WCOF on Of Lawful Oaths and Vows, also of the Civil Magistrate

Chapter XXII – Of Lawful Oaths and Vows.

  1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship,(1) 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.(2)

(1)                Dt 10:20.

(2)                Ex 20:7; Lev 19:12; 2Co 1:23; 2Ch 6:22,23.


  1. 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;(1) 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.(2) 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;(3) so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken.(4)

(1)                Dt 6:13.

(2)                Ex 20:7; Jer 5:7; Mt 5:34,37; Jas 5:12.

(3)                Heb 6:16; 2Co 1:23; Isa 65:16.

(4)                1Ki 8:31; Ne 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 fully persuaded is the truth.(1) 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.(2)Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.(3) (1)              Ex 20:7; Jer 4:2.

(2)                Ge 24:2,3,5,6,8,9.

(3)                Nu 5:19,21; Ne 5:12; Ex 22:7,8,9,10,11.


  1. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation.(1) It cannot oblige to sin; but in anything not sinful being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt;(2) nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.(3)

(1)                Jer 4:2; Ps 24:4.

(2)                1Sa 25:22,32,33,34;Ps 15:4.

(3)                Eze 17:16,18,19; Josh. 9:18,19; 2Sa 21:1.


  1. 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.(1)

(1)                Isa 19:21; Ecc 5:4,5,6; Ps 61:8; Ps 66:13,14.


  1. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone:(1) 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.(2) (1)          Ps 76:11; Jer 44:25,26.

(2)          Dt 23:21,22,23; Ps 50:14; Ge 28:20,21,22; 1Sa 1:11; Ps 66:13,14; Ps 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.(1) 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.(2)

(1)                Ac 23:12,14; Mk 6:26; Nu 30:5,8,12,13.

(2)                Mt 19:11,12; 1Co 7:2,9; Eph 4:28; 1Pe 4:2; 1Co 7:23.

Chapter XXIII – Of the Civil Magistrate.

  1. God the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good; and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.(1)

(1)                Ro 13:1-4; 1Pe 2:13,14.


  1. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto:(1) in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth;(2) so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions.(3) (1) Pr 8:15,16; Ro 13:1,2,4.

(2)                Ps 2:10,11,12; 1Ti 2:2; Ps 82:3,4; 2Sa 23:3; 1Pe 2:13.

(3)                Lk 3:14; Ro 13:4; Mt 8:9,10; Ac 10:1,2; Rev 17:14,16.


iii.                 Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and Sacraments;(1) or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven;(2) or, in the least, interfere in matters of faith.(3) Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.(4) And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief.(5) It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretense of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever; and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance.(6)

(1)                2Ch 26:18

(2)                Mt 16:19; 1Co 4:1,2

(3)                Jn 18:36; Mal 2:7; Ac 5:29

(4)                Isa 49:23

(5)                Ps 105:15; Ac 18:14-16

(6)                2Sa 23:3; 1Ti 2:1; Ro 13:4


  1. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates,(1) to honour their persons,(2) to pay them tribute or other dues,(3) to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience sake.(4) Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them:(5) from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted,(6) much less hath the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.(7)

(1)                1Ti 2:1,2

(2)                1Pe 2:17

(3)                Ro 13:6,7

(4)                Ro 13:5; Tit 3:1

(5)                1Pe 2:13,14,16

(6)                Ro 13:1; 1Ki 2:35; Ac 25:9,10,11; 2Pe 2:1,10,11; Jude 8-11

(7)                2Th 2:4; Rev 13:15-17

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One Response to WCOF on Of Lawful Oaths and Vows, also of the Civil Magistrate

  1. θ says:

    Oath and calling witness are different.
    – Calling to witness seven heavens and Adam.
    Tirmidhi, Hadith 122
    Narrated by Ubayy ibn Ka’b: In regard to the words of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, “Your Lord brought forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam.” (7:172) Ubayy said: He gathered them and paired them then fashioned them and endowed them with the power of speech and they began to speak. He then made an agreement and covenant with them. He made them bear witness about themselves (saying) Am I not your Lord. They said: Yes. He said: I call to witness seven heavens and seven earths regarding you and I call witness your father Adam regarding you lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: We do not know this. Bear this in mind that there is no god besides Me and there is no Lord besides Me and do not associate anything with Me.

    Here are some references where Allah calls to witness the heavenly constellations:
    Q.53, v.1. (I call to witness) with the Star when it goes down;
    Q.81, v.15. So verily I call to witness the planets that recede;
    Q.86, v.1. (I call to witness) with the heaven, and the Morning star;
    Q.91,v.1. (I call to witness) with the Sun and his splendour;
    Q.74, v.32. Nay, verily (I call to witness) by the Moon;
    Calling to witness the earthy things:
    Q.52, v.1. (I call to witness) with the sacred mount.
    Q.68, v.1. Nun, (I call to witness) with the pen and what is written.
    Q.90, v.3. (I call to witness) with parent and offspring.
    Q.100, v.1. (I call to witness) with the chariot.

    Dt 30:19
    I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
    Dt 4:26
    I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.
    Ps 137:1
    By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
    Jn 10:25
    Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.
    Mt 23
    20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

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