Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel.—Judges 20.7.

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David Dickson’s

Truth’s Victory Over Error

Chapter XXII.

Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.

QUESTION I.

IS the name of God that only by which men ought to swear?

Yes.  Deut. 6.13.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who in their swearing join with the calling upon the name of God, the calling upon saints departed and their relics?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because swearing is a part of divine worship, which is only due to God, Deut. 6.13. Deut. 10.20. Isa. 65.16.

2nd, Because God only is the judge of hidden and secret truth; and the avenger to take vengeance on them that do not swear in truth.  Therefore he only is to be called on as witness of these things which are asserted and promised; which {151} was the practice of the apostle Paul, Rom. 9.1, and 1.9, Phil. 1.8.

3rd, Because God condemns swearing by them that are no gods, Jer. 5.7.

Quest. II. “Is an oath warranted by the word of God, under the New Testament, as well as under the Old, in matters of weight and moment?”

Yes;  Heb. 6.16. Isa. 65.16. Gal. 1.20. Rom. 1.9, and 9.1.  2 Cor. 1.18,23, and 11.13, and 12.19.  1 Thes. 5.27.  Rev. 10.6.

Well then, do not the Quakers and Anabaptists err, who maintain, That there is no lawful use of an oath under the New Testament?

Yes.

Do not likewise the Papists err, who make it a degree of perfection, to abstain from all oaths?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, From Isa. 61.16, Where it is promised under the time of the gospel, that the nations, to be converted to Christ, shall swear by the name of God, as is clear also from Jer. 4.2.

2nd, Because the calling upon the name of God with due fear and reverence in swearing, is commanded in the third command, as the profanation of his name is forbidden; but Christ came not to abolish the moral law.

3rd, From the approven examples of the saints, which occur in the New Testament, Gal. 1.20. Rom. 1.9. and 2 Cor. 1.13,18. Rev. 10.6.

4th, Because the end of an oath is approven by God, and is in all ages necessary to all men, being the end of all controversy, Heb. 6.16.

5th, Because an oath rightly taken is an act of religion, whereby we glorify God, and adore his attributes.  We thereby, first, solemnly acknowledge his being and existence.  Secondly, His ubiquity, that he is present in all places, and in all times, and within our hearing, Psalm 139.7.  [Thirdly,] His omniscience, that he is the searcher of the heart.  The apostle calls him Kardiognostes, Acts 15.8.  We acknowledge, fourthly, his truth and veracity: he is a witness brought into the court that cannot lie, nor be imposed upon, as saith the apostle, be not deceived, {152} God is not mocked, Gal. 6.7.  Fifthly, His supremacy over all creatures, for verily men swear by the greater, Heb. 6.16.  We acknowledge, sixthly, His vindictive justice, as he is a revenger of perjury.  Seventhly, we acknowledge his providence, and fatherly care of the concerns of mankind, owning the cause of the righteous.

6th, Because there being an express law for swearing, (viz. rightly, Deut. 10.20) it must either belong to the moral law, to the judicial law, or ceremonial law.  The adversaries will not call it a part of the judicial law, which was given to the Jews, as a body politic, which expired together with the state of that people.  It is no part of the ceremonial law, for what was purely ceremonial, was purely typical: but the law concerning an oath was not a type of any thing to come.  And if it was a type, where will you find its antitype in all the gospel, or the thing represented by it?  Therefore, it must be a part of the moral law, Deut. 6.13, Jer. 4.2, and consequently perpetual, which Christ came not to destroy. [Matt. 5.17.]  It is confirmed hence, that it was of authentic use, and held sacred among the patriarchs, before the delivery of the Levitical law, as is clear from Abraham the father of the faithful, and Abimelech, Gen. 21.23,24,31.  Consider also, that other instance in Abraham, Gen. 24.2,3,9, who would not give his servant an oath rashly, nor exercise his authority to impose upon his conscience.  It is evident also from the example of Isaac, who made a covenant, and swore to Abimelech, Gen. 26.28,31.  And from the example of Jacob, who made a covenant with, and swore to his uncle Laban, by the fear of his father Isaac, Gen. 31.53; That is, by God, who is called our fear, by reason of the filial awe, and fear, we ought to stand in before him, Isa. 8.13.

7th, Because the reasons and usefulness of oaths are perpetual, and the same to us under the gospel, as they were to them under the law.  There is as much need of oaths for ending {153} of strife in this litigious age, as there could be in former times.

8th, Because oaths were once lawful, therefore they are lawful still, unless the adversaries prove them repealed; which they must do, not by stealing out of the Scripture, single words by themselves, making one part contradict another.

9th, Because we need not fear to imitate any thing which is done in heaven.  Our Lord has taught us to pray, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  But the angel, (says John, Rev. 10.5,6,) which I saw stand upon the sea, and upon the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and swore by him that liveth for ever and ever.  That angel calls himself our fellow servant, and of our brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book, Rev. 22.9; And therefore the angels being of the same fraternity with us, do not act under different dispensations from us.

Quest. III. “Is an oath to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation?”

Yes; Psalm 24.4. Exod. 20.7. Lev. 16.12. Jer. 4.2.

Well then, do not the Anabaptists err, who maintain, That it is lawful in swearing to use words of equivocation?

Yes.

Do not likewise the Papists err, who maintain mental reservation to be lawful in swearing?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because the Scripture requires from all men in their common dealing one with another, in their discourse and conferences, verity and simplicity, Matt. 5.37, Eph. 4.25; Much more are these things required in swearing, wherein God is called to be witness of the truth of these things which are asserted.

2nd, Because the Lord threateneth such as use guile and deceit in their words, Psalm 15.4, and 24.4. Gal. 2.11-13.

3rd, Because the Lord requires in every oath, truth, righteousness, and judgement, {154} Jer. 4.2.

4th, Because equivocations and mental reservations, are against the very end of an approven oath; which is to put an end to all debate and controversy.

5th, Because if equivocations and mental reservations were lawful, in vain should the Lord have made laws against lying; for a lie may be excused by mental reservation.

6th, If equivocation and mental reservations were allowed, they would take away all commerce among men, and would make bonds, contracts, and charter parties, of none effect.

Quest. IV. “Is a religious vow to be made to God alone, and not to any creature?”

Yes; to God alone, Jer. 44.25,26. Psalm 77.11.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, Vows to be made to saints departed, and to Cenobiarchs, that is, to priors of monasteries or abbeys?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because vows are a part of our gratitude and thankfulness due to God only, for his favours and mercies conferred upon us, Psalm 50.14. Psalm 66.13,14.

2nd, Because we are commanded in the word to make our vows to God, and perform them.  But no where are we appointed to make our vows to saints departed, Psalm 50.14.

3d, Because God only is the trier and searcher of the heart: And it is he only that knoweth the sincerity of the man’s mind that voweth, and is able to punish such as violate, and break their vows, Deut. 23.21.

4th, Because the Lord threateneth those severely, that had vowed to any other gods but to himself alone, and accuses them of a very great sin, Jer. 44.25,26

Quest. V. “Are Popish monastical vows of a perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself?” {155}

Yes; Matt. 19.11,12. 1 Cor. 7.2,9. Eph. 4.28. 1 Pet. 4.2.

Well then, do not the Papists err, who maintain, Monastical vows of a perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, to be degrees of higher perfection?

Yes.

By what reasons are they confuted?

1st, Because a vow of a perpetual single life is unlawful: For no man ought to vow the performance of that which he hath not a promise of strength to perform.  But no man hath a promise of perpetual continency, which is necessarily required to a perpetual single life: Nay, Christ says expressly, that the gift of continency is not given to all men, Matt. 19.11.

2nd, Because marriage is honourable among all men, and the bed undefiled, Heb. 13.4.

3d, Because the apostle bids every man take his own wife, for shunning of fornication, 1 Cor. 7.1,2,9.

4th, Because the forbidding of marriage is a doctrine of devils, 1 Tim. 4.1,3.

Next, the vow of professed poverty is unlawful:

1st, Because the Lord did not allow beggars to be among his people of old, Deut. 15.7.

2nd, Because Augur wished that the Lord might not give him poverty, lest he should steal, and take the name of God in vain, Prov. 30.8,9.

3rd, Because the Lord will have every man eat his bread in the sweat of his face, Gen. 3.19.

4th, Because the apostle commands the Thessalonians to work with their own hands, 1 Thess. 4.11.

5th, Because professed poverty hindereth a greater good, viz. our charity, and benevolence towards the poor and indigent members of Christ, which is contrary to the apostle’s rule, Eph. 4.28.

The vow of regular obedience is likewise unlawful:

1st, Because it makes us the servants of men, which is contrary to the apostle, Ye are bought with a price, be not ye the servants of men, viz. To do any thing for the service, or obedience of men (superiors) which should be repugnant to the commands {156} of the service of God.  Or suffer not yourselves in spiritual things to be brought in bondage by any man, that you should not freely use that which the Lord hath made free to us, 1 Cor. 7.23.