|« Prev||THE SWEARING OF OATHS.||Next »|
THE SWEARING OF OATHS.
David says, who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? he that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation," Ps. 24.
These words of David are full of spirit and wisdom, yet not regarded by the world. For every where we find guilty hands, unclean hearts, false doctrine, faithlessness and but little truth. Yea, it has come to this, among the children of men that the precious yea and nay which was commanded of the Lord himself can no longer be trusted. But nearly everything which is transacted before the magistracy, must be affirmed by an oath, although the Lord has so plainly forbidden the swearing of oaths to all christians, Matt. 5:34.
The Scripture teaches that we should hear Christ, for he is the king in Jacob, Isa. 9:7, the king of righteousness, the Teacher and Prophet promised of God, who hath taught us the word of the Father, and his word is truth, his commandment eternal life, Deut. 18:16; Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Isa. 9:7; Jer. 23:6; 33:16; Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:26; Jn. 3:17; 5:46; 17:17; 12:50.
Inasmuch as we thus confess and cordially believe, and besides, confess that no emperor or king may rule or command contrary to his word, since he is the Head of all princes, Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10; and is the King of all kings, Rev. 1:5; 19:16; and that unto him every knee shall bow which is in heaven, in earth or under the earth, Phil. 2; and as he has plainly forbidden us to swear, and pointed us to yea and nay, alone, therefore it is that we swear not, by the fear of God, nor dare swear, though we must hear and suffer so much on that account from the world.
Since throughout the world they act so fearlessly contrary to the word of God, in regard to this article; and as sometimes some of the godfearing are thereby put into difficulty, therefore I will, by the grace of God, show the kind hearted reader, from the word of God what the Holy Scriptures at different times teach and imply concerning the swearing of oaths.
First, the reader should observe that swearing was not always practiced uniformly among the people of the Lord. Before the law the holy fathers had a custom to lay their hands under the thighs, and thus swore to others, as may be read in the case of Abraham and his servant, Gen. 24:3; and in the case of Jacob and his son Joseph, Gen. 47:29‑31. Joseph also swore by the life of Pharaoh, Gen. 42; and it seems that such swearing was customary among the Egyptians.
Secondly, the reader should observe, that Israel was bound by the law to swear by the name of the Lord and to keep their oath, as Moses says, "And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt 272thou profane the name of thy God. I am the Lord, Lev. 19:12; and this oath settled all dispute among Israel, Ex. 22:11; Heb. 6:16. Thirdly, It should be observed, that Christ Jesus does not in the New Testament, point his disciples, in regard to swearing, to the law, as in the imperfect, which allowed swearing‑but he points us now from the law to yea and nay, as in the perfect, and speaks thus, "Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time (that is, to the fathers under the law, by Moses), Thou shalt not foreswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths (that is, thou shalt swear truly and fulfill thine oath): but I (Christ) say unto you (my disciples), Swear not at all (that is, neither truly nor falsely); 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." Here you have Christ's own doctrine and ordinance concerning swearing, Matt. 5:35‑37; Jas. 5:12; Ex. 20:7.
Behold, beloved reader, before these words of Christ all human laws and regulations concerning swearing must stand back and be abolished; such as Juramentum Calumniae. Jerumentum de veritate dicenda, or Fede; no matter how they be performed; be it by words, or by raising your hand, or holding your hands upon your breast, or upon a cross, or upon the New Testament, &c. And the truthful yea and nay, ordained of the Lord himself must be restituted, if the magistrates and subjects do not want licentiously to transgress the word of the Lord and reject it as vain; for, whatsoever is more than yea and nay (says Christ) cometh of evil. This same the holy James also teaches, "Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: (understand, such as, By God's word‑By the Lord's cross‑By the salvation of your soul); but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay (and not so help me God, so help me God and all the saints, as is alas, the custom in many places); lest ye fall into condemnation," Jas. 5:12.
We are aware that the magistracy claim and say, We are allowed to swear when Justice is on our side. This we simply answer with the word of the Lord. To swear truly was allowed to the Jews under the law; but the gospel forbids this to christians. As Christ does not allow us to swear, and as the magistracy, notwithstanding, proceed according to their rule, although contrary to the Scriptures, and as the Scriptures, may not be set aside by man, what shall now the conscientious christian do? If he swear, he falls into the hands of the Lord; but if he does not swear he will have to bear the disfavor and punishment of the magistracy.
O, ye beloved lords! If we, now, had christian eyes and could see and sincerely acknowledge what it is, according to the justice of God, licentiously to despise and transgress the word of God, we would rather die than weaken or break the precious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ordinance of the eternal God, by temporal statutes and policies.
Nor would we, even, think of asking more than yea and nay, particularly of the pious, godfearing hearts, who, by the fear of their God, dare not speak anything but the truth; who esteem every word which comes from their mouths as an oath, and keep their yea and nay unto death; while, now, alas, they dare force them to swear to a trifle, as concerning some temporal goods or something of the kind, even with their fingers raised to heaven or with their hands upon the New Testament, by the God of heaven and by his living word.
O, ye beloved lords! How pitiably your teachers and leaders lead you upon the way which tends to damnation, who ever console you by saying that we should obey the magistracy (as is, also, becoming so far as is not contrary to God's word); as if the magistracy may act and rule against the Lord, at pleasure.
O, no, beloved lords, no! We warn you in faithful love. Repent, wake up and take heed. Your preachers deceive you. With God there is no respect of person. If you do not repent, are not born of God, become like unto children in malice, do not in 273love execute your office and service agreeably to the will of God, do not act justly to the poor and miserable, and do not walk obediently to the word of the Lord with godly, humble hearts, you will find your judge at the judgment day. Beloved lords, take to heart this saying, "Mighty men shall be mightily tormented," Wis. 6:6.
Again, ye learned, you who by your flatterings and errors assert and maintain it, how dare you so flatly contradict the eternal wisdom and truth of God and say, Thou sayest: thou shalt not swear; but we say; Thou mayest swear when the love, profit and need of thy neighbor require it. We will leave it to your judgment whether that is not teaching contrary to Christ; as it is so plain that it was allowed to the Jews under the law, to swear sincerely; but to us, christians, it is forbidden and as it is very plain that, according to the New Testament, no love of neighbors nor kinsmen nor peril of life is any excuse to strain or break the word of the Lord, Matt. 10:37; Mark 8:38.
Therefore, worthy reader, if you fear the Lord and if it should happen that you are asked to swear, then pray the Most High for wisdom, courage and strength; do not listen to the flatterings of the learned, for they deceive you; do not look to numbers lest you follow in their evil ways, as Moses says, Respect no flesh in this matter, no difference who, what or where they be, but admonish them in a becoming manner and in love when they ask of you more than the Scriptures command; abide in the Lord's word which so plainly has forbidden you to swear; and let your yea and nay, be your oath, as was commanded, whether life or death be your lot, that you, by your courage and firm truthfulness, may admonish and reprove unto righteousness the useless, fruitless, vain world (who, in their faithlessness respect nothing less than the word of the Lord) by your truthful yea and nay; that some might yet be converted from their unrighteousness and thereby more deeply study the truth, and be saved, Matt. 5:37; Phil. 2:12.
It is better to incur the disfavor, scorn and slander of man and remain in the truth, than to be the favorite of man and sin against God. The good John Huss confessed when he was asked to swear and said, I am pressed on all sides. If I swear, I have eternal death; and if I do not swear, I will fall into your hands. But I would rather fall into your hands, without swearing than to sin in the face of God. Thus considerately this worthy man weighed the oath.
Also read Hieronymus, Theophilact, Chrysostom, Erasmus of Rotterdam in their annotations; Philip Melancthon's Treatise on the fifth Chapter of Matthew, Heymon's Treatise on the Tenth Chapter of Revelations and also Origen, and you will find that in this article they agree with our foundation, faith, doctrine and confession. This is our foundation and understanding in regard to this article. Inasmuch as the Lord has forbidden us to swear at all (understand in temporal matters) neither sincerely nor falsely, as was said; and has commanded that our yea shall be yea and our nay, nay, Matt. 5:37; as Paul and James, also, testify to this, 2 Cor. 1:18; Jas. 5:12; and as we know that no man, nor commandment of man may supersede God and his commandment, therefore it is that we, in temporal matters, dare not affirm to truth with more than yea or nay, as the case may be; for thus the word of the Lord teaches us.
Reader, mark. We say, In temporal matters, and for this reason: Because Christ sometimes in his teachings makes use of the word, verily, Matt. 18:18; Jn. 3:3, 5; 8:34; 10:1; and because Paul called upon the Lord as a witness of his soul. For this reason some think that swearing is allowable; not observing that Christ and Paul did not do this in speaking of temporal matters, as in a matter of flesh or blood, or money or property; but as an affirmation of the eternal truth, to the praise of God and to the salvation and edification of their brethren.
We hereby pray all lords and magistrates, for Jesus' sake, to fear the Lord sincerely, and to conform their policy, in this matter of swearing, to the word of the Lord, 274and to consider why they require the oath, namely: That that shall be fulfilled to which one swears. Inasmuch as we deem our yea and nay to be no less than an oath, why require any further affirmation at our hands than the word of the Lord teaches and allows; for, by the grace of God, we trust, inasmuch as we are partakers of the Lord, and adhere to the word in which yea is amen‑that it will be found with us that it is yea where it should be yea, and nay where it should be nay; much more so than with the world under strong oaths. But in case that a man's yea and nay is not kept, let him be punished as a perjurer. That it is yea and amen with all true Christians, is sufficiently proven by those who, in our Netherlands, are so tyrannically visited with imprisonment, confiscation and torture; besides, with fire, the stake and the sword; while with one word they could escape all these if they would but break their yea and nay; but as they are born of the truth, therefore they walk in the truth and testify to the truth unto death, as may be abundantly seen in Flanders, Braband, Holland, West Vriesland, and other places.
|« Prev||THE SWEARING OF OATHS.||Next »|