Consider first, those words of the divine commandment, Exod. x 7, 'Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take his name in vain.' This commandment obliges us to show all respect to the holy name of the Lord our God, and not profane it by the heinous crime of blasphemy, (which flies in the face of God's infinite majesty,) or of perjury, (which insults his truth, and makes him witness to a lie.) O let no such dreadful evils as these be ever found in the inheritance of Christ, or amongst the professors of the Christian name! it would be wonderful if any nation were suffered to continue upon earth that should encourage, or even tolerate such monstrous guilt. Moreover this commandment forbids also all profane swearing and cursing, and all other irreverent use of the sacred name of God. Ah! how common is this
guilt amongst Christians! and how dismal are the consequences of it, in the manifold judgments of God inflicted in punishment of those sins, both in this world and in the next. O true it is, 'The Lord will not hold him guiltless, that shall take the name of the Lord his God in vain.' Hence the wise man tells us, Ecclus. xiii. 12, 'A man that sweareth much shall be filled with iniquity, and a scourge shall not depart from his house.'
Consider 2ndly, the different ways by which unhappy mortals daily violate and profane God's most sacred name. How they swear by it at every turn; often falsely, often unjustly, generally rashly; and thereby continually expose themselves to the evident danger of that most enormous sin of calling on their God to be witness to their lies. Ah, how often do they with equal rashness and profaneness, by their curses and imprecations, presume to cite his divine majesty to serve them in quality of executioner, to execute the damnation which every humour or passion of theirs pronounces against some or other of his creatures! How often in their madness do they pronounce the like sentence, and call for the like vengeance, even upon their own souls! How often is the sacred name of God brought in, even by the better sort, without rhyme or reason, to express every passion or emotion of their souls! Alas! what liberty is here taken by these worms of the earth with the tremendous majesty of the God of heaven! And shall all this pass unpunished? Oh! to what a low ebb is Christianity come, when so many thousands of those that call themselves Christians are more guilty by far of profaning the holy name of God, than either Turks or pagans; and even glory in their guilt! And thou, my soul, hast thou never gone into their council; or hast thy glory never been in their assembly? O, see thou detest all such wickedness; and reclaim as many as thou canst from these ways of death. And if at any time thou hearest God's holy name thus profaned, lift up thy heart to heaven, and join with all the choirs of blessed spirits there, in adoration, praise, and love of the divine majesty, to make what amends thou canst for all these outrages offered to the king of heaven.
Consider 3rdly, that the great business of a Christian is to glorify the name of God both by his tongue and by his life. We glorify his holy name by the tongue whenever we praise him and extol his mercies, when our words and conversation are always directed to promote God's glory and the edification of our neighbours. We glorify his holy name by our lives when we live as becomes his children and his people, when our light so shines before men, that they have occasion from hence to glorify our Father who is in heaven. For as it is written concerning wicked livers, that through them the name of God is blasphemed amongst the nations, so the lives of God's true servants are the sweet odour of Christ in every place, and not only give continual glory to God themselves, by the exercise of all virtues, but also bring many others to glorify him by the efficacy of their example.
Conclude to keep a great guard upon thyself, that for the future thou mayest never use the holy name of God but with respect and devotion. And as for whatsoever profanation thou hast hitherto been guilty of, repair that guilt, to the best of thy power, with penitential tears, and by dedicating the whole remainder of thy life to procure the great glory of God's name.
Consider first, that divine precept, 'Remember thou keep holy the sabbath day,' Exod. xx. 8; and reflect how just it is, that next to the capital duties of acknowledging one only true and living God, and paying due respect to his name, we should also set aside one day at least in the week to be sanctified to him, and to be spent in his divine worship. The particular appointment of the seventh day, as the day of God's rest, and the figure of our eternal rest, after the six days' labours of this transitory life, was but a part of the ceremonial law, which is no longer obligatory under the new covenant of Jesus Christ; and therefore the day has been changed into the first day of the week, to honour the resurrection of the Son of God, by which he put, as it were, the finishing stroke to the great work of our redemption, and the glorious promulgation of his law, by the coming down of the Holy Ghost. But the precept itself, as to its substance, and as to the obligation of dedicating, in a more particular manner, a competent portion of our days to the worship of him who in all reason might justly claim them all, is
unchangeable, indispensable, and eternal, and is here enforced with that word, Remember, not found in any of the other commandments, to inculcate the utmost importance of our strict observance of it . O! 'tis true, that the religious keeping of these days, agreeable to the ordinance of God and his church, is the sovereign means to bring Christians, after their short labours here, to their true and everlasting Sabbath.
Consider 2ndly, that on these days, (which we are commanded to keep holy,) all servile works and profane employments are forbidden to Christians, lest their attention should be taken off from the worship of God, or their application to religious duties interrupted by their worldly occupations. But then if these kinds of works, which are otherwise commendable in themselves, and even obligatory at other times, are strictly forbidden in these days, as hindrance to God's worship, how much more so are all such criminal diversions as are lawful at no time, and all those works of darkness and sin, which are servile in the very worst of senses, because by them men serve the devil, and are far more taken off by them from their application to God than by any other labours whatsoever! But O, how common are those sinful profanations of our Lord's day! How many seem to have no other intention, in resting on this day from their usual employments, than to dedicate this holy time to vanity, sloth luxury, or some other criminal passion, without giving any part of it to God! See, my soul, this be never thy practice; but if thou givest the other days of the week to the world, to the business of thy calling, to working for thy temporal livelihood, give God his day, to be employed in his service, in the business of eternity, and in working for thy eternal salvation.
Consider 3rdly, that all Christians are obliged on these days to attend to the public worship of God in his church, and in particular to assist at the divine sacrifice, in which we solemnly celebrate the death and passion of the Son of God. Here we are to join with him and with his whole family in paying adoration praise, and thanksgiving to the divine majesty. Here we are to bewail our sins in his sight, and crave mercy for them through Christ's precious blood, here offered to God. Here we are to present through him our prayers and supplications, both for ourselves and for the whole world, before the throne of grace. We are also on these days to dispose our soul to receive, either sacramentally or at least spiritually, the body and blood of Christ; to attend to the word of God; to read devout books, to meditate on divine truths, and to employ a good part of our time in these spiritual exercises. Alas! how very little are these important duties thought of by too many Christians! How many will neither sanctify these days in a proper manner themselves, not suffer their servants or others that are about them to sanctify them? And what a strict account shall they one day give for all these abuses!
Conclude to make it thy business that thou at least and thy house may give to God what belongs to God, by duly serving him on his own day. This diligence will entitle thee and thine to his blessing; and thy sanctifying his day will be a powerful means to sanctify thee.
Consider first, that next to the precepts that enforce those most essential duties which we owe to God himself, follows the commandment of honouring our parents, as well corporal as spiritual, under God, and all such as have from God a power over us, whether in church or state. This, says the apostle, (Eph. vi. 2,) is the first commandment with a promise that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest be long-lived upon earth. Nothing could be more agreeable to nature, to reason, and to religion, than this divine precept. And we find by many instances how much God takes to heart our strict observance of it, and how severely he punishes, even in this life, the transgressors, as well by ordering in the law such as are notoriously guilty in this kind to be put to death without mercy, as by the many dreadful judgments he often inflicts upon them. Christians, what is your comportment to your parents, & c.? Is it dutiful or undutiful? O never flatter yourselves with the expectation of God's blessing either in this world or the next if you are undutiful.
Consider 2ndly, what this honour means which the law of God requires from children to their parents For it does not merely consist in cringing and ceremony, but it implies a sincere love, joined with respect and reverence; a ready obedience to their orders, where they no ways clash with the holy will and law of God; and a perpetual disposition to afford them or procure for them all proper assistance, as well in their corporal as in their spiritual necessities: insomuch that our Lord will not allow of any gifts made to himself or to his temple to the prejudice of that honour and support which we owe to our parents, Matt. xv. 3, 4, 5, 6. Christians, give ear to the admonitions of the Holy Ghost by the wise man, Ecclus. iii., and learn from him what your duty is to your parents, and what the reward of your compliance with that duty. 'Honour thy father in word and work, and in all patience that a blessing may come upon thee from him, and his blessing may remain in the latter end. The father's blessing establisheth the houses of the children, but the mother's curse rooteth up the foundation. Son, support the old age of thy father, and grieve him not in his life; and if his understanding fail have patience with him, and despise him not, when thou art in thy strength - and in justice thou shalt be built up, and in the day of affliction thou shalt be remembered, and thy sins shall melt away as the ice in the fair warm weather.' And again, 'He that honoureth his father shall have joy in his own children, and in the day of his prayer he shall be heard. He that honoureth his father shall enjoy a long life,' & c. He that feareth the Lord honoureth his parents, and will serve them as his masters, that brought him into the world.
Consider 3rdly, what the duty is, on the other hand, of parents with regard to their children; and so in proportion of other superiors with regard to them that are committed to their charge. For their obligation is greater than many apprehend, and their own eternal welfare, as well as that of their children or subjects, absolutely depends upon their discharge of it. It is true, they are not to neglect the care of their temporal well-being as far as is consistent with the safety of their souls; but they must take much more to heart their everlasting salvation: and therefore, from their very childhood they must give them an early knowledge of their Christian duty, and instill into their tender minds the fear and love of God; they must accustom them to prayer, and must teach them how to pray; they must make them sensible of the necessity of their breaking their own will, of their curbing their passions, and denying themselves, if they would be happy either here or hereafter. In a word, they must remove far from them all the occasions of sin, and procure them all the helps they can to establish them in Christian piety. O how easy it would be for parents to bring up saints for heaven if they would be diligent in putting all this in practice! But alas! how many rather train up their children for hell by abandoning them from their childhood to their own corrupt inclinations, and inspiring them with the maxims of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Conclude to discharge thyself diligently of thy respective duty, whether of a child or of a parent, of a subject or of a superior, according to the station in which God has placed thee. Pass not over this matter too slightly in the examination of thy conscience, as too many do, who flatter themselves with a false security, whilst they live and die in the neglect of these great relative duties.
Consider first, that this commandment does not only forbid all wilful murder, unjust shedding of blood, beating, or doing anything else that may hasten one's own or any other person's death, but also all thoughts that have any tendency that way, all wishes or desires of the death of any one, whether through malice or envy, or for some temporal convenience or interest; as also all manner of hatred and rancour of heart to any one living. For it is written, 1 John iii. 15, 'whoseoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.' Christians, look well to yourselves, and carefully examine into the true state of your interior in this respect. You have perhaps hitherto flattened yourselves that you have nothing to reproach your conscience with on the score of the horrible sin of murder; but have you never wilfully entertained any hatred, envy, or malice to your neighbours? If you have, know that all this is like murder in the eyes of God. O take heed of living in any such malicious dispositions to any one person upon earth, lest you should be excluded thereby from any share in eternal life, to which murderers have no title.
Consider 2ndly, how the Son of God himself has explained to us the extent of the obligations of this commandment, Matt. v. 21. & c., 'You have heard,' saith he, 'that it was said to them of old, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, (a word expressing indignation and contempt,) shall be in danger of the council, (a higher and more severe tribunal,) and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire.' By which our Lord would have all Christians to understand that this divine law was not only designed to restrain the hand from killing, but also the heart from wilfully entertaining the passion of anger or the desire of revenge; and much more from suffering out wrath to break out into words on indignation or contempt, much less into downright affronts or injuries, which might either rob our neighbour of his honour or of the peace of his mind, or, as it too commonly happens, of the grace of God, by provoking him also to passion and sin.
Consider 3rdly, how the Holy Ghost also declares himself in like manner against the murdering crime of passion and revenge, Ecclus. xxviii. 'He that seeketh to revenge himself,' saith he, 'shall find vengeance from the Lord, and he will surely keep his sins in remembrance. One man keepeth anger against another, and doth he seek to be healed by God? He hath no mercy on a man like himself, and doth he entreat for his own sins? He that is but flesh nourished anger, and with what face doth he ask forgiveness of God? Who shall obtain pardon of his sins? Forgive thy neighbour if he have hurt thee, and then shall thy sins be forgiven to thee when thou prayest. Remember thy last things and let enmity cease. Remember the fear of God, and be not angry with thy neighbour. Remember the covenant of the most high, and overlook the ignorance of thy neighbour. Refrain from strife, and thou shalt diminish thy sins,' & c. O let us imprint these divine lessons deep in our souls, and we shall fulfil this great commandment.
Conclude, if thou desirest to keep thyself far from the guilt of murder, to banish far from thy soul every thought that has any tendency to malice or revenge. O learn from the doctrine and practice of thy Saviour rather to suffer in thy person, in thy honour, or in thy worldly goods, than, by seeking revenge, to endanger the loss of thy soul by losing thy God and his grace.
Consider first, that there is another kind of murder besides that which destroys the body, viz., the murdering of the soul, by bringing upon it the death of sin - a crime most heinous in the eyes of God, and most pernicious to the souls of men, and yet most common amongst Christians. Of this kind of murder the devil was the first author; 'by whose envy death came into the world,' Wisd. ii. 24; and 'who was a murderer from the beginning.' John viii. 44, by drawing men into deadly sin. And all they follow him, and are on his side, and even take him for their father, who seek to fulfil his desires, by involving their neighbours in the guilt of sin, 'which when completed begetteth death,' James i. 15. Ah! how common are these kinds of murders! and how many ways are they daily committed by alluring or enticing others to evil, by word or work, dress or carriage; or by provoking them to it; or by engaging them in dangerous diversions and conversations; or, which is the most common of all, by authorizing sin, and encouraging and inviting men to the committing of it, by bad example. and what is all this, but murdering as many souls as there are persons to whom one has voluntarily given occasion of mortal sin.
Consider 2ndly, how grievous a crime this murdering of souls must be in the sight of God; since it defeats as much as lies in man the great business for which God sent his own Son upon earth, viz., the salvation of souls, which he takes so much to heart. It daringly promotes the interest of Satan, that arch-rebel and sets up his standard against that of Christ. It encourages deluded mortals to follow that enemy of God and man, rather than their creator and redeemer. It debauches as many of God's subjects from their allegiance as it draws souls into sin. It even treads under foot the precious blood of Christ, and makes void his passion and death, by causing those souls to perish eternally for whom Christ died. What a complication is here of high treasons against the divine majesty! How manifold, and how enormous a guilt! And what can such traitors and murderers as these expect from God but the most dreadful of all judgments, if they do not prevent them by a speedy and serious conversion, and by endeavouring to make the best reparation they are able; especially by reclaiming as many souls as they can from Satan and sin, and reconciling them to God.
Consider 3rdly, the grievousness of this evil of spiritual murder, from another point of view, that is from the mischief it does to man, and the dismal consequences it brings after it, both for time and eternity. The murder of the body is certainly a most heinous sin, and one of the greatest that can be committed between man and man; it even cries to heaven for vengeance: and yet it only reaches the body, which is the meaner part of man, and which by its condition must otherwise speedily perish; it does not touch the immortal soul; it does not extend to eternity. but spiritual murder kills the soul, by robbing it of the grace of God, which is its true life; it separates the soul from God, and condemns it to an eternal separation from him; it brings upon it a second and everlasting death; it plunges both soul and body into the flames of hell. O how loudly then must the blood of so many unhappy souls, which are daily sent to hell by these spiritual murders, cry to heaven for vengeance against their murderers!
Conclude to look well to thyself, that thou never have any share in this enormous guilt of spiritual murder, by giving occasion to another's sin. For why shouldst thou thus declare war against heaven, thrust thy neighbour's soul into hell, and bring upon thy own head a multiplied damnation, even as many hells as thou hast drawn souls into sin?
Consider first, that on this day the church of God celebrates the festival of St. Michael, and all the heavenly host of angels and Archangels, cherubim and seraphim, and the rest of the orders of blessed spirits. Wherefore the devotion of this day is, first to join with all these heavenly choirs in giving praise, glory, and thanksgiving to God, who created these angelic spirits, to glorify him and who has inspired them all with an unspeakable love for us, and has sent them to minister for us, in order to our receiving the inheritance of salvation, Heb. i. 14. 2ndly, we ought on this day to congratulate with these heavenly citizens and their great leader, St. Michael; these friends of God and of ours; and to rejoice in their eternal happiness. 3rdly, we ought to associate ourselves with them, in order jointly to promote the common cause of our common master; that is, the greater glory of God, and the advancement of his divine service and love; and with them to fight his battles against the devil and his rebel angels. O Christians, how happy, how glorious is this cause, in which both we and they are engaged! And how advantageous is it for us to have such auxiliaries in this great warfare.
Consider 2ndly, what lessons we have to learn, from the behaviour of these blessed spirits, from the first moment of their creation, and what we are to imitate in them. They no sooner received their being, but they turned to their creator, by adoration and love, and dedicated themselves eternally to him. We are made for the same end as they were; that is, to glorify God, and like them we are strictly obliged to turn to our creator as soon as we are capable of knowing him, and to dedicate our whole being to his love and service. But have we done so? Have we not rather, like Lucifer and his associates, turned away from God at our first coming to the use of reason, and preferred every empty toy before him? The good angels are perpetually attentive to God - wheresoever they are, or whatever they are about, their eye and their heart is always upon him; they are perpetually jealous of his honour, and ever labouring to procure, not their own glory, but the glory of their great king. Do we imitate them? Is the eye of our soul turned towards God in all our employments? Are we always seeking his greater glory? If so, like the angels, wheresoever we are and whatsoever we are doing, we shall in some measure have heaven with us, even here upon earth.
Consider 3rdly, form the gospel of this day, St. Matt. xvii., what kind of exercises of virtue are to bring us effectually to the eternal society of the angels. We must be converted from the corruption of pride, which cast the devil out of heaven, and become as little children, by innocence and humility, or we shall have no share with the good angels in the kingdom of heaven. There is no room for pride in that blessed society - 'the devil is the king over all the children of pride,' Job xli. 25. There is no room there for any that wilfully associate themselves with the rebels, that have been cast out from thence, by corrupting others, or suffering themselves to be corrupted and drawn away from their allegiance, by giving or taking scandal against their own souls. The true way to arrive at the happy company of the angels is by humility, innocence, and purity. If we would come amongst them, we must 'cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh, and of the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,' 2 Cor. vii. 1. 'For nothing that is defiled shall enter into that blessed city, where they dwell for ever,' Rev. xxi. 27.
Conclude so to honour St. Michael and all the good angels as to imitate their fidelity to their God, their constant attention to promote his glory, and their constant opposition to all the enterprises of his enemy. The name of Michael signifies, who is like God. Let this be your motto in all your spiritual warfare - at all times keep close to God, and he will keep close to you; prefer his honour before all other considerations, and he will speedily crush Satan under your feet; yea, he will enable you to 'walk upon the asp, and upon the basilisk, and to tread upon the lion and the dragon,' Ps. xc., and nothing shall have power to hurt you.
Consider first, that by this commandment is forbidden, in the first place, the heinous crime of adultery, as not only directly contrary to chastity, but to justice also in the highest degree; as carrying with it one of the greatest injuries that can be done to one's neighbour, and violating an indefeasible right, confirmed to him by the law of God and of nature, and withal profaning the sanctity of the matrimonial contract, and breaking through the solemn vows of mutual fidelity annexed to it. But though adultery be the only crime here named, it not being necessary to reckon up in particular all the shameful sins of lust, yet it is not the only evil forbidden by this commandment, which moreover condemns and prohibits all manner of uncleanness, whether committed by or with married persons or single, and much more all other unnatural sins of lust, committed upon one's self, or with any other; as also all abuses of the marriage bed, by any liberties contrary to the sanctity of it, or disagreeable to the end of that holy institution. O how odious are all these impurities in the sight of God and his holy angels, before whose eyes they are committed! What dreadful judgments have they often drawn down from heaven! What black and filthy flames are prepared for the punishment of them in hell! O my soul, let us ever fly and abhor all these abominations!
Consider 2ndly, that by this commandment (as explained by our Lord himself, St. Matt. v. 27, 28, & c.,) are not only forbidden all those grosser sins of uncleanness, but also all other kinds of immodesties which have any manner of tendency towards those greater crimes, even to every wanton glance of the eye, and every impure inclination of the heart. 'You have heard,' said the Lord, 'that it was said to them of old, thou shalt not commit adultery: but i say to you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.' If then we would be truly chaste, as the divine law commands us, we must, with holy Job, put a constraint both upon our eyes, and upon our thoughts and imaginations, lest death enter into our souls by those windows. 'I made a covenant,' saith he, 'with my eyes, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin,' Job xxxi. 4, lest, he adds, 'God above should have no part in him.' How much more does this commandment forbid all loose discourse, unchaste words and songs, which not only demonstrate a corrupt heart in them that take delight in talking of such matter, (which St. Paul would not have so much as one named amongst Christians, Eph. v. 3, for 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,' Matt. xii. 34,) but also spread the infection amongst their neighbours, to corrupt them also by filing their minds and hearts with foul imaginations and impure affections? O how common and how dreadful is this evil, and how many souls owe their damnation to it! Ah! it is too true that 'evil communication corrupts good manners;' and that thousands of Christians lose their innocence, and are made a sacrifice to Satan, by means of such lewd discourses and corrupt conversations.
Consider 3rdly, that if this commandment is designed to lay a restraint upon our eyes, upon our thoughts and imaginations, upon our wishes and desires, and upon our words and conversations; how much more upon our actions, by condemning and prohibiting all carnal liberties, all wanton play, all indecent touches, all immodest embraces, & c.: all which violently tend to defile both soul and body with lust. O Christians, deceive not yourselves; all these liberties are criminal, and such as are loudly condemned in the word of God, Gal. v. 19, and Eph. v. 3, 4, as absolutely excluding all that are guilty of them from any inheritance in the kingdom of God.
Conclude, if you desire to have any share in Christ and in his eternal inheritance, to keep your souls and bodies pure from the defilements of lust. In order thereunto, be exact in observing the rule our Lord has given you, Matt. v. 29, 30, viz., of avoiding all occasions that may expose you to the danger of lust, however agreeable or dear they may be to your natural inclinations, or however necessary they may seem to you. For what can be more dear or necessary than a hand or an eye, and yet we must part with these rather than lose our souls. Apply this rule to all such company or conversation, to all such books or entertainments, to all such plays or diversions, to all such shows or comedies, as are apt to fill your mind with impure thoughts, or otherwise to endanger your chastity; and let neither the example, nor the invitations and persuasions, nor the authority of any one living prevail upon you to transgress this divine rule, or to fling yourselves into the jaws of this infernal dragon of lust, which in all such places and occasions lies in wait to devour your souls.
Contents of Challoner's Meditations
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