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deliberate conclusion of his reason at other times, having at the time of vowing, reason enough to strive against the act, but not self-government enough to restrain a passionate, melancholy vow. 6. Whereas some casuists make deliberation necessary, it must be understood that to the being of a vow so much deliberation is requisite as may make it a rational human act, it must be an act of reason : but for any further deliberation, it is necessary only to the well-being, and not to the being of a vow, and without it it is a rash vow, but not no vowa. 7. When we say, it must be a voluntary act, the meaning is not that it must be totally and absolutely voluntary, without any fear or threatening to induce us to it; but only that it be really voluntary, that is, an act of choice, by a free agent, that considering all things doth choose so to do. He that hath a sword set to his breast, and doth swear or vow to save his life, doth do it voluntarily, as choosing rather to do it than to die. Man having freewill, may choose rather to die, than vow if he think best: his will may be moved by fear, but cannot be forced by any one, or any means whatsoever. 8. When I say that a vow is a promise, I imply that the matter of it is necessarily some real or supposed good ; to be good, or to do good, or not to do evil. Evil may be the matter of an oath, but it is not properly a vow, if the matter be not supposed good. 9. It is a promise made to God, that we are now speaking of; whether the name of a vow belong to a promise made only to man, is a question de nomine' which we need not stop at.
A vow is either a simple promise to God, or a promise bound with an oath or imprecation. Some would appropriate the name of a vow to this last sort only, (when men swear they will do this or that,) which indeed is the most formidable sort of vowing ; but the true nature of a vow is found also in a simple self-obliging promise.
The true reason and use of vows is but for the more certain and effectual performance of our duties: not to make new laws, and duties, and religions for us, but to drive on
- a Viris gravibus vehementer displicere animadverti, qnod ab indis testimonium jurejurando exigitur, cum constet eos facillime pejerare, utpote qui neque juramenti vim sentiant neque veritatis studio tangantur, sed testimonium eo modo dicant, quo credunt judici gratissimum fore, aut à primo suæ factionis homine edocti sunt. Hos igitur jurare compellere et ipsis exitiosum propter perjuria, &c. Acosta p. 345.
the backward, lingering soul to do its duty, and to break over difficulties and delays: that by strengthening our bonds, and setting the danger before our eyes, we may be excited to escape it.
It is a great question, whether our own vows can add any new obligation to that which before lay upon us from the command of God. Amesius saith (Cas. Consc. lib. iv. c. 16.) * Non additur proprie in istis nova obligatio, neque augetur in se prior : sed magis agnoscitur et recipitur à nobis : passive in istis æque fuimus antea obligati: sed activa recognitione arctiùs nobis applicatur à nobismetipsis.' Others commonly speak of an additional obligation : and indeed there is a double obligation added by a vow, toʻthat which God before had laid on us, to the matter of that vow. Premising this distinction between Obligatio imponentis,' a governing obligation, (which is the effect of governing right or authority,) and 'Obligatio consentientis,' a selfobliging by voluntary consent, (which is the effect of that dominion which a rational free agent hath over his own actions,) I say, 1. He that voweth doth oblige himself, who before was obliged by God only; and that a man hath a power to oblige himself, is discerned by the light of nature, and is the ground of the law of nations, and of human converse : and though this is no divine obligation, yet is not therefore none at all. 2. But moreover he that voweth doth induce upon himself a new divine obligation, by making himself the subject of it. For example; God hath said, “ Honour the Lord with thy substance :” this command obligeth me to obey it whether I vow it or not. The same God hath said, “ Pay thy vows to the Most Highb:” and, “When thou vowest a vow to God, defer not to pay it.” This layeth no obligation on me till I vow : but when I have vowed it doth : so that now I am under a double divine obligation (one to the matter of the duty, and another to keep my vow), and under a self-obligation of my own vow: whence also a greater penalty will be due if I now offend, than else would have been.
Hence you may see what to think of the common determination of casuists concerning vows materially sinful, when they say, a man is not obliged to keep them. It is 6 Psal. I. 14.
c Eccles. v. 4.
only thus far true, that God obligeth him not to do that particular thing which he voweth, for God had before forbidden it, and he changeth not his laws, upon man's rash vowings : but yet there is a self-obligation which he laid upon himself to do it: and this self-obligation to a sinful act, was itself a sin, and to be repented of, and not performed: but it bringeth the person under a double obligation to penalty, as a perjured person, even God's obligation who bindeth the perjured to penalty, and the obligation of his own consent to the punishment, if there was any oath or imprecation in the vow. If it were true that such a person had brought himself under no obligation at all, then he could not be properly called perjured, nor punished as perjured: but he that sweareth, and voweth to do evil, (as the Jews to kill Paul) though he ought not to do the thing, (because God forbiddeth it) yet he is a perjured person for breaking his vow, and deserveth the penalty, not only of a rash vower, but of one perjured. Thus error may make a man sinful and miserable, though it cannot warrant him to sin.
Direct. 11: "Try well the matter of your vows, and venture not on them till you are sure that they are not things forbidden :' things sinful or doubtful are not fit matter for a vow: in asserting, subscribing and witnessing, you should take care, that you know assuredly that the matter be true, and venture not upon that which may prove false : much more should you take care that you venture not doubtingly in vows and oaths. . They are matters to be handled with dread and tenderness, and not to be played with, and rashly entered on, as if it were but the speaking of a common word: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God d.” It is a grievous snare that men are oft brought into by ignorant and rash vows e: as the case of Jephtha, and Herod, and many another tell us for our warning: an error in such cases is much more safely and cheaply discerned before, than afterwards. To have a rash vow, or perjury to repent of, is to set a bone in joint, or pull a thorn out of your very eye, and who would choose such pain and smart? “Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy Aesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thy hands f.” “It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry 5.” Be careful and deliberate to prevent such snares.
d Eccles. v. 2.
e Vid. Sanderson de Juram. Prælect. vii. Sect. 14. Juramentum oblatum reluctante vel dubitante conscientia non est suscipiendum; 1. Quia quod non est ex fide peccatuin est. 2. Quia jurandum est in judicio : quod certè is non facit qui con tra conscientiæ suæ judicium facit, &c. ad finem.'
Direct. 111. “Vow not in a passion :' stay till the storm be over : whether it be anger or desire, or whatever the passion be, delay and deliberate before you vow: for when passion is up, the judgment is upon great disadvantage. In your passion you are apt to be most peremptory and confident when you are most deceived : if it be your duty to vow, it will be your duty to-morrow when you are calm. If you say, that duty must not be delayed, and that you must do it while the Spirit moveth you: I answer, Was it not as much a duty before your passion was kindled as now? It is no sinful delaying of so great a duty, to stay till you have well proved whether it be of God. If it be the Spirit of Christ that moveth you to it, he will be willing that you deliberate and try it by that Word which the same Spirit hath indited to be your rule. God's Spirit worketh principally upon the judgment and the will, by settled convictions, which will endure a rational trial: it is more likely to be your own spirit which worketh principally on the passion, and will not endure the trial, nor come into the light ".
Direct. iv. 'Make not a vow of things indifferent and unnecessary: if they be not good, in a true, comparing, practical judgment, which considereth all accidents and circumstances, they are no fit matter for a vow. Some say, things indifferent are the fittest matter both for vows and human laws; but either they speak improperly or untruly, and therefore dangerously at the best. If an idle word be a sin, then an idle action is not a thing to be vowed, because it is not a thing to be done, being as truly a sin as an idle word: and that which is wholly indifferent is idle ; for if it be good for any thing, it is not wholly indifferent: and because it is antecedently useless, it is consequently sinful to be done.
Object. 1. “But those that say things indifferent may be f Eccles. v. 6. & Prov. xx. 25. John iii. 18, 19. Isa, viii. 20.
vowed, mean not, things useless or unprofitable to any good end ; but only those things that are good and useful, but not commanded : such as are the matter of God's counsels, and tend to man's perfection, as to vow chastity, poverty, and absolute obedience.'
Anws. There are no such things as are morally good, and not commanded : this is the fiction of men that have a mind to accuse God's laws and government of imperfection, and think sinful man can do better than he is commanded, when none but Christ ever did so welli.
Quest. 1. What is moral goodness in any creature and subject, but a conformity to his ruler's will expressed in his law? And if this conformity be its very form and being, it cannot be that any thing should be morally good that is not commanded.
Quest. 11. Doth not the law of God command us to love him with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and accordingly to serve him? And is it possible to give him more than all; or can God come after and counsel us to give him more than is possible ?
Quest. 111. Doth not the law of nature oblige us to serve God to the utmost of our power? He that denieth it, is become unnatural, and must deny God to be God, or deny himself to be his rational creature : for nothing is more clear in nature, than that the creature who is nothing, and hath nothing but from God, and is absolutely his own, doth owe him all that he is able to do.
Quest. iv. Doth not Christ determine the case to his disciples, Luke xvii. 10.?
A middle between good and evil in morality is a contradiction: there is no such thing; for good and evil are the whole of morality : without these species there is no morality.
Object. 11. . It seems then you hold that there is nothing indifferent, which is a paradox,'
Answ. No such matter : there are thousands and millions of things that are indifferent; but they are things natural only, and not things moral. They are indifferent as to mo
See the fourteenth Article of the church of England, against voluntary works, over and above God's commandments, as impious.