Promise (some form of אָמִר, to say, or דָּבִר, to speak; ἐπαγγελία) is a solemn asseveration, by which one pledges his veracity that he will perform, or cause to be performed, for the benefit of another, the thing which he mentions. A promise, in the scriptural sense of the term, is a declaration or assurance of the divine will, in which God signifies what particular blessings or good things he will freely bestow, as well as the evils which he will remove. Promises differ from the commands of God, inasmuch as the former are significations of the divine will concerning a duty enjoined to be performed, while the promises relate to mercy to be received. The "exceeding great and precious promises" are applicable to all believers; they appertain to the present and the future life (2Pe 1:4). Some particular promises are predictions, as the promise of the Messiah, and the blessings of the Gospel (Ro 13:14; Galatians 3, 14-29). Hence the Hebrews were called the "children of the promise" (Ro 9:8). So all the true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are called "children" and "heirs of the promise" (Ga 4:20; Heb 6:12,17). There are four classes of promises mentioned in the Scriptures, particularly in the New Test.:
1, promises relating to the Messiah; 2, promises relating to the Church; 3, promises of blessings, both temporal and spiritual, to the pious; and, 4, promises encouraging the exercise of the several graces and duties that compose the Christian character.
The first two of these classes, indeed, are many of them predictions as well as promises. SEE PROPHECY. The consideration of the others should prove.
1, an antidote to despair; 2, a motive to patience under affliction; 3, an incentive to perseverance in well-doing; 4, a call for prayer.
PROMISE is a solemn asseveration by which one pledges his veracity that he shall perform, or cause to be performed, the thing which he mentions. The obligation of promises arises from the necessity of the well-being and existence of society. "Virtue requires," as Dr. Doddridge observes, "that promises be fulfilled. The promise, i.e. the person to whom the promise is made, acquires a property in virtue of the promise. The uncertainty of property would evidently be attended with great inconvenience. By failing to fulfil my promise, I either show that I was not sincere in making it, or that I have little constancy or resolution, and either way injure my character, and consequently my usefulness in life. Promises, however, are not binding,
1, if they were made by us before we came to such exercise of reason as to be fit to transact affairs of moment; or if by any distemper or sudden surprise we are deprived of the exercise of our reason at the time when the promise is made;
2, if the promise was made on a false presumption, in which the promiser, after the most diligent inquiry, was imposed upon, especially if he were deceived by the fraud of the promise;
3, if the thing itself be vicious, for virtue cannot require that vice should be committed;
4, if the accomplishment of the promise be so hard and intolerable that there is reason to believe that, had it been foreseen, it would not have been an accepted case;
5, if the promise be not accepted, or if it depend on conditions not performed." But really this question concerning the validity and obligation of a promise given or obtained under false views is a matter that falls within the Casuistry of Ethics — a very uncertain ground. See Grotius, De Jure, lib. ii, cap. xi; Paley, Moral Philosophy, vol. i, ch. v; Grove, Moral Philosophy, vol. ii. ch. 12:p. 2; Watts, Sermons, ser. 20; Dymond, Essays; Verplanck, On Contracts. SEE OBLIGATION; SEE PROBABILISM.