QUESTION 55. What is forbidden in the Third Commandment?

ANSWER: The Third Commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of any thing whereby God maketh himself known.

Q. 1. What do you understand by profaning or abusing of any thing whereby God makes himself known?

A. It is the using of his names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works, in a rash, irreverent, and unbecoming manner.

Q. 2. How are God's names, titles, and attributes, profaned or abused by men?

A. Many ways: particularly, by blasphemy, perjury, sinful cursings, oaths, vows, and lots."[69]

Q. 3. What is blasphemy?

A. It is speaking in a reproachful, reviling, and under-valuing manner of God, Isa. 36:20; of his word, Acts 13:45; or of any of his providential dispensations, Ezek. 18:25.

Q. 4. What is the aggravation of this sin?

A. It is an atheistical contempt of the most high God; -- the greatest affront that can be done him by his creatures, Ex. 5:2.

Q. 5. May not persons be guilty of blasphemy in their hearts though never uttered in words?

A. Yes, undoubtedly they may; either when atheistical thoughts of him are harboured, Psalm 14:1; or, disparaging and unbecoming conceptions of him entertained, Psalm 10:11 and 50:21.

Q. 6. What was the punishment of blasphemy, at the hand of man, by the law of God?

A. It was death, Lev. 24:16 -- "He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death."

Q. 7. What is perjury?

A. It is a breach or violation of any solemn oath or vow we have entered into or come under, Matt. 5:33 -- "Thou shalt not forswear thyself."

Q. 8. When are persons guilty of perjury in assertory oaths?

A. When they assert such a thing, upon oath to be true, which yet they know to be false, like the witness against Naboth, 1 Kings 21:13; or even when they are doubtful and uncertain about the truth of what they are swearing; like the witnesses against Christ, whose witnessing did "not agree together," Mark 14:58, 59.

Q. 9 When are persons guilty of perjury in promissory oaths?

A. When they promise upon oath what they have no mind to perform; or when, without any insuperable impediment laid in their way, or any just and relevant excuse, they fail in the performance: as in the perjury of Zedekiah king of Judah, who broke his oath to the king of Babylon, Ezek. 17:16.

Q. 10. Is a person guilty of perjury, if he swears to do a thing impossible or unlawful?

A. Surely he is: for, if he swear to a thing impossible, he swears to a manifest lie; if he swear to do a thing unlawful, he is doubly perjured; both in making such an oath, and in fulfilling it, as was the case with Herod, Matt. 14:9, 10.

Q. 11. What is the aggravation of the sin of perjury?

A. It not only breaks all the bonds of society among men, but impeaches the omniscience of God himself, calling him to attest what conscience knows to be an untruth; and therefore God threatens, that his "curse shall enter into the house of him that sweareth falsely -- and shall consume it, with the timber thereof, and the stones thereof," Zech. 5:3, 4.

Q. 12. How is God's name profaned by sinful cursings?

A. When God's wrath and vengeance are imprecated upon ourselves or others: or when the devil is in any manner invoked for harm.

Q. 13. For what do wicked persons wish, when they imprecate the wrath and vengeance of God upon themselves?

A. They do, in effect, pray, that God would hasten their everlasting destruction, and that their damnation may not slumber, but be speedily inflicted; 2 Pet. 2:3.

Q. 14. Do the devils themselves venture to wish for this?

A. No; they believe that there is farther wrath awaiting them at the judgment of the great day; and they tremble at the forethoughts of it, James 2:19; Jude verse 6.

Q. 15. What is the evil of imprecating divine vengeance upon others?

A. It is a piece of the most profane, presumptuous, and impudent freedom with the Majesty of heaven; as if he were bound to empty the vials of his wrath upon our fellow creatures, at our pleasure, and that in order to gratify our passionate revenge upon them, 2 Sam. 16:5, 8.

Q. 16. Is it not a most horrid and abominable wickedness to call or invoke the devil to TAKE ourselves or others?

A. Surely it is for it is a putting the devil in God's stead, or an employing of him to do God's work for him, even when he is delaying to do it himself; which is no less than devil-worship, and we ought not to "have fellowship with devils," 1 Cor. 10:20.

Q. 17. How is the name of God abused by sinful oaths?

A. When men take unlawful oaths that may be imposed upon them, and when, in their ordinary conversation, they swear by God, or by any thing by which he makes himself known; contrary to Matt. 5:37 -- "Let your communications be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil:" or of the evil one.

Q. 18. In what lies the heinousness of swearing in common discourse?

A. It is a most heaven-daring wickedness, even an insulting of the great God, our maker, to his face; a crime, which we dare not, without danger, be guilty of against our fellow creatures; and which is neither attended with the allurements of pleasure nor temptations of profit.

Q. 19. Is it a taking of God's name in vain, to swear by the creatures; such as, by heaven, by our life, soul, conscience, or the like?

A. Yes; because swearing by any of his creatures, is interpretatively a swearing by God the Creator and Preserver of all things, Matt. 23:22 -- "He that sweareth by HEAVEN, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon."

Q. 20. Did not Joseph, who was a good man, swear repeatedly "by the life of Pharaoh"? Gen. 42:15, 16.

A. The goodness of the man did not excuse the sinfulness of the action: we are not to "do evil, that good may come," Rom. 3:8. For, though it may be alleged, that to say, "By the life of Pharaoh," is no more than to say, "As sure as Pharaoh lives;" yet the words themselves being in the form of an unlawful oath, which it would seem was commonly used by the Egyptians, they ought not, for this reason, to have been uttered.

Q. 21. Is swearing by faith, or troth, a formal profaning of God's name?

A. No doubt it is; for when a person swears in this manner, he tacitly invokes God to bear witness, that he is speaking faithfully and truly, and to punish him, if he is doing otherwise; which, in ordinary conversation, is undoubtedly sinful, and a falling "into condemnation," James 5:12.

Q. 22. Will a habit or custom of swearing in common discourse, be an excuse for it?

A. By no means; any more than a habit or custom of killing men, can be an excuse for wilful murder.

Q. 23. How is the name of God profaned by sinful vows?

A. Either when we solemnly enter into a resolution to do what is absolutely unlawful) as Jezebel did, 1 Kings 19:2; or when we come under engagements to duty, and against sin, in our own strength, without a due dependence on the grace of God, as the greater part of the Israelites did, Deut. 5:27, 29; or, when we vow, and are not resolved to perform, as Johanan and his confederates did, Jer. 42:5, compared with verse 20.

Q. 24. When is the name of God profaned or abused by lots?

A. When God is appealed to by way of diversion, as in playing at cards, and dice, where the great God is most presumptuously invoked to determine who shall be the gainer. Lots are also unlawful, when there is an appeal by them to God in matters of small moment, which might be otherwise easily decided; this being too like the practice of the soldiers, who, after they had crucified Christ, did "cast lots for his vesture," John 19:23, 24.

Q. 25. How do men profane the name of God in their outward walk?

A. By making profession of religion in hypocrisy, and backsliding from it, Heb. 6:6; or, by committing such enormities and immoralities, as reflect dishonour upon it, and make the name of God to be evil spoken of, Rom, 2:24.

Q. 26. How are the ordinances of God profaned and abused?

A. Either when they are quite neglected, Acts 7:42, 43, or when they are attended in a formal, superficial, and customary manner, without seeking to meet with God in them, or to have spiritual food and nourishment to our souls by them, Isa. 29:13, 14.

Q. 27. How is the word profaned and abused?

A. "By misinterpreting, misapplying, or perverting any part of it, to profane jests, curious and unprofitable questions, vain janglings, or the maintaining of false doctrines; abusing it, -- or any thing, contained under the name of God, to charms, -- or any way opposing God's truth, grace, and ways."[70]

Q. 28. How are the works of God abused?

A. When "the creatures" are prostituted to "sinful lusts and practices; and when there is a murmuring and quarrelling at God's providences."[71]

[69] Larger Catechism, Question 113.

[70] Larger Catechism, Question 113.

[71] Ibid.

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