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we read 2 Kings xix. 22, 28, 35, &c. "whom hast thou reproached and blasphemed? and against whom hast thou exalted thy voice, and lifted up thine eyes on High? even against the Holy One of Israel. Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest. And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred, four score and five thousand. So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Ninevah. And it came to pass; as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword." Such was the punishment which God inflicted on a blasphemer. These things were written for our warning. And if blasphemy was such an heinous crime in a Heathen or a Jew, how much more so must it be in one who lives under the light of the gospel? Although such persons may, and perhaps frequently do, escape the punishment of men, yet God will not hold them guiltless. And although he may suffer them to go on without punishment in this life, yet without deep repentance, his judgments will fall heavily upon them in the world to come.And we have known instances, in our own day, wherein blasphemers have been most signally visited with judgments in this life. Many of my hearers will probably recollect, of reading well authenticated accounts of persons being struck instantly dead in the very act of blaspheming God. Blasphemy is a crime which ought to be severely punished by the civil authority; for apart from the consideration that it is the duty of civil society to see that the name of God is regarded, a blasphemer is a dangerous member of society. One who can be guilty of this sin must be so depraved and hardened in sin as to be prepared for any excess in crime. Our laws make blasphemy a crime against the State, punishable by fine and imprisonment. In some countries this crime is punished much more severely than with us; and in some it is punished with death. And without repentance, which probably very rarely indeed takes place in such hardened wretches, it will be punished with eternal death in the world to come, by that God who is jealous for the glory of his name,
and who will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
II. We proceed to shew how this commandment may be broken in reference to the ordinances of God. These, as has been shown, are included in his name in the third commandment; and therefore we break this commandment by profaning or abusing the divine ordinances.
1. This commandment requires that we use the ordinances of divine appointment. They therefore who neglect to pray, to read and to hear the word of God, to attend upon public worship, and to come to the sacraments, are chargeable, by this commandment, with sins of omission.
2. They who do attend upon any or all of these ordinances, but attend upon them in an irreverent manner, are guilty of a breach of this commandment. Hence they who rush thoughtlessly and carelessly to the ordinances of God, without endeavouring to fix their thoughts, and to gain an impression of the holiness and majesty of that God into whose presence they are going, violate this commandment. They again, who while attending upon divine ordinances, are guilty of whispering and smiling, or any such indecent gestures, are guilty of a want of due reverence to God, and are breakers of this commandment.And that disgraceful practice, of sleeping in the time of public worship, is an indecency offered to God, which is in a high degree irreverent, and is a sin against the third commandment.
3. Formality in the use of divine ordinances is a breach of this commandment. A reverence of heart is necessary to acceptable worship. "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit, and in truth"
John iv. 24.
4. A hypocritical profession of religion, and attendance upon divine ordinances, with a view to impose upon men, and further some selfish ends, is a heinous violation of this commandment. It is a using God's name insincerely, a mocking him, and a taking his name in vain. Hypocrisy is a great sin, and one against which the wrath of God is denounced in his word. "The hypocrites in heart heap up wrath." Job. xxxvi. 13. "Fearfulness hath surprized the hypocrites." Is. xxxiii. 14. "The hypocrites hope shall perish." Job viii. 13.
III. This commandment refers also to the word of God, and is broken by profaning or abusing this. In reference to the word of God, this commandment is violated,
1. By a neglect to read, hear, and become acquainted with it; and by a careless, indifferent, and irreverent reading or hearing of it, without an impression of the importance of the truths therein taught, and a reverence of that God who manifests himself in and by these truths. 2. It is broken by a denial of the truth of his word. This is very dishonouring to God; for it is giving him the lie, when he has declared such and such things to be true, and men say, they are not true; as the apostle John hath said, 1. John v. 10. "He that believeth not God hath made him a liar." And what profaneness is this, to make that God who is unchangeably true, a liar! With this profaneness is the Deist chargeable; and surely God will not hold him guiltless.
3. This commandment is broken, still more heinously by those who not only deny the truth of God's word; but also make it the subject of ridicule. This is a very high degree of profaneness. Of this kind of profaneness we have many instances in the writings of the blasphemous Paine. And doubtless many of his admirers, who have retailed his misrepresentations, absurdities, and blasphemies, have in this respect followed in his steps. Dreadful indeed must be the doom which awaits those, who can thus, not only give the great and tremendous God the lie, but who can also make his truth the subject of their ridicule!
4. This commandment is broken by using the word of God in a jocose or merry way, to gratify a propensity to wit, and set off discourse for the entertainment of company. Such a use of the word of God is a very common practice, not only among despisers and scoffers, and the openly profane; but also among those who profess to believe and appear to respect the Scriptures; and especially by those who have a natural propensity to wit. But such conduct is certainly sinful, and a breach of the third commandment. The word of God is too sacred ever to be used in this way. And whenever we indulge ourselves in such a use of it, our conduct is displeasing to God.
IV. God maketh himself known by his works. His
name is imprinted upon them and is taught by them-they teach his perfections and shew forth his glory.
In reference to the works of God, the third commandment is broken, by denying that he created the world; or allowing that he created the world, by denying his providence, or that he upholds and governs the world which he has made; or allowing his providence in general, by denying it in application to particulars, in direct opposition to his word; by ascribing events, as many do, to chance, fortune, or fate, instead of the providence of God; by a forgetfulness of God, and unthankfulness for his goodness in prosperity; and by murmuring at, and quarrelling with his dispensations under afflictions.
And here it will be proper to consider the subject of lots and shew how this commandment may be broken by the use of them. A lot is an appeal to the providence of God to decide for us in a doubtful case. This was once a religious ordinance proper to be used on certain occasions. Whether it be proper now, in any case, to use the lot as a religious ordinance, is at least a doubtful matter; for it is doubtful whether in any instance, recorded in the Scriptures, the lot was properly used, without the direction of God, authorizing it in that particular case. The canon of Scripture is now complete; and it is a sufficient rule to guide us in the path of duty; and is intended to be the rule of duty. Therefore to admit the necessity in certain cases of leaving the word of God, and making an immediate appeal to God himself to point out what is right, in an extraordinary way, appears to be a disparagement of Scripture, and in opposition to the truth, that it is a perfect rule of faith and practice. Besides, when a decision has been made by the lot, have we any warrant in Scripture, that such decision does certainly point out the path of duty? I can find none. And if we have none, we would be really as much in the dark as to duty, after casting the lot as before. For these reasons, I am inclined to the opinion, that the use of the lot in any case to decide the path of duty, is wrong.
And here another question occurs; is the use of the lot in any case proper? If we may not now have recourse to it as a religious ordinance, may we not use it in civil affairs, or in the common affairs of life? On this question casuists differ. Every casting of the lot is an
implicit appeal to the providence of God. It is not decided by chance; for there is no such thing in the world. The sentiment, however it may be held, is highly atheistical. The believer in revelation cannot doubt that the providence of God is conversant about the smallest events, when he reads, "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.But the very hairs of your head are all numbered," Mat. x. 29, 30. Nor can he doubt that the providence of God disposes of the lot when he reads, "the lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord," Prov. xvi. 33. This being the case, it appears to be the natural conclusion, that the lot, whenever used, ought to be used religiously, or with a reverence of that God to whose decision an appeal is made. And whether we have any right at present, to make such an appeal in any case, and therefore whether in any case it is right to use the lot, is at least a doubtful matter. I can only, with deference, and not without doubts, express an opinion, that it is not.
That every lot is an implicit appeal to providence, which ought not to be made, at least on every trivial occasion, and never but with reverence, is one principle on which lotteries, and all games of chance, as they are called, are condemned. They are condemned also for many other reasons; but this is not the place to consider these
And while upon the subject of lots, I would here further observe, that the lot is sometimes used by serious people in a way which is unquestionably wrong. I mean by opening the Bible at random, and seizing the passage which first meets the eye as a message from God applicable to their particular state. This is a most absurd practice. It is one of the devices of Satan, by which he imposes on weak minds; and it is a tempting God, and making an appeal to him where there is no warrant for it in his word. And we have doubtless reason to believe that God in judgment sometimes leaves such persons to be carried away by these false delusions to believe a lie.
From a review of this subject and comparing ourselves with it we have doubtless all reason to acknowledge that we have often broken the third commandment, in many