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sure to disparage the credit of all pretensions of the same nature. Christianity has suffered more injury from this cause, than from all other causes put together.
As there may be falsehoods which are not lies, so there may be lies without literal or direct fallehood. An opening is always left for this species of prevarication, when the literal and grammatical sig. nification of a fentence is different from the popular and customary meaning. It is the wilful deceit that makes the lie; and we wilfully deceive, when our expressions are not true, in the sense in which we believe the hearer apprehends theni. Besides, it is absurd to contend for any sense of words, in opposition to usage, for all senses of all words are founded upon usage, and upon nothing else.
Or a man may act a lie ; as by pointing his finger in a wrong direction, when a traveller inquires of him his road; or when a tradesman shuts up his windows, to induce his creditors to believe that he is abroad: for to all moral purposes, and therefore as tó veracity, speech and action are the same ; speech being only a mode of action.
Or, lastly, there may be lies of omission. A wri. ter of English history, who, in his account of the reign of Charles the First, should wilfully suppress any evidence of that prince's despotic measures and designs, might be said to lie ; for, by entitling his book a history of England, he engages to relate the whole truth of the history, or, at least, all that he knows of it.
CH A P.
CH A P. XVI.
O A T HS.
1. FORMS of Oaths.
1. The forms of oaths, like other religious ce. remonies, have been always various; but consisting, for the most part, of some bodily action, * and of a prescribed form of words. Amongst the Jews, the juror held up his right hand towards heaven, which explains a passage in the cxlivth Psalm, 66 whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right6 hand is a right-hand of falsehood.”. The same form is retained in Scotland still, amongst the same Jews. An oath of fidelity was taken, by the servant's putting his hand under the thigh of his lord, as Eliezar did to Abraham, Gen. xxiv. 2. from whence, with no great variation, is derived perhaps the form of doing homage at this day, by putting the hands between the knees, and within the hands of the liege.
* It is commonly thought that oaths are denominated corporal oaths from the bodily action which accompanies them of laying the right hand upon a book containing the four gospels. This opinion, however, appears to be a mistake ; for the term is borrowed from the ancient usage of touching, upon these occa. fions, the corporale, or cloth which covered the consecrated elements,
Amongst the Greeks and Romans, the form varied with the subject and occasion of the oath. In pri. vate contracts, the parties took hold of each other's hand, whilst they swore to the performance; or they touched the altar of the God, by whose divi. nity they swore. Upon more folemn occasions, it was the custom to slay a victim ; and the beast being ftruck down, with certain ceremonies and invocati. ons, gave birth to the expressions rurav opxos, ferire pactum, and to our English phrase, translated from these, of “ striking a bargain.”
The forms of oaths in Christian countries are also very different ; but in no country in the world, I believe, worse contrived, either to convey the meaning, or impress the obligation of an oath, than in our own. The juror, with us, after repeating the promise or affirmation, which the oath is intended to confirm, adds, « so help me God :" or more frequently the substance of the oath is repeated to the juror, by the officer or magistrate who administers it, adding in the conclusion “ so help you " God." The energy of the sentence resides in the particle po; so, that is, bác lege, upon condition of my speaking the truth, or performing this pro. mise, and not otherwise, may God help 'me. The juror, whilft he hears or repeats the words of the oath, holds his right hand upon a bible, or other book, containing the four gospels. The conclusion of the oath sometimes runs, “ita me Deus adjuvet, " et hæc fancta evangelia,” or “ so help me God, " and the contents of this book;" which last clause forms a connection between the words and action of the juror, that before was wanting. The juror then kisses the book : the kiss, however, seems rather a reverence to the contents of the book, as, in the popish ritual, the priest kisses the gospel before he reads it, than any part of the oath.
This obscure and elliptical form, together with the levity and frequency with which it is admi
nistered, has brought about a general inadvertency to the obligation of oaths, which, both in a religi. ous and political view, is much to be lamented: and it merits public consideration, whether the requiring of oaths on so many frivolous occasions, elpecially in the customs, and in the qualification for petty offices, has any other effect, than to make them cheap in the minds of the people. A pound of tea cannot travel regularly from the ship to the consumer, without costing half a dozen oaths at the least ; and the same security for the due dircharge of their office, namely, that of an oath, is required from a church warden and an archbishop, from a petty constable and the chief justice of England. Let the law continue its own fanctions, if they be thought requisite; but let it spare the solemnity of an oath. And where it is neceffary, from the want of something better to depend upon, to accept men's own word or own account, let it annex to prevarication penalties proportioned to the public consequence of the offence.
II. But whatever be the form of an oath, the signification is the same. It is “the calling upon “ 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.”
III. Quakers and Moravians refuse to swear upon any occasion ; founding their scruples concerning the lawfulness of oaths, upon our Saviour's prohibition), Matth. v. 34. " I say unto you, swear not at « all.”
The answer which we give to this objection cannot be understood, without first stating the whole passage: " Ye have heard, that it hath been said, " by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thy. " self, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: “ but I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by “ heaven, for it is God's throne ; nor by earth, for
" it is his foot-stool ; neither by Jerusalem, for it is “ the city of the great King ; neither shalt thou “ swear by thy head, because thou canst not make " one hair white or black : but let your communi“ cation be yea yea, nay nay, for whatsoever is “ more than there cometh of evil.”
To reconcile with this passage of Scripture, the practice of fwearing, or of taking oaths, when required by law, the following observations must be attended to.
1. It does not appear, that swearing " by • heaven,” “ by the earth,” “ by Jerusalem," or
by their own head,” was a form of swearing ever made use of among the Jews in judicial oaths : and consequently, it is not probable that they were judicial oaths, which Christ had in his inind when he mentioned those instances.
2. As to the seeming universality of the prohibition, “ swear not at all," the emphatic clause - not " at all,” is to be read in connection with what follows; “ not at all,” h. e. “ neither by the hea“ ven," nor “ by the earth,” nor by “ Forufalemi," nor by thy “head :" 6 not at all" does not mean upon no occasion, but by none of these forms. Our Saviour's argument seems to suppose, that the people to whom he spake, made a distinction between swearing directly by the name of God,” and swearing by those inferior objects of veneration, " the heavens," " the earth," Jerusalem," or 6 their own head.” In opposition to which distinction he tells them, that, on account of the relacion which these things bore to the supreme Being, to swear by any of them, was in effect and substance to swear by him ; 66 by heaven, for it is « his throne; by the earth, for it is his footstool ; " by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great " King ; by thy head, for it is his workmanship, " not thine, thou canst not make one hair white or 6 black :" for which reason, he says, “ swear not