A Little Time With The 1689: Day 298

Day 298

Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.

Chapter 23, Paragraph 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:….”

Scripture Lookup

Psalm 76:11

Genesis 28:20-22


At first glance, the beginning of paragraph 5 seems to simply reiterate what has been stated before. We know already that oaths are only to be made to God, that they are to be made with solemnity and care, and that they are a part of religious worship. So are the writers reveling in wordiness here? Ah, but look – there is a slight difference in this paragraph, but an important one. Rather than talking of an “oath”, this speaks of a “vow”.

Aren’t oaths and vows the same thing? Actually, no. Lawrence R. Eyres, in an article in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s magazine New Horizons, explains thus: “Vows differ from oaths in that an oath calls for divine judgment upon oath breakers, yet since vows are taken in the name of God, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” We do not call upon God to judge us when we take a vow, but that does not negate the care and faithfulness with which we should perform it.

Christians are not created to live in isolation. We are called to join together in local assemblies, where we are encourage one another, share each other’s burdens, and exhort our brothers and sisters to press onward towards the prize in Christ Jesus. To do this, we formally become members of a church. Christian, when you joined the membership of your church, did you not make any vows?

There are times when you may need to leave the church of which you are a member, and with good reason. But how many Christians who consider removing their membership think through the vows they made to their fellow brothers and sisters? Too often the promises made are quickly forgotten in the shadow of discontent and strife. Christian, do not neglect the vows you have made. Strive to uphold them as long as it is lawful to do so.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you remember the words of the vows you have taken?


LBCF of 1677/1689 – Chapter Twenty-Three, Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

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 )