Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIX.: of oaths and lots. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XLIX.: of oaths and lots. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
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of oaths and lots.
There is great affinity between an oath and a lot. Both the one and the other serve to “end controversies, and cause contentions to cease,” Heb. vi. 16; Prov. xviii. 18, not easily or conveniently otherwise to be decided. In both, men as it were, renounce themselves, and all other creatures; and appeal to God's special providence. In an oath we appeal to God, 2 Cor. i. 23, as a wise and righteous witness and judge, knowing what is truth, and hating and punishing falsehood and lies. In a lot we appeal to God, as to an absolute Lord, for the disposing of persons and things, by his more singular work of providence, Prov. xvi. 33: unto which alone he that casts the lot, refers himself, if he mock not both God and man; wholly renouncing his own wit and skill every way, for the furthering of this chance, event, or lot, rather than that. Some may be, and are too scrupulous in both. But a thousand times more are too profanely prodigal of the one and other.
In an oath we desire God, as the searcher of hearts, and patron of truth to testify with us, that we deceive not: and withal, to take vengeance on us, if we. do deceive.* It is a part of God's worship, though much used civilly, as civil things are religiously: in which we make clear and solemn, confession of God's presence, wisdom, truth, justice, and omnipotency. There is in it no shadow of any shadow, or type: and therefore no colour, why it should not be moral and perpetual, and as lawful for us now, as for the Church before Christ.
It must be taken “in truth, in wisdom and in righteousness.” Jer. iv. 2. In truth of thing, and so the same known to him that takes it, in an oath assertory: and, with firm purpose of heart, in an oath promissory. There are, saith one, three bonds or degrees of confirmation of truth. First, a bare affirmation: secondly, an assertion: thirdly, an oath.* In the first of the three we only give our word, as they say, by yea or nay: “and whatsoever is above this, (to wit, in ordinary communication,) is of evil.” Matt. v. 37. When our bare word will not be taken, and the weight of the matter requires it, we do pawn our best jewels, as our truth, faith, and verity, in an asseveration; as Christ our Lord confirmed divers his weighty sayings with a doubled amen. But now, if men will not accept of our pledge neither, we procure God for our surety in an oath; unto whose justice we also enter counter-bond, for punishment by him, if we deceive. And an oath being the strongest bond of truth that is, and so avowed by God himself, who, when he would confirm unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, when he had no stronger bond, interposed an oath, and sware: and when he had no greater to swear by, sware by himself, Heb. vi.12—17; it followeth, that they, who are either without conscience what they swear, or can dispense, or be dispensed with in their consciences having sworn, though “to their own hindrance,” Psa. xv. 4, are both impious towards God, and treacherous to men; and such as do really outlaw themselves from all human societies; as neither deserving credit with them, nor fellowship amongst them. Secondly, we must swear in judgment, with prudent consideration of the thing, together with the circumstances, to which we so straitly bind ourselves: as in an oath promissory, first, that it be possible unto us; else we mock both men to whom, and God by whom, we swear: secondly, that the thing be lawful which we tie ourselves unto. To bind ourselves to that which is evil by an oath, is to make sure work to do evil. Lastly, the matter must be of some weight, and such as becomes the majesty of God, whom we thus far interest in it. Now what Christian heart, any way tender of God's glory, bleeds not at the world's impiety this way ? which fears not to call the glorious majesty of God, to witness, upon such trifling occasions, as for which no wise man but would be ashamed to call his meanest neighbour, yea or servant either ? Lastly, we must swear in righteousness, that is, both according to his meaning, being made known unto us, to whom, and for whose satisfaction we swear;* as also for warrantable, and good ends, as the glory of God, our own and others' good, his satisfaction to whom we swear; and for the ending, and not the beginning of strife,† else we prostitute God's name either to our own, or other men's lusts.
Common and light swearing argues such a degree of irreverence of God's majesty, as we may truly, and boldly say, that the heart of a common and customary swearer is void of all grace, and true fear of God. And in weighing with myself with admiration and horror, the customary swearing amongst so many, considering that there is nothing in it, as in other sins, either profitable or pleasant or of credit in the world, or that brings either reasonable or sensual good; I have made account, that, besides imitation of one another, and custom, which makes it half natural to some, and a conscience guilty of want of credit in others, which moves many to swear that they may be believed, and want of wit in not a few, who strive, by accessory oaths, to supply their defect of matter or other inability of speech, there is in this swearing-vein a deeper mystery of mischief, than ordinary: and that indeed men take it up, specially, in the devil's intention, who sets them a-work, and not a little in their own, in direct opposition of God, and because he in his law hath so severely prohibited it. If God had not in his Word so expressly and severely forbidden it, as he hath done, certainly there would not be the least part of it used, that is. Graceless men seem therein, to affect a professed contempt of God; and withal, an opinion from men, that they fear nothing, neither God, nor devil, as they say. But God will make them feel, that fear not the “guilt of taking his glorious name in vain,” Exod. xx. 7, which all creatures ought to honour and reverence.
This sin being directly against God's majesty, he reserves, by bis providence, the punishment of it ordinarily to himself; spiritually, by hardness of heart and impenitence, in this life, usually to the end thereof: and both bodily and ghostly, by hell-fire for ever. Where it is also like, that the devils and damned men do and will swear and curse in their utter rejection from God, and intolerable torment; and so make their sin and course of blaspheming as endless as their punishment for it.