« AnteriorContinuar »
in ent 01ned st;
of son ent eir ce;
to 1, Eth
against their consciences, upon any motive whatsoever; or with a design to break it, or repent of it, are guilty of perjury. Any of these or the like circumstances, instead of alleviating the crime, make it more heinous, as they are premeditated frauds, (.which it is the chief design of an oath to prevent,) and the most flagrant instances of insincerity to men, and irreverence to their Maker. For this reason, the perjury of a man, who takes an oath with an intention to keep it, and is afterwards seduced to the violation of it, (though a crime not to be thought of without the greatest horror,) is yet, in some respects, not quite so black as the perjury above-mentioned. It is, indeed, a very unhappy token of the great corruption of our manners, that there should be any so inconsiderate among us, as to sacrifice the standing and essential duties of morality, to the views of politics; and that, as in my last paper it was not unseasonable to prove the love of our country to be a virtue, so in this there should be any occasion to show that perjury is a sin. But it is our misfortune to live in an age when such wild and unnatural doctrines have prevailed among some of our fellow-subjects, that if one looks into their schemes of government, they seem, according as they are in the humour, to believe that a sovereign is not to be restrained by his coronation oath, or his people by their oaths of allegiance; or, to represent them in a plainer light, in some reigns they are for a power and an obedience that is unlimited, and in others, are for retrenching within the narrowest bounds, both the authority of the prince, and the allegiance of the subject.
Now the guilt of perjury is so self-evident, that it was always reckoned among the greatest crimes, by those who were only governed by the light of reason: the inviolable observing of an oath, like the other practical duties of Christianity, is a part of natural religion. As reason is common to all mankind, the dictates of it are the same through the whole species; and since every man's own heart will tell him, that there can be no greater affront to the Deity whom he worships, than to appeal to him with an intention to deceive; nor a greater injustice to men, than to betray them by false assurances ; it is no wonder that pagans and Christians, infidels and believers, should concur in a point wherein the honour of the Supreme Being, and the welfare of society, are so highly concerned. For this reason, Pythagoras, to his
first precept of honouring the immortal gods, immediately subjoins that of paying veneration to an oath. We may see the reverence which the heathens showed to these sacred and solemn engagements, from the inconveniences which they often suffered rather than break through them. We have frequent instances of this kind in the Roman commonwealth ; which, as it has been observed by several eminent pagan writers, very much excelled all other pagan governments in the practice of virtue. How far they exceeded, in this particular, those great corrupters of Christianity, and, indeed, of natural religion, the Jesuits, may appear from their abhorrence of everything that looked like a fraudulent or mental evasion. Of this I shall only produce the following instance. Several Romans, who had been taken prisoners by Hannibal, were released, upon obliging themselves by an oath to return again to his camp. Among these there was one, who, thinking to elude the oath, went the same day back to the camp on pretence of having forgot something. But this prevarication was so shocking to the Roman senate, that they ordered him to be apprehended, and delivered up to Hannibal.
We e may further see the just sense the heathens had of the crime of perjury, from the penalties which they inflicted on the persons guilty of it. Perjury among the Scythians was a capital crime; and among the Egyptians also was punished with death, as Diodorus Siculus relates, who observes, that an offender of this kind is guilty of those two crimes, (wherein the malignity of perjury truly consists,) a failing in his respect to the Divinity, and in his faith towards
'Tis unnecessary to multiply instances of this nature, which
may be found in almost every author who has written on this subject.
If men, who had no other guide but their reason, considered an oath to be of such a tremendous nature, and the violation of it be so great a crime; it ought to make a much deeper impression upon minds enlightened by revealed religion, as they have more exalted notions of the Divinity. A supposed heathen deity might be so poor in his attributes, so stinted in his knowledge, goodness, or power, that a pagan might hope to conceal his perjury from his notice, or not to provoke him, should he be discovered; or should he provoke him, not to be punished by him. Nay, he might have pro
duced examples of falsehood and perjury in the gods themselves, to whom he appealed. But as revealed religion has given us a more clear idea of the Divine nature, he, whom we appeal to, is Truth itself, the great Searcher of hearts, who will not let fraud and falsehood go unpunished, or “hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” And as with regard to the Deity, so likewise with regard to man, the obligation of an oath is stronger upon Christians than upon any other part of mankind; and that because charity, truth, mutual confidence, and all other social duties, are carried to greater heights, and enforced with stronger motives, by the principles of our religion.
Perjury, with relation to the oaths which are at present required by us, has in it all the aggravating circumstances which can attend that crime. We take them before the magistrates of public justice; are reminded by the ceremony, that it is a part of that obedience which we learn from the gospel ; expressly disavow all evasions and mental reservations whatsoever; appeal to Almighty God for the integrity of our hearts, and only desire him to be our helper, as we fulfil the oath we there take in his presence. I mention these circumstances, to which several other might be added, because it is a received doctrine among those, who have treated of the nature of an oath, that the greater the solemnities are which attend it, the more they aggravate the violation of it. And here what must be the success that a man can hope for who turns a rebel, after having disclaimed the Divine assistance, but upon condition of being a faithful and loyal subject ? He first of all desires that God may help him, as he shall keep his oath, and afterwards hopes to prosper
in an enterprise, which is the direct breach of it. Since, therefore, perjury, by the common sense of mankind, the reason of the thing, and from the whole tenor of Christianity, is a crime of so flagitious a nature, we cannot be too careful in avoiding every approach towards it.
The virtue of the ancient Athenians is very remarkable in the case of Euripides. This great tragic poet, though famous for the morality of his plays, had introduced a person, who, being reminded of an oath he had taken, replied, “I swore with my mouth, but not with my heart.” The impiety of this sentiment set the audience in an uproar; made Socrates (though an intimate friend of the poet) go out of
the theatre with indignation; and gave so great offence, that he was publicly accused, and brought upon his trial, as one who suggested an evasion of what they thought the most holy and indissoluble bond of human society. So jealous were these virtuous heathens of any the smallest hint, that might open a way to perjury.
, And here it highly imports us to consider, that we do not only break our oath of allegiance by actual rebellion, but by all those other methods which have a natural and manifest tendency to it. The guilt may lie upon a man, where the penalty cannot take hold of him. Those who speak irreverently of the person to whom they have sworn allegiance, who endeavour to alienate from him the hearts of his subjects, or to inspire the people with disaffection to his government, cannot be thought to be true to the oath they have taken. And as for those, who by concerted falsehoods and defamations endeavour to blemish his character, or weaken his authority, they incur the complicated guilt both of slander and perjury. The moral crime is completed in such offenders, and there are only accidental circumstances wanting, to work it up for the cognizance of the law.
Nor is it sufficient for a man, who has given these solemn assurances to his prince, to forbear the doing him any evil, unless, at the same time, he do him all the good he can in his
proper station of life. Loyalty is of an active nature, and ought to discover itself in all the instances of zeal and affection to our sovereign : and if we carefully examine the duty of that allegiance which we pledge to bis Majesty, by the oaths that are tendered to us, we shall find that “ We do not only renounce, refuse, and abjure any allegiance or obedience to the Pretender, but, swear to defend King George to the utmost of our power, against all traitorous conspiracies and attempts whatsoever, and to disclose and make known to his Majesty, all treasons and traitorous conspiracies, which we shall know to be against him."
To conclude, as among those who have bound themselves by these sacred obligations, the actual traitor or rebel is guilty
, of perjury in the eye of the law; the secret promoter, or well-wisher of the cause, is so before the tribunal of conscience. And though I should be unwilling to pronounce the man who is indolent or indifferent in the cause of his
prince, to be absolutely perjured; I may venture to affirm, that he falls very short of that allegiance to which he is obliged by oath. Upon the whole we may be assured, that, in a nation which is tied down by such religious and solemn engagements, the people's loyalty will keep pace with their morality; and that, in proportion as they are sincere Christians, they will be faithful subjects.
No. 7. TUESDAY, JANUARY 13.
Veritas pluribus modis infracta : primum inscitiâ reipublicæ, ut alienæ ;
mox libidine assentandi, aut rursus odio adversus dominantes. Obtrectatio et livor pronis auribus accipiuntur : quippe adulationi fædum crimen servitutis, malignitati falsa species libertatis inest. Tac.
THERE is no greater sign of a bad cause, than when the patrons of it are reduced to the necessity of making use of the most wicked artifices to support it. Of this kind are the falsehoods and calumnies which are invented and spread abroad by the enemies to our king and country. This spirit of malice and slander does not discover itself in
instances so ridiculous, as in those, by which seditious men endeavour to depreciate his Majesty's
person and family ; without considering, that his court at Hanover was always allowed to be one of the politest in Europe, and that, before he became our king, he was reckoned among the greatest princes of Christendom.
But the most glorious of his Majesty's predecessors was treated after the same manner. Upon that prince's first arrival, the inconsiderable party, who then laboured to make him odious to the people, gave out, that he brought with him twenty thousand Laplanders, clothed in the skins of bears, all of their own killing; and that they mutinied, because they had not been regaled with a bloody battle within two days after their landing. He was no sooner on the throne, than those, who had contributed to place him there, finding that he had made some changes at court which were not to their humour, endeavoured to render him unpopular by misrepresentations of his person, his character, and his actions. They found that his nose had a resemblance to that of Oliver Cromwell, and clapt him on a huge pair of moustaches to frighten his people with ; his mercy was fear; his justice