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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? 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. Profaneness 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 gradually 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, says 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 hardeni ng his heart, and of inclining him to treasure up wrath against the day of 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 reputation 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
is an unceasing and fearful provocation of his Maker, and a terrible preparation for a future life of eternal blasphemy. All the ruin of futurity, and all the guilt and wretchedness of this life, he voluntarily brings upon himself by the indulgence of this odious, senseless, causeless sin; and thus quietly, and coolly, prepares himself to be destroyed for ever. In sinning against God, in this manner, he eminently wrongs his own soul; and loves, invites, and solicits, everlasting death.
THE LAW OF GOD.-THE DECALOGUE.-THE THIRD COMMANDMENT. THE DANGER OF PROFANENESS.
EXODUS IX. 7.-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.
IN the two preceding discourses, I considered, at length, the Nature, and the Guilt, of Profaneness. I shall now proceed, according to the plan originally proposed, to examine with some attention the Danger of this sin.
All sin is dangerous. But there are different kinds, and degrees, of danger in different sins. On those, which especially attend this sin, or which, though common to other sinful habits, are connected with profaneness in a remarkable manner, I mean to insist in the following discourse.
1st. Profaneness is eminently the Source of Corruption to the whole Character.
That there is an intimate connection between the thoughts, and the tongue, is perfectly well known to all men of consideration. The nature of this connection is, however, misapprehended, if I mistake not, by most men. All persons perceive, that their thoughts give birth to their words: while few seem to be aware, that their words, to a vast extent, originate, and modify, their thoughts. Almost all moral attributes, and employments, operate mutually as causes and effects. Thus irreverence of thought generates profaneness of expression; and profaneness of expression, in its turn, generates and enhances irreverence of thoughts. Thus, universally, the mind moves the tongue; and the tongue again, in its turn, moves the mind.
The person, who speaks evil, will always think evil. By this I do not mean, that evil thoughts must precede evil speaking: and that the man must, therefore, have been the subject of evil thoughts, in order to have spoken evil. I mean, that evil speaking, although an effect of evil thoughts, is, in its turn, a cause of new, and other, evil thoughts. He, who thinks ill, will undoubtedly speak, and act, ill. This all men readily acknowledge. It is equally certain, although not equally well understood, that evil speech, and evil actions, directly corrupt the mind; and render it more sinful, than it would ever become, if it were not to speak, and act, in this
A familiar example, or two, will advantageously illustrate this subject. An angry man becomes at once more violent and wrathful, when he begins 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 revenge. 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 fire 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 character 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 conduct, persons, addicted to this sin, have been regarded by common sense as gross sinners of course. "A profane person," is,
therefore, as you well know, proverbial language, used regularly to denote a wicked vicious wretch.
The truth plainly is, and all men discern it to be truth, that ir reverence to God is a general source of wickedness. As I remarked in a former discourse, Religious Reverence is the direct, and peculiar, source of reformation. Irreverence, its opposite, is in the same manner the direct source of degeneracy. This is indeed true of most sins, when habitually and allowedly practised. He, who practises one sin in this manner, will almost necessarily relish other sins more. As the body when corrupted, and weakened, by sickness, is more prepared for the admission of any disease which may arrest it; so the soul, corrupted by sin of any kind, becomes more fitted for the admission of every kind of wickedness, which seeks admission. The conscience becomes less tender, less awake, less alarmed at the apprehension of guilt. The motives also, which should induce us to abstain from iniquity, gradually lose their power. The love of sinning, the evil passions and appetites, gain strength by indulgence; and temptation, having repeatedly vanquished us, more easily vanquishes us again.
But irreverence, more than almost any other evil, brings us into this danger. Whenever God becomes an object of little importance, or estimation, in our view; the evil of sinning vanishes of course. The danger, also, speedily recedes from our view. The only great and solemn Object in the universe, the only Being, who is of ultimate importance to us, loses all his awfulness and sanctity. The great and commanding motive is, therefore, gone; and there is nothing left, to restrain us, but reputation or convenience. In this situation, the mind is prepared for future perpetrations, not only by an increased love to sinning, but by a strong and habitual feeling, operating with much more power than mere conviction, that sin is neither guilty nor dangerous; or at the worst as a thing of small moment. The soul is thus let free to the indulgence of its evil propensities; and the restraints which once operated with no small efficacy, lose their hold on the
An affecting exemplification of this doctrine is seen in the tendency of one exercise of profaneness to produce another. Persons addicted to profane swearing are, I apprehend, much more prone than most others, to the commission of perjury. An oath is an eminently solemn act of religious worship. The person, who takes an oath, calls God to witness the manner, in which he shall speak, or act, under the obligation which it imposes. If he shall speak truth, and nothing else; if he shall act faithfully in the of fice, or trust, which he is then assuming; he implores God, to bless him here and hereafter. If he shall speak falsely, or act unfaithfully; he in the same solemn manner invokes on his head the divine vengeance through time and eternity