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we have sworn to perform any such act as that above described, we have only committed a single offence; but if from religious scruples we observe an oath extorted under such circumstances, the sin is doubled, and instead of giving honour to God, and acquitting ourselves of an obligation which we ought never to have incurred, we are only entangling ourselves more deeply in the bonds of iniquity. Hence, if we, fail to perform such agreement, it ought not to be imputed to us as a crime that we deceive one who is himself guilty of deceit or violence towards us, and refuse to ratify an unlawful compact.* If, therefore, a man has allowed himself to be involved in such an engagement, the point for consideration is, not whether a bond of faith extorted by a robber ought in conscience to be observed, but how he may best effect his escape.
To the fulfilment of oaths is opposed, first, a superstitious denial of their legality. For the precept of Christ, Matt. v. 33, &c. "swear not at all, neither by heaven,' &c. does not prohibit us from swearing by the name of God, any more than the passage James v. 12. (inasmuch as it was foretold that even under the gospel every tongue should swear by the God of truth, Isai. xlv. 22, 23. and lxv. 16.) We are only commanded not to swear by heaven or by earth, or by Jerusalem, or by the head of any individual. Besides, the prohibition does not apply to serious subjects, but to our daily conversation, in which nothing can occur of such importance as to be worthy the attestation of God. Lastly, Christ's desire was that the conversation and manners of his disciples should bear such a stamp of truth and good faith, that their simple asseveration should be considered as equivalent to the oath of others.
* ............. How soon
Would height recal high thoughts, how soon unsay
Secondly, perjury; which consists in swearing to what we know to be false, with the view of deceiving our neighbour, or in making a lawful promise under the sanction of an oath, without intending to perform it, or at least, without actually performing it. Lev. xix. 12. “ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.' Peter was betrayed into this offence, Matt. xxvi. 72, 74.
I have said our neighbour, with reference to the question discussed above. For as it would be a crime to make a sworn promise to a robber or assassin, who in committing the act has forfeited his title to the rights of social life, so to observe the oath would not be to repair the original offence, but to incur a second ; at any rate, there can be nothing wrong in refusing to ratify the promise. Cases, however, may occur, in which a contrary decision shall be necessary, owing to the degree of solemnity in the form of the oath, or to other accompanying circumstances. An instance of this occurs in the three kings, Hoshea, Hezekiah, and Zedekiah. 2 Kings xvii. 4. the king of Assyria found conspiracy in Hoshea .... therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison.' xviii. 7. “Jehovah was with Hezekiah, and he prospered whithersoever he went forth, and he rebelled against the king of Assyria, and served him not.' 2 Chron. xxxvi. 13. · Zedekiah also rebelled against
king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God.' The fault of Hoshea seems to have been not so much his rebellion, as his reliance on So king of Egypt. In Hezekiah it was considered meritorious and praiseworthy that he trusted in the Lord, rather than in his enemy. To Zedekiah, on the contrary, it was objected, first, that his defection from the enemy was not accompanied by a return to the protection of God, and secondly, that he acted in opposition to God's special command, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 13, and Jer. xxvii.6.
now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.' There is, however, this difference between a robber and a national enemy, that with the one the laws of war are to be observed, whereas the other is excluded from all rights, whether of war or of social life,
Thirdly, common swearing. Lev. v. 4, 5. 'if a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him, when he knoweth of it then he shall be guilty in one of these : and it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.' To this may be added rash swearing. 1 Sam. xiv. 39. though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.' v. 44. •God do so and more also, for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.
Fourthly, unlawful oaths ; that is to say, oaths of which the purport is unlawful, or which are exacted from us by one to whom they cannot be lawfully taken. Of the former kind was the oath of David respecting the destruction of the house of Nabal, 1 Sam. xxv. 22. from which example we may also learn that the breach of such oaths VOL. II.
is better than the performance, v. 33, 34. a rule disregarded by Herod, when he beheaded John for his oath's sake. Of the latter, David's oath to Shimei is an instance. 2 Sam. xix. 23. the king sware unto him. Hence, although David himself did not violate his oath, he forbad his son to observe it, 1 Kings ii. 8, 9. he cursed me with a grievous curse....and I sware to him...... Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him.' Solomon therefore committed no breach of faith in punishing Shimei with death, of which the latter was doubly deserving, as being himself guilty of perjury : 1 Kings ii. 36, 37. compared with v. 42, &c.
Fifthly, an idolatrous oath ; which consists in swearing, not by God, but by some other object, contrary to the prohibition Matt. v. 33. and James v. 12.
Next in solemnity to an oath is a grave asseveration, as Gen. xlii. 15, 16. by the life of Pharaoh ;' or 1 Sam. i. 26. as thy soul liveth, my lord ;' that is, as surely as thou livest, or as I wish that thou mayest live. Such also is the expression of Christ, verily, verily, I say unto you ; and that of Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 31. ve Tüv úhetépav naúxusiv, “I protest by your rejoicing;' although, strictly speaking, the particle has the force of an oath.
To the same head belongs what is commonly called adjuration ; that is to say, the charging any one in the name of God, by oath or solemn asseveration, to speak the truth to the best of his knowledge respecting the subject of inquiry. Thus Joshua adjured Achan, vii. 19. my son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah God of Israel, and make confession unto
him. Gen. xxiv. 3. 'I will make thee swear by Jehovah, God of heaven.' Numb. v. 21. then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing.' : Ezra x. 5. then Ezra made the chief priests to swear,' &c. Neh. xiii. 25. I made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons,' &c. 1 Thess. V. 27. 'I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read . There is no impropriety in adjuring even our dearest and most faithful friends. Gen. xlvii. 29. 5 put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh.
Adjurations are to be complied with, in matters not contrary to religion or equity. Thus Christ, Matt. xxvi. 63, 64. on the adjuration even of the impious high-priest Caiaphas, no longer kept silence, but confessed openly that he was the Christ.
Opposed to this are magical adjurations, and the superstitious or mercenary practice of exorcism. Acts xix. 13, &c. certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them,' &c.
Thus far of oaths. In the Casting of the Lot we appeal to the Deity for the explanation of doubts, and the decision of controverted questions. Lev. xvi. 8. • Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats.' Josh. vii. 14. it shall be, that the tribe which Jehovah taketh, shall come according to the families thereof.' 1 Sam. x. 20. when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was taken.' Prov. xvi. 33. the lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah.' xviii. 18. the lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.' 1 Chron. xxvi. 13, 14. they cast lots, as well the small as the great. Neh. x. 34.