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sert and testify, upon Oath, a thing to be true, which we know to be false ; when we swear, for Example, that we faw, or heard, such things done or spoken, which we know we did not see or hear. (2.) When we assert and testify upon Oath a thing to be true, of the Truth of which we are not fully assured ; nay, though the thing should happen to be true, yet if we swear it as of our own Knowledge, when we know no such thing, we incur the Sin of Perjury, because for ought we knew, it might have been false. (3.) When we declare upon Oath, such a thing to be our Judgment and Sense of our Minds, which really is not so. (4.) When, in giving our Testimony as to any matter of fact, we wilfully suppress fome material part of the Truth, and aggravate other parts of it, or endeavour so to disguise, and change our account of Facts, as that the Judges and Juries may not have a right Notion of the matter in question, (5.) They that Promise upon Oath, what they do not intend to perform, are iplo facto, guilty of Perjury, because they call God to witness a false thing, where the Intention of their Minds does not concur with the Words and Meaning of their Oath. (6.) They are likewise guilty of Perjury, who, though they promise with a sincere Intention to perform, do'afterwards, of their own accord, fall off; when the thing they promised, is both lawful, and in their power to perform it. 7. Lastly, They are guilty of Perjury, who make use of Tricks and Equivocations, and put forced Senses on the Words of an Oath, or look for Evasions, contrary to the plain and genuine Sense of the Words.
So much for the Description of Perjury.
II. The Second Thing I proposed to consider, is, What it is that leads and tempts Men to it. And here now to omit that grossest Temptation of Bribery, by which a Man barefacedly sells himself to work Wickedness; There are these three too common Occasions of this. Sin, Rashness, Partiality, and Self-Interest. .
(1.) Rashness; and this is the most incident to your common customary Swearers, who are ready to back every thing they say with an Oath, without considering either the Truth oř Importance of it. Such People, as often as they tell a Lye, if they perceive it is not readily believed, are apt to back and confirm it with an Oath, and so must frequently be guilty of this horrid Sin of Perjury; a Consideration which, I think, ought to be of great Weight to deter every one from the Sin of common Swearing, because it does fo. naturally lead to Forswearing.
(2.) Another great Inducement to the Sin of Perjury, is that of Partiality; when we come to take our Oaths, with our Minds byassed with Hope or Fear, Favour or Hatred, Affection to one, or Prejudice to another; for all these we ought to be fortified against, whenever we go about to take an Oath in Judgment; for if we find they are apt to blind and byass us, we should either decline giving of our Evidence, or at least confess the Byass that is upon us, that it may have its due Weight with Judges and Juries. But ,
(3.) The most common Temptation to Perjury, is that of Self-Interest; fome Place of Profit or Trust, which cannot be come at without taking
such and such Oaths, contrary to a Man's own Sentiments, and binding him, perhaps, to such Things as he has no Mind to perform. How many State-Hypocrites are there, who take Oaths to the Government which they inwardly hate, and would be glad of an Opportunity to pull down, and make no more of an Oath, than if it were a common Ceremony? Nay, some have steeled their Consciences to that Degree of Hardness, that it is really not possible to contrive any State-Oath that they will not swallow; and when they have done it, they are no fafter bound than they were before ; for they have learned to play fast and loose with all Oaths whatsoever, and to be swayed by no other Consideration in them, than that of Self-Interest. One unhappy Occasion of this debauching of Mens Consciences, has been the many contradictory State-Oaths which have been imposed for these last Seventy or Eighty Years; which are found by Experience to catch only some of the more strict and conscientious sort of People, from whom there is the least Danger, while the more Atheistical swallow all, and keep none. It were much to be wished, the Publick were more tender in imposing, and private Men more conscientious in keeping their Oaths, that the Religion and Veneration of an Oath might be retrieved ; and that Men of Principles might be, at least, upon as good a foot in this World, as others that have none; and that instead of the Tests of Oaths, which have been found to be fo flender, the Trial, were rather put upon Mens actual Obedience or Disobedience to Governments. But God forbid that we should reckon all perjured, who have been obliged to take the Oaths to seve
ral Governments, though very unfriendly to one another; for though an Oath, generally speaking, is a very strict Bond, yet there are several things that salve from Perjury, when the Matter of the Oath is changed, without any fault of ours, as shall be shewn by and by, when I come to the last Head I proposed on this Subject. But to go on in our proposed Method.
III. The third thing to be considered, is the Heinousness of the Sin of Perjury. In order to which, I offer the following Confiderations.
(1.) That it is a great Proof of a profane Atheistical Mind. Other Sins seem to proceed more from a Forgetfulness of God, and a Want of a due Sense of him; but this invoking him directly to be a Witness to a Falfhood, doth necessarily suppose a much higher degree of Impudence in finning, and affronting God, as it were, to his Face. More directly it attacks his Veracity, since he is called in to witness a Lye; it attacks bis Omniscience, since he, the Searcher of Hearts, is appealed to, on purpose to cover our vile Hypocrisy; it attacks bis Yustice, by appealing to him to conceal and cover Injustice; and it attacks his Power, his Omnipotence, and his Vengeance, by challenging him, as it were, to exert them upon this so provoking Occasion. Lastly, It attacks him as he is Governour of the World; for an Oath being the last Result or Appeal to God the supreme Governour, when all other Human Proof fails, Perjury is, as it were, a Defying of him in that Capacity, and a downright rebelling againct the King of Kings.
(2.) As it is highly affronting to God Almighty, it is likewise highly injurious to Man
kind; for an Oath being of so universal Use among Men, in transacting Matters of the highest Consequence, whosoever goes about to make it vile and cheap, does what in him lies to destroy the highest Bonds of Faith and Truth among Men. If the Religion of an Oath is once prostituted, what way is there left for Princes to confirm their Leagues and Treaties, and Articles of War and Peace with one another ? Have they any other Superiour to appeal to than God? or any former thing to depend on than an Oath? The very Heathen were so fensible of this, that let the loss be what it would, they would observe the Religion of an Oath in their mutual Promises, though to their Enemies. There are some famous things to this purpose in the Roman History. Regulus returned to the Enemies, rather than he would break his Oath, though he was sure to be put to a cruel Death; and some that promised the Enemy upon Oath to return, and would have eluded it by a Trick, (for pretending to forget something, they immediately returned unto the Enemies Camp, and this they would have past for the Accomplishment of their Oath) but it was rejected by the Senate as an unworthy Trick, and they were fent back to the Enemy. If Perjury once takes place, how shall the Oath of God bind between Prince and Subjects? Or how shall Con.troversies be decided, or the Truth be found out in doubtful Cases ? Nay, if · Perjury prevails, then farewell all Truth, and Honesty, and Sincerity among Men; for he that will not regard his Oath, to be sure will as little, or less