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“Whatever, Lord, we lend to Thee,
Giver of all.”
ARTICLE XXXIX.—“ Of a Christian Man's Oath."
“Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time; Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shall perform unto the Lord thine oaths; but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black; but let your communication be, yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.”
“ Above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath ; but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”
. These injunctions of our Saviour and the Apostle evidently forbid that “vain and rash swearing” to which men have ever been prone, and which is practically transgression against the third commandment every time it is indulged in. The Jews were much given to the use of oaths in the most common conversation, and on the lightest occasion, and therefore we find this practice strictly forbidden to the Apostles, and by them to the Church, as a style
of conversation highly unbecoming disciples of Christ, and professing Christians.
But our Church discerns between the profane custom here alluded to, and that deliberate and solemn taking an “oath for confirmation, which is the end of all strife," ordered in certain cases by the Magistrate, or civil authority, when it is necessary to bind a man by the most solemn motives to speak the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, or for the discharge of some important function of whose responsibility it is needful he should have a due
An oath of this kind, advisedly and reverently taken, is in perfect accordance with Gospel teaching, and was specially commanded in the Mosaic Law. In certain cases respecting rights of property, "the cause of both parties coming before the judges,” " then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbours' goods, and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.” “And an oath for
. confirmation is to them the end of all strife.” And the Lord commands farther, “ Ye shall not swear by my name falsely; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God; I am the Lord.” We see therefore that the oath administered by the civil authority, “in a cause of faith and charity," has ever been sanctioned by the law of the Lord.
So much for the oath taken in a court of justice, but there is another kind required by the State.
From the Sovereign downwards, persons holding responsible and important offices in the service of the State are called upon, on entering on their duties, to pledge themselves by a solemn invocation of the Almighty, to a faithful and proper discharge of their trust. We find warrant for this also in Scripture. “This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded. 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.” “ Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name."
This was commanded God's chosen nation of old, this He now commands us. It is the nation's recognition of Him as Supreme Ruler, and her confession before the world that she owes her first duty and homage to Him “by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice.” “For men verily swear by the greater," and to swear by Him is to acknowledge and submit to His government of the nations upon earth. This is the safeguard religion possesses in the State, for it is the surety that the Sovereign is Defender of the Faith. So long as the sanctity of this oath is preserved, no atheist can enter our Christian Legislature; and by these solemn appeals to, and invocations of the Almighty made in high and responsible positions of the State, we confess that, insufficient in ourselves for these things, we look to, and rely on, His guidance and strength, as the only sure means by which they can be faithfully accomplished.
“And thou shalt swear, the Lord liveth; in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
This is the Church's faith, which, except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be a true Churchman.
Believe faithfully; for it is possible to adhere strictly to the letter, while ignoring the spirit,—to believe according to the intellectual belief in the stated fact, and not enter experimentally into the spiritual meaning. We may thus hold firmly the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, yet not enter into communion with God as our Father, Saviour, and Sanctifier; to believe the historical fact of Christ's Resurrection, yet not be ourselves buried and risen with Him; to reverence the Bible as the Word of God, and even be well acquainted with its contents, yet never lay its truths to heart; to duly receive the sacraments, yet not possess that inward grace of which they are the outward sign; to allow the advantage of an Established Church, yet see in it no more than “ a branch of the Civil Service." We may belong thus to the “Holy Catholic Church,” without being members in spirit and truth of the “Communion of Saints."
We have seen that our Church possesses a “settled doctrine;" we have inquired of what that doctrine consists; and have endeavoured to prove from Holy
Scripture the warrant every article of our faith possesses in the Word of God. If that warrant be surely made out, the call to us is, as to the Apostle of old,“ Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.”
Measure its standing on the ground of our hearts; if the world has hitherto encroached upon the sanctuary, let the sanctuary henceforth encroach upon the world; “stretch its cords, fix farther its stakes," till it is even
“as a tent to dwell in.” Extend it to the west, where the sun of our life is gradually sinking; extend it to the east, where the Sun of Righteousness shall appear; extend it north in the cold darkness “where Satan's seat is;" extend it to the south, that it may be from the scorching glare of this world, 'as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
And when Satan's ground shall have been finally covered by it, and the Church Militant become the Church Triumphant, then will God measure His Church, and to those who are found within, the promise is sure; “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.”
“Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His Temple; and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”
“What time the evening shadows fall
Around the Church on earth,
And new false lights have birth ;