« AnteriorContinuar »
sins are shifted off by saying, “They are little ones :' but Christians P and heathens are agreed that perjury is a sin almost as great as the devil can teach his servants to commit. Saith Plutarch?, ‘He that deceiveth his enemy by an oath, doth confess thereby that he feareth his enemy, and despiseth God. Saith Cicero, “The penalty of perjury is destruction from God, and shame from man.' Saith Q. Curtius, · Perfidiousness is a crime which no merits can mitigate.' Read Cicero de Offic. lib. iii. Saith Aristotle, • He that will extenuate an oath, must say, that those villanous wretches that think God seeth not, do think also to go away with their perjury unpunished.' In a word, the heathens commonly take the revenge of perjury to belong in so especial a manner to the gods, that they conclude that man, and usually his posterity to be destined to ruin, that is perjured and perfidious: insomuch that it is written' of Agesilaus and many others, that when their enemies were perjured and broke their covenants, they took it for a sign of victory, and the best prognostic of their success against them. Plutarch recordeth this story of Cleomenes, that having made a truce for seven days with the Argives, he set upon them, and killed and took many of them in the night; and when he was charged with perfidiousness, answered, “I made not a truce with them for seven nights, but for seven days. But the women fetched arms out of the temples of the gods, and repulsed him with shame, and he ran mad, and with his sword did mangle his own body, and died in a most hideous manner. When conscience is awakened to see such a sin as perjury, no wonder if such run mad, or hang themselves, as perfidious Achitophel and Judas did. No doubt but everlasting horror and desperation will be the end of such, if true conversion do not prevent it. 5. It is a sin that ruineth families and societies s, like fire that being kindled in the thatch, never stoppeth till it have consumed all the house. Though “ the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but he blesseth the habitation of the just s;" yet among all the wicked, there are few so commonly marked out with their families to shame and ruin, as the perjured. Whatever nation is stigmatized with a ' fides Punica vel Græca,' 'with the brand of perjury,' it is not only their greatest infamy, but like Lord have mercy on us' written on your doors, a sign of a destroying plague within. Saith Silius,
p One of Canutus' laws (26.) was, that perjured persons, with sorcerers, idolaters, strumpets, breakers of wedlock be banished the realm : cited by Bilson of Subject. p. 202. Hew few would be left in some lands, if this were done.
9 Plut. in Lysand. Cicer. de Leg. lib. iii. Curt. lib. vii. Arist. Rhet. c. 17. r Ælian. Vari. Hist. lib. xiv.
8 Though as Moder. Polic. saith, Princ. 7. It is a huge advantage that man hath in a credulous world, that can easily say and swear to any thing: and yet so palliate luis perjuries as to hide them from the cognizance of the most. Gabionitarum irritum foedus, calliditate licet extortum, nonnullis intulisse exitium, &c. Gildas in Prolog. p. 2. Josseline's Ed.
markedhong all out he bles
Non illi domus aut conjux aut vita manebit
In prolem dilatarunt perjuria patris,
Ah miser : et siquis primo perjuria celat,
Saith Pausanias, “ The fraud that is committed by perjury, falleth upon posterity.' 6. Perjury and perfidiousness are virtually treason, rebellion, and murder against kings and magistrates, and no more to be favoured in a kingdom, by a king that loveth his life and safety, than the plague in a city, or poison to the body. Tristissimum et domesticum regibus omnibus pharmacum liberorum, amicorum et exercitus perfidia,' saith Appian. What security have princes of their crowns or lives, where oaths and covenants seem not obligatory? There is then nothing left but fear of punishment to restrain the violence of any one that would do them mischief: and craft or strength will easily break the bonds of fear. He that would dissolve the bond of oaths, and teach men to make light of perjury, is no more to be endured in a kingdom, than he that openly inviteth the subjects to kill their king, or rise up in rebellion against him. If he that breaketh the least of God's commands, and teacheth men so to do, shall be called least in the kingdom of God, then surely he that breaketh the great commands by the most odious sin of perjury, and teacheth men so to do, should neither be great, nor any thing, in the kingdoms of men. 7. Perjury is the poison of all societies, and of friendship, and of human converse, and turneth all into a state of enmity or hostility, and teacheth all men to live together like foes. He that is not to be believed when he sweareth, is never to be believed : and when oaths and covenants signify nothing, and no man can believe another, what are they but as so many foes to one another? How can there be any relations of governors and subjects? of husband and wife ? of masters and servants? Or how can there be any trading or commerce, when there is no trust? Perjury dissolveth all societies by loosening all the bonds of association. Well might Dionys. Halic. lib. iii. say, “The perfidious are far worse than open enemies, and worthy of far greater punishment. For a man may more easily avoid the ambushments of foes, and repel their assaults, than escape the perfidiousness of seeming friends.' Saith Val. Max. lib. ix. c. 6. ' Perfidiousness is a hidden and ensnaring mischief; whose effectual force is in lying and deceiving : its fruit consisteth in some horrid villany; which is ripe and sure when it hath compassed cruelty with wicked hands; bringing as great mischief to mankind, as fidelity bringeth good and safety. He that teacheth the doctrine of perjury and perfidiousness, doth bid every man shift for himself, and trust no more his friend or neighbour, but all take heed of one another as so many serpents or wild beasts. Lions and bears may better be suffered to live loose among men, than those that teach men to make light of oaths. 8. Thus also it destroyeth personal love, and teacheth all men to be haters of each other : for it can be no better, when men become such hateful creatures to each other, as not at all to be credited or sociably conversed with. 9. Perjury and perfidiousness do proclaim men deplorate; and stigmatize them with this character, that they are persons that will stick at the committing of no kind of villany in the world, further
s Prov. iii. 33.
+ Haud amentum justitiæ est fides, i. e. dictorum conventorumque constantia et veritas. Cicero.
than their fleshly interest hindereth them: no charity. bindeth a man to think that he will make conscience of murder, rebellion, deceit, adultery, or any imaginable wickedness, who maketh no conscience of perjury and perfidiousness. Such a person alloweth you to judge that if the temptation serve, he will do any thing that the devil bids him : and that he is virtually a compound of all iniquity, and prepared for every evil work. 10. Lastly, As perjury doth thus dissolve societies, and turn mankind into enmity with each other, so it would make the misery incurable, by making even penitents incredible. Who will believe him, even while he professeth to repent, that hath shewed that when he sweareth he is not to be believed ? He that dare forswear himself, dare lie when he pretendeth repentance for his perjury. It must be some deeds that are more credible than words and oaths, that must recover the credit of such a man's professions. If perjury have violated any relations, it leaveth the breach almost incurable, because no professions of repentance or future fidelity can be trusted. Thus I have partly shewed you the malignity of perjury and covenant-breaking
Direct. 11. "Be sure that you make no vow or covenant which God hath forbidden you to keep.' It is rash vowing and swearing which is the common cause of perjury. You should, at the making of your vow, have seen into the bottom of it, and foreseen all the evils that might follow it, and the temptations which were like to have drawn you into perjury. He is virtually perjured as soon as he hath sworn, . who sweareth to do that which he must not do: the preventive means are here the best. :
Direct. 111. 'Be sure you take no oath or vow which you are not sincerely resolved to perform.' They that swear or vow with a secret reserve, that rather than they will be ruin
i Lege distinctionem Grotii inter in opreñv et foud opresīv, Annot. in Matt. v. 33. Modern Policy, (supposed Dr. Sandcroft's) Princ. 7. 1. We are ready to interpret the words too kindly, especially if they be ambiguous: and it is hard to find terms so positive, but that they may be eluded indeed, or seem to us to be so, if we be disposed. 2. Some are invited to illicit promises, . qua illicite,' because they know them to be invalid. 3. Some are frighted into these bonds by threats and losses, and temporal concernments, and then they please themselves that they swear by duress, and so are disengaged. 4. Some are oath-proof, &c.
ed by keeping it, are habitually and reputatively perjured persons, even before they break it: besides that, they shew a base, hypocritical, profligate conscience, that can deliberately commit so great a sin.
Direct. iv. See that all fleshly, worldly interest be fully subdued to the interest of your souls, and to the will of God.' He that at the heart sets more by his body than his soul, and loveth his worldly prosperity above God, will lie, or swear, or forswear, or do any thing to save that carnal interest which he most valueth. He that is carnal and worldly at the heart, is false at the heart: the religion of such an hypocrite will give place to his temporal safety or commodity, and will carry him no further than the way is fair. It is no wonder that a proud man, or a worldling will renounce both God and his true felicity for the world, seeing indeed he taketh it for his god and his felicity: even as a believer will renounce the world for God". • Direct. v. • Beware of inordinate fear of man, and of a distrustful withdrawing of your heart from God.' Else you will be carried to comply with the will of man, before the will of God, and to avoid the wrath of man before the wrath of God. Read and fear that heavy curse, Jer. xvii. 5, 6. God is unchangeable, and hath commanded you so far to imitate him, as · If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” But man is mutable, and so is his interest and his affairs; and therefore if you are the servants of men, you must swear one year, and forswear it, or swear the contrary the next: when their interest requireth it, you must not be thought worthy to live among men, if you will not promise or swear as they command you: and when their interest altereth and requireth the contrary, you must hold all those bonds to be but straws, and break them for their ends.
Direct. vi. · Be sure that you lose not the fear of God, and the tenderness of your consciences. When these are lost, your understanding, and sense, and life are lost; and
u It is one Sulon's sayings in Laertius, Probitatem jure-jurando certiorem habe. What will not an atheistical, impious person say or swear, for advantage?
x Numb, xxx. 2.