Extraordinary and Particular Vows Considered as not Necessary Under the Mosaic or Expedient Under the Christian Institution
Deuteronomy 23:22
But if you shall forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in you.

I. THE NATURE OF VOWS UNDER THE JEWISH DISPENSATION: which, as they are particularly voluntary engagements, we ought to observe when made, though we cannot infer a necessity of making them from the Divine law or the nature of things. It would seem but an ill consequence should we thus argue: God has commanded us in general to honour Him with our substance, and therefore we ought to make ourselves liable to His judgments, if in such a particular case, at such a particular time, and to such a particular degree we do it not. This I say would be but an ill consequence, though there may be some fit reasons assigned why such particular vows were used by good and pious men under the circumcision (Genesis 28:20; Judges 11:20, 31; 2 Samuel 15:7, 8). Hence we observe that things consecrated or desecrated, though they are in a vulgar sense styled devoted, are not always reducible under the general nature of a vow, in the proper and scriptural sense of the word, and there seems to be a greater difference than is commonly apprehended between them. Thus much may suffice to determine the notion of vows as they are distinguished from other sacrifices under the Jewish dispensation; but it will still be more clear from some further reflections upon the lawful matter of them. For this we need only in general observe that everything which was not appropriated to God, which was not profaned, or which was not properly under the right or arbitrament of another, was the subject matter of them. From whence it follows that tenths in the first place were, under the Mosaic law, excluded from it, and that these could not be vowed to the Almighty, or be accepted by Him as a freely promised offering, because they were properly His before both by prescription and command. Again, nothing which was profaned or unclean, unless as it was redeemable, could be the matter of a vow. The heathens, for the generality, had more exalted notions than to think their gods would be gratified with such sacrifices as were held in contempt by themselves, and were in their kind of least estimation with them. Lastly, whatsoever was under the right and power of another was excluded from the matter of a vow, and therefore those who were subject to the authority of fathers or husbands were by the law not obliged to the performance of vows made without their consent during their right and power over them.

II. UNDER THE GOSPEL THE CHRISTIAN'S VOWS ARE COMPREHENDED UNDER THE SACRAMENTAL, AND THEREFORE PARTICULAR VOWS ARE NEITHER NECESSARY NOR EXPEDIENT. It may be proper to give a fit instance or two of particular vows in order to settle what are so. We are, in general, by our baptismal covenant, obliged to renounce all the sinful lusts of the flesh, and in consequence of this are obliged to make use of the means prescribed, suppose mortification by fasting. But should we by a solemn promise to God Almighty oblige ourselves to abstain such a number of days or hours, this circumstance nowhere enjoined would make it a particular vow. Again, we are obliged by our general vow to acts of charity and piety; but should we make a voluntary promise to God to bestow at such a future time such a certain sum to such an assigned use in view of such a desired blessing, this would also be a particular vow. And these are the vows which I undertake to prove neither necessary nor expedient. If they had been necessary, we might reasonably suppose that as our Saviour appointed that grand one for the initiation of His followers, He would also have prescribed the other, either by precept or practice, for the perfection of them, that so the use of them might have been derived by authority to the Christian Church, as it was to the Jews from the patriarchs. But we have no instance of this kind, either from our Saviour, His apostles, or followers, in the New Testament. And if we take them, under the general notion, as acts of gratitude, by which the good Christian promises to God the acknowledgment of a blessing by a suitable offering and oblation, though it is lawful and not absurd, as Calvin expresses it, to enter into such engagements, yet what advantage this method of acknowledgment has above others is not easily discerned. Should the pious Christian be made a peculiar favourite of heaven, and blessed with extraordinary advantages, either in prospect or possession, he may by his free gifts and offerings give a more noble and generous instance of his pious resentment, which under the law were always deemed the most acceptable sacrifices, and must recommend to the favour of the Almighty, who loveth a cheerful giver, whereas he, who lays a constraint upon himself, may give afterwards with an unwilling mind, and though he pays the vow, may not answer the end of it. And it is for these reasons, I presume, that the Jewish doctors discouraged and deterred their scholars from such kind of vows. But were they ever so expedient, the ill use which has been made of the doctrine of particular vows by the Church of Rome would be enough to give us a prejudice against them.

(T. Silvester, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But if thou shalt forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in thee.

WEB: But if you shall forbear to vow, it shall be no sin in you.

The Place of Vows
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