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justify an oath; or that, at least, it is not in character with christian simplicity; and we have to examine the word, in order to discover whether, or not, this idea is rightly and scripturally founded in truth. This examination leads us to the view of Jehovah Himself, engaged by oath, and representing Himself as solemnly swearing to men. This decides the point, of whether there is any thing unholy, or not, in so doing: for Jehovah is infinitely holy, and all His ways are right. He has also been.pleased to exhibit Himself, as the standard of that holiness, after which the creature is constantly to aspire: and He would not present such an act prominently before the human mind, were there any thing of danger to the soul involved in the idea of an oath, or of the act of swearing religiously. It cannot be urged in reply to this, that God is at Jiberty to do that, which, though holy in Him, would be unholy in his creature, since the same scriptures reveal Jehovah as giving laws and directions to the creature, whereby he is instructed how he shall swear, and is solemnly counselled to the discharge of those dispositions which God's people must evince in their oaths. Had it been God's design to prohibit all kinds of swearing to men, He would not have instituted laws, or given promises, which have so direct a reference to the performance of this act, as acceptable to Him. Neither can it be said that this was a revelation, and law, belonging affairs,"
to the particular dispensation to the Jews, and not referring to Christian times; since in the first place, some of those passages, which speak of the swearing by God's name in truth, &c. are intended as descriptive of the purified church in the millenium days, and lead out the mind, immediately to the period, when Christ shall reign over a holy people in the earth. And in the second place, when the apostle testifies of the faithfulness of the great oath of the covenant, by which God afforded strong consolation to believers, he argues as from an allowed and lawful practice amongst men, showing that, in human
an oath for confirmation is an end of strife.” The scriptures must be consistent : the gospel does not abrogate any of the moral precepts of the law : Jehovah will never require at one period, what he considers a moral obligation, and at another, make the same obligation to be crime and sin: and it therefore appears plainly, there are occasions, in which the servants and people of God, in every age, may be required to take an oath ; and in which they are not to decline the obligation, but to perform it as a religious act. Our Lord's injunction is directed against the practice of vain, customary, profane swearing, and against that unnecessary multiplication of vows and oaths, which abounded amongst the Jews; and which, like other abuses, they pretended to justify from their traditions and laws. And it is evident, that the Apostle James has this in view, since he is speaking upon the necessity of exercising a patient submission, and dependent faith, in times of affliction, lest men should be tempted, under an exasperated temper and spirit, to utter unholy and blasphemous words, and to break out in rebellion against their oppressors.
The subject, however, demands very serious attention. The liberty, or the bond of the Christian, must be in holiness. It will not accord with true faith, that a man should hastily take an oath, or swear: whatever may be the lawfulness of the occasion, this will be no palliation of guilt in the act, if it is done presumptuously, irreverently, and without faith in God. An oath must needs be a religious act, or a blasphemous act; for it is a professed appeal to the Almighty God, as the Searcher of hearts, and the Judge of men. Jehovah is invoked, His glory is called upon to be witness; and the form that is used in our courts of justice, and in any legal process, sufficiently expresses, that, if not used “in justice, judgment, and truth,” it must be considered as a diabolical, or hypocritical, deed, most provoking to God. The Bible is kissed, not as an idol, but in token of assent to its contents, as the revelation by which God will judge men. The words “ So help me God” are uttered, as a solemn appeal to Him that truth is declared, or that faithfulness is intended, even as the soul hopes for help from the Almighty. These accompaniments cannot be considered lightly, without a heart in most depraved ignorance of God: and if they are seriously and religiously considered, they are calculated to deter any man from taking the oath, but upon full conviction of honesty before the Lord. Thus, according to the Article, oaths taken lawfully, by Christian men, must be according to Scripture rule, and in the disposition of justice, judgment, and truth.
The occasion must be when required by a magistrate, in order, either to lay the soul under individual obligation, as in the admission given by law into civil offices or religious ministrations; or in order to assist in the discharge of public examinations in courts of justice, whereby the guilty may be detected and punished or the oppressed be vindicated and upheld. These are public calls upon men, in which they seem bound by the most sacred motives to give the upright consent, or testimony, according to the occasion which calls for the oath; and so long as this solemn appeal is made, as it ought to be, without sinister motives, or corrupt views, no christian man has any cause to shrink from the requirement, or to hesitate in his testimony.
By what Scripture evidence do we show, that God has been pleased to exhibit Himself to men as engaged by oath, and as swearing to the per
formance of His word? Gen. xxii. 16, 17. xxvi. 3. Psalm cx. 4. Heb. vii. 21. vi. 17. Psalm xcv. ll.
How do we show that God has taught men, that they also may swear or bind themselves by oath, provided it is done in truth, &c. ? Jer. iv. 2. 1 Sam. xxiv. 21. Deut. vi. 13. x. 20.
Does not the gospel prohibit swearing? Matt. v. 34–37. Jam. v. 12.
Does not the law likewise ? Ex. xx. 7.
How then can we reconcile these things? or what reason have we to believe, that prohibitions were directed against vain, rash, customary, intemperate swearing, but that its use as a legitimate end of strife is to be admitted ? Heb. vi, 15, 16.
Practical lessons abound from this short Article, and furnish the Christian with more than instruction, upon the simple point, of whether or not it be lawful for him to swear, in obedience to a civil law of his country. It reminds him of the reverence which ought to be felt, and evinced, towards the name of the ever blessed and Almighty God; and calls upon him to cherish in his soul the holy awe, that it becomes a creature to express before his Creator. It points out the sin of trifling with words of appeal to that great Majesty, and the awful character of vain and rash swearing, too often indulged and gloried in, by the wretched and empty and ungodly multi