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and not with a view to any natural good, in which it is to terminate. This must undoubtedly be acknowledged to be wickedness of a dye peculiarly deep, of a nature eminently guilty; and the author of it must, with as little doubt, be eminently vile, odious, and
Abominable, in the sight of God. * 5thly. Profaneness is among the most distinguished means of corrupting our fellow-men.
This observation I intend to apply exclusively to the profaneness of the tongue. It is indeed applicable, with much force, to profaneness, manifested in various kinds of action; but it is peculiarly applicable to the kind of profaneness, which I have particularly specified. Sins of the tongue are all social sins; necessarily social, and eminently social. They are practised, only where men are present to hear, and to witness; and they are practised, wherever men are present to hear. Thus a man is profane before his family; swears, and curses, and ridicules sacred things, in the social club ; in the street; before his neighbours; and in the midst of a multitude. Persons of all ages become witnesses, and learners. Thus children learn to lisp the curse; and the grey-haired sinner, to mutter the faltering oath. No man was ever profane alone ; in a wilderness, or in his closet. To the very nature of this sin, the presence of others seems so indispensable, that we cannot realize the commission of it by any man, unless in the midst of society. All the mischief of evil example is found in the social nature of man; and in the social nature of those sins, to which the whole power of evil example is confined. Where sin is in its nature . and the perpetration of course insulated ; whatever other guilt it may involve, the sinner plainly cannot be charged with the guilt of corrupting others. In order to follow us in wickedness, others must know, that we are wicked. When they hear of our wickedness at a distance; they are always, perhaps, in greater or less danger of being corrupted; because sympathy is always a powerful propensity of the mind, and because we have always a strong tendency to imitation. But when they are present to see sin in our actions, and to hear it from our tongues; it becomes the means of the most certain and efficacious corruption; because then the impression is ordinarily the strongest possible. There is, however, one case, in which this corruption, though usually less efficacious in particular instances, is yet much more dreadfully operative, because it is much more extensively diffused. An author, when possessed of sufficient ingenuity, can spread this malignant influence wherever his writings can penetrate; and expand the force of an evil example over many countries, and through a long succession of ages. Wi. of the human race may owe to such a man the commencement, and progress, of iniquity in their minds; and may imbibe pernicious sentiments, which, but 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
in 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 i. 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 J 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, everything 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 . 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 onest 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 prosaneness, 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 *. nor in his closet. These exercises of ; he will only ridicule; and regard those, who scrupulously perform them, as the pitiful slaves of fear, voluntarily shackled by the chains of superstition. To the sanctuary, he may, at times, go, from curiosity, a regard to reputation, and a remainin sense of decency. There, however, all his seeming devotion .# 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 he 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 2 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. Fo 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 graduall 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, Bays 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#. 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 repu...tation 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. 27
A familiar example, or two, will advantageously illustrate this subject. An angry man becomes at once more violent and wrathful, when he o to vent his passion by words. What before was anger, soon becomes fury. Before, he was able to retain his spirit within some bounds of decency; but as soon as his tongue is let loose, his countenance will be distorted, his eyes flash, and his sentiments be the mere effusions of frenzy. A revengeful man kindles, like a furnace, from the moment, in which he begins to execute his .. What before was the revenge of a human heart, is speedily changed into the fell malignity of a fiend. St. James has exhibited this tendency of the tongue to corrupt the mind, in language remarkable, exact, and forcible. He styles it an unruly member; a fire; a world of iniquity; and declares, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on #. the course of nature. Its influence on the mind itself, as well as on the affairs of mankind, he describes in this strong exclamation: Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth ! That the eye of St. James was directed to the profaneness of the tongue is obvious from what he says in the two succeeding verses. Therewith bless we God; and therewith curse we men. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. Cursing, one dreadful kind of profaneness, was, according to his own account, in the eye of the Apostle, a kind of profaneness, mingled always with every other, and inseparable from every other. In this very sense, then, the tongue is full of deadly poison; a fire that kindles the whole course of nature, in the soul; and defiles the whole body, and the whole mind. Of the correctness of these Apostolic declarations, experience furnishes ample proof. Among all the multitude of persons, who have borne the door of profaneness, not one was ever believed, on account of his other conduct, by any competent judge, acquainted with him, to be a virtuous man. Many persons have begun to be profane from mere inconsideration; and, at the commencement of their career, were no more depraved, than such of their companions as abstained from this sin. In their progress, however, they became corrupted much more extensively within the same period; increased generally in wickedness, and particularly in hardness of heart; and lost every serious and even sober thought: all that course of thought, whence moral good might be derived, or whence might spring any hopeful efforts towards salvation. This is a case, which must, I think, have frequently met the eye of every man, who is seriously attentive to the moral conduct of his fellow-men; and strongly shows, that the practice has, itself, deplorably corrupted them in other respects, and set on fire the whole course of nature in their minds and lives. Hence, instead of being accounted virtuous on account of any thing in their other Sonduct, persons, addicted to this sin, have been regarded by com"on sense as gross sinners of course. “A profane person,” is,