Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.
Chapter 23, Paragraph 1.
“A lawful Oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in Truth, Righteousness, and Judgment, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth;…”
A lawful oath is a part of religious worship…
Have you ever thought about that before? That when you make a solemn promise that invokes God you are participating in an act of religious worship? For that is what you are doing. While not praising God or praying to Him, you are asking God to stand as witness to the veracity of what you promise.
When you make an oath, you are stating that what you are promising to do you will do. The oath is a surety against the possibility that you are lying. And you are stating this in front of God Himself. It’s all a rather frightening scenario. Perhaps it should be avoided altogether? The Quakers thought so. They refused to take oaths in court, and due to this were penalized in England through “An Act for preventing the Mischeifs and Dangers that may arise by certaine Persons called Quakers and others refusing to take lawfull Oaths.”, enacted in 1662.
Were Quakers correct in their understanding? Should oaths not be taken? Scripture tells us that the Quakers were misguided. The Bible does not forbid all oath-taking, but rather gives directives for lawful oaths. While a serious matter, it is not a sin to take an oath before God. On the contrary, it is an act of religious worship.
Questions to Consider
- Have you thought through whether oaths are lawful or not?
1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth, and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof.
( Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 4:2; 2 Chronicles 6:22, 23 )
2. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear; and therein it is to be used, with all holy fear and reverence; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred; yet as in matter of weight and moment, for confirmation of truth, and ending all strife, an oath is warranted by the word of God; so a lawful oath being imposed by lawful authority in such matters, ought to be taken.
( Matthew 5:34, 37; James 5:12; Hebrews 6:16; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Nehemiah 13:25 )
3. Whosoever taketh an oath warranted by the Word of God, ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he knoweth to be truth; for that by rash, false, and vain oaths, the Lord is provoked, and for them this land mourns.
( Leviticus 19:12; Jeremiah 23:10 )
4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation.
( Psalms 24:4 )
5. A vow, which is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, is to be made and performed with all religious care and faithfulness; but popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
( Psalms 76:11; Genesis 28:20-22; 1 Corinthians 7:2, 9; Ephesians 4:28; Matthew 19:11 )