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was made for them. And these rules ought to be observed more strictly now, in proportion to the higher degree in which the laws of love and charity are inculcated in the Gospel. (2.) In the New Testament, our Saviour in his description of the day of judgment, shows the peculiar necessity of this virtue, by representing what is given to the poor as if given to himself.
It is not possible to fix a precise sum to be allotted to this purpose, as was done under the law, in which every family had their peculiar portion, on which a certain charge was fixed. Our Saviour's words, however, may guide us on this point: “ These have of their abundance cast “ in unto the offerings of God, but she of her
poverty hath cast in all the living that she “ had.” (Luke, xxi. 4.) The original for the word“ abundance” signifies “superfluity,” which means over and above " the food that is convenient.” (Prov. xxx. 8.) Now our Saviour's words plainly prove, that this is a low degree of charity, when men merely give from that superfluity, whereas that which is particularly acceptable to God is, when they give out of their penury, that is, out of what is necessary for them.
OF A CHRISTIAN MAN'S OATH.
AS WE CONFESS THAT VAIN AND RASH SWEARING IS FOR.
BIDDEN CHRISTIAN MEN BY OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST,
This Article asserts, that Christians are justifiable in swearing, when called on by a competent authority.a
The truth of this assertion appears, 1st, from reason, and 2dly, from Scripture.
1st. From reason. An oath is an appeal to God, either upon a testimony that is given, or a promise that is made, confirming the truth of the one, and the fidelity of the other. It is an act acknowledging the omniscience and superintendence of God, and committing the matter to his judgment. A false oath, therefore, is an act of open defiance, implying either a denial of his existence or of his providence, or finally, it is
a presumptuous venturing on the justice and wrath of God, to serve some present end; in any
of which cases the individual committing the action, will, if unrepentant, bring down terrible judgments on his head. Now, as all decisions must be founded upon evidence, the greater awe that is impressed upon men's minds, when they give their testimony, the greater caution will they use in the declarations they make. And since truth and fidelity are so necessary to the security and commerce of the world, and since an appeal to God is the most effectual mean that can be conceived to bind men to a strictness in every thing with which that appeal is connected, it follows that the use of an oath is fully justifiable upon the ground of reason or of natural religion.
2ndly. The truth of the assertion appears from Scripture.
1. From the Old Testament. We find the use of oaths prevailed among the Patriarchs. Thus Abimelech made Abraham swear that he would not deal falsely with him. (Gen. xxii. 23, 24.) A king of the same name desired that 'an oath might be between Isaac and him, and they sware to one another. (xxvi. 28.) In like manner Jacob sware to Laban. (xxxi. 53.) In the prophecy to which the Article alludes, it is said, “ thou shalt swear the Lord liveth, in truth, “ in judgment, and in righteousness, and the
“ nations shall bless themselves in him, and “ in him shall they glory.” (Jer. iv. 2.) These words plainly relate to the days of the Messiah, and represent an oath religiously taken as a part of that worship which all nations shall offer up to God under the New Dispensation. Again, under the law we find many covenants sealed by an oath, and there was even a particular regulation on this subject : “ If a soul sin, and hear the “ voice of swearing, and is a witness whether “ he haih seen or known it, if he do not utter
it, then he shall bear his iniquity;" that is, he shall be guilty of perjury. (Lev. v. 1.) This alludes to the custom which then existed, by which the judge adjured all persons by an oath or curse to declare their knowledge of any fact; and they were bound by that oath to tell the the truth. Thus Micah confessed that he had the eleven hundred shekels about which his mother had cursed. (Jud. xvii. 2.) Saul, when he was pursuing the Philistines, put the people under a curse not to eat any food till night; which was considered so obligatory, that the violation of it was capital, and endangered Jonathan's life. (1 Sam. xiv. 24, 44.) This likewise was the form in which the High Priest adjured our Saviour to answer whether he was the Messias or not, and though he had remained silent before, yet he then conceived himself bound to reply, and accordingly declared his character,
Such was the ancient mode of swearing ; but if by experience it be found that the individual's prononncing the words of the oath himself, and laying his hand on the Bible, were calculated to make a deeper impression on him than merely the judge's adjuring him, it is plainly in the power of human authority to alter those external circumstances.
2. In the New Testament ; St. Paul speaks of the oath which God sware to Abraham,
who, because he could swear by no greater, sware by himself;" (Heb. vi. 13,) and (in v. 16,) he adds“ an oath, for confirmation, is an end of all strife;" plainly showing that he did not conceive an oath to be a profanation of the name of God. Again, in St. John's visions an angel is represented as “ lifting up his hand to heaven, " and swearing by him that liveth for ever and “ ever.” (Rev. x. 6.) St. Paul too, frequently appeals to God in these and similar expressions, "God is my witness ;” (Rom. i. 9. Gal. i. 20 ;) and even more strongly thus: “ I call God for a record upon my soul. (2 Cor. i. 23.)
In opposition to these arguments, however, it is urged, that when Christ is correcting the erroneous ideas the Pharisees had introduced relative to the law,“ teaching that men should “ not forswear themselves, but should perform cs
unto the Lord their vow.” Our Saviour says, 6 Swear not at all, neither by heaven, nor by