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for him, they would have never known, or would have regarded only with abhorrence. In this respect, what will Infidels, especially those of distinguished talents, have to answer for at the final day?
But this evil may be very widely diffused without the aid of the press, or the circulation of volumes. The tongue is an instrument more than sufficiently adapted to this unhappy end. One profane person makes multitudes; corrupts his professed friends, his daily companions, his near relations, and all with whom he corresponds, so far as they are capable of being corrupted. They again corrupt others : and they, in their turn, spread the contagion through successive circles of mankind, increasing continually in their numbers, and their expansion. Thus a profane inhabitant of this land may extend the mischiefs of his evil example to other countries, and to future ages : and a profane student of this seminary, may, and probably will, be the cause of handing down profaneness to students yet unborn.
The mischiefs of evil example are always great: in the present case they are dreadful. The tongue is obviously the prime instrument of human corruption; of diffusing, and perpetuating sin; of preventing the eternal life of our fellow-men; of extending perdition over the earth; and of populating the world of misery. Behold, saith St. James, how great a matter (in the original, how great a forest) a little fire kindleth! Small at first to the eye, it catches all the combustible materials within its reach, and spreading its ravages wider and wider, consumes, in the end, every thing before it with an universal conflagration. Among all the evil examples, which I have heard mentioned, or which have been alluded to within my knowledge, I do not remember, that a dumb man was ever named as one. No person, within my recollection, ever attributed his own sins to the example of such a man. Speaking men are the corrupters of their fellow-men: and they corrupt, pre-eminently, by their speech. No individual ever began to swear profanely by himself: and few, very few, ever commenced the practice, but from imitation. Like certain diseases of the human body, profaneness descends from person to person ; and, like the plague, is regularly caught by infection. Let every profane person, then, solemnly remember how much evil will be charged to him in the great day of account: how many miserable wretches will date their peculiar sinfulness of character, and a vast multitude of their actual transgressions, from the power of his example: how many of his fellow-creatures he will contribute to plunge into eternal perdition : and how dreadfully, as well as justly, all these may wreak their insatiable vengeance on his head, for producing their final ruin : while he will be stripped of every excuse ; and be forced by an angry conscience to say, Amen. Let him remember, that in this respect, if not in many others, he is a pest to human society, and a smoke in the nostrils of his Maker. Finally ; let him summon this character, and this guilt, before his eyes, whenever he repeats his profaneness, with a full conviction that, however he may flatter himself, all around him, as a vast and upright jury, sit daily on the trial of his crimes, and with an unanimous and honest verdict pronounce him guilty.
6thly. Profaneness prevents, or destroys, all Reverence towards God; together with all those religious exercises, and their happy consequences, of which it is the source.
In the discourse, which I formerly delivered on this pre-eminently important religious attribute, I showed by a numerous train of Scriptural passages, that it is peculiarly the means of rendering our worship acceptable to God; of exciting, and keeping alive, an abhorrence of sin ; the great source of reformation ; eminently the source of rectitude in our dispositions and conduct towards mankind; the foundation of peculiar blessings in the present world; and eminently the means of securing eternal life in the world to come. These blessings, as an aggregate, are infinitely necessary, and infinitely valuable, to every human being. To prevent them, or to destroy them, that is, to prevent ourselves, or others, from becoming the subjects of them, is an evil, to which no limits can be assigned. But this dreadful work is effectually accomplished by profaneness. Profaneness itself is nothing but a high degree of irreverence to God. But no words are necessary to prove, that reverence and irreverence cannot exist together in the same mind; or that, where reverence does not exist, its happy effects cannot be found.
It is plainly impossible, that he, who indulges a spirit of profaneness, should ever worship God in an acceptable manner. This spirit, once indulged, soon becomes habitual ; and will be present, and predominate, at all times, and on all occasions. It will accompany him to the house of God; and, if we could suppose such a man to attend private or secret devotion, would mingle itself with his family prayers, and, entering with him into his closet, would there insult his Maker to his face. But the truth is; he will neither pray in his family, nor in his closet. These exercises of piety he will only ridicule; and regard those, who scrupulously perform them, as the pitiful slaves of fear, voluntarily shackled by ihe chains of superstition. To the sanctuary, he may, at times, go, from curiosity, a regard to reputation, and a remaining sense of decency. There, however, all his seeming devotion will be merely external; an offering of the blind and the lame ; a sacrifice of swine's flesh; an abomination which God cannot away with ; a dead form, a corpse without a soul; without life; corrupted; putrid; sending forth a savour of death unto death.
Instead of exciting, and keeping alive, an abhorrence of sin in his mind, the profane person, by the very irreverence which be cherishes, excites, and keeps alive all his other tendencies to
iniquity. God, the only object of obedience, imperfectly obeyed by the best mind which ever inhabited this sinful world, soon becomes to him by this very disposition familiar, insignificant and despised. Who would obey a Being, regarded in this manner? What anxiety can be occasioned by the thought of disobeying him? Who can be solicitous concerning the evil of sin, when such is in his view the object, against which sin is to be committed? Which of us could be at all apprehensive of either the guilt, or the danger, of sinning against a Being, whom we regarded only with contempt.
The reformation of a profane person is out of the question. His
progress is only downward. Profaneness is the mere floodgate of iniquity; and the stream, once let out, flows with a current, daily becoming more and more rapid and powerful. There is no crime, to which profaneness does not lend efficacious and malignant aid. It is the very nurse of sin; the foster parent of rebellion,' ingratitude, and impiety.
The unjust judge, who feared not God, regarded not man. Such will be the conduct, whenever temptation invites, of all who do not fear God. Persons of this description may, I acknowledge, have, originally, the same natural affections with other men. But even these, so far as they are of any real use to others, will, if I have observed the conduct of mankind with success, be gradually worn away by the spirit of irreverence; and, while they last, will fail of producing their most proper and valuable effects. A profane person cannot long pray with his family. He cannot teach his children their duty. He cannot reprove them for sin. He cannot set them an example of piety. He cannot exhort them to seek salvation. He cannot take them by the hand, and lead them to heaven.
What blessings can he expect from the hand of God in the present world? He may, indeed, be rich. Oft, says the poet,
“Oft on the vilest, riches are bestowed,
Should he be rich; his wealth will be a curse, and not a blessing; the means, merely, of increasing his pride, of hardening his heart, and of inclining him to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God. He may on account of his talents, his heroism, or some other cause, be held in estimation among his fellow-men. But whatever reputation he may acquire in this manner; this, like his wealth, will prove only a curse to him : for, although highly esteemed among men, he will be an abomination in the sight of God.
Beyond the grave he can expect, and can receive, nothing but indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish. His profaneness VOL. III.
is an unceasing and fearful provocation of his Maker, and a terrible preparation for a future life of eternal blasphemy. All the ruin of futurity, and all the guilt and wretchedness of this life, he voluntarily brings upon himself by the indulgence of this odious, senseless, causeless sin; and thus quietly, and coolly, prepares himself to be destroyed for ever. In sinning against God, in this manner, he eminently wrongs his own soul ; and loves, invites, and solicits, everlasting death.
THE LAW OF GOD, THE DECALOGUE. THE THIRD COMMAND
MENT.-THE DANGER OF PROFANENESS.
EXODUS IX. 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 considered, at length, the Nature, and the Guilt, of Profaneness. I shall now proceed, according to the plan originally proposed, to examine with some attention the Danger of this sin.
All sin is dangerous. But there are different kinds, and degrees, of danger in different sins. On those, which especially attend this sin, or which, though common to other sinful habits, are connected with profaneness in a remarkable manner, I mean to insist in the following discourse.
1st. Profaneness is eminently the source of Corruption to the whole Character,
That there is an intimate connection between the thoughts, and the tongue, is perfectly well known to all men of consideration. The nature of this connection is, however, misapprehended, if I mistake not, by most men. All persons perceive, that their thoughts give birth to their words: while few seem to be aware, that their words, to a vast extent, originate, and modify, their thoughts. Almost all moral attributes, and employments, operate mutually as causes and effects. Thus irreverence of thought generates profaneness of expression; and profaneness of expression, in its turn, generates and enhances irreverence of thoughts. Thus, universally, the mind moves the tongue; and the tongue again, in its turn, moves the mind.
The person, who speaks evil, will always think evil. By this I do not mean, that evil thoughts must precede evil speaking : and that the man must, therefore, have been the subject of evil thoughts, in order to have spoken evil. I mean, that evil speaking, although an effect of evil thoughts, is, in its turn, a cause of new, and other, evil thoughts. He, who thinks ill, will undoubtedly speak, and act, ill. This all men readily acknowledge. It is equally cer. tain, although not equally well understood, that evil speech, and evil actions, directly corrupt the mind; and render it more sinful, than it would ever become, if it were not to speak, and act, in this manner.