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What is blasphemy?

What is blasphemy? It is the uttering of language injurious to God; it is, according to the definition of theologians, “contumeliosa in Deum locutio ;” or, contumely against God. God! whom does man assail when he blasphemes? He directly attacks the Lord. “He hath strengthened himself against the Almighty.” (Job. xv. 25.) Are you not afraid, blasphemer, says St. Ephrem, that fire will come down from heaven and devour you? or that the earth shall open and swallow you up?”Non metuis ne forte ignis de cœlo descendat et devoret te, qui sic os adversus omnipotentem aperis? Neque vereris, ne terra te absorbeat?” (Paren. 3.)

The devil, says St. Gregory Nazianzen, trembles at the name of Jesus: and we are not afraid to profane it. ”Domones ad Christi nomen exhorrescunt, nos vero nomen adeo venerandum contumelia afficere nou veremur.” (Orat. xx.) The vindictive assail a man who is their own equal; but, by their blasphemies blasphemers appear to seek revenge against God, who does or permits what is displeasing to them. There is a great difference between an act of contempt towards the portrait of a king, and an insult offered to his person. Man is the image of God; but the blasphemer offends God himself. ”He who blasphemes” says St. Athanasius, ”acts against the very Deity itself.”

The man who violates the law is guilty of a crime; but he who attacks the person of his sovereign commits an act of treason; therefore he receives no mercy, but is chastised with the utmost severity. What, then, shall we say of the man who blasphemes and insults the majesty of God?”If,” says the high-priest Heli, “one man shall sin against another, God may be appeased in his behalf; but if a man shall sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him?”(1 Kings ii. 25.) The sin of blasphemy, then, is so enormous, that the saints themselves appear not to have courage to pray for a blasphemer.



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