Exodus 20* The preface to the ten commandments. (1,2) The commandments ofthe first table. (3-11) Of the second table. (12-17) The fear ofthe people. (18-21) Idolatry again forbidden. (22-26)1,2 God speaks many ways to the children of men; by conscience,by providences, by his voice, to all which we ought carefully toattend; but he never spake at any time so as he spake the TENCOMMANDMENTS. This law God had given to man before; it waswritten in his heart; but sin so defaced it, that it wasnecessary to revive the knowledge of it. The law is spiritual,and takes knowledge of the secret thoughts, desires, anddispositions of the heart. Its grand demand is love, withoutwhich outward obedience is mere hypocrisy. It requires perfect,unfailing, constant obedience; no law in the world admitsdisobedience to itself. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, andyet offend in one point, he is guilty of all, #Jas 2:10|.Whether in the heart or the conduct, in thought, word, or deed,to omit or to vary any thing, is sin, and the wages of sin isdeath. 3-11 The first four of the ten commandments, commonly calledthe FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that thoseshould be put first, because man had a Maker to love, before hehad a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should betrue to his brother, who is false to his God. The firstcommandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and himonly. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever comesshort of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaksthis commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God. Thesecond commandment refers to the worship we are to render to theLord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture ofthe Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship anycreature, image, or picture. But the spiritual import of thiscommand extends much further. All kinds of superstition are hereforbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worshipof God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship,that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. Allfalse oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, allprofane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It mattersnot whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-likethings break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour,or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless thattaketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment,"Remember," shows that it was not now first given, but was knownby the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Sixdays are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglectthe service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days wemust do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbathday. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; forthe sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, #Mr2:27|; but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence inany form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settlingaccounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, triflingvisits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping thisday holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, butnot a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of restfrom worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. Theadvantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it onlyto the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affordsfor taking care of the soul, show the excellency of thiscommandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and init. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited tothe seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day. 12-17 The laws of the SECOND table, that is, the last six ofthe ten commandments, state our duty to ourselves and to oneanother, and explain the great commandment, Thou shalt love thyneighbour as thyself, #Lu 10:27|. Godliness and honesty must gotogether. The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe toour relations. Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteemof them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their lawfulcommands; come when they call you, go where they send you, dowhat they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this,as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Alsosubmission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavouring, inevery thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy;maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour makesto be particularly intended in this commandment, #Mt 15:4-6|.Careful observers have noted a peculiar blessing in temporalthings on obedient, and the reverse on disobedient children. Thesixth commandment requires that we regard the life and thesafety of others as we do our own. Magistrates and theirofficers, and witnesses testifying the truth, do not break thiscommand. Self-defence is lawful; but much which is not deemedmurder by the laws of man, is such before God. Furious passions,stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: moreguilty is murder in duels, which is a horrible effect of ahaughty, revengeful spirit. All fighting, whether for wages, forrenown, or out of anger and malice, breaks this command, and thebloodshed therein is murder. To tempt men to vice and crimeswhich shorten life, may be included. Misconduct, such as maybreak the heart, or shorten the lives of parents, wives, orother relatives, is a breach of this command. This commandforbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking orinsulting language. The destruction of our own lives is hereforbidden. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness,longsuffering, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment concernschastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles thebody, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends to pollutethe imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law,as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any other likematters. The eighth commandment is the law of love as itrespects the property of others. The portion of worldly thingsallotted us, as far as it is obtained in an honest way, is thebread which God hath given us; for that we ought to be thankful,to be contented with it, and, in the use of lawful means, totrust Providence for the future. Imposing upon the ignorance,easiness, or necessity of others, and many other things, breakGod's law, though scarcely blamed in society. Plunderers ofkingdoms though above human justice, will be included in thissentence. Defrauding the public, contracting debts withoutprospect of paying them, or evading payment of just debts,extravagance, all living upon charity when not needful, allsqueezing the poor in their wages; these, and such things, breakthis command; which requires industry, frugality, and content,and to do to others, about worldly property, as we would theyshould do to us. The ninth commandment concerns our own and ourneighbour's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on anymatter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designingto deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against ourneighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness againsthim, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, andtale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, andin any way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin ofour neighbour's. How much this command is every day broken amongpersons of all ranks! The tenth commandment strikes at the root;Thou shalt not covet. The others forbid all desire of doing whatwill be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all wrongdesire of having what will gratify ourselves. 18-21 This law, which is so extensive that we cannot measureit, so spiritual that we cannot evade it, and so reasonable thatwe cannot find fault with it, will be the rule of the futurejudgment of God, as it is for the present conduct of man. Iftried by this rule, we shall find our lives have been passed intransgressions. And with this holy law and an awful judgmentbefore us, who can despise the gospel of Christ? And theknowledge of the law shows our need of repentance. In everybeliever's heart sin is dethroned and crucified, the law of Godis written, and the image of God renewed. The Holy Spiritenables him to hate sin and flee from it, to love and keep thislaw in sincerity and truth; nor will he cease to repent. 22-26 Moses having entered into the thick darkness, God therespake in his hearing all that follows from hence to the end ofchap. 23, which is mostly an exposition of the ten commandments.The laws in these verses relate to God's worship. The Israelitesare assured of God's gracious acceptance of their devotions.Under the gospel, men are encouraged to pray every where, andwherever God's people meet in his name to worship him, he willbe in the midst of them; there he will come unto them, and willbless them.
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