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wall of partition, betwixt God and the believer | never to be heard or uttered but with feelings of -he is the way to the Father-through his profound reverence and awe. Accordingly it has blood we have boldness to enter into the holiest been recorded to the credit of a very eminent of all. Let our trust be placed on Christ-of Christian and learned philosopher, the honourable his righteousness let us make mention-and Mr Boyle, that the name of God was never with this way before us, sprinkled with Christ's uttered by him in conversation without his makblood, never let us doubt our being heard. The ing a pause before it, that he might thereby keep name of Christ is all-sufficient, all-prevalent. It alive in his own mind, and awaken in the minds has a charm that is resistless in heaven and on of others, the veneration that was due to the earth. Let us then come boldly to the throne of great Majesty of heaven and earth. Would that grace—let us draw near with true hearts in the we were similarly impressed, and that such a full assurance of faith. spirit was cherished by all. Whether such feelings and sentiments exist or not, Jehovah has a righteous claim to them; and if they do not exist, in as far as we are personally concerned, the Almighty has made himself known in vain. His character and attributes are revealed for the
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, Exod.
THE first commandment respects the object of worship, and guards the glory of Jehovah's throne; the second respects the mode of worship, and preserves the purity of the temple in which he is adored; and the third respects the spirit of worship, and secures the reverence due to Jehovah's name. 'Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain. By the name of God is not meant any one special designation, but refers to the various titles, attributes, and perfections that he is pleased to assume. We know nothing of God but as he has been pleased to reveal himself, and the ineffable glories of his name, his nature and character, can only be discovered by the contemplation and study of these in the different ways by which he has made himself known. The divine excellencies are, indeed, far above the full understanding and conception of the finite mind, whether of angels or men; but although this is the case, still God has not left himself without a witness, both in regard to his nature, his will, and his name.
Whatever be the names, the titles, the attributes that God claims to himself, and by which he is made known, he requires the holy and reverend use of them all, and we ought to tremble at the very thought of taking any of them in vain. The Jews seem to have been peculiarly solemnized by this commandment, although their veneration for the name of Jehovah has been marked by glaring superstition. It is said that even to this day they never venture to utter the name Jehovah. Without entering into the views of the Jews, that name, or any other by which this glorious and awful Being is designated, ought
express purpose of interesting our minds and affecting our hearts; and that in a way befitting these perfections. Why is Jehovah revealed to us as the Almighty, the all-glorious, the spotlessly pure God, but that we should be humbled in his presence, and tremble at the very thought of offending him. Why is he revealed as the all-gracious, the all-faithful and true God, but that we might be filled with gratitude and love, with confidence and trust. O may the divine Spirit, who quickens and enlightens whom he will, awaken in us those sentiments that are becoming the creatures of Almighty power, the monuments of divine mercy, and the subjects of unmerited grace and love!
It might naturally be expected that the name of the supreme Being, and in whatever way made known, would be held in the greatest veneration by creatures who are privileged to call him Father, and who are entirely dependent upon him for everything connected with the life which now is, and that which is to come. But alas, alas! this is not the case; the Almighty may well say, in regard to many, 'If I then be a Father, where is mine honour? and if I be a Master, where is my fear? By everything is man attracted, but that in which the divine glory and his own eternal weal are concerned; to every idle tale will he lend a greedy ear, but he will not listen to that in which his everlasting peace is involved; to every object he will turn his eye with eager gaze, but that which raises the soul heavenward. The creature is venerated, but the Creator is disregarded. Innumerable are the ways in which this commandment is violated. Men profane the name of God when, adjured by the living God, they declare that to be truth which they know to be false-they do abuse God's name, who in common conversation
allow their tongues to utter hideous oaths and imprecations they do abuse God's name who employ any of his attributes, without any awe of him upon their minds-they do abuse God's name who think slightly and irreverently of it without any suitable affection of soul-they do abuse God's name who even in prayer make use of it without reverential and solemn feeling of heart-the name of God is profaned when his ordinances are engaged in without becoming humility, and not improved for the purpose for ́which they were given-and they do grievously profane God's name who hold up piety to ridicule, and treat all that is sacred with contempt.
Such and many other things are what this commandment prohibits. Fearful is the demerit and criminality of this sin in its every form. No guilt can be conceived greater, or even equal; it is directed immediately against the great I AM; it is an open contempt of his authority, a dishonour done to his name, a disregard of his every perfection, a setting the Almighty at defiance, and a saying openly and fearlessly, Who is the Lord, that we should fear, that we should obey him? O what heart does not bleed for the prevalence of this sin! and what Christian does not pray for the restraining of it? Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. This is a sin little thought of among men, but highly criminal in the sight of God, and he has taken the avenging of it into his own hands: 'The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.'
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord,' Gen. xviii. 19. Of all duties, that of parents towards their offspring is the most important. It is the groundwork of after life, for good or for evil, for weal or for woe. It tells on the future prospects, the after happiness of the individuals of the rising generation; it tells on the interests of religion in coming time; it tells on the peace, and prosperity, and well-being of society of future days. Let parental tuition, parental instruction and example, be neglected, let the religion of the fire-side be suspended and disregarded; and to the extent that it is set aside will be the evil consequences flowing from it felt and visible in the domestic circle. Yea, as wave propels wave, and generation succeeds generation, the one influencing the other, so will the baneful effects of the neglect be transmitted and carried forward to latest time. By the disuse and deficiency of this first of means for impregnating the young mind, for the implanting, and spreading, and advancing the growth of religion and virtue, families that might have been the seed-plots of all that is holy, and pleasant, and beautiful, and blessed, have become the nurseries of vice, and wickedness, and misery. Whereas when children have been trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; have been taught to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; when the principles of religion have been implanted in the youthful There are many, alas, who perceive not the mind; when the dwelling has become a Bethel, malignity and fearful criminality of this sin, and whence issue the voice of rejoicing and salvation, in their estimation little guilt attaches to it. It and when every thing that meets the eye and the is not so viewed by a holy, a righteous, and sin-ear is fitted to raise the thoughts heavenward, avenging God. Here, and in many parts of then the effect is most blessed and permanent. Scripture, he has expressed his abhorrence of it, and written over it the most dread denunciations. Human laws cannot reach all the profanations of God's name, and seldom are the laws against it put in execution. It shall not be so, however, with God. Even in a present life, the hand of God has made the blasphemer a signal monument of that power which he has defied, and that wrath he has insulted, and though the Almighty may bear and forbear here, yet the sinner shall not escape that wrath and indignation which he is treasuring up for himself against the day of wrath. Let blasphemers kiss the Son, lest he be angry and they perish; when his wrath is kindled but a little, blessed are all they that put their trust in him.'
We have recorded instances of the pernicious effects attending paternal neglect, and the want of parental restraint, in the case of Lot and Eli, when divine judgments overtook both parent and child, for the criminal failure in parental duty.
One of the leading sources whence have issued that overwhelming tide of insubordination, proffigacy, and crime, against which all the terrors of law are but feeble restraints, is just the disregard of family religion, the neglect and letting down of family instruction and government, the grievous inattention of parents to their children, not caring for them in any other way than mere creatures of sense, entirely overlooking the training them up for the service of God here, and the enjoyment of God hereafter. O! what can be
expected of children in coming years, if there are not efforts made to eradicate those noxious weeds which grow so rank in the natural soil; nay, are not merely not uprooted, but cherished and strengthened by a mother's neglect, and a father's example; what can be expected but that these weeds shall grow up, and gain strength, and blossom, and bear seed, and shed their seed far and wide.
Abraham was what every parent and head of a family ought to be. Feeling the power of religion himself, aware of its necessity and importance, filled with love to precious souls, zealous for the glory of God, and anxious to transmit the knowledge and the fear of God to the world's end, and to latest generations, he was eager to convey to others, especially to those committed to his guardianship, what he knew and felt to be the source of all comfort, the foundation of all hope to himself. What honourable testimony is here borne to Abraham's integrity, and stedfastness, and conscientiousness in the discharge of his paternal duty, by him who knoweth all things, searcheth all hearts, and beholdeth all results. Whatever others may do or not do, this Abraham will do; he will command his family and household to keep the way of the Lord; I know him, his faith, his love to me, his stedfastness to his covenant-engagement. He will enter on the course prescribed, and he will maintain his integrity to the end. Prior to this, the father of believers had submitted to the rite of circumcision, as a token and seal of the covenant, without question or challenge, and every one of his household had in the same way been, at his command, separated to the Lord, whether old or young, free-born or slaves.
And what is involved in this parental duty as here suggested? It includes instruction, the sowing the seed of divine truth in the soul, the imbuing the mind with the knowledge of things sacred and spiritual. Whether it spring up and bear fruit or not, the seed must be sown, and sown by parents, and sown in youth, else children must grow up ignorant as the veriest heathen. It includes example. There is a teaching by the life as well as by the lips. There is a drawing out, and illustrating, and exhibiting the lesson in the temper and conversation, a making it palpable, and showing that it is practicable. If the example is not given, the lesson, however good, will fail in taking effect; if the example is contrary to the lesson, it is worse than fruitless, for it teaches and leads to hypocrisy and falsehood. It includes prayer. The father is the priest of the household; the seed that is sown must be watered, the blessing
that enriches must be sought, the sacrifice must be presented to the Lord, and this we hesitate not to say ought to be a morning and evening sacrifice. It includes discipline. A parent is the prophet and priest-he is also the king over his little community, this little dependency of the Almighty's domains. He will command, and he must command. The exercise of authority is essential. This does not bespeak harshness, but it bespeakes rule on the part of the head of the family, while it bespeaks submission, and ready submission on the part of the child and dependents. Instruction was doubtless given in Eli's case, good example was afforded, prayers were offered to the throne of grace, but authority was not exercised. The not restraining of his children was Eli's sin, and for this neglect both he and they were most grievously punished. O let parents lay this seriously to heart!
It is in this way that a parent is to train his children; but the household is to be cared for. All under the roof are subjected to the inspection, the guardianship, the authority of the head of the family. The souls of all are a trust committed to him, and how that trust has been executed, in regard to all, account must be rendered. Servants the lowest have souls to be saved or lost as well as children. They must be instructed, they must be prayed with and for, aye, they must be commanded to keep the way of the Lord. And this is a duty parents owe to God, to their country, and to their children; and in neglecting this duty, they are destitute of true affection, they are guilty of the greatest cruelty, they are doing what in them lies to ruin, to murder that which worlds could not purchase, which nothing but the blood of Christ could redeem.
Ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord,' Lev. xix. 12.
THESE words succeed the warning that is given. in the preceding verses against falsehood and lying, to show us how easily one sin leads to another, and that when once men can bring their minds to falsify for their own supposed advantage, they will soon go a step farther, and venture to swear for their advantage. O! how downward is
sin in every form-once enter upon it, and there is no saying where we will stop. The words of our present meditation bring before us two ways in which the third commandment is specially
violated, viz., by perjury, and by profane cursing words, as it is in the third commandment. Notand swearing. These are crimes of the very black-withstanding the strong warnings, and dread est and deepest dye, which, while they bring a threatenings of the Almighty against this sin, it very foul stain upon the character, are peculiarly is truly awful to think how prevalent it is. Turn obnoxious to God, and injurious to man. The to what hand we will, we hear men opening their former, that of perjury, needs but to be mentioned to show its abominable nature. Indeed I cannot conceive anything that bespeaks such daring and atrocious impiety as this sin. For what is it? It is a calling on God, the God of veracity, and holiness, and justice, with all the solemnities of a coming judgment placed before the mind, to bear witness to the truth of what we assert, and the sincerity of the promise which we make, although we know at the moment that what we assert is false, and what we promise we neither can nor intend to fulfil. Every one who thus swears invokes the omniscient God to notice and record what takes place, and calls upon the righteous Judge of all the earth to bring him to account. This is the idea that is implied in an oath. Now what a gross insult is thus given to the great God! It is a direct attack upon every divine perfection. To call on the God of truth to witness a lie, implies that he who does so either supposes that God does not know what he does, and therefore it is an attack upon his omniscience; or that God is not displeased with falsehood, and so it is a denial of his holiness; or that he is not able to avenge the indignity, and thus it derogates from his power. I conceive perjury, when deliberately committed, to be near akin to atheism. It is actual practical atheism.
mouths against the heavens, and our ears are assailed with the most horrid oaths and imprecations. In the perpetration of this crime it may be justly said, that men go astray as soon as they be born, for profane swearing appears as familiar to the young as to the old; the very child is taught to lisp an oath. This desecration manifests itself in various ways. Sometimes the name of God is profaned by the thoughtless sinner as a mere expletive in conversation; sometimes it is used in the company of the ungodly to give zest to their language, and to promote amusement; sometimes it is employed to express more strongly the vehemence of their rage; sometimes it is used to heighten the denunciations of revenge, and very often it is employed by unhallowed lips in imprecations of evil on their fellow-men. Drunkenness, anger, disappointment, mere merriment, give rise to the violation of this divine commandment. I do conceive that of all the innumerable and varied sins by which men are characterized and degraded, this sin is, so to speak, the most gratuitous, and betokens more than any, man's low and sunk condition, and the deep-rooted enmity of the human heart to God. For almost every one sin that can be mentioned you discover some motive; it is indulged in for some fancied advantage, or gratification; but no one can see why a profane person opens his mouth in imprecations, And while this sin is immediately directed why he blasphemes the name of the great God, against God, the consequences on society are but solely from the love of blasphemy, the love most pernicious. The interests of individuals are of sinning in this particular way. No acquisition not merely involved in it, but the peace and well-in any one way was ever made or expected to be being of mankind at large are subverted by it; for what security is there for any man's life, or character, or property, if these may be sworn away by the miscreant who sports with falsehood, and dreads not the fearful solemnity of an oath? Says Solomon, ‘a false witness against his neigh-profane like himself, he exposes himself to the bour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow;' is as much to be dreaded as the most fatal weapon, nothing can be mentioned that is more dangerous or destructive. O what a picture does such a sinner give of the deep depravity of the human heart! It is to be feared that the frequency of these solemn appeals to heaven, and allowed on occasions comparatively trivial, have had a powerful tendency to weaken the obligation, and lessen the reverence due to an oath.
Bat the sin of profane swearing, and that in ordinary conversation, is also denounced in these
made by profanity, and but for this fearful enmity of the carnal mind to God, one wonders how it is committed at all. O that the profane person would consider that whatever recommendation his blasphemy may be of him to the
abhorrence of the religious and the virtuous, yea, even the sober-minded. A swearer is generally avoided, you dread to come in contact with him. His language is the language of hell. He is one whom the young are admonished to dread, and to avoid; he is branded as a nuisance to society; he is marked as a blot in the creation of God.
Some do pretend to excuse this vice under the plea and pretence that it is a habit with them, and because they have been so much inured to it, therefore they cannot get quit of it; it has become second-nature to them. Alas, alas! what is this
but an aggravation of their guilt. They have very form and terms of the oath are prescribed, familiarized their minds so much to sin that they 'Thou shalt swear the Lord liveth in truth, in cannot live without it; they cannot speak with-judgment, and in righteousness.'
out profaning God's name; the habit is so strong that their consciences have become seared; the turpitude of the crime terrifies them not, and they have brought themselves to that state that they can call 'good evil, and evil good.' And shall the Lord hold such persons guiltless? No, no, He will not hold them guiltless, the curse is written over them. He will bring them to judgment. Jehovah in this interdict thus speaks, 'I am the Lord.' In casting your eye over this chapter, you will observe how frequently this memento is given, to remind men that he is a jealous, a sinavenging God, 'I am the Lord,' the holy One who changeth not-my views of this sin do not alter-mine ear is not heavy that it cannot hear their impiety—my arm is not shortened that it cannot punish their profanity. O let us plead with the Almighty that he would check this abounding iniquity, that he would pour out a spirit of grace and godliness upon us-that his name may be hallowed in our hearts, and extolled by our lips, and glorified in our lives.
THESE words of our Lord have been regarded by some as an absolute prohibition of oaths in any circumstances, and on any occasion whatever. This judgment has been formed without duly considering the object Christ had in view, and without taking to account the character of the persons addressed.
It cannot be doubted that oaths have been resorted to in every period of man's history. They were in use among the patriarchs long before the promulgation of the law; thus Abraham sware to Abimelech; and Jacob sware to Laban; and it is more than probable that such solemn appeals to heaven did not originate in human suggestion, but were expressly commanded by God. It is evident that such appeals were not merely admissible, but were enjoined under the Jewish dispensation. The very prohibition of false swearing implies the lawfulness of it in certain circumstances, and for certain ends; but Jehovah expressly commands it, Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt swear by his name;' and the
Although there is no express injunction respecting oaths under the Christian dispensation, yet, while there is nothing against the practice, there is much to confirm it. This appears both from the language of the prophets in reference to gospel days, and also from different declarations in the New Testament Scriptures. Thus saith the Lord, by the mouth of Isaiah, I have sworn by myself, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.' The apostle Paul solemnly appeals to the Almighty, as to the truth of his affirmation, and the sincerity of his affection: 'God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son,' Rom. i. 9. And in his epistle to the Hebrews, he tells us, that among men, an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.' In the book of Revelation, the angel is represented as lifting up his hand to heaven, and swearing by him who liveth for ever and ever.
Still our Lord's words stand on record, Swear not at all.' Does he hereby oppose the positive law of God? does he condemn the patriarchs who solemnly invoked Jehovah's name? does he set aside this mean suggested by the apostle for establishing truth, healing divisions, and settling strife? By no means. The prohibition of the Saviour, had it referred to any thing but rash, irreverent, and unnecessary swearing, would be contrary to the light of reason, the appointment of God, and the good of human society. It may be observed, that it is no unusual thing in scripture to express that in absolute terms which yet is to be understood in a limited sense, and to be explained in reference to the persons and circumstances to which it referred: and if in one place swearing is forbidden in scripture, and in another place it is allowed, the two cases must be different, and the nature and character of each must be discovered by the special circumstances. What our Lord had in view in the whole of his sermon on the mount, of which this warning forms a part, was to unfold the extent and spirituality of the divine law, and expose the gross corruption of the law by the traditions of the elders; and he sets his own authoritative, I say, over against their sinful explanations.
He does not set aside a tittle of the divine command; but he expresses himself strongly against what was unlawful in itself, what was not commanded, and the practice of which no consideration, no traditional gloss, could justify. Although the Jews pretended to venerate the very letters of the name Jehovah, yet