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guided, they do no more than we are doing. They act, it may be true, differently from us, but they act under the same infirmities of temper, constitution, or understanding
Fifthly; there is a point in the progress of a quarrel, and a situation in which men are often placed, and that is, when both sides would be glad of a reconciliation, but know not how to effect it—when both wish to approach, but neither will make the first advance. It may help us to improve this disposition, and to avail ourselves of this opportunity, to be apprized that neither disposition nor opportunity will last long. If we suffer the quarrel to proceed, the season of reconciliation will be gone for ever; and to invite us to make the first advance, let us be assured that it is a generosity which will never be forgot. There is no man living who is not affected by the kindness, and who feels not the superiority, of a ready forgiveness.
Sixthly; one compendious rule, which, if observed, would prevent many quarrels from originating, and many more from proceeding to desperate extremities, is the following : “ Never tó speak what will give
“ pain, without a prospect of doing good.” It is of the nature of human resentment to prompt us to say what we think may vex and mortify our adversarywhat may raise up in his breast uneasy recollections, and to have a pleasure in doing so. This propensity is more irresistible when the sting is pointed by some scornful wit or vivacity of reply. A successful retort is what few can deny themselves. Our admonition, therefore, is, to control and withstand the impulse; and to reflect upon each occasion, not how grating what we are about to say may be, how it will confound and silence our adversary, how smart or lively, how true,
or even how just and deserved, but what good it is likely to produce. This reflection would correct those sudden ebullitions either of anger or fancy, by which, if applause be gained, peace and friendship are destroyed, our tranquillity disturbed, our character ultimately injured, or at least ruffled in the estimation of every one who knows his duty.
Lastly; these rules, and every rule upon the subject, would become unnecessary, if we once acquired, perhaps if we sincerely sought, that disposition which Christianity inculcates and enjoins : which disposition is not that of the proud and haughty and jealous, or peevish and passionate and captious, least of all of the malicious and vindictive, but is mild and gentle, patient and long-suffering, forbearing and forgiving; and if any one be overtaken in a fault, restoring such a one in the spirit of meekness, under a constant sense of our own trials and frailties, lest we also be tempted.
HEBREWS vi. 16.
For men verily swear by the greater; and an oath for
confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
PERHAPS there are few who, in the course of their lives, are not, upon some occasion or other, called upon to take an oath. Therefore, if there is a thing which well deserves to be learnt-to be understood-it is the nature and obligation of an oath. It is an article, indeed, in which the sentiments of mankind are not generally to be found fault with ; for if there be any one thing which men do hold sacred, it is an oath-if there be one character which they agree to condemn and detest, it is that of the perjured man. I believe it is generally true, that few or none have the hardiness to about knowingly and deliberately to perjure themselves, but those who have given up all pretensions to virtue, and all concern about it, as well as all hopes of religion and interest about their future happiness or misery. And with some, perhaps, this is no security. But admitting that there is with the generality some concern for virtue at the bottom, there is ground to believe, that their opinion of virtue is rather forced by custom than consideration ; and this shows it, that you shall frequently see men scrupulous enough about the observation of the law of oatl -as oaths, for instance, in
evidence before a court of justice, and the like-w10 za very heedless, not to say worse, of the authority ard oče. gation of an oath in other cases, -as oaths for the coe discharge of their office, oaths relating to the custosas, and oaths concerning their allegiance, and some ccbars of a like kind. Now it is an oath in both cases; and men's care about the one, and indifference about the other, seem, I say, to indicate that their judgement of oaths is taken up rather from conforming to the prevailing way of thinking, than any just knowledge of the subject, or reflections of their own about it.
In treating this at present, we will observe the following order: first, to say a few words concerning the form of oaths ; secondly, their nature; and then the force and obligation upon the consciences of those who take them.
Now as to the form, an oath is a religious ceremony; and like other religious ceremonies not described or pointed out in Scripture, is, and may be, in different countries and different ages of the world, very various, without any substantial alteration in the thing itself. Amongst the Jews, the person sworn held up his right hand towards the heavens, while he repeated the terms of his oath: which explains the meaning of an expression in the Psalms, “ And their right hand is full of false. hood." Amongst Christians, also, the form differs considerably; and in no country, I believe, in the world, is the form worse contrived, either to express or impress the nature of an oath, than in our own.
. The shortness and obscurity of the form, together with the levity and too great frequency with which it is ad. ministered, has brought about an inadvertency to the obligation of an oath, which, both in a religious and political view, is much to be lamented. I do not mean that it is a common practice for men knowingły and deliberately to perjure themselves. I trust, as I said before, that this is rare and singular; but on some occasions, they carry away so little awe or sense of an oath upon their minds, as hardly to know whether they have taken an oath or not; and therefore they must be in perpetual danger of violating the obligation of the oath, from mere ignorance or inattention, or want of thought : which, though it does not come up to the crime of wilful and corrupt perjury, is still a crime. All I think necessary to say, in explanation of the form in use amongst us, is this—that when the person sworn repeats the words, “ So help me God,” he is understood to mean—-"so," that is, upon condition of my speaking the truth, or performing what I now promise ; this he is understood to say when he repeats the words, and to assent to when another repeats them. But whatever be the form of an oath, the substance and signification are the same.
It is the calling upon God to witness, that is 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 what the person who swears in effect does ; and no man can do that, and know what he is doing, without an awe or dread upon his mind both at the time and whenever afterwards he reflects upon the obligation he is under, and how far he hath been careful to fulfil it. The knowledge alone of what an oath is, is enough, with a serious mind, to enforce the authority of it beyond all other arguments.
In further explaining the obligation of an oath, we must lay out of the case the particular mischief which false security, and false swearing, may, in any instance,