Great Guilt

And Aholah played the harlot when she was mine; and she doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians her neighbours,
~ Ezekiel 23:5

In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
~ Ezekiel 44:7

But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.
~ Ezekiel 20:13

Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day? Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
~ Nehemiah 13:17-18

The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
~ Isaiah 3:9

For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
~ Jeremiah 23:11

A Warning to Professors, or, The Great Guilt of Those who Attend on the Ordinances of Divine Worship, and Yet Allow Themselves in any Known Wickedness, by Jonathan Edwards.

First printed at Edinburgh, 1788.

“That they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire to devour them. More over this they have done unto me: they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my Sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house.” — Ezekiel 23:37-39


Subject: When they that attend ordinances of divine worship allow themselves in known wickedness, they are guilty of dreadfully profaning and polluting those ordinances.

Samaria and Jerusalem, or Israel and Judah, are here represented by two women, Aholah and Aholibah. And their idolatry and treachery towards their covenant God is represented by the adultery of these women. They forsook God, who was their husband, and the guide of their youth, and prostituted themselves to others. The baseness of Aholah and Aholibah towards God their husband is here pointed out by two things, viz. adultery and bloodshed: They have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands.

I. They committed adultery with other lovers, viz. with their idols: With their idols have they committed adultery.

II. They not only committed adultery, but they took their children that they bore to God, and killed them for their lovers. Their hearts were quite alienated from God, their husband, and they were so bewitched with lust after those other lovers, that they took their own children, whom they had by their husband, and put them to cruel deaths, to make a feast with them for their lovers. As it is said in verse 37, “And have also caused my sons whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through the fire to devour them.”

But here is a twofold wickedness of those actions of theirs held forth to us in the words.

First, the wickedness of them considered in themselves. For who can express the horrid baseness of this their treatment of God, their husband?

Second, an additional wickedness, resulting from the joining of these actions with sacred things. Beside the monstrous wickedness of these actions in themselves considered, there was this which exceedingly increased the guilt, that on the same day they came into God’s sanctuary, or that they lived in such wickedness at the same time that they came and attended the holy ordinances of God’s house, pretending to worship and adore him, whom they all the while treated in such a horrid manner. And so herein defiled and profaned holy things, as in verse 38 and 39, “Moreover, this have they done unto me; they have defiled my sanctuary in the same day, and have profaned my Sabbaths. For when they had slain their children to their idols, then they came the same day into my sanctuary, to profane it; and, lo, thus have they done in the midst of mine house.”


When they that attend ordinances of divine worship allow themselves in known wickedness, they are guilty of dreadfully profaning and polluting those ordinances.

By a divine ordinance, when the expression is used in its greatest latitude, is meant anything of divine institution or appointment. Thus we call marriage a divine ordinance because it was appointed by God. So civil government is called an ordinance of God. Rom. 13:1, 2, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.”

But the word is more commonly used only for an instituted or appointed way or mean of worship. So the sacraments are ordinances. So public prayer, singing of praise, the preaching of the word, and the hearing of the word preached are divine ordinances. The setting apart of certain officers in the church, the appointed way of discipline, public confession of scandals, admonition, and excommunication are ordinances. These are called the ordinances of God’s house, or of public worship. And these are intended in the doctrine. It is the profanation of these ordinances that is spoken of in the text: “They came into my sanctuary to profane it; and, lo! thus have they done in the midst of mine house,” says God. This doctrine seems to contain two propositions.


The ordinances of God are holy

DIVINE ordinances are holy in the following respects:

I. They are conversant wholly and immediately about God, and things divine. When we are in the attendance on the ordinances of divine worship, we are in the special presence of God. When persons come and attend on the ordinances of God, they are said to come before God, and to come into his presence. Jer. 7:10, “Come and stand before me, in this house which is called by my name.” Psa. 100:2, “Come into his presence with singing.”

In divine ordinances, persons have immediate intercourse with God, either in applying to him, as in prayer and singing praises, or in receiving from him, waiting solemnly and immediately on him for spiritual good, as in hearing the word; or in both applying to God and receiving from him, as in the sacraments. They were appointed on purpose that in them men might converse and hold communion with God. We are poor, ignorant, blind worms of the dust. And God did not see it meet that our way of intercourse with God should be left to ourselves. But God has given us his ordinances, as ways and means of conversing with him.

In these ordinances, holy and divine things are exhibited and represented. In the preaching of the word, holy doctrines and the divine will are exhibited. In the sacraments are represented our faith, love, and obedience.

II. The end of God’s ordinances is holy. The immediate end is to glorify God. They are instituted to direct us in the holy exercises of faith and love, divine fear and reverence, submission, thankfulness, holy joy and sorrow, holy desires, resolutions, and hopes. True worship consists in these holy and spiritual exercises, and as these divine ordinances are the ordinances of worship, they are to help us, and to direct us in such worship as this.

III. They have the sanction of divine authority. They are not only conversant about a divine and holy object, and designed to direct and help us in divine and holy exercises, but they have a divine and holy author. The infinitely great and holy God has appointed them, the eternal Three in One. Each person in the Trinity has been concerned in their institution. God the Father has appointed them, and that by his own Son. They are of Christ’s own appointment, and he appointed, as he had received of the Father. John 12:49, “I have not spoken of myself, but the Father which sent me, he gave me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak.” And the Father and Son more fully revealed and ratified them by the Spirit. And they are committed to writing by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

They are holy, in that God has hallowed them, or consecrated them. They are conversant about holy things. And God ordained them that in them we might be conversant about holy things. They are for a holy use. And it is God who, by his own immediate authority, ordained them for that holy use, which renders them much more sacred than otherwise they would have been.

IV. They are attended in the name of God. Thus we are commanded to do all that we do, in word or deed, in the name of Christ, Col. 3:17, which is to be understood especially of our attendance on ordinances. Ordinances are administered in the name of God. When the word is preached by authorized ministers, they speak in God’s name, as Christ’s ambassadors, as co-workers together with Christ. 2 Cor. 5:20, “Now we are ambassadors for Christ.” Chap. 4:1, “We are workers together with him.” When a true minister preaches, he speaks as the oracles of God, 1 Pet. 4:11. And he is to be heard as one representing Christ.

So in administering the sacraments, the minister represents the person of Christ. He baptizes in his name, and in the Lord’s supper stands in his stead. In administering church-censures, he still acts, as the apostle expresses it, in the person of Christ, 2 Cor. 2:10. On the other hand, the congregation, in their addresses to God in ordinances, as prayer and praise, act in the name of Christ, the Mediator, as Having him to represent them, and as coming to God by him.


God’s ordinances are dreadfully profaned by those who attend on them, and yet allow themselves in ways of wickedness.

PERSONS who come to the house of God, into the holy presence of God, attending the duties and ordinances of his public worship, pretending with others, according to divine institution, to call on the name of God, to praise him, to hear his word, and commemorate Christ’s death, and who yet, at the same time, are wittingly and allowedly going on in wicked courses, or in any practice contrary to the plain rules of the Word of God, therein greatly profane the holy worship of God, defile the temple of God and those sacred ordinances on which they attend. The truth of this proposition appears by the following considerations.

I. By attending ordinances, and yet living in allowed wickedness, they show great irreverence and contempt of those holy ordinances. When persons who have been committing known wickedness, as it were the same day, as it is expressed into the text, and attend the sacred solemn worship and ordinances of God, and then go from the house of God directly to the like allowed wickedness — they hereby express a most irreverent spirit with respect to holy things, and in a horrid manner cast contempt upon God’s sacred institutions, and on those holy things which we are concerned with in them.

They show that they have no reverence of that God who has hallowed these ordinances. They show a contempt of that divine authority which instituted them. They show a horribly irreverent spirit towards that God into whose presence they come, and with whom they immediately have to do in ordinances, and in whose name these ordinances are performed and attended. They show a contempt of the adoration of God, of that faith and love, and that humiliation, submission, and praise, which ordinances were instituted to express. What an irreverent spirit does it show, that they are so careless after what manner they come before God! That they take no care to cleanse and purify themselves, in order that they may be fit to come before God! Yea, that they take no care to avoid making themselves more and more unclean and filthy!

They have been taught many a time that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity, and how exceedingly he is offended with sin; yet they care not how unclean and abominable they come into his presence. It shows horrid irreverence and contempt, that they are so bold, that they are not afraid to come into the presence of God in such a manner, and that they will presume to go out of the presence of God, and from an attendance upon holy things, again to their sinful practices. If they had any reverence of God and holy things, an approach into his presence, and an attendance on those holy things, would leave that awe upon their minds, that they would not dare to go immediately from them to their ways of known wickedness,

It would show a great irreverence in any person towards a king, if he should not care how he came into his presence, and if he should come in a sordid habit, and in a very indecent manner. How much more horrid irreverence does it show, for persons willingly and allowedly to defile themselves with that filth which God infinitely hates, and so frequently come into the presence of God!

II. By making a show of respect to God in ordinances, and then acting the contrary in their lives, they do but mock God. In attending ordinances, they make a show of respect to God. By joining in prayer, in public adorations, confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, they make a show of high thoughts of God, and of humbling themselves before him; of sorrow for their sins, of thankfulness for mercies, and of a desire of grace and assistance to obey and serve God. By attending upon the hearing of the word, they make a show of a teachable spirit, and of a readiness to practice according to the instructions given. By attending on the sacraments, they make a show of faith in Christ, of choosing him for their portion, and spiritually feeding upon him.

But by their actions they all the while declare the contrary. They declare, that they have no high esteem of God, but that they despise him in their hearts. They declare, that they are so far from repenting of, that they intend to continue in, their sins. They declare, that they have no desire of that grace and assistance to live in a holy manner for which they prayed, and that they rather live wickedly. This is what they choose, and for the present are resolved upon. They declare by their actions that there is no truth in what they pretend in hearing the word preached, that they had a desire to know what the will of God is, that they might be directed in their duty. For they declare by their actions, that they desire not to do the will of God, and that they do not intend any such thing. But intend, on the contrary, to disobey him. And that they prefer their carnal interests before his authority and glory.

They declare by their actions that there is not truth in what they pretend in their attendance on the sacraments that they desire to be fed with spiritual nourishment, and to be conformed and assimilated to Christ, and to have communion with him. They show by their practices that they have no regard to Christ, and that they had rather have their lusts gratified, than to be fed with his spiritual food. They show, that they desire not any assimilation to Christ but to be different from him, and of an opposite character to him. They show that instead of desiring communion with Christ, they are his resolved and allowed enemies, willfully acting the part of enemies to Christ, dishonoring him, and promoting the interest of Satan against him.

Now, what can this be else but mockery, to make a show of great respect, reverence, love, and obedience, and at the same time willfully to declare the reverse in actions. If a rebel or traitor should send addresses to his king, making a show of great loyalty and fidelity, and should all the while openly, and in the king’s sight, carry on designs of dethroning him, how could his addresses be considered other than mockery? If a man should bow and kneel before his superior, and use many respectful terms to him, but at the same time should strike him, or spit in his face, would his bowing and his respectful terms be looked upon in any light than as done in mockery? When the Jews kneeled before Christ, and said Hail, King of the Jews, but at the same time spit in his face, and smote him upon the head with a reed, could their kneeling and salutations be considered as any other than mockery?

Men attend ordinances, and yet willingly live in wicked practices, treat Christ in the same manner that these Jews did. They come to public worship, and pretend to pray to him, to sing his praises, to sit and hear his word. They come to the sacrament, pretending to commemorate his death. Thus they kneel before him, and say, Hail, King of the Jews; yet at the same time they live in ways of wickedness, which they know Christ has forbidden, of which he has declared the greatest hatred, and which are exceedingly to his dishonor. Thus they buffet him, and spit in his face. They do as Judas did, who came to Christ saying, Hail, Master, and kissed him, at the same time betraying him into the hands of those who sought his life.

How can it be interpreted in any other light, when men come to public worship, and attend ordinariness, and yet will be drunkards and profane swearers, will live in lasciviousness, injustice, or some other known wickedness? If a man should pray to God to keep him from drunkenness, and at the same time should put the bottle to his own mouth, and drink himself drunk; the absurdity and horrid wickedness of his conduct would be manifest to every man. But the very same thing, though not so visible to us, is done by those who make profession of great respect to God, and pray God from time to time to keep them from sin; yet at the same time have no design to forsake their known sins, but intend the contrary.

God sees men’s designs and resolutions more plainly than we can see their outward actions. Therefore for a man to pray to God to be kept from sin, and at the same time to intend to sin, is mockery as visible to God as if he prayed to be kept from some particular sin, which he was at the same time willingly and allowedly committing.

These persons are guilty of a horrid profanation of God’s ordinances. For they make them occasions of a greater affront to God, the occasions of showing their impudence and presumption. For he who lives in willful wickedness, and does not enjoy the ordinances of God, is not guilty of so great presumption as he who attends these ordinances, and yet allows himself in wickedness. This latter acts as though he came into the presence of God on purpose to affront him. He comes from time to time to hear the will of God, and all the while designs disobedience, and goes away and acts directly contrary to it.

A servant would affront his master by willfully disobeying his commands in any wise. But he would affront him much more, if he should on every occasion come to him to inquire his will, as though he were ready to do whatever his master would have him do, and then should immediately go away and do the contrary.

III. They put the ordinances of God to a profane use. The ordinances of God are holy, as they are set apart of God to a holy use and purpose. They are the worship of God, instituted for the ends of giving honor and glory to him, and to be means of grace and spiritual good to us. But those persons who attend these ordinances, and yet live in allowed wickedness, aim at neither of these ends. They, in their attendance on ordinances, neither aim to give honor to God, or to express any love, or esteem, or thankfulness. Nor do they sincerely seek the good of their own souls. It is not truly the aim of any such persons to obtain grace, or to be made holy. Their actions plainly show that this is not their desire. They choose to be wicked, and intend it.

It is not therefore to these purposes that they improve the holy ordinances of God. But they put them to another and profane use. They attend ordinances to avoid that discredit which a voluntarily and habitual absence from them would cause among those with whom they live, to avoid the punishment of human laws, or for their worldly advantage, to make up for other wickedness, or for some other carnal purposes. Thus they profane the ordinances of God, by perverting them to profane purposes.

IV. When persons thus treat God’s holy ordinances, it tends to beget contempt of them in others. When others see sacred things commonly used so irreverently, and attended with such carelessness and contempt, and treated without any sacred regard; when they see persons are bold with them, treat them without any solemnity of spirit; when they see them thus commonly profaned, it tends to diminish their sense of their sacredness, and to make them seem no very awful things. In short, it tends to embolden them to do the like.

The holy vessels and utensils of the temple and tabernacle were never to be put to a common use, nor to be handled without the greatest care and reverence. For if it had been commonly otherwise, the reverence of them could not have been maintained. They would have seemed no more sacred than anything else. So it is in the ordinances of Christian worship.