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you will not stick at the greatest wickedness ; nor know when you have done it, what you did. If faith see not God continually present, and foresee not the great approaching day, perjury or any villany will seem tolerable, for worldly ends ; for when you look but to men's present case, you will see that “ the righteous and the wise, and their works are in the hand of God: no man knoweth love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked ; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath y.” But in the end, men “shall discern between the righteous and the wicked ?." Therefore it is the believing foresight of the end, that by preserving the fear of God and tenderness of conscience, must save you from this, and all other heinous sin.
Direct. VII. ·Be not bold and rash about such dreadful things as vows.' Run not as fearlessly upon them as if you were but going to your dinner : the wrath of God is not to be jested with. • Usque ad aras,' was the bounds even of a heathen's kindness to his friend. Meddle with oaths with the greatest fear, and caution, and circumspection. It is terrible here to find that you were mistaken, through any temerity, or negligence, or secret seduction of a carnal interest.
Direct. viii. · Especially be very fearful of owning any public doctrine, or doing any public act, which tendeth to harden others in their perjury, or to encourage multitudes to commit the sin a.' To be forsworn yourselves is a dreadful case ; but to teach whole nations or churches to forswear themselves, or to plead for it, or justify it as a lawful thing, is much more dreadful. And though you teach not or own not perjury under the name of perjury, yet if first you will make plain perjury to seem no perjury, that so you may justify it, it is still a most inhuman, horrid act. God knoweth I insult not over the Papists, with a delight to make any Christians odious : but with grief I remember how lamentably they have abused our holy profession, while ♡ Eccles. ix. 1, 2.
2 Mal, üi. 18.
not only their great doctors, but their approved General Council at the Lateran under Pope Innocent the Third, in the third canon hath decreed that the pope may depose temporal lords from their dominions, and give them unto others, and discharge their vassals from their allegiance and fidelity, if they be heretics, or will not exterminate heretics, (even such as the holy men there condemned were, in the pope's account). To declare to many Christian nations, that it is lawful to break their oaths and promises to their lawful lords and rulers, or their vows to God, and to undertake, by defending or owning this, to justify all those nations that shall be guilty of this perjury and perfidiousness, O what a horrid crime is this! what a shame even unto human nature ! and how great a wrong to the Christian name!
Direct, ix. · Understand and remember these following rules, to acquaint you how far a vow is obligatory :' which I shall give for the most part out of Dr. Sanderson, because his decisions of these cases are now of best esteem. .
Rule 1. The general rule laid down Numb. xxx. 2, 3. doth make a vow, as such, to be obligatory, though the party should have a secret equivocation or intent, that though he speak the words' to deceive another, yet he will not oblige himself.' Such a reserve not to oblige himself hindereth not the obligation, but proveth him a perfidious hypocrite. Dr. Sanderson, p. 23. “Juramentum omne ex suâ naturâ est obligatorium: ita ut si quis juret non intendens.se obligare, nihilominus tamen suscipiendo juramentum ipso facto obligetur:' that is, If he so far understand what he doth, as that his words may bear the definition of an oath or vow: otherwise if he speak the words of an oath in a strange language, thinking they signify something else, or if he spake in his sleep, or deliration, or distraction, it is no oath, and so not obligatory.
Rule 11. ^ Those conditions are to be taken as intended in all oaths, (whether expressed or no,) which the very nature of the thing doth necessarily imply";' unless any be so brutish as to express the contrary). And these are all reducible to two heads, 1. A natural, and 2. A moral impossibility. 1. Whoever sweareth to do any thing, or give any
b See Dr. Sanderson, p. 47 and 197,
thing, is supposed to mean, “ If I live; and if I be not disabled in my body, faculties, estate ; if God make it not impossible to be,' &c. For no man can be supposed to mean, I will do it whether God will or not, and whether i live or not, and whether I be able or not. 2. Whoever voweth or sweareth to do any thing, must be understood to mean it. If no change of providence make it a sin; or if I find not contrary to my present supposition, that God forbiddeth it.' For no man that is a Christian is to be supposed to mean when he voweth, “I will do this, though God forbid it, or though it prove to be a sin; especially when men therefore vow it, because they take it to be a duty. Now as that which is sinful is morally impossible, so there are divers ways by which a thing may appear or become sinful to us. (1.) When we find it forbidden directly in the Word of God, which at first we understood not. (2.) When the change of things doth make that a sin, which before was a duty: of which may be given an hundred instances : as when the change of a man's estate, of his opportunities, of his liberty, of his parts and abilities, of objects, of customs, of the laws of civil governors, doth change the very matter of his duty.
Quest. · But will every change disoblige us? If not, what change must it be? seeing casuists use to put it as a condition in general, ‘rebus sic stantibus.' Answ. No: it is not every change of things that disobligeth us from the bonds of a vow. For then vows were of no considerable signification. But, 1. If the very matter that was vowed, or about which the vow was, do cease, ‘cessante materiâ cessat obligatioo: as if I promise to teach a pupil, I am disobliged when he is dead. If I promise to pay so much money in gold, and the king should forbid gold and change his coin, I am not obliged to it. 2. ' Cessante termino vel correlato cessat obligatio. If the party die to whom I am.bound, my personal obligation ceaseth. And so the conjugal bond ceaseth at death, and civil bonds by civil death. 3. · Cessante fine, cessat obligatio.' If the use and end wholly cease, my obligation, which was only to that use and end, ceaseth. As if a physician promise to give physic for nothing for the cure of the plague, to all the poor of the city ; when the plague ceaseth, his end, and so his obligation, ceaseth. 4. · Cessante personâ naturali relatâ cessat obligatio personalis.' When the natural person dieth, the obligation ceaseth. I cannot be obliged to do that when I am dead, which is proper to the living. The subject of the obligation ceasing, the accidents must cease. 5. ' Cessante relatione vel personâ civili, cessat obligatio talis, quà talis.' The obligation which lay on a person in any relation merely as such, doth cease when that relation ceaseth. A king is not bound to govern or protect his subjects if they traiterously depose him, or if he cast them off, and take another kingdom, (as when Henry III. of France, left the kingdom of Poland :) nor are subjects bound to allegiance and obedience to him that is not indeed their king. A judge, or justice, or constable, or tutor, is no longer bound by his oath to do the offices of these relations, than he continueth in the relation. A divorced wife is not bound by her conjugal vow to her husband as before, nor masters and servants, when their relations cease: nor a soldier to his general by his military sacrament, when the army is disbanded, or he is cashiered or dismissed.
c Cicero de Leg. lib.i. proveth that right is founded in the law of nature, more than in man's laws: else, saith he, men may make evil good, and good evil, and make adultery, perjury, &c. just by making a law for them.
Rule 111. “No vows or promises of our own can dissolve the obligation, laid upon us by the law of God.' For we have no co-ordinate, much less superior authority over ourselves ; our self-obligations are but for the furthering of our obedience.
Rule iv. “Therefore no vows can disoblige a man from any present duty, nor justify him in the committing of any sin. Vows are to engage us to God, and not against him : if the matter which we vow be evil, it is a sin to vow it, and a sin to do it upon pretence of a vow. Sin is no acceptable sacrifice to God.
Rule v. “If I vow that I will do some duty better, I am not thereby disobliged from doing it at all, when I am disabled from doing it betterd. Suppose a magistrate, seeing much amiss in church and commonwealth, doth vow a reformation, and vow against the abuses which he findeth; if now the people's obstinacy and rebellion disable him to perform that vow, it doth not follow that he must lay down his sceptre, and cease to govern them at all, because he cannot do it as he ought, if he were free. So if the pastors of any church do vow the reformation of church abuses, in their places, if they be hindered by their rulers, or by the people, it doth not follow that they must lay down their callings, and not worship God publicly at all, because they cannot do it as they would, and ought if they were free; as long as they may worship him without committing any sin. God's first obligation on me is to worship him, and the second for the manner, to do it as near his order as I can: now if I cannot avoid the imperfections of worship, though I vowed it, I must not therefore avoid the worship itself, (as long as corruptions destroy not the very nature of it, and I am put myself upon no actual sin). For I was bound to worship God before my vows, and in order of nature before my obligation de modo :' and my vow was made with an implied condition, that the thing were possible and lawful : and when that ceaseth to be possible or lawful which I vowed, I must nevertheless do that which still remaineth possible and lawful. To give over God's solemn worship with the church, is no reformation. To prefer no worship before imperfect worship, is a greater deformation and corruption, than to prefer imperfect worship before that which is more perfect. And to prefer a worship imperfect in the manner, before no church worship at all, is a greater reformation than to prefer a more perfect manner of worship before a more imperfect and defective. To worship God decently and in order, supposeth that he must be worshipped ; and he that doth not worship at all, doth not worship him decently. If a physician vow that he will administer a certain effectual antidote to all his patients that have the plague, and that he will not administer a certain less effectual preparation, which some apothecaries, through covetousness or carelessness,
d How often perjury hath ruined Christian princes and states all history doth testify. The ruin of the Roman empire by the Goths, was by this means. Alaricus having leave to live quietly in France, Stilico comes in perniciem Reipub. Gothos pertentans, dum eos insidiis aggredi cuperet, belli summam Saulo pagano duci commisit: qui ipso sacratissimo die Paschæ, Gothis nil tale suspicantibus, super eos irruit, magnamque eorum partem prostravit. Nam primum perturbati Gothi, ac propter reli