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because a practice which is tolerated by public usage, neither receives the same construction, nor gives the same offence, as where it is cenfured and prohibited by both.




IN many persons a seriousness, and sense of

awe, overspread the imagination, whenever the idea of the Supreme Being is presented to their thoughts. This effect, which forms a confiderable security against vice, is the consequence not so much of reflection, as of habit; which habit being generated by the external expressions of reverence, which we use ourselves, and observe in others, may be destroyed by 'caufes opposite to these, and especially, by that familiar levity with which some learn to speak of the Deity, of his attributes, providence, revelations, or worship. . God hath been pleased, no matter for what reason, although probably for this, to forbid the vain mention of his name—“ Thou shalt not “ take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Now the mention is vain, when it is useless ; and it is useless, when it is neither likely nor VOL. II,



intended to serve any good purpose; as when it flows from the lips idle and unmeaning, or is applied upon occasions inconsistent with any consideration of religion or devotion, to express our anger, our earnestness, our courage, or our mirth ; or indeed, when it is used at all, except in acts of religion, or in serious and seasonable difcourse upon religious subjects. · The prohibition of the third commandment is recognized by Christ, in his fermon upon the inount, which sermon adverts to none but the moral parts of the Jewish law. “ I say unto is you swear not at all ; but let your communi• cation be yea yea, nay nay; for whatsoever " is more than these, cometh of evil.” The

Jews probably interpreted the prohibition as restrained to the name Jehovah, the name which the Deity had appointed and appropriated to himself. Ex. vi. 3. The words of Christ extend the prohibition beyond the name of God to every thing associated with the idea. “ Swear “ not, neither by heaven, for it is God's « throne ; nor by the earth, for it is his foot“ stool; neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city “ of the Great King.” Matt. v. 35. ' The offence of profane swearing is aggravated


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by the consideration, that in it duty and decency are facrificed to the flenderest of temptations. Suppose the habit, either from affectation, or by negligence and inadvertency to be already formed, it must always remain within the power of the most ordinary resolution to correct it, and it cannot, one would think, cost a great deal to relinquish the pleasure and honour which it confers. A concern for duty is in fact never strong, when the exertion requisite to vanquish a habit founded in no antecedent propensity, is thought too much, or too painful.

A contempt of positive duties, or rather of those duties for which the reason is not so plain as the command, indicates a disposition upon which the authority of revelation has obtained little influence. This remark is applicable to the offence of profane fwearing, and describes, perhaps, pretty exactly the general character of those who were most addicted to it.

Mockery and ridicule, when exercised upon the scriptures, or even upon the places, perfons, and forms set apart for the ministration of religion, fall within the mischief of the law, which forbids the profanation of God's name; especially as it is extended by Christ's interpretation. They are moreover inconsistent with a

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religious frame of mind; for as no one ever feels himself either disposed to pleasantry, or capable of being diverted with the pleasantry of others, upon matters in which he is cordially. interested, so a mind intent upon the attainment of heaven, rejects with indignation, every attempt to entertain it with jests, calculated to degrade or deride subjects, which it never recollects, but with seriousness and anxiety. Nothing but stupidity, or the most frivolous diffipation of thought, can make even the inconsiderate forget the supreme importance of every thing which relates to the expectation of a future existence. Whilst the infidel mocks at the superstitions of the vulgar, insults over their credulous fears, their childish errors, or fantastic rites, it does not occur to him to observe, that the most preposterous device by which the weakest devotee ever believed he was securing the happiness of a future life, is more rational, than unconcern about it. Upon this subject nothing is so absurd, as indifference—no folly so contemptible, as thoughtlessness and levity.

Finally, the knowledge of what is due to the solemnity of those interests, concerning which revelation professes to inform and direct us, may teach even those who are least inclined to re


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