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to remark in what a variety of ways children have disease and suffering entailed on them, by the excesses of their parents; and not only so, but how naturally irreligion and immorality in the one, tend to corrupt the consciences of the other; this however not entirely silencing the testimonies which he has given of himself, in his works and in their own hearts; so as to be a ground of moral responsibility. But if the difficulty arise from a supposed extension of the visitation to another life, this is a mistake of the meaning. There is not only no such intimation in the place, but it is contrary to many places in the Scriptures. Here surely must apply what God said by the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel-" The son shall not die for the iniquity of the father; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."*
In addition to what is here said, it should be remembered, that the Israelitish nation were under a peculiar dispensation of Providence; constituting a closer connexion than that occurring in the ordinary course of affairs, between a virtuous conduct and temporal prosperity, and between sin-especially national sin, as was that of publick idolatry and its merited punishment. How awfully the threatening was carried into effect towards the Jewish nation, by their frequent subjection to their enemies, by disasters in various ways, and finally by their captivity in Babylon, we need but to read their history to be convinced of. The rewarding of perseverance in the worship of the one true God, to a thousand generations, is a strong way of expressing, that the mercy of God transcends his justice in their respective effects: there being still understood a perseverance of posterity in the true religion; apostacy from which would of course transfer them from being the subjects of the promise, to a liability to the threatening.
Third commandment: "Thou shalt not take the
Ezekiel 18. 20.
name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain.”
We must here call into view another of the principles adverted to, as arising out of the brevity of the code. The principle is, that under the prohibition of any crime of the highest grade, there must be also understood every inferiour crime of the same kind, and issuing from the same faulty state of mind; although not found in the same degree of malignity. In order to give consistency to the application of the principle, it should appear, that every sin, brought under the sense of the prohibition, should have been expressly prohibited by Moses, in his other precepts; delivered for the full unfolding of the contents of the law, reduced to the narrow compass of the two tables.
It has been commonly understood-and there are some places in scripture which support the construction-that the prominent crime here in view is perjury. Certainly, it is the highest instance of a profane use of the sacred name of God: and great as the crime is in itself, it is much aggravated by its tendency to dissolve the bands of society; overwhelming all legal government in uproar and anarchy: because it has been found, under all the forms of government which have existed, that justice cannot be administered, nor security for true testimony be obtained, otherwise than through the medium of an appeal to the invisible Witness of our thoughts as of our actions.
Although this is the highest enormity, coming within the precincts of the prohibition; the very letter of it applies closely to the irreverent mention of the name of the Creator, in any way; and to all forms of words, which imply the invoking of his name uselessly to a transaction. There are so many obvious arguments against such foolish practices, and they are so contrary even to decorum; that the only consideration which shall be now presented, is one arising out of the general subject of this lecture. The consideration is, that the law before us is designed to sustain the sanction of all law-the will of the sovereign Ruler of
men and angels. On the ground of temporal interest or of character, a man may see cause to avoid a certain evil action, or to perform a certain good one: but independently on his responsibility to a divine Being, he can have no motive to the moral discipline of his mind; and to avoid what is evil in disposition and in intention. Can this be so; and can it be otherwise, than that every profane act has a tendency to impair inward rectitude; and to lessen the security of that which is outward also, in the event of any extraordinary temptation? One would suppose, that it must be a precarious kind of virtue, for which no good reason can be given, independently on interest or reputation. But these motives out of the question, it is difficult to conceive, why any man or any woman should be bound by the requisitions of integrity-and that at the expense of resisting temptation-independently on the sense of responsibility to a divine being. Surely then this being cannot be habitually dishonoured, without a weakening of the sanction of his authority; and without rendering the virtue of the party dependent on the changes of interest and of opinion; and even on circumstances enabling to brave every danger which may be hazarded.
The crime of false speaking has been always considered as coming under the censure of this command; because as he who speaks, professes to speak the truth; and as God, whether invoked or not, is the witness of the transaction, and the arbiter between the speaker and the person addressed; here is an unequivocal setting at nought of a regard of his omniscience. Certain it is, that there is no one of the Ten Commandments, under which lying so naturally falls: and yet it must have been considered as coming under one of them, being elsewhere found in the divine prohibitions by the mouth of Moses; as in Leviticus 19. 11-" Ye shall not *** deal falsely, neither lie one to another." There is no vice, the guilt of which is so much diminished to the minds of those who practise it, as the fancy that lying cannot be criminal, in cases in which
no harm to others is to be the result. It seems scarcely possible, that this can be presumed in any case, even considered in itself: For it often happens, that inconvenience and even mischief ensues, where nothing of the sort was contemplated. Besides, it cannot be foreseen, in what degree the supposed harmless violation of a law may affect the principle of it in the minds of others; and thus produce an endless series of transgression. But above all; the word of God, not knowing any such distinction, has given the warning, that "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."*
Fourth commandment: "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath Day: six days shalt thou labour and do all that thou hast to do. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work: thou and thy son, and thy daughter; thy man servant and thy maid servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth; the sea and all that in them is; and rested the seventh day; wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it."
There are questions moved concerning the date of this appointment; its duration; and how far it is now binding on the Christian Church.
The blessing of the seventh day, is mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Genesis, at the closing of the act of the creation; but this is thought by some to have been done without any intimation of an appointment in paradise, and only to account for its being made to the children of Israel, in the wilderness. Certain it is, that we meet with no instance of an actual hallowing of the Sabbath, until we reach the sixteenth chapter of the book of Exodus: and the manner of the giving and the receiving of the institution carries strong appearances of its not being familiar to the Israelites. This seems not easily accounted for, if it
* Rev, xxi. 8.
had been observed by their patriarchal forefathers; of which also, there is not a hint in their history. On the other hand, there is thought to be in the fourth chapter of Genesis, a reference to the subject: it is in the bringing of the offerings of Cain and of Abel"in process of time:" or-as the original more strictly signifies" at the end of days:" which is argued to imply stated returns of an occasion of devotion: and if so, what more natural, than that it should be in conformity to the sanctification of the Sabbath, before declared? If the day were indeed observed by the immediate posterity of Adam; the memory of the institution must have in time sunk, under the growing corruption of the antediluvian world: and we are left in the dark, as to the reasons of its not being renewed to Noah, and to the post-diluvian patriarchs, until the dispensation by Moses. It is the silence of the Jewish law-giver on the point, until the transaction related in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus, with the single exception of what is said in the second chapter of Genesis, which has given rise to the opinion, that it was first introduced by him, in virtue of divine command; and that the said place in Genesis, may be interpreted as the reason of an institution made after so long a lapse of time.
In regard to its duration; it appears evident, that so far as regarded the authority of the injunction to the Israelites, and unless some new obligation can be shown, the institution ceased even in relation to Jewish converts to Christianity, at the destruction of their religious polity; and that it never extended to the Gentile Christians. Of this there shall be given but one proof; it being decisive to the point. It is in the second chapter of the epistle to the Colossians, "Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days."* Here the Sabbath is considered as falling with the whole body of the ritual law of Moses. And this may show the reason, on * Col. ii, 16.