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regard his Word; so that this one Vice tends to the utter Diffolution of Human Society.
(3.) As no Sin has a worse Inflụence on all Parts of our Duty, whether to God or Man, so there is no Sin more exprefly forbidden, or more grievously threatned in the Law of God. It is observed, that Idolatry and Perjury are the only two Sins to which an express "Threatning is annexed in the Decalogue. And particularly it is observed, that. Perjury is threatned with the Destruction, not only of the Man's Person, but of his House and Family: nay, brings great Calamities on whole Countries, as by these Texts may apppear; Mal. ži. 9. I will come near to you in Judgment, and' be a swift Witness against the Swearer. And Zech. v. 4. Speaking of the Curse that goeth over the whole Earth ; God, says he, will bring it forth, and it mall enter into the House of him that sweareth falsly by the Name of God, and shall remain in the Midst of his House, and shall consume it: which is interprea ted, by good Commentators, that the Judgment of God, for this Sin, undermines Estates and Families to the utter Ruin of them. And elsewhere it is said, that because of Oaths the Land mourns. And in the New Testament, to keep us from all approach to this Sin of Perjury, our Saviour utterly forbids all Oaths in our common Communication or Conversation.
IV. And thus now I am come to the fourth is and last Thing I proposed to consider on this Head, namely, What salves us from Perjury, though we cannot always perform our Oaths.
And this Consideration belongs only to promissory Oaths, which besides the sincere In, tention at present, require a future Care and Endeavour to perform. But yet, notwithstanding our best Care and Endeavour, sometimes it may not be in our Power, , by any lawful Means, to bring it to pass; and sometimes, if it were in our Power, the Circumstances may be fo altered, that it is not fit to execute what we have promised, if we would. I shall, out of the best Casuilts, lay down fome Rules for this Matter, and so have done. . 1. First, They who are under the Command of a lawful Superiour, cannot execute an Oath Qr a Vow, in any thing to which his Content is required, if he exprefly difsents from it; and the Reason is plain, because by no Oath of ours we may injure another; as it would be a plain injuring him, if, not being at our own Disposal, we should take upon us to dispose of ourselves as free Persons. In the 30th chap. of the Book of Numbers, there is a Case put of a Maid's Vow. while fhe is in her Father's House, and of a Wife's Vow; and it puts it exprelly in the Power of the Father of the Maid, and the Husband of the Wife, to null those Vows. And, by a Parity of Reason, all our Oaths and Vows must be understood to be meant with this tacit Limitation, as far as it is in my Power: For my Oath gives me no new Power which I had not before, nor deprives my Superiour of any Power he had over me before I swore.
2. When the Matter, or Substance of the Thing, fails, about which the Oath was given, then the Oath it self is no longer binding, e.gu
If a Man, at his Entry upon any Office of Trust, should take his Oath that he will faithfully dila charge that Office, there is no doubt, when he comes to be turned out of that Office, or when he lawfully resigns it, he is likewise free from the Obligation of that Oath. So a Soldier that takes the Military Oath to any Prince or commonwealth that employs him, when Peace is made, and he comes to be disbanded, he is likewise free from that Oath. . - 3. When we give our Oath to another, and promise him something for his Benefit, if he pleases to forgive that Obligation in whole or in part, no doubt we are then absolved from our Oath, or fuch a part of it, provided no Harm be done to any other. But this holds only in such Oaths and Promises, where no Sin or Scandal will follow upon the Diffolution of them. For if it be a Sin to dissolve them, it is not the Consent of the Party with whom we contracted, that will make it lawful; as in the Case of Marriage, which God has given us leave to contract, but not to diffolve, even by the Consent of Parties. i 4. If the Oath we take to another, be either exprelly, or in it's own Nature, conditional; that is, with a Proviso that something be done of his part; then, upon his failing as to his part of; the Condition, we are likewise absolved from Qurs., .: But it is otherwise where both Parties absolutely promise one another, and not conditionally, for there the Failing of oné, doth not abfolye the other.
5. Lastly, Whatever we promise, even upon Oath, muit be understood with a Proviso that it
be both possible and lawful for us, and that no unforeseen thing happen, which may make our observing our Oath an Evil, or uncomely, dishoneft Action: For Example, if I swear to make such a Man my Heir, but find afterwards that he is in a Plot against my Life; if a Man swears to marry such a Woman, and afterwards the proves with Child by another Man; for if there be nothing of Fraud of his side who breaks his Oath, but all the Fault is from such Variation of the Circumstances as never fell under the real Design and Intention, but perhaps contrary to the real Design and Intention, it is no Perjury.
But it is needless to insist further in reckoning up such Cases. The best way to avoid Perjury in all Cases, is first to abstain from all rash customary Oaths of our own. Secondly, To be very grave and deliberate in what we affirm or promise upon Oath, at the Command of our Superiours." Thirdly, To take Oaths in the plain genuine Sense of the Words. Fourthly, To endeavour sincerely and honestly, in our several Stations, to keep them, but not to think our selves obliged to flee to unlawful Means, or to raise Rebellions, or make any Disturbance in Governments upon that account. Lastly, When we are in Places of Power, to be tender of other Peoples Consciences, that we may have no hand in driving them to Perjury. So much for the first thing I observed in the Words, What was good in the Opinion of the Jewish Doctors, in their Interpretation of the Third Commandment, namely, that they condemned Perjury. As for the other two, wherein they were faulty, and what further Improvew.ents our Saviour makes on this Subject, I must refer them to some other Opportunity. God of his Mercy keep us in the fear of his Name, and direct us to all Truth, for his dear Son Jesus Christ's fake. To whom, &c.