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the backward, lingering soul to do its duty, and to break over difficulties and delays: that by strengthening our bonds, and setting the danger before our eyes, we may be excited to escape it. It is a great question, whether our own vows can add any new obligation to that which before lay upon us from the command of God. Amesius saith (Cas. Consc. lib. iv. c. 16.) 'Non additur proprie in istis nova obligatio, neque augetur in se prior: sed magis agnoscitur et recipitur a nobis: passive in istis aeque fuimus antea obligati: sed activa recognition arctius nobis applicatur a nobismetipsis.' Others commonly speak of an additional obligation: and indeed there is a double obligation added by a vow, to that which God before had laid on us, to the matter of that vow. Premising this distinction between 'Obligatio imponentis,' a governing obligation, (which is the effect of governing right or authority,) and 'Obligatio consentientis,'a selfobliging by voluntary consent, (which is the effect of that dominion which a rational free agent hath over his own actions,) I say, 1. He that voweth doth oblige himself, who before was obliged by God only; and that a man hath a power to oblige himself, is discerned by the light of nature, and is the ground of the law of nations, and of human converse: and though this is no divine obligation, yet is not therefore none at all. 2. But moreover he that voweth doth induce upon himself a new divine obligation, by making himself the subject of it. For example; God hath said, "Honour the Lord with thy substance :" this command obligeth me to obey it whether I vow it or not. The same God hath said, " Pay thy vows to the Most Highb:" and, "When thou vowest a vow to God, defer not to pay itc." This layeth no obligation on me till I vow: but when I have vowed it doth: so that now I am under a double divine obligation (one to the matter of the duty, and another to keep my vow), and under a self-obligation of my own vow: whence also a greater penalty will be due if I now offend, than else would have been. Hence you may see what to think of the common determination of casuists concerning vows materially sinful, when they say, a man is not obliged to keep them. It is
k Pwl. 1.14. .« Eccles. v. 4.
only thus far true, that God obligeth him not to do that particular thing which he voweth, for God had before forbidden it, and he changeth not his laws, upon man's rash vowings: but yet there is a self-obligation which he laid upon himself to do it: and this self-obligation to a sinful act, was itself a sin, and to be repented of, and not performed: but it bringeth the person under a double obligation to penalty, as a perjured person, even God's obligation who bindeth the perjured to penalty, and the obligation of his own consent to the punishment, if there was any oath or imprecation in the vow. If it were true that such a person had brought himself under no obligation at all, then he could not be properly called perjured, nor punished as perjured: but he that sweareth and voweth to do evil, (as the Jews to kill Paul) though he ought not to do the thing, (because God forbiddeth it) yet he is a perjured person for breaking his vow, and deserveth the penalty, not only of a rash vower, but of one perjured. Thus error may make a man sinful and miserable, though it cannot warrant him to sin.
Direct, n. 'Try well the matter of your vows, and venture not on them till you are sure that they are not things forbidden :' things sinful or doubtful are not fit matter for a vow: in asserting, subscribing and witnessing, you should take care, that you know assuredly that the matter be true, and venture not upon that which may prove false: much more should you take care that you venture not doubtingly in vows and oaths. They are matters to be handled with dread and tenderness, and not to be played with, and rashly entered on, as if it were but the speaking of a common word: "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thy heart be hasty to utter any thing before God d." It is a grievous snare that men are oft brought into by ignorant and rash vows": as the case of Jephtha, and Herod, and many another tell us for our warning: an error in such cases is much more safely and cheaply discerned before, than afterwards. To have a rash vow, or perjury to repent of, is to set a bone in joint, or pull a thorn out of your very eye, and who would choose such pain and smart?"Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thy handsf." "It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiryg." Be careful and deliberate to prevent such snares.
d Eccles. v. 2.
"Vid. Sanderson de Juraui. Prelect, vii. Sect. 14. Juramentum oblatum reluctante vel dubitante conscicntia noil est suscipiendum; 1. Quia quod nun est ex fide peccatum est. 2. Quiajurandum est in judicio: quod certe is nonfacit qui contra conscientiae sure judicium facit, &c. ad finem.
Direct, m. 'Vow not in a passion :' stay till the storm be over: whether it be anger or desire, or whatever the passion be, delay and deliberate before you vow: for when passion is up, the judgment is upon great disadvantage. In your passion you are apt to be most peremptory and confident when you are most deceived: if it be your duty to vow, it will be your duty to-morrow when you are calm. If you say, that duty must not be delayed, and that you must do it while the Spirit moveth you: I answer, Was it not as much a duty before your passion was kindled as now? It is no sinful delaying of so great a duty, to stay till you have well proved whether it be of God. If it be the Spirit of Christ that moveth you to it, he will be willing that you deliberate and try it by that Word which the same Spirit hath indited to be your rule. God's Spirit worketh principally upon the judgment and the will, by settled convictions, which will endure a rational trial: it is more likely to be your own spirit which worketh principally on the passion, and will not endure the trial, nor come into the lightu.
Direct, ix. 'Make not a vow of things indifferent and unnecessary:' if they be not good, in a true, comparing, practical judgment, which considereth all accidents and circumstances, they are no fit matter for a vow. Some say, things indifferent are the fittest matter both for vows and human laws; but either they speak improperly or untruly, and therefore dangerously at the best. If an idle word be a sin, then an idle action is not a thing to be vowed, because it is not a thing to be done, being as truly a sin as an idle word: and that which is wholly indifferent is idle; for if it be good for any thing, it is not wholly indifferent: and because it is antecedently useless, it is consequently sinful to be done.
Object, i. 'But those that say things indifferent may be
'Eccles.v. 6. eProv. xx. 25. h John iii. 18,19. Isa. viii. 20. vowed, mean not, things useless or unprofitable to any good end; but only those things that are good and useful, butnot commanded: such as are thematter of God's counsels, and tend to man's perfection, as to vow chastity, poverty, and absolute obedience.' Anws. There are no such things as are morally good, and not commanded: this is the fiction of men that have a mind to accuse God's laws and government of imperfection, and think sinful man can do better than he is commanded, when none but Christ ever did so well*.
Quest, i. What is moral goodness in any creature and subject, but a conformity to his ruler's will expressed in his law? And if this conformity be its very form and being, it cannot be that any thing should be morally good that is not commanded.
Quest, Ii. Doth not the law of God command us to love him with all our heart, and soul, and strength, and accordingly to serve him? And is it possible to give him more than all; or can God come after and counsel us to give him more than is possible?
Quest, in. Doth not the law of nature oblige us to serve God to the utmost of our power? He that denieth it, is become unnatural, and must deny God to be God, or deny himself to be his rational creature: for nothing is more clear in nature, than that the creature who is nothing, and hath nothing but from God, and is absolutely his own, doth owe him all that he is able to do.
Quest, iv. Doth not Christ determine the case to his disciples, Luke xvii. 10.? A middle between good and evil in morality is a contradiction: there is no such thing; for good and evil are the whole of morality: without these species there is no morality.
Object, Ii. 'It seems then you hold that there is nothing indifferent, which is a paradov,'
Answ. No such matter: there are thousands and millions of things that are indifferent; but they are things natural only, and not things moral. They are indifferent as to mo* Seethe fourteenth Article of the church of England, against voluntary works, over and above God's commandments, as impious. ral good and evil, because they are neither: but they are not 'indifferentia moralia :' the indifferency is a negation of any morality in them 'in genere,' as well as of both the species of moralityk. Whatsoever participated not of virtue or vice, and is not eligible or refusable by a moral agent as such, hath no morality in it. There may be two words so equal as it may be indifferent which you speak; and two eggs so equal, as that it may be indifferent which you eat: but that is no more than to say, the choosing of one before the other, is not' actus moralis:' there is no matter of morality in the choice.
Object, in. 'But if there may be things natural that are indifferent, why not things moral?'
Answ. As goodness is convertible with entity, there is no natural being but is good: as goodness signifieth commodity, there is nothing but is profitable or hurtful, and that is good to one that is hurtful to another: but if it were not so, yet such goodness or badness is but accidental to natural being; but moral goodness and badness is the whole essence of morality.
Object, iv. 'But doth not the apostle say, "He that marrieth doth well, and he that marrieth not doth better?" Therefore all is not sin, which is not best.' Answ. The question put to the apostle to decide, was about marrying or not marrying, as it belonged to all Christians in general, and not as it belonged to this or that individual person by some special reason differently from others. And so in respect to the church in general, the apostle determineth that there is no law binding them to marry, or not to marry: for a law that is made for many must be suited to what is common to those many. Now marriage being good for one and not for another, is not made the matter of a common law, nor is it fit to be so, and so far is left indifferent: but because that to most it was rather a hindrance to good in those times of the church, than a help, therefore for the present necessity, the apostle calleth mark Stoici indifferentia distinguunt: 1. Ea que neque ad faelicitatem Deque ad ini'oelicitatemconferunt, utsunt divitiae, sanitas, vires, gloria, &c. Nam etsine bis contingit fcelicem esse; cum varum usus vel rectus foelicitatis, vel pravus infcelicitatii author sit. 2. Qua? neque appetitum neque occasionem movent, ut pares vel imparvs habere capillos, &c. Sec Diog. Luert. lib. vii. sect. 104. p. 4?9.