Chapter 23: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

  1. A lawful oath is a part of religious worship, in which the person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgement, solemnly calls God to witness what he swears [affirms or promises],1 and to judge him according to the truth or falsity of it.2

1 Ex 20.7; Dt 10.20; Jer 4.2 2 2Chr 6.22-23

  1. People ought to swear only by the name of God. It is to be used in this way with the utmost holy fear and reverence. Therefore to swear vainly or rashly [in an empty or careless and thoughtless way] by that glorious and dreadful [awesome] name, or to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful and to be abhorred.3 In matters of substance and significance an oath is warranted [sanctioned or authorized] by the Word of God for the confirmation of truth and the end of all conflict.4 Therefore when a lawful oath is imposed by lawful authority in such matters it ought to be taken.5

3 Mt 5.34, 37; Jas 5.12 4 Heb 6.16; 2Cor 1.23 5 Neh 13.25

  1. Whoever takes an oath warranted by the Word of God ought properly to consider the seriousness of so solemn an act, and in that oath affirm or confess nothing except what he knows to be the truth. This is because by rash, false, and vain [empty] oaths the Lord is provoked, and for them a nation mourns.6

6 Lev 19.12; Jer 23.10

  1. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation [ambiguity] or mental reservation.7

7 Ps 24.4

  1. A vow is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone. It is to be made and carried out with all religious [conscientious, as in the sight of God] care and faithfulness.8 But monastic vows (such as those of Roman Catholicism) of perpetual single life,9 professed poverty,10 and regular obedience [outwardly religious routine], are so far from being degrees of higher perfection as to be superstitious and sinful snares in which no Christian may entangle himself.11

8 Ps 76.11; Gen 28.20-22 9 1Cor 7.2, 9 10 Eph 4.28 11 Mt 19.11