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common, and from which few of us can plead entire exemption. Whenever we engage in devotional exercises, without a becoming sense of the solemnity of the transaction, we take the name of the Lord our God in vain. Even the best of Christians, from the influence of habit, or the occurrence of some adventitious circumstance, or the sudden suggestion of foreign thoughts and emotions, may, for a short period, become, in this respect, reprehensible. And how frequently does it happen, that they who have not experienced the power of religion in their souls, and who, having no strong desire to be accounted pious, cannot be called hypocrites, in the strict sense of that term, regularly observe most of the external forms of public worship which God has prescribed ? Are they not guilty, to a certain extent, of taking the Deity's name in vain ? Beyond all doubt they are.Brethren, might we not here ask, whether you have been entirely free from this sin, even during the few minutes that have elapsed since we came together this evening? Tell us, have not your minds been occasionally reverting to the things of time, when they should have been absorbed in those of eternity? Is it not a fact, that the business and the pleasures of the world, have diverted your attention from those momentous subjects, with which you ought to have been exclusively occupied ? Do we not assert a truth which conscience will not permit you to deny, when we say that the recollected concerns of the past week, or the anticipated concerns of the next week, have engaged a large share of those meditations, which it behooved you to employ on topics appropriate to the Sabbath and the sanctuary of Jehovah ?
We might go on to point out other modes in which the third commandment is contravened. But enough has been said on the general nature, and particular applications of this commandment, to enable every individual to pursue the subject for himself, and to determine what omissions of duty involve the guilt of “taking the name of the Lord our God in vain."
We must not, however, conclude without adverting to the sanction by which the third precept of the decalogue is enforced, or, to adopt the technical style of our Shorter Catechism, “ the reason annexed to” it. “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain." 66 The sinner," says Matthew Henry, 6 may, perhaps, hold himself guiltless, and think there is no harm in it, and that God will never call him to an account for it; to obviate which suggestion, the threatening is thus expressed, God will not hold him guiltless, as he hopes he will; but more is implied, namely, that God will himself be the avenger of those that take his name in vain, and they will find it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The penalty thus attached to the infraction of this commandment, is of that general kind, which God has denounced against the non-observance of his pure and righteous law. His own glorious perfections, and the best interests of his moral government forbid, that transgressors should be permitted to escape with impunity. As judge of all the earth, he will inflict condign punishment on every culprit. And there is no offence which he will chastise with more rigid and unsparing severity, than that of taking his name in vain. The nature of this sin is such, that it is seldom made a subject of legislative cognizance on earth, and even when it is so made, the legal provisions relating to it are often neglected by magistrates, or evaded by offenders. But there is a tribunal in the universe, before which the profaneness of God's name, shall certainly be arraigned for trial and condemnation, He has pledged his word, that they shall not be held guiltless, and we know, that what he has said, cannot fail of accomplishment.
And, brethren, can we need an inducement stronger and more effectual for avoiding the profanation of our Maker's name, than that which the text supplies? When we are thus solemnly assured, that on disobedience to the third commandment the Lord will not hold us guiltless, is there not presented a motive as cogent as any that could be brought to operate upon a well-constituted mind? Who does not dread the displeasure of Him, whose prerogative it is to destroy both soul and body in hell? Is there any so bold as to rush, with such a threatening staring him in the face, on the thick bosses of the Almighty's buckler? Awful, indeed, is the infatuation of those, who notwithstanding the many denunciations of Jehovah's wrath against conduct like theirs, which the sacred volume exhibits, continue to take the name of the Lord their God in vain !
It affords us no pleasure, dear hearers, to enforce the duties of morality, and the higher duties of religion, by considerations of a gloomy and an alarming nature. We would much rather bring before you topics calculated to allure to the practice of virtue, than those which have a tendency to deter from the commission of sin. But it is not for us to pursue our own course in this matter. The Master whom we serve, will not allow us to expatiate altogether on the tender mercies of our God. He requires us likewise to “persuade men," by “the terrors of the Lord.” And in the present instance, when the text announces the certainty of punishment in the event of delinquency, as a reason for compliance with the precept which we have considered, it would be manifestly improper to resort to an argument of a different character.
We entreat you, then, as you would dread a verdict of guilty at the bar of God, to avoid taking his name in vain. Never speak, nor even think of the divine Being, except with the deepest humility and profoundest reverence. Let all your attempts to worship him, be marked with sincerity and fervour. In one word, be it your constant endeavour to cultivate such a frame of mind, as will qualify you for that intimate and perpetual intercourse with him, in which consists the bliss of heaven.
ACTS VIII. 30, 31.
“And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and
said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
The martyrdom of Stephen, the first individual who shed his blood for the cause of Jesus, became the signal for that furious persecution of the Christians, which forms the opening chapter in the history of Paul. The friends of the Saviour naturally took the alarm, and sought safety in a precipitate flight from Jerusalem. We are told that they scattered themselves abroad, preaching the gospel whithersoever they went. It was the lot of Philip the evangelist to take the road to Samaria, and to be the instrument of doing much good in that central region of Palestine. His ministerial labours proved so successful, that the apostles Peter and John repaired to his assistance; and it may be presumed, that through the joint efforts of these devout and indefatigable men, not a few were convinced of sin, and brought into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
Philip, on leaving Samaria, was divinely admonished to proceed towards the south, in the direction of Gaza. As he pursued his journey, he overtook a traveller of wealth and consideration, returning from Jerusalem to Ethiopia. This individual is described by the sacred historian, as “ an eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all