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shall abide in thy tabernacle he that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth notf." Saith Dr. Sanderson g, " I sta xiiihi aut non cogitare," &c. "It seemeth to me that the greater part of the men of these times either think not of these things, or at least not seriously: who fear not, at large and in express words, without going about, to swear to all that, whatever it be, which is proposed to them by those that have power to hurt them: yea, and they take themselves for the only wise men, and not without some disdain deride the simplicity and needless fear of those, that lest they hurt their consciences forsooth, do seek a knot in a rush, and oppose the forms prescribed by those that have power to prescribe them. And in the meantime they securely free themselves from all crime and fear of perjury, and think they have looked well to themselves and their consciences, if either when they swear, like Jesuits, they can defend themselves by the help of some tacit equivocation, or mental reservation, or subtle interpretation which is strained and utterly alien from the words; or else after they have sworn can find some chink to slip through, some cunning evasion, as a wise remedy, by which they may so elude their oath, as that keeping the words, the sense may by some sophism be eluded, and all the force of it utterly enervated. The ancient Christians knew not this divinity, nor the sounder heathens this moral philosophy. Far otherwise saith Augustine,' They are perjured, who keeping the words, deceive the expectation of those they swear to:' and otherwise saith Cicero," &c. He goeth on to confirm it at large by argument. Rule ix. 'An oath is to be taken and interpreted strictly.' Sanderson saithh, "Juramenti obligatio est stricti juris ; " that is, " non ut excludat juris interpretationem aequitate temperatam; sed ut excludat juris interpretationem gratia corruptam:" "not as excluding an equitable interpretation, but as excluding an interpretation corrupted by partiality:" that it be a just interpretation, between the extremes of rigid, and favourable or partial; and in doubtful
'Psal. xv. 1.4. • Sanders, pp. 32—41.
h Sanders, pp. 41—44. Ubidejusto sensu ambigitur, longe satius est et naturae rei accoramodatius, strictiore quam bcnigniore uti interpretatione. ibid. p. 41, VOL. V. G
cases it is safer to follow the strict, than the benign or favourable sense. It is dangerous stretching and venturing too far in matters of so sacred a nature, and of such great importance as vows and oaths. Rule x. ' In the exposition of such doubtful oaths and vows, 1. We must specially watch against self-interest or commodity that it corrupt not our understandings. 2. And we must not take our oaths or any part of them in such a sense, as a pious, prudent stander-by that is impartial, and no whit interested in the business, cannot easily find in the words themselves'.' Rule xi. 'In doubtful cases the greatest danger must be most carefully avoided, and the safer side preferred: but the danger of the soul by perjury is the greatest, and therefore no bodily danger should so carefully be avoided: and therefore an oath that in the common and obvious sense seemeth unlawful should not be taken, unless there be very full evidence that it hath another sense.' Sand. p. 46. 'Nititur autem,' &c. This reason leaneth on that general and most useful rule, that in doubtful cases we must follow the safer side: but it is safer not to swear, where the words of the oath proposed, do seem according to the common and obvious sense of the words to contain in them something unlawful; than by a loose interpretation so to lenify them for our own ends, that we may the more securely swear them. For it is plain that such an oath may be refused without the peril of perjury; but not that it can be taken without some danger or fear. The same rule must guide us also in keeping vows.
Rule xn. 'It is ordinarily resolved that imposed oaths must be kept according to the sense of the imposer.' See Sanderson, pp. 191, 192. But I conceive that assertion must be more exactly opened and bounded. 1. Where justice requireth that we have respect to the will or right of the imposer, there the oath imposed must be taken in his sense; but whether it must be kept in his sense is further to be considered. 2. When I have done my best to understand the sense of the imposer in taking the oath, and yet mistake it, and so take it (without fraud) in another sense, the question then is somewhat hard, whether I must keep it in the sense I took it in, or in his sense, which then I under'Sanders, p. 46.
stood not . If I must not keep it in my own sense, which I took it in, then it would follow that I must keep another oath, and not that which 1 took: for it is the sense that is the oath. And I never obliged myself to any thing, but according to my own sense: and yet on the other side, if every man may take oaths in their private sense, then oaths will not attain their ends, nor be any security to the imposers,
In this case you must carefully distinguish between the formal obligation of the oath or vow as such, and the obligation of justice to my neighbour which is a consequent of my vow. And for the former I conceive (with submission) that an oath or vow cannot bind me, formally as such, in any sense but my own in which ' bona fide' I took it. Because formally an oath cannot bind me which I never took: but I never took that which I never meant, or thought of; if you so define an oath as to take in the sense, which is the soul of it. But then in regard of the consequential obligation in point of justice unto man, the question I think must be thus resolved. 1. We must distinguish between a lawful imposer or contractor, and a violent usurper or robber that injuriously compelleth us to swear. 2. Between the obvious, usual sense of the words, and an unusual, forced sense. 3. Between a sincere, involuntary misunderstanding the imposer, and a voluntary, fraudulent reservation or private sense. 4. Between one, that I owe something to antecedently, and one that I owe nothing to but by the mere self-obligation of my vow. 5. Between an imposer that is himself the culpable cause of my misunderstanding him, and one that is not the cause, but my own weakness or negligence is the cause. 6. Between a case where both senses may be kept, and a case where they cannot, being inconsistent. Upon these distinctions, I thus resolve the question. Prop. i. If I fraudulently and wilfully take an oath in a sense of my own, contrary to the sense of the imposer, and the common and just sense of the words themselves, I am guilty of perfidiousness and profaneness in the very taking ofitk.
k Thvy were ill times that Abbas Uspergensis describclh Chron. p. SJO. Ut omnis homo jam sit perjurus, et praedictis facinoribus implicatus, ut vix excusari pos, ait, quin sit in his, sicut populus, sic et sacerdos: O that this calamity had ended with that age! Et p. 321. Principes terrarum etbarones, arte diabolica edocti, nee cumbant juramenta infringere, nee fidem violare, et jus onnie coniuudere.
Prop. ii. If it be long of my own culpable ignorance or negligence that I misunderstood the imposer, I am not thereby disobliged from the public sense. Prop. m. When the imposer openly putteth a sense on the words imposed contrary to the usual, obvious sense, I am to understand him according to his own expression, and not to take the oath, as imposed in any other sense. Prop. iv. If the imposer refuse or neglect to tell me his sense any otherwise than in the imposed words, I am to take and keep them according to the obvious sense of the words, as they are commonly used in the time and place which I live in. Prop. v. If it be long of the imposer's obscurity, or refusing to explain himself, or other culpable cause that I mistook him, I am not bound to keep my oath in his sense, as different from my own (unless there be some other reason for it). Prop. vi. If the imposer be a robber or usurper, or one that I owe nothing to in justice, but what I oblige myself to by my oath, I am not then bound at all to keep my oath in his sense, if my own sense was according to the common use of the words. Prop. vii. Though I may not lie to a robber or tyrant that unjustly imposeth promises or oaths upon me, yet if he put an oath or promise on me which is good and lawful in the proper, usual sense of the words, though bad in his sense, (which is contrary to the plain words,) whether I may take this to save my liberty or life, I leave to the consideration of the judicious: that which maybe said against it is, that oaths must not be used indirectly and dissemblingly: that which may be said for it is, 1. That I have no obligation to fit my words to his personal, private sense. 2. That I deceive him not, but only permit him to deceive himself, as long as it is he and not I that misuseth the words. 3. That I am to have chief respect to the public sense; and it is not his sense, but mine that is the public sense. 4. That the saving of a man's life or liberty is cause enough for the taking a lawful oath.
Prop. viii. In case I misunderstood the imposed oath through my own default, I am bound to keep it in both senses (my own and the imposer's) if both be consistent and lawful to be done. For I am bound to it in my own sense, because it was formally my oath or vow which I intended. And I am bound to it in his sense, because I have in justice made the thing his due. As if the king command me to vow that I will serve him in wars against the Turk; and I misunderstand him as if he meant only to serve him with my purse; and so I make a vow with this intent, to expend part of my estate to maintain that war; whereas the true sense was that I should serve him with my person: in this case, I see not but I am bound to both. Indeed if it were a promise that obliged me only to the king, then I am obliged no further, and no longer than he will: for he can remit his own right: but if by a vow I become obliged directly to God himself as a party, then no man can remit his right, and I must perform my vow as made to him. Rule xiii. 'If any impose an ambiguous oath, and refuse to explain it, and require you only to swear in these words, and leave you to your own sense, Dr. Sanderson thinketh that an honest man should suspect some fraud in such an oath, and not take it at all till all parties are agreed of the sense, pp. 193, 194.' And I think he should not take it at all, unless there be some other cause that maketh it his duty. But if a lawful magistrate command it, or the interest of the church or state require it, I see not but he may take it, on condition that in the plain and proper sense of the words the oath be lawful, and that he openly profess to take it only in that sense. Rule xiv. 'If any power should impose an oath, or vow, or promise, which in the proper, usual sense were downright impious, or blasphemous, or sinful, and yet bid me take it in what sense I pleased, though I could take it in such a sense as might make it no real consent to the impiety, yet it would be impious in the sense of the world, and of such heinous consequence as will make it to be unlawful.' As if I must subscribe, or say, or swear these words, 'There is no God;' or, 'Scripture is untrue;' though it is easy to use these or any words in a good sense, if I may put what sense