Page images
PDF
EPUB

to relate to evidence upon differences. 1. Because it is in the room of the swearing the law allowed, which was true swearing: and, 2. Because of doubling the assertion yea, yea; for a single yea is enough for a Christian in ordinary cases. Well, but you oppose to this, the prophecy, Isaiah xix. verse 18. to which, if you please, we will add two more, chap. xlv. 23. and Jer. iv. 2. and make your best of them : for besides that it begs the question, that the prophet treated of gospel-times, and not of some happy time before the period of their dispensation, God might speak to them in the language of their time to be interpreted in a more spiritual sense; and this the place quoted by you shews: for, verse 21. mention is made of oblation and sacrifice, that shall be offered in that day, which, in a jewish sense, is not true of gospel-times; but in a gospel-sense, to wit, prayers and praisings, with heart and voice, is true. So it is in the case of swearing, they shall swear in that day, as they sacrifice in that day; that is, a Christian's oath shall be his solemn word; and the difference is not greater between them, than between the sacrifices and oblations of beasts and birds under the law, and the spiritual sacrifices and oblations of the hearts, wills and affections of people under the gospel and thus, you see, that prophecy stands you in little stead.

But you object the practice of the apostle, Rom. i. 9. "God is my witness." 2 Cor. xi. 31. "God knoweth I lie not." Gal. i. 20. "Before God I lie not." And you add, 'If these are not formal oaths, you would fain know what are? In which, if you will not be offended, we will say, as well as think, you have not been ingenuous to be so hard upon us, before you had first stated and agreed with us what an oath is; for if that be disputable, (as it may be for what you have done to settle it) you argue at random. Premises must ever be agreed by disputants, or nothing can follow clearly and satisfactorily. We may say the same thing you say, without allowing it the same force and extent; nay swear, perhaps, in your opinion, though not in our own; the same words being an oath, and not an oath, as they may be used and applied in different manners. For if you should think that an oath, which we think none, and you argue for swearing by proofs, which for that reason are none to us; how do you prove swearing lawful, or convince us that not swearing at all is silly and enthusiastical, when you have not yet adjusted what is swearing at all? This had been well worth your Mercury, for it had been informing, and shown good reading.

But you put it off thus, after citing the apostle's words,

"God is my witness," &c. If these are not formal oaths, we would fain know what are.' In which you shift your post, and turn querists, instead of answering questions.

But having such supposed able men to deal with, we are not willing to put it off so; and therefore return it upon you, to state what an oath is, which you so zealously recommend; denying, on our part, any of those texts to be an oath; as did Basil the Great, upon Psalm xv. Gregory Nazianzen, in his 'Dialogue against Swearing:' and bishop Sanderson, in his 'Defence of Joseph, in his Oxford Lectures;' which will much better defend the apostle from your imputation.

And

For what you say of Tertullian, you wrong him extremely, and your reader also, by not telling him where to find it for in his Apology, chap. xxxii. whence, we suppose, your objection is taken, he does equivocally and improperly own swearing, That they swore, though not by the genius of Cæsar, yet, for the health and safety of Cæsar, just as they did sacrifice.' Hoc salvum esse volumus, et pro magno id juramento habemus. Our wishing well to Cæsar, we have, or account, for an oath, or instead of an oath. And, as the Pythagoreans say, 'There is in all reasonable creatures an oath or tie, viz. A mind not to transgress the law of God:' and, as Clemens Alexandrinus speaks, 'That a good man swears by his deeds.' So Tertullian urged upon them, That the Christians sacrificed for the health of Cæsar as well as they; but it was in the Christian way, by pure prayers.' So that as he was for sacrifice, he was for swearing. Thus to Scapula. C. 1,2.

[ocr errors]

And in his book of Idolatry, chap. xi. I speak not of perjury,' says he,' because it is not lawful to swear.' And, chap. xxxi. He that signs a bill of security, containing an oath, is guilty of swearing, and transgresses Christ's command, who hath commanded not to swear.' And, speaking of the temptations Christians were exposed to, if they should launch into the traffic of the world, he adds, 'Not to speak of forswearing, seeing it is not lawful so much as to swear.'

6

We are the longer upon this, because he is one of your authorities. Your other is Athanasius, That he purged himself by an oath, pleading the apostle's example.' Which, by the way, looks like an excuse for doing it, and as if in other cases he did not allow it. But pray take the pains to read his annotations upon Christ's passion, and you will find, first, that he denies all swearing; and upon our grounds. 'The evangelical sentence,' says he, of the Lord, is, "Let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay." Thus far we, who

are in Christ, may confirm our words with asseverations, 'but come no nearer to an oath.'

[ocr errors]

To this he himself objects the common opinion, That God swore;' He answers it, That God did not, properly and formally, swear, nor could not; for the nature of an oath is to swear by that which is greater and better than one's self,' Heb. vi. 16. But, if any thing,' says he, "this must he said, his word is an oath to man for verity, because of his faithfulness and truth.' And he will not have the apostle to have sworn, nor the most celebrated fathers of and before his time. So that we return it upon you, that if at any time they used those expressions of the apostle, it was in church matters, and because they did not think it an oath. And if you will please to turn to Justin Martyr's Second Apology, page 63, you will find he is of the same mind; "We should speak, but not swear, the truth;' and vouches Christ's authority, Matt. v. for it. Clemens Alexandrinus, lib. 7. and Tertullian's contemporary, Cyprian, Hilary, Greg. Nyssen, Cæsarius, Epiphanius, Ambrose, and Chrysostom above all the rest, styled the golden doctor or father, out of whose discourse, upon this subject, we observe these five things:

1. That oaths are not lawful under the gospel.'

2.The reason of it, that their evangelical verity is the Christian, and a better, security.

3. That the rise of an oath is infidelity and distrust, which are from evil, and that is below a Christian state; for he that dare not swear, which once was permitted, dare not lie, which never was permitted; and therefore his yea is yea, and his nay, nay.

6

4. That swearing was a condescension to a weak and low state of the world, to divert people from swearing by false gods, which was the evil custom of those times; as if God should say, "I will suffer you to swear, if you will ' swear by me, that am the true God, and not by their false gods: And that from hence came his command to swear by him, not for the sake of swearing, but to avoid idolatry.

5. That this principle is the only means of rooting all evil swearing out of the world.' Take the cure for this most pernicious and epidemical distemper, in the words of Basil the great.

'The remedy consisteth in a twofold admonition: first, not to swear at all: secondly, to suppress the form of oaths.' I will close with what the institutions say, that go under the name of Clemens Romanus. Our Master hath commanded that we should not swear, no, not by the true God; but that

our word should be more credible than an oath. This Clemens was very ancient, you know, since the apostle Paul mentions him, and that to him some of the ancients ascribe the epistle to the Hebrews.

We hope, after you have considered the authorities that support this doctrine, you will be so charitable at least to allow that we are neither silly, nor enthusiasts, for asserting it. This comprehending your answers and exceptions to the queries upon this subject (for against a command so plainly proved, they must fall of course) we are under no obligation to consider them; and yet they shall not pass our notice, though it were but to let you see how little they deserve it.

The first query is, 'If Christ's coming did not supersede oaths, since it was to end sin, the occasion of oaths?' The second, "If man, improving the means given him to answer that end, may not obtain it?' I put them together, because you give the same answer to both, which is negative; and for the same reason, viz. 'Because Christ did not come to end sin:' and your reason for that is, That if Christ intended to have ended sin by his coming, it had been ended, which is not so, and therefore it was not the end of his coming. This opposes as plain a text as is in the bible, 1 John iii. 5, 6. "And ye know he was manifest to take away our sins. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not; whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin." The angel thus declared the end of his coming, Mat. i. 21. Christ commands perfection, chap. v. 48. "Be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' The heavenly leaven was given to leaven the whole lump, chap. xiii. 33. The apostle desired, "That the Christians of his time might be sanctified throughout in body, soul and spirit;" which leaves out no part of man, nor no part of any part unsanctified, 1 Thes. v. 23. and exhorteth them to " press forward to the mark," which was a perfect man, even "to the measure of the fulness of Christ." Phil. iii. 14, 15. Eph. iv. 18. In which passages the end of Christ's coming, and the work and blessing of the gospel, was to end sin, both as to the guilt and nature of it; and to sanctify and regenerate the soul. Read Phil. i. 10. 1 Cor. vi. 11. Tit. iii. 5. Heb. ii. 11.

[ocr errors]

2. Your reason is both weak and dangerous: for if all comes to pass that Christ intends, then he intended not the conversion of Jerusalem, notwithstanding he lamented it so, because it came not to pass. Again, If Christ intended to take away the guilt and power of sin, it should accordingly be taken away: but in whole nations of believers, how

very few can say it, or can you say it of? Nor know you but that there are some that walk blamelessly now, as well as then. Your ignorance is no argument to the contrary: a principle may be true, for all men's practices; and God's end for good to man, though man may frustrate it to himself.

3. The scriptures you urge are against you, Jam. iii. 2. Here we will join issue with you, this chapter beinga strong proof of our point; yea, this very verse: for it supposes a perfect man, which you deny; and by the similies of a bridle and an helm, it shows how a man can come to be so. But, say you, in the name of the apostle, "In many things we offend all" yet consider, pray, that the apostle included himself no more there, than verse 9. where speaking of the tongue, he also saith, "therewith bless we God, and therewith curse we men. You cannot therefore think, I hope, that the apostle was a curser; but it was a way of speaking to fetch in the guilty, and the better to reach them, by personating them, or involving himself among them.

""

Hear again the same apostle, in this very chapter, verses 11, 12. "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig-tree, my brethren, bear olives?" "Yes,' say the Athenians; 'No,' say the Quakers. Pray who keeps closest to the text? Hear him farther, verse 17. and chap. i. 27. he tells you the nature and end of their religion. In few words, humanity and purity, bowels and holiness; they are the pure religion and undefiled in God's sight, in his account; not creeds, but practice; not profession, though of true words, but experience and good living. And, without offence, had you been of this religion, you would have been less exceptious at us and ours. Your next scripture is as unhappily chosen as the former, 1 John i. 8. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Now if you please but to read the verse foregoing and following, perhaps you will see it is not to your purpose.

"If we walk in the light as (God) is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Now follows your text, "If we say we have no sin," (that is, no sin to be cleansed from, no need of Christ to take away our sins) "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." Observe now what follows, we desire you; "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness;" which comprehends both the guilt and nature of sin. And that we have not misinterpreted your text, the next and last verse proves our sense genuine;"If

« PreviousContinue »