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memory, and the deep regret which they felt for an event that had deprived not only the University, but the nation to which he belonged, of one of its brightest ornaments. They accordingly appointed a committee to, consult with others, who might have the same object in view, to take such steps as should enable a future meeting, when more of the students should be in town, to come to a particular and final resolution. We have scarcely need to add, that the Monument which our engraving represents, will stand as a lasting memorial of the high esteem in which the professor was held, to whose memory it has been erected.
But superb and honourable as this marble edifice may appear, the name of Professor Playfair will be inscribed in more durable characters in the following list of his works. 1. “ Elements of Geometry. 2. Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth. 3. A Letter to the Author of the Examination of Professor Stewart's Statement. 4. An edition of Euclid. 5. System of Geography, 5 vols. quatro. 6. Outlines of Philosophy.” To these may be added many valuable papers, which he contributed to the Transactions of the Royal Society. His account of De Laplace-articles in the Edinburgh Review—and his Introductory Discourse in the Supplement to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In composition, his style was rather clear than splendid ; it rarely exhibited much energy, and but few of those ornaments which gain orators applause. It had no impetuosity, no hurry, no vehemence; no bursts, or sudden turns or abruptions, like that of Burke ; and though eminently smooth and melodious, it was not modulated to any uniform system of declamation, like that of Johnson, nor spread out into the richer and more voluminous elocution of Stewart. It was the style of a useful, rather than of an ornamental writer. It was that of a man absorbed in deliberation, thought, and learning, always more solicitous for the sentiment delivered, than for the mere expression which became its vehicle.
For a considerable portion of the materials comprised in this sketch, we acknowledge ourselves indebted to the Annual Biography and Obituary for 1820.
ON THE OBSERVANCE OF THE THIRD
utility of this Divine precept, as both be.
come sufficiently obvious on reflection. It By John Philip Wilson.
may, however, be well to set forth a few (THIRD ESSAY.)
reasons why the observance of it is at once “ Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy
wholesome and necessary, both for the tem. God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless poral and eternal benefit of mankind. that taketh His name in vain."
“ Thou shalt not take the name of the That sin should be committed without a Lord thy God in vain.” The word “ vain” definite object, the attainment of which can is of varied and comprehensive signification; be assigned as a reason for the act, shews an and, in most of its meanings, is so apextraordinary perversion of the moral and plicable to the sense of the commandment, intellectual powers of man; nevertheless, it that no other word could easily have been is undeniable that immoral customs are selected, equally well adapted for conoften persisted in, either unthinkingly or veying its intention. obstinately, without even the wretched ex- 1. It signifies false, not true. Viewed cuse of temporal gratification, or the accom. in this light, the prohibition evidently applishment of any particular desire. Amongst plies to the sacred name being coupled with these we may reckon profane swearing, and a falsehood, or in any way used as a ratithe habitual use of blasphemous and im- fication of a feigned asseveration. It is also proper discourse.
confirmed as to this meaning by the Lord Beyond this fact, but little illustration is himself, speaking to Moses : necessary, to shew either the intent or shall not swear by my name falsely; neither
« And ye
shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I crime, and deter unholy persons from the am the Lord,” Levit. xix. 12.
commission of so odious an act. 2. Another signification of the word is In this sense, also, there is an analogy proud, arrogant, osientatious, which cer- between the present commandment, and tainly applies to the mention of the Omni- the ninth : “ Thou shalt not bear false witpotent without that humility of mind, and ness against thy neighbour;" and the subrespect of manner, so justly and so neces- ject shall hereafter be more fully noticed sarily due to the Grand Creator of all under its proper head. things.
The habitual or occasional mention of 3. Idle, frivolous, useless, foolish, un- the Great and Holy One in an arrogant important. Very little explanation can be manner, whether oral or written, as if we necessary to shew the application of the were not indebted to His providence for the word vain, as thus defined, to the intent of breath of life, and the daily bread for which the commandment before us. In vain, we our lips move in daily prayer, betrays a are likewise told by the lexicographer, sig. lamentable want of religious feeling, and of nifies to no purpose, to no end; and the veneration for the Most High. Were the law may be considered in either import, as mind well regulated, and properly imbued prohibiting the unnecessary use of the ap- with a sense of God's goodness and majesty, pellation of the Deity; or rather, as for- it is impossible that it could prompt the bidding the mention of His awful name outward organs to utter aught, that either in altogether, unless with some moral view or import or tone is expressive of any thing but intention.
the most profound reverence and respect. Having thus traced the expression made The proud and haughty in spirit--the use of by the Divine lawgiver, through Atheist who would tear himself away from those imports which are most applicable to his Maker, and render himself independent His original intention, I shall proceed to of a God, to become the creature of chance, shew how this mandate operates, in con- and the slave of brutal impulse; or the junction with the others, in forwarding the Deist, who denies the blessed Christ, and best and most important interests of the rashly spurns from him the divine consogreat family for whose benefit it was framed. Jations of the gospel, may indeed speak of
The first sense in which I have under- God in light or disrespectful terms; and, stood the word (i. e. false, not true,) is a by some strange or forced action of the distine example of the forethought and inef- ordered machinery of their minds, divest fable wisdom, as well as the care and themselves of that reverential awe, and prosregard, of the Almighty for his creatures. tration of spirit, which ever should attend As a lie cannot be conceived or uttered with an utterance of His name. But to such a good intent, (or even if it be, the object is be it confined ; and let not the fear and love no justification of the action) some defence of God, on which depends so materially the is absolutely necessary against deceit and proper effect of religion, depart from the falsehood, for the security of men in their christian soul. affairs and transactions with each other, and We have ample proof on record, that for the proper ordering of the social state. God must be approached with humility and Thus the holy name of God is made the lowliness of heart. The altar of Cain was test and ordeal of truth, by which it is to be destroyed; for he was a proud and discondistinguished on solemn occasions from its tented man, and his offering was not ac. antipodal quality. It is to be hoped that ceptable to the Lord. The self-debasefew, in proportion to the countless number ment of the publican was grateful to the of human beings, are so totally abandoned Eternal; whilst the proud confidence of the of their Maker as to prostitute his name to a pharisee reached not the throne of the Alwickedness he abhors and forbids, and to mighty. Confirmatory of this, we have the make that, in which we comprehend all words of our blessed Redeemer : “ Whothat is just, "holy, and immaculate, the soever, therefore, shall humble himself as vehicle of a base and deliberate lie.
this little child, the same is greatest in the That some, however, have been so lotally kingdom of heaven,” Matt. xviii. 4. Also, lost to every good and moral feeling as to “ And whosoever shall exalt himself shall say “the thing that is not,-calling the be abased; and he that shall humble himDeity at the same time to witness their self shall be exalted,” chap. xxii. 12. verity, the repulsive annals of perjury shew; With regard to the third meaning we but, for these, the wisdom of human in- have assigned the word vain. We will stitutes, acting upon the spirit of the Divine merely observe," as in the preceding parastatutes, has provided a temporal punish- graph, that the frivolous or unnecessary ment, to hold in check the increase of the mention of the name of God, argues a state of mind far from being consistent with that the commandment, or of insulting the Omwhich ought to be the endeavour of a Chris- nipotent, cannot, in justice, be classed with tian to attain; such mention being only the determined and habitual swearer ; nor called for, or justifiable, (as before hinted) the man who applies the sacred name to on the most solemn occasions, where, under mere frivolous matters, be considered peculiar circumstances, an asseveration, con- equally black with the wretch who systefirmed by an appeal to Heaven, becomes matically curseth his God. nec sary to forward the ends of justice, &c. It is also evident that, in addition to the
As from minute causes, effects the most culpability of the act itself, abstractedly gigantic may spring; so the slight deviation, considered, a rapid decline of true piety or occasional deviation from this ordinance must be another inevitable consequence of of Almighty God, which some persons have dereliction, even of the lighter kind, from been pleased to term comparatively unim- this duty; for is it probable, or consistent portant, may sow the seeds of crime far
with our nature, that at periodical times we greater in magnitude, which, like a noxious can humble ourselves before the footstool of weed, springs up in the mind, choking, by One, whom we habituate ourselves to speak its strength and poisonous nature, the of disregardingly in common ? and, above growth of the fair sapling virtue, planted by all, can we pray for blessings and benefits the hand of God himself, and, by the over- from the Being whom we deride, neglect, shadowing breadt of its leaves, obscuring or hold as nothing ? Nay, can we even from the tender nursling the bright and ask a favour of a fellow-man with a clear generative rays of religion's Sun, so indis- conscience and an open brow, if we have pensably necessary for bringing it to the wronged or insulted him ? How much perfection and beauty of its maturity. The less then dare we petition the God of alloccasional slight mention of the Deity, by the great Jehovah—when we have broken degrees becomes habitual; thence, the His statutes, offended His Majesty, and transition into less equivocal language is provoked His anger ! Hence it follows, easy and natural; and thus, step by step, that a deterioration of morals in general, sin advances, her road being prepared and and a neglect of religious duty, must necesmarked out at first by petty precursors, and sarily result from a non-observance of the at last hardened and smoothened by a series Divine edict in its most comprehensive of successive and methodical procedure in the same track.
Indeed, the anomaly would be too glarBut in whatever manner the subject is ing to allow us to suppose for a moment considered, we must necessarily arrive at the possibility of a blasphemer being a the same positive inference, namely, that in good man; and for this assertion we have transgressing this holy maxim, we commit ihe authority of our Maker himself in the blasphemy! Many of the unthinking will, explicit words, the Lord will not hold him in all probability, be startled at so severe a GUILTLESS that taketh his name in vain. conclusion from the premises, and be in- Needs there a more abundant proof? or is clined to think it overstrained, and too a more awful denunciation necessary than highly coloured; but let them calmly and that we shall not be guiltless in His eyes, maturely weigh the question, and determine if we offend this sacred law? When we whether sophistry, however subtle and reflect on the lost state of the guilty on finely spun, can, in the end, maintain its earth, and the punishment which awaits ground against solid, though plain, ratio- him hereafter, it is enough to cause us to cination.
shrink with dismay from the commission of By the word blasphemy, we comprehend any act which has even only an indirect the offering of an indignity to God, and, in tendency to make us sinners. either of the senses in which we have under
So far, however, from the awful name of stood the word vain, as particularly appli. God being held in that reverence, which cable to the commandment, the indignity pious feeling, and the commandment, comto the Majesty of the Holy. One is plainly bine in teaching us it ought to be regarded, visible, and the analogy, in a scriptural it is unhappily as lightly and as frequently sense, betwixt the two words vain and uttered by numberless individuals, as is blasphemous, is sufficiently shewn. We do the most common word in our language, not, I think, find that there is any modifi- and, to render the profanation yet more cation of signification assigned to the latter flagitious, is too often coupled with lies, phrase, although, perhaps, one might be grossness, and disgusting obscenity. That allowable, as he who hastily mentions the solemn asseveration, (So help me God) Name of his Creator in a moment of heat, which no man ought to utter without due and without the intention of transgressing previous reflection on the nature of the
subject he is speaking of, and subjecting scribes to the truth of an axiom, but who the exactitude and completeness of the libels himself by its neglect. truth of his meditated assertion to the The pure and beautiful principles which severest examination, as to its ability of form the basis of Christianity, the example bearing the confirmation of so tremendous of its great Founder, and the instinctive, unan oath, and then uttered only with reluc- forced, and pleasurable forbearance from it tance, and reverence the most sacred, is by all good men, together with the disgust ordinarily in the mouths of the lower and with which it inspires them when used in lowest orders of society—the scum and rot- their hearing, are sufficient evidences that tenness of humanity-and is used by them immoral discourse cannot be acceptable in to ratify either ridiculously frivolous, or the sight of the Lord. He has given forth blasphemous and bestial, assertions. a commandment to the world, expressly
I would ask such persons, and, with forbidding the “vain” use of His name ; them, all who accustom themselves to the and thence the inference is fair, that the improper use of the forbidden name, (and freely or irreverently discoursing upon His I would also earnestly entreat a reply attributes, with the abortive view of penefounded upon reflection, and principles of trating the awful and unfathomable nature of plain common sense, to my question ?) His being,or other vast and incomprehensible What possible, ideal, or tangible good, or subjects, the immensity of which extends so what benefit of any kind or description, far beyond the limited compass of mortal however fleeting and unsubstantial- what ken, must be equally displeasing to Him. pleasurable emotions, either mental or cor- The futile effort of endeavouring to lift the poreal, can by any means result from the veil is, in itself, an impious act, from the indiscriminate, and in many cases, from disregard which it displays to the Almighty habit,) unconscious indulgence of this will, and the wish to proceed beyond those
barriers which, in His infinite wisdom, He I can imagine a pleasure, or an expe- has been pleased to fix as the limits of diency, however evanescent and improper human understanding. it may be, to proceed temporarily from Nor does it require much logical power many, and indeed most crimes, as drunk- to shew that the derisive mention of that enness, or the free indulgence of the pas- awful place of punishment,--that abode of sions, because in those cases either a sense utter darkness, where naught is heard but is gratified, a desire is fulfilled, or an object wailing and gnashing of teeth,—that attained ; but it appears utterly impossible
“Illimitable ocean, without bound,
Without dimension; where length, breadth, and to assign a reason for the perpetration and height, persistence in this moral crime, commonly And time, and place, are lost.” denominated swearing, but more correctly which Elohim bas provided for the habiblasphemy, unless we admit the cheerless tation of rebellious spirits, and the souls of and lamentable one, that “men love evil the damned, cannot be expressive of refor the evil's sake,” which is so thoroughly verence for the Deity, or fear of his vendegrading to the grand construction of the geance; or that the cursing our fellow-creahuman soul, and so complete a perversion tures, and on every light-or, indeed, on of the magnificent ends for which the won- any occasion condemning them in our derful principle of vitality was called into hearts, or by our words, to the most dreadful existence, that we are loath to do so. of all dooms,-eternal perdition, cannot be
To profane language in general, the a pleasing sacrifice to the Lord. third commandment may, without any
Yet the noun “ damnation," and its corstretch of the imagination, be made to responding verb, are as frequently used by apply—“ The Lord's commandment is multitudes of individuals, as, we have beexceeding broad," and although the fore observed, is the name of God; and, literal wording of the law applies only to with a vindictive minuteness, and partaking the “name” of the Lord our God in ticularly disgusting and repulsive to the vain, yet let us remember, that it is the feelings and senses, they mercilessly damn duty of the Christian to draw rules for his the souls, bodies, and members of those conduct, from the scriptures, by natural who offend them. To specify the manner inference, and that he should be guided by of this, would be to enter uselessly into the Spirit and obvious intent, as well as by revolting and disgraceful detail; I shall, the letter, of the law; for what is more therefore content myself with observing, that miserable, hypocritical, and contemptible the vicious habits of swearing, blasphemy, (viewing it even in a worldly light alone,) and impious language have, I blush to say, than the character of a man who outwardly gained for the English a notoriety, more observes, but secretly evades, who sub- widely spread than creditable.
It may not be irrelative here to dwell for
express command of their Maker, because a moment upon the impropriety of dis- eating fruit is not, in its own nature, iniquity. putations upon abstruse religious subjects, The fault in their case did not consist in when such disputations are carried on with the act, but the disobedience: but, in the no other view than to display learning, or breach of the third precept of the deca. talent in argument, or to gratify a natural logue, the act and the disobedience are, passion for polemical discourse. Such dis- each separately, and combined, sin; the cussions can hardly be carried on without a violation of the command is, in itself, breach of the sacred edict before us, unin- wickedness, and the act resulting from such tentional perhaps, but not the less so. violation is blasphemy. Moreover, the controversy is seldom carried Secondly. It is the effect of a diseased on with that calmness of temper, and hu- and sinful soul; because, were the mind in mility of heart, befitting a religious topic; that healthy state which only can be attained and the theologue is not unlikely to be by an unbroken course of moral conduct, hurried by the warmth of his disposition of and a due observance of religious duties, mind, irritated by opposition, into a for- an innate reverence of God must be the getfulness of the respect due to the thesis evident consequence, which would infallibly he is handling, and, by the same cause, is, act as a prevention of His name being mayhap, driven into a course of conduct used in a light or impious manner, even exactly in contrariety to the very tenets he were there no express mandate from heaven has been so stoutly defending in his wordy to that effect. war,—such as entertaining an animosity Thirdly. It is a crime in another sense, against his opponent, which is often the besides that of blasphemy, because an evil effect of a hotly contested argument. does result from it towards others, from the
On this subject, David has expressed force of example, which ever will be more himself with considerable severity; and he powerful than precept. The conduct of forbids the prying eye of curiosity to search one man, especially if he be a father, geout the hidden ways of God, a precept nerally exercises considerable influence which he carefully obeyed himself; and, over his family, and the circle of his friends on one occasion, after speaking of the and acquaintance, from many reasons : over all-seeing providence of God, he exclaims, the former, from the ascendant or directing with holy humility, “Such knowledge is power with which, from moral and physical too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot causes, the head of a family is vested over attain unto it," Psa. cxxxix. 6.
the other branches; and over the latter, At the same time, a calm and healthy from adventitious circumstances, such as discourse on theological topics, held with a the being possessed of a more marked and view to the conversion of a sinner from the decided character, of superior talents or evil of his ways, with the object of mutual learning, &c. Is he not, therefore, responimprovement, or for the purpose of de- sible for the evil effects which his irreligion, scanting upon the wonderful works and in- and laxity of principle and conduct, may finite goodness of God, is beneficial to all produce upon those over whom he owns who engage in it, and gratifying to the such influence, and which almost every feelings of those who are competent to in- individual possesses in a greater - or less struct and expound.
degree, according to his station in society, It may, perhaps, be, and indeed has or other grounds? been advanced, that the breach of this com- Thus have I briefly investigated this mandment is, in its nature, nothing more subject, which, with the other portions of than a venial error, or slight deviation from the decalogue, call particularly for the cona strict rule of conduct, inasmuch as actual sideration of Christians; and I will now practical harm does not result from it to conclude, by entreating my readers to our neighbours ! I deny the position alto- banish from their minds that false principle gether, as being alike false in principle, which, I have reason to fear, too generally detail, and conclusion, as being founded in prevails, that the observance of any of the rottenness, and uncemented by truth. It is commandments of the Lord which, on a à moral crime, simply, because, in the first cursory view, may appear of less absolute instance, we are in express words forbidden importance to a social community as rules from it by the Almighty; and disobedience of action, can, in consequence, be disto His will is, in itself, sin.
pensed with; or that, by the lapse of thouWe might, with equal justice, assert that sands of years, or by any changes, however our first progenitors committed no crime radical or numerous, in the great family when they partook of the tree of knowledge of man, they can in any degree become in the garden of Eden, contrary to the obsolete.