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less fulfilment is expedient; but there is a shorter whether her refusal does not oblige her to stay at and a safer road to truth. To promise and not to home. Such a person should recollect, that her reperform, is to deceive; and deceit is peculiarly and fusal does not partake of the character of a promise : especially condemned by Christianity. A lie bas there is no other party to it; she comes under no been defined to be “a breach of promise; and, since engagement to another. She only expresses her
the Scriptures condemn lying, they condemn breaches present intention, which intention she is at liberty to of promise.
alter. Persons sometimes deceive others by making a Many promises are conditional though the condipromise in a sense different from that in which they tions are not expressed. A man says to some friends, know it will be understood. They hope this species | I will dine with you at two o'clock; but as he is preof deceit is less criminal than breaking their word, paring to go, his child meets with an accident which "and wish to gain the advantage of deceiving without requires his attention. This man does not violate a its guilt. They dislike the shame but perform the promise by absenting himself, because such promises act. A son has abandoned his father's house, and are in fact made and accepted with the tacit under. the father promises that if he returns, he shall be re- standing that they are subject to such conditions. ceived with open arms. The son returns, the fa- No one would expect, when his friend engaged to dine ther “opens his arms” to receive him, and then pro- with him, that he intended to bind himself to come, ceeds to treat him with rigour. This father falsifies though he left a child unassisted with a fractured his promise as truly as if he had specifically engaged arm. Accordingly, when a person means to exclude to treat him with kindness. The sense in which a such conditions he says, “ I will certainly do so and promise binds a person, is the sense in which he so if I am living and able.” knows it is accepted by the other party.
Yet, even to seem to disregard an engagement is It is very possible to promise without speaking. an evil. To an ingenuous and Christian mind there Those who purchase at auctions frequently advance is always something painful in not performing it. on the price by a sign or a nod. An auctioneer, in Of this evil the principal source is gratuitously selling an estate says, “ Nine hundred and ninety brought upon us by the habit of using unconditional pounds are offered.” He who makes the customary terms for conditional engagements. That which is sign to indicate an advance of ten pounds, promises only intention should be expressed as intention. It to give a thousand. -A person who brings up his | is better, and more becoming the condition of huchildren or others in the known and encouraged ex- manity, to say, I intend to do a thing, than, I will pectation that he will provide for them, promises to do a thing. The recollection of our dependency provide for them. A shipmaster promises to deliver a upon uncontrollable circumstances should be present pipe of wine at the accustomed port, although he with us even in little affairs—“ Go to now, ye that may have made no written and no verbal engage- say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city ment respecting it.
and buy and sell and get gain : whereas ye know not Parole, such as is taken of military men, is of im- what shall be on the morrow.— Ye ought to say, If perative obligation. The prisoner who escapes by the Lord will, we shall live, and do this or that.” breach of parole, ought to be regarded as the perpe- | Not indeed that the sacred name of God is to be intrator of an aggravated crime: aggravated, since troduced to express the conditions of our little enhis word was accepted, as he knows, because peculiar gagements; but the principle should never be forreliance was place upon it, and since he adds to the gotten—that we know not what shall be on the ordinary guilt of breach of promise, that of casting morrow. suspicion and entailing suffering upon other men. Respecting the often discussed question, whether If breach of parole were general, parole would not extorted promises are binding, there has been, I susbe taken. It is one of the anomalies which are pre-pect, a general want of advertence to one important sented by the adherents to the law of honour, that point. What is an extorted promise ? If by an exthey do not reject from their society the man who torted promise, is meant a promise that is made invoimpeaches their respectability and his own, whilst luntarily, without the concurrence of the will; if it they reject the man who really impeaches neither is the effect of any ungovernable impulse, and made the one nor the other.— To say I am a man of ho- without the consciousness of the party—then it is nour and therefore you may rely upon my word; not a promise. This may happen. Fear or agitaand then, as soon as it is accepted, to violate that tion may be so great that a person really does not word, is no ordinary deceit. An upright man never know what he says or does; and in such a case a broke parole.
man's promises do not bind him any more than the Promises are not binding if performance is unlaw. | promises of a man in a fit of insanity. But if by an ful. Sometimes men promise to commit a wicked extorted” promise it is only meant that very powact-even to assassination; but a man is not re- erful inducements were held out to making it, inquired to commit murder because he has promised to ducements however which did not take away the commit it. Thus, in the Christian Scriptures, the power of choice-then these promises are in strict. son who had said, “ I will not” work in the vineyard, ness voluntary, and like all other voluntary engageand “afterwards repented and went,” is spoken of ments, they ought to be fulfilled. But perhaps fulwith approbation : his promise was not binding, be- filment is itself unlawful. Then you may not fulfil cause fulfilment would have been wrong. Cranmer, it. The offence consists in making such engagewhose religious firmness was overcome in the pros- ments. It will be said, a robber threatened to tako pect of the stake, recanted; that is, he promised to my life unless I would promise to reveal the place abandon the protestant faith. Neither was his pro- where my neighbour's money was deposited. Ought mise binding. To have regarded it would have been I not to make the promise in order to save my life? a crime. The offence both of Cranmer and of the No. Here, in reality, is the origin of the difficulties son in the parable, consisted not in violating their and the doubts. To rob your neighbour is criminal; promises but in making them.
to enable another man to rob him is criminal too. Some scrupulous persons appear to attach a need. Instead therefore of discussing the obligation of less obligation to expressions which they employ in "extorted” promises, we should consider whether the form of promises. You ask a lady if she will such promises may lawfully be made. The prospect join a party in a walk; she declines, bút presently of saving life is one of the utmost inducements to recollecting some inducement to go, she is in doubt make them, and yet, amongst those things which
we are to hold subservient to our Christian fidelity, | tive, either perverts the truth or utters what is falsa is our “own life also.” If, however, giving way to to one to whom it is his duty to speak the truth.". the weakness of nature, a person makes the promise, To whom is it not our duty to speak the truth? he should regulate his performance by the ordinary What constitutes duty but the will of God! and principles. Fulfil the promise unless fulfilment be where is it found that it is his will that we should wrong: and if, in estimating the propriety of fulfil- sometimes lie !- But another condition is proposed: ling it, any difficulty arises, it must be charged not In order to constitute a lie, the motive to it must be to the imperfection of moral principles, but to the dishonest. Is not all deceit dishonesty; and can any entanglement in which we involve ourselves by hav- one utter a lie without deceit? A man who travels ing begun to deviate from rectitude. If we had not in the Arctic regions comes home and writes a narunlawfully made the promise we should have had no rative, professedly faithful, of his adventures, and difficulty in ascertaining our subsequent duty. The decorates it with marvellous incidents which never traveller who does not desert the proper road, easily happened, and stories of wonders which he never finds his way; he who once loses sight of it, has saw. You tell this man he has been passing lies upon many difficulties in returning.
the public. Oh no, he says, I had not “a dishonest The history of that good man John Fletcher (La motive.” I only meant to make readers wonder.Flechere) affords an example to our purpose. Milton's mode of substantiating his doctrine, is Fletcher had a brother, De Gons, and a nephew, a worthy of remark. He makes many references for profligate youth. This youth came one day to his authority to the Hebrew Scriptures, but not one to uncle De Gons, and holding up a pistol, declared he the Christian. The reason is plain though perhaps would instantly shoot him if he did not give him an he was not aware of it, that the purer moral system order for five hundred crowns. De Gons in terror which the Christian Lawgiver introduced, did not gave it; and the nephew then, under the same threat, countenance the doctrine. Another argument is so required him solemnly to promise that he would not feeble that it may well be concluded no valid arguprosecute him; and De Gons made the promise ac- ment can be found. If it had been discoverable cordingly. That is what is called an extorted pro. would not Milton have found it? He says, “ It is mise, and an extorted gist. How, in similar cir- universally admitted that feints and stratagems in cumstances, did Fletcher act ? This youth after- war, when unaccompanied by perjury or breach of wards went to him, told him of the “present" which faith, do not fall under the description of falsehood. De Gons had made, and showed him the order. - It is scarcely possible to execute any of the artiFletcher suspected some fraud, and thinking it right fices of war, without openly uttering the greatest to prevent its success, he put the order in his pocket. untruths with the indisputable intention of deceir. It was at the risk of his life. The young man in- ing.”+ And so, because the “ greatest untruths" stantly presented his pistol, declaring that he would are uttered in conducting one of the most flagitious fire if he did not deliver it up. Fletcher did not departments of the most unchristian system in the submit to the extortion : he told him that his life was world, we are told, in a system of Christian Doc. secure under the protection of God, refused to de- trine, that untruths are lawful ! Hver up the order, and severely remonstrated with Paley's philosophy is yet more Jax: he says that his nephew on his profligacy. The young man was we may tell a falsehood to a person who “has no restrained and softened; and before he left his uncle, right to know the truth.” | What constitutes a right gave him many assurances that he would amend his to know the truth, it were not easy to determine. life.- De Gons might have been perplexed with But if a man has no right to know the truthdoubts as to the obligation of his “extorted” pro- withhold it; but do not utter a lie. A man has no mise: Fletcher could have no doubts to solve. right to know how much property I possess. If,
however, he impertinently chooses to ask, what am I to do? Refuse to tell him, says Christian morality.
What am I to do? Tell him it is ten times as great The guilt of lying, like that of many other of- as it is, says the morality of Paley. fences, has been needlessly founded upon its ill To say that when a man is tempted to employ a effects. These effects constitute a good reason for falsehood, he is to consider the degree of “inconadhering to truth, but they are not the greatest veniency which results from the want of confidence nor the best. Putting away lying, speak every in such cases,”S and to employ the falsehood or not man truth with his neighbour.” « Ye shall not as this degree shall prescribe, is surely to trifle with steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to an morality. What is the hope that a man will decide other.”+ “ The law is made for unholy and pro- aright, who sets about such a calculation at such a fane, for murderers—for liars."! It may afford the time! Another kind of falsehood which it is said is reader some instruction, to observe with what crimes lawful, is that “to a robber, to conceal your prolying is associated in Scripture-with perjury, and perty.” A man gets into my house, and desires to murder, and parricide. Not that it is necessary to know where he shall find my plate. I tell him it is zuppose that the measure of guilt of these crimes is in a chest in such a room, knowing that it is in a equal, but that the guilt of all is great. With respect closet in another. By such a falsehood I might save to lying, there is no trace in these passages that its my property or possibly my life; but if the prospect guilt is conditional upon its effects, or that it is not of doing this be a sufficient reason for violating the always, and for whatever purpose, prohibited by the Moral Law, there is no action which we may not lawDivine Will,
fully commit. May a person, in order so to save his A lie is, uttering what is not true when the speaker property or life, commit parricide ? Every reader says. professes to utter truth, or when he knows it is ex- No. But where is the ground of the distinction. If pected by the hearer. I do not perceive that any looser you may lie for the sake of such advantages, wby definition is allowable, because every looser defini. may you not kill ? What makes murder unlawful tion would permit deceit.
but that which makes lying unlawful too? No man Milton's definition, considering the general tenor surely will say that we must make distinctions in the of his character, was very lax. He says, “ False. atrocity of such actions, and that, though it is not hood is incurred when any one, from a dishonest ma
• Christian Doctrine, p. 658.
* Id. 689. • Eph. iv. 25. + Lov, xix. 11. | 1 Tim. 1. 9, 1c,
Mor. and Pol. Phil. b. 3. p. 1. c. 15.
lawful for the sake of advantage to commit an act of such language as he can, because it is frequently a certain intensity of guilt, yet it is lawful to com- dangerous language. The man who familiarizes mit one of a certain gradation less. Sach doctrine himself to a departure from literal truth, is in dan would be purely gratuitous and unfounded: it would ger of departing from it without reason and without de equivalent to saying that we are at liberty to dis- excuse. Some of these departures are like lies; so obey the Divine Laws when we think fit. The case much like them that both speaker and hearer may is very simple: If I may tell a falsehood to a robber reasonably question whether they are lies or not. n order to save my property, I may commit par- The lapse from untruths which can deceive no one, ricide for the same purpose; for lying and parricide to those which are intended to deceive, proceeds by are placed together and jointly condemned* in the almost imperceptible gradations on the scale of revelation from God.
evil: and it is not the part of wisdom to approach Then we are told that we may “tell a falsehood the verge of guilt. Nor is it to be forgotten, that to a madman for his own advantage,” and this be- language, professedly fictitious, is not always undercause it is beneficial. Dr Carter may furnish an stood to be such by those who hear it. This applies answer: he speaks of the Female Lunatic Asylum, especially to the case of children—that is, of manSaltpetriere, in Paris, and says, “ The great object kind during that period of life which they are to which the views of the officers of La Salt petriere acquiring some of their first notions of morality. are directed, is to gain the confidence of the pa- The boy who hears his father using hyperboles and tients; and this object is generally attained by gen- | irony with a grave countenance, probably thinks he tleness, by appearing to take an interest in their has his father's example for telling lies amongst his affairs, by a decision of character equally remote schoolfellows. from the extremes of indulgence and severity, and Amongst the indefensible untruths which often by the most scrupulous observance of good faith. are not lies, are those which factitious politeness Upon this latter, particular stress seems to be laid enjoins. Such are compliments and complimentary by M. Pinel, who remarks that insane persons, subscriptions, and many other untruths of expreslike children, lose all confidence and all respect if | sion and of action which pass currently in the world. you fail in your word towards them; and they im- These are, no doubt, often estimated at their value: mediately set their ingenuity to work to deceive and the receiver knows that they are base coin though circumvent you.'”+ What then becomes of the they shine like the good. Now, although it is not doctrine of "telling falsehoods to madmen for their to be pretended that such expressions, so estimated, own advantage?” It is pleasant thus to find the are lies, yet I will venture to affirm that the reader evidence of experience enforcing the dictates of cannot set up for them any tolerable defence; and principle, and that what morality declares to be if he cannot show that they are right he may be right, facts declare to be expedient.
quite sure that they are wrong. A defence has Persons frequently employ falsehoods to a sick however been attempted : " How much is happiness man who cannot recover, lest it should discompose increased by the general adoption of a system of his mind. This is called kindness, although an concerted and limited deceit! He from whose earnest preparation for death may be at stake upon doctrine it flows that we are to be in no case hypotheir speaking the truth. There is a peculiar incon- crites, would, in mere manners, reduce us to a desistency sometimes exhibited on such occasions : the gree of barbarism beyond that of the rudest sapersons who will not discompose a sick man for the vage.” We do not enter here into such questions sake of his interests in futurity, will discompose him as whether a man may smile when his friend calls without scruple if he has not made his will. Is a upon him, though he would rather just then that bequest of more consequence to the survivor, than a
he had staid away.
Whatever the reader may think hope full of immortality to the dying man !
of these questions, the “system of deceit” which It is curious to remark how zealously persons passes in the world cannot be justified by the decireprobate “pious frauds;" that is, lies for the reli- sion. There is no fear that “a degree of barbargious benefit of the deceived party. Surely if any ism beyond that of the rudest savage" would ensue, reason for employing falsehood be a good one, it is if this system were amended. The first teachers of the prospect of effecting religious benefit. How is Christianity, who will not be charged with being in it then that we so freely condemn these falsehoods, “any case hypocrites,” both recommended and pracwhilst we contend for others which are used for tised gentleness and courtesy. * And as to the inless important purposes ?
crease of happiness which is assumed to result from Still, not every expression that is at variance this system of deceit, the fact is of a very questionwith facts is a lie, because there are some expres- able kind. No society I believe sufficiently discousions in which the speaker does not pretend, and the rages it; but that society which discourages it hearer does not expect, literal truth. Of this class probably as much as any other, certainly enjoys its are hyperboles and jests, fables and tales of pro- full average of happiness. But the apology professed fiction : of this class too, are parables, such ceeds, and more seriously errs: “ The employment as are employed in the New Testament. In such of falsehood for the production of good, cannot be cases affirmative language is used in the same terms more unworthy of the Divine Being than the acas if the allegations were true, yet as it is known knowledged employment of rapine and murder for that it does not profess to narrate facts, no lie is the same purpose.f Is it then not perceived that to uttered. It is the same with some kinds of irony: 1 employ the wickedness of man is a very different “ Cry aloud,” said Elijah to the priests of the idol, thing from holding its agents innocent ? Some of “ for he is a god, peradventure he sleepeth.” And those whose wickedness has been thus employed, yet, because a given untruth is not a lie, it does not have been punished for that wickedness. Even to therefore follow that it is innocent: for it is very show that the Deity has employed falsehood for the possible to employ such expressions without any suf- production of good, would in no degree establish the ficient justification. A man who thinks he can best doctrine that faisehood is right. inculcate virtue through a fable, may write one: he The childish and senseless practice of requiring who desires to discountenance an absurdity, may servants to "deny" their masters, has had many employ irony. Yet every one should use as little of apologists I suppose because many perceive that • 1 Tim. i, 9, 10.
• 1 Peter, ii. 1. Tit, ui. 2. 1 Peter, iii, 6. + Account of the Principal Hospitals in France, &c
Edin. Rer, vol. I, Art. Belsham's Philosophy of the Vind false,"*
it is wrong. It is not always true that such a ser- Christians_Inefficacy of oaths-Motives to veracity-Rel.
| vant does not in strictness lie; for, how well soever
Evidence: Parliamentary Evidence : Courts Martial – The the folly may be understood by the gay world, some United States, Effects of oaths : Falsehood-General obli. who knock at their doors have no other idea than gations. that they may depend upon the servant's word. Of this the servant is sometimes conscious, and to these
“ An oath is that whereby we call God to witness persons therefore he who denies his master, lies. An
the truth of what we say, with a curse upon ouruninitiated servant suffers a shock to his moral prin- selves, either implied or expressed, should it prove ciples when he is first required to tell these falsehoods. It diminishes his previous abhorrence of
A CURSE.—Now supposing the Christian Scriplying, and otherwise deteriorates his moral character.
tures to contain no information respecting the moral Even if no such ill consequences resulted from this
character of oaths, how far is it reasonable, or prufoolish custom, there is objection to it which is short, dent, or reverent, for a man to stake his salvation but sufficient, nothing can be said in its defence. upon the truth of what he says ? To bring forward Amongst the prodigious multiplicity of falsehoods
so tremendous an event as “everlasting destruction which are practised in legal processes, the system
from the presence of the Lord,” in attestation of of pleading not guilty is one that appears perfectly the offence perhaps of a poacher or of the claim to useless. By the rule, that all who refuse to plead a field, is surely to make unwarrantably light of were presumed to be guilty, prisoners were in some
most awful things. This consideration applies, sort compelled to utter this falsehood before they even if a man is sure that he speaks the truth; could have the privilege of a trial. The law is
but who is, beforehand, sure of this? Oaths in lately relaxed; so that a prisoner, if he chooses, i evidence, for example, are taken before the testimay refuse to plead at all. Still, only a part of the mony is given. A person swears that he will speak evil is removed, for even now, to keep silent may be
the truth. Who, I ask, is sure that he will do this? construed into a tacit acknowledgment of guilt, so
Who is sure that the embarrassment of a public that the temptation to falsehood is still exhibited. I examination, that the ensnaring questions of counsel, There is co other use in the custom of pleading that the secret influence of inclination or interest, guilty or not guilty, but that, if a man desires to
will not occasion him to utter one inaccurate exacknowledge his guilt, he may have the opportu- pression? Who, at any rate, is so sure of this that nity; and this he may have without any custom of it is rational, or justifiable, specifically to stake his the sort.- It cannot be doubted that the multitude salvation upon his accuracy? Thousands of honest of falsehoods which obtain in legal documents during
men have been mistaken; their allegations have the progress of a suit at law, have a powerful ten
been sincere, but untrue. And this should be dency to propagate habits of mendacity. A man
thought not a legitimate objection, let it be rememsells goods to the value of twenty pounds to another,
bered, that few men's minds are so sternly upright, and is obliged to enforce payment by law. The
that they can answer a variety of questions upon lawyer draws up, for the creditor, a Declaration in subjects on which their feelings, and wishes, and Assumpsit, stating that the debtor owes him forty
interest are involved, without some little deduction pounds for goods sold, forty pounds for work done, from the truth, in speaking of matters that are forty pounds for money lent, forty pounds for money
against their cause, or some little overcolouring of expended on his account, forty pounds for money
facts in their own favour. It is a circumstance of received by the debtor for the creditor, and so on
constant occurrence, that even a well-intentioned --and that, two or three hundred pounds being thus
witness adds to or deducts a little from the truth. due to the creditor, he has a just demand of twenty
Who then, amidst such temptation, would make, pounds upon the debtor! These falsehoods are not who ought to make, his hope of heaven dependent one half of what an every day Declaration in As
on his strict adherence to accurate veracity? And sumpsit contains. If a person refuses to give up a
if such considerations indicate the impropriety of hundred head of cattle which a farmer has placed swearing upon subjects which affect the lives, and in his custody, the farmer delares that he “ casually
liberties, and property of others, how shall we esti. lost” them, and that the other party
mate the impropriety of using these dreadful imprefound" them: and then, instead of saying he casually
cations to attest the delivery of a summons for a lost a hundred head of cattle, he declares that it was
debt of half-a-crown! a thousand bulls, a thousand cows, a thousand oxen,
These are moral objections to the use of oaths and a thousand heifers !* I do not think that the independently of any reference to the direct Moral habits of mendacity which such falsehoods are likely
Law. Another objection of the same kind is this: to encourage are the worst consequences of this un- To take an oath is to assume that the Deity will happy system, but they are seriously bad. No man
become a party in the case—that we can call upon who considers the influence of habit upon the mind,
Him, when we please, to follow up by the exercise can doubt that an ingenuous abhorrence of lying is
of His almighty power, the contracts (often the likely to be diminished by familiarity with these ex- very insignificant contracts) which men make with travagant falsehoods.
Is it not irreverent, and for that reason immoral, to call upon him to exercise this power in reference to subjects which are so insignificant that
other men will scarcely listen with patience to their CHAPTER VII.
details ? The objection goes even further. A robber exacts an oath of the man whom he has plundered, that he will not attempt to pursue or prosecute him. Pursuit and prosecution are duties; so then the oath assumes that the Deity will punish
the swearer in futurity if he fulfils a duty. Confe. BECURITIES OF VERACITY-THEIR EFFECTS.
derates in a dangerous and wicked enterprise bind A Curse -- Immorality of oaths -- Oaths of the ancient Jews
one another to secrecy and to mutual assistance, by Milton –- Paley -- The High Priest's adjuration - Early oaths-assuming that God wiil become a party to • See the Form, 2, Chitty on Pleading, p. 370
• Milton : Christian Doctrine, p. 679.
THEIR MORAL CHARACTERTHEIR EFFICACY AS
their wickedness, and if they do not perpetrate it “ I say unto you, Swear not at all.” The words will punish them for their virtue.
are absolute and exclusive. Upon every subject of questionable rectitude that "Neither by heaven, nor by the earth, nor by Jeruis sanctioned by habit and the usages of society, a salem, nor by thy own head.” Respecting this enuperson should place himself in the independent sitna- meration it is said that it prohibits swearing by certion of an enquirer. He should not seek for arguments tain objects, but not by all objects. To which a to defend an existing practice, but should simply sufficient answer is found in the parallel passage in enquire what our practice ought to be. One of the James : “Swear not,” he says ; “neither by heaven, most powerful causes of the slow amendment of neither by the earth, neither by any other oath.”* public institutions, consists in this circumstance, that This mode of prohibition, by which an absolute and most men endeavour rather to justify what exists universal rule is first proposed and then followed by than to consider whether it ought to exist or not. certain examples of the prohibited things, is elseThis cause operates upon the question of oaths. We where employed in Scripture.“ Thou shalt have therefore invite the reader, in considering the cita- no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make tion which follows, to suppose himself to be one of unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any the listeners at the Mount-to know nothing of the thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth customs of the present day, and to have no desire to beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”+ justify them.
No man supposes that this after-enumeration was “ Ye have heard that it hath been said by them designed to restrict the obligation of the law--Thou of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself but shalt have no other gods before me.
Yet it were shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say as reasonable to say that it was lawful to make unto you, Swear not at all: neither by heaven for idols in the form of imaginary monsters because they it is God's throne, nor by the earth for it his foot- were not mentioned in the enumeration, as that it is stool, neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the lawful to swear any given kind of oath because it is Great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, not mentioned in the enumeration. Upon this part because thou canst not make one hair white or black. of the prohibition it is curious that two contradicBut let your communication be yea yea, nay nay ; tory opinions are advanced by the defenders of oaths. for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil.” * The first class of reasoners says, The prohibition
If a person should take a New Testament, and allows us to swear by the Deity, but disallows swearread these words to ten intelligent Asiatics who had | ing by inferior things. The second class says, The never heard of them before, does any man believe prohibition allows swearing by inferior things, but that a single individual of them would think that the disallows swearing by the Deity. Of the first class words did prohibit all oaths ? I lay stress upon this is Milton. The injunction, he says, “ does not proconsideration : if ten unbiased persons would, at the hibit us from swearing by the name of God--We first hearing, say the prohibition was universal, we are only commanded not to swear by heaven, &c." I have no contemptible argument that that is the real But here again the Scripture itself furnishes a conmeaning of the words. For to whom were the clusive answer. It asserts that to swear by heaven words addressed ? Not to schoolmen, of whom it is to swear by the Deity : “ He that shall swear by was known that they would make nice distinctions heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by Him and curious investigations ; not to men of learning, that sitteth thereon."$ To prohibit swearing by who were in the habit of cautiously weighing the heaven, is therefore to prohibit swearing by God.import of words—but to a multitude -a mixed and Amongst the second class is Dr Paley. He says, unschooled multitude. It was to such persons that “ On account of the relation which these things, the prohibition was addressed; it was to such appre- sthe heavens, the earth, &c.] bore to the Supreme hensions that its form was adapted.
Being, to swear by any of them was in effect and “ It hath been said of old time, Thou shalt not substance to swear by Him; for which reason our forswear thyself.” Why refer to what was said of Saviour says, Swear not at all; that is, neither di. old time? For this reason assuredly; to point out rectly by God nor indirectly by any thing related that the present requisitions were different from the to him."|| But if we are thus prohibited from swearformer ; that what was prohibited now was different ing by any thing related to Him, how happens it that from what was prohibited before. And what was Paley proceeds to justify judicial oaths ? Does not prohibited before? Swearing falsely-Swearing and the judicial deponent swear by something related to not performing. What then could be prohibited God? Does he not swear by something much more now? 'Swearing truly-Swearing, even, and per- nearly related than the earth or our own heads Is forming : that is, swearing at all; for it is manifest not our hope of salvation more nearly related than that if truth may not be attested by an oath, no oath a member of our bodies ?- But after he has thus may be taken. Of old time it was said, “ Ye shall taken pains to show that swearing by the Almighty not swear by my name falsely.” + “If a man swear was especially forbidden, he enforces his general an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not argument by saying that Christ did swear by the break his word." There could be no intelligible Almighty! He says that the high priest examined purpose in contradistinguishing the new precept from our Saviour upon oath,“ by the living God;" which these, but to point out a characteristic difference ; oath he took. This is wonderful; and the more and there is no intelligible characteristic difference wonderful because of these two arguments the one but that which denounces all oaths. Such were the immediately follows the other. It is contended, views of the early Christians. “ The old law,” says within half a dozen lines, first that Christ forbade one of them, “is satisfied with the honest keeping swearing by God, and next that he violated his own of the oath, but Christ cuts off the opportunity of command. perjury." $ In acknowledging that this prefatory “ But let your communication be yea yea, nay reference to the former law, is in my view absolutely nay.” This is remarkable : it is positive superadded conclusive of our Christian duty, I would remark as to negative commands. We are told not only what an extraordinary circumstance, that Dr Paley, in we ought not, but what we ought to do. It has citing the passage, omits this introduction and takes indeed been said that the expression “ your communo notice of it in his argument.
• James v. 12.
+ Exod. xx. 3. See also xi. 4. • Matt. v. 33--37.
+ Lev. xix, 12.
Christ. Doc. p. 582. $ Matt, xxiii. 22. | Numb. xxx. 2.
| Mor. and Pol. Phil. b. 3, p. 1, c. 16.