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XXXIX. Of a Christian Man's Oath.

As we confess that a vain and rash swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus


Almighty God, to the intent his most holy name should be had in honour, and evermore be magnified of the people, commandeth that no man should take his name vainly in his mouth, threatening punishment unto him that unreverently abuseth it by swearing, forswearing, and blasphemy. Hom. vii. 1.

Q. What is it to take the name of God in vain? A. To abuse it either with forswearing, or with swearing rashly, unadvisedly, and without necessity, or with once naming it without a weighty cause. -They do great injury to God, which use his name only of a certain lewd custom and intemperate readiness of speech. Nowell, p. 16.

When men do swear of custom, in reasoning, buying, and, selling, or other daily communications, (as many be common and great swearers,) such kind of swearing is ungodly, unlawful, and forbidden by the commandment of God: for such swearing is nothing else but taking of God's holy name in vain. Hom. vii. 1.

Whosoever wilfully forswear themselves upon Christ's holy Evangely, they utterly forsake God's mercy, goodness, and truth, the merit of our Saviour Christ's nativity, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension; they refuse the forgiveness of sins, promised to all penitent sinners, the joys of heaven, the company with angels and saints for ever; all which benefits and comforts are promised unto true Christian persons in the Gospel. Hom. vii. 2.

a Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil. Matt. v. 33-37. Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the

earth, neither by any other oath : but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. James v. 12. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Ex. xx. 9. Instances of rash, unnecessary swearing. Israel. Judges xxi. 1-18. Saul. 1 Sam. xiv. 24, 39, 45. David. 1 Sam. xxv. 22. Job. 2 Sam. xix. 7. Herod. Mark vi. 23. Ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord. Lev. xix. 12. I will be a swift witness against false swearers. Mal. iii. 5.

Christ, and James his apostle: so we judge that b Christian religion doth not prohibit but that a

Q. Is there any lawful using of the name of God in swearing? A. Yea, forsooth. When an oath is taken for a just cause, either to affirm a truth, specially if the magistrate require or command it, or for any other matter of great importance, wherein we are either to maintain inviolate the honour of God, or to preserve mutual agreement and charity among men. Nowell, P. 16.

A lawful oath is nothing else but the swearer's religious affirming that he calleth and useth God, the knower and judge of all things, for witness that he sweareth a true oath, and that he calleth upon and wisheth the same God to be the punisher and avenger of his lying and offence if he swear falsely. Nowell, P. 17.


And here is to be noted, that lawful swearing is not forbidden, but commanded by Almighty God for we have examples of Christ and godly men, in holy Scripture, that did swear themselves, and required oaths of others likewise. Thus did our Saviour Christ swear divers times, saying, Verily, verily," (John iii.); and St. Paul sweareth thus, "I call God to witness," (2 Cor. i.); and Abraham, waxing old, required an oath of his servant, that he should procure a wife for his son Isaac, which should come of his own kindred, (Gen. xxiv.) and the servant did swear that he would perform his master's will, (Gen. xxi.) First, when judges require oaths of the people for declaration or opening of the truth, or for execution of justice, this manner of swearing is lawful. Also when men make faithful promises, with calling to witness of the name of God, to keep covenants, honest promises, statutes, laws, and good customs, as Christian princes do in their conclusions of peace, for conservation of commonwealths; and private persons promise their fidelity in matrimony, or one to another in honesty and true friendship: and all men when they do swear to keep common laws, and local statutes, and good customs, for due order to be had and continued among men; when subjects do swear to be true and faithful to their king and sovereign lord; and when judges, magistrates,

b Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him; and shalt swear by his name. Deut. vi. 12, 13. Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, and thou shalt cleave unto him, and shalt swear by his name. Deut. x. 20. I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Eccles. viii. 2. David sware unto Saul. 1 Sam. xxiv. 17, 21, 22. xxx. 15.

Jonathan and David were sworn both of them in the name of the Lord. 1 Sam. xx. 13, 17, 42. (Asa with Judah) entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul. And they sware unto the Lord with a loud voice. And all Judah rejoiced at the oath for they had sworn with all their heart. 2 Chron. xv. 12-15.

man may swear when the magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done

and officers swear truly to execute their offices; and when a man would affirm the truth to the setting forth God's glory, (for the salvation of the people,) in open preaching of the Gospel, or in giving of good counsel privately for their souls' health: all these manners of swearing, for causes necessary and honest, be lawful. Hitherto you see, that oaths lawful are commanded of God, used of patriarchs and prophets, of Christ himself, and of his apostle Paul. Therefore Christian people must think lawful oaths both godly and necessary. For by lawful promise and covenants, confirmed by oaths, princes and their countries are confirmed in common tranquillity and peace. By holy promises, with calling the name of God to witness, we be made lively members of Christ, when we profess his religion receiving the sacrament of baptism. By like holy promise the sacrament of matrimony knitteth man and wife in perpetual love, that they desire not to be separated for any displeasure or adversity that shall after happen. By lawful oaths, which kings, princes, judges, and magistrates do swear, common laws are kept inviolate, justice is indifferently ministered, harmless persons, fatherless children, widows and poor men, are defended from murderers, oppressors, and thieves, that they suffer no wrong, nor take any harm. By lawful oaths, mutual society, amity, and good order is kept continually in all commonalties, as boroughs, cities, towns, and villages: and by lawful oaths malefactors are searched out, wrong doers are punished, and they which sustain wrong are restored to their right: therefore lawful swearing cannot be evil, which bringeth unto us so many godly, good, and necessary commodities. Hom. vii. 1.

Q. May we therefore lawfully, whensoever we say truth, use an oath with it? A. I have already said, that this is not lawful; for so the estimation and reverence of the name of God should be abated, and should become of no price, and contemned as common. But when in a weighty matter the truth should otherwise not be believed, we may lawfully confirm it with an oath. Nowell, p. 16.

First, he that sweareth may swear truly; that is, he must (setting apart all favour and affection to the parties) have the truth only before his eyes, and for love thereof, say and speak

If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, &c. and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it; then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour's goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof. Exod. xxii. 10,

11. Men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Heb. vi. 15.

c Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness. Jer. iv. 2.

according to the prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment, and truth.

that which he knoweth to be truth, and no further. The second is, he that taketh an oath, must do it with judgment; not rashly and unadvisedly, but soberly, considering what an oath is. The third is, he that sweareth, must swear in righteousness; that is, for the very zeal and love which he beareth to the defence of innocency, to the maintenance of the truth, and of the righteousness of the matter or cause: all profit, disprofit, all love and favour unto the person for friendship or kindred laid apart. Thus an oath (if it have with it these three conditions) is a part of God's glory, which we are bound by his commandments to give unto him: for he willeth that we should swear only by his name; not that he hath pleasure in oaths; but like as he commanded the Jews to offer sacrifice unto him, not for any delight that he had in them, but to keep the Jews from committing idolatry; so he commanding us to swear by his holy name, doth not teach us that he delighteth in swearing, but he thereby forbiddeth all men to give his glory to any creature in heaven, earth, or water. (Isaiah xii.) Hom. vii. 1.


This Book of Articles, before rehearsed, is again approved and allowed to be holden and executed within the realm, and by the assent and consent of our sovereign Lady ELIZABETH, by the grace of God of England, France, and Ireland, Queen, Defender of the Faith, &c. Which Articles were deliberately read and confirmed again by the subscription of the hands of the Archbishops and Bishops of the Upper House, and by the subscription of the whole Clergy of the Nether House in their Convocation, in the year of our Lord 1571.




1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity. || 21. Of the Authority of General

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6. Of the Sufficiency of the 24. Of Speaking in the Con

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14. Of Works of Superero-31. Of Christ's One Oblation.


15. Of Christ alone without 33. Of Excommunicate Persons.


16. Of Sin after Baptism.

17. Of Predestination and Elec


18. Of obtaining Salvation by


19. Of the Church.

32. Of the Marriage of Priests.

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20. Of the Authority of the 39. Of a Christian Man's Oath.


The Ratification.


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