Fathers of the Church

Letter LXXXV: that the Oath Ought Not to Be Taken

Description

Basil states that an oath about taxes should not be imposed on the husbandsmen.

Provenance

St. Basil's correspondence is a copious and invaluable store of information for the history of the Eastern Church in the fourth century, particularly in Cappadocia. Since he never found a real biographer, his letters represent the best source for his life and times, for his many activities and far-reaching influence, especially for his personality and his character. (Quasten)

by Basil the Great in 357-370 | translated by Blomfield Jackson, M.A

IT is my invariable custom to protest at every synod and to urge privately in conversation, that oaths about the taxes ought not to be imposed on husbandmen by the collectors. It remains for me to hear witness, on the same matters, in writing, before God and men, that it behoves you to cease from inflicting death upon men's souls, and to devise some other means of exaction, while you let men keep their souls unwounded. I write thus to you, not as though you needed any spoken exhortation (for you have your own immediate inducements to fear the Lord), but that all your dependents may learn from you not to provoke the Holy One, nor let a forbidden sin become a matter of indifference, through faulty familiarity. No possible good can be done them by oaths, with a view to their paying what is exacted from them, and they suffer an undeniable wrong to the soul. For when men become practised in perjury, they no longer put any pressure on themselves to pay, but they think that they have discovered in the oath a means of trickery and an opportunity for delay. If, then, the Lord brings a sharp retribution on the perjured, when the debtors are destroyed by punishment there will be none to answer when summoned. If on the other hand the Lord endures with long suffering, then, as I said before, those who have tried the patience of the Lord despise His goodness. Let them not break the law in vain; let them not whet the wrath of God against them. I have said what I ought. The disobedient will see.

Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF II/VIII, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.