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Letter LXXXV. 2291

That the oath ought not to be taken2292

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 bear 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.



Placed in the year 372.


The distress of the Cappadocians under the load of taxes is described in Letter lxxiv.  An objectionable custom arose, or was extended, of putting the country people on oath as to their inability to pay.

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