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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

And the swearers and promisers shall deal deceitfully


5.

All divines and casuists do grant, that an oath must be taken in his sense and meaning who tenders it, and in whose favours it is conceived: because oaths and bonds are for security, and therefore whosoever would deal honestly and christianly in taking an oath, must take it in the sense that it is understood by such as impose it; otherwise the holy name of God should be taken in vain, and the swearers and promisers shall deal deceitfully, in frustrating the end of the oath or bond, and the design of the tenderers thereof. And therefore, as reason and religion requires, that all oaths or bonds be so conceived and enunciated, that all concerned may understand them, and if there be any doubt how far they bind, the imposers should explain the same, as Abraham did to his servant: So conscience requires, that they be always taken in the imposer's sense, and as they discover their sense and sentiments of them, and not according to the meaning that we may think the words capable of; nor yet according to the wheedling explications, that they may give or allow, which are as deceitful and ensnaring as the things themselves. Nor is it to be looked upon as a favour to get a liberty to put a sense upon them, contrary to their known meaning; for that is but a liberty to mock God, to mock others, and ourselves too, and nothing but a snare to the conscience. And to put a gloss upon printed oaths or bonds, which in strict construction they will not bear, and then to subscribe them in the terms
as offered, is not only an intangling ourselves into the bond of sinful oaths and bands, but to stumble the godly, and harden the wicked in the present, and to mock posterity in future ages; who shall see the oaths in the terms subscribed, but not the sense they were taken in. See Apolog. Relat. Sect. 14. It is known by manifold experiences that it is dangerous to hearken to their overtures who study to ensnare us, but far more hurtful and hateful to propound overtures to them. For they interpret it a ceding and giving ground, and when they see a man beginning to yield, then they will seem to be very condescending, even to accept of little at first, that they may draw him on to more: like cunning anglers sometimes recoiling and drawing back the well baited and busked hook, to invite the poor unwary fish to pursue, and sometimes letting it run away with the hook when it bites kindly: So when they find a man offering and ready to accept of accommodations, they will be very yielding and easy, but with a design to hook him. But conscience can find no safety at present, nor satisfaction afterwards in accommodations with them. For it is plain to all that are not blinded with ignorance, or partiality, or a judicial stroke, that our imposers are such sons of Belial as cannot be taken with hands, or by the hand; and if we reflect upon the matters upon which these accommodations are to be offered or accepted, they are not things upon which we may come and go, upon our discretion, as we do with our own particulars, or with problems to be disputed, or ambiguous propositions capable of different senses; but matters so and so circumstantiate, as do require the positive determinate judgment of the conscience, concerns of truth and falsehood, duty and sin, which cannot admit of accommodation, or dispensation, or reservation, or any other sense than the imposers and they that state their inquisition about such things do own, and are observedly known to have and maintain about them. Otherwise, all other forged accommodations are but tampering tricks, juggling with jugglers, deceiving the deceivers, in such a way as does not well consist with the simplicity of the gospel, or the doves innocency; for what is that but a swearing or promising deceitfully! Psal. xxiv. 4. "a conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood," Isa. lix. 13. "a false oath," Zech. viii. 17. "which are hateful to God who will be a swift witness against false swearers," Mal. iii. 5. Neither will they be so easily deceived, for they will readily yield to accommodations, or any tolerable sense that we can put upon their snares; for they reckon that a yielding in part, and are glad to find us so far justifying their acts and impositions, as by our offer practically to declare they bear a good sense, and they will come many ways to our hand to get us hooked so.


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