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why much mercy is to be shown to persons who live by purloining the products of other men's toil, and trampling upon the laws of common honesty and common propriety. We have, therefore, taken
up the cause of the clergy against these literary beasts of prey, these “ unclean harpies," who disgrace a liberal and honourable profession. To some we may appear harsh; but, alas, we have no choice but harshness. Lenity would be worse than misplaced, for it would be an injury to religion and its ministers. We have no personal feeling or interest in the matter, but we know that soft words are unavailing. We know that entreaties and remonstrances have been repeatedly addressed to the proprietors of these publications in vain, that promises have been violated, and that the system has been carried on in defiance of the known wishes of some among the most celebrated and excellent men in the Church. For these reasons, and for no other, we have felt it right to make the experiment of a slight castigation, since milder measures have been tried without effect.
Art. III.-Oaths, their Origin, Nature and History. By James
Evdell Tyler, B.D, In these times, when the spirit of reform increases from indulgence, we should be unwilling to declare ourselves its opponents, and will even go so far as to acknowledge the utility of it, when real evils are to be corrected or real good introduced. But forming anew is not always forming for the better, or we should never have occasion to find fault with any of the changes that are proposed in our laws or the administration of them. Still there is sometimes good cause that we should raise our voice against the cry of this popular spirit. When the prejudices of party are the sole grounds for an advocated change; when institutions are complained of, though the intrinsic reasonableness and real value of them remains unaltered, merely because individuals have thrown themselves out of that atmosphere through which the beneficial influence of them extends; when laws are found fault with, which are as just and as practicably useful now as they were at first, only because those laws have been abused in a manner entirely contrary to their original intention; then in truth we would caution the legislature not to be too busy, not to be for ever attending to the voice of dissatisfaction; for if it so easily gain attention, it will never be silenced, but will daily find new matter for murmuring and discontent.
Like the painter who tried to please every body and satisfied nobody, a minister who endeavours to make a change in every thing which is complained of, will find he has undertaken a task not only of insurmountable difficulty and endless toil, but also of extreme danger; it is often far more prudent
« to bear the ills we have, Than fly to others that we know not of.” We can congratulate the ministers that they have found a point to which the spirit of reform can advantageously direct its energies. Of all existing abuses, not one is more apparent or more acknowledged than the abuse of oaths. Half-a-century ago Paley observed, with great reason, “ That the obscure and elliptical form of the oath, as administered in this country, together with the levity and frequency with which it is administered, has brought about a general inadvertency to the obligation of oaths, which, both in a religious and political view, is much to be lamented; and it merits public consideration, whether the requiring of oaths, on so many frivolous occasions, has any other effect than to make them cheap in the minds of the people.” Yet in spite of this observation of one of the most popular moralists of the day, and in spite of the assent of every thinking man to the truth of it, in spite of the grave, the awful importance of the subject, the legislature seems to have taken almost every opportunity to increase the evil, and the acts of every session of parliament have multiplied the occasions on which oaths are required to be taken.
The evil, which, we conceive, results from this multiplicity of oaths, is so great and extensive, that we know not where it ends. It destroys that good faith, which oaths were intended to confirm; and it strikes at the very root of religion itself by diminishing our veneration for the Deity. It is not to the elliptical form of our oaths, found fault with by Paley; it is not to the imprecatory clause, which has offended Mr. Tyler and others of nice conscience, but it is to the multiplicity of oaths we object, in whatever form these oaths are administered. In our idea, the evil exists under every form, for “ the signification of the oath is still the same, says Paley, " whatever be the form. It is the calling God to witness, i. e. to take notice of what we say, and invoking his vengeance or renouncing his favour if what we say be false, or what we promise be not performed.” This is the true explanation of what an oath signifies, and is, in our opinion, preferable to that either of Dr. Johnson or Mr. Tyler. According to Dr. Johnson, “ An oath is an affirmation, negation or promise, corroborated by the attestation of the Divine Being.” According to Mr. Tyler, " An outward pledge given by the juror that his attes
tation or promise is made under an immediate sense of his responsibilities to God:” The Moravian's declaration is an oath under each of these definitions, “ [ declare in the presence of Almighty God the witness of what I say,” &c.
Even in this guarded declaration the imprecatory form is implied, for if the oath is corroborated and confirmed by the attestation of Almighty God, it is because He is the God of Truththe
enemy of falsehood. It is because God knows whether we speak truly or falsely, and will punish us if we are guilty of falsehood, it is therefore the attestation of God corroborates our testimony. Were God indifferent as to our truth or falsehood, the attestation of God would not corroborate our words.
The taking of an oath, then, either expressing or implying an imprecation of God as the avenger of falsehood, is an act of the most solemn and awful nature. The taking it seriously, considerately and truly is an act of religion; the taking it lightly, unadvisedly, unnecessarily or falsely, nothing short of blasphemy. Even common swearing, wicked and disgusting as it is, cannot be so criminal as this prostitution of an oath. While the commandment is before us, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” what crime can we believe more directly forbidden than the unnecessary taking of an oath in any form? We are now every day assailed by the complaints of the nice and tender consciences of our friends, who are for ever bitterly offended with words and scandalized at forms; we profess ourselves of even tenderer conscience than they, for we shall not be satisfied with changing the form or words, if the spirit, intent and meaning remain the same. No alteration in form or words can at all change the sacredness of an oath, and though, if the imprecatory clause were omitted, as in the oath of the Moravians, the frequency of oaths might be less offensive to some, it would, after all, be but a pious cheat, and would give cause for letting the evil continue unreformed, by clothing its unaltered deformity in a more specious garb. This we cannot but think is the real state of the case, and we trust that the subject, already noticed this session in the House of Lords, will not be permitted to rest until all unnecessary oaths
away with, and a form of declaration substituted for them. We humbly suggest that declarations, such as we are about to recommend, might answer every purpose of oaths administered in most civil cases. The preamble might be exactly the same as that of the oaths now used, a simple declaration of the truth of it being added instead of the imprecatory clause; and the ceremony of touching and kissing the Testament being of course omitted. In every case where the falsity of an oath is not now punishable as perjury, and these cases are very many, the
declaration might safely be adopted; and probably might be used without any possibility of evil, instead of the oath of office, where that office is unconnected with the administration of criminal justice. This declaration should be made and signed before a proper officer, and the falsehood of this declaration or the nonfulfilment of the promissory part, should be made a crime punishable by law in a more direct and summary manner than that of indictment. Paley's advice concords with this suggestion; that advice indeed should be attended to as the practical explanation of the basis of the proposed amendment. " Let the law continue its own sanctions, if they be thought requisite, but let it spare the solemnity of an oath ; and where it is necessary, from want of something better to depend upon, to accept men's own words or own account, let it annex to prevarication penalties proportioned to the public consequence of the offence.” This would be some check to falsehood in those, who alone would be guilty of it, the immoral and the hardened. It might perhaps be thought advisable that declarations should be of two classes, each class to be subject to a different degree of penalty. The more solemn class of declaration might be intermediate between the less solemn and the oath. The declarer might assert that he believed that falsehood was a crime hated by God as well as man, and that under that belief he made his declaration and asserted its truth. This latter more solemn declaration might be adopted in some cases of evidence or some of those in which a juror would now by falsehood incur the penalty of perjury, and the penalty incurred by falsehood in this class should be heavier than that in the first case. The more simple declaration might be substituted for all oaths of minor office, all oaths under the poor laws, all oaths required of vagrants and all voluntary affidavits, besides many others which are now taken in cases of no very serious nature. For example, of the use of each class of declaration--the more simple form should be used in the examination of a pauper as to his settlement; but if that pauper was accused of having declared falsely, the evidence against him should be taken in the more solemn form of declaration.
We fear we have already indulged too far in our own lucubrations; these opinions we long since adopted, and they have received strong confirmation from the book before us, to the consideration of which we now proceed. Mr. Tyler shall explain what he intends to illustrate.
"The practical questions on which I have endeavoured, in the following treatise, to throw some light, are chiefly these three :
“ First.- Are oaths in themselves lawful to a Christian? or are they altogether prohibited by the Gospel ?
Secondly. If oaths are, in themselves, lawful to a Christian, are they, as at present administered and taken in England, calculated to promote truth and justice and are they agreeable to the spirit of the religion we profess?
Thirdly.-If any alteration in our system of oaths should appear desirable, on what principles and by what means may such changes be most safely and satisfactorily effected?"
After a few more words of introduction, he goes on to state the general use of oaths in all ages and in all countries, and traces the origin of this use to the absence of good faith among mankind, and their consequent distrust of each other. He then proceeds to the definition of an oath, which we have above referred to, In answer to the question, are oaths lawful? many wellknown arguments are brought forward, drawn from the ordinance of them under the Mosaic covenant and the regulations respecting them therein. Then follows the common interpretation of the prohibitory command in Matth. v. 34, and James, v. 12, and the quotation of our Lord's assent to the adjuration of Caiaphas; from this and Calvin's commentary thereupon, Mr. Tyler concludes that
< Oaths are not in themselves unlawful to a Christian From the records of the Old Testament, from the words and from the example of Christ and his Apostles, from the testimony of the Christian Church, we conclude undoubtingly that consistently with the letter and the spirit of the Gospel an oath may be taken ' when à cause of faith and charity requireth it, so it be done according to the prophet's teaching, in justice, judgment and truth. Does it therefore follow that the system of oaths as enjoined or permitted and practised in England, is agreeable to the word and will of God?".
This question is answered in the fifth chapter. And the author proves that he has not been idle in his researches on the subject, the opinions of several of the fathers and other ancient writers are collected to confirm his own assertion, that “ the utmost limit to which Scripture authority can, with any thing like fairness, be interpreted to extend, is the bare permission of oaths when NECESSARY for the ends of justice and maintenance of truth ;" and he concludes by noticing, as one of the many objectionable instances of unnecessary oaths, that required to be taken every year by the primate of all England
as President of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. That this oath might be discontinued, we allow; but we cannot agree with Mr. Tyler in thinking, that it is one of that objectionable description which should be among the first to call for the interference of the legislature to abolish it. It is administered to one who takes it with due solemnity; it is to him, the dedicated priest of God, an