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Christian character. In this manner, then, he wounds himself; he wounds the church; he wounds the cause of God. What Christian can be supposed to make such a sacrifice, for the sake of any thing which he can gain from sinful companions?
But the dangers from evil companions are continual, extreme, and in a sense infinite. They are found every moment, and in every place: especially in the haunts, customarily frequented by men of this character. Here all the means of sinning are gathered together. The companion of fools, or wicked men, saith God, shall be destroyed.
The advantages of virtuous company, on the contrary, are great and unspeakable. Their sentiments and conduct are such as their consciences approve ; and such as God approves. Their sentiments are all conformed to the Scriptures. Their conduct is the natural fruit of their sentiments : not perfect indeed ; but sincere, amiable, and excellent. In this character is presented a powerful check upon sin, and a powerful support to virtue. No persons can give so alarming an exhibition of the evil, guilt, and danger of sin, as they. No persons can place virtue in so alluring a light. They have felt the evils of sin, the foretastes of immortality, and the pleasures of holiness. They, therefore, can enter, with the heart, into both subjects; and can speak of both with feelings, unknown to other men, and incapable of being known, until they become virtuous. Hence good may be gained, and evil avoided, by means of their company, by means peculiar to them, which is often unattainable, or unavoidable, in any other By shutting himself out from this company, the profane person,
, therefore, voluntarily relinquishes one of the chief blessings of life; one of the great means of securing life eternal. Nothing, perhaps, beside the worship of God, and a religious education, contributes more frequently, or more certainly, to bring men into the strait and narrow way; to keep them in it, after they have once entered ; or to aid, and quicken, them in the journey towards heaven. Nothing, on the other hand, seems more readily, or regularly to withdraw them from danger, guilt
, and ruin. All this good the profane person voluntarily casts away. Other sinners, of more decent characters, often enjoy this blessing; and find it a blessing indeed. But the profane person carries with him the label of rejec tion; the mark of outlawry from virtuous society; a label, volun. tarily worn; a mark, branded by himself.
At the same time, he is consigned in the same voluntary manner to the company of wicked men. Here virtue and hope are blasted together. Here, all the curses, opposed to the blessings above recited, multiply, and thrive. Here, his life is wasted; and his soul hazarded, assassinated, and destroyed for ever.
4thly. Profaneness exposes men to the terrible denunciation of the text. Vol. III.
The occasion on which this threatening was pronounced, the Person by whom, and the manner and circumstances in which it was published to mankind, ought to render it peculiarly alarming to every man, who is guilty of this sin. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain; said the Creator of all things, with an audible voice from Sinai, while the world was trembling beneath him; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, who taketh his name in vain. This was the declaration of Him, who is thus profaned, and thus mocked ; of him, who is an ear-witness of all this profaneness and mockery; of him, by whom the wretch, guilty of this fearful transgression, will be judged and condemned, at the final day. The threatening is denounced against a single transgression of this nature. What, then, must be the guilt, and the danger, of profane persons, deformed as they usually are with transgressions, scarcely numerable by man! What a chain of profanations, of oaths and curses, will every such person drag after him to the throne of God! How will he tremble at the retrospect; shrink from the dread tribunal, before his cause is heard; and realize the sentence of condemnation before it is pronounced !
The threatening, here declared, is a sentence, gone forth beforehand from the tribunal of eternal Justice, against this particular transgression : a doom, already pronounced, and hastening to its execution, hy the hand of Him, from whom no sinner can escape. It is a sentence, which cannot be misunderstood; against a crime, which cannot be doubted. Many sins are of such a nature, that the sinner may question the reality of his guilt. Here, the crime is perfectly known, and the sentence absolutely decisive. The profane person, therefore, may consider himself as tried, judged, and condemned, already; judged, and condemned, from amidst the thunders and lightnings of the mount of God: and wo be to him, who does not believe, and tremble.
REMARKS. 1st. These observations exhibit in a strong light the depravity of the human heart.
In the progress of these discourses, it has been clearly evinced, that profaneness is a sin, perpetrated in an almost endless variety of forms; that it is a sin, attended with enormous guilt, and exposing the perpetrator to immense danger. It has also been shown, that the inducements to it are very few, and very small: while the motives, opposed to it, are very many, and very great. Yet how evident is it, that this very sin is, and ever has been, practised by incomprehensible multitudes of mankind! The Jews were profane : the Mahommedans are profane: the Christian nations are profane: and the Heathen nations are, and ever were, profane to such Gods, as they acknowledged. Among all these nations, or, in other words, throughout the whole earth, and throughout the whole reign of time, innumerable individuals have ever been pro-,
fane. Indeed, in one form and another, no man has been guiltless of that irreverence towards God, in which the essence of profaneness consists. The evil, therefore, spreads over the world; and, in one form, or another, attaches itself to every child of Adam.
How wonderful a specimen of human corruption is presented in the so general profanation of the Name of God, exhibited in light-minded cursing and swearing! How perfectly at a loss is Reason for a motive to originate, and explain, this conduct ! Why should the Name of the Creator be treated with irreverence ? Why should not any thing else be uttered by man, if we consider him merely as a rational being, without recurring at all to his moral and accountable character, rather than language of this nature ? Certainly, it contributes not, in the least degree, to the advancement of any purpose, cherished by the mind of the profane per. son ; unless that purpose is mere profaneness. I know well, that passion is often pleaded for the use of this language. But why should passion prompt to profaneness? Anger, one would suppose, would naturally vent itself in expressions of resentment against the person, who had provoked us. But this person is always a fellow-creature; a man like ourselves. In what way, or in what degree, is God concerned in this matter? What has the passion, what has the provocation, to do with Him, his name, or his character? Why do we affront and injure him, because a creature, infinitely unlike him, has affronted and injured us? I know that Custom, also, is pleaded, as an extenuation, and perhaps as an explanation, of this crime. But how came such a custom to exist ? How came any rational being ever to think of profaning the name of God? How came any other rational being to follow him in this wickedness? Whence was it, that so many millions of those, who ought to be rational beings, have followed them both? What end can it have answered ? What honour, gain, or pleasure, can it have furnished? What taste can it have gratified? What desire, what affection, can it have indulged? What end can the profane person have proposed to himself?
Can any explanation be given of this conduct, except that it springs from love to wickedness itself? From a heart fixedly opposed to its Maker ; pleased with affronting him ; loving to abuse his character, and to malign his glorious agency? A heart in which sin is gratuitous ; by which in juster language nothing is gained, much is plainly lost, and every thing is hazarded? What, beside the love of sinning; what, but the peculiar turpitude of the character; can be the source, or the explanation of this conduct ?
2dly. These observations teach us the Goodness of God in alarming mankind concerning this sin in so solemn a manner.
The guilt of profaneness cannot be questioned: nor can there be any more question concerning the danger to which the perpe
trator exposes himself. In such a situation, how kindly has the Lawgiver of the universe warned mankind against the perpetration, by announcing to them, in this affecting manner, the evil to which it would expose them. He saw, perfectly, their tendency to this wickedness; and with infinite mercy has been pleased to provide those means for their safety, which are best calculated to insure it.
If a child were advancing towards the brow of a precipice; how kindly would he and his parent regard a friend, who should announce to him his danger, direct him with sure guidance, and influence him with efficacious motives, to avoid it. The threatening, contained in this command, and, together with it, all those which are found in the Scriptures, are calculated for this very purpose. They warn us of approaching guilt: they declare to us approaching danger. Thousands and millions of the human race have been actually saved by them from impending destruction. Terrible are they indeed to obstinate sinners, because they disturb them in their beloved course of sinning, and because they intend not to cease from sin. Still they are not the less mercifully given. They are the very means, by which immense multitudes have been plucked, as brands, out of the burning.
3dly. Let me warn all those, who hear me, lo shun profaneness.
To this end, fix in your minds a solemn and controlling sense of the evil and danger of this sin. Make this sense habitual in such a manner, that it may be always ready to rise up in the mind, and a present itself before your eyes. Feel, that you will gain nothing here, and lose every thing hereafter.
Under the influence of these views, keep the evil always at a great distance. Mark the men, who are profane; and avoid their company, as you would avoid the plague. Shun the places where profaneness abounds, or where it may be expected to abound, as you would shun a quicksand. Avoid them; pass not by them; turn from them; pass away. Remember, that these places are the way to hell; going down to the chambers of death. Unceasingly say to yourselves, Thou God seest me.
Unceasingly say to yourselves, The Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain. Remember, that he is most mercifully disposed to be your Father, and everlasting friend ; that he cannot be your friend, unless you regard him with reverence and Godly fear; and that, if He be not your friend, you will throughout eternity be friendless, and helpless, and hopeless. What then will become of you?
Carefully avoid mentioning his great Name on any, except solemn, occasions ; and in any manner which is not strictly reverential. Never speak, never think, of God, his Son, his Spirit, bis Name, his works, his Word, or his Institutions, without solemnity and awe. Never approach his House, or his Word, without reverence. Prepare yourselves by solemn consideration and humble
prayer for his Worship. Shun all that language which, though not directly profane, is merely a series of steps towards profaneness; and all those thoughts of sacred things, which are tinctured with levity. At the same time, daily beseech him to preserve you; and let your unceasing prayer be, Set a watch, O Lord! before my mouth : keep the door of my lips.
4thly. Let me solemnly admonish the profane persons, in this assembly, of their guilt and danger.
You, unhappily for yourselves, are those who take the name of God in vain ; and of course are now, or soon will be, subjects of all the guilt and danger, which I have specified. Now, therefore, thus saith the Lord, Consider your ways. Remember what you are doing; against whom your evil tongues are directed; who is the object of your contempt and mockery.
Ask yourselves what you gain ; what you expect to gain ; what you do not lose. Remember, that you lose your reputation, at least in the minds of all the wise and good, and all the blessings of their company and friendship; that you sacrifice your peace of mind ; that you break down all those principles, on which Virtue may be grafted, and, with them, every rational hope of eternal life; that you are rapidly becoming more and more corrupted, day by day; and that, with this deplorable character, you are preparing to go to the judgment. Think what it will be to swear, and curse, to mock God, and insult your Redeemer, through life; to carry your oaths and curses to a dying bed; to enter eternity with blasphemies in your mouths; and to stand before the final bar, when the last sound of profaneness bas scarcely died upon your tongues.
If these considerations do not move you ; if they do not make you tremble at the thought of what you are doing; if they do not force you to a solemn pause in the career of iniquity ; if they do not compel you to retrace your downward steps, and return, while it is in your power, to reformation and safety; I can only say, that you are hurried by an evil spirit to destruction, that you are maniacs in sin, on whom neither reason nor religion has any influence; and that you will soon find yourselves in the eternal dungeon of darkness and despair.