SWEARING . . . Final Words

Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.” (Reference: James 5:12 )

A conversation between Jacob the Chandler and Friar Cornelius. The friar was becoming increasingly peevish with Jacob.

Fr. Corn. O you cursed Anabaptist that you are; I could swear by the saints, that St. Paul writes as I say [1 Cor. 4: “I will that every one so account of us, as of Christ’s priests over the sacraments of God”]: what do you say of this, accursed hellish, devilish heretic?
Jac. The Lord God forgive you this judging and cursing, and do not account it to your own condemnation. Christ also says (Matt. 5), do not swear an oath; but let your communication be, Yea, yea, Nay, nay.
Fr. Corn. Bah, this means that one is not to swear a false oath; but what I would swear is true. But you Anabaptists also have the fancy, that you are not to swear any manner of oaths. Bah, what a lousy fancy this is! I should like to hear why one may not swear a good oath.
Jac. Because Christ, in Matt. 5, says: “Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself . . ., but I say unto you, Swear not at all . . . But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” In like manner, also James says, in the fifth chapter (v. 12): “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay: lest you fall into condemnation.”

The original conversation between the two, before it got sidetracked by the discussion of oaths, was the responsibility and position of priests. Or at least that is what I assume. What I find interesting is that Friar Cornelius quotes the verse (which is 1 Corinthians 4 verse 1) giving more emphasis and importance than Paul gives it. Interesting because Friar Cornelius is shading the truth as well as (according to historic Anabaptists) swearing an oath based on something that is highly esteemed – not quite the level of God but nonetheless impressive.

We have these past days learned and heard much about oaths, swearing, promises and the like. I wish I could sit down with you beloved and talk about these things face to face. May you beloved keep your promises, exchanging simple agreements with those around you. And may you honor the covenant that the God-self has made with you. Selah!