In our study of the Westminster Shorter Catechism
we come to the third commandment.
Q. 53. Which is the third commandment?
A. The third commandment is, [Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his name in vain.]
Q. 54. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requireth the holy and reverend use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, words, and works.
Q. 55. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of any thing whereby God maketh himself known.
Q. 56. What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?
A. The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that however the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment. from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment.
John Flavel explains:
Q. 1. How doth this commandment differ from the first and second?
A. The first hath respect to the object of worship, forbidding us to worship any other but God. The second respects the means of worship, forbidding us to worship God by any other means than what he hath prescribed. But the third respects the manner of his worship, forbidding all careless, or profane use of his name, and commanding an holy reverence from us in all our solemn addresses to him, or ordinary mention of his name. Malachi 1:6. A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear! saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name: And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
Q. 2. What is the first thing especially required in the third commandment?
A. It requires the most awful and reverential frame of our hearts in all our approaches to God; Psalm 89:7. God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints; and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. And in his worship; John 4:24. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Q. 3. What is the second thing required in this commandment?
A. It requires truth in our witness bearing, as knowing God seeth our hearts, and is witness to all that we think or speak; Zechariah 5:4. I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name, &c.
Q. 4. What is the third thing required in this commandment?
A. That in all our appeals to God in secret, or doubtful matters, we be sure that the appeal be necessary, awful, and true; Jeremiah 17:16. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee, neither have I desired the woeful day, thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee. Psalm 139:23-24. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.
Q. 5. What doth this commandment especially forbid?
A. It forbids and condemns all profane oaths, as most injurious to the name of God, Matthew 5:34, 37. Swear not at all, neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, &c. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these, cometh of evil.
Q. 6. What is the danger of profane or false swearing?
A. Such are reckoned enemies to God, Psalm 139:20. Thine enemies take thy name in vain. The curse of God enters into such families. Zechariah 5:4. I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name, &c. And the Lord will not hold them guiltless.
Q. 7. What else is forbidden in this commandment?
A. It forbids and condemns all heedless, wandering, and drowsy performance of God’s worship; Isaiah 29:13-14. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouths, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work, and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. And 2 Kings 10:31. But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Jaw of the Lord God of Israel, with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin.
Q. 8. What other sin is forbidden in this command?
A. It forbids all light and irreverent use of the scriptures, especially in our jests, or by way of scoffing; Jeremiah 17:15. Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now. Jeremiah 6:10. Behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.
Q. 9. By what argument doth God enforce the third commandment on men?
A. That the breakers of this commandment shall surely be punished by the Lord, either in this life, Deuteronomy 28:58-59. If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law, that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God: Then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sickness, and of long continuance: Or in that to come, Romans 2:5. But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God: Except they repent and reform.
Q. 10. What is the first instruction from the third commandment?
A. That great and infinite is the patience of God in forbearing and provoking sinners so long as he doth; Romans 9:22. What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?
Q. 11. What is the second instruction from hence?
A. That God is to be justified in the severest of his judgments, by which at any time he manifests his displeasure against the profaneness of the world; Hosea 4:1-3. Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: For the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, arid blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.
Q. 12. What is the third instruction from hence?
A. That God takes special notice of, and greatly delighteth in them that fear and reverence his name; Isaiah 66:5. Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word: Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed. Malachi 3:16. And a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.
Q. 13. What is the last inference from hence?
A. That those parents have much to answer for, that by their examples teach, or by their negligence encourage their children to profane God’s name: Jeremiah 5:7. How shall I pardon thee for this? Thy children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods, &c.