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names of God were written, as they knew, and were sup posed to feel the solemnity of an oath, were excused from these forms. Of their most distinguished wise men and doctors, an oath was not required; their affirmation being deemed sufficient. He who made oath was required also to stand while he made it, that he might feel and express greater reverence of the majesty of God. But the Rabbins made oath while sitting, because it was presumed that they constantly feared God; and could neither be enticed, nor terrified from duty. And an oath was always made in the presence of the adverse party.

But even Maimonides has said, that to swear by heaven, by the earth, by the sun, &c, even if the swearer in his mind refers to Him who created the object by which he swears, yet it is not an oath. Or if any one swears by a prophet, or by either of the books of scripture, though it be understood that he swears by Him who sent the prophet, or who gave the book, yet this is not an oath.

It appears by the Talmuds that it was commou, and it seems to have been allowed, to swear by heaven, by the temple, by Jerusalem, by the altar, by the head, and by other things. So, it is said, was the custom in Israel. So did even doctors in Israel swear. When turtles and young pigeons were sold at Jerusalem for a penny of gold, R. Simeon Ben Gamaliel said, "by

this temple I will not rest this night, if they be not sold for a penny of silver.”

There is indeed in the traditionary law, or rather in the commentary upon it,-a caution against excess in swear, ing, and in laughter. But R. Solomon interpreted it to mean, "indulge not much in swearing, even in things that are true; because in much swearing, it is impossible not to be profane."

Cicero defines an oath to be, a religious affirmation. Clemens Alexandrinus, a direct assertion, with an appeal to God. Philo, the testimony of God concerning a thing doubt, ful in itself. Grotius has brought together a great mass of learning, in illustration of the sentiments of Jews, heathens, and early christians, concerning oaths; and it would be grateful to spread before our readers, who have not access to it, this interesting display of the actions of so many minds, upon a subject of such vital interest to the security of society, and to the cause of piety and virtue. But our object is, as far as we can, to ascertain prevailingsentiments of Jews in the time of our Lord, and to understand his references to these sentiments, that we may comprehend the whole import, and feel the full force of his instructions, as far as this particular course of illustration will lead to these consequences.

With the sentiments then, and the custom to which we have referred, compare the instructions of our Lord in the

text. Even in the most unrestrained interpretation of his words, they forbid us from making oath, and from every form of swearing, except in cases of imperious duty. The precept, "swear not at all," is generally supposed to refer only to voluntary oaths; and it is understood that an oath may be required by a magistrate, when the affair concerning which it is demanded is either the glory of God, the security of our neighbour, or our own greatest good. The primitive christians however, it is said, understood and observed this command in a literal sense; as do the Quakers, or the Society of Friends, at this day. And happy would it be for the christian world, if every disciple of Christ should obtain that estimation and confidence among men, that his simple affirmation or negation should have the force of an oath from another.

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Who can remember but with strong and delightful emotions, the honour which was paid by the Athenians to Zenocrates; a man distin guished alike by his wisdom and his sanctity? When he came into court to give his public testimony, and and approached the altars for the purpose of making oath, he was stopped by the unanimous decision of his judges, that his simple assertion should be taken instead of an oath; thus conceding that to his integrity, which they were not after wards to allow even to themselves; for they were required to make oath, before they


should pronounce their judg; ment.

But in answering the inquiry, may an oath be lawfully administered to christians, and made by them, we refer to the repeated examples in the epistles of Paul, of very solemn appeals to God; but above all to the example of our Lord. This is decisive. When arraigned before "the chief priests, and elders, and all the council of the Jews," he heard, without answering, the allegations of the false witnesses, who were suborned to bear testimony against him. But when the high priest said, "I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God: Jesus said unto him, thou hast said." The answer was as direct, as well understood, as if he had said, I am. In giving this answer, he made oath that he actually was, what he professed to be. Can we doubt then whether an oath may lawfully be administered, and made among christians; more than it can whether swearing in common conversation is forbidden by the christian laws?

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much credit by a simple affirmation, as by the most solemn oath; and which tends ultimately to supersede the necessity of swearing at all. The quakers, on this subject, without doubt, approach far nearer to the object of our Lord's injunction, than any other part of the christian world; and if christendom shall ever become, what the gospel teaches us to hope that it will be, the practise concerning oaths, which now distinguishes the Society of Friends, will become the practise of the whole body of christians.

Ir is, we believe, a general opinion among men of serious reflection, that oaths, by our Jaws, are unnecessarily multiplied that they have become SO common as to diminish their solemnity and usefulness, and to render them an occasion of immorality, profaneness, and irreverence for the name of God. The writer of the Illustrations" has in the preceding article introduced the subject of swearing, and given his opinion with exemplary meekness, and candor. He has also mentioned in a very respectful manner the opinion of the Society of Friends. We shall not assume the office of deciding the question in dispute; but that


[Buxtorfs Synag Judaic pa ges 677, 682. Ainsworth on Lev. xix. 12. Lightfoot, Walzogenius, and John Jones on the text.]


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form unto the Lord thine oaths." This was a prohibition of perjury or false swearing. Having quoted this, our Saviour adds, "But I say unto you swear not at all, neither by heaven, &c. But let your communication be yca, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." As the prohibition of perjury and the reference to oaths in the 33d verse, evidently had respect to swearing before a magistrate, the prohibition, "swear not at all" must include that mode of swearing which had been considered as lawful, as well as false and profane swearing.

This opinion the Friends think is fully confirmed by the language in James, v. 12, "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath." This last clause is regarded by them as extending the prohibition to every species of swearing without any exception.

Whatever might have been the manner of the Jews in administering an oath, or the in tention of the high priest in saying, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God," the Quakers cannot believe that the simple affirmation of Christ, "Thou hast said," ought to be regarded as an example of swearing.

Robert Barclay, in his Apology, has stated and answered the objection from the example of Paul :--

"They object," he says,


that Paul swore and that of ten-saying, For God is my record' As the truth of Christ is in me'' I call God for a record upon my soul'—


I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not' Behold before God I lie not'; And also requires oaths of others' Į charge thee before God and our Lord Jesus Christ'- I charge you by the Lord, &c.

"To all which, says Barclay, I answer, First, That the using of such forms of speaking is neither swearing nor so esteemed by our adversaries. For when upon occasion, in matters of great moment, we have said, We speak the truth in the fear of God and before him, who is our witness, and the searcher of our heartsadding such kind of serious attestations, which we never refused to do in matters of consequence; nevertheless an oath hath moreover been required of us, with the ceremony of putting our hand upon the book, the kissing of it, the lifting up the hand or fingers, together with the common form of imprecation, So helf me God, or So truly let the Lord God Almighty help me.

"Secondly. This contradicts the opinion of our adversaries, because Paul was neither before a magistrate that was requiring an oath of him, vor did he himself administer the office of a magistrate, as offering an oath to any other.

"Thirdly. The question is not what Paul or Peter did, but what their and our Master taught to be done; and if Paul did swear-which we be

lieve not he had sinned against the command of Christ, even according to their own (the objectors) opinion, be

cause he swore not before a magistrate, but in an epistle to his brethren." p. p. 563-4.

We have given only a specimen of the arguments of the Quakers on this subject; but perhaps enough to show, that their opinion is not of the most dangerous character, nor so destitute of support as some have imagined; and also, that there is less danger in adopting this opinion from a conscientious regard to a supposed command of Christ, than in becoming so familiar with oaths as to lose our reverence for God and regard for truth. Whether the opinion of the Friends be correct or not, it is certainly much in their favor,

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A dreadful plague, which according to the most authentic accounts first made its ap pearance in the year 1346 in China, or the eastern part of Tartary, after making terrible ravages in Asia, spread its direful contagion into Africa and Europe. After almost depopulating Greece and Italy, it passed into Spain and France, and from thence into England, where it made such terrible ravages, that, according to some, it swept away half of the inhabitants. In London the mortality was so dreadful, that within the space of one year, above fifty thousand persons were buried in the Charter house yard. This terrible


pestilence raged in England from the beginning of August 1348, till Michaelmas the following year; and during the time that it raged in Asia, Africa and Europe, more than half of the human race is supposed to have perished!-Walsingham says that in parts of England nine tenths of the people fell victims to this dreadful disease.


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that their affirmation is admitted in our courts, as equiva lent to the oath of other Christians. But whether it be to the honour of other denominations, that they are called upon to swear, while the Quakers are permitted to affirm, is a question worthy of some consideration. It must be the duty of every man to support such a character for veracity, that his word will be received by those who are acquainted with him as of equal weight with his oath; and that man whose veracity cannot be relied on, except he be under the obligation of an oath, is at best a suspicious witness, his oath notwithstanding. "For what end," says Chrysostom, "wilt thou force him to swear, when thou believest not that he will speak the truth?"

"This tremendous visitation of heaven did not put a stop to the ambition of man. The pestilence made the same ravages in France as in England; yet amidst those scenes of death and destruction, and during the continuance of a truce, Philip formed a plan

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