« AnteriorContinuar »
to perform, and shews the folly of such distinctions; and that, let them swear by what they will, they are bound by their oath ; and therefore forbids his disciples to bind themselves, by saying, “ Swear not all, neither by heaven, nor earth, nor Jerusalem," because it is the same as if they swore by God; nor yet by their head, because they could not make one hair white or black. ---All their swearing by their head was of no avail in that respect, and therefore it was a folly to call for curses upon their heads to bind themselves to perform any thing, as was the custom among the Jews; and Chrift commands them to let their communications be yea, yea, and nay, nay; that is, If you determine to perform any thing, say you will do it, and do not bind yourself with an oath; for whatsoever is more than this cometh of evil; it is either a snare of the devil, or will be likely to draw you into one.
Another reason why I think it is vows our Lord forbids is this---they were a part of the ceremonial law, and of course fell with it in the general abolition of Jewish rites and ceremonies, and therefore needed not to be infifted upon separately; but if it had been oaths for confirmation, it would appear to me necessary to be mentioned by each of the evangelists and in all the Epistles; whereas it was only spoken of in the golpel by Matthew and in the epistle of James; and it is remarkable, that they wrote expressly to Jews, who were in the habit of binding themselves in the way I have been treating of.
It may be objected, that the difficulty still remains as to what James hath said upon this subject---" But above all, my brethren, swear not all, neither by heaven, nor by earth, nor by any other oath ; but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, left ye fall into condemnation,” To this I would reply, if it is clearly proved that his master did not mean to prohibit oaths for the confirmation of a fact before the civil magistrate, his servant had not authority to do it, especially as what he fays is a quotation of that saying of our Lord we have been treating of. But I think an attention to the context will clearly shew the true sense that James attached to this command. It fhould be observed, there is nothing in the context that relates to swearing before magistrates; for James is exhorting the persons to whom he is writing to patience under affliction, by the example of Job and others, and shews, that in them they have seen the design of the Lord in afflicting his faints, that it is good ; and then, as it was the custom of the Jews, especially those who did not perceive this design, to bind themselves to perform something to God, if he would deliver them out of it, so he exhorts the Jewish converts to be careful of this, and, instead of impatiently desuing to be delivered from their af. fliction, and, as though God were to be influenced by such oaths, to avoid them, and patiently to endure, as knowing the Lord is abundantly compassionate and merciful ; and that, if they were humbled under his mighty hand, he would, in due time, raise them up; that is, when the affliction had answered the good design for which the kind Father of mercies had sent it; and therefore, instead of binding themselves by oaths, in hopes of deliverance, he exhorts, if any are afflicted, let them pray. And knowing also, it was a custom, in time of profperity to bind themselves to do something for the temple, as a mark of gratitude to God, he says, Is any one chearful, let him sing psalms, and shew forth his gratitude by singing the praises of that Being who giveth us all things richly to enjoy; let him shew forth his gratitude by visiting the fatherless and widow in their afflictions, and keep himself unspotted from the world; let him do good and communicate ; for it is with such sacrifices God is well pleased ; better than with all the vows he could make. And, as another reason why they should not bind themselves with an oath to perform any thing, he adds, Left he fall into condemnation, by not being able to perform what he has bound himself to do, either through the uncer. tainty of life, or a deprivation of the means, which at present may appear to be in his power; and so he might come under condemnation, by not being able to perform that which is gone out of his lips, a free-will offering to the Lord.
From these considerations I am decidedly of opinion, that eaths before 'a magistrate for confirmation are lawful, and no where prohibited in the New Testament; at the same time I deplore the frequency of them, because it takes off that solemnity which should accompany an appeal to the immortal God; which ought to be done with the deepest consideration and reverence ; and for want of which this land groaneth because of swearing. My reason for writing on this subject is not to encourage the multiplication of oaths, but because I know many weak minds are burthened, and their persons and property exposed to danger, by conceiving that Christ has forbidden them to swear. To such persons the clearing up this matter may be of service : to the world it can do no injury, for they will fwear the saine, whether our Lord hath forbidden it or not.--But there are Christians who, either for want of inclination or opportunity to examine, are undetermined either one way or the other, and yet are in the habit of swearing, and fall into
the fall in bound depriva his
that condemnation mentioned by Paul -..." He that doubtėth is condemned.” If what I have written is the truth, and calculated to do good, I shall rejoice; but if I should be mistaken, I I shall esteem that man my friend that will endeavour to con.. vinçe me of my error. December 17, 1798.
I LETTER To the Editor of the Universalist's MiscellaNY. SIR, THERE is nothing gives me more real fatisfaction than to
| hear of eminent men having noble and exalted views of their great Creator ;; and I think nobler views of him none have than those who profess the doctrine of the Universal Restoration. But I cannot say that I was not somewhat surprised that your correspondent J. H. Prince (fee vol. ij. p. 370.) should so readily acquiesce with Dr. Edwards in placing the Author of the Whole Duty of Man in the number of its votaries, merely on account of an expression in a prayer contained in that work. The words of the prayer are...« Vouchsafe to cast thy countenance on thy well-beloved spouse the church; but let it be that amiable and merciful countenance whereby thou pacifiest all things in heaven and in earth, and whatsoever is above heaven and under the earth.” I am apt to think, if the words are attended to, they will be found to contain an idea which Universalists are strangers to : they can go with the author as far as he prays that the countenance of Christ may be to the church that whereby he pacifieth all things in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, for so far the Scriptures go: but the Scriptures say nothing of his pacifying “ whatsoever is ABOVE HEAVEN,” and therefore Universalists have no idea of such things.
Now, if we conclude, from the seeming universal benevolence contained in this sentence of the prayer, that its author was therefore an Universalist, we must conclude likewise, that most, if not all, the preachers in London are of this sentiment; for it is very seldom, that the most rigid Calvinist talks of the love of God, but he speaks of it as free, unbounded, and held out for the acceptance of all; the reaion of which is, in my opini· on, because it is a truth contained in the Scriptures, and whoever preaches from the Scriptures, must, in some degree, preach the
doctrine of Universal Love. Again, if it be inferred from the before cited expression that its author was an Universalist, the followers of Swedenbourg may as reasonable imagine him to be of their sentiment, for the whole of his prayer is addressed to Christ, as are all the prayers of that sectary.
But that the Author of the Whole Duty of Man did not believe the doctrine of the Univeríal Restoration, we have his own words in the very book alluded to, as well as in other of his writings. In the Preface to the above mentioned work, concerning the Necessity of caring for the Soul, $ 7. speaking of losing the foul, he fa;s---“ In a word, we may lose them in hell, whence there is no FETCHING THEM BACK, and so they are loft for ever.”----“ Think with yourselves, how will you be able to endure everlasting burnings. If a small spark of fire, lighting on the least part of your body, be so intolerable, what will it be to have the whole cast into the hottest flames? So that when you have spent MANY THOUSANDS of years in that unspeakable torment, you shall be NO NEARER coming out of it, than you were the first day you went in.”
Again, the same author, in his treatise on the Causes of the Decay of Christian Piety, considering that one cause is having wrong notions of the justice of the Deity, says---" It would be more long than useful to recite the several errors that have sprung from this one. That of Origen, that the devil should finally be saved, is a noted and pregnant instance; which could be derived from nothing but the unequal apprehension of God's justice and mercy; and besides all other ancient, we have many branches of a later growth, that spring from the same root--set of plausible falsities, which would quench the unquenchable fire, and kill the never-dying worm; I mean those allaying softening descriptions some of this age have made of hell, fome changing the kind, others abating the intenseness, or at least the duration of these torments ; each substracting so much from this Tophet, that they have left atheisin an easy talk to take away the rest; and may give suspicion they mean to visit that place, which they are so industrious to make easy. But whatever they do themselves, it is sure this is the way to send others thither.”
After these quotations there remains very little to say to prove that Dr. Edwards and J. H. Prince are in an error in their judgment concerning tbe Author of the Whole Duty of Man; and I think, had they read the work they quote from, they would have different ideas of the sentiments of its author. As to the expression in the prayer, it seems one of those incoherent
and inconsistent phrases which the authors of them do not un derstand; and may be parallelled by one used by a Calvinist who wrote about the same time, viz. “ If there were any of the Lora's people in hell, the blood of Christ would bring them out.”
I should not have taken up this subject were it not that I know your love of truth and fair representation; and that I feared some of your readers might be led into an error, and that others, who believe not the glorious doctrine your Miscellany diseminates, might be led to think it wanted the tes.. timony of eminent men, and therefore pressed them to that, service. But, I think, that doctrine, like the great luminary of heaven, wants not a taper to augment its glory.
I enjoy the present. 'It is no part of wisdom to be miserable to-day because we may poflibly be so to-morrow. .. .: Fine sense and exalted sense are not half so valuable as common fense. There are forty men of wit for one of sense : and he that carries nothing about him but gold, will be every day at a loss for ready change.
It has been observed by many, that the hours we pass with happy prospects in view are more pleasing than those crowned with fruition: in the first case we cook the dish to our own appetites, in the latter nature cooks it for us.
He that is in bed all a summer's morning, loses the chief pleasure of the day; he that gives up his youth to indolenceundergoes a loss of the same kind.
economy is no disgrace; 'tis better living on a little, than out-living a great deal.
Let reason go before every enterprize, and counsel before every action.
ANSWER TO QUESTION ON PSALM XLIX. 9.
(See vol. ii. p. 369.) SIR,
N reading the passage referred to by T. K. in the last
Miscellany, that person's alarm became my own. I examined feveral versions without any satisfaction; I referred