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Heb. vi. 16. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.

Q. 102. May we then swear religiously by the name of God? A. Yes; either when the magistrates demand it of the subjects, or when necessity requires of us thereby to confirm fidelity and truth, to the glory of God, and the safety of our neighbour; for such an oath is founded on the word of God, and was therefore justly used by the saints, both in the Old and New Testament.

Q. 102. May we also swear by the saints or any other creature? A. No; for a lawful oath is calling upon God, as the only one, who knows the heart, that he will bear witness to the truth, and punish me, if I swear falsely; which honour is due to no creature.

"BE not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise;

why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Be not overmuch wicked, neither be thou foolish; why shouldest thou die before thy time?"

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Thus speaks the wisest of kings, Eccl. vii. 16, 17. We cannot be too righteous, nor too wise: neither may we be in any respect wicked, or foolish. But when the wise man disapproves of an excess in these things, we must believe that he introduceth a wicked man, as speaking, who hath no delight in pure righteousness, and in heavenly wisdom, and who will not indulge neither in open villainy and folly, because it would be too detrimental to his temporal interest, which he considers as his God. Or Solomon requires with these words, that we should keep the middle way, and not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left, according to Prov. iv. 26, 27. The sinner turns easily aside to the right hand, that is, he becomes too righteous, or too wise by believing too much, and doing more than God commands him, "honouring God in vain, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men," Matt. xv. 9. He will also attend too much to lighter matters, and neglect in the mean while the weightiest, like the Pharisees, "who tithed mint, anise and cummin, but omitted the weightier matters of the law," Matt xxiii 23. When sinful man will not do this, he will turn aside to the left hand, even become too wicked, and too foolish, and abandon himself to evil practices.

We ought to avoid such extremes, and to steer a direct course; the middle way is the safest, and in that we shall proceed with the greatest security. Therefore our reformed church, following the course of God's word abstains from the dangerous extremes of her adversaries. This appears in her doctrine concerning the justification of the sinner before God by faith only, but evidenced by good works; and she steers thus a direct course between the Papists, who being righteous overmuch, extol works too highly in this matter, and the Antinomians, who being wicked overmuch, dissolve all obligations to good works. So our purified church explains also the doctrine of the sacraments as signs and seals of the divine grace; which the Papists, as righteous overmuch, extol, as though they conferred grace by the nselv s; an] which the Socinians, as wicked overmuch disparage, as though they were no more than bare signs of Christianity. Doth not our unblamableness appear also in our doctrine concerning a religious oath by the name of God? by winch we avoid the doctrine of the Mennonites, who, as righteous overmuch, think that a Christian hath no right to swear at all; and of the Papists, who, as wicked overmuch, swear by the saints and other creatures, as we are taught here in this Lord's day. We have spoken before of vain and false oaths; we must

next consider whether we may swear at all, and if we may, whether we may swear by the creatures.

Two particulars require our consideration here,

I. The nature of an oath.

II. The controversy which we have with the Mennonites and Papists concerning oaths.

I. We know not how to describe an oath better than the instructor doth in the hundred and second question, in which he saith that it is "a calling upon God, that he, as the only one who knoweth the heart, will bear witness to the truth, and punish us if we swear falsely." In an oath there is,

1. Something supposed, to which men swear, either truth or fidelity. We swear to the truth of any thing, whether we ourselves, or others have spoken or done it, when we confirm by an oath that it hath truly happened, as we testify concerning it. Thus Obadiah swore to assure Flij. h. 1 Kings xvii. 10, "As the Lord by God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee; and when they said, he is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not." Or we swear to fidelity, when we swear that we will be faithful, and keep our word in promises, obligations and contracts, as Rahab caused the spies to swear, that they would save her, and her kindred alive, Joshua ii. 12-21. See this also in Jonathan and David, 1 Sam. xx. 12-17. xxiv. 21, 22, 23.

2. As no man knows our heart, and as therefore no man knows whether we testify and promise according to truth, therefore we call upon God, that he, as the only one who knoweth the heart, would bear witness to the truth: "I call God for a record upon my soul," saith the apostle, 2 Cor. i. 23. And thus we appeal in an obscure matter to the allknowing God, as the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh did, in order to confirm that they had not builded their altar, to rebel against the Lord their God, saving Josh. xxii. 22, "The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods. he knoweth," Yea, we pray to the Lord, that he would bear witness to the truth, and that he would make it known, that we speak the truth; which he doth by manifesting the matter, to which we have sworn in succeeding times, and by causing others to acquisce in our oath, and also by blessing us, and giving us joy and peace of mind by his Spirit, upon our swearing, as the Lord bore witness to Paul, so that he could say, "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost," Rom.

ix. 10.

3. Though the Lord God knows when the sinner lies, and though he sometimes bears witness to the truth by punishing liars, by bringing reproach upon them, and destroying them, and therefore all men ought to lay aside lying, and to speak the truth with their neighbour, nevertheless a man ought to fear a false oath more than a lie, because in an oath he calls upon the allknowing God to manifest it, if he utter a lie, yea, " to punish him, if he swear falsely;" whereby he therefore declares, that he will look for no favour from God, that he will suffer all his judgments, and that he stakes and pledges all that is dear to him, if he do not speak the truth. Therefore they said of old, when they swore, "God do so to me and more also," Ruth i. 17. 1 Kings ii. 23. Yea, they cursed and execrated themselves with their oath, Matt. xxvi 74. Acts xxiii 12, 13. And this is the reason why an oath is sometimes called a curse, Numb. v. 21. 1 Kings viii. 31. Although men do not always express in an oath the curse, which they wish themselves, nevertheless the most fearful curse is supposed.

4. The immediate design of an oath is the confirmation of truth and fidelity, which remains otherwise doubtful. Man is become through sin unbelieving, and unworthy to be believed: "He is indeed of his father the devil, who, when he speaketh a lie, speaketh it of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it," John viii. 44. But when we swear, we then render ourselves capable of being believed, and we are obliged to believe others upon their oath: "For men swear by the greater; and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife," according to our text; for we may not think that any man is so forgetful of God, that he would undertake to appeal to the allknowing, holy and righteous God, with the most dreadful execration of himself, and of all that is near and dear to him, in behalf of a lie and breach of trust. If any man be nevertheless so ungodly, we must notwithstanding be satisfied with his oath, because there is no other way to decide controversies, and the false swearer cannot injure others by his wicked oath, as much as he injures himself.

Sometimes a man himself utters an oath, in order to confirm truth and fidelity, and sometimes others utter an oath for him, to adjure and urge him by an oath, to speak the truth; thus Caiaphas adjured the Saviour to tell whether he were the Christ, the Son of God," Matt, xxvi. 63, 64. Thus Paul also did, 1 Thess. v. 27, “I adjure you by the Lord, that this epistle be read by all the holy brethren." To this pertains also the curse which he denounceth against all those, "who love not our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. xvi. 32. See also Exod. xiii, 19. Numb. v. 19-22.

II. Since then swearing is such a solemn work, that we thereby sall the allknowing and righteous God to witness, and imprecate his judgments upon us, if we do not speak the truth, therefore the godly have with good reason feared an oath. Solomon, distinguishing the ungodly from the righteous, saith that the former "sweareth," but that the latter "feareth an oath," Eccl. ix. 2. Therefore the instructor asks with propriety, "whether we may swear religiously by the name of God." The Essenes among the Jews, and also certain ancient Christians thought that it was unlawful to swear, and the Mennonites hold the same opinion at this day; but the instructor answers that an oath is lawful. If we shall explain this question properly, we must know that the dispute is not whether they might swear under the Old Testament; for these men will not deny that: but whether we may swear under the New Testament: neither, whether we may swear vainly, but religiously: not whether we may swear at all times, but whether when the magistrates require it of their subjects, or when other circumstances render it necessary, in matters of importance, when we cannot obtain satisfactory evidence, or testimonies sufficient to determine differences between man and


The Mennonites deny that we may swear in such cases, but we maintain the affirmative, because

1. Swearing in this manner is founded on the word of God, in which we are commanded not only "to fear the Lord, and to serve him, but also to swear by his name," Deut. vi. 13. x. 20. It is true, this was under the Old Testament; but there is no reason why God should forbid it now under the New Testament, since swearing doth not belong either to the civil, or to the ecclesiastical law of the Jews. It was also foretold of believers under the New Testament, that they should swear by the Lord, and their whole worship is expressed by the figure of swearing: "In that day," saith the prophet, "shall five cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts," Isaiah xix. 18. See also Isaiah xlv. 23. lxv. 16. Jer. xii. 16.

2. The saints of the Old and New Testament have made use of oaths rightly. It is unnecessary to collect many examples of the Old Testament saints who swore, since the dispute relates only to the New Testament. And surely the saints of the New Testament have sworn. The Head of the saints, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was made a priest by an oath of the Father, suffered himself to be adjured by Caiaphas, Matt. xxvi. 63, 64. Paul" called God to record upon his soul" 2 Cor. i. 23. Philip. i. 8. He also "adjured

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