Page images

in the meek and quiet spirit of their religion are not likely to be effectual) to take up arms, or resist them by force. And this doctrine they ground, first, on the principle, that it is not only more noble, but more consistent with their duty as Christians, to suffer, than to give growth to the passion of revenge, or by open resistance to become the occasion of loss of life to others : and, secondly, on the example of Jesus Christ, and of the Apostles and primitive Christians, all of whom patiently submitted to the pains and penalties, inflicted upon them by the Governments of their respective times, for the exercise of their religion.


OathsQuakers conceive it unlawful for Christians

to take an oath-iheir suf'erings on this account ---consider oaths as unnecessaryas having an immoral tendency, which even the Heathens allowedand as having been forbidden by Jesus Christ-explanation of the scriptural passages cited on this occasionChristianity not so perfect with the lawfulness of oaths, as without itother reasons taken from considerations relative

to the antient oath by the name of God. A second tenet, which the members of this Society hold, is, that it is unlawful for Christians to take a Civil Oath.

Many and grievous were the sufferings of these people, in the early part of their history, on account of their refusing to swear before the civil magistrate. They were insulted, fined, and imprisoned. Some of the judges, too, indulged a rancour against them on this account unworthy of their high office, which prescribed justice impartially to all. For, when they could not convict them of the offences laid to their charge,

they they administered to them the Oath of Allegiance, knowing that they would not take it, and that confiscation of property and imprisonment would ensue. But neither ill-usage, nor imprisonment, nor loss of property, ever made any impression upon them, so as to induce them to swear in judicial cases ; and they continued to suffer, till the Legislature, wearied out with the cries of their oppression, decreed that their affirmation should in all cases, except criminal, or in that of serving upon juries, or in that of qualifications for posts of honour or emolument under Goyernment, be received as equivalent to their oath. And this indulgence is continued to them by law to the present day.

The Quakers have an objection to oaths, as solemn appeals to God, because they are unnecessary.

It is an old saying among their writers, that “ Truth was before all oaths.” By this they mean, that there was a time when men's words were received as truths without the intervention of an oath. Antient fable, indeed, tells us, that there were no paths in the Golden Age, but that, when


men departed from their primitive simplicity, and began to quarrel with one another, they had recourse to falsehood to substantiate their own case ; after which it became necessary that some expedient should be devised, in the case of disputes, for ascertaining the Truth. Hence, Hesiod makes the God of Oaths the son of Eris or Contention. This account differs but little from that of Polybius, who says that the use of oaths in judgment was rare among the antients, but that, as perfidy grew, oaths increased.

And as it is a saying of the Quakers, that “Truth was before all oaths," so they believe that “ truth would be spoken, if oaths were done away.” Thus, that which is called Honour by the world will bind men to the truth, who perhaps know but little of religion. But if so, then he, who makes Christianity his guide, will not be found knowingly in a falsehood, though he be deprived of the opportunity of swearing.

But if it be true, that truth existed before the invention of oaths, and that truth would still be spoken even if all oaths were abolished, then the Quakers say that oaths are

not so necessary as some have imagined, because they have but a secondary effect in the production of the truth. This conclusion they consider, also, as the result of reason. For good men will speak truth without an oath, and bad men will hardly be influenced by one. And where oaths are regarded, it is probable that truth is forced out of men, not so much because they consider them as solemn appeals to God, as that they consider the penalties, which will follow their violation; so that a simple affirmation, under the same pains and penalties, would be equally productive of the truth.

They consider oaths, again, as very injurious to morality. For, first, they conceive it to be great presumption in men to summon God as a witness in their trifling and earthly concerns. They believe, secondly, that if men accustom themselves to call upon God on civil occasions, they render his name so familiar to them, that they are likely to lose the reverence due to it; or so to blend religious with secular considerations, that they become in danger of losing sight of the dignity, solemnity, and awfulness of devotion. And it is not an unusual


« PreviousContinue »