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Now it is plain beyond a doubt, that the solemn and awful character of God constitutes all the solemnity of an oath. If he is considered by the person, who takes it, as holy and sin-hating, as the unchangeable Enemy of faithlessness and falsehood; if he is realized as a present and awful Witness both of the oath and the subsequent conduct; if he is believed to be the future and dreadful Avenger of perjury and unfaithfulness; then we cannot but suppose, that the person, who has thus sworn, will deeply feel his obligation to be sincere, and faithful; will with deep anxiety speak the truth exactly, or discharge the duties of the assumed office in the fear of God.
But if, on the contrary, the juror, whether in evidence or in office, regards God as an object of little importance; as being either too weak, or too regardless of rectitude, to take any serious concern in the moral conduct of his creatures; as destitute of sacredness of character, and hatred of sin; as indifferent to truth and falsehood, faithfulness and treachery; as willing to be mocked with impunity, and abused without resentment; as existing, only to be a mere caterer to the wants and wishes of his creatures, and a mere object of profanation and contempt: then, plainly, the oath, in which he is invoked, can have little solemnity in the eyes, little influence on the heart, and little efficacy upon the conduct of the juror. To every such person it will become a thing of course; a mere wind-and-weather incident, an empty mockery of solemn sounds on a thoughtless tongue. Its obligation he will neither feel, nor see. The duties, which it requires, he will not perform. There will, therefore, be no difference of conduct, in this case, be tween him that sweareth, and him that sweareth not.
But how evident is it, that persons, who swear profanely, speedily lose all sense of the awful character of the Creator. From trifling with him in this wonderful manner, they soon learn to consider him as a mere trifler. From insulting him daily, they soon regard him as a proper object of insult. From mocking him with such impious effrontery, they speedily think of him in scarcely any other character, than that of a mere butt of mockery. Thus God is first degraded, in the view of the mind, by its own profaneness, and then intruded upon by perjury. He, who swears profanely, will, in ordinary cases, soon swear falsely. Accordingly, customhouse oaths, proverbially false, are usually taken by profane men. Nay, such men have by their own perjuries rendered these oaths proverbially false. Oaths in evidence, also, taken by such men, are justly regarded as lying under a general imputation; as contributing not a little to unhinge the confidence of mankind in this their last reliance for truth and safety.
What is true of profane cursing and swearing, as to its corrupting power, is true of irreverence in every form. Disregard to God is the flood-gate to all moral evil. He, who enters upon this conduct, ought to consider himself as then entering upon an univer
sal course of iniquity; and as then yielding himself, as a slave, to do the whole drudgery of Satan.
2dly. Profaneness is a sin, which is rapidly progressive.
This truth cannot but be discerned, extensively, in the observations already made. Every act of profaning the name, perfections, works, word, and worship, of God, is obviously a bold, presumptuous attack upon this glorious Being. The sinner, having once dared so far, becomes easily more daring; and passes rapidly from one state of wickedness to another, until he becomes finally hardened in rebellion against his Maker. That most necessary fear of God, which is the great restraint upon sinful men, is speedily lost. The sinner is then left without a check upon his wickedness; and voluntarily induces upon himself a flinty obstinacy, which is a kind of reprobation on this side of the grave.
At the same time, the tongue is a most convenient instrument of iniquity, always ready for easy use. We cannot always sin with the hands; and are not always sufficiently gratified by mere sins of thought. Much as it is to be lamented, there is no sinall source of pleasure, found by wicked men in communicating their sinful thoughts and feelings to each other. The slanderer is never satisfied with merely thinking over slander. The liar would soon be discouraged if he could not utter his lies. The profane swearer could hardly fail of becoming a reformed man, were it not for the pleasure, little as it is, which he finds in uttering his profaneness to others. The sins of the tongue are perpetrated, alike, with ease, and delight, every day; and in every place, where even a solitary individual can be found to listen. Hence transgressions of this kind are multiplied wonderfully. The thief steals, and the cheat defrauds, occasionally only. But the slanderer will slander every day. The liar utters falsehood unceasingly. The profane person swears and curses every where; and multiplies his iniquities as the drops of the morning. From the mind of such a person it is reasonably believed, that the Spirit of that God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, will in a peculiar manner withdraw his influence. Can it be rationally supposed, that this celestial Visitant will stay with man, to be a witness of irreverence and profanation? Ought not every profane person to feel, that he is forcing away from himself those benevolent restraints upon his wickedness, which constitutes his only security, and the only rational foundation of his hopes of eternal life?
3dly. Profaneness, particularly that of the tongue, naturally introduces men to evil companions, and shuts them out from the enjoy ment of those who are virtuous.
All men love, all men seek, companions, of their own character. Sinners herd with sinners instinctively. Virtuous men seek the company of those who are virtuous. Men of learning consort with men of learning; philosophers with philosophers; merchants, farmers, mechanics, and seamen, seek the company of those of
their own class: the mere, incidental circumstances of pursuing the same kind of business alluring them, regularly, to the society of each other. Still more powerful are moral inducements. This is a fact so extensively observed, that mankind have proverbially remarked, that a man is known by the company which he keeps.
Profane persons are shut out from the company of virtuous men by a variety of considerations. They totally disrelish the character of virtuous men; their pursuits; their sentiments; their conversation; and usually shun their society on this account. They also dread their inspection; and fear to have them witnesses of their own character, language, and opinions. For this reason, whenever they are in their company, they feel obliged to guard themselves; to bridle their tongues; and to take care, that their language and sentiments be not offensive to their companions, and dishonourable to themselves. This restraint, like all others, is painful; and they are unwilling to subject themselves to it, whenever it can be avoided.
Virtue, also, is in its own nature awful to all sinners: and proud as they are of themselves, and their sins, they cannot fail, in the hour of sober consideration, to feel their inferiority; and accordingly to be humbled, mortified, and abashed. Christ informs us that he who doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. For the very same reason, profane persons, and other sinners, hate the company of religious men; because their character and conduct are a direct contrast to their own, and hold them out in a stronger light of unworthiness and debasement. This contrast, few wicked men are willing to bear. Almost all of them shrink from it, as a wounded patient shrinks from the probe of the surgeon.
At the same time, virtuous persons loath, of course, the company, and conversation, of all open and obstinate sinners. But profane persons are among the most open of all sinners. Their sin is ever on their lips, and continually proclaimed by their tongues. It is impossible therefore, that their characters should not be known. Persons, so directly opposed in feelings and pursuits, can never unite with that mutual agreement of heart, or conversation, which is indispensable to the pleasantness, and even to the continuance, of familiar society. The virtuous man will, at the same time, find every thing lacking in such persons which he seeks for in company; whether it be pleasure, or profit.
In addition to these things, his reputation becomes stained, and very deeply, if he consorts, voluntarily, with such companions.
Why," "it will naturally be asked, "does he frequent such company?" "Certainly," it will be answered, "not for profit." The necessary inference is, therefore, that he frequents it for the sake of pleasure. Of course, he must find pleasure in sin; and in this peculiarly odious sin. But to find pleasure in any sin is a direct contradiction of his religious profession; a direct denial of his
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 rejection; the mark of outlawry from virtuous society; a label, voluntarily 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
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 hin; 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, by 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.
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