See letter g, page
taken, it binds to performance, although to a man's own hurt: nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.1
V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness.
VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: " and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for obtaining of what we
k Psa. xv. 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. 1 Sam. xxv. 22, 32, 33, 34.
1 Ezek. xvii. 16, 18. As I live, saith the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon, he shall die. Seeing he despised the oath, by breaking the covenant, when, lo, he had given his hand, and hath done all these things, he shall not escape. Josh. ix. 18, 19. 2 Sam. xxi. 1.
And the Lord shall be known to
m Isa. xix. 21. Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall Vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it. Eccl. v. 4, 5. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it: for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow, and not pay. Psa. lxvi. 13, 14. I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble. Psa. lxi. 8.
Psa. lxxvi. 11. Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared. Jer. xliv. 25, 26.
want; whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties, or to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.°
VII. No man may vow to do any thing for bidden in the word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise or ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are su
• Deut. xxiii. 21, 23. When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips, thou shalt keep and perform, even a free-will-offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth. Psa. 1. 14. Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High. Gen. xxviii. 20, 21, 22. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in peace: then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee. Compare with the above 1 Sam. i. 11, and Psa. cxxxii. 2, 3, 4, 5.
P Acts xxiii. 12. And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Mark vi. 26. And the king was exceeding sorry, yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. See also Num. xxx. 5, 8, 12, 13.
perstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE.
GOD, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.
1 Cor. vii. 2, 9. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.-But if they cannot contain, let them marry for it is better to marry than to burn. 1 Cor. vii. 23.
Rom. xiii. 1, 3, 4. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.-For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well.