The Law of the Vow
Ecclesiastes 5:4, 5
When you vow a vow to God, defer not to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools: pay that which you have vowed.…

There are those who would disapprove of the violation of a promise given to a fellow-man, who think lightly of evading a promise solemnly volunteered to the Creator. It may be said that a fellow-man might suffer from such neglect or dereliction, but that God can suffer no loss or harm if a vow be not fulfilled. Such an extenuation or excuse for violating vows arises from the too common notion that the moral character of an action depends upon the consequences that follow it, and not upon the principles that direct it. A man's conduct may be wrong even if no one is injured by it; for he may violate both his own nature and the moral law itself.

I. THE NATURE OF THE VOW. When some signal favor has been experienced, some forbearance exercised on a man's behalf, he desires to evince his gratitude, to do something which in ordinary circumstances he would probably not have done, and he makes a vow unto God, sacredly' promising to offer some gift, to perform some service. Or even more commonly, the vow is made in hope of some benefit desired, and its fulfillment is conditional upon a petition being favorably answered, a desire being gratified.

II. THE VOLUNTARINESS OF THE VOW. It is presumed that no constraint is exercised, that the promise made to Heaven is the free and spontaneous expression of religious feeling. The language of Peter to Ananias expresses this aspect of the proceeding: "Whiles it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?"

III. THE OBLIGATION OF THE VOW. It is questionable whether vows are in all cases expedient. A vow to act sinfully is certainly not binding. And there are some vows which it is unwise in some circumstances, if not in all circumstances, to make; this is the case especially with vows which seem to make too great a demand upon human nature, which are indeed against nature; e.g. vows of celibacy, and of obedience to fellow-creatures as fallible as are those who bind themselves to obey. But if a vow be made knowingly and voluntarily, and if its fulfillment be not wrong, then the text assures us it is obligatory, and should be paid.

IV. THE FOLLY OF DEFERRING TO PAY THE VOW. There are disagreeable duties, which weak persons admit to be duties, and intend to discharge, but the discharge of which they postpone. Such duties do not become easier or more agreeable because deferred. Generally speaking, when conscience tells us that a certain thing ought to be done, the sooner we do it the better. So with the vow. "Defer not to pay it; for God hath no pleasure in fools."

V. THE SIN OF NEGLECTING AND REPUDIATING THE VOW. The vow is an evidence, it may be presumed, that there existed at the time, in the mind of him who made it, strong feelings and earnest purposes. Now, for one who has passed through such experiences so far to forget or abjure them as to act as if the vow had never been made, is a proof of religious declension and of inconsistency. How common is such "backsliding"! It is said, "Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay." He who vows not contracts no special obligation, whilst he who vows and withholds payment repudiates a solemn obligation which he has undertaken. A warning is thus given to which it is important for those especially to give heed who are liable to religious excitement and enthusiasm. If such characters yield as readily to evil influences as to good, their impressions may be a curse rather than a blessing, or at least may be the occasion of moral deterioration. None can feel and resolve and pray, and then afterwards act in opposition to their purest feelings, their highest resolves, their fervent prayers, without suffering serious harm, without weakening their moral power, without incurring the just displeasure of the righteous Governor and Lord of all. - T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.

WEB: When you vow a vow to God, don't defer to pay it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay that which you vow.

Of Remembering and Keeping Our Vows
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