Chapter 23 - Lawful Oaths and Vows

1. A lawful oath is an element of religious worship in which a person swearing in truth, righteousness, and judgment solemnly calls God to witness what is sworn1 and to judge the one swearing according to the truth or falsity of it.2

1Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 10:20; Jeremiah 4:2. 22 Chronicles 6:22, 23.

 

2. People should swear by the name of God alone and only with the utmost holy fear and reverence. Therefore to swear an empty or ill-advised oath by that glorious and awe-inspiring name, or to swear at all by anything else, is sinful and to be abhorred.3  Yet in weighty and significant matters, an oath is authorized by the Word of God to confirm truth and end all conflict.4  So a lawful oath should be taken when it is required by legitimate authority in such circumstances.5

3Matthew 5:34, 37; James 5:12. 4Hebrews 6:16; 2 Corinthians 1:23. 5Nehemiah 13:25.

 

3. Whoever takes an oath authorized by the Word of God should consider with due gravity the seriousness of such a weighty act and to affirm nothing in it except what one knows to be true. For the Lord is provoked by ill-advised, false, and empty oaths, and because of them this land mourns.6

6Leviticus 19:12; Jeremiah 23:10.

 

4. An oath is to be expressed in the plain and ordinary meaning of the words, without any ambiguity or mental reservation.7

7Psalms 24:4.

 

5. A vow must not be made to any creature but to God alone. Vows should be made and performed with the most conscientious care and faithfulness.8  However, Roman Catholic monastical vows of perpetual single life,9 professed poverty,10 and obedience to monastic rules, are by no means steps to higher perfection. Instead, they are superstitious and sinful snares in which Christians may not entangle themselves.11

8Psalms 76:11; Genesis 28:20–22. 91 Corinthians 7:2, 9. 10Ephesians 4:28. 11Matthew 19:11.

 

The 1689 Baptist Confession in Modern English

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