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not see the absolute necessity of a Revelation to beings, situated as the inhabitants of this world were, must be voluntarily blind, and must love to be deceived. You, my hearers, are now in the house of God. You know his existence, presence, character, and agency. You are employed in his worship. You have heard the glorious tidings of forgiving, redeeming, and sanctifying love. The Redeemer of mankind, and the expiation which he has made of sin, have been announced to you, from the cradle. This house is to you the gate of heaven. Here the highway commences, which leads to that glorious world. Immortal life here dawns upon you. A voice, from amidst the throne of God, invites you, here, to take of the water of life freely. All these blessings are brought to you by Revelation. But for Revelation, you would have been, this day, worshipping a demon, or an ox; or falling down before the stock of a tree. But for Revelation, you might, this day, have been imbruing your hands in the blood of one of your number, butchered as a miserable victim to Moloch. Blessing, and honour, and glory, and thanksgiving, be unto our God for this unspeakable gift through Jesus Christ, our Lord! Amen.
THE LAW OF GOD.-THE DECALOGUE.THE THIRD COMMAND
MENT.-THE NATURE OF PROFANENESS.
EXODUS 11. 7.-Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain ; for the
Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain.
In the two preceding discourses, I have considered, at some length, the nature of the sins, forbidden in the first and second Commands of the Decalogue. I did not think it necessary, after the ample discussion of the duties of piety, so lately delivered from this place, to dwell, anew, upon the same duties, as required by the former of these Commands; nor, on account of the state of Christian society in this country, to insist on the prohibition, contained in the latter. Considering the subjects of both, as sufficiently canvassed for the design of these discourses; I shall now proceed to examine the Nature of the precept, given to us in the Text.
The Name of God, as used in the Scriptures, has by divines of all descriptions, been generally regarded as denoting his Name literally; his Titles of every kind; his Perfections; and generally, every thing, by which his Character, and his Pleasure, are made known to mankind.
To take the name of God in vain is to use all, or either, of these, to no valuable purpose; or to evil purposes; or with falsehood; or with irreverence.
Of him, who does this, God declares, that he will not hold him guiltless : that is, that he will hold him guilty; especially, in the great day of trial and decision.
In discoursing on this subject, I shall examine,
The Nature of this Sin may be advantageously unfolded by considering it as it respects the Name, and the Works of God.
By the Name of God, I intend the several names, and titles, by which he has been pleased to distinguish himself, and to manifest his character to mankind. In his Works I shall include every thing, which he has wrought, instituted, and declared, as an especial manifestation of his presence, perfections, and agency.
The Name of God is profaned, that is, treated with the irrederence, which is the object of the prohibition in the text,
1st. In Perjury, or False Swearing.
Ye shall not swear by my name falsely; neither shalt thou pro fane the name of thy God; I am Jehovah. Lev. xx. 12. To swear falsely is to invoke God to witness a lie. It is scarcely possible to conceive of a grosser insult to the Creator of the Universe than this. He, as all men perfectly well know, infinitely loves truth, and infinitely detests falsehood; and has said, that there shall in no wise enter into the heavenly city any one, who loveth, or maketh a lie. To call him, then, in this solemn manner, to witness a falsehood, is to laugh at his love of truth, his disposition and power to support it, and that glorious purity of his character, before which the heavens are unclean, and the Angels charged with folly.
2dly. When the Name of God is used in any light, irreverent manner; the same sin is committed.
The most prominent, and most usual, modes of transgressing, in this manner, are profane cursing and swearing. In cases of this nature, the Name of God is frequently employed to accompany, and enhance, diversion; frequently as the means of giving vent, with peculiar force, to the violence of anger; often, also, is it used to aggravate denunciations of revenge ; and very often dishonoured by unhallowed lips in imprecations of evil on our fellow-men. In every one of these methods, the Name of God is profaned, times without number, every day.
This glorious and awful Being, as I have already observed, has all possible claims to the highest reverence. Every thing teaches us this doctrine : the Creation and the Providence of God; Reason and Revelation. It is enforced by every page of divine truth; and by every dictate of the human conscience. In a word, on all things within and without us, that glorious and fearful Name, Jehovah, our God, is written in sunbeams. In the same clear and luminous manner is every where displayed the indispensable duty of reverencing him with that fear of the Lord, which is Wisdom, and that departure from evil, which is understanding. Nor can his claims to the performance of this duty be ever relinquished.
Indeed, mankind appear, almost universally, to possess a clear conviction of the truth of this doctrine, and of the indispensable nature of this duty: In all ordinary circumstances, the worst of men acknowledge both, without hesitation ; even those, who most frequently, and most heinously, commit the sin, which the doctrine prohibits. Of this sin God seems to have established in the consciences of mankind a stronger and more uniform disapprobation, than of most others. In few cases of transgression, is there so little disagreement as in this. Almost all other sins, men labour to justify. I know not, that I have ever heard any man attempt soberly to justify profaneness of this nature. He, whose tongue is still vibrating with cursing and swearing, will usually acknowledge that his conduct is inexcusable. Arguments to prove the reality of this sin, are therefore unnecessary.
3dly. We are guilty of this sin, also, when we invoke the Name of God lightly and irreverently in prayer, or without that seriousness, humility, and religious awe, which are indispensable to the acceptable performance of this duty.
At all times, in all circumstances, are we required to render to Jehovah our supreme reverence, and unfeigned devotion, whenever he becomes the object of our contemplation, or our conduct. His character is always, and immutably, the same, infinitely great, awful, holy, and excellent. Our relation to him, also, is invariably the same: that of rational and dependent creatures. But especially is this reverence, and devotion, to exist in prayer. In the performance of this duty, so solemn in its nature, and bringing us so near the throne of majesty and mercy, the character of God, our own inferiority, dependence, obligations, sin, guilt, danger, and infinite necessity of the divine favour and blessing, are brought up in full view, and forced home upon the heart. Here, therefore, all inducements to reverential thoughts of God, and all advantages for entertaining them, are presented to the mind. To exhibit irrer, erence, in this case, therefore, is to break over these inducements, and sottishly to neglect these advantages. God, here, is not treated irreverently in the hour of inconsideration, of strong temptation and surprising sin; but in the season of seriousness, and professed devotion. We worship God acceptably, when we worship him with reverence and godly fear. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence by all them that are about him. The same spirit is, in the same manner, demanded in our private and secret devotions. When, therefore, the mind regards its Maker, in this act of devotion, with lightness and irreverence; it is not only clear, that it is guilty of the sin, forbidden in the text, and of great sin; but it is fearfully probable, when this is habitually its conduct, that it is at all times the subject of a general spirit of profanation.
Athly. A still more heinous transgression of the same nature, is Using the Name of God Irreverently in the solemn act of Dedicating the Soul to him in the Covenant of Grace.
In this, the most solemn transaction in which man is ever concerned on this side of the grave, all things, even some which are not applicable to the taking of an oath, or the duty of prayer, conspire, in the highest degree, to make it affecting to the mind. The day, the place, the occasion, the transaction, are invested with peculiar solemnity by their very nature. A pre-eminent solemnity, also, is thrown upon this transaction by the Character of the person, immediately concerned; a Sinner, professedly restored to the divine favour : the subject of dedication; an immortal mind: the Being to whom the dedication is made; a pardoning God: the means by which the worshipper has been permitted thus to dedicate himself; the righteousness of the Redeemer: the ends, for which hè thus offers himself up; the glory of God, and his own
eternal salvation. All these things, united, plainly render this the most interesting transaction, in which the soul is ever engaged in the present world. To act lightly and irreverently, then, in a concern so solemn, so eminently affecting, is to be profane, against all inducements to our duty: against some, not existing in any other religious service. In this conduct, all these most sacred things; God, Christ, the work of Redemption, forgiving love, the Sabbath, the Sanctuary, the restoration and salvation of the soul, are, if it be done deliberately, and with understanding, treated with the grossest contempt, and the most impious mockery. In deliberate conduct of this nature, the mind proves itself to be depraved altogether beyond the common measure; and the conscience is evidently not far from being seared, as with an hot iron.
Generally, he who regards God with levity and irreverence, in any religious service whatever, when this irreverence is directed immediately towards his character, is guilty of profaneness in the mode specified under the second head. In other words, he is guilty of profaneness of the same nature, and existing substantially under the same form, with that which is found in profane cursing and swearing. The irreverence, which constitutes the peculiar guilt of this latter sin, exists also in the former; and in both is immediately directed against God himself. Both, therefore, are justly considered as cases of the same nature.
As this sin respects the Works of God; or, in other words, whatever he has done, declared, or instituted ; the profaneness, whenever it exists, is exactly the same in its nature, but different in the mode of its existence, from that, exhibited under the former general head. In all instances, included under that head, it is directed against God immediately; but mediately in those now referred to: the irreverence being pointed immediately against the works themselves, and through them against their Author.
God is often treated with irreverence: • Ist. In the works of Creation and Providence.
The works of creation and providence are merely manifestations of their Author. In all of them, his character is more or less visible; his wisdom, power, and goodness; his self-existence, and independence; his omnipresence, and omnipotence; his omniscience, and immutability. These perfections are so clearly, and so extensively, manifested in his works, that, without more than comn.on stupidity, we cannot be ignorant of them. Of consequence, we clearly perceive them to be the works of God: and whenever we complain of them, or murmur at them, or despise them, or ridicule them; the complaints, the murmurs, the contempt, and the ridicule, are intended, ultimately, not against the works themselves, but against their Author. No man ever thought of treating in this manner inanimate objects, or mere events. He, who made these objects, and controls these events, is the only being, against whom the irreverence is intentionally directed.