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cumbent on those who are not called in providence to enter into that relation, to vow to perform its duties. Under the law, some things were, by His express appointment, holy to the Lord. As he had an explicit claim upon them, these might not be devoted to him in the same manner as some other things were, but they behoved to be offered. Those other things depended on the peculiar circumstances of the people, and accordingly were of a changing amount, and had a great variety of character ; but not less than the things that might be vowed according to circumstances, were those that were denominated, “ holy to the Lord," vowed to him. Israel, at Sinai, vowed to present the first-born of their males and their first-fruits to the Lord ; and that vow they homologated when they Covenanted again. On such occasions they could not vow specific offerings to the Lord; but their engagements then made implied in general that they would vow to the Lord thereafter according to the showings of his providence. At other times the specialities of providence called for the explicit vows, which could not have been made when their circumstances were not anticipated. The vows of the people, on occasions of public solemn Covenanting, and also in secret, implied obligations to perform the duties of the various relations into which they might enter; but they did not embody an explicit engagement to perform the special duties of many of these. These public vows included, for example, that such of the people as should be called to the priest's office, should enter into the covenant of the priesthood, and keep it, and that such of them as had in providence a call to become a Nazarite, should take the requisite vow at the proper season, and thereafter perform it. But on the former occasions referred to, it was not incumbent to swear the oaths that were probably requisite on an entrance to the priest's office; nor




was it required, nor even possible, thus to take the vow of the Nazarite. The priesthood were devoted to the Lord, and when the time appointed came, such of them as were qualified for their office entered upon it. The Nazarites, also, were devoted to the Lord, but according to a different arrangement. The priest had no alternative but to enter upon his office. The individual who was more qualified for becoming a Nazarite than to act in any other sphere, was no less called to enter


his functions, than the sons of Aaron were to enter on theirs. The call addressed to the former was so explicit, as to be easily apprehensible by all; that tendered to the latter, was not less solemn nor emphatic, nor obligatory, though presented through a providence which was not so very capable of being interpreted as that which gave transmission to the claims laid upon the other. It is only when the making of the vow would be at variance with the requirements of duty, that forbearing to vow would be no sin. All are called to vow to abstain from all sin, and to perform all duty; but as providence makes varied provision for men in different circumstances, so in regard both to the absolute amount of service to God, and to the nature and the time of it, there ought necessarily to be a variety in the making of

the vow.


The second passage is, “ Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.”32 The declaration does not bear, that if one were not inclined to pay, it would not be sinful to omit vowing ; but means that it is sinful to make a vow falsely, and omit the performance of what should have been sincerely vowed. It is the paying of the vow—the performance of some duty, that the language is employed to inculcate. When the heart of any one is opposed to duty, he cannot vow sincerely. That he is not disposed to vow

32 Eccles, v. 5.

when the duty presents itself is his sin. And to vow falsely–else than which he could not do in his circumstances, would also be sin in him. He is, therefore, called upon, not to do a sinful act, but, in the use of means, to endeavour to obtain a disposition to vow with cordiality, and then to perform the duty. It is better for him to supplicate

. God to change his heart, than to insult him by promising to do what he is unwilling to perform. It is better for him not to attempt to change his own heart—for that he cannot do—but to pray to God to carry on a good work within him, and along with that, to yield himself to Him. Duties should be performed in a certain order; and those who transgress the arrangement for these laid down in the Scriptures, act culpably, as well as those who do not perform them at all. The statement refers to the order in which the duties, among which stands the exercise of vowing, should be performed. The observance is incumbent on an individual in a certain condition; but his heart is against it. Two duties at least are, therefore, obligatory on him then ;-to seek a disposition willingly to vow, and then to make the vow. He would sin were he to do the latter without the former, or before it. Both are obligatory at the same instant of time, and both might possibly be performed in one moment. But the order of first acquiescing in the call to vow and then vowing, must be observed, and cannot be inverted without transgression.

Commands inculcating the swearing of the oath. These are of two classes. First, those which in general terms explicitly enjoin it.—“ Thou shalt fear the Lord tlıy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. - Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt

l thou cleave, and swear by his name.”34

And next, that which, in addition, thus enjoins the manner of

33 Deut. vi, 13. 34 Deut. x. 20.

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swearing.--" Thou shalt swear, The Lord liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness.”35 Since the oath is never disconnected from a covenant with God, therefore, when it is enjoined, the duty of Covenanting with him in a formal manner, is enjoined. Every command that sanctions it, sanctions every exercise of Covenanting in which it is used. When the oath is commanded, Cove

, nanting with God concerning things civil is commanded. When the oath is commanded, Covenanting with God concerning things religious is inculcated by his authority. Yea, the exercise concerning things both civil and religious, in such a case, is enjoined. Lawful oaths between nations, or between a people and their sovereign, bind all parties, not merely to one another, but also in solemn engagement to the Most High. Oaths taken in courts of judicature, civil or religious, and the marriage oath, bind the parties in like manner. The vows made on entering into church fellowship, which include an oath, and the explicit oaths which, in different ages of the Church, have been sworn in such a case, as well as the vows or oaths made by a minister at his ordination, or by a parent receiving baptism for his child, or by believers at the Lord's table, do, in each case, confirm a covenant with God. And oaths are sworn, ratifying covenants with God, made either in secret, or in a public, social manner. When the oath is enjoined, Covenanting is enjoined,—not merely concerning some duties, but in reference to all, —concerning not merely things civil, but also things religious, -concerning not merely the less, but also the greater,—regarding not only a part, but the whole,

-regarding not merely some things important, but all that is so,-yea, in reference to every possible case, the exercise is enjoined. The duty of swearing the oath has not been ab

35 Jer. iv. 2.

rogated, and therefore that of Covenanting is of perpetual obligation. With comparatively few exceptions, it is generally admitted that the use of the oath is lawful in things civil; and on the grounds on which this rests, it must be concluded that swearing is obligatory in those also that are reli. gious. The Lord himself, in an extraordinary manner, called Abraham once and again, formally to enter into Covenant with him, and accordingly to swear; but after the resurrection—the dawn of the present dispensation—the Redeemer addressed Peter in terms warranting him to reply in the use of the oath- “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."36 In His instructions, He did not condemn the use of the oath on every occasion. He said, “I say unto you, Swear not at all: 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

But in these words he does not forbid every use of the oath. The passage, along with another 38 of kindred import, must not be considered as condemnatory of swearing by the name of God in some cases; for that holy name is not mentioned among those things that may not be used in swearing ; but may be viewed as reproving the practice of swearing irreligiously in common conversation, as well as the idolatry of swearing by the creature in any case, with or without the intention of thereby appealing to, God. The oath, therefore, coeval with other institutes of religious worship, with them, through every age, shall continue to be observed. It stands enjoined among those precepts that are inculcated for every dispen36 John xxi. 17. 37 Mat. v. 34-37. 38 Mat. xxii. 18-22.


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