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or outline of what was recorded at great length in their ancient books; and assures us there was no older covenant upon record than that which he has described*. It was the agreement between the people of Rome and Alba, previously to the combat between their champions, the Horatii and Curiatii. The words of the oath, uttered on the part of the Romans with all religious form and ceremony, were these; "Hear, O Jupiter! Hear, thou Holy Priest of the people of Alba! Hear thou, O people of Alba! As those particulars openly, first and last, have been recited, out of those tables, without malicious fraud, and as they are most rightly understood here to-day, the Roman people will not first fall away from those terms of the covenant. If they should first, with public counsel and malicious fraud, fall away from them, do thou, on that day, O Jupiter, so strike the Roman people as I strike f
* Livy, I. 24.
t Many of the ancient Roman coins represent this form of striking a league. They used the word "to strike," "to cut an agreement," &c, both in Greek and Latin, from this practice. I have been favoured with some specimens from the British Museum, of which the accompanying wood-cuts are faithful copies.
this swine: and Sq much the more do thou strike, as thou hast greater might and power!"
An ancient form in the Roman state, was for the juror to hold a stone in his hand, and to imprecate a curse upon himself, should he swear falsely, in these words: "If I knowingly deceive, whilst he saves this city and citadel, may Jupiter cast me away from all that is good, as I do this stone." Polybius, than whom no author, ancient or modern, can be relied upon with greater safety, gives a full account of this oath, and calls it the oath "Per Jovem Lapidem*." This name, some say, was given to this peculiar oath, in consequence of a marble statue of Jupiter, which was in the Capitol. There was also, we learn, an altar on the left of the steps to the senate-house, on which solemn oaths were taken. It is with reference to this oath, that we find St. Augustin's memorable words, "The stone does not hear you swear, but God will punish you if you break your oath-f\" "That indeed by which you swear [the stone] is no God, nevertheless the only God will take cognizance of your oath."
I have dwelt, longer than my inclination would have led me to do, on the various forms by which either the name of the great God was directly polluted, or by which creatures were impiously made to share the honour due only to his holy name:
* Polyb. iii. 25. Aj« Xidov xitrn ri nu.\a.M £^»f.
t Augustin, de Civitate Dei.
but I thought it necessary to do so for the elucidation of our subject, and for the safer application to our own practice of the principle of Clemens Alexandrinus, "From much swearing, comes false-swearing*;" or rather, I have been led to believe, that such an examination would enlighten our minds and enable us to form our judgment more safely as to the true spirit of our blessed Lord's mandate: "Swear not at all." And we must therefore dwell still somewhat longer on the practice of swearing in Rome.
Another form to which we have already been obliged to refer, was: "By the health and by the genius of the emperors.'' There is something very curious at first sight, but on investigation, very intelligible, in the distinction made by the early Christians, as to this form of oath. They were willing to swear, " By the safety of the emperor-)-," because, as they said, his safety could come from God only; by whom, therefore, they then swore. But nothing could induce them to swear by his . Genius or Fortune; because, they saw in that oath, an acknowledgment of another god. For the Romans deified both Genius and Fortune. This practice of swearing by the safety, and by the Genius of Caesar, though a rash and common oath, was instituted by solemn vote of the senate, after the murder of Julius Caesar J.
* Clem. Alex, 'e* rtXvipxixs ^ivic^'ut.
t Tertullian in Apologet. % Dio. lib. xliv.
What was the precise view taken by those who prescribed this oath, admits of doubt. Whether their abject flattery led them to profess that the safety of the emperor was dearer to them than their own; or whether they meant to attribute to him somewhat of the divine nature, is by no means evident. Perhaps some took the one view and some the other; whilst the majority probably had a confused notion merely of honouring him above the rest of mankind. Puffendorf adopts the first view, but in the same passage gives a sufficient warrant for the second. "For they did this [they swore by the safety of the emperor, and esteemed such an oath more strict and sacred than those in which the name of God is immediately invoked,] not as thinking there was any Divinity in their princes whilst alive, nor as imprecating their displeasure if any one spoke false; but because many of them, either in good earnest, or at least in flattery, intended hereby to show that they preferred their prince's safety to their own; and therefore looked upon it as a more horrible perjury to devolve the wrath of God upon him than upon themselves. So that the sense of those protestations was properly this:— So may my prince be happy and safe, as I perform what I now promise, that is, unless I fulfil my engagements I desire the Divine judgments to light on my princess head!" At the same time Puffendorf makes the following quotation from Vegetius, who is reciting the Christian Soldier's oath: "They swear by God, and by Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, and by the Emperor's Majesty, which, next to God, is to be loved and to be worshipped by mankind, for when our prince hath been once invested with the title of Augustus, we are to pay to him, as to a present and a mortal God, faithful devotion and most watchful service V Whilst we find the names of all their gods and goddesses, at various times appealed to, and hear, from eye and ear witnesses, of the practices unhappily prevalent in Christian Italy as relics of ancient times, we ought not to consider that information as the end of our inquiry, but carry on the examination further, with a view of learning our own national errors, and of amending what is wrong among ourselves. We shall find Protestant England very far from guiltless in this point. Tertullian-f, in his work on Idolatry, laments, that even in his day, Christians used heathen oaths unwittingly. We do the same. He mentions the words "Mediusfidius and Mehercule," as instances of the bad habit. In Italy it is of very frequent occurrence to hear an oath sworn by the face of Bacchus, by the body of Bacchus, by Diana, &c. How often do we hear our own countrymen swear, "By Jove," "By my lifef," which is a very classical and a very unchristian oath.