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habits that have a beneficial tendency, although founded merely in custom-that these liberties, however intended, will certainly be considered by those who observe them, not only as disrespectful to the day and institution, but as proceeding from a secret contempt of the Christian faith—that consequently they diminish a reve- , rence for religion in others, so far as the authority of our opinion, or the efficacy of our example, reaches ; or rather, so far as either will serve for an excuse of negligence to those who are glad of any--that as to cards and dice, which put in their claim to be considered amongst the barmlefs occupations of a vacant hour, i may be observed, that few find any difficulty in ref: aining from play on Sunday, except they who sit down to it with the views and eagerness of gamesters—that gaming is seldom innocent--that the anxiety and perturbations, however, which it excites, are inconsistent with the tranquillity and frame of temper in which the duties and thoughts of religion should always both find and leave us--and lastly we shall remark, that the example of other countries, where the same or greater licence is allowed, affords no apology for irregularities in our own;
because a practice which is tolerated by public usage neither receives the same construction, nor gives the same offence, as where it is censured and prohibited.
CH A P. IX.
OF REVERENCING THE DEITY.
N 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, or observe in others, may be destroyed by causes 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
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 and 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 discourse upon religious subjects.
The prohibition of the third commandment is recognized by Chrift, in his sermon
the mount, which sermon adverts to none but the moral parts of the fcwish law. “I say unto 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 fews probably interpreted the prohibition as reAtrained to the name Jehovah, the name which the Deity had appointed and appropriated to himleli. 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 fwearing is aggravated by the confideration, 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 aluvays remain within the power of the most ordinary resolution to correct it; and it cannot, one would think, coft 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 from 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 swearing, and describes, perhaps, pretty exactly, the general character of those who are most addicted to it.
Mockery and ridicule, when exercised upon the scriptures, or even upon the places, persons, 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 that law is extended by Christ's interpretation. They are moreover inconsistent with