Better not to vow than to vow and not pay

Ecclesiastes 5:5


How few men have any adequate idea of the extent of the sin of breaking vows! We should be astounded if we knew all that can be said respecting this iniquity. The immorality of nominal Christians in this particular is simply prodigious; so much so that a signature is of no value, a promise is but idle breath, a vow is but a word spoken in heat and allowed to cool into a lie. The Bible insists upon every vow being performed, even though, in some instances, the purpose of it may be to the hurt of the man who is bound by its terms. “That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt vow and perform.” “I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble.” “Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.” If all the vows which we have spoken could be now fulfilled, how great would be the result! Life should be rich with vows: they throw a glad solemnity over us; they come before us as hindrances when we would go in forbidden directions; they are voices that whisper in the wind; they are appeals to our best strength. It is after all but a mean thing to say that we will refrain from making vows; such a condition is not the joy of liberty, it is not the dignity of discipline; it is looseness, license, wildness, selfishness. Throw the discipline of a vow upon passion: build altars all along the line of life’s journey, and let those who come after us see how we have prayed, and how we have turned our vows into holy deeds. “If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” This was Old Testament morality in the matter of words. Is there any righteousness superior to that in all the writings of subsequent revelation? Words are not mere sounds or terms or symbols; they are pledges, vows, oaths, unwritten obligations, and no man is to be trusted who can make light of his own word, or speak so lightly as really not to convey the meaning of his heart. “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee. But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee. That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt keep and perform; even a free will offering, according as thou hast vowed unto the Lord thy God, which thou hast promised with thy mouth.” There is one vow which every soul is called upon to make, and that is to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. If we do not vow in one direction it may be because we are anxious to vow in another—that is to say, if we do not vow in prayer it may be that we may take larger license to sin. A very careful distinction should be made here by the spiritual student. Not to vow may be not to incur responsibility; at the same time, abstinence from vowing in an upward and heavenly direction may be a kind of negative vow to enjoy larger moral freedom from religious restraint. Let a man examine himself and be honest in his decisions upon this great subject. Coheleth says, in this fourth verse, God “hath no pleasure in fools,” nor ought we to have. Fools are the burdens of society; fools have no right in the sanctuary. It does not follow that a man who is merely ignorant is a fool; this is a folly of the heart; it is moral lunacy; many a man who is almost a genius in mere intellect is the veriest fool in conscience, in sensibility, and in honour of soul. A vow is a bond upon the soul , by which we solemnly oblige ourselves, not only, in general, to do that which we are already bound to do, but, in some particular instances, to do that to do which we were not under any antecedent obligation, whether it respects honouring God or serving the interests of his kingdom among men. When, under the sense of some affliction.

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