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jesty will fill the wicked with terror, it will be viewed with love, as well as with holy fear, by the pure inhabitants of the celestial world.
V. The fear of God is the only source of true fortitude. While the fear of man brings a snare, and incapacitates for the firm and faithful discharge of duty, the fear of God inspires us with intrepidity, and makes us fearless of danger and of death, so that we win his favour. With this principle fixed in the heart, we estimate things according to their true value, and justly conclude, that it will profit us nothing, though we should gain the whole world, were we to acquire it with his frown, on whose judgment our being and our happiness depend. “I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do: but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear, fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: I say unto you, fear Him.”
ON THE NATURE AND GUILT OF IMPIETY.
The sin prohibited in the third commandment, is the vice opposed to reverence of God, or impiety and profanation.
- 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.”
Numerous are the ways in which impiety is shewn, and this command violated. It is impious to use the name of God lightly or irreverently, and without necessity. All the forms of cursing and swearing in common language, are, therefore, obvious indications of a profane mind. Perjury, or false swearing, because the person guilty of it is usually more deliberate in its commission, is impiety in its most aggravated and awful extent. It is to be feared, that when oaths are so frequently required, as the laws of most nations demand, this crime, so insulting to the omniscience and omnipresence of God, is often committed.
This command is also violated, when God is not seen nor glorified in his works; and when, in place of being referred to his power, and wisdom, and goodness, they are yilified, and ascribed to chance or fate. The mind that can survey the glories of heaven, and the ever-varying and stupendous works of that universe in the midst of which we are placed, without the profoundest reverence for that eternal God who is the author, the mover, and the preserver of all, may, indeed, be charged with a feeling, if not impious, at least closely akin to it.
But the word of God is that in which he has more clearly and fully displayed his character, perfections, and purposes.
It particularly reveals the plan of redeeming love and mercy, through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. This word, therefore, he has magnified above all his name; that is, it is a richer discovery of himself, and of his ways, than is elsewhere to be seen in his works; and so highly does he value
it, that he fulfils all that it announces, that he is pleased with the reverential mind of him who trembles at it, and that heaven and earth shall sooner pass away than that one jot, or one tittle of it, shall fail.
But how is this word treated and entertained by multitudes of those to whom it is sent ? Numbers not only reject it, but reject it with derision and scorn. How often is it made the subject of jest, and introduced in conversation, and in writing, for the purpose of exciting a laugh! Others impiously lay it aside as unworthy of their study, and conduct themselves towards it as if it were not certain truth, as if it revealed not things of the very deepest concernment, as if it were all a cunningly-devised fable, without authority and without foundation. Should such persons attend the instituted ordinances of divine worship, they carry their irreverence along with them, and feel not awed by the majesty of His presence who is the object of worship, nor concerned to draw near unto him with that state of mind in which a creature, and more especially a sinful creature, should approach unto God.
The aggravation of this sin is, that it is a direct attack upon God: it is known rebellion against his authority. His name, his titles, his dispensations, his laws, his word, his day, are lightly treated and abused, because they are God's. Has not the Lord said, that he will not hold them guiltless who are chargeable with this crime? May they not expect to be visited by Him with the punishment they deserve, and to be hereafter held up to shame, and to everlasting contempt ?
How often are they who are guilty of this vice, left in this life to the hardening influence of sin,-to be the corrupters of those with whom they may associate, -to the judgments of God here, and to a still more fearful punishment hereafter ? Shun it, and those who practise it, as you would the pestilence, as you would the greatest calamity that can befall you; shun it as you value the peace of your own minds; and if you have a remaining wish to revere the awful Majesty of heaven, remember that there is a period approaching that will make us all feel deeply serious, and when we shall wish to call on that holy name which thousands so irreverently take upon their lips. “ Infidelity,” says Paley, “is served up
every shape that is likely to allure, surprise, or beguile the imagination; in a fable, a tale, a novel, a poem; in interspersed and broken hints, remote and oblique surmises; in books of travels, of philosophy, of natural history; in a word, in any form rather than the right one, that of a professed and regular disquisition. And because the coarse buffoonery, and broad laugh, of the old and rude adversaries of the Christian faith, would offend the taste, perhaps, rather than the virtue of this enlightened age, a graver irony, a more skilful and delicate banter, is substituted in their place. An eloquent historian, beside his more direct, and therefore fairer, attacks upon the credibility of the Evangelical story, has contrived to weave into his narration one continued sneer upon the cause of christianity, and upon the writings and characters of its ancient patrons. The knowledge which this author possesses of the frame and conduct of the
human mind, must have led him to observe, that such attacks do their execution without inquiry. . Who can refute a sneer? Who can compute the number, much less, one by one, scrutinize the justice of those disparaging insinuations, which crowd the page of this elaborate historian! What reader suspends his curiosity, or calls off his attention from the principal narrative, to examine references, to search into the foundation, or to weigh the reason, propriety, and force, of every transient sarcasm and sly allusion, by which the Christian testimony is depreciated and traduced; and by which, nevertheless, he may
find his persuasion afterwards unsettled and perplexed * ?”
Trus may be the proper place for shortly inquiring into the nature and lawfulness of engagements or vows made unto God.
It is scarcely necessary to premise, that the right of God to command the love and obedience of his intelligent creatures, does not rest on any stipulation on their part to yield what he requires. This arises from the infinite excellency of his nature, and is commensurate with that excellency,—and from the relations he bears to us, as Creator, Preserver, and Moral Governor. The obligation of obeying a Being who is
* Mor. Phil. v. ii. p. 104.