On Oaths & Vows

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Order of Contents

Book
All Vows are Qualified
On Laying One’s Hand on a Bible
On Taking God’s Name in Vain
On Minced Oaths


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Book

1600’s

Calamy, Edmund – A Practical Discourse Concerning Vows, with a Special Reference to Baptism & the Lord’s Supper  (London, 1697)  310 pp.  ToC

Calamy (1671–1732) was an English presbyterian and church historian, significantly influenced by Baxter.


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All Vows are Qualified

The Synod of Dort

Intro

Jer. 35 gives the account of the Rechabites.  At the command of one of their forefathers who had so charged them and their descendants, they were to dwell in tents all their days and drink no wine.  The prophet Jeremiah highly commends them for keeping “all that he hath commanded you” (v. 18).

However, in verse 11 of the chapter, it is described how the Rechabites, who dwelt in tents in the peripheral areas, at the coming of the King of Babylon in war towards them, came and dwelt in the walled city of Jerusalem, “for fear of the army of the Chaldeans”.  Dort explains how this action was just.

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The Dordrecht Bible Commentary  trans. Theodore Haak  ed. H. David Schuringa  (1657; North Star Ministry Press, 2019), vol. 4, p. 279  on Jer. 35:11

“In this verse they [the Rechabites] give a reason why in this one thing, namely that now [they] did not dwell in the tents but lived in the city of Jerusalem:  that at this present [circumstance they] followed not their father’s charge, showing thereby that it was a human ordinance which in time of need and as occasion required, they might without breach of duty very well wave [it,] that they might not transgress the law of God, this was also Jonadab’s intention and was pleasing and acceptable unto God.”

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Samuel Rutherford

Lex Rex…  (1644; Edin., 1843), p. 118

“Exigencies of the law of nature cannot be set down in positive covenants, they are presupposed.”

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James Guthrie

Protesters No Subverters…  (1658), p. 60

“But if they [the Resolutioners] will extend it [the ordination vows] further, and say that it is meaned of absolute subjection to the sentence of his brethren, whether he have offended or not, they may as well, and with more color of reason, say that he is bound by his oath, not only to give subjection, but also obedience† to all their admonitions, whether just or unjust, lawful or unlawful;

because there is no express limitation in the words of the oath, these qualifications, being as we said before, amongst the praecognita [assumptions] and praesupposita [presuppositions] of all such questions and answers, and there being no need to express them, except where there are grounds of jealousy.”

† [Notice Guthrie’s distinction between subjection in things lawful (e.g. Rom. 13), versus obedience to all commands.]


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On Laying One’s Hand on a Bible while Swearing

Willard, Samuel – A Brief Discourse Concerning that Ceremony of Laying the Hand on the Bible in Swearing  (London, 1689)  8 pp.

Willard was a New England puritan.  Willard argues that the practice is unlawful as it enters into the act of worship, which worship is only acceptable if warranted by God’s Word.

“That many good and very learned men have doubted the lawfulness of kissing or touching the book in taking a solemn oath, cannot be denied; those great and famous divines, Rivet, Pareus, Voetius, have all written against it; and that worthy confessor and martyr, Mr. William Thorp, did refuse to comply with the mentionedmode of swearing; and he says that Chrysostom was against the book-oath, as he styles it; he thus argues,

‘If I touch the book, the meaning of that ceremony is nothing else but that I swear by it, when as it is not lawful to swear by any creature;’

It is well known that those famous divines, Dr. Thomas Goodwin, Mr. Philip Nye Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs did judge the impleaded rite to be unwarrantable by the Word of God;” – To the Reader

In connection to this, see our page, On Natural Gestures, Signs & Customs about Worship, & of Reverence & Veneration as Distinguished from the Worship of Adoration.


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On Taking God’s Name in Vain

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), p. 88

“…a bearing testimony by word that God is true and knows all secrets, and will be avenged on perjury, is inseparable from vocal swearing by the name of God…”


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On Minced Oaths

Seville, George H. – ‘Minced Oaths’  1953  10 paragraphs  with a historical introduction.

Seville (1876-1977) was a UPCNA minister, a missionary to China and a seminary professor.

The articles Scripturally addresses using exclamations like ‘Gee’, ‘gosh’, ‘darn’, ‘mercy’, ‘goodness’, ‘gracious’, etc.

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