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the likeness of anything &c. thou shalt receive, observe, and keep pure and entire, the ordinances of worship appointed in my word ; and shalt not worship me by images, nor by any ordinances and rites of thine own invention.
2. God's propriety in us. “I the Lord thy God.” This brings into view the covenant of grace as a reason why we should observe the second commandment; for it is in the covenant of grace alone that God offers himself to be, or does become the sinner's God.God has a property in us arising not only from his being what he is; but also from the relations he sustains to us of Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and Redeemer, and especially from the latter. This is the relation particularly intended in the phrase, “thy God." He is a covenant God, and Redeemer. He offers himself in this character to all who hear the gospel ; and his visible people have avouched him to be their God. Therefore he has a right to give us laws; and it is our duty to receive, observe, and keep pure and entire his religious institutions, and not invent any of our own.
3. The third reason by which obedience to the second commandment is enforced is the zeal which God hath for his own worship, which we have expressed in these words; “ a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.” Jealous here signifies an earnest regard for his own institutions. He is a sovereign and has a right to prescribe to his creatures the ordinances by which he will be worshipped; and he has an earnest regard for the glory of his sovereignty, and will not suffer another, with impunity, to endeavour to take it from him, either by slighting his institutions, or by assuming his prerogative and inventing ordinances of their own. This jealousy or zeal which he hath for his own worship is shown,
1. By his accounting the breakers of this commandment, such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto the third and fourth generations.“ Visiting the inihaties of the fathers upon the children unto the third and carth generation of them that hate me.” The import of thosargument appears to be as follows-False worship is Srncing evidence of hatred to God; and God so
hates false worship, that he will not only punish the immediate transgressor, but will also punish his posterity unto the third and fourth generation.
That the iniquities of the fathers are in the course of divine providence often visited upon the children is a fact of which we have abundant proof in history, both sacred and profane, and also in instances which have come under our own observation. We have often seen child ren and chilren's children, injured in a temporal respect by the parents' misconduct and sins. And the conduct of parents has doubtless a great influence on the spiritual and eternal interests of their children. Where parents set a bad example before their children, or do not set a good one; where they give them bad advice,or neglect to iustruct them in the knowledge of divine things; where they despise or neglect the ordinances of divine appointment, live in neglect of prayer, attention to the Scriptures, and the public worship and ordinances of God's house ; and especially where they practice false worship-do we not find that, although, there are exceptions, yet generally, their children grow up, and live as their parents did ? I believe our own observation must convince us that this is generally the case. Further we must either admit that it is so or else deny the importance of a religious education, which is directly contrary to the Scriptures. Hence we have reason to believe that many children live and die irreligious, and go to misery, who if they had been placed in a different situation in the world, and had had different examples and instructions, from their parents, would have embraced true piety and obtained eternal salvation. We must admit this, or deny what every day's experience proves, viz. the influence of example and instruction; and also what the word of God every where teaches, viz. the influence of the means of grace and especially the efficacy of prayer. So that however we may feel towards this declaration, that God will visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, facts teach us it is so; and will not the judge of all the earth do right?
And here I would further observe, that children may suffer in this life for the iniquities of the parent, where they do make his sin their own. As for instance, if the parent be a drunkard, the children are often materially injured through life, in their respectability, estate, and temporal comfort, by his sin, though they do not copy his example. But as it respects a future world, children will not be punished for the sins of parents, unless they make their sins, their own. It is true, there is very great danger
that they will follow their example ; but if they do not, they will not be involved in their guilt and ruin.
This threatening ought to be duly considered by parents; and a regard to their children, as well as to their own souls, ought to lead them to love God, and keep his commandments, and especially to receive and observe the ordinances of his worship. By his providential dealings with the posterity of those who despise, slight, or neglect his ordinances, he manifests his zeal for his worship:
The reason why the third and fourth generation" are particularly mentioned some suppose to be, that natural affection will not operate further, because parents cannot expect to see more of their descendants, and are less concerned about their remote posterity; or it may imply, that as the Lord is ready to forgive, the effects of sin in the parents will cease after that period, unless the children persist in the sins of the parents.
2. God's jealousy or zeal for his own worship is further manifested, by his esteeming its observers, such as love him, and promising mercy unto them and to their posterity.
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments." By showing, mercy unto thousands of them that love him, it is generally supposed, we are to understand the thousandth generation, that is a great many generations. This exposition is confirmed by other passages. Thus Deut. v. 29. we read, “ O, that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever.” And in the days of the Apostle Paul the degenerate Jews were called, " beloved for the father's sake's." Rom. xi. 28. And we are assured in the Scriptures, that they shall yet, on account of their connexion with faithful Abraham, be brought into the church of Christ, and be made the subjects of spiritual blessings.
What a blessing therefore is it to have pious parents ! And how important is it that parents should be faithful, especially in their observance of the ordinances of God,
and in teaching them to their children, since according to the second commandment, children and posterity are so much concerned in the parent's character and conduct. May these reasons have their due weight upon our minds And may God give us all, a temper of obedience to all his holy commandments.-AMEN.
DUTIES REQUIRED IN THE THIRD COMMANDMENT.
EXODUS XX. T.
“ 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."
The spirit of this commandment appears to be, to regulate the manner of worshipping God. As the first commandment relates to the object, and the second to the means, so the third relates to the manner of worship.
The commandment is expressed negatively, “thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” But as in the other commandments, so in this, duties are required as well as sins forbidden.
By the name of God in this commandment, we are to understand, not only the names by which he is called ; but every thing by which he maketh himself known. In this sense our Catechism explain the word; and this explanation is warranted by the Scriptures. Thus when Moses at the burning bush asked the Lord his name; he answered, “I AM that I AM: thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Ex. iii. 14. Here name signifies a title. When at Sinai Moses besought the Lord to show him his glory, he promised to proclaim the Name of the Lord, Ex. xxxiii, 18, 19. “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, &c.” Ex. xxxiv. 6. Here the name of the Lord signifies his attributes. Again Mal. i. 6, 7. “Ye say, wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar." Here, by the name of the Lord is evidently meant the ordinances of his worship. Again the Psalmist, Ps. cxxxviii. 2. saith, “ thou hast magnified thy word, above all thy name;" which teaches us that the name of the Lord may signify his word. Again, the Psalmist, Ps. viii. 9. after speaking of the works of God exclaims, “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth”—where by his name, his works are evidently meant. Hence from comparing one part of Scripture with another, which is the true way of expounding God's word, we are warranted to adopt the explanation of our Catechism, that by the name of God, in the third commandment, is meant every thing by which he maketh himself known; and particularly his names, properly so called, his titles, his attributes, his ordinances, his word, and his works.
The object of the ensuing discourse is to illustrate the duties required in the third commandment.
These duties are stated in our Catechism, in the answer to the 54th question, as follows, viz.
" What is required in the third commandment ?
“ The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.”
The names of the Supreme Being are God, Lord, and Jehovah.--His titles are such as Lord of hosts, Holy One of Israel, Creator, Preserver of men, King of kings, Lord of lords, Father of mercies, &c. His attributes are those perfections and properties, by which he distinguisheth himself from his creatures, such as infinity, eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, infinite wisdom, holiness, &c. His ordinances are prayer, preaching and hearing the word, sacraments, and the like. His word is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. And his works are those of creation, providence, had redemption.
The duty required in the third commandment is to use all these with reverence. By reverence is meant an awe and fear, under a sense of the divine greatness. Whenever we use anything by which God maketh himself known, it becomes us to be filled with reverence under a