Your vows are on me, O God: I will render praises to you.…
A vow may be defined as a promise made more solemn by a special appeal to God. It is as respects purpose, what an oath is as regards fact. And the appeal may be of different kinds. It may be expressed in the form of a prayer to God to punish or be propitious ha the maker of the promise, according as he breaks or keeps his word. It may be again in the form of a prayer for some present blessing, for which some specified return of gratitude is promised. Or lastly, it may be merely an appeal implied in the solemnity of the occasion, or of the expression of the promise, by which it is understood that the maker of it sets himself consciously in the Divine presence, and calls upon God to witness that promise. We have instances of all these three kinds in the Old Testament. The expression "So do God to me and more also," so often accompanying an intimation of purpose, constitutes a vow of the first kind. Jacob's vow in Bethel is an example of the second kind. And of the third, we have a noble instance at the end of the Book of Joshua, where at a solemn concourse of the tribes at Shechem, the people expressly took Jehovah for their God, and devoted themselves to Him. It is manifest, however, that this is a matter in which Old Testament practice is no rule for Christians. God's people of old were kept shut up under a system of special ordinances, whose obligation has now ceased, Now, of the three kinds of vows which have been mentioned, the two former must by their very terms be generally excluded from a Christian man's practice. We have left, then, for our consideration our third class, consisting of promises made with more than ordinary solemnity, accompanied by an expressed or implied appeal to God. Of these vows, as a class, we cannot but admit the legitimacy. They are by implication recognized in the New Testament, in those passages where St. Paul reminds Timothy of the good confession which he had made before many witnesses; as also in the very fact of baptism following upon a profession of faith, in which we have the virtual promise necessarily involved, and the solemnity clearly combined with it. But here everything depends upon the nature of the promise made. And it is this part of our inquiry which carries with it for us the things which are lawful. But such are not vows of celibacy, nor of total abstinence from alcoholic drinks, nor the vows of the monastic orders. Our ordination vows are net such, because they bind us not so much to the office as in the office. We are not by them tied down to any rule of life other than the requirements of our duty as Christian ministers primarily necessitate. And thus it seems to me that, while speaking on a particular case, we have in reality met with that description of a lawful Christian vow, of which we were in search. And the description will be this: Such vow must not bind a man to a course of conduct first marked out by its terms, and devised for it, but must constitute an additional obligation to a course of conduct already, for other reasons, incumbent upon him. The vow must be made for the duty, not the duty for the vow. We have, I think, now prepared the way to speak of the great lifelong promise and vow which the Church requires of her members. The points contained in it are every one of them plain Christian duties for every man. They remain the same, be the vow taken or not. They are no artificial narrowing of the limits of blameless and godly life — to which we have no right to bind any man; but describe it in its fullest extension. Beyond their limits, there is no allowable latitude; short of their prescription, no safe walking before God. The whole operation, then, of our vow is on the subject, not on the object of it. The object, a godly life, remaining one and the same for all, we strive to ensure the accomplishment of this object by intensifying the apprehension of it in the minds of the subjects on whom we have to work. "Thy vows are upon me, O God." How blessed a thing, could we be anchored safe by this assurance, while so many are making shipwreck of their faith! "I am not my own, but devoted to Thee and Thy work; all I am and have, to be used not for myself, but for Thee." How would such a persuasion simplify for us the difficulties of life; cut off the occasion of half our falls into worldliness and sin; brighten the light of our examples, and win souls for Christ!
Parallel VersesKJV: Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.