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nication,” fixes the meaning to apply to the ordinary / mention of you always in my prayers." * That the intercourse of life. But to this there is a fatal ob- | Almighty was witness to the subject of his prayers jection: the whole prohibition sets out with a refe- is most true; but to state this truth is not to swear. rence not to conversational language but to solemn Neither this language nor that which is indicated declarations on solemn occasions. “ Oaths, Oaths below, contains the characteristics of an oath accor“ to the Lord,” are placed at the head of the pas. ding to the definitions even of those who urge the sage ; and it is too manifest to be insisted upon that expressions. None of them contain, according to solemn declarations, and not every-day talk, were Milton's definition," a curse upon ourselves;” por acthe subject of the prohibition.

cording to Paley's, “ an invocation of God's ven“ Whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil." geance." Similar language, but in a more emphatic This is indeed most accurately true. Evil is the form isemployed in writing to the Corinthian converts

. foundation of oaths : it is because men are bad that It appears from 2 Cor. ii. that Paul had resolved not it is supposed oaths are needed : take away the wick again to go to Corinth in heaviness, lest he should edness of mankind, and we shall still have occasion for make them sorry. And to assure them why he had No and Yes, but we shall need nothing “ more than made this resolution he says, “ I call God for a rethese.” And this consideration furnishes a distinct cord upon my soul that to spare you I came not as motive to a good man to decline to swear. To take yet unto Corinth." In order to show this to be an an oath is tacitly to acknowledge that this “ evil oath, it will be necessary to show that the apostle exists in his own mind that with him Christianity imprecated the vengeance of God if he did not speak has not effected its destined objects.

the truth. Who can show this !—The expression From this investigation of the passage, it appears appears to me to be only an emphatical mode of saymanifest that all swearing upon all occasions is pro- | ing, God is witness; or as the expression is somehibited. Yet the ordinary opinion, or rather per- times employed in the present day, God knows that haps the ordinary defence is, that the passage has no such was my endeavour or desire. reference to judicial oaths. “ We explain our Sa- The next and the last argument is of a very ex. viour's words to relate not to judicial oaths but to ceptionable class : it is founded upon silence. * For the practice of vain, wanton, and unauthorized swear. men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for ing in common discourse.” To this we have just confirmation is to them an end of all strife.” † Reseen that there is one conclusive answer: our Saviour í specting this it is said that it “ speaks of the custom distinctly and specifically mentions, as the subject of of swearing judicially without any mark of censure his instructions, solemn oaths. But there is another or disapprobation.” Will it then be contended that conclusive answer even upon our opponents' own whatever an apostle mentions without reprobating, showing. They say first, that Christ described par- he approves ? The same apostle speaks just in the ticular forms of oaths which might be employed, and same manner of the pagan games; of running a race next, that his precepts referred to wanton swearing; for prizes and of " striving for the mastery."

Yet that is to say, that Christ described what particular who would admit the argument, that because Paul forms of wanton swearing he allowed and what he did not then censure the games, he thought them disallowed! You cannot avoid this monstrous con- right ! The existing customs both of swearing and clusion. If Christ spoke only of vain and wanton of the games, are adduced merely by way of illustraswearing, and if he described the modes that were tion of the writer's subject. lawful, he sanctioned wanton swearing provided we Respecting the lawfulness of oaths, then, as deswear in the prescribed form,

termined by the Christian Scriptures, how does the With such distinctness of evidence as to the uni- balance of evidence stand! On the one side, we versality of the prohibition of oaths by Jesus Christ, have plain emphatical prohibitions-prohibitions, of it is not in strictness necessary to refer to those pas- which the distinctness is more fully proved the more sages in the Christian Scriptures which some per- they are investigated; on the other we have—coudsons adduce in favour of their employment, If ter precepts? No; it is not even pretended; but Christ have prohibited them, nothing else can prove we have examples of the use of language, of which them to be right. Our reference to these passages it is saying much to say, that it is doubiful whether will accordingly be short.

they are oaths or not. How, then, would the man “ I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us of reason and of philosophy decide !_“ Many of whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God." To the Christian fathers,” says Grotius, "condemned those who allege that Christ, in answering to this all oaths without exception."Grotius was him“ Thou hast said,” took an oath, a sufficient answer self an advocate of oaths. “ I say nothing of perhas already been intimated. If Christ then took an jury,” says Tertullian, “ since swearing itself is unoath, he swore by the Deity, and this is precisely the lawful to Christians."$ Chrysostom says, very kind of oath which it is acknowledged he him- not say to me, I swear for a just purpose ; it is no self forbade. But what imaginable reason could there longer lawful for thee to swear either justly or unbe for examining him upon oath ? Who ever heard justly."|| “ He who,” says Gregory of Nysse,“ has of calling upon a prisoner to swear that he was precluded murder by taking away anger, and who guilty ? Nothing was wanted but a simple declara- has driven away the pollution of adultery by subtion that he was the Son of God. With this view duing desire, has expelled from our life the curse of the proceeding was extremely patural. Finding that perjury by forbidding us to swear ; for where there to the less urgent solicitation he made no reply, the is no oath, there can be no infringement of it."** high priest proceeded to the more urgent. Schleus- Such is the conviction which the language of Christ ner expressly remarks upon the passage that the conveyed to the early converts to his puro religion; words, 1 adjure, do not here mean, 6. I make to swear and such is the conviction which I think it would or put upon oath,” but I solemnly and in the name convey to us if custom had not familiarized us with of God exhort and enjoin." This is evidently the the evil, and if we did not read the New Testament natural and the only natural meaning ; just as it was rather to find justifications of our practice than to the natural meaning when the evil spirit said, “ I ad- discover the truth and to apply it to our conduct. jure thee by the living God that thou torment me not." The evil spirit surely did not administer an oath.

Rights of War and Peace.

De Idol, cap. 11. il Gen. i, Hom. x, “ God is my witness that without ceasing I make

* Do

.

* Rom. i. 9. See also l. Thess. ii. 5 and Gal. i. 20.

Ileb vi. 16.

In Cunt, Hom. 13.

EFFICACY OF OATHS AS SECURITIES FOR VERACITE. tion, will be found to be incomparably more power

ful than that religious inducement which is applied Men naturally speak the truth unless they have by an oath as such. Not so much because religious some inducements to falsehood. When they have sanctions are less operative than public opinion, as such inducements, what is it that overcomes them because public opinion applies or detaches the reliand still prompts them to speak the truth?

gious sanction. Upon this subject a serious mistake Considerations of duty, founded upon religion : has been made; for it has been contended that the The apprehension of the ill opinion of other men: influence of religious motives is comparatively noThe fear of legal penalties.

thing--that unless men are impelled to speak the I. It is obvious that the intervention of an oath truth by fear of disgrace or of legal penalties, they is designed to strengthen only the first of these care very little for the sanctions of religion. But motives—that is, the religious sanction. I say to the truth is, that the sanctions of religion are, in a strengthen the religious sanction.

No one sup

great degree, either brought into operation, or preposes it creates that sanction; because people know vented from operating, by these secondary motives. that the sanction is felt to apply to falsehood as well Religious sanctions necessarily follow the judgments as to perjury. The advantage of an oath, then, if of the mind; if a man by any means becomes conadvantage there be, is in the increased power which vinced that a given action is wrong, the religious it gives to sentiments of duty founded upon religion. obligation to refrain from it follows. Now, the Now, it will be our endeavour to show that this in- judgments of men respecting right and wrong are creased power is small; that, in fact, the oath, a3 very powerfully affected by public opinion. It com. such, adds very little to the motives to veracity. monly happens that that which a man has been habiWhat class of men will the reader select in order to tually taught to think wrong, he does think wrong. illustrate its greatest power ?

Men are thus taught by public opinion. So that if Good men? They will speak the truth whether the public attach disgrace to any species of mendawithout an oath or with it. They know that God city or perjury, the religious sanction will commonly has appended to falsehood as to perjury the threat apply to that species. If there are instances of of his displeasure and of punishment in futurity. mendacity or perjury to which public disapprobation Upon them religion possesses its rightful influence does not attach-to those instances the religious without the intervention of an oath.

sanction will commonly not apply, or apply but Bad men ! Men who care nothing for religion ! weakly. The power of public opinion in binding to They will care nothing for it though they take an veracity is therefore twofold. It has its direct incath.

fluence arising from the fear which all men feel of Men of ambiguous character ? Men on whom the the disapprobation of others, and the indirect insanctions of religion are sometimes operative and fluence arising from the fact that public opinion sometimes not? Perhaps it will be said that to these applies the sanctions of religion. the solemnity of an oath is necessary to rouse their III. Of the influence of legal penalties in binding Intent apprehensions, and to bind them to veracity. | to veracity, little needs to be said. It is obvious Bat these persons do not go before a legal officer that if they induce men to refrain from theft and or into a court of justice as they go into a parlour violence, they will induce men to refrain from peror meet an acquaintance in the street. Recollection jury. But it may be remarked, that the legal peof mind is forced upon them by the circumstances nalty tends to give vigour and efficiency to public of their situation. The court, and the forms of law, opinion. He whom the law punishes as a criminal, and the audience, and the after publicity of the evi- | is generally regarded as a criminal by the world. dence, fix the attention even of the careless. The Now that which we affirm is this that unless man of only occasional seriousness is serious then ; public opinion or legal penalties enforce veracity, and if in their hours of seriousness, such persons very little will be added by an oath to the motives to regard the sanctions of religion, they will regard veracity more than would subsist in the case of simthem in a court of justice though without an oath. ple affirmation. The observance of the Oxford sta.

Yet it may be supposed by the reader that the so- tutes* is promised by the members on oath-yet no lemnity of a specific imprecation of the Divine ven. one observes them. They swear to observe them, geance would, nevertheless, frequently add stronger they imprecate the Divine vengeance if they do not motives to adhere to truth. But what is the evi- observe them, and yet they disregard them every dence of experience! After testimony has been day. The oath then is of no avail. An oath, as given on affirmation, the parties are sometimes exa- such, does not here bind men's consciences. And mised on the same subject upon oath. Now Pothier why? Because those sanctions by which men's consays, “ In forty years of practice I have only met sciences are bound, are not applied. The law applies two instances where the parties, in the case of an none: public opinion applies none: and therefore oath offered after evidence, have been prevented by the religious sanction is weak; too weak with most a sense of religion from persisting in their testi men to avail. Not that no motives founded upon monies." Two instances in forty years; and even religion present themselves to the mind; for I doubt with respect to these it is to be remembered, that not there are good men who would refuse to take one great reason why simple affirmations do not these oaths simply in consequence of religious mobind men is, that their obligation is artificially di- tives: but constant experience shows that these men minished (as we shall presently see) by the employ- are comparatively few; and if any one should say ment of oaths. To the evidence resulting from that upon them an oath is influential, we answer, that these truths I know of but one limitary considera- they are precisely the very persons who would be tion; and to this the reader must attach such weight bound by their simple promises without an oath. as he thinks it deserves that a man on whom an The oaths of Jurymen afford another instance. oath had been originally imposed might then have Jurymen swear that they will give a verdict accordbeen bound to veracity, who would not incur the ing to the evidence, and yet it is perfectly well known shame of baving lied by refusing afterwards to con- that they often assent to a verdict which they believe firm his falsehoods with an oath.

to be contrary to that evidence. They do not all II. The next inducement to adhere to truth is the coincide in the verdict which the forcman pronounapprehension of the ill opinion of others. And this inducement, either in its direct or indirect opera

• See p. 106,

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ces, it is indeed often impossible that they should gion would remain; and we have just shown how coincide. This perjury is committed by multitudes ; little a mere oath avails. But we have artificially yet what juryman cares for it, or refuses, in con- diminished the public reprobation of lying by estasequence of his oath, to deliver a verdict which he blishing oaths. The tendency of instituting oaths is believes to be improper ? The reason that they do manifestly to diffuse the sentiment that there is a not care is, that the oath, as such, does not bind their difference in the degree of obligation not to lie, and consciences. It stands alone. The public do not not to swear falsely. This difference is made, not often reprobate the violation of such oaths; the law so much by adding stronger motives to veracity by does not punish it; jurymen learn to think that it is an oath, as by deducting from the motives to verano harm to violate them; and the resulting conclu- | city in simple affirmations. Let the public opinion sion is, that the form of an oath cannot and does not take its own healthful and unobstructed course, and supply the deficiency ;-It cannot and does not ap- falsehood in evidence will quickly be regarded as a ply the religious sanction.

flagrant offence. Take away oaths, and the public Step a few yards from the jury box to the witness- reprobation of falsehood will immediately increase in box, and you see the difference. There public opi-power, and will bring with its increase an increasing nion interposes its power—there the punishment of efficiency in the religious sanction. The present perjury impends—there the religious sanction is ap- relative estimate of lying and perjury is a very inplied--and there, consequently, men regard the accurate standard by which to judge of the efficiency truth. If the simple intervention of an oath was of oaths. We have artificially reduced the abhorthat which bound men to veracity, they would be rence of lying, and then say that that abhorrence is bound in the jury-box as much as at ten feet off; but not great enough to bind men to the truth. it is not.

Our reasoning then proceeds by these steps. A custom-house oath is nugatory even to a pro- Oaths are designed to apply a strong religious verb. Yet it is an oath: yet the swearer does stake sanction: they however do not apply it unless they his salvation upon his veracity; and still his veracity are seconded by the apprehension of penalties or disis not secured. Why? Because an oath, as such, grace. The apprehension of penalties and disgrace applies to the minds of most men little or no motive may be attached to falsehood, and with this appreto veracity. They do not in fact think that their hension the religious sanction will also be attached salvation is staked, necessarily, by oaths. They to it. Therefore, all those motives which bind men think it is either staked or not, according to certain to veracity may be applied to falsehood as well as other circumstances quite independent of the oath to oaths.- In other words, oaths are needless. itself. These circumstances are not associated with But in reality we have evidence of this needlesscustom-house oaths, and therefore they do not avail. ness from every day experience. In some of the Churchwardens' oaths are of the same kind. Upon most important of temporal affairs, an oath is never these, Gisborne remarks—“ in the successive exe- used. The Houses of Parliament in their examinacution of the office of churchwarden, almost every tions of witnesses employ no oaths. They are conman above the rank of a day labourer, in every pa- vinced (and therefore they have proved) that the rish in the kingdom, learns to consider the strongest truth can be discovered without them. But if afirsanction of truth as a nugatory form." This is not mation is thus a sufficient security for veracity in quite accurate. They do not learn to consider the the great questions of a legislature, how can it strongest sanction of truth as a nugatory form, but be insufficient in the little questions of private they learn to consider oaths as a nugatory form. life! There is a strange inconsistency here. That The reality is, that the sanctions of truth are not same Parliament which declares, by its every-day brought into operation, and that oaths, as such, do practice, that oaths are needless, continues, by its not bring them into operation.

every-day practice, to impose them! Even more: We return then to our proposition-Unless pub- those very men who themselves take oaths as a nelic opinion or legal penalties enforce veracity, very cessary qualification for their duties as legislators, little is added by an oath to the motives to veracity, proceed to the exercise of these duties upon the more than wonld subsist in the case of simple affir- mere testimony of other men !_Peers are never remation.

quired to take oaths in delivering their testimony, It is obvious that the legislature might, if it | yet no one thinks that a peer's evidence in a pleased, attach the same penalties to falsehood as it court of justice may not be as much depended upon now attaches to perjury; and therefore all the mo- as that of him who swears. Why are peers in fact tives to veracity which are furnished by the law in bound to veracity though without an oath! Will the case of oaths, might be equally furnished in the you say that the religious sanction is more powerful case of affirmation. This is in fact done by the upon lords than apon other men ? The supposition legislature in the case of the Society of Friends. were ridiculous. How then does it happen? You

It is also obvious that public opinion might be ap- | reply, Their honour binds them: Very well; that is plied to affirmation much more powerfully than it is the same as to say that public opinion binds them. now. The simple circumstance of disusing oaths But then, he who says that honour, or any thing else would effect this. Even now, when the public dis- | besides pure religious sanctions, binds men to veraapprobation is excited against a man who has given city, impugns the very grounds upon which oaths are false evidence in a court of justice, by what is it ex- defended. cited! by his having broken his oath, or by his hav. Oath evidence again is not required by courtsing given false testimony? It is the falsehood which martial. But can any man assign a reason why a excites the disapprobation, much more than the cir- | person who would speak the truth on affirmation becumstance that the falsehood was in spite of an oath. fore military officers, would not speak it on affirmaThis public disapprobation is founded upon the ge. tion before a judge? Arbitrations too proceed often, neral perception of the guilt of false testimony and perhaps generally, upon evidence of parole. Yet do of its perniciousness. Now if affirmation only was not arbitrators discover the truth as well as courts of employed, this public disapprobation would follow justice ? and if they did not, it would be little in fathe lying witness, as it now follows, or nearly as it vour of oaths, because a part of the sanction of veranow follows, the perjured witness. Every thing city is, in the case of arbitrations, withdrawn. but the mere oath would be the same the fear of But we have even tried the experiment of penalties, the fear of disgrace, the motives of reli- | affirmations in our own courts of justice, and tried

EFFECTS OF OATHS.

It for some ages past. The Society of Friends seen that the effect of instituting oaths is to diminish uniformly give their evidence in courts of law the practical obligation of simple affirmation. The on their words alone. No man imagines that law says, You must speak the truth when you are their words do not bind them. No legal court would upon your oath; which is the same thing as to say listen with more suspicion to a witness because he i that it is less harm to violate truth when you are not was a Quaker. Here all the motives to veracity are on your oath. The court sometimes reminds a witapplied : there is the religious motive, which in such ness that he is upon oath, which is equivalent to saycases all but desperately bad men feel : there is the ing, If you were not, we should think less of your motive of public opinion: and there is the motive mendacity. The same lesson is inculcated by the arising from the penalties of the law. If the same assignation of penalties to perjury and not to falsemotives were applied to other men, why should they hood. What is a man to conclude, but that the law not be as effectual in securing veracity as they are thinks light of the crime which it does not punish; upon the Quakers ?

and that since he may lie with impunity, it is not We have an example even yet more extensive. In much harm to lie ! Common language bears testiall the courts of the United States of America, no mony to the effect. The vulgar phrase I will take one is obliged to take an oath. What are we to my oath to it, clearly evinces the prevalent notion conelade ? Are the Americans so foolish a people that a man may lie with less guilt when he does not that they persist in accepting affirmations knowing take his oath. No answer can be made to this rethat they do not bind witnesses to truth? Or, do mark, unless any one can show that the extra sancthe Americans really find that affirmations are suffi- tion of an oath is so much added to the obligation cient ! But one answer can be given :- They find which would otherwise attach to simple affirmation. that affirmations are sufficient: they prove unde- And who can show this ! Experience proves the niably that oaths are needless. No one will imagine contrary : “ Experience bears ample testimony to that virtue on the other side the Atlantic is so much the fact, that the prevalence of oaths among men greater than on this, that while an affirmation is suf- (Christians not excepted) has produced a very maficient for an American an oath is necessary here. terial and very general effect in reducing their esti.

So that whether we enquire into the moral lawful. mate of the obligation of plain truth, in its natural ness of oaths, they are not lawful; or into their prac- and simple forms."* _There is no cause of insintical utility, they are of little use or of none. cerity, prevarication, and falsehood, more powerful

than the practice of administering oaths in a court of justice.”+

Upon this subject the legislator pla a desperate THERE is a power and efficacy in our religion which

game against the morality of a people. He wishes elevates those who heartily accept it above that low to make them speak the truth when they undertake moral state in which alone an oath can even be sup- an office or deliver evidence. Even supposing him Josed to be of advantage. The man who takes an to succeed, what is the cost! That of diminishing oath, virtually declares that his word would not bind

the motives to veracity in all the affairs of life. A him; and this is an admission which no good man man may not be called upon to take an oath above should make for the sake both of his own moral

two or three times in his life, but he is called upon character and of the credit of religion itself. It is to speak the truth every day. the testimony even of infidelity, that “wherever men A few, but a few serious, words remain. The inof uncommon energy and dignity of mind have ex.

vestigations of this chapter are not matters to emisted, they have felt the degradation of binding their ploy speculation but to influence our practice. If it assertions with an oath.”. This degradation, this be indeed true that Jesus Christ bas imperatively descent from the proper ground on which a man of forbidden us to employ an oath, a duty, an imperative integrity should stand, illustrates the proposition duty is imposed upon us. It is worse than merely that whatever exceeds affirmation" cometh of evil.” vain to hear his laws unless we obey them. Of him The evil origin is so palpable that you.cannot com- therefore who is assured of the prohibition, it is inply with the custom witbout feeling that you sacri. dispensably required that he should refuse an oath. fice the dignity of virtue. It is related of Solon There is no other means of maintaining our allegiance that he said, “ A good man ought to be in that esti. to God. Our pretensions to Christianity are at mation that he needs not an oath; because it is to stake: for he who, knowing the Christian law, will be reputed a lessening of his honour if he be forced

not conform to it, is certainly not a Christian. How to swear." * If to take an oath, lessened a pagan's then does it happen, that although persons frequently honour, what must be its effect upon a Christian's

acknowledge they think oaths are forbidden, so few, purity.

when they are called upon to swear, decline to do Oaths, at least the system of oaths which obtains

it! Alas, this offers one evidence amongst the in this country, tends powerfully to deprave the many, of the want of uncompromising moral princimoral character. We have seen that they are con- ples in the world—of such principles as it has been tinually violated—that men are continually referring the endeavour of these pages to enforce-of such to the most tremendous sanctions of religion with principles as would prompt us and enable us to sacthe babitual belief that those sanctions inpose no rifice every thing to Christian fidelity. By what practical obligation. Can this have any other ten- means do the persons of whom we speak suppose dency than to diminish the influence of religious sanc. that the will of God respecting oaths is to be effected? tions upon other things? If a man sets light by the To whose practice do they look for an exemplificadivine vengeance in the jury box to-day, is he likely tion of the Christian standard ! Do they await to give full weight to that vengeance before a ma- some miracle by which the whole world shall be congistrate to-morrow? We cannot prevent the effects vinced and maths shall be abolished without the agency of habit. Such things will infallibly deteriorate the of man! Such are not the means by which it is the moral character, because they infallibly diminish the pleasure of the Universal Lord to act. He effects power of those principles upon which the moral

his moral purposes by the instrumentality of faithful character is founded.

Where are these faithful men ?-But let it Oaths encourage falsehood. We have already be: if those who are called to this fidelity refuse, Godwin : Political Justice, v 633.

• Gumey: Observations, &c. c. x. + Stobæus : Serm. 3.

+ Godwin : . 2. p. 634.

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men.

OP PARTICULAR OATHS.

theirs will be the dishonour and the offence. But bound to veracity more than he was before he made the work will eventually be done. Other and better it. It is no greater lie to speak falsely after an men will assuredly arise to acquire the Christian ho- | affirmation than before. nour and to receive the Christian reward.

OATH OF ALLEGIANCE.-"I do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance, to his Majesty king George.”—On the propriety of exacting these political oaths, we shall

offer some observations in the next Essay. * Ar CHAPTER VIII.

present we ask, What does the oath of allegiance mean! Set a hundred men each to write an exact

account of what the party here promises to do, and TAE MORAL CHARACTER, OBLIGATIONS, AND EFFECTS

I will undertake to affirm that not one in the hundred will agree with any other individual. “ I will

be faithful :" What is meant by being faithful? SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OF RELIGION.

What is the extent of the obligation, and what are

its limits? “I will bear true allegiance :” What Oath of Allegiance--Oath in Evidence-Perjury-Military oath

does allegiance mean? Is it synonymous with -Oath against Bribery at Elections-Oath against simonyUniversity oaths-Subscription to articles of religion- Mean

fidelity ? Or does it embrace a wider extent of obing of the 39 articles literal--Refusal to subscribe.

ligation, or a narrower ! And if either, how is the

extent ascertained !--The oath was, I believe, made In reading the paragraphs which follow respecting purposely indefinite: the old oath of allegiance was several of the specific oaths which are imposed in more discriminative. But no form can discriminate this country, the reader should remember, that the the duty of a citizen to his rulers—unless you make evils with which they are attended would almost it consist of a political treatise; and no man can equally attend affirmations in similar circumstances. write a treatise with definitions to which all would Our object therefore is less to illustrate their nature subscribe. The truth is, that no one knows what the as oaths, than as improper and vicious engagements.

oath of allegiance requires. Paley attempts, in six With respect to the interpretation of a particular separate articles, to define its meaning : one of which oath, it is obviously to be determined by the same definitions is, that “the oath excludes all design, rule as that of promises. A man must fulfil his oath at the time, of attempting to depose the reigning in that sense in which he knows the imposer designs prince." + At the time ! Why the oath is couched and expects him to fulfil it. And he must endeavour in the future tense. Its express purpose is to obto ascertain what the imposer's expectation is. To tain a security for future conduct. The swearer take an oath in voluntary ignorance of the obliga- declares, not what he then designs, but what, in tions which it is intended to impose, and to excuse time to come, he will do.- Another definition is ourselves for disregarding them because we do not “it permits resistance to the king when his ill be. know what they are, cannot surely be right. Yet haviour or imbecility is such as to make resistance it is often difficult, sometimes impossible, to discover beneficial to the community.” | But how or in what what an oath requires. The absence of precision in manner “fidelity and true allegiance” means “rethe meaning of terms, the alteration of general sistance," casuistry only can tell. We may rest usages whilst the forms of oaths remain the same,

assured, that after all attempts at explanation, the and the original want of explicitness of the forms meaning of the oath will be, at the least, as doubtful themselves, throw sometimes insuperable obstacles as before. Nor is there any remedy. The fault is in the way of discovering, when a man takes an oath, not in the form, for no form can be good; but in what it is that he binds himself to do. This is mani- the imposition of any oath of allegiance. The only festly a great evil : and it is chargeable primarily means of avoiding the evil is by abolishing the oath. upon the custom of exacting oaths at all. It is in Besides, what do oaths of allegiance avail in those general a very difficult thing to frame an unobjec- periods of disturbance in which princes are commonly tionable oath-an oath which shall neither be so lax displaced! What revolution has been prevented by as to become nugatory by easiness of evasion and oaths of allegiance ! uncertainty of meaning, nor so rigid as to demand Yet if the oath does no good, it does barm. It is in words more than the imposer wishes to exact, and always doing harm to exact promises from men, who thus to ensnare the consciences of those who take

cannot know beforehand whether they will fulfil it. The same objections would apply to forms of them. And as to the ambiguity, it is always doing affirmation. The only effectual remedy is to di- harm to require men to stake their salvation upon minish, or, if it were possible, to abolish, the custom doing—they know not what. of requirin men to promise beforehand to pursue a DATA IN EVIDENCE.-" The truth, the whole certain course of action. How is non-fulfilment of truth, and nothing but the truth, touching the matter these engagements punished ! By fine, or imprison- in question.” Is the witness to understand by this ment, or some other mode of penalty ? Let the that if he truly answers all questions that are put to penalty, let the sanction remain, without the promise him, he conforms to the requisitions of the oath! or the oath. A man swears allegiance to a prince: If he is, the terms of the oath are very exceptionif he becomes a traitor he is punished, not for the able; for many a witness may give true answers to breach of his oath but for his treason. Can you not a counsel and yet not tell “the whole truth." Or punish his treason without the oath ? A man swears does the oath bind him to give an exact narrative he has not received a bribe at an election. If he of every particular connected with the matter in does receive one, you send him to prison. You could question whether asked or not? If it does, multias easily send him thither if he had not sworn. You tudes commit perjury. How then shall a witness reply-But, by imposing the oath we bind the act ! Shall he commit perjury by withholding all swearer's conscience. Alas! we have seen and we

information but that which is asked? Or shall be shall presently again see, that this plan of binding be ridiculed and perhaps silenced in court for atmen is of little effect. There is one kind of affirma- tempting to narrate all that he has sworn to distiou that appears to involve absurdity. I mean that close? Here again the morality of the people is by which a man affirms that he will speak the truth. of what use is the affirmation. The affirmant is not

• Essay III., ch. 5.
+ Mor. and Pol. Phil. b. 3, p. 1, c. 18.

* Ib.

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