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universal occurrence. (Heb. vi. 16.) "For men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife." Fallen as man is, numberless are the instances which show demonstratively that man was made for religion. Amidst the ruins of the noble city of " Man-soul," (to borrow from Bunyan's allegory,) most unequivocal are the fragmentary remains of the temple which originally stood there, and which was consecrated to the Lord of the whole earth, and designed to be "an habitation of God through the Spirit." And this is one of them. Men everywhere have felt the necessity of placing individuals under a higher authority, a more awful control, than that supplied by laws the mere product of the conventional arrangements of society, though guarded and enforced by penalties the most severe. They have always felt that human law only refers to the outward act, its penalties only to personal inconvenience and suffering, from which, too, escape is possible. They have deeply felt the necessity of an authority which extends to the heart, a punitive power not only far exceeding all human power in its greatness, but in this likewise, that it can neither be resisted nor evaded. Even where the knowledge of the true God had not been retained, the absolute necessity of a substitute was felt, and that substitute was provided in their polytheistic mythologies. The ancients never attempted to found a social system on avowed and direct atheism. Their gods were avengers, and especially avengers of violated oaths. This is a doctrine which completely pervades the systems of Greece and Rome. Men felt that they could not repose implicit confidence in each other. They therefore required that testimonies and promises should be confirmed by oath; by an appeal to divinities, who, though false and fabled, retained in their character one element of primitive truth,-they were the upholders of truth, and the punishers of falsehood. The universality of oaths of this class demonstrates their origin from some of the deepest sources in human nature. And thus St. Paul takes them up, and argues from them for the illustration of the amazing love and condescension of God. "Willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel," he "confirmed it by an oath: that by TWO immutable things,” his simple promise, his solemn oath, "in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation," &c. The specific instance to which the Apostle here refers, is the "oath which was sworn to our father Abraham." "For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself." The record is found in Genesis xxii. 16, "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord." But this is not to be taken as the origin of the practice. It is God, in infinite love, condescending to man; not man learning of God. And yet, the condescension shows that in the right performance of the act, there is nothing essentially sinful, nothing contrary to the divine holiness. In his interview with Melchizedek we find that Abraham had sworn that he would take nothing of the spoil recovered from Chedorlaomer. (Gen. xiv. 22, 23.) So in the agreement that he made with "Abimelech and Phichol, the chief Captain of his host," it was proposed by them that it should be confirmed by mutual oath, indicating the existence of the practice among the nations of the Gentiles. (Gen. xxi. 22, 23.) And Abraham consented, and said, "I will swear." (Verse 24.) Subsequently to the divine oath, Abraham, before sending his servant to procure a wife for Isaac, made him "swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth," that he would faithfully follow his master's directions. (Gen. xxiv. 3.) The bargain between Jacob and Esau for the exchange of the birth-right was confirmed by an oath. (Gen.

xxv. 33.) The covenant between Jacob and Laban had a similar confirmation. (Gen. xxxi. 53.) Jacob on his death-bed made Joseph swear that he would bury him in the burying-place of his fathers. (Gen. xlvii. 31.) And Joseph himself, when dying, "took an oath of the children of Israel,” that when they went forth from Egypt, they should "carry up his bones" with them. (Gen. 1. 25.) All these instances are taken from the patriarchal age, before the establishment of the Mosaic institute. It is needless to quote the instances which are recorded during its existence. It will be quite sufficient to observe, first, that among them, proofs of the same condescension are to be found which had been vouchsafed to Abraham, and, through him, to all the "heirs of promise." Two may be particularly specified. The peculiar priesthood of Christ was distinguished, as well as confirmed, by an oath. "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm cx. 4.) The Apostle shows that this particular form of consecration was designed for our instruction and encouragement. "And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made Priest: (for those Priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him,❞— the Father to his Son, to David's Lord,-"The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedec :) by so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament." (Heb. vii. 20-22.) The other is that amazing declaration of love-we may well call it so spoken by Ezekiel (xxxiii. 11): "As I LIVE, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." Secondly: Instances abound of the continued, unreproved existence of the practice of the administration of oaths on solemn occasions. They are too well known to require quotation. We need only remark, first, that oaths are evidently adopted and recognised by the Mosaic institute, and by the books of Scripture given to men during its continuance, as a regularly established and religious practice; and, secondly, that directions are given respecting their proper use. Thus, Deut. vi. 13: "Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name." (See also chap. x. 20.) In Joshua xxiii. 7, swearing by idols is prohibited. In Isaiah lxv. 15-17, there is a very remarkable prophecy. A new dispensation is to be established, and the foregoing one is utterly to pass away. "I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." The subjects of this shall not be named as heretofore. "For the Lord God shall slay thee," -let the fearful slaughter of the Jews, when Jerusalem was taken by Titus, be recollected," and call his servants by another name." Acts xi. 26, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." And under this dispensation, not-men shall not swear at all-but "he that sweareth in the earth, shall swear by the God of truth." So in Jeremiah xii. 16, 17, there is this promise to Gentile converts, continuing obedient: "If they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people. But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the Lord." There is one passage of Isaiah, quoted by St. Paul, in which the transmutation of the language is very remarkable, especially when viewed in connexion with those aspects of the subject presented by the last-cited texts; and the rather so, as both the Septuagint and the Vulgate give the same rendering of the Hebrew as does our Authorized Version. Isaiah xlv. 23: "I have

sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." In the Epistle to the Romans, (chap. xiv. 11,) the Apostle quotes this passage from the Prophet thus: "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." The citation of the passage proves its applicableness to the times of the Gospel; and the method of citation not less proves that as, under the law, swearing by the name of the Lord, was one of the modes by which they who knew the living and true God were to confess him, so also is it to be under the Gospel. Christians are to confess God by swearing by his name, on all occasions when oaths are to be taken by them.

From the Old Testament we now come to the New. From the patriarchal age, throughout the entire duration of the Jewish polity, we observe the religious use of oaths; and so far from anything like condemnation of the practice, God himself condescends to it, and in the law which he gave to the Jews, and in the writings of the Patriarchs, gives directions concerning its exercise. Do we find in the New Testament any indications of a change of system? If we were to suppose the language of our Lord, and of St. James, not to exist in the record, would that record, as a whole, furnish such indications, or the contrary? We have not, indeed, such a course of history as in the Old Testament, and therefore the same opportunities for those indications do not exist. But, if change there be, that change is so great, that we must expect it to be very strongly marked. The religious use of oaths, as springing from man's original nature, is distinctly recognised, not only by no reproof being given to it, but by regulation distinctly adopting it. And the language of prophecy does at least seem to mark its continuance under the new and coming dispensation. What do we find in the New Testament to show that the two prohibitions, by our Lord and St. James, are of that universal character, that they not only forbid profane swearing, but every appeal to God, however solemn the occasion?

In Matthew xxvi. we find our Lord arraigned before the highest Jewish tribunal, and charged with the highest offence known to the law. The supreme Judge at length questions him on oath, (verse 63,) “I adjure thee by the living God!" Now was the time for the example to be given. But was our Lord silent? Nay, the example was given. He answered on oath. And let this be taken in connexion with the injunctions in the Epistles to be in subjection to the civil power. To Titus, St. Paul says, directing him how to teach the members of the newly-planted churches, "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey Magistrates." (Chap. iii. 1.) Where is the caution against a rightly-administered oath? For the Scriptures were designed for all times. And we have seen that in reasoning on God's oath to Abraham, St. Paul inserts no intimation of the now unlawfulness of the practice. He says nothing like, "Men are naturally led to the solemn use of oaths for confirmation: God has condescended to this for the stronger comfort of his people: but you are now to draw no conclusions in favour of a like practice, which by the command of Christ is become positively sinful." Silence on such an occasion, when there was such necessity for speaking, is expressive. St. Paul, too, knew something of the practice of the Gentiles, even in their serious letters. What is his practice, in his letters? On the supposition of the total unlawfulness of oaths, every form of confirmatory appeal to God would be avoided; for the state of the case demanded this. We read these letters then: "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost."

(Rom. ix. 1.) "I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily." (1 Cor. xv. 31.) "But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay. Moreover, I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.” (2 Cor. i. 18, 23.) "As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting." "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.” (2 Cor. xi. 10, 31.) “Whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth." "We speak before God in Christ." (2 Cor. xii. 2, 3, 19.) "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ." (Phil. i. 8.) "For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness." "Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblamably we behaved ourselves among you that believe." (1 Thess. ii. 5, 10.) "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word." (2 Tim. iv. 1, 2.) And one of the symbols of the mysterious Apocalypse presents us with a continuance of the practice, to whatsoever the symbol itself may refer. "The angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by Him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer." (Rev. x. 5, 6.)

We cannot look at the language of our Lord (Matt. v. 34) as standing alone, as though there had been no reference to the subject in the earlier books of Scripture, or as though these books were merely the legal records of the Mosaic institute. They constitute an integral portion of the Christian rule of faith and practice, and the aspect in which they place any subject demands consideration from us. Where the language of the New Testament is unmistakably abrogatory, that, we allow, is decisive of the question; but where it only seems to be in opposition, our duty to the whole inspired volume requires us to consider the case, all its parts taken together, that we may thus learn, by that collation which interpretation in order to obedience renders needful, how far the opposition extends, and in what sense it is to be taken. And the more so, when a very similar opposition appears to exist in the New Testament itself. Not only did our Lord answer the High Priest upon oath, but most remarkable instances of appeal to a witnessing God occur in the inspired writings of St. Paul. The passages we have quoted are altogether unsuitable to that simplicity of address which is required by that explanation of our Lord's words which regards them as an absolute prohibition of oaths under all circumstances. They are rather the expressions of one who understood the prohibition to refer to oaths, in any and every form, in the customary intercourse of life, and in the ordinary conversation and correspondence of man with man. In this second class of oaths, we have a new feature of the case, a new element in the calculation by which we are to come to a final decision.

We have spoken of nature in its instinctive movements. But nature is now fallen nature. Connected with every right movement, therefore, whatever be the suggesting principle, we may look also for a wrong one. So here. Man is led to these solemn appeals to God. But his fallen nature, godless as it is, leads him likewise to employ these appeals whenever he wishes to strengthen his affirmations. He thus introduces them into ordinary conversation, and his headlong passions, combined with his total want


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of reverence for that “Great and Terrible Name, the Lord his God," issues in profane swearing. In the patriarchal, Jewish, and prophetic ages, oaths were regularly used; unforbidden, in an important sense enjoined. But it was always understood that the practice was to be religious, and, therefore, religiously performed. Oaths were solemn appeals to God, they were religious acts; they were not to be employed on trivial occasions, irreverently, but-in one word-like all other religious acts-religiously. The occasion and the manner were to harmonize with the character of the act. Departure from this became profane swearing; and the same law that allowed oaths, and regulated the practice, most expressly forbade this. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." But the practice was not prevented by the prohibition. There is a remarkable text in Leviticus, (chap. xix. 11, 12,) “Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another." And then it follows, first, "And ye shall not swear by my name falsely," you shall not take a false oath : and, second, "Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God." The last clause is not exegetical of the former. Two sins are denounced. False swearing, where an oath was proper; and profaning God's name, that is, by oaths in ordinary conversation. The command, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain," cannot possibly refer to oaths rightly administered. The whole structure of the Old Testament forbids the supposition. It therefore follows that there is a kind of swearing, that there are oaths, directly forbidden by this law, a law distinctly marking out a particular class of sins, and, by the very language in which it does so, showing their enormity: "The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Too many facts prove that this awful manifestation of ungodliness has been only too common in all ages. How much it has prevailed even among Christian people, where the law of Christ, in set terms forbidding it, is professedly received, history and observation deplorably show. For our present purpose it will be sufficient to look to the Jews, and at some of the nations with whom they had intercourse, towards the close of the Jewish economy. About six hundred years before Christ, among the national sins denounced by Jeremiah, this was one, and it is stated both in a connexion and in a manner which mark its awful character: "I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth." (Jer. xxiii. 9, 10.) Nearly two hundred years earlier, (B.C. 784,) Hosea had spoken to the same effect: "The Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out." (Hosea iv. 1, 2.) These last passages are remarkable. They show that profane swearing, under the generic name of swearing, was a distinct crime; denounced, as such, by that very law of God which allowed and recognised the religious use of oaths. When Jeremiah and Hosea speak against swearing, without qualifying the term, they cannot be taken as including a swearing that was recognised as lawful; and by the same principle of explanation, the "Swear not at all" of our Lord may fairly be limited to that kind of swearing that had by the Prophets been denounced as a national offence.

All that we know of the Jews supports the conclusion, melancholy as it is, that of none of their national immoralities had they conquered the domination, when our Lord appeared among them. Never had they been more corrupt. Even had we not the testimony of Josephus, the scattered notices

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