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are multitudes who are scarce ever heard to make mention of the name of the Deity but upon such
To evince the criminality and impiety of this practice, let me request your serious attention to the following considerations:
(1.) The practice of using the name of God on slight and trivial occasions is in direct opposition, not only to the passage [selected for our meditation], but also to a variety of others which identify the character of God with his name. He demands the same respect to be paid to his name as to himself. When the prophet Isaiah foretells the propagation of true religion, he expresses it in the following terms:-" They shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel."*"I will sanctify my great name." The piety of the tribe of Levi is thus expressed :-" My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name." "I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen."§ The respect which God pays to his name is a frequent plea with the saints of God in their supplications for mercy: "What wilt thou do unto thy great name?" || "If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear
Isa. xxix. 23. † Ezek. xxxvi. 23. ‡ Mal. ii. 5.
this glorious and fearful name, The Lord thy God."*
When our Lord directs us to pray that all due reverence [be given to that name], he expresses it thus "Hallowed be thy name." It is proper to remark, that as there were " gods many, and lords many," among the heathen, to distinguish himself from these pretended deities, he was pleased to reveal himself to Abraham and to his descendants under the peculiar name of JEHOVAH, which signifies essential, independent, and unchanging existence. The reverence paid to this name amongst the Jews was carried to the greatest possible height: it was never pronounced in common, nor even read in their synagogues ; but, whenever it occurred in the Scriptures, the word Adonai was substituted in its place. Among christians, God has not been pleased to assume any appropriate appellation; but, as the existence of the pretended deities is entirely exploded, the term God invariably denotes the One Supreme. The meaning of it is no longer ambiguous, it always represents the true God; and whatever respect was justly due to the name Jehovah amongst the Jews, is equally due to that term which is appropriated among christians to denote the existence and perfections of the same glorious Being. Hence it follows, that when we are taught to pray that the name of God may be hallowed, the meaning of that petition [is] that [the] appellation, † See pp. 1-6.
*Deut. xxviii. 58.
whatever it be, by which the Supreme Being, in the various languages of the world, is denoted, may be duly reverenced. The term God among christians is no more ambiguous than the term Jehovah among the Jews; it denotes one and the same object and it is, therefore, as criminal for us to use the one with levity, as a similar treatment of the other would have been amongst the Jews. And hence it is manifest that the whole spirit of the passages here quoted, respecting the name of God, is applicable in its full weight to the subject before us, and directly militates against the practice we are now condemning.
(2.) From the remarks which have been made, it follows, that the practice of using [his name] lightly, and [on] trivial occasions, is an infallible indication of irreverence towards God. As there is no [adequate] method of communicating [thought] but by words, which, though arbitrary in themselves, are agreed upon as the signs of ideas, no sooner are they employed but they call up the ideas they are intended to denote. When language is established, there exists a close and inseparable connexion between words and things, insomuch that we cannot pronounce or hear one without thinking of the other. Whenever the term God, for instance, is used, it excites among christians the idea of the incomprehensible Author of Nature: this idea it may excite with more or less force and impression, but it invariably excites that idea, and no other. Now, to connect
the idea of God with what is most frivolous and ridiculous, is to treat it with contempt; and as we can only contemplate [objects] under their ideas, to feel no reverence for the idea of God is precisely the same thing as to feel a contempt for God. He who thinks of [the name of] God, without being awed by it, cannot pretend to be a fearer of God; but it is impossible to use the name of God lightly and unnecessarily without being in that predicament. It is evident, beyond all contradiction, that such a man is in the habit of thinking of God without the least reverential emotion. He could not associate the idea of God with levity, buffoonery, and whatsoever is mean and ridiculous, if he had not acquired a most criminal insensibility to his character, and to all the awful peculiarities it involves. Suppose a person to be penetrated with a deep contrition for his sins, and a strong apprehension of the wrath of God, which is suspended over him; and are you not [immediately] aware of the impossibility of his using the name of the Being who is the object of all these emotions as a mere expletive? Were a person to pretend to the character of a humble penitent, and at the same time to take the name of God in vain, in the way to which we are now alluding; would you give the smallest credit to his pretensions? How decisive then must that indication of irreverence be, which is sufficient to render the very profession of repentance ridiculous!
But this practice is not only inconsistent with
that branch of religion which [constitutes] repentance; it is equally inconsistent with sincere, much more with supreme, esteem and veneration. No child could bear to hear the name of a father, whose memory he highly respected and venerated, treated in the manner in which the name of the Supreme Being is introduced. It would be felt and resented as a high degree of rudeness and indignity. There is, in short, no being whatever, who is the object of strong emotion, whose distinguishing appellations could be mentioned in this manner without the utmost absurdity and indelicacy. Nothing can be more certain than that the taking the name of God in vain infallibly indicates a mind in which the reverence of God has no place. But is it possible to conceive a state of mind more opposite to reason and order than this? To acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Being, our Maker and Preserver, possessed of incomprehensible perfections, on whom we are totally dependent throughout every moment of duration, and in every stage of our existence, without feeling the profoundest awe and reverence of him, is an impropriety, a moral absurdity, which the utmost range of language and conception is inadequate to paint. If we consider the formal nature of sin as a deliberate transgression of the divine law, it resolves itself chiefly into this, that it implies a contempt of infinite majesty, and supreme power and authority. This disposition constitutes the very core and essence of sin. It is not merely the character of