§13. Reader, Be content that the same Chapter which has related the Controversies that have sometimes disturbed the Churches of New-England about Matters, the Lawfulness whereof has been scrupled, should leap over half an Hundred Years to grasp at another of those Controversies, which as late as the Year 1688, was an Occasion of some further Disturbance: The Affinity, rather than the Chronology of the thing inviting us, in this Place to lodge the History of that Controversie.
When the Charter of New-England were taken away, the Gouvernour [Sir Edmund Andros], who with a Treasonable and an arbitrary Commission then Tyrannized over the Colonies, at length drove the New-Englanders to imitate the whole English Nation, in a happy Revolution, on the Eighteenth of April, 1689. And in the Declaration of Grievances, which they published [for] this Revolution, Article VII was this:
To plunge the poor People everywhere into deeper incapacities, there was one very Comprehensive Abuse given to us: Multitudes of pious and sober Men thro' the land scrupled the Mode of swearing on the Book [by touching it], desiring that they might Swear with an uplifted Hand, agreeable to the ancient Custom of the Colony; and tho' we think we can prove, that the Common Law amongst us (as well as in some other places under the English Crown) does not indulge, but even Command and enjoin the Rite of lifting the Hand in Swearing, yet they that bad this doubt were still put by from serving upon any Juries, and many of them were most unaccountably Fined and Imprisoned. This one Grievance is a Trojan Horse, in the Belly of which'tis not easie to recount how many insufferable Vexations have been contained. . . .However [despite the many learned protests lodged against the book-oath] it may be the Christians of New-England are the only ones in the World that ever suffered a Formal Persecution, by Fines and Gaols, for bearing their testimony unto Purity of Worship, in that great Point of Worship, an Oath: And perhaps these Christians bear a part in Finishing the Testimony to be born unto the Laws of our Lord Jesus Christ in the World, by patiently suffering this Persecution, while the Quakers, who refused all Swearing at all, did undergo no such Hardships from the Government.
Now the Reasons that moved these Confessors hereunto are easily understood. They were of this old Puritan Principle; that all Religious Worship, not Commanded by God, is Forbidden; and that all Symbolical Ceremonies enjoined on Men in Religious Worship, are made parts of it. More closely; they judged that our Swearing ON the Gospel, is a Swearing BY the Gospel, and therefore Idolatrous. [. . .] The Religious Forms of Addressing to God, we say, are to be appointed by none but God himself: Whereas the Elevation of the Hand, has even for Sacred as well as for Civil Uses; and in an Oath particularly, had such unexceptionable Approbation, that the Faithful of New-England chose it, and chose rather to suffer Affliction, than to use a Rite in the Worship of God, which they suspected sinful.