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I might enforce these reasons for the love of our country, by considerations adapted to my readers as they are Englishmen, and as by that means they enjoy a purer religion, and a more excellent form of government, than any other nation under heaven. But, being persuaded that every one must look upon himself as indispensably obliged to the practice of a duty, which is recommended to him by so many arguments and examples, I shall only desire the honest, well-meaning reader, when he turns his thoughts towards the public, rather to consider what opportunities he has of doing good to his native country, than to throw away his time in deciding the rights of princes, or the like speculations, which are so far beyond his reach. Let us leave these great points to the wisdom of our legislature, and to the determination of those who are the proper judges of our constitution. We shall otherwise be liable to the just reproach, which is cast upon such Christians as waste their lives in the subtle and intricate disputes of religion, when they should be practising the doctrine which it teaches. If there be any right upon earth, any relying on the judgment of our most eminent law. yers and divines, or, indeed, any certainty in human reason, our present sovereign has an undoubted title to our duty and obedience. But supposing, for argument's sake, that this right were doubtful, and that an Englishman could be divided in his opinion, as to the person to whom he should pay his allegiance; in this case, there is no question, but the love of his country ought to cast the balance, and to determine him on that side which is most conducive to the wel. fare of his community. To bring this to our present case. A man must be destitute of common sense, who is capable of imagining that the Protestant religion could flourish under the government of a bigoted Roman Catholic, or that our civil rights could be protected by one who has been trained up in the politics of the most arbitrary prince in Europe, and who could not acknowledge his gratitude to his benefactor, by any remarkable instance, which would not be detrimental to the British nation. And are these such desirable blessings, that an honest man would endeavour to arrive at them through the confusions of a civil war, and the blood of many thousands of his fellow-subjects ? On the contrary, the arguments for our steady, loyal, and affectionate adherence to King George, are so evident from this single topic, that if
every Briton, instead of aspiring after private wealth or power, would sincerely desire to make his country happy, his present Majesty would not have a single malecontent in his whole dominions.
No. 6. MONDAY, JANUARY 9.
Fraus enim astringit, non dissolvit perjurium. CICERO. At a time when so many of the king's subjects present themselves before their respective magistrates to take the oaths required by law, it may not be improper to awaken in the minds of my readers a due sense of the engagement under which they lay themselves. It is a melancholy consideration, that there should be several among us so hardened and deluded, as to think an oath a proper subject for a jest; and to make this, which is one of the most solemn acts of religion, an occasion of mirth. Yet such is the depravation of our manners at present, that nothing is more frequent than to hear profligate men ridiculing, to the best of their abilities, these sacred pledges of their duty and allegiance; and endeavouring to be witty upon themselves, for daring to prevaricate with God and man. A poor conceit of their own, or a quotation out of Hudibras, shall make them treat with levity an obligation wherein their safety and welfare are concerned both as to this world and the next. Raillery of this nature is enough to make the hearer tremble. As these miscreants seem to glory in the profession of their impiety, there is no man, who has any regard to his duty, or even to his reputation, that can appear in their defence. But if there are others of a more serious turn, who join with us deliber
ately in these religious professions of loyalty to our sove4 reign, with any private salvos or evasions, they would do
well to consider those maxims, in which all casuists are agreed, who have gained any esteem for their learning, judgment, or morality. These have unanimously determined that an oath is always to be taken in the sense of that authority which imposes it; and that those whose hearts do not concur with their lips in the form of these public protestations; or who have any mental reserves, or who take an oath
against their consciences, upon any motive whatsoever; or with a design to break it, or repent of it, are guilty of perjury. Any of these or the like circumstances, instead of alleviating the crime, make it more beinous, as they are premeditated frauds, (which it is the chief design of an oath to prevent,) and the most fagrant instances of insincerity to men, and irreverence to their Maker. For this reason, the perjury of a man, who takes an oath with an intention to keep-it, and is afterwards seduced to the violation of it, (though a crime not to be thought of without the greatest horror,) is yet, in some respects, not quite so black as the perjury above-mentioned. It is, indeed, a very unhappy token of the great corruption of our manners, that there should be any so inconsiderate among us, as to sacrifice the standing and essential duties of morality, to the views of politics, and that, as in my
it was not unseasonable to prove the love of our country to be a virtue, so in this there should be any occasion to show that perjury is a sin. But it is our misfortune to live in an age when such wild and unnatural doctrines have prevailed among some of our fellow-subjects, that if one looks into their schemes of government, they seem, according as they are in the humour, to believe that a sovereign is not to be restrained by his coronation oath, or his people by their oaths of allegiance ; or, to represent them in a plainer light, in some reigns they are for a power and an obedience that is unlimited, and in others, are for retrenching within the narrowest bounds, both the authority of the prince, and the allegiance of the subject.
Now the guilt of perjury is so self-evident, that it was always reckoned among the greatest crimes, by those who were only governed by the light of reason: the inviolable observing of an oath, like the other practical duties of Christianity, is a part of natural religion. As reason is common to all mankind, the dictates of it are the same through the whole species; and since every
man's own heart will tell him, that there can be no greater affront to the Deity whom he worships, than to appeal to him with an intention to deceive; nor a greater injustice to men, than to betray them by false assurances; it is no wonder that pagans and Christians, infidels and believers, should concur in a point wherein the honour of the Supreme Being, and the welfare of society, are so highly concerned. For this reason, Pythagoras, to his
first precept of honouring the immortal gods, immediately subjoins that of paying veneration to an oath. We may see the reverence which the heathens showed to these sacred and solemn engagements, from the inconveniences which they often suffered rather than break through them. We have frequent instances of this kind in the Roman commonwealth ; which, as it has been observed by several eminent pagan writers, very much excelled all other pagan governments in the practice of virtue. How far they exceeded, in this particular, those great corrupters of Christianity, and, indeed, of natural religion, the Jesuits, may appear from their abhorrence of everything that looked like
a fraudulent or mental evasion. Of this
I shall only produce the following instance. Several Romans, who had been taken prisoners by Hannibal, were released, upon obliging themselves by an oath to return again to his camp. Among these there was one, who, thinking to elude the oath, went the same day back to the camp on pretence of having forgot something. But this prevarication was so shocking to the Roman senate, that they ordered him to be apprehended, and delivered up to Hannibal.
We may further see the just sense the heathens had of the crime of perjury, from the penalties which they inflicted on the persons guilty of it. Perjury among the Scythians was a capital crime; and among the Egyptians also was punished with death, as Diodorus Siculus relates, who observes, that an offender of this kind is guilty of those two crimes, (wherein the malignity of perjury truly consists,) a failing in his respect to the Divinity, and in his faith towards
'Tis unnecessary to multiply instances of this nature, which may be found in almost every author who has written on this subject.
If men, who had no other guide but their reason, considered an oath to be of such a tremendous nature, and the violation of it be so great a crime; it ought to make a much deeper impression upon minds enlightened by revealed religion, as they have more exalted notions of the Divinity. A supposed heathen deity might be so poor in his attributes, so stinted in his knowledge, goodness, or power, that a pagan might hope to conceal his perjury from his notice, or not to provoke him, should he be discovered; or should he provoke him, not to be punished by him. Nay, he might have pro
duced examples of falsehood and perjury in the gods themselves, to whom he appealed. But as revealed religion has given us a more clear idea of the Divine nature, he, whom we appeal to, is Truth itself, the great Searcher of hearts, who will not let fraud and falsehood go unpunished, or “hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” And as with regard to the Deity, so likewise with regard to man, the obligation of an oath is stronger upon Christians than upon any other part of mankind; and that because charity, truth, mutual confidence, and all other social duties, are carried to greater heights, and enforced with stronger motives, by the principles of our religion.
Perjury, with relation to the oaths which are at present required by us, has in it all the aggravating circumstances which can attend that crime. We take them before the magistrates of public justice; are reminded by the ceremony, that it is a part of that obedience which we learn from the gospel; expressly disavow all evasions and mental reservations whatsoever; appeal to Almighty God for the integrity of our hearts, and only desire him to be our helper, as we fulfil the oath we there take in his presence. I mention these circumstances, to which several other might be added, because it is a received doctrine among those, who have treated of the nature of an oath, that the greater the solemnities are which attend it, the more they aggravate the violation of it. And here what must be the success that a man can hope for who turns a rebel, after having disclaimed the Divine assistance, but upon condition of being a faithful and loyal subject ? He first of all desires that God may help him, as he shall keep his oath, and afterwards hopes to prosper
in an enterprise, which is the direct breach of it. Since, therefore, perjury, by the common sense of mankind, the reason of the thing, and from the whole tenor of Christianity, is a crime of so flagitious a nature, we cannot be too careful in avoiding every approach towards it.
The virtue of the ancient Athenians is very remarkable in the case of Euripides. This great tragic poet, though famous for the morality of his plays, had introduced a person, who, being reminded of an oath he had taken, replied, "I swore with my mouth, but not with my heart.” The impiety of this sentiment set the audience in an uproar; made Socrates (though an intimate friend of the poet) go out of