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instead of occupying the mind,--the rational part of man,-with the worship of his God, to make it the business of his senses ;--the most certain way of reducing it to mere form and show. Here, then, we may observe express care to prohibit every thing, which may exclude the heart from its due share in divine worship ;-to remind us, that “ God is a spirit; and, that they, who worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.” They, who love the Lord their God with their whole soul, will shrink with alarm from the possibility of setting up any rival against Him in their hearts ; and, will cautiously guard against that error, into which no small number of our fellow-christians have unhappily been betrayed, of assisting their devotion by such a use of images and pictures, as may well foil the ingenuity of their most subtle advocates, to rescue it from (at least) a shade and tincture of idolatry.
The THIRD COMMANDMENT, in its primary and literal bearing, is, no doubt, directed against the heinous sin of perjury: but, in this prohibition, imprecations or curses are evidently included : for, though the injury to man may vary in these several crimes, the insult to the majesty of Heaven is precisely the same. Whoever swears falsely, intends, at least, to deceive ;-probably, to effect some wrong purpose by his deceit; while he, who curses another in the spirit of
1 John iv. 24.
anger and malice, devotes him, as far as lies in his
power, to some fatal calamity : but the offence against God is equal in both. Each of them, in the very act of invoking the Almighty, divests him of his most amiable and glorious attributes; and, therefore, may truly be said to “ take his name in vain.”
Less criminal in degree, but similar in their nature, are the common practices of cursing and swearing; the forms of which, no doubt, are often used without meaning; but still, as irreverent appeals to the sacred name of God, must be considered as prohibited by this Commandment. For this construction, we have even the authority of Moses : “ Ye shall not swear by my name falsely; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.”! But Christ is still more explicit: “ Ye have heard, that it hath been said by them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths : but I say unto you, swear not at all ;? but let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil.” 2
1 Levit. xix. 12,
A sincere love of God, founded upon a just sepse of his mercy and goodness, will keep us upon our guard against the most distant approach towards profane language; and, in a mind thus affected, a bare doubt of the piety of any expression will be a sufficient hint to abstain from it. Here, too, it cannot fail to be observed, that, by the same feeling towards God, this cautious veneration will not be limited to his name alone. His word, his temple, his ministers—in short-every thing related to his service, will obtain a just share in it, and be preserved with the same care from profanation and ontempt. As to the DAY peculiarly set apart for his ser
i It is scarcely necessary to observe, that this probibition does not extend to legal oaths, taken to promote the purposes of justice.
2 Matt. v. 33, 34. 37.
vice,--that is the distinct subject of the FOURTH COMMANDMENT; which directs the Israelites to keep holy the SABBATH, not only by exercises of devotion, but as a day of REST, and by refraining entirely from all ordinary employments. If, to us Christians, the sabbatic rest, enjoined by this Commandment, needs not extend, according to the strict notion of the Mosaic Law, to a total omission of all common occupations; yet, if the love of God prevails in our hearts, we shall easily perceive, that, so far as any employment might interfere with his worship, with the seriousness and devotion of the day, or with the rest and relief necessary for the labouring part of the community, it must certainly be culpable, as a breach of this Commandment.
On this occasion, again, how much will be gained, by applying the universal principle of Divine love! If we indeed love the Lord our God with all our hearts, how shall we be delighted, to have a day of respite from vulgar occupations, that we may devote it wholly to his service! How gladly shall we enter“ into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with
praise;" how truly rejoice, that, unincumbered with the cares of the world, we can meet our best counsellor and most unfailing friend in the temple dedicated to his honour and worship!
And here we may terminate our view of the first Table of the Commandments; which, when regarded through that enlightening medium-the first " and great Commandment” of our Lord, is found to comprehend every particular of our duty towards God.
" And the second,” says he, “is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” So close, indeed, is the relation between these two Commandments, that (as we learn from St. John) “ he, who loveth God, must love his brother also." This, then, is the rule, by which all the Commandments of the SECOND TABLE must be interpreted. Our love of God, we see, cannot be perfect, unless we also love our neighbour : and, if that love be sincere, we shall find the Commandments, illustrated by its light, a sufficient guide to the whole range of our social obligations.
The FIFTH COMMANDMENT commences the
11 John iv. 21.