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Westminster Confession of 1646: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

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Chapter XXII. Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

I. A Lawful oath is a part of religious worship, (Deu 10:20); wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness, what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth, (Exd 20:7; Lev 19:12; 2Co 1:23; 2Ch 6:22-23).

II. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence, (Deu 6:13). Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred, (Exd 20:7; Jer 5:7; Mat 5:34-37; Jam 5:12). Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old, (Hbr 6:16; 2Co 1:23; Isa 65:16); so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken, (1Ki 8:31; Neh 13:25; Ezr 10:5).

III. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth, (Exd 20:7; Jer 4:2): neither may any man bind himself by oath to anything but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform, (Gen 24:2-3, 5-6, 8-9). Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority, (Num 5:19, 21; Neh 5:12; Exd 22:7-11).

IV. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation, (Jer 4:2; Psa 24:4). It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt, (1Sa 25:22, 32-34; Psa 15:4). Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels, (Eze 17:16, 18-19; Jos 9:18-19; 2Sa 21:1).

V. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness, (Isa 19:21; Ecc 5:4-6; Psa 61:8; Psa 66:13-14).

VI. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone, (Psa 76:11; Jer 44:25-26): and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties; or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto, (Deu 23:21-23; Psa 50:14; Gen 28:20-21, 22; 1Sa 1:11; Psa 66:13-14; Psa 132:2-5).

VII. No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God, (Act 23:12, 14; Mar 6:26; Num 30:5, 8, 12-13). In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself, (Mat 19:11-12; 1Co 7:2, 9; Eph 4:28; 1Pe 4:2; 1Co 7:23).



DISCLAIMER: Creeds, catechisms, and confessions do not replace Scripture, nor the authority of Scripture. The creeds, catechisms and confessions are included herein for purposes of reference. Blue Letter Bible aims to provide resources that cover a range of traditional, orthodox, conservative Christianity, for the benefit of all of our users. The inclusion of the creeds, catechisms, and confessions does not necessarily mean that the ministry agrees with each and every point in each, since some are coming from different Christian perspectives of faith, practice and worship. The user may find them useful as tools to assist in understanding or teaching the Scriptures, since they were drafted based upon Scripture. Used in their proper context, they can continue to aid us as much today as they did for our forefathers in centuries past.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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