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It cannot be pretended, that any other gesture would be better adapted to the design of an oath, which is, that of ascertaining the truth by the testimony of the person sworn, than that of lifting up the hand. It is true, that an appeal to God, engaging to speak the truth, and calling upon him to attest our sincerity, constitute the oath and obligation; yet when the oath is formally administered to a person, and some gesture must be used, it becomes the person's duty, both in opposition to such a careless deportment as would be unbecoming in any act of solemn religious worship, and also in opposition to superstitious ceremonies, to use the gesture approved by the light of nature and recommended by scripture example: the designed deliberate neglect of which, in this act of worship, cannot be free from a contempt of the Divine will and authority.
It may be farther observed, that the mode of swearing by laying the hand upon, and kissing, the Bible, or that part of it called the gospels, is both superstitious, and, in some respects, idolatrous. It cannot be pretended to have any warrant in scripturé, or to be any other than a human invention, an arbitrary rite; and therefore the use of it as a way or means of Divine worship, is, according to our confession of faith, superstitious: for God is not to be worshipped in any other way, or by any other means, than those appointed in his word. Kissing is a rite which was never used in the worship of the true God; but frequently in that of idols; such as, the calves which Jeroboam set up in Dan and Bethel. Hence it was said of their worshippers, Let the men, that sacrifice, kiss the calves, Hosea xiii. 2. It was used in the ship of Baal. Hence God said to Elijah, I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that hath not kissed him. From these texts it appears, that kissing was used as a rite of religious worship as well as bo'wing; and the one, externally directed to an idol, was idolatry, as well as the other. Hence it is evident, that kissing the Bible is a symbolizing with an idolatrous form of worship contrary to the Divine prohibition, Deut. xii. 10. Enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Nay, I fear, we cannot vindicate this practice from the charge of idolatry for in this form of swearing the book is exhibited, not only to ascertain the person sworn, but to be regarded as a sacred object; to which the external act of kissing (which, according to the texts just now quoted, is an external expression of religious worship, as well as bowing,) is directed. The Bible is, indeed, holy; but it is no more an object of religious worship on that account, than the saints and angels on account of their holiness. The Bible teaches us to direct our religious worship, not to itself, but. to its Divine Author alone.
Alex, But, in this case, neither the administrator, nor he who swears, has any intention of worshipping the Bible.
Ruf. Heathens and Papists have alleged, that, in bowing before their images and kissing them, they intended to worship God through the medium of the images. But whatever be the intention of the worshipper, his act of religious worship is idolatrous, if it be externally directed to an image, book, or any creature whatever. When the Israelites worshipped the calves of Dan and Bethel, though they professed to worship Jehovah, the true God, yet they were charged with
idolatry; because they externally worshipped or bowed down to the calves which had been set up for that purpose. And is there not the same reason to charge those, who use the form of swearing by kissing a book, with that crime? Has the act of kissing, (which in this case is an expression of worship,) any other object than a certain book which is brought forward for that purpose ?
Many others in the reformed churches have borne testimony against this form of swearing, as well as the Seceders. It is, undoubtedly, contrary to the principles and practice of the church of Scotland. İn the national synod of the reformed churches of France which was held at Gap in the year 1613, when it was moved, “ Whether an oath might “ be lawfully taken before the magistrate by laying the hands on and 6 kissing the Bible? The assembly judging that ceremony to be of “ dangerous consequence, declared, that it ought not to be used, but 66 that whoso are called out to swear, shall content themselves with the “bare lifting up of their hands." Mr. Mather in his History of NewEngland, says, these famous divines, Rivet, Pareus and Voetius wrote against the buok-oath; that Dr. Goodwin and Mr. Nye reckoned it the worst of the English ceremonies; that the blessed martyr William Thorp refused it, saying, If I touch the book, the meaning of that ceremony is nothing else but that I swear by it. The same author informs us, that multitudes of pious and sober men in New-England, scrupling this mode of swearing, have been put from serving upon juries, and many of them most unaccountably fined and imprisoned; thus suffering persecution for bearing testimony to the purity of Divine worship in that important part of it, an oath. "Mr. Mather represents these confessors as saying in defence of their conduct, “ All religious “ worship, not commanded by God. is forbidden; all symbolical cere“ monies enjoined on men in religious worship are made parts of it; “our swearing on the gospels is a swearing by the gospel, and there•6 fore idolatrous, as is evident from the interpretation of the canon “ law, and the common law. Nor has a particular magistrate power “ to put any other interpretation on the law."
Alex. In my opinion, these good people mistook the matter, as well as the Seceders. The ceremony of kissing the book is not the oath, bụt only the sign of it.
Ruf. I hope, Sir, you will be so candid as to hear these people a little farther. 66 This mode," added they, is naturally and necessa“ rily, as well as originally, a swearing by the gospel ; for otherwise, 56 were it a sign only, it would signify no more than the presence
and consent of the person that swears. But this pretence is superseded 6 by the form of the oath of supremacy, which, as it is prescribed in our “ statute law, concludes with these words, By the contents of this book. 66 Besides, if the book is used for no other end than to signify that a
person is sworn, why should the Bible be used rather than any other « book? The touching of a table may signify this, as much as the 6 touching of the Bible. The Bible is a sacred thing; and to put it to
a mere civil use is a profane abuse of it.” On this point I shall read an observation of Mr. Gellatly, which deserves our attention. 66 The " act of laying the hand on and kissing the book,” says he, “ is of an “ ordained mystical signification, being appointed to signify the persá son's appeal to God as witnessing to the truth, or as Judge and
* Avenger in case of perjury, there being no other appeal to him in 66 the oath, nor mention made in it of his sacred name, except in the prayer
at the close, so help me God; which may with reverence be 6 used in setting about any other lawful action, as well as that of 6 swearing. So that if an appeal to God be not made in laying the 6 hand on and kissing the book, there is no appeal to him; and, con56 sequently, no oath at all. Thus the form of swearing by God is laid “ aside; which is expressly enjoined in scripture, Deut. vi. 13, Thou 6 shalt swear by his naine: it is exemplified by the saints in scripture, 66 Nehem. xiii. 25, I made them swear by God: yea, we have his own 6 imitable example, Heb. vi. 13, Because he could swear by no greater, 6 he swore by himself. It is matter of lamentation, that the touching 6 and kissing the book, should be put in the room of that fearful and “ glorious name in the matter of an oath. If this be not a leaving of * God's way, and choosing the devices of men in a matter of Divine 66 worship, I know not what may be reckoned a doing so.”
Alex. It has been observed, that persons should be allowed to use such a form of swearing as is most adapted to impress their minds with the weight and solemnity of an oath, and with the danger of perjury.
Ruf. Many can see little solemnity in the kissing of a book, and are apprehensive, that it leads ignorant and thoughtless people, who regard it as a mere insignificant ceremony, to swallow oaths with the greatest indifference. Some pretend to experience great reverence and awe, when they lay their hand upon and kiss the Bible. But it is not rational, as Mr. Gellatly observes, to suppose, that a book, or any thing else, will be of much weight in this matter with any, who have not an awe of the name of God upon their spirits. And how ridicu. lous is it for persons to stand more in awe of the book, than of the name of God, which gives the book all the sacredness for which it is revered! Besides, if an oath is to be administered to each person in the form which he may pretend, strikes him with the greatest awe; then Papists must be sworn by the cross ; Mahometans, by the Koran; some infidels, by the stars; some atheistical worldlings, by their belly; and some who deal in charms and magical arts, by the devil. The form of swearing will be reduced to the most absurd uncertainty and fluctuation. In fine, the reverence of an oath must be greatly diminished, if not annihilated, in those who have no concern to observe the form which both reason and revelation recommend as the most proper.
Àlex. Supposing a person could bear witness against a murderer in a country where kissing the book is the established form of swearing, if he refused to comply with this mode, he would not be permitted to give his testimony; and, for want of it, the murderer might escape. In suoh a case, if he should comply with the established form of swearing for the public good, would not the guilt lie on the rigorous imposers, not on him ?
Ruf. I see no reasonable objection to Mr. Gellatly's solution of this case. The precepts, says he, of the Divine law are so linked together in one beautiful chain, that one of them does not oppose another. He that requires men to testify the truth, when they are called to appear as witnesses in a court of justice, requires them to observe the way
of worshipping him appointed in his word; and if they be desired to ob
serve the one precept in the way of yłolating the other, they may justly refuse; since the authority of God is stamped on every precept; and the least evil is not to be done that the greatest good may follow, Rom. iii. 8. The guilt of rulers, in commanding their people to use this unwarrantable mode of swearing, is very great. But neither are they free from sin, who comply with their unlawful commands, in this or any other matter. In such a case, we are to adhere steadily to this maxim, That we are to obey God rather than man.
On the whole, I cannot help wondering, how pious people, who profess to take their religion from the Bible, should affect to overlook or despise the reasoning of the Seceders on this head, and continue to defend or excuse so great an absurdity in the form of administering and taking an oath.
§ 23. Alex. In pursuing this subject, we have digressed too long from our design of reviewing Mr. Willison's objections against the Judicial Testimony of the associate presbytery: Let us now proceed to consider his objection against the account given in that Testimony of the general assembly's proceedings in the cases of Mr. Simson and Mr. Campbell. These men were allowed to be both eminent for their talents. I would be glad, Rufus, to hear you state concisely the errors with which they were charged, and the opposite doctrines main: tained by the associate presbytery.
Ruf. I shall first state the errors with which Mr. John Simson, professor of divinity in the university of Glasgow, was charged in the process carried on against him in the years 1714, 1715 and 1716.
1. Mr. Simson taught, that, by the light of nature and the works of creation and providence, including tradition, heathens have an im. plicit and obscure revelation of the gospel; by which revelation they may know, that there is a remedy for sin provided; and that they would have the benefit of this remedy, if they did not slight and reject the obscure discovery and offer of grace made to all without the church. In opposition to this opinion the
associate presbytery assert, that the light of nature is not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of his will, which is necessary to salvation : and that, therefore, they, who do not profess the christian religion, cannot be saved; however diligent they may be to frame their
lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion which they profess, Ephes. ii. 12. 1 Cor. i. 21. Confession of Faith, chap. i. $ 1.
2. Mr. Simson asserted, that there were means appointed of God for obtaining saving grace; which means, when diligently used with seriousness, sincerity and faith of being heard, God hath promised to bless with success; and that the going about these means in the foresaid manner is not above the reach of our natural ability or power.
On the contrary, the associate presbytery assert, that man by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation ; and that, in his natural state, being enmity against God and averse from all spiritual good, is not able by his own strength to convert himself or prepare himself thereto; and consequently, that there is no necessary nor certain connection, either in the nature of things or by the Divine promise, between the morally
> Acts iv, 29.
serious endeavours of nan in a natural state and the obtaining of spiritual or saving grace.
Notwithstanding this, they assert, that it is the duty of all and every one to attend diligently on Divine ordinances, particularly on the reading and hearing of the word and on prayer; these being
the ordinary means by which converting and quickening grace is communicated to such as are dead in sins. Rom. iii. 10, 12. Ephes. ii. 1. John v. 44. Confess. chap. ix. 3.
3. Mr. Simson maintained, that there was no proper covenant made with Adam, and that he was not a federal head to his posterity. He also maintained, that the souls of infants, since the fall, as they come from the hands of their Creator, are as pure and holy, as they would have been created, supposing, that man had not fallen; and that it is more than probable, that baptized infants, dying in infancy, are all saved ; and that, if God should deny his sovereign grace to any of the children of infidels, he would deal more severely with them, than he did with the fallen angels.
On the contrary, the associate presbytery assert, that, when God created man, he entered into a covenant with him ; wherein life was promised upon condition of perfect and personal obedience; that, in this covenant, the first Adam stood in the capacity of a covenant head and representative to all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation; that, by reason of his breach of this covenant, they all sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression; that his sin is truly and justly imputed to every one of them; and that all infants, descending from Adam by ordinary generation, on account of his sin imputed to them, want that original righteousness wherewith Adam was created ; and are by nature children of wrath. Rom. v. 12, 18, 19, 1 Corinth. xv. 22, 45, 49. Psal. li. 5. Confess. chap. vi. $ 3,5, 6.
4. Mr. Simson impugned the immediate previous Divine concourse with all the actions of the reasonable creature; and in place of the usual doctrine of our reformed divines, affirmed, that God may
determine infallibly all the actions of reasonable creatures that are not above their natural powers, nor contrary to their natural inclinations and dispositions, by placing them in such circumstances, by which they have a certain train of motives laid before them, by which they may infallibly, yet freely, produce such a series of actions, as he has determined.
But the associate presbytery assert, that, though some of the ordinary terms, that are used by our reformed divines on this subject, are not in our confession of faith; yet the doctrine of the immediate previous concourse of God with all the actions of the reasonable creature, as it is explained by these divines, is plainly held forth therein from the word of God in these words: “ The Almighty power, unsearchable 6 wisdom and infinite goodness of God so far manifest themselves in “ his Providence, that it extendeth itself to the first fall and all other 6 sins of angels and men, and that, not by a bare permission; but such
as has joined with it a most wise and powerful bounding, and other6 wise ordering and governing them, in a manifold dispensation, to his .6 own holy ends. Yet so that the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only