Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

his temper, and not in a judicial capacity; and, until the latter can be proved, our Lord's simple reply, “ Thou hast said," * in no degree partakes of the nature of an oath.

A third argument in favour of the use of oaths, is drawn from some expressions of the apostle Paul ;, as, “God is my witness;” + “I charge thee before God," I &c. These, and other similar expressions, do not, however, appear to constitute an oath ; nor would they be admitted as such in a court of judicature. In the beginning of our society, such expressions were sometimes offered to magistrates instead of an oath, but always refused. ş Besides, if these words of the Apostle are to be considered as oaths, they would prove too much, by showing that he used them in private correspondence, or communication ; which those who plead for judicial swearing, agree our Lord meant to prohibit, by the command,“ Swear not at all.”

* Matt. xxvi. 64. + Rom. i. 9. I 2 Tim. iv. I.

$ The first affirmation granted to our society instead of an oath, was a declaration “ In the presence of Almighty God.” But this not affording universal relief, the legislature afterwards indulged us with the present form of attestation, in which there is no use of the Sacred Name.

Some have also argued in favour of judicial swearing, from an allusion to it in the epistle to the Hebrews, chap. vi. 16. But surely the incidental mention of a general practice among “men,” is not a sufficient argument for the rectitude of that practice : nor a proof that it was allowed by Christians, who, in comparison with the rest of mankind, were then few in number.

It may, perhaps, be still argued, that the ends of justice could not be answered without an oath. To this it may be replied, that if the same penalty were annexed to a false affirmation, as to a false oath, those whose consciences are not sufficiently tender to preserve them from giving a false affirmation, would find, in the penalty, as much terror from offending against the one, as against the other.

It has been alleged by some, that this prohibition of oaths relates only to common conversation : but the context will by no means support this construction, as will appear from the following considerations. First, Profane swearing was prohibited under the law, and it is evident that Christ was forbidding wbat the law had allowed. Secondly, Swearing is here contrasted with forswearing or false swearing. Now, this being contrary to the law, whether before a magistrate, or in private conversation, the command not to swear at all must be equally extensive. Our construction of the command of Christ, is further confirmed by the exhortation of his disciple and apostle, James : “ Above all things, my brethren, swear not; neither by heaven, neither by earth, neither by any other oath : but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest you fall into condemnation.” * .

Having said what appears to be sufficient on the subject of oaths; we come next to consider the arguments used in defence of war. Of these the principal one is, that it is unayoid. able and necessary. In reply to this we say, that so long as mankind are disposed to live under the influence of their passions, and to sacrifice their dearest interests to their avarice or their ambition, this plea will not be wanting. But let us consider, what proofs bave been given, that war is really unavoidable. Has any nation fairly made the experiment, and failed? Where is the country that has regulated its conduct by that justice, that

* James v. 12.

liberality, that love, that humility, and that meekness, which Christianity requires, and yet has found war unavoidable? Can we contemplate the characters of the individuals who have been the rulers of nations, and say, that such have been the dispositions which regulated their public and private conduct; and that still they have not been able to preserve their country from war and bloodshed ?

Till all this can be clearly proyed, the argument from necessity. is of no weight.

If, then, it cannot be shown that men, living and acting in a truly Christian spirit, have found war to be necessary and unavoidable, the argument assumed must be considered as destitute of foundation. But, that I may not be thought to reason chimerically, I shall show that a people have existed, who, acting upon these Christian principles, preserved their country from war and bloodshed, even while their neighbours were frequently involved in them. Pennsylvania, it is generally known, was originally the property of one called a Quaker, who filled most of the offices of the government with persons of his own persuasion. Had not the conduct of this people towards their neighbours, both Indians and

Europeans, been recorded by men totally unconnected with the society, my relation might appear partial and interested; but history, impartial history, has transmitted the conduct of this people to posterity, in such a manner, as renders it unnecessary for me to say more, than that, so long as they retained their as. cendancy in the state, which was about sixty or seventy years, neither internal nor external war was permitted to disturb their peaceful habitations.* We do not say that occasions of difference never occurred: but other means of settling their differences, than those generally resorted to, were pursued; and, if noi found successful, submission was wisely preferred to the precarious and violent decision of the sword.

* In corroboration of these circumstances, the following quotation is given from the translation of a Latin Poem, entitled “Descriptio Pennsylvaniæ,” and written in 1729, by Thomas Makin, after forty years' residence in Pennsylvania ;

“ On just and fairest terms the land is gained,
No force of arms has any right obtained.
'Tis here, without the use of arms, alone,
The blest inhabitant enjoys his own.
Here many, to their wish, in peace enjoy
Their happy lots, and nothing doth annoy.
But sad New England's different conduct shows,

What dire effect from injured Indians flows.
See Proud's History of Pennsylvania, page 211-Note.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »