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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

Which is either unlawful or hurtful


collusion tend, but either that by our example others may be induced to take it, whereby they are stumbled; or, that afterwards, by virtue of that oath, something may be required of us, which is either unlawful or hurtful, and this is to lay a snare for ourselves! Therefore let every prudent man beware of suffering himself to be deceived by these wiles, and of thinking so much either of the favour of the ill will of any other, as to swallow the bait under which he is sure there is a hook: it is expedient, that, in the matter of oaths, all things be done aright, and that the sense be clear to all, and that is, to swear with a clear conscience,' apol. relat. pag. 267. But next, they cannot be taken in judgment; because they are all imposed and extorted under a severe penalty, and some of them of death, and so must be taken out of fear. Such oaths are by many famous divines judged unlawful, especially public oaths imposed by authority, and under colour of law; these are worse than a man's private oath given to a robber, for fear of death, if the matter be unlawful: for, without the matter be lawful or unlawful, such oaths coacted, exacted, and imposed by law, cannot be taken in judgment; for if they be taken out of respect to the law; then it is the person's suffrage to the equity of that law, and an approbation of the imposition; which, in the present case, cannot be done, by any man of conscience; for, whether the oaths be lawful or not, the authority imposing them is nought, and the law wicked, and can never be approven; and if they be extorted out of fear, then they cannot be taken with deliberation, or voluntary and unviolented choice, unconstrained light or liberty, which are all the ingredients of judgment. 3. They cannot be taken in righteousness, that is, according to the law of equity as well as piety, neither wronging God nor others by our oaths. Lawful oaths should be in themselves ties of equity, as well as truth. And Paraeus faith, in the place before cited, lawful oaths are only these which are engaged into about things true, certainly known, lawful, possible, weighty, necessary, useful and worthy. And if that be true, then are all the oaths and bonds taken these many years but fetterings into bonds of iniquity; which, when the consciences of the takers will reflect on them, will become galls of bitterness, and found to have none of these qualifications; but on the contrary, to be about matters false, uncertain, unlawful, impossible, frivolous, fruitless, useless, and unworthy, to the worst degree of baseness; and, which is worst of all, dreadfully sinful, and horrid to be thought on to interpose the name of God upon, making him the approver of what his soul hates, and a witness of that which he will be an avenger of, as will appear by the particular consideration of all of them.

2. Let it be considered, that though (as the pleaders for these transactions do impertinently) alledge the same words in other cases might be subscribed in a more abstract sense, as being capable of a good construction; yet complexly considered in the form and frame of all the oaths and bonds we have been troubled with, they cannot be subscribed in any sense; and if in any, that must be the imposer's sense, which in them all is always pernicious. 1. They cannot be taken in any sense though never so good, if we consider the absolute illegality of their arbitrary imposition. It will be confessed that oaths should be very tenderly imposed upon consciences, not only lest the name of God be prostitute to profanation, in matters light and trivial, or dubious and uncertain; but lest a tyrannical jurisdiction be exercised over the souls of men, which are not subject to any power that mortals can claim: so it cannot be denied, but that the constitution of our government requires, and reason as well as religion says it is necessary, that no ruler hath right to


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