Exodus 20

* The preface to the ten commandments. (1,2) The commandments of

the first table. (3-11) Of the second table. (12-17) The fear of

the 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 to

attend; but he never spake at any time so as he spake the TEN

COMMANDMENTS. This law God had given to man before; it was

written in his heart; but sin so defaced it, that it was

necessary to revive the knowledge of it. The law is spiritual,

and takes knowledge of the secret thoughts, desires, and

dispositions of the heart. Its grand demand is love, without

which outward obedience is mere hypocrisy. It requires perfect,

unfailing, constant obedience; no law in the world admits

disobedience to itself. Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and

yet 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 is

death.
3-11 The first four of the ten commandments, commonly called

the FIRST table, tell our duty to God. It was fit that those

should be put first, because man had a Maker to love, before he

had a neighbour to love. It cannot be expected that he should be

true to his brother, who is false to his God. The first

commandment concerns the object of worship, JEHOVAH, and him

only. The worship of creatures is here forbidden. Whatever comes

short of perfect love, gratitude, reverence, or worship, breaks

this commandment. Whatsoever ye do, do all the glory of God. The

second commandment refers to the worship we are to render to the

Lord our God. It is forbidden to make any image or picture of

the Deity, in any form, or for any purpose; or to worship any

creature, image, or picture. But the spiritual import of this

command extends much further. All kinds of superstition are here

forbidden, and the using of mere human inventions in the worship

of God. The third commandment concerns the manner of worship,

that it be with all possible reverence and seriousness. All

false oaths are forbidden. All light appealing to God, all

profane cursing, is a horrid breach of this command. It matters

not whether the word of God, or sacred things, all such-like

things break this commandment, and there is no profit, honour,

or pleasure in them. The Lord will not hold him guiltless that

taketh his name in vain. The form of the fourth commandment,

"Remember," shows that it was not now first given, but was known

by the people before. One day in seven is to be kept holy. Six

days are allotted to worldly business, but not so as to neglect

the service of God, and the care of our souls. On those days we

must do all our work, and leave none to be done on the sabbath

day. Christ allowed works of necessity, charity, and piety; for

the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath, #Mr

2:27|; but all works of luxury, vanity, or self-indulgence in

any form, are forbidden. Trading, paying wages, settling

accounts, writing letters of business, worldly studies, trifling

visits, journeys, or light conversation, are not keeping this

day holy to the Lord. Sloth and indolence may be a carnal, but

not a holy rest. The sabbath of the Lord should be a day of rest

from worldly labour, and a rest in the service of God. The

advantages from the due keeping of this holy day, were it only

to the health and happiness of mankind, with the time it affords

for taking care of the soul, show the excellency of this

commandment. The day is blessed; men are blessed by it, and in

it. The blessing and direction to keep holy are not limited to

the seventh day, but are spoken of the sabbath day.
12-17 The laws of the SECOND table, that is, the last six of

the ten commandments, state our duty to ourselves and to one

another, and explain the great commandment, Thou shalt love thy

neighbour as thyself, #Lu 10:27|. Godliness and honesty must go

together. The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe to

our relations. Honour thy father and thy mother, includes esteem

of them, shown in our conduct; obedience to their lawful

commands; come when they call you, go where they send you, do

what they bid you, refrain from what they forbid you; and this,

as children, cheerfully, and from a principle of love. Also

submission to their counsels and corrections. Endeavouring, in

every thing, to comfort parents, and to make their old age easy;

maintaining them if they need support, which our Saviour makes

to be particularly intended in this commandment, #Mt 15:4-6|.

Careful observers have noted a peculiar blessing in temporal

things on obedient, and the reverse on disobedient children. The

sixth commandment requires that we regard the life and the

safety of others as we do our own. Magistrates and their

officers, and witnesses testifying the truth, do not break this

command. Self-defence is lawful; but much which is not deemed

murder by the laws of man, is such before God. Furious passions,

stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: more

guilty is murder in duels, which is a horrible effect of a

haughty, revengeful spirit. All fighting, whether for wages, for

renown, or out of anger and malice, breaks this command, and the

bloodshed therein is murder. To tempt men to vice and crimes

which shorten life, may be included. Misconduct, such as may

break the heart, or shorten the lives of parents, wives, or

other relatives, is a breach of this command. This command

forbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking or

insulting language. The destruction of our own lives is here

forbidden. This commandment requires a spirit of kindness,

longsuffering, and forgiveness. The seventh commandment concerns

chastity. We should be as much afraid of that which defiles the

body, as of that which destroys it. Whatever tends to pollute

the imagination, or to raise the passions, falls under this law,

as impure pictures, books, conversation, or any other like

matters. The eighth commandment is the law of love as it

respects the property of others. The portion of worldly things

allotted us, as far as it is obtained in an honest way, is the

bread which God hath given us; for that we ought to be thankful,

to be contented with it, and, in the use of lawful means, to

trust Providence for the future. Imposing upon the ignorance,

easiness, or necessity of others, and many other things, break

God's law, though scarcely blamed in society. Plunderers of

kingdoms though above human justice, will be included in this

sentence. Defrauding the public, contracting debts without

prospect of paying them, or evading payment of just debts,

extravagance, all living upon charity when not needful, all

squeezing the poor in their wages; these, and such things, break

this command; which requires industry, frugality, and content,

and to do to others, about worldly property, as we would they

should do to us. The ninth commandment concerns our own and our

neighbour's good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any

matter, lying, equivocating, and any way devising or designing

to deceive our neighbour. Speaking unjustly against our

neighbour, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against

him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and

tale-bearing; making what is done amiss, worse than it is, and

in any way endeavouring to raise our reputation upon the ruin of

our neighbour's. How much this command is every day broken among

persons of all ranks! The tenth commandment strikes at the root;

Thou shalt not covet. The others forbid all desire of doing what

will be an injury to our neighbour; this forbids all wrong

desire of having what will gratify ourselves.
18-21 This law, which is so extensive that we cannot measure

it, so spiritual that we cannot evade it, and so reasonable that

we cannot find fault with it, will be the rule of the future

judgment of God, as it is for the present conduct of man. If

tried by this rule, we shall find our lives have been passed in

transgressions. And with this holy law and an awful judgment

before us, who can despise the gospel of Christ? And the

knowledge of the law shows our need of repentance. In every

believer's heart sin is dethroned and crucified, the law of God

is written, and the image of God renewed. The Holy Spirit

enables him to hate sin and flee from it, to love and keep this

law in sincerity and truth; nor will he cease to repent.
22-26 Moses having entered into the thick darkness, God there

spake in his hearing all that follows from hence to the end of

chap. 23, which is mostly an exposition of the ten commandments.

The laws in these verses relate to God's worship. The Israelites

are assured of God's gracious acceptance of their devotions.

Under the gospel, men are encouraged to pray every where, and

wherever God's people meet in his name to worship him, he will

be in the midst of them; there he will come unto them, and will

bless them.
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