§1 Lawful Oaths
- A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, wherein the person Swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness what he sweareth, and to judge him according to the truth or falseness thereof. 1
- Deut. 10:20; Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; 2 Chron. 6:22-23; 2 Cor. 1:23
Religious worship is that worship which is instituted by God and revealed by His Word (see chapter 22 especially paragraphs 1 and 5). A lawful oath is an element and a part of God’s holy religious worship. What is a lawful oath? It is wherein the person Swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calleth God to witness (2Chron. 6:22-23; 2Cor. 1:23). An oath is a call upon God to be the witness to something or a “transaction” between men. A most basic example of this is in marriage when God is called to be the witness along with the people present. The Confession speaks specifically of a lawful oath. This means that there are unlawful oaths, namely those which contradict the descriptions given here. A lawful oath is taken when a person realizes the solemnity of such an act. The Scriptures warns us against being rash with our words and oaths (Eccl. 5:2; Jas. 5:12). We call upon God with hearts purified and realizing what we are calling God to do in this situation. We are calling Him to be the knower of our heart and intentions. However we may deceive people, we can never deceive God. We are calling Him to judge us according to the truth or falseness (2Chron. 6:22-23) of our oath. We are Swearing to something and calling God to be the arbiter of the truthfulness of what we have sworn.
An oath is something honorable. It is something that is solemn. In an oath, a person swears by the name of God that they are telling the truth and nothing but the truth. This is what is often done in court when a person places their hand on the Bible and pledges that they are telling the truth and at the same time calls upon God to be a Witness that they are indeed telling the truth and only the truth. Therefore, when a liar and a deceiver takes an oath by the name of God, he is taking the Lord's Name in vain and he is bringing judgment upon himself (Ex. 20:7).
An oath is considered a part of worship because in an oath we are calling upon the God Whom we worship to witness to the things which we are saying. We are actually calling upon Him to examine us and judge us “according to the truth or falseness” of the oath and the words which we have spoken. Therefore, the Bible warns us to not be “rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God” (Eccl. 5:2). We should not be quick to swear an oath on every occasion, but only wherein we are necessarily called to do so and without violating our conscience.
§2 The Name Of God Only Is That By Which Men Ought To Swear
- 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; therefore to swear vainly or rashly by that glorious and dreadful name, ...