HOMILY ON SWEARING AND PERJURY

from Short-Title Catalogue 13675.
Renaissance Electronic Texts 1.2.
© 1994, 1997 Ian Lancashire
University of Toronto

UTEL Home Page.

A SERMON AGAINST
Swearing and Periury.

[I.7.1-1]  ALmighty GOD, to the intent his most
[I.7.1-2]  holy Name should be had in honour, and
[I.7.1-3]  euermore be magnified of the people, com­
[I.7.1-4]  mandeth that no man should take his
[I.7.1-5]  Name vainely in his mouth, threatning
[I.7.1-6]  punishment vnto him that vnreuerently
[I.7.1-7]  abuseth it by swearing, forswearing, and
[I.7.1-8]  blasphemie. To the intent therefore

[margin]
How and in
what causes
it is lawfull
to sweare.
[margin]


[I.7.1-9]  that this commandement may be the bet­
[I.7.1-10]  ter knowen and kept, it shall bee declared
[I.7.1-11]  vnto you, both how it is lawfull for Chri­
[I.7.1-12]  stian people to sweare, and also what pe­
[I.7.1-13]  rill and danger it is vainely to sweare, or
[I.7.1-14]  to be forsworne. First, when Iudges require othes of the people for decla­
[I.7.1-15]  ration or opening of the trueth, or for execution of iustice, this manner of
[I.7.1-16]  swearing is lawfull. Also when men make faithfull promises with cal­
[I.7.1-17]  ling to witnesse of the Name of GOD, to keepe couenants, honest pro­
[I.7.1-18]  mises, statutes, lawes and good customes, as Christian Princes doe in
[I.7.1-19]  their conclusions of peace, for conseruation of common wealths, and pri­
[I.7.1-20]  uate persons promise their fidelitie in Matrimony, or one to another in
[I.7.1-21]  honestie and true friendship: and all men when they doe sweare to keepe
[I.7.1-22]  common lawes, and locall statutes, and good customes, for due order to
[I.7.1-23]  be had and continued among men, when Subiects doe sweare to be true
[I.7.1-24]  and faithfull to their King and Soueraigne Lord, and when Iudges,
[I.7.1-25]  Magistrates, and Officers sweare truely to execute their Offices, and
[I.7.1-26]  when a man would affirme the trueth to the setting foorth of Gods glo­
[I.7.1-27]  rie (for the saluation of the people) in open preaching of the Gospel, or in
[I.7.1-28]  giuing of good counsell priuately for their soules health: all these maner
[I.7.1-29]  of swearing, for causes necessary and honest, be lawfull. But when men
[I.7.1-30]  doe sweare of custome, in reasoning, buying and selling, or other daily
[I.7.1-31]  communications (as many be common and great swearers) such kind of
[I.7.1-32]  swearing is vngodly, vnlawfull, and forbidden by the commandement
[I.7.1-33]  of GOD. For such swearing is nothing els, but taking of GODS ho­
[I.7.1-34]  ly name in vaine. And here is to be noted, that lawfull swearing is not
[I.7.1-35]  forbidden, but commanded by Almighty GOD. For we haue examples
[I.7.1-36]  of Christ, and godly men, in holy Scripture, that did sweare themselues,
[I.7.1-37]  and required othes of others likewise. And GODS Commandement

[margin]
Deut.6.
[margin]


[I.7.1-38]  is, Thou shalt dread thy Lord GOD, and shalt sweare by his Name.

[margin]
Psalm.63.
[margin]


[I.7.1-39]  And Almightie GOD by his Prophet Dauid saith, All men shall be prai­
[I.7.1-40]  sed that sweare by him.

[margin]
Iohn 3.
[margin]


[I.7.1-41]  Thus did our Sauiour Christ sweare diuers times, saying, Verily, ve­

[margin]
2.Cor.1.
[margin]


[I.7.1-42]  rily. And S. Paul sweareth thus, I call GOD to witnesse. And Abra­

[margin]
Gen.24.
[margin]


[I.7.1-43]  ham (waxing old) required an oath of his seruant, that he should procure
[I.7.1-44]  a wife for his sonne Isahac, which should come of his owne kinred: and
[I.7.1-45]  the seruant did sweare that he would performe his masters will. Abra­

[margin]
Gene.21.
[margin]


[I.7.1-46]  ham also being required, did sweare vnto Abimelech the king of Geraris,
[I.7.1-47]  that hee should not hurt him, nor his posteritie, and likewise did Abimelech
[I.7.1-48]  sweare vnto Abraham. And Dauid did sweare to be and continue a faith­
[I.7.1-49]  full friend to Ionathan, and Ionathan did sweare to become a faithfull friend
[I.7.1-50]  vnto Dauid.

[I.7.1-51]  Also God once commanded, that if a thing were laide to pledge to any
[I.7.1-52]  man, or left with him to keepe, if the same thing were stollen, or lost, that
[I.7.1-53]  the keeper thereof should be sworne before Iudges, that hee did not con­
[I.7.1-54]  ueigh it away, nor vsed any deceit in causing the same to bee conueied a­

[margin]
Heb.6.
[margin]


[I.7.1-55]  way, by his consent or knowledge. And Saint Paul saith, that in all
[I.7.1-56]  matters of controuersie betweene two persons, whereas one sayth, Yea,
[I.7.1-57]  and the other, Nay, so as no due proofe can be had of the truth, the end of
[I.7.1-58]  euery such controuersie must be an oath ministred by a Iudge. And more­

[margin]
Ierem.4.
[margin]


[I.7.1-59]  ouer GOD by the Prophet Ieremy sayth, Thou shalt sweare, The Lord
[I.7.1-60]  liueth, in trueth, in iudgement, in righteousnesse. So that whosoeuer
[I.7.1-61]  sweareth when hee is required of a Iudge, let him bee sure in his consci­
[I.7.1-62]  ence that his oath haue three conditions, and he shall neuer need to be a­
[I.7.1-63]  frayd of periurie.

[I.7.1-64]  First, he that sweareth, may sweare truely, that is, hee must (setting a­
[I.7.1-65]  part all fauour and affection to the parties) haue the trueth onely before

[margin]
What con­
dition an
oath ought
to haue.
[margin]


[I.7.1-66]  his eyes, and for loue thereof, say and speake that which hee knoweth to
[I.7.1-67]  be trueth, and no further. The second is, he that taketh an oath, must

[margin]
The second
[margin]


[I.7.1-68]  doe it with iudgement, not rashly and vnaduisedly, but soberly, conside­
[I.7.1-69]  ring what an oath is. The third is, hee that Sweareth, must sweare in
[I.7.1-70]  righteousnesse: that is, for the very zeale and loue which hee beareth to

[margin]
The third.
[margin]


[I.7.1-71]  the defence of innocencie, to the maintenance of the trueth, and of the
[I.7.1-72]  righteousnesse of the matter or cause: all profit, disprofit, all loue and fa­
[I.7.1-73]  uour vnto the person for friendship or kinred layd apart. Thus an oath

[margin]
Why wee
bee willed in
scripture to
sweare by
the Name
of God.
[margin]


[I.7.1-74]  (if it haue with it these three conditions) is a part of GODS glory,
[I.7.1-75]  which we are bound by his commandements to giue vnto him. For hee
[I.7.1-76]  willeth that wee shall sweare onely by his name, not that hee hath plea­
[I.7.1-77]  sure in oathes, but like as hee commanded the Iewes to offer sacrifices
[I.7.1-78]  vnto him, not for any delight that he had in them, but to keep the Iewes
[I.7.1-79]  from committing of idolatrie: so he commanding vs to sweare by his ho­
[I.7.1-80]  ly name, doeth not teach vs that he delighteth in swearing, but he there­
[I.7.1-81]  by forbiddeth all men to giue his glory to any creature in heauen, earth,

[margin]
Esai.42.
[margin]


[I.7.1-82]  or water. Hitherto you see, that oathes lawfull are commanded of
[I.7.1-83]  GOD, vsed of Patriarches and Prophets, of Christ himselfe, and of
[I.7.1-84]  his Apostle Paul. Therefore Christian people must thinke lawfull oathes,
[I.7.1-85]  both godly and necessary. For by lawfull promise and couenants confir­

[margin]
Commodi­
ties had by
lawfull oths
made and
obserued.
[margin]


[I.7.1-86]  med by oathes, Princes and their Countries are confirmed in common
[I.7.1-87]  tranquillity & peace. By holy promises with calling the name of GOD
[I.7.1-88]  to witnesse, we be made liuely members of Christ, when wee professe his
[I.7.1-89]  Religion receiuing the Sacrament of Baptisme. By like holy promise
[I.7.1-90]  the Sacrament of Matrimonie knitteth man and wife in perpetuall
[I.7.1-91]  loue, that they desire not to be separated for any displeasure or aduersity
[I.7.1-92]  that shall after happen. By lawfull oathes, which Kings, Princes,
[I.7.1-93]  Iudges, and Magistrates doe sweare, common lawes are kept inuiolate,
[I.7.1-94]  Iustice is indifferently ministred, harmelesse persons, fatherlesse children,
[I.7.1-95]  widowes, and poore men, are defended from murderers, oppressours, and
[I.7.1-96]  theeues, that they suffer no wrong, nor take any harme. By lawfull
[I.7.1-97]  oathes, mutuall society, amity, and good order is kept continually in all
[I.7.1-98]  comminalties, as Boroughes, Cities, Townes, and Villages. And by
[I.7.1-99]  lawfull oathes, malefactors are searched out, wrong doers are punished,
[I.7.1-100]  and they which sustaine wrong, are restored to their right. Therefore
[I.7.1-101]  lawfull swearing can not be euill, which bringeth vnto vs so many god­
[I.7.1-102]  ly, good, and necessary commodities. Wherfore when Christ so earnest­

[margin]
Vaine swea­
ring is for­
bidden.
[margin]


[I.7.1-103]  ly forbad swearing, it may not be vnderstood, as though hee did forbid all
[I.7.1-104]  maner of oathes: but he forbiddeth all vaine swearing and forswearing
[I.7.1-105]  both by GOD, and by his creatures, as the common vse of swearing in
[I.7.1-106]  buying, selling, and in our dayly communication, to the intent euery
[I.7.1-107]  Christian mans word should be aswell regarded in such matters, as if he
[I.7.1-108]  should confirme his communication with an oath. For euery Christian
[I.7.1-109]  mans word (sayth S. Hierome) should be so true, that it should bee regar­
[I.7.1-110]  ded as an oath. And Chrysostome witnessing the same, sayth, It is not
[I.7.1-111]  conuenient to sweare: for what needeth vs to sweare, when it is not

[margin]
An obiection
[margin]


[I.7.1-112]  lawfull for one of vs to make a lie vnto another? Peraduenture some
[I.7.1-113]  will say, I am compelled to sweare, for else men that doe commune with

[margin]
An answer.
[margin]


[I.7.1-114]  me, or do buy and sell with me will not beleeue me. To this, answereth
[I.7.1-115]  S. Chrysostome, that he that thus sayth, sheweth himselfe to be an vniust
[I.7.1-116]  and a deceitfull person. For if hee were a trustie man, and his deedes ta­
[I.7.1-117]  ken to agree with his words, he should not need to sweare at all. For he
[I.7.1-118]  that vseth trueth and plainenesse in his bargayning and communication,
[I.7.1-119]  he shall haue no need by such vaine swearing, to bring himselfe in cre­
[I.7.1-120]  dence with his neighbours, nor his neighbours will not mistrust his
[I.7.1-121]  sayings. And if his credence be so much lost indeed, that hee thinketh no
[I.7.1-122]  man will beleeue him without he sweare, then hee may well thinke his
[I.7.1-123]  credence is cleane gone. For trueth it is (as Theophylactus writeth) that
[I.7.1-124]  no man is lesse trusted, then he that vseth much to sweare. And Almigh­
[I.7.1-125]  ty GOD by the Wise man sayth, That man which sweareth much shall

[margin]
Eccl.33.
[margin]


[I.7.1-126]  bee full of sinne, and the scourge of GOD shall not depart from his
[I.7.1-127]  house.

[I.7.1-128]  But heere some men will say, for excusing of their many oathes in their

[margin]
Another ob­
iection.
[margin]


[I.7.1-129]  dayly talke: Why should I not sweare, when I sweare truely? To such
[I.7.1-130]  men it may be sayd, that though they sweare truly, yet in swearing often
[I.7.1-131]  vnaduisedly, for trifles, without necessity, and when they should not
[I.7.1-132]  sweare, they be not without fault, but doe take GODS most holy name
[I.7.1-133]  in vaine. Much more vngodly and vnwise men are they, that abuse

[margin]
An answer.
[margin]


[I.7.1-134]  GODS most holy name, not onely in buying and selling of small
[I.7.1-135]  things dayly in all places, but also in eating, drinking, playing, commu­
[I.7.1-136]  ning and reasoning. As if none of these things might be done, except in
[I.7.1-137]  doing of them, the most holy name of GOD bee commonly vsed and a­
[I.7.1-138]  bused, vainely and vnreuerently talked of, sworne by, and forsworne, to
[I.7.1-139]  the breaking of GODS commandement, and procurement of his in­
[I.7.1-140]  dignation.




The second part of the Sermon of
Swearing.

[I.7.2-141]  YOu haue beene taught in the first part of this Sermon
[I.7.2-142]  against swearing and periurie, what great danger it is
[I.7.2-143]  to vse the name of GOD in vaine. And that all kinde
[I.7.2-144]  of swearing is not vnlawfull, neither against GODS
[I.7.2-145]  commandement, and that there be three things required
[I.7.2-146]  in a lawfull oath. First, that it bee made for the main­
[I.7.2-147]  tenance of the trueth. Secondly, that it bee made with
[I.7.2-148]  iudgement, not rashly and vnaduisedly. Thirdly, for the zeale and loue
[I.7.2-149]  of Iustice. Ye heard also what commodities commeth of lawfull oathes,
[I.7.2-150]  and what danger commeth of rash and vnlawfull oathes. Now as con­
[I.7.2-151]  cerning the rest of the same matter, you shall vnderstand, that aswell they
[I.7.2-152]  vse the name of GOD in vaine, that by an oath make vnlawfull promi­
[I.7.2-153]  ses of good and honest things, and performe them not: as they which
[I.7.2-154]  doe promise euill and vnlawfull things, and doe performe the same. Of

[margin]
Lawfull oths
and promi­
ses would be
better re­
garded.
Iosh.9.
[margin]


[I.7.2-155]  such men that regard not their godly promises bound by an oath, but
[I.7.2-156]  wittingly and wilfully breaketh them, wee doe reade in holy Scrip­
[I.7.2-157]  ture two notable punishments. First, Iosua and the people of Israel made
[I.7.2-158]  a league and faithfull promise of perpetuall amitie and friendship with
[I.7.2-159]  the Gabaonites: not withstanding afterward in the dayes of wicked
[I.7.2-160]  Saul, many of these Gabaonites were murdered, contrary to the sayde
[I.7.2-161]  faithfull promise made. Wherewith Almighty GOD was sore displea­
[I.7.2-162]  sed that hee sent an vniuersall hunger vpon the whole countrey, which
[I.7.2-163]  continued by the space of three yeeres. And GOD would not with­
[I.7.2-164]  draw his punishment, vntill the sayd offence was reuenged by the death
[I.7.2-165]  of seuen sonnes, or next kinsmen of king Saul. And whereas Zedekias

[margin]
2.Kings 24.
[margin]


[I.7.2-166]  king of Hierusalem, had promised fidelitie to the king of Chaldea, after­

[margin]
chap 25.
[margin]


[I.7.2-167]  warde when Zedechias contrarie to his oath and allegiance, did rebell
[I.7.2-168]  against K. Nabuchodonosor: this heathen king by GODS permission
[I.7.2-169]  and sufferance, inuading the land of Iurie, and besieging the citie of
[I.7.2-170]  Hierusalem, compelled the sayd king Zedechias to flee, and in fleeing,
[I.7.2-171]  tooke him prisoner, slewe his sonnes before his face, and put out both
[I.7.2-172]  his eyes: and binding him with chaines, led him prisoner miserablie

[margin]
Vnlawfull
oathes and
promises
are not to
bee kept.
[margin]


[I.7.2-173]  into Babylon.

[I.7.2-174]  Thus doeth GOD shew plainely how much hee abhorreth breakers
[I.7.2-175]  of honest promises bound by an oath made in his Name. And of them
[I.7.2-176]  that make wicked promises by an oath, and will performe the same, wee
[I.7.2-177]  haue example in the Scriptures, chiefely of Herod, of the wicked
[I.7.2-178]  Iewes, and of Iephtah. Herode promised by an oath vnto the Damosell

[margin]
Matth.14.
[margin]


[I.7.2-179]  which danced before him, to giue vnto her whatsoeuer shee would aske:
[I.7.2-180]  when shee was instructed before of her wicked mother to aske the head
[I.7.2-181]  of Saint Iohn Baptist, Herod as hee tooke a wicked oath, so hee more
[I.7.2-182]  wickedly performed the same, and cruelly slewe the most holy Prophet.
[I.7.2-183]  Likewise did the malicious Iewes make an oath, cursing themselues
[I.7.2-184]  if they did either eate or drinke, vntill they had slaine Saint Paul. And

[margin]
Acts 23.
[margin]


[I.7.2-185]  Iephtah when GOD had giuen to him victorie of the children of
Am­
[I.7.2-186]  mon, promised (of a foolish deuotion) vnto GOD, to offer for a sa­

[margin]
Iudges 11.
[margin]


[I.7.2-187]  crifice vnto him, that person which of his owne house should first meete
[I.7.2-188]  with him after his returne home. By force of which fonde and vnadui­
[I.7.2-189]  sed oath, hee did slay his owne and onely daughter, which came out of
[I.7.2-190]  his house with mirth and ioy to welcome him home. Thus the promise
[I.7.2-191]  which hee made (most foolishly) to GOD, against GODS euer­
[I.7.2-192]  lasting will, and the law of nature, most cruelly hee performed, so com­
[I.7.2-193]  mitting against GOD a double offence. Therefore, whosoeuer ma­
[I.7.2-194]  keth any promise, binding himselfe thereunto by an oath: let him fore­
[I.7.2-195]  see that the thing which hee promiseth, bee good, and honest, and not
[I.7.2-196]  against the commandement of GOD, and that it bee in his owne
[I.7.2-197]  power to performe it iustly. And such good promises must all men keepe
[I.7.2-198]  euermore assuredly. But if a man at any time shall, either of ignorance,
[I.7.2-199]  or of malice, promise and sweare to doe any thing which is either against
[I.7.2-200]  the law of Almighty GOD, or not in his power to performe: let him
[I.7.2-201]  take it for an vnlawfull and vngodly oath.

[margin]
Against per­
iurie.
[margin]


[I.7.2-202]  Now something to speake of periurie, to the intent you should know
[I.7.2-203]  how great and grieuous an offence against GOD this wilfull periurie
[I.7.2-204]  is, I will shew you what it is to take an oath before a Iudge vpon a

[margin]
An oath be­
fore a Iudge.
[margin]


[I.7.2-205]  booke. First, when they laying their hands vpon the Gospell booke, doe
[I.7.2-206]  sweare truely to enquire, and to make a true presentment of things
[I.7.2-207]  wherewith they be charged, and not to let from saying the trueth, and
[I.7.2-208]  doing truely, for fauour, loue, dread, or malice of any person, as GOD
[I.7.2-209]  may helpe them, and the holy contents of that booke: They must consi­
[I.7.2-210]  der, that in that booke is contayned GODS euerlasting truth, his
[I.7.2-211]  most holy and eternall word, whereby we haue forgiuenesse of our sinnes,
[I.7.2-212]  and be made inheritours of heauen, to liue for euer with GODS An­
[I.7.2-213]  gels and Saints, in ioy and gladnesse. In the Gospell booke is contay­
[I.7.2-214]  ned also GODS terrible threats to obstinate sinners, that will not
[I.7.2-215]  amend their liues, nor beleeue the trueth of GOD his holy word, and
[I.7.2-216]  the euerlasting paine prepared in hell for Idolaters, hypocrites, for false
[I.7.2-217]  and vaine swearers, for periured men, for false witnesse bearers, for
[I.7.2-218]  false condemners of innocent and guiltlesse men, and for them which for
[I.7.2-219]  fauour, hide the crimes of euill doers, that they should not bee punished.
[I.7.2-220]  So that whosoeuer wilfully forsweare themselues vpon Christs holy
[I.7.2-221]  Euangelie, they vtterly forsake GODS mercy, goodnesse, and trueth,
[I.7.2-222]  the merits of our Sauiour Christs natiuity, life, passion, death, resur­
[I.7.2-223]  rection and ascension, they refuse the forgiuenesse of sinnes, promised to
[I.7.2-224]  all penitent sinners, the ioyes of heauen, the company with Angels and
[I.7.2-225]  Saints for euer. All which benefits and comforts are promised vnto
[I.7.2-226]  true Christian persons in the Gospell. And they, so being forsworne vp­
[I.7.2-227]  on the Gospell, doe betake themselues to the Diuels seruice, the master
[I.7.2-228]  of all lies, falshood, deceit, and periurie, prouoking the great indignati­
[I.7.2-229]  on and curse of GOD against them in this life, and the terrible wrath
[I.7.2-230]  and iudgement of our Sauiour Christ, at the great day of the last iudge­
[I.7.2-231]  ment, when hee shall iustly iudge both the quicke and the dead, accor­
[I.7.2-232]  ding to their workes. For whosoeuer forsaketh the trueth, for loue of
[I.7.2-233]  displeasure of any man, or for lucre and profit to himselfe, doeth for­

[margin]
Though per­
iurie doe e­
scape heere
vnspied and
vnpunished,
it shall not
doe so euer.
[margin]


[I.7.2-234]  sake Christ, and with Iudas betray him. And although such periu­
[I.7.2-235]  red mens falshood bee now kept secret, yet it shall bee opened at the last
[I.7.2-236]  day, when the secrets of all mens hearts shall bee manifest to all the
[I.7.2-237]  world. And then the trueth shall appeare, and accuse them: and their
[I.7.2-238]  owne conscience, with all the blessed company of Heauen, shall beare
[I.7.2-239]  witnesse truely against them. And Christ the righteous Iudge shall
[I.7.2-240]  then iustly condemne them to euerlasting shame and death. This sinne

[margin]
Mala.3.
[margin]


[I.7.2-241]  of periurie, Almighty GOD by the Prophet Malachie doeth threaten
[I.7.2-242]  to punish sore, saying vnto the Iewes, I will come to you in iudgement,
[I.7.2-243]  and I will bee a swift witnesse and a sharpe Iudge vpon sorcerers, a­
[I.7.2-244]  dulterers, and periured persons. Which thing to the Prophet Zachary
[I.7.2-245]  GOD declareth in a vision, wherein the Prophet saw a booke fleeing,
[I.7.2-246]  which was twenty cubites long, and ten cubites broad, GOD saying

[margin]
Zacha.5.
[margin]


[I.7.2-247]  then vnto him, this is the curse that shall goe foorth vpon the face of
[I.7.2-248]  the earth, for falsehood, falseswearing, and periurie. And this curse
[I.7.2-249]  shall enter into the house of the false man and into the house of the periu­
[I.7.2-250]  red man, and it shall remaine in the middest of his house, consume him,
[I.7.2-251]  and the timber and stones of his house. Thus you see how much GOD
[I.7.2-252]  doth hate periurie, and what punishment GOD hath prepared for false
[I.7.2-253]  swearers, and periured persons.

[I.7.2-254]  Thus you haue heard, how and in what causes it is lawfull for a Chri­
[I.7.2-255]  stian man to sweare: yee haue heard what properties and conditions a
[I.7.2-256]  lawfull oath must haue, and also how such lawfull oathes are both god­
[I.7.2-257]  ly and necessary to be obserued: yee haue heard, that it is not lawfull to
[I.7.2-258]  sweare vainely, (that is) other wayes then in such causes, and after such
[I.7.2-259]  sort as is declared. And finally, yee haue heard how damnable a thing
[I.7.2-260]  it is, either to forsweare ourselues, or to keepe an vnlawfull, and an vn­
[I.7.2-261]  aduised oath. Wherefore let vs earnestly call for grace, that all vaine
[I.7.2-262]  swearing and periurie set apart, wee may onely vse such oathes as
[I.7.2-263]  be lawfull and godly, and that wee may truely without all
[I.7.2-264]  fraud keepe the same, according to GODS will
[I.7.2-265]  and pleasure. To whom with the
[I.7.2-266]  Sonne, and the holy Ghost, be
[I.7.2-267]  all honour and glory.
[I.7.2-268]  AMEN.