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" at all," that is, neither dire@ly by God, nor is. directly by any thing related to bim. This inte. pretation is greatly confirmed, by a passage in the twenty-third chapter of the same gospel, wbere a similar distinction, made by the Scribes and Phari. sees, is replied to in the same manner.
3. Our Saviour himself being “ adjured by the “ living God,” to declare whether he was the Christ, the son of God, or not, condescended to answer the high priest, without making any objecti. on to the oath, (for such it was) upon which be examined him. “ God is my witness," says St. Paul to the Romans, " that without ccaling, I make “ mention of you in my prayers :" And to the Co rinthians still more strongly, “ I call God for a re“ cord upon my foul, that to spare you, I came not as " yet to Corinth.” Both these expresions contain the nature of oaths. The epistle to the Hebrews speaks of the custom of swearing judicially, without any mark of censure or disapprobation : “ Men verily “ swear by the greater, and an oath, for confirma" tion, is to them an end of all strife.”
Upon the strength of these reasons, we explain our Saviour's words to relate, not to judicial oaths, but to the practice of vain, wanton, and unautbo. rized swearing, in common discourse. St. James's words, chap. v. 12, are not so strong as our Savi. our's, and therefore admit the same explanation with more eafe.
IV. Oaths are nugatory, that is, carry with them no proper force or obligation, unless we believe, that God will punish falle swearing with more fere. rity than a finple lie, or breach of promise ; for which belief there are the following reasons :
1. Perjury is a sin of greater deliberation. The Juror has the thoughts of God and of religion upon his mind at the time ; at Icast, there are very few who can shake them off entirely. He ofiends, therefore, if he do offend, with a high hand, in the
face, that is, in defiance of the sanctions of religi. on. His offence implies a disbelief or contempt of God's knowledge, power and justice, which cannot be said of a lie, where there is nothing to carry the mind to any reflection upon the Deity, or the divin'e attributes at all.
2. Perjury violates a superior confidence. Mankind must trust to one another; and they have nothing better to trust to than one another's oath. Hence legal adjudications, which govern and affect every right and interest on this side the grave, of necessity proceed and depend upon oaths. Perjury, therefore, in its general consequence, strikes at the security of reputation, property and even of life itself. A lie cannot do the same mischief, because the same credit is not given to it, *
3. God directed the Israelites to swear by his name; t and was pleased, “in order to show the « immutability of his own council,” I to confirm his covenant with that people by an oath: neither of which it is probable he would have done, had he not intended to represent oaths, as having some meaning and effect, beyond the obligation of a bare promise ; which effect must be owing to the severe punishment, with which he will vindicate the authority of oaths.
V. Promissory oaths are not binding, where the promise itself would not be so : for the several cases of which, see the Chapter of Promises. .
VI. As oaths are designed for the security of the imposer, it is manifest they must be interpreted, and performed in the sense in wliich the imposer intends them; otherwise, they afford no security to him. And this is the meaning and reason of the
* Except, indeed, where a Quaker's or Moravian's affirmation is accepted in the place of an oath ; in which case, a lie partakes, lo far as this reason extends, of the nature and guilt of perjury. + Deut. vi. 13. X. 20. Heb. vi. 17.
rule, “jurare in animum imponentis ;" which rule the reader is desired to carry along with him, wlanet we proceed to consider certain particular oaths, which are, cither of greater importance, or more likely to fall in our way than others.
T HE witness swears, “ to speak the truth, is
“ whole truth, and nothing but the timin, “ touching the matter in question."
Upon which it may be observed, that the de signed concealment of any truth, wlich relates to the matter in agitation, is as much a vision of the oath, as to tcftily a pofitive fallchood; anjibus, whether the witness be interrogated to that parucular point or not. For when the person i be examined is sworn upon a woir dire, that is, in order to inquire, whether he ought to be admitted to 10 evidence in the cause at all, the form runs taus: “ You thail true answer make to all such questions " as Mhall be asked you;' but, when he coincs tu be sworn in chief, he lucars, “ to speak the whole “ truth," without restraining it, as beiurc, toise qucitions that hall be asked: which direrer.co theus, that the law intends, in this laster care, :) require of the wiincis, that he give a comp!cic ar: urreserved account of what he knows of the fub. ject of the trial, whether the questions proposed to bim reach the extent of his knowledge or not. So that if it be inquired of the witness afterwards, by lic did not inform the court so and so, it is not a
sufficient, though a very common answer to say, " because it was neyer asked me.”
I know but one exception to this rule ; which is, when a full discovery of the truth tends to accuse the witness himself of some legal crime. The law of England constrains no man to become his own accuser; consequently, imposes the oath of testimony with this tacit reservation. But the exception must be confined to legal criines. A point of honour, of delicacy, or of reputation, may make a witness backward to disclose some circumstance with which he is acquainted; but will in no wise justify his concealment of the truth, unless it could be shewn, that the law which imposes the oath, intended to allow this indulgence to such notives. The exception is also withdrawn by compact between the magistra:e and the witness, when an accomplice is admitted to give evidence against the partners of his crime.
Tenderness to the prisoner, although a specious apology for concealment, is no juít excuse ; for if this plea be thought fufficient, it takes the administration of penal justice out of the hands of judges and juries, and makes it depend upon the temper of prosecutors and witnesses.
Questions may be asked which are irrelative to the cause, which affect the witness himself, or some third person; in which, and in all cases, where the witness doubts of the pertinency and propriety of the question, he ought to refer his doubts to the court. The answer of the court, in relaxation of the oath, is authority enough to the witness : for the law which imposes the oath may remit what it will of the obligation; and it belongs to the court to declare what the inind of the law is. Nevertheless, it cannot be said universally, that the an. swer of the court is conclusive upon the conscience of the witness : for his obligation depends upon what he apprehended, at the time of taking the oath, to be the design of the law in imposing it;
and no after requisition or explanation by the court, can carry the obligation beyond that
CHA P. XVIII.
OATH OF ALLEGIANCE.
FiT DO sincerely promise, and swear, that I will
“I be faithful and bear true allegiance to his Ma• 4 jcfty King George.” Formerly the oa:h of al. legiance ran thus: “I do promise to be truc and - faithful to the King and his heirs, and truth and « faith to bear, of life, and limb, and terrene ho“ nour; and not to know or hear of any ill or “ damage intended him, without defending him " therefrom:" and was altered at the Revolution to :he prelent form. So that the present oath is a relaxation of the old one. And as the oath was in. terded to ascertain, not so much the extent of the subjcct's obedience, as the person to whom it was due, the legillature seems to have wrapped up its bicaning upon the former point, in a word pur. Josely made choice of for its general and indeicr. inina!c fignifica:ion,
It will be most convenient to consider, first, what the oath excludes, as inconfiftent with it; secondiy, what it permirs.
1. The oath excludes all intention to support the claim or pretensions of any other person or persons, to the crown and government, than the reigning lovereign. A Jacobite, who is persuaded of the Pretender's right to the crown, and who moreover designs to join with the adherents of that causc, to aflcrt this right, whenever a proper opportunity, with a reasonable prosped of success, presents it.