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been insulted by blasphemous mimicry. But the cases have been so rare, and have been regarded by those, who knew them, with such abborrence; as scarcely to need any reprobation from me. I shall, therefore, only say, that according to the first feelings of the human mind, feelings, which seem never to have been materially weakened, unless by absolute profligacy, they are universally held in the most reverential estimation; and all disregard, thoughtlessness, and levity, are not only by the Scriptures, but by common sense also, proscribed in our attendance upon them. If we are not wonderfully insensible; we cannot fail of exercising a profound reverence, when in this peculiarly solemn and affecting manner we draw so near to a forgiving God.
Private and secret Worship is much more frequently the object of levity, and contempt. Family prayer, peculiarly, has been attacked, on all sides, by loose and light-minded men ; and, I doubt not, has been hunted out of many a family, and prevented from entering many others, by the sneers of scorn, and the jests of derision. Why should not men pray? Why should not families pray? Are we not dependent creatures? Do we not need every thing at the hand of God? Who beside God, can supply our wants ? Has he not required us to pray? If we do not pray, will he bless us? Has he not made asking the indispensable condition of receiving ? The man, who will not pray, is a madman. The family, which will not pray, are lunatics.
God has required us to pray always with all prayer ; and, therefore, to perform regularly the duties of both private and secret devotion. When we ourselves neglect either; or when we oppose the performance of them in our fellow-men; we neglect, or oppose, the command of Jehovah. He, who laughs and sneers at secret and family prayer, points his jests, his contempt, and his mockery, against his Creator. Where can folly, or frenzy, be found, more absolute than this? The wretch, who is guilty of it, is a helpless, sinful, miserable, creature; dependent for existence, for enjoyment, and for hope, on the mere, sovereign mercy of God; is promised all blessings, which he needs, if he will pray for them; and is assured, that, if he will not pray, he not only will be entitled to no blessings whatever, but that those, which he regards as blessings, and which, if he faithfully performed this duty, would prove such, will be converted into curses. This wretch not only refuses to pray himself, but with gross impiety, insults his Maker anew, by preventing his fellow-men from praying also.
I shall only add, that Irreverence, the same in substance with that, which has been here specified, may exist in thought, and in action, as well as in words. In some of the cases, which I have mentioned, it has been indeed supposed to terminate in thought. It may thus terminate in all cases, which do not involve our intercourse with our fellow-men. In this intercourse it may be exhibited in actions; and those of very various kinds. Of these a very few
have been mentioned. It is only necessary to observe, that, whenever our hearts teem with irreverent thoughts towards God, or towards any thing because it is his, it makes little difference, whether we express our impiety by the tongue, or by the hands. The irreverence is the same: the design is the same : the moral action is the same.
It is the rising of pride, enmity, and rebellion, against God; the open, impudent contention of a creature against his Creator ; the struggle, the swelling, the writhing, of a worm against Jehovah.
THE LAW OF GOD.—THE DECALOGUE.-THE THIRD COMMAND
MENT.THE GUILT OF PROFANENESS.
EXODUS XX. 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 preceding discourse, I proposed, after making several introductory remarks, to examine,
1. The Nature ;
The first of these I considered, at length, in that discourse. I shall now proceed to make some observations concerning the second; viz. the Guilt of this sin. The guilt of this sin is evident,
1st. From the tenour of the Command.
Profaneness is one of the eight great crimes, which God thought proper to make the express subjects of prohibition in the Decalogue. In the order, in which he was pleased to speak, and to write, them, it holds the third place. All the importance, which this wonderful Law derived from being uttered by the voice, and being written with the finger, of God; from his manifest appear. ance in this lower world; and from the awful splendour, and amazing majesty, with which he appeared; this precept, equally with the others, challenges to itself. In addition to these things, it is the only precept in the whole number, which annexes an express threatening to the crime, which is prohibited. From all these circumstances it is abundantly evident, that the Guilt of this sin is of no common dye in the sight of Jehovah. All these circumstances were intended to be significant, and are obviously significant, in a manner pre-eminently solemn and affecting. How should we ourselves feel, if the Creator of the Universe were to inform us by the mouth of an acknowledged prophet, that he would appear in this world on an appointed day, to publish his awful pleasure to mankind! With what anxious, trembling expectation should we wait for the destined period! With what solemnity and apprehension should we behold the day dawn! With what silent awe should we see the cloudy chariot descend ; and hear the Archangel proclaim the approach of his Maker! How should we shudder at the sound of the trumpet, and the quaking of the earth! Would not our hearts die within us, when the thunders began to roll; the lightnings to blaze; and the flames of devouring fire to rise up to the heavens? In the midst of these tremendous scenes, with what si
lent, death-like amazement should we listen, to hear the voice of the Almighty! Would it not seem wonderful; would it not appear delirious; for any man to call in question the authority of his commands, or the absolute rectitude of his pleasure ; to refuse the duties, which he enjoined, or to perpetrate the crimes, which he forbade? Who, after hearing from the mouth of God the awful prohibition, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain ; and the fearful threatening, annexed to it, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, who taketh his name in vain; would not quake with terror at the very thought of committing a sin, thus alarmingly forbidden ? Who would demand an argument to convince him, that such a sin was eminently evil in the sight of his Maker?
2dly. This sin is an Immediate Attack on God himself, and is, therefore, peculiarly guilty.
The hostilities of mankind against any Intelligent being may be carried on mediately, or immediately: Mediately, against his property, if he be a human being, or against his other external interests: Immediately, against his character, and person. In the same manner we may attack our Maker by attacking our fellow-creatures ; and violating such commands of his, as regulate our duties to them; appropriately, and usually, styled the duties of Morality. Or we may attack him, immediaiely, by violating those commands which respect his person and character, and enjoin the various duties of piety. All the transgressions, which I have recited, are directed against objects, confessedly belonging to God, and known to be his, in immediate possession: his Names, his Titles, his Works, his Word, and his Institutions. As his only, do they become the objects of irreverence at all. In all these cases, therefore, as here described, we attack God in the most direct manner, which is in our power. A king or å parent, may be insulted by an affront, offered immediately to his officer; his messenger; or any other, acting under his authority. No person will deny the affront, here, to be real; nor, as the case may be, to be very serious. Still it was probably never questioned, that, when this same affront was offered directly to the parent, or the king, himself, it became far more gross; an insult of greater magnitude, and greater guilt. Accordingly, such affronts have been always more seriously resented, and more severely punished.
In all the cases, mentioned in the preceding discourse, God is necessarily, and most solemnly, present to the mind of man. Whatever impiety, therefore, whatever irreverence, whatever profaneness, is exhibited in these cases, is directed immediately against him; against his character; against his person. He, who is the subject of it, stretcheth out his hand against God; and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty. He runneth on him, even on his neck; upon the thick bosses of his buckler. How can the man who is summoned to take a solemn oath, who is employed in the eminently solemn duty of prayer, or in the pre-eminently solemn duty
of dedicating himself to God in the covenant of peace, fail to have a lively and affecting sense of the presence of his Maker? How can he fail to realize, that all the levity, thoughtlessness, insincerity, and irreverence, of which he is guilty, is levelled directly against God? Who else is, who else can be, the object of this conduct? Who else is concerned with it? Whose name is here mocked? Whose institutions are set at nought? If the criminal he weak enough to suspect that he is not, in this case, trifling with his Maker; and wickedly profaning his glorious name; he is probably the only being in the universe, sufficiently bewildered to adopt this unsound and unhappy opinion.
What is true of these acts of worship, is true with little variation of every other.
In that light-minded use of the names and titles of God, which is appropriately called profaneness, the circumstances are, I acknowledge, in some respects materially different. It seems wonderful indeed, that, whenever the name of God is mentioned, any mind should not be filled with awe, and affectingly realize the presence of this majestic Being. The Jews would not pronounce the incommunicable name Jehovah except in one peculiarly solemn act of religious worship. Such of the Mohammedans, as cannot read, carefully lay aside any written, or printed paper, because they know not, but it may have upon it the name of God. But in this, and in every other, Christian country, there is reason to fear, that multitudes, and, probably, that most or all those, who are habitually profane, use this glorious and fearful name without even a thought that God is present to hear them.
In his own proper character of the glorious and eternal Jehovah, who hath prepared his throne in the heavens, and whose kingdom ruleth over all, it is impossible to regard him with serious, or with even sober thought, and not be filled with profound and reverential awe. It is impossible to realize who, and what, and where He is, and not be filled with fear and trembling. He called into being the heavens and the earth ; upholds them by the word of his power; rules them with an irresistible hand; gives life, and death, to whomsoever he pleases; is present wherever we are; looks with an intuitive survey into the secret chambers of the soul; records all our thoughts, words, and actions, in the book of his remembrance ; and will bring them before our eyes at the final day. On his bounty and forbearance we live. When he gives, we receive. When he withholds, we die. His smile makes heaven: his frown creates hell. Those, who fear, and love, and serve him, he will bless : those, who rebel against him, he will destroy. Who then, unless lost to sense and decency, will not tremble at his presence, and lie low in the dust before him?
But in this deplorable transgression, the profane swearer brings God into his thoughts, (if he think at all) and into his conversation, with a character altogether familiar, and with considerations, and Vol. III.