AN

 

 

EXPOSITION

 

OF THE

 

 

TEN COMMANDMENTS:

 

BY THE RT. REV. EZEKIEL HOPKINS, D. D.,

SUCCESSIVELY BISHOP OF RAPHOE AND DERRY, WHO DIED IN LONDON,

A. D. 1690.

 

 

 

 

 

REVISED AND SLIGHTLY ABBIDGED.

 

Digitally prepared by:  Ted Hildebrandt

Gordon College, 255 Grapevine Rd., Wenham, MA  01984

report any errors to: thildebrandt@gordon.edu

June 2004

 

 

 

 

PUBLISHED BY THE

AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY,

150 NASSAU-STREET, NEW-YORK.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   In the present edition this work has been revised, with changes in

obsolete or defective forms of expression, and the omission of some pas-

sages having a more immediate reference to the Government or Church

of England.

 

 

 

 


NOTICE OF BISHOP HOPKINS.

 

     Ezekiel Hopkins was born at Sanford, county of Devon,

England, about the year 1633, where his father was many years

a laborious minister.  He was educated at Oxford, where he

was some time chaplain of Magdalen College.  From Oxford he

went to London, where he was assistant to Dr. William Spur-

stow till the act of uniformity.  After this he was preacher at

St. Edmunds, Lombard-street, and subsequently was chosen

minister of St. Mary Arches, in Exeter, where he was much ad-

mired.  From Exeter he was transferred to the deanery of Ra-

phoe, Ireland, and from the deanery was promoted to the bishop-

ric, which he occupied about ten years, when he was transfer-

red to the bishopric of Derry.  Here he continued about seven

years, till the papists got the sword into their hands, when he

fled for his life to England, and became minister of St. Mary,

Aldermanbury, in London, 1689, where he died, about seven

months only after his establishment there.

     As a preacher, Bishop Hopkins was esteemed one of the first

of the age in which he lived, being much admired and followed

after in all the places where he preached.

     As a writer, he was eminent above most authors for the com-

bination of clear statements of doctrinal and practical truth,

with an eloquent application of it to the heart and conscience.

Scarcely any other writer has, within an equal compass, so ably

discussed, and applied with such energy the whole range of

christian truth.  His works are published in four volumes, edited

by the late Rev. Josiah Pratt, of London, who in his dedication

of the volumes to William Wilberforce, Esq. says, "That


4                           NOTICE OF BISIIOP HOPKINS.

 

author is of special value whose works supply, within a mod-

rate compass, the most complete refutation of whatever can be

urged against true religion, by exhibiting her in her most beauti-

ful proportions.  Such an author is Bishop Hopkins."  His works,

embrace the following subjects:  Vanity of the World, Exposi-

tions of the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, Dis-

courses on the Law, Discourses concerning Sin, The Doctrine

of the Two Covenants, Doctrine of the Two Sacraments, The

All-Sufficiency of Christ to save Sinners, Excellency of Heaven-

ly Treasures, Practical Christianity, Assurance of Heaven and

Salvation a principal motive to serve God with fear, On Glori-

fying God in his Attributes, Almost Christian, Conscience, Great

Duty of Mortification, Death Disarmed, Miscellaneous Sermons.

     As a divine, Bishop Hopkins was one of the sound theologians

to which the Reformation gave birth, and he unequivocally and

openly held and inculcated the pure doctrines of the Reformers,

opposed as they are to the pride and passions of unsanctified

men.  On the difficult questions concerning the grace of God and

the obligation of man, he adopted those views which most natu-

rally reconcile with one another the declarations and exhortations

of Scripture.  Few writers have entered so unequivocally into

the extent of man's responsibility, and at the same time so strong-

ly insisted on the sovereignty, and so graphically described the 1

operations of the grace of God.

 


CONTENTS.

 

   PAGE.

Introduction       .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .            7

     The time of the delivery of the Ten Commandments      .            9

     The Reason    .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .         10

     The Manner    .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .         11

     Are they abrogated?          .         .         .         .         .         .         19

     General Rules for rightly understanding them       .         .         29

     Their order.    .         .         .         .         .         .         .         .         48

Preface to the Commandments      .         .         .         .         .         50

 

FIRST  TABLE.

The First Commandment                                                                58

     Requires the love, fear, and praise of God                                61

     Forbids Atheism-proofs of the being of God                            68

          Ignorance of the true God                                                     92

          Profaning his name, attributes, time, ordinances                 101

          Idolatry                                                                                   120

The Second Commandment                                                 126

     The Prohibition, As to the worship of God, exter-

                   nal and internal                                                             127

           As to the sins here forbidden-Superstition                          139

     The threatening, Visiting the iniq1rities of the fa-

thers upon the children                                                 148

The Third Commandment                                                              165

      Profaning the name of God--Oaths                                          166

      The folly of this sin--Directions                                               186

The Fourth Commandment                                                           192

      Primitive Institution of the Sabbath                                         195

      Its morality and perpetual obligation                                       196

     Change to the first day of the week                                           201

     The manner in which it is to be observed                                  204


6                                    CONTENTS.

SECOND TABLE

    PAGE

      Introduction to the Second Table                                             225

The Fifth Commandment                                                               228

     Duties of parents and children                                                   233

     Magistrates and those subject to them                                      251

     Husbands and wives                                                                   261

     Masters and servants                                                                  279

     Ministers and their people                                                          301

     Superiors and inferiors, or those who differ in

                   the gifts of God's grace, or his common

bounty                                                                           316

     The promise, That thy days may be long                                   328

The Sixth Commandment                                                               332

     The sin of murder                                                                       333

     Causes and occasions leading to it                                            345

     Rules for restraining and governing anger                      352

The Seventh Commandment                                                 359

     The sin forbidden                                                                        359

     Its heinousness                                                                            365

     Cautions and directions                                                             370

The Eighth Commandment                                                             373

     Of theft in general                                                                      376

     Many kinds of theft                                                                    379

     The duties here required                                                             389

The Ninth Commandment                                                               395

     The value of a good name                                                          397

     The sin of lying                                                                           399

     Aggravations of this sin                                                             406

     The sin of slander-rules and directions                                     409

The Tenth Commandment                                                               430

     The sin of concupiscence                                                 431

     The whole practically applied                                                    437


EXPOSITION

OF

THE COMMANDMENTS.

~-~~-~~~~~

THE INTRODUCTION.

 

     Two things in general are required to perfect a chris-

tian; the one a clear and distinct knowledge of his duty,

the other, a conscientious practice of it, correspondent to

his knowledge; and both are equally necessary.  For, as we

can have no solid or well-grounded hope of eternal salva-

tion, without obedience; so we can have no sure established

rule for our obedience, without knowledge.  Therefore, our

work and office is, not only to exhort, but to instruct;

not only to excite the affections, but to inform the judg-

ment:  we must as well illuminate as warm.

     Knowledge, indeed, may be found without practice;

and our age abounds with speculative christians, whose

religion is but like the rickets, that makes them grow

large in the head, but narrow in the breast; whose

brains are replenished with notions, but their hearts strait-

ened towards God, and their lives black arid deformed.  I

confess, indeed, their knowledge may be beneficial to

others; yet, where it is thus overborne by unruly lusts,

and contradicted by a licentious conversation, to them-

selves it is most fatal: like a light shut up in a lantern,

which may serve to guide others, but only soots, and at

last burns that which contained it.

     But, although knowledge may be without practice, yet


8                           THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

the practice of godliness cannot be without knowledge.

For, if we know not the limits of sin and duty, what is re-

quired and what is forbidden, it cannot be supposed but

that, in this corrupted state of our natures, we shall una-

voidably run into many heinous miscarriages.

     Therefore, that we might be informed what we ought

to do and what to avoid, it hath pleased God, the great

Governor and righteous Judge or all, to prescribe laws

for the regulating of our actions; and, that we might not

be ignorant what they are, he hath openly promulgated

them in his word.  For when. we had miserably defaced

the law of nature originally written in our hearts, so that

many of its commands were no longer legible, it seemed

good to his infinite wisdom and mercy to transcribe and

copy out that law in the sacred tables of the Scriptures;

and to superadd many positive precepts and injunctions

not before imposed.  Hence the Bible is the statute-book

of God's kingdom, wherein is comprised the whole body

of the heavenly law, the perfect rules of a holy life, and

the sure promises of a glorious one.

     And the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, is a

summary, or brief epitome of the law, written by the

immediate finger of God, and contracted into an abridg-

ment not only to ease our memories but to gain our

veneration; for sententious commands best befit ma-

jesty.  And, indeed, if we consider the paucity of the ex-

pressions, and yet the copiousness arid variety of the mat-

ter contained in them, we must needs acknowledge not

only their authority to be divine, but likewise the skill

and art in reducing the whole duty of man to so, brief a

compendium.  The words are but few, called therefore

the Words of the Covenant, or the Ten Words:  Ex


THE INTRODUCTION.                                    9

 

34:28; but the sense and matter contained in them is

vast and infinite: the rest of Scripture is but a commen-

tary upon them, either exhorting us to obedience by ar-

guments, or alluring us to it by promises; warning us

against transgression by threatenings, or exciting us to the

one, and restraining us from the other, by examples re-

corded in the historical part of it.

     But before I speak of the Commandments themselves,

it will be necessary to premise something concerning, 1.

the time, 2. the reason, and 3. the manner of their deli-

very; 4. how far the laws given by Moses are abrogated,.

5. some rules for rightly understanding the Ten Com-

mandments; and 6. a few words respecting their order

 

     I.  The TIME.  According to the best chronology it

Was about 2,460 years after the creation, 220 after Israel's

descent into Egypt, and the third month after their de-

parture out of Egypt, Exod. 19 : 1; before the birth of

Christ almost 1,500 years, and therefore above 3,000 be-

fore our days.  God now first selected to himself a national

church; and therefore it seemed expedient to his wisdom

to prescribe them laws and rules, how to order both their

demeanor and his worship.  Before this the law of nature

was the rule; but because it was blotted and razed by

the first transgression, it was supplied in many particulars

by traditions delivered down from one to another.  And

those of the patriarchs who, according to the precepts

of this law, endeavored to please God, were accepted

of him, and frequently obtained especial revelations, either

by dreams or visions, or heavenly voices, concerning those

things wherein they were more particularly to obey his

1*


10                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

will.  Then, too, God made no distinction of people or

nations; but, as it is since the wall of partition is broken

down, and the Jewish economy abrogated by the death of

Christ, so was it before, that, in every nation, he that

feared God and wrought righteousness was accepted of

him.  Acts, 10:35.

 

     II.  The REASON.  This was because the world was now

so totally degenerated into vile superstitions and idola-

tries, that the knowledge and fear of the true God was

scarcely to be found but only in the family and posterity

of Abraham; and even among them we have reason to

suspect a great decay and corruption, especially in their

long abode among the idolatrous Egyptians; yea, the

Scripture expressly charges them with it, Josh. 24 : 14;

Ezek. 20 : 7, 8; and probably they took the pattern of

their golden calf from the Egyptian Apis.  God, there-

fore, justly rejects all the rest of the world; but, being

mindful of his promise to their father, the father of the

faithful, be appropriates this people to himself as his pe-

culiar inheritance.  And because it was manifest by ex-

perience that neither the law of nature nor oral tradition

was sufficient to preserve alive the knowledge and wor-

ship of the true God, but the whole earth was become

wicked and idolatrous; therefore that this people whom

God had now taken to himself might have all possible ad-

vantages to continue in his fear and service, and that they

might not degenerate as the rest of the world had done,

he himself proclaims to them that law by which be would

govern them, writes it on tables of stone, commits these

into the hands of Moses, whom he had constituted his

lieutenant, and commands them to be laid up in the ark


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          11

 

as a perpetual monument of his authority and their duty.

How wretchedly depraved are our natures, when even

that which is the very light and law of them is 80 oblite-

rated and defaced that God would rather entrust its pre-

servation to stones than to us, and thought it more secure

when engraven on senseless tables, than when written on

our hearts!

 

     III.  The MANNER in which this law was delivered is de-

scribed to have been very terrible and astonishing.  God de-

signed it so, on purpose to possess the people with the

greater reverence of it, and to awaken in their souls a due

respect to those old despised dictates of their nature, wheu

they should see the same laws revived and invigorated with

so much circumstance and terror; for, indeed, the Deca-

logue is not so much the enacting of any new law, as a revi-

ving of the old by a more solemn proclamation.  And mark

the circumstances of majesty and solemnity in the action:

     1.  The people were commanded to prepare themselves

two days together, by a typical cleansing of themselves

from all external and bodily pollutions before they were to

stand in the presence of God.  So we find it enjoined:

they were to be sanctified, and to wash their clothes, and

be ready against the third day, when the Lord would come

down in the sight of all the people, upon Mount Sinai.

Exod. 19 : 10, 11. This teaches us,--

     That we ought to be seriously prepared when we come

to wait before God in his ordinances, and to receive a law

at his mouth.

     The dispensation of the Gospel is not indeed such a

ministry of terror as that of the Law was. God doth not

now speak to us immediately by his own voice--which


12                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

they that heard it were not able to endure:  he doth not

pronounce his law in thunder, nor wrap it up in flame and

smoke; but he speaks to us in a still voice, by men like

earthen vessels of the same mould and frailty with our-

selves.  He treats with us by his messengers and ambas-

sadors; whose errand, though it be delivered with less

terror, yet ought not to be received with less reverence: 

for it is God himself who speaks to us in them and by

them; and every word of truth which they deliver in his

name and by his authority, ought to be received with as

much prostrate veneration and affection as though God

did himself speak it immediately from heaven.

     Think, then, how solicitous the Israelites were in fitting

Themselves for that great and dreadful day of hearing the

Law; a day more great and dreadful than ever any shall

Be except that of judging men according to the law.

Think how their hearts throbbed and thrilled when they

Heard the clang of the heavenly trumpets blended with

Loud and terrible thunder, both giving a signal of the near

approach of God.  Think, if you can, what thoughts they

had, when they saw the mountain burning with fire and

enveloped with clouds and smoke, out of which on every

side shot fearful lightnings.  Think how they trembled

when they saw the mountain tremble and totter under the

weight and greatness of God descending upon it.  And

bring with you the same affections—if not so terrified, yet

as much overawed—whensoever you come to wait upon

his holy ordinances; for it is the same God that speaks to

you; and he speaks the same things as then he did:  not

indeed with such amazing circumstances, yet with the

very same authority and majesty.


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          13

    Were God now to come down among you in his tem-

the majesty, or should a thick cloud fill this place and

lightnings flash out of it; should you hear the thunder of

his voice, I am the Lord: thou shalt have no other gods

before me; certainly such a dreadful glory would make

your hearts tremble within you and the very earth trem-

ble under you!  And could you then give way to sloth

and drowsiness?  Could your hearts run gadding after

vanities and trifles.?  Or could any earthly object divert

your thoughts and affections from so tel'1ible a glory?

Believe it then; God is as really present here as when he

thus manifested himself to the Israelites; and present

upon the very same occasion too.  He is now delivering

his law to us; pronouncing his high and sovereign com~

mands: and if he so far consults our weakness as not to

do it in such an astonishing manner; yet far be that disin-

genuousness from us, that we should be either the less

careful to prepare for or the less reverent in attending on

the declarations of his high will and pleasure, though he

makes them known to us by men of the same temper

with ourselves.

     And if the Israelites were to sanctify and prepare them-

selves to appear before God at Mount Sinai, how much

more ought we to sanctify ourselves that we may be meet

to appear before God in heaven!  That glory which God

manifested when he delivered the law is not comparable

to the infinite glory which he always reveals to the saints

in heaven: and yet if the people of the .Jews were not

allowed to ,see God, though veiled with a cloud and thick

darkness, without being first carefully prepared for such a

glorious discovery; how much more carefully ought we to

prepare ourselves, to wash our filthy garments, and to


14                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

cleanse our souls from all defilements both of flesh and

spirit, that we may be prepared to stand before God, and

see him there where he darts forth the full rays of his

brightness, and causeth his glory for ever to appear with-

out any check or restraint, without any cloud or veil.

     2.  The mount on which God appeared was to be fenced

and railed in!  This was with a strict prohibition that

none should presume to pass the bounds there set; nor

approach to touch the holy mount, under the penalty of

death.  So we have it Exod. 19: 12, which intimates the

due distance we ought to keep from God; and teaches us

to observe all that reverence and respect which belong to

him as being infinitely our superior.  Certainly the very

places where God manifests himself, at least while he

doth so, are venerable and awful: therefore, when God

revealed himself to Jacob in a dream, and gave him the

representation of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven-

angels on every round of it, and God on the top--we find

with. what awe he reflects upon it, in his waking thoughts:

"Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not, And

he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this

is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate

of heaven." Gen. 28 : 16, 17.

     This setting bounds and limits to the mount, signified

also, as in a type, the strictness and exactness of the law

of God.  His law is our boundary, a boundary set on

purpose to keep us from rushing in upon his neck, and

upon the thick bosses of his buckler: and that soul that

shall presume so to break these bounds and commit a

trespass on the Almighty, shall surely die the death; even

that eternal death which he hath threatened against all

violaters of his law.

 

                             The Introduction                              15

 

     3.  God appeared to pronounce his law in thunders, and

lightnings, and earthquakes, and fire, and darkness: these

were the introduction to it; and so dreadful were they

that they caused not only the people to remove and stand

afar off: as not able to endure such terrible majesty, Exod.

20: 18, but even affrighted Moses himself, who was to be

Internuncius Dei, "the messenger and herald of God."

This we find intimated, Exod. 19: 19, "When the voice

of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and loud-

er, Moses spake."  What he said is not mentioned; but

probably he then spake those words recorded by the

Apostle, "So terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I

exceedingly fear and quake." Heb. 12 : 21.

     This dreadful appearance of God in the delivering of

the law served to affect them with a reverent esteem of

those commands which he should impose upon them; for,

certainly, unless they were most grossly stupid, they must

think those things to be of vast concern which were at-

tended with such a train of amazing circumstances; and

it is natural for men to be awed by pomp and solemnity,

the majesty of the commander adding a kind of authority

to the command.

     Again, it served to put them in mind, as it should us

also, that if God were so terrible only in delivering the

law, how much more terrible he will be when he shall

come to judge us for transgressing the law.

     Indeed the whole apparatus of this day seems to be

typical of the Last Day: only (as is true of all types) it

shall be far outdone by its antitype.  Here were voices,

and fire, and smoke, and the noise of a trumpet; and

these struck terror into the hearts of the people, who

came only to receive the law: but: oh, think what con-


16                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

sternation will seize the hearts of sinners, when "the

Lord shall descend from heaven," at the last day, "with

a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the

trump of God," as the apostle describes it, 1 Thess.

4 : 16; when, not a mountain only, but the whole world

shall be burning; heaven and earth all on a light flame

about them; when they shall hear the terrible voice of

the Majesty on high calling to them, "Awake, ye dead,

and come to judgment:" when the earth shall be univer-

sally shaken, and the dead shaken out of their graves:

when whole crowds of naked nations shall throng and

cluster about the Great Tribunal, not to receive a law but

a sentence, a sentence that shall determine their final and

eternal estate!  Certainly if the giving of the law were so

full of terror, much more terrible shall be our being

judged according to that law.

     4.  When God himself had, with his dread voice, spoken

to them these ten words, their affright and astonishment

was so great that they entreated Moses to be a mediator,

or interpreter between God and them: they said to Moses,

"Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not God

speak with us, lest we die." Exod. 20: 19.

     This may intimate how the law, as dispensed to us only

from God, is in itself the ministration of death and con-

demnation; but, as delivered by a Mediator, our Lord

Jesus Christ, of whom Moses here was a type, it may be

the means of our obtaining eternal life, not for, but through

our obedience to it.

     Therefore the law is said to be "ordained by angels,

in the hand of a mediator;" Gal. 3: 19; that is, it was

solemnly dispensed by the ministry of angels, and then

delivered into the hand of Moses, to be by him com-


                             THE  INTRODUCTION.                         17

municated to the people; which intimates how the se-

verity and terrors of the law were intended to drive us to

Christ, as here they drove the Israelites to Moses, the

type of Christ; from whose mouth the law spake not so

dreadfully as it did from God's.

     5.  Upon this intercession and request of the people,

Moses is called up into the mount, and the law deposited

in his hands, engraven in two tables of stone, by the

finger and impression of God himself: the most sacred

relic the world ever enjoyed; but at length lost, together

with the ark that contained it, in the frequent removes

and captivities of that people.

     This, too, may intimate how our hearts are naturally so

hard and stony, that it is only the finger of God that can

make any impression of his laws upon them.  The ark

was a famous type of Christ: and the keeping of the

tables of the law in the ark, what doth it mean, but to

prefigure to us how the law was to be kept and observed

in him who fulfilled all righteousness?  And when God

again writes his laws on our hearts, we also keep them in

Christ our ark, whose complete obedience supplies all

our imperfections and defects.

     6.  Whereas this law of the Ten Commandments was

twice written by God himself; once before and again after

the tables were in a holy zeal broken by Moses: this also

may intimate the twice writing of the law on the hearts

of men; first, by the creating finger of God) when he

made us perfectly like himself; and then again, by his

regenerating power, when he creates us anew in Christ

Jesus, giving us a new impression, and as it were setting

us forth in a new edition, but yet containing the same for

substance as when we came forth at first out of the crea-


18                        The Introduction

ting hand of God: for regeneration and the new birth is

but a restoring us to the image of God, which we defaced

by our fall in Adam; and, as it were, a new stamping

those characters of himself in righteousness and know-

ledge, which were obliterated.

     7.  When Moses came down from the mount after his

long converse with God, his face shone with such a divine

and heavenly lustre that the Israelites were dazzled with the

brightness, and could not steadfastly look upon him:  there-

fore he was forced to put a veil over his face, to allay and

temper those beams which the reflection of God's face and

presence had cast upon him; but this veil he laid aside

when he turned into the tabernacle to speak with God.

Exod. 34 : 29, &c.

     The significancy of this the Apostle expressly gives us,

2 Cor. 3 : 13-15, that there was a veil on the heart of the

Jews, so that they could not see to the end of the law,

which is Christ Jesus, who was the end of the ceremonial

law, in that he put an end to it in its abrogation; and

who is the end of the moral law, because in him it attains

its end, which is by convincing us of our own weakness

and inability to perform it, to lead us to Christ, by whose

righteousness alone, and not by the works of the law, we

are to expect justification before God.  Yet there was so

thick a veil cast over the law, that the Jews could not

look through it upon the glory that shone in Christ, of

whom Moses was still the type: but, when they shall

turn to the Lord this veil shall be taken away; and then

shall they discern the significancy of all those ritual ob-

servances, and perceive spiritual things after a more sub-

lime and spiritual manner.

     Thus I have shown the time, the reason and the man-

 


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          19

ner of the delivery of this epitome of the law in the Ten

Commandments; wherein are delineated and shadowed

out many excellent gospel truths.

     IV.  And now if any one ask,  "What need all this long

discourse about the law?  Is it not fully ABROGATED by the

coming of Christ?  Shall we be again brought under that

heavy yoke of bondage, which neither we nor our fathers

were able to bear?  Doth not the Scripture frequently tes-

tify that we are not now under the law, but under grace?

that Christ was made under the law, to free those who

were under the law? and, therefore, to terrify and over-

awe men's consciences by the authority of the law; what

is it but to make the Gospel a legal dispensation, unworthy

of that christian liberty into which our Savior hath vindi-

cated us, who has by his obedience fulfilled the law, and

by his death abolished it?"

     To this I answer:  Far be it from every christian to in-

dulge himself in any licentiousness, from such a corrupt

and rotten notion of the law's abrogation; for, so far is it

from being abolished by the coming of Christ, that he

himself expressly tells us, he came not to destroy the law,

but to fulfil it, Mat. 5 : 17; that is, either to perform or

else to perfect and fill up the law; and, v. 18, he avers that

"till heaven and earth; pass, one jot or one tittle shall in

no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled," that is, till

the consummation and fulfilling of all things; and then

the law which was our rule on earth shall become our na-

ture in heaven.

     When therefore St. Paul speaks. as he frequently does,

of the abrogation and disannulling of the law, we must

carefully discern and' distinguish both what is taught us


20                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 

respecting the law, and what is taught us respecting the

abrogation of the Jaw, or any part of it.

     The law, which God delivered by Moses, was of three

kinds:  Ceremonial, Judicial, and Moral.

     The Ceremonial Law was wholly taken up in enjoining

those observances of sacrifices and offerings, and various

methods of purification and cleansing, which were typical

of Christ, and that sacrifice of his, which alone was able

to take away sin.

     The Judicial Law consisted of those constitutions which

God prescribed the Jews for their civil government, and

was the standing law of their nation.  For their state was

a theocracy; and, as in other commonwealths the chief

magistrates give laws to the people, so in this, the laws

for their religion and for their civil government were both

immediately from God.  By this law were to be tried and

determined all actions and suits between party and party:

as in all other nations, there are particular laws and sta-

tutes for the decision of controversies that may arise

among them.

     But the Moral Law is a body of precepts, which carry

a universal and natural equity in them; being so con-

formable to the light of reason and the dictates of every

man's conscience, that as soon as ever they are declared

and understood, they must needs be subscribed to as just

and right.

     These are the three sorts of laws which commonly go

under ,the name of the Law of Moses: all of which had re-

spect, either to those things which prefigured the Messias

to come, or to those which concerned their political, and

civil government as a distinct nation from others, or to

such natural virtues and duties of piety towards, God and

 


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          21

righteousness towards men, as were common to them

with all the rest of mankind.

     And now as to the abrogation or continued obligation

of these several laws, I desire you heedfully to attend to

the following propositions.

      1.  The CEREMONIAL LAW is, as to the Jews, properly ab-

rogated, and its obligation and authority utterly taken

away and repealed; for so the apostle is to be under-

stood, when, in his epistles; he so often speaks of the ab-

rogation and disannulling of the law: he speaks, I say,

of the ceremonial law and Aaronical observances; which,

indeed, were so fulfilled by Christ as to be abolished.  For

this law was given to be only an adumbration or faint repre-

sentation of Christ.  As in the night, while the sun is in

the other hemisphere, yet we see its light in the planets

and moons which shine with a borrowed and derived

brightness; but when the sun is risen and displays its

beams abroad, it drowns and extinguishes all those petty

lights; so, while Christ the Sun of Righteousness was yet

in the other hemisphere of time, before he was risen with

healing under his wings, the Jews saw some glimmering

of his light in their ceremonies and observances; but,

now that the day of the Gospel is fully sprung, and that

light which before was but blooming is fully spread, those

dimmer lights are quite drowned and extinguished in his

clear rays, and an utter end is put to all those rites and cere-

monies which both intimated, and in a kind supplied the ab-

sence of the substance.  So that, to maintain now a necessity

of legal sacrifices, and purifyings, and sprinklings, is no less

than to evacuate the death of Christ; and to deny the shed-

.ding of that blood that alone can purify us from all pollutions:

which is but to catch at the shadow and lose the substance.

 


22                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

     And as to us, who are the posterity and descendants

of the Gentiles, it is more proper to affirm that the cere-

monial law was never in force, than that it is truly ab-

rogated; for the ceremonial law was national to the

Jews, and, in a sort, peculiar to them only; neither did

God intend that the observance of it should be imposed

upon any other people, as a thing necessary for their

future happiness, even though they should be proselyted.

     And this appeal's, both because God expressly com-

mands all those who were to be subject to the ceremo-

nial law, that they should appear at Jerusalem, thrice

in the year, before the Lord, Exod. 34 : 23, 24, which

would have been impossible for those in countries far

remote from Jerusalem; and because all their sacrifices

and oblations, in which consisted the chiefest part of the

ceremonial worship, were to be offered up only at Je-

usalem; which would have been alike impossible, if this

command of sacrificing had been intended by God to be

obligatory on all the world.  Therefore, doubtless, that

command, even whilst it was in force, obliged none but

the Jewish nation.

     We find also that, even before Christ's coming, the

Jews themselves did not impose the observance of the

ceremonial law alike upon all proselytes; but their pro-

selytes were of two sorts.  Some, indeed, as the Prose-

lyti Legis, became perfect Jews in religion, lived among

them, and engaged themselves to the full observance of the

whole law; yet some, called Proselyti Portae, were only

so far converted as to acknowledge and worship the only

true God, but obliged not themselves to the performance

of what the Levitical law required.  These the Jews ad-

mitted into participation of the same common hope and


                             THE INTRODUCTION                           23

salvation with themselves, when they professed their faith

in God the Creator, and their obedience to the law of na-

ture, together with the seven traditional precepts of Noah.*

     For the farther clearing of this matter, moreover, we

must know, that, in the very beginning of the church,

there arose great dissension between the believing Jews

and the believing Gentiles, concerning the necessity of

observmg the Levitical law.  For we find, Acts, 15 : 5,

that certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed,

affirmed that it was needful to circumcise the Gentiles,

and to command them to keep the law of Moses: which

yet was greater rigor than was formerly used to the pro-

selyte party.

      To determine this question, the apostles and elders

Meeting in a council at Jerusalem, decided in brief:  That

the believing Jews might still, without offence, observe

the rites and ceremonies of the law: though the necessity;

of them were now abrogated, the use of them might, for

a season, be lawfully continued:  “dead” they were

but, hitherto, not “deadly:”  they were expired; yet

some time was thought expedient for their decent burial.

Hence we find St. Paul himself, who so earnestly in all

his epistles opposes the observance of the ceremonial law,

yet submits to the use of those rites, Acts, 21 : 26, and

16 : 3, by which he evidently declares that those believers

who were of that nation, though they were freed from the

 

*  These precepts were:  1.  The administration of justice upon

offenders.  2.  Renoucing of idolatry.  3. Worshipping the true

God, and keeping the Sabbath.  4. Abstaining from murder.  5.

From fornication.  6. From robbery.  7.  From eating of blood,

or any member f a beast taken from it alive.


24                                  THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

necessity, yet they might lawfully, as yet, observe the

Aaronical constitutions; ,especially, when, to avoid giving

offence, it might be expedient so to do.  So tender a thing

is the peace of the church!

     But then, concerning the Gentiles; although, before

the coming of Christ, they might become perfect prose-

lytes to the whole law of Moses, and receive the seal of

circumcision, as many of them did: yet, after the evan-

gelical doctrine was consummate, and the Apostles sent

into all the world to preach it to every creature, they, by

the Holy Ghost, determine, in that first council of the

church, that the Gentiles should by no means be bur-

dened with, any of those impositions, that they should

not subject themselves to the dogmatizing commands of

false teachers, who required them to be circumcised and

to keep the ceremonial law; but that they be required

only to abstain "from meat offered to idols, and from

blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication,"

that is, as judicious Mr. Hooker very probably interprets

it, from incestuous marriages within prohibited degrees.

And all those commands, laid upon them by the apostles,

are the very precepts of Noah.  But circumcision and

other observances of the ceremonial law they were not

obliged to: yea, they were obliged not to observe them,

as being subversions of their souls.  Acts, 15: 24. And

therefore we find that the same holy apostle, who him-

self circumcised Timothy because he was the son of a

Jewess, when he writes to the Gentiles, tells them ex-

pressly, that if they be circumcised Christ shall profit

them nothing. Gal. 5 : 2.

     Thus we see how far and in what sense the ceremo-

nial law is abrogated.

 


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          25

     2.  As to the JUDICIAL LAW, and those precepts which

were given to the Jews for the government of their ci-

vil state, that law is not at all abrogated.

     Not to us, for it was never intended to oblige us.  Nei-

ther, indeed, is it at all necessary that the laws of every

nation should be conformed to the laws which the Jews

lived under; for, doubtless, each state has its liberty to

frame such constitutions as may best serve to obtain the

ends of government.

     Neither is the judicial law abrogated to the Jews: for

Though now in their scattered state, the laws cease to be

Of force, because the Jews cease to be a body politic; yet,

Were their dispersion again collected into one republic,

Most probably the same national laws would bind them

Now, as did in former times, when they were a happy and

Flourishing kingdom.

     3.  Concerning the MORAL LAW, of which I am now to

treat more especially, that is partly abrogated and partly

not:  abrogated, as to some of its circumstances; but not

as to any thing of its substance, authority and obligation.

     (1)  The Moral Law is abrogated to believers, as it was

a Covenant of Works.

     For God, in man’s first creation, wrote this law in his

heart and added this sanction to it, If thou doest this, thou

shalt live; if not, thou shalt die the death.  Now, all man-

kind sinning in Adam, and thereby contracting an utter

impotency of obeying that law, that we might not all pe-

rish according to the rigorous sentence of it, God was

graciously pleased to enter into another covenant with us;

promising a Savior to repair our lost condition, and eter-

nal life upon the easier terms of faith and evangelical obe-

dience.  Indeed, all those, who either never heard of Jesus

       Commandments.

26                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

Christ, or who reject him, are still under the law as a

covenant, and therefore their estate is most wretched and

deplorable; for, being transgressors of the law, there re-

maineth nothing for them but a certain fearful looking-

for of wrath and fiery indignation to devour them as the

adversaries of God.  But those who are true believers are

under a better covenant, even the Covenant of Grace;

wherein God hath promised to them eternal life, upon

condition of their faith; and they may, with full assurance

of hope, to their unspeakable joy and comfort, expect the

performance of it.  Therefore,

     (2.)  To believers the Moral Law is also abrogated as

to its condemning power.

     Though it sentenceth every sinner to death, and curseth

every one who continueth not in all things written therein

to do them; yet, through the intervention of Christ's sa-

tisfaction and obedience, the sins of a believer are gra-

ciously, pardoned, and the curse abolished, it being dis-

charged wholly upon Christ, and received all into his

body on the cross.  Gal. 3 : 13. "Christ hath redeemed

us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us;"

so that we may therefore triumphantly exult with the

apostle, Rom. 8 : 1, "There is now no condemnation to

them that are in Christ Jesus."

     In these two respects believers are indeed freed from

the moral law; as it hath the obligation of a covenant, and

as it hath a power of condemnation.

     (3.) But, as it hath a power of obliging the conscience

as a standing rule for our obedience, it remains still in its

full vigor and authority.

     It still directs us what we ought to do; binds the con-

science to the performance of it; brings guilt upon the


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          27

 

soul if we transgress it; and reduces us to the necessity

either of bitter repentance, or of eternal condemnation.

for; in this sense, heaven and earth shall sooner pass away

than one jot or tittle shall pass from the law.

     Therefore Antinomianism is to be abominated, which

derogates from the value and validity of the law, and con-

tends that it is to all purposes extinct to believers, even

as to its preceptive and regulating power; and that no

other obligation to duty lies upon them who are in Christ

Jesus, but only from the law of gratitude: that God re-

quires not obedience from them upon so low and sordid

an account as the fear of his wrath and dread severity;

but all is to flow only from the principle of love and the

sweet temper of grateful and ingenuous spirit.

     This is a most pestilent doctrine which plucks down

the fence of the law, and opens a gap for all manner of

licentiousness and libertinism to rush in upon the chris-

tian world; for seeing that the Moral Law is no other

than the Law of Nature written upon man's heart at the

first, some positives only being superadded; upon the

same account as we are men, upon the same we owe obe-

dience to the dictates of it.

     And indeed, we may find every part of this law en-

forced in the Gospel; charged upon us with the same

threatenings, and recommended to us by the same pro-

mises; and all interpreted to us by our Savior himself, to

the greatest advantage of strictness and severity.  We

find the same rules for our actions, the same duties re

quired, the same sins forbidden in the Gospel as in

the law.

     Only, in the Gospel we have these mitigations, which

were not in the Covenant of Works:

 


28                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     That God accepts of our obedience, if it be sincere, in

earnest desires and endeavors.  Although we cannot at-

tain that perfect exactness and spotless purity which the

law requires, yet we are accepted through Christ, accord-

ing to what we have, and not according to what we have

not, if so be we indulge not ourselves in a wilful sloth

and contempt of the law.

     That the Gospel admits of repentance after our falls,

and restores us again to the favor of God, upon our true

humiliation: while the law, as a Covenant of Works, left

no room for repentance, but required perfect obedience

without the least failure; and, in case of non-performance,

nothing ,vas to be expected but the execution of that

death which it threatened.

     Yet, withal, a higher degree of obedience is now re-

quired from us under the dispensation of the Gospel than

was expected under the more obscure and shadowy ex-

hibitions of gospel-grace by legal types and figures.  We

confess that the Israelites, before the coming of Christ,

were no more under a Covenant of Works than we are

now; but yet the Covenant of Grace was more darkly ad-

ministered to them: and therefore, we having now re-

ceived both a clearer light to discover what is our duty,

and a more plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost to enable

us to perform it, and better promises, more express and

significant testimonies of God's acceptance, and more full

assurance of our own reward, it lies upon us, and we are

under obligation, having all these helps and advanta-

ges above them, to endeavor that our holiness and obedi-

ence should be much superior to theirs; and that we should

serve God with more readiness and alacrity, since now by

Jesus Christ our yoke is made easy and our burden light


                             THE INTRODUCTION.                          29

 

     So that you see we are far from being released from

our obligation to obedience; but rather, that obligation is

made the stricter by Christ's coming into the world:  and

every transgression against the Moral Law is enhanced to

an excess of sin and guilt, not only by the authority of

God's injunction, which still continues inviolable; but

likewise from the sanction of our Mediator and Redeemer

who hath invigorated the precepts of the law by his ex-

press command, and promised us the assistance of his

Spirit to observe and perform them.

 

     V.  But before I come particularly to treat of the words

of the Decalogue, I think it requisite to propound some

GENERAL RULES FOR THE RIGHT UNDERSTANDING

AND EX-POUNDING OF THE COMMANDMENTS, which

will be of great use to us for our right apprehending the full

latitude and extent of them.

     The Psalmist tells us, the commandments of God are

exceeding broad, Psalm 119:96.  And so indeed they are

in the comprehensiveness of their injunctions, extend-

ing their authority over all the actions of our lives; but

they are also exceeding strait, as to any toleration or in-

dulgence given to the unruly lusts and appetites of men.

     Now that we may conceive somewhat of this breadth and

reach of the law of God, observe these following rules:

     1.  All those precepts which are dispersed in the holy

Scriptures, and which concern the regulating of our lives

and actions, although not found expressly mentioned in the

Decalogue, may yet very aptly be reduced under one of

these ten commands.

     There is no duty required nor sin forbidden by God

but it falls under one, at least, of these Ten Words, and


30                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

sometimes under more than one; and therefore, to the

right and genuine interpretation of this law we must

take in whatsoever the prophets, apostles, or our Lord

himself hath taught, as comments and expositions upon

it; for the Decalogue is a compendium of all they have

taught concerning moral worship and justice.

     Yea, our Savior epitomizes this very epitome itself,

and reduces these ten words to two: love to God, which

comprehendeth all the duties of the first table; and love to

our neighbor, which comprehendeth all the duties of the

second table: and he tells us, that "upon these two hang

all the law and the prophets," Mat. 22 : 37-40.  And cer-

tainly, a due love of God and of our neighbor will make

us careful to perform-all the duties of religion to the one,

and of justice to the other; and keep us from attempting

any violation to his honor, or violence to their right: there-

fore the Apostle tells us that "love is the fulfilling of the

law," Rom. 13 : 10; and, 1 Tim. 1: 5, that "the end of

the commandment is charity," or love: the end, that is

the completion or the consummation of the commandment,

is love, both to God and to one another.  But con-

cerning this I shall have occasion to speak ,more largely

hereafter.

     2.  Since most of the commandments are delivered in

negative or prohibiting terms, and only the fourth and

fifth in affirmative or enjoining, we may observe this

rule: that the affirmative commands include the prohibition

of the contrary sin; and the negative commands include

the injunction of the contrary duty.

     That the contrary to what is forbidden must be com-

manded, and the contrary to what is commanded be for-

bidden, is manifest.  As, for instance, God in the third


THE INTRODUCTION.                          31

 

commandment forbids the taking of his name in vain:

therefore, by consequence, the hallowing and sanctifying

his name is therein commanded.  The fourth requires the

sanctifying of the Sabbath-day: therefore it surely follows

that the profanation of it is thereby forbidden.  The fifth

commands us to honor our parents: therefore it forbids us

to be disobedient or injurious to them.  And so of the rest.

     3. Observe, also, that every negative command binds

always and to every moment of time, but the affirmative

precepts, though, they bind always, yet they do not bind to

every moment; that is, as to the habit of obedience, they

do; but not as to the acts.

     To make this plain by instance.

     The first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other

gods before me," bindeth always, and to every moment

of time; so that he is guilty of idolatry whosoever shall

at any time set up any other god to worship besides the

Lord Jehovah.  But the affirmative precept which is in-

cluded in this negative, namely to worship to love to in-

voke, to depend on God, though it obligeth us always

(for we must never act contrary hereunto,) and likewise

obligeth us to every moment of time in respect to the

habits of divine love,  and faith, and worship; yet it doth not

oblige us to, every moment in respect of the acts of these

habits; for it is impossible to be always actually praying,

praising and worshipping God, neither is it required, for

this would make one duty shock and interfere with another.

     So, likewise, the fourth commandment, which is affir-

mative, "Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-

day,"  obligeth always; and whosoever at any time pro-

fanes the Sabbath, is guilty of the violation of this law

but it doth not, it cannot oblige to every moment of time


32                        THE TEN COMMENDMENTS

 

since this day only makes its weekly returns, and every

parcel of time is not a Sabbath-day.

     So, likewise, the fifth commandment is positive, "Honor

thy father and thy mother," and binds always; so that we sin

if at any time we are refractory and disobedient unto their

lawful commands: but it doth not oblige to the acts of honor

and reverence in every moment of time, for that is impos-

sible; or were it not, it would be but mimical and ridiculous.

But now the negative precepts oblige us to every mo-

ment of time; and whosoever ceaseth the observance of

them for anyone moment, is thereby involved in sin, and

becomes guilty, and a transgressor before God: such are,

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in

vain: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou

shalt not commit adultery," &c.  Now there is no mo-

ment of time whatsoever that can render the non-obser-

vance of these commands allowable, nor are there any

circumstances that can excuse it from guilt.  Whosoever

profanes the name of God by rash swearing or trivial or

impertinent uttering of it, whosoever sheds innocent

blood, whosoever purloins from another what is rightly

his, whosoever is guilty of any uncleanness; let it be at

what time, in what place, after what manner soever, let

it be done passionately or deliberately, whether he be

tempted to it or not; yet he is a transgressor of, the

law, and liable to that curse and death which God hath

threatened to inflict upon every soul of man, that doeth

evil.  Whereas, in the affirmative precepts, there are

some times and seasons to which we are not bound, so as

actually to perform the duties enjoined us.  This I sup~

pose is clear, and without exception.

     4. Observe this rule also: that the same precept which


THE INTRODUCTION                  33

 

forbids the external and outward acts of sin, forbids like-

wise the inward desires and motions of sin in the heart:

and the same precept which requires the external acts of

duty, requires likewise those holy affections of the soul that

are suitable thereunto.

      As, for instance the same command that requires me

to worship God, exacts from me not only the outward

service of the lip or of the knee, but much more the in-

ward reverence and affection of my soul:  that I should

prostrate, not my body only, but my very heart at his feet;

fearing him as the great God, and loving him, as the

greatest good, with all the tenderness and dearness of

a ravished should cleaving to him and clasping about him as

my only joy and happiness.  Therefore, those are highly

guilty of the violation of this command who worship God

only with their bodies, when their hearts are far estranged

from him;  offering up only the shell and husk of a duty,

when the pith and substance which should fill it is given

either to the world or to their lusts: such as these are

guilty of idolatry even in serving and worshipping the

true God; for they set up their idols in their hearts

when they come to inquire of him, as the prophet com-

plains, Ezek. 14:7.  So, likewise, that positive command,

"Honor thy thy father and thy mother, not only requires

from us the external acts of obedience to all the lawful

commands of our parents and magistrates, and those

whom God hath set in authority over us; but requires:

farther, an inward love, veneration and esteem for them

in our hearts.  For, though men can take no farther cog-

nizance of us than by our overt-acts; and if ,those be re-

gular, they are likewise satisfactory to all human laws:

yet this is not sufficient satisfaction to the law of God;


34               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

for God is the discerner and judge of the heart and soul;

and his law hath this special prerogative above all others,

that it can with authority prescribe to our very thoughts,

desires and affections.

     And then, as for negative commands, they forbid not

only the external acts of evil but the inward motions of

lust, sinful desires, and evil concupiscence.  Thus we find

it at large, Mat. 5, where our Savior makes it a great

part of his object in his sermon on the mount, to clear

and vindicate the moral law from the corrupt glosses and

interpretations of the Scribes and Pharisees; and to

show that the authority of the law reached to prohibit,

not only sinful actions, as that corrupt generation thought,

but sinful affections too: v. 21, "Ye have heard that it

was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and

whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment."

Here they stopped in the very bark and rind of the com-

mand, and thought it no offence, though they suffered

their hearts to burn with wrath, and malice, and revenge,

so long as they pent it up there, and did not suffer, it

to break forth into bloody murder.  But what saith our

Savior, v. 22?  "But I say unto you, that whosoever

angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger

of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother,

Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever

shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."  You

see here, that not only the horrid sin of murder is forbid-

den by the law, but all the, incentives to it and degrees

of it; as anger conceived inwardly in the heart, or ex-

pressed outwardly in words.

     I cannot pass this place without giving you some light

for the right understanding of it.


THE INTRODUCTION.                 35

   

     Here are three degrees of sin short of murder; yet

all forbidden by the same precept which forbids that

Causeless anger against thy brother; calling him Raca;

the other in guilt.  Raca signifies a simple witless fellow,

commonly used to upbraid such as were weak and igno-

rant.  Thou fool, signifies one that is not only ignorant,

but wicked and ungodly, as the Scripture frequently useth

the word in the sense, which is a far greater reproach

than merely to call him weak or silly.  Now, according

to these three degrees of sins our Savior proportions

three degrees of punishment to be inflicted on those that

are guilty of them, each severer than the other.  Causeless

anger shall bring them in danger of the judgment; Raca,

in danger of the council; and Thou Fool, in danger of hell

fire:  that is, they shall make them liable to the punish-

ments inflicted by these.

     But, to understand the full scope and meaning of our

Savior in these allusions, we must have recourse to the

history of the Jewish commonwealth; and there we find

that they had two courts of judicature, the lesser and the

greater sanhedrin.

     The lesser consisted of twenty-three persons; and was

erected, not only in Jerusalem, but in every considerable

city among the Jews where there were six score house-

holders.  These had authority to inflict capital punish-

ments on malefactors; but yet, as the highest crimes fell

not under their cognizance, so neither were the severest

punishments under their award.  And this consistory our

Savior calls here the Judgment; and tells us, that who-

soever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be

liable to a punishment correspondent to that which this

 

 

36               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

sanhedrin was empowered to inflict; still applying tem-

porals to spirituals, that is, he shall be liable to eternal

death, though not so severely executed as it would be for

crimes of a more heinous nature.

    Their greater sanhedrin was their supreme court of

judicature, and consisted of seventy elders, besides their

chief speaker or moderator.  You will find their first in-

stitution to have been by divine authority, Num. 11:16.

They sat only in Jerusalem.  Their sentence was decisive

and determining, from which there lay no appeal.  They

were to judge of, all harder matters which could not be

determined by other courts: as causes concerning a

whole tribe or the whole nation; causes of war and

peace; causes concerning the high-priest, and the mission

and authority of prophets that spake unto them in the

name of the Lord: and this may be the occasion of that

speech of our Savior, "It cannot be that a prophet perish

out of Jerusalem," Luke, 13:33, because in Jerusalem

alone was this sanhedrin constituted which was to judge

of the prophets whether they were true or false.  This

sanhedrin our Savior here calls the Council.  And they

had power, not only of life and death, as the other had;

but likewise of inflicting death in a more severe and

tormenting manner than the other: and therefore our

Savior: saith, Whosoever shall call his brother Raca, a

vain witless fellow, shall be in danger of the council.

Wherein he still brings the degrees of punishment

among"the Jews to allude to the punishment of sins in

hell: and so the meaning is, that as he who shall cause-

lessly be angry with his brother exposeth himself to the

danger of eternal death; so he that shall suffer his anger

to break forth into any, reproachful or reviling language,


THE INTRODUCTION.                 37

 

although his taunts be not very bitter nor biting, only to

call him a weak silly person, yet hereby he incurs the

danger of a severer sentence, and execution of it upon

him for ever.

     But the severest sentence which this sanhedrin could

pronounce against the greatest malefactors was that they

should be burnt alive with fire.  This execution was

always performed in the Valley of Hinnom, joining to

Jerusalem:  which being a place wherein were frequent

fires made, both in idolatrous times for the sacrificing of

their children to Moloch, and in their purer times for con-

suming the filth of their city, and that which was as bad,

their malefactors; it is not unfreqent in the Scripture to

denote hell by this Tophet, this valley of Hinnom; which,

for its continual fires, was a lively type and representation

of it:  yea, the very scripture name for hell, Gehenna,

seems to be derived from the valley of Hinnom.  Now,

as burning of malefactors in Gehenna, or the valley of

Hinnom, was among the Jews one of their highest and

severest punishments, and never inflicted but where the

crime was very gross and flagitious; so, saith our Savior,

he that saith to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger

of Gehenna, of hell-fire; that is, of a severer punishment

in the true hell than those who were either causelessly

angry or expressed their anger in more tolerable re-

proaches; although even they also shall, without repent-

ance, be eternally punished.

     So that the sense of our Savior in all this allusion

seems to be this:  that whereas the Scribes and Pharisees

had restrained that command, Thou shalt not kill, only to

actual murder, as if nothing else were forbidden besides

open violence and blood; our Savior, contrariwise, teach-


38               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

eth, that not only that furious and barbarous sin of mur-

der, but also rash and causeless anger, though it only boil

in the heart, much more if it cast forth its foam at the

mouth in reviling speeches, falls under that prohibition,

"Thou shalt not kill."  All these degrees deserve to be

punished with eternal death; but, as among the Jews,

some were punished with lighter, others with more griev-

ous penalties, so shall it be at the Great Judgment:

anger in our hearts shall be condemned with eternal pun-

ishment; but, if it break forth into reviling expressions

the condemnation shall be more intolerable, and by so

much more, by how much the reproaches are more bitter ;

and sarcastical.

     This, in brier, I take to be the true meaning of this

difficult speech of our Savior: the whole scope whereof

shows, that not only the gross acts of sin, but also the

inward dispositions and corrupt affections unto sin, and

every degree and tendency towards it, axe forbidden and

threatened by the holy law of God.

     So, likewise, verse 27 of this 5th chapter: "Ye have

heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not

commit adultery; but I say unto you, that whosoever

looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed

adultery with her already in his heart."  Here our Savior

brings inward concupiscence to the bar; and makes the

heart and eye plead guilty, although shame or fear might

restrain grosser acts.

     Thus it appears that the same precept which forbids

the outward acts of sin, forbids likewise the inward de-

sires and motions of sin in the heart.

     And, indeed, there is a great deal of reason for it.  For

God, who is our lawgiver, is a spirit.  He seeth and con-


THE INTRODUCTION.                 39

 

verseth with our spirits.  There is not the least thought

that flits in thy soul, not the least shadow of an imagina-

tion cast upon thy fancy, not the stillest breathing of a

desire in thy heart but God is privy to it: he sees to

the very bottom of that deep spring and source of

thoughts that is, in thy heart: he beholds them in their

causes and occasions; and knows our thoughts, as the

Psalmist speaks, afar off: he beholds our souls more

clearly and distinctly than we can behold one another's

faces; and therefore it is but fit and rational that his laws

should reach as far as his knowledge; and that he should

prescribe rules to that, the irregularity of which he can

observe and punish.

     Hence it is that the apostle, considering what an energy

the law has upon that part of man which seems most free

and uncontrolled, his mind and spirit, calls it a spiritual

law:  "We know," saith he, "that the law is spiritual,"

Rom. 7:14; and that, because the searching and con-

vincing power of it enters into our spirits, cites our

thoughts, accuses our desires, condemns our affections:

which no other law in the world besides this can do.

For how justly ridiculous would men be, who should

command us not to think dishonorably of them, not to

desire any thing to their detriment and prejudice; and

should threaten us with punishment in case of disobe-

dience: but the law of, God comes into our consciences

with authority; and, in the name of the great God, re-

quires his peace to be kept among our tumultuous and

seditious affections, beats down their carnal weapons,

and gives conscience a power either to suppress all re-

bellious insurrections against the majesty of heaven, or

else to indite, accuse, and torment men for them.  And


40               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

therefore "the Word of God is" by the apostle said

to be "quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-

edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul

and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner

of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Heb. 4:12.

     It is therefore a fourth rule for the right understanding

of the extent and latitude of the commands, that the

same precept which forbids the outward acts of sin, for-

bids also the inward desires and motions of sin in the

heart.

     5. Another general rule is this: that the command not

only forbids the sin that is expressly mentioned, but all

occasions and inducements leading to that sin.

     And therefore we may observe that there are many

sins that are not expressly forbidden in anyone com-

mandment, but yet are reductively forbidden in every

one towards the violation of which they may prove occa-

sions.  And as some one sin may be an occasion to all

others, so it may be well said to be forbidden in every

precept of the Decalogue.

     I shall instance only two of this kind: and they are-

familiarity with evil persons, or keeping evil company;

and the sin of drunkenness.

      As for evil company, it is evident that though it be not

expressly forbidden in anyone commandment, yet, as it

is a strong temptation and inducement to the violation of

all of them, so it is a sin against them all.  There are no

such sure factors for the devil as wicked company, who

will strive to rub their vices upon as many as they can

infect.  And therefore, thou, who delightest in the com-

pany either of atheists, or idolaters, or swearers, or sab-

bath-breakers, or disobedient rebels, or murderers, or 


THE INTRODUCTION.                          41

 

whoremongers, or thieves, or perjured persons., or cove-

tous muck-worms, thou art guilty of the breach of each of

these commandments; for thou runnest thyself into the

very snare of the devil, and takest the same course to

make thyself so which made them such. And therefore

we are all forbidden to keep company with such profane

and profligate wretches by the very same commandment

which forbids their impieties, whatsoever they be.

     And as for drunkenness, whereas in the apostle's days,

even among the heathen themselves, shame so far pre-

vai1ed upon vice and debauchery, that it left sobriety the

day, and took only the night to itself, 1 Thess. 5:7;

yet now among us christians wickedness is grown so pro-

fligate that we meet the drunkard reeling and staggering

even at noon-day, ready to discharge his vomit in our

faces or our bosoms.

     Possibly, some who are besotted with this loathsome

vice may think it no great wickedness, because it is not

expressly forbidden in the summary of the law; and so

they cry Peace, peace, to themselves, although they go

on to add drunkenness to thirst.

      But of this sin I say that it is not against anyone par-

ticular commandment of the law, but against all; for since

the moral law is the law and rule of right reason, the

whole of it must needs be broken when reason itself is

perverted by riot and intemperance, the man turned out

of doors and the beast taken in.  So that indeed, drunk-

enness is not so much anyone sin, as it is all.  The drunk-

ard hath put off the man and hath put on the swine; and

into such swine it is that the devil enters, as surely as

ever he entered into the herd of the Gadarenes, and

drives them furiously down the precipices of all manner


42                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

of sins and vices, till at length he plungeth and drowneth

them in the lake of fire and brimstone.

     Therefore, whatsoever is commanded, or whatsoever is

forbidden, drunkenness is forbidden, as being the greatest

advantage the devil hath to prompt men to those abomina-

tions, that, were they in their right senses, they would ab-

hor and detest.  Is he, think you, fit to worship God, and

to take him for his own God, who is not himself his own

ma?  Is not he guilty of idolatry who makes Bacchus his

deity, giving him the libations of his vomits, and falling

prostrate before him?  Can he forbear taking the name of

God in vain who hath taken the creatures of God to his

bane?  whose tongue is set afloat with his excessive cups,

and whose mouth the devil taps to let his blasphemies,

and oaths, and curses, and fearful execrations run out the

more fluently?  Can he keep holy the Sabbath-day whose

last night's drunkenness and excess rocks him asleep

either in his own house or in the house of God?  Is he fit

to honor his parents who dishonoreth his own body?  Can

he abstain from murder who first takes the ready way to

destroy his own body and damn his own soul; and then,

through the rage of wine, is ready upon every slight pro-

vocation to mingle his vomit with the blood of others?

Can he keep himself from uncleanness whose riotous ta-

ble doth but prepare him for a polluted bed?  Shall not

he assever that which is false whose reason is so blinded

by the fumes of his intemperance that he knows no longer

the difference between truth and falsehood?  And, finally,

what bounds can be set to his concupiscence, who by thus

blinding the eyes of his reason hath only left him fancy,

alnd appetite, both which the devil rules and governs?

     Thus you see there are some sins which though not ex-


THE INTRODUCTtON.                          43

 

pressly forbidden in the Decalogue, yet are virtually and

reductively forbidden, as being the fomenters and occa-

sions of others; and among these, drunkenness especially,

which strikes at every law that God hath enjoined us, the

guilt whereof is universal as well as the sin epidemical.

     6.  Another rule for the understanding of the Decalogue

is, that the commands of the first table are not to he kept

for the sake of the second; but the commands of the second

are to be kept for the sake of the first.

     The first table commands those duties which imme-

diately respect the service and worship of God; the se-

cond, those which respect our demeanor towards men.

Now the worship and service of God is not to be per-

formed out of respect to men; but our duty towards

men is to be observed out of respect to God.  For he that

worships God that he might thereby recommend himself

to men, is but a hypocrite and formalist; and he that per-

forms his duty towards men without respecting God in it,

is but a mere civil moralist.  The first table commands us

not to worship idols, not to swear, not to profane the

Sabbath.  The laws of the magistrate command the very

same; and those who are guilty of the breach of them are

liable to human punishments.  But if we abstain from

these sins solely because they will expose us to shame or

suffering among men; if we worship God merely that

men may respect and venerate us, all the pomp and os-

tentation of our religion is but hypocrisy, and as such

shall have its reward; for God requireth to be served not

for man's sake, but for his own.

     The second table prescribes the right ordering of our

conversation towards men; that we should be dutiful and

to obedient to our superiors, loving and kind to our equals,


44                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

charitable and beneficial to our inferiors, and just and

righteous towards all.  These duties are not to be done

only for man's sake, but for God's; and those who per-

form them without respecting him in them, lose both

their acceptance and reward.  And therefore our Savior

condemns that love and beneficence which proceeds

merely upon human and prudential accounts.  Matt.

5 : 46.  "If ye love them which love you, what reward

have ye?  do not even the publicans the same?"  And Luke,

6 : 33, 34,  "If ye do good to them which do good to you,

what thank have ye?  for sinners also do even the same.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what

thank have ye?  for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive

as much again."

     We ought not therefore to serve God for man's sake;

but we ought to love man for God's sake, and to perform

the duties of the second table out of conscience and re-

spect to God.  We ought to do this in obedience to his

authority; for what we do for men is an acceptable

work and service when we do it out of a sincere principle

of obeying the will and command of God.  We ought to

do it in conformity to his example; and this our Sa-

vior urgeth, Matt. 5 : 45,  "That ye maybe the children

of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun;

to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on

the just and on the unjust."  We ought to do it, in view

of a comfortable hope and expectation of his eternal

reward.  Luke, 6: 35.  "Love your enemies, and do

good, and your reward shall be great."  And this is the

way to exalt morality to be truly divine; and to make

whatsoever we do towards men, to be an acceptable ser-

vice to God.  By this means we interest him in all the


THE INTRODUCTION.                          45

 

acts of our charity, justice and temperance; and we may

be assured that what we thus do for his sake, shall in the

end be graciously rewarded by his bounty.

     7. Another rule is, that the commands of the first table,

so far for forth they are purely moral, supersede our obe-

dience to the commands of the second table, when they are

not both consistent.

          As for instance:  we are in the second table required

to obey our parents, and to maintain and preserve our

own lives; yet, if we are brought into such circumstances

as that we must necessarily disobey either God or them--

either prostitutes our souls to guilt, or our lives to execu-

tion--in such a case our Savior hath instructed us, Luke,

14 : 26, "If any man come to me, and hat not his father,

and mother, and wife, and children, yea, and his own

life also, he cannot be my disciple."  Indeed, a positive

hatred of these is unnatural and impious; but the hatred

which our Savior here intends is comparative; that is, a

loving them less than Christ, less than religion and piety.

And if the commands of the one or the concerns of the

other are at any time to be violated or neglected, it must

only be when we are sure that they are incompatible

with a good conscience and true godliness.

     8.  Again, whereas, in the first table, there is one com-

mand partly moral and natural, partly positive and insti-

tuted, and that is our observation of the Sabbath, we

may observe that our obligation to the duties of the second

table often supersedes our obedience to that command of the

first table. 

     It frequently happens that works of necessity and

mercy will not permit us to be employed in works of

piety, nor to sanctify the Sabbath after such a manner as


46                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 

else we ought; for the Lord requireth mercy rather than

sacrifice.  Hosea, 6 : 6.  And this our Savior allegeth, Matt.

9 : 13.  In which sense it holds true, that "The Sabbath was

made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."  Mark, 2 : 27.

Whatsoever therefore is a work of necessity, or a work

of charity and mercy, and that not only towards man, but

even towards brute beasts themselves, may lawfully be

done on the Sabbath-day, without bringing upon us the

guilt of profanation; for that which is purely moral in

the second table doth in a sort derogate from what is but

positive and instituted in the first.

     9. Another rule is, whatsoever is forbidden in any

command, both all the signs and symptoms of it, and

likewise all the effects and consequents of it, are forbidden

in the same.

     Thus, under the prohibition of idolatry, falls the pro-

hibition of feasting in the idol-temples, and eating meats

sacrificed to them, as being too evident a sign of our

communion with them.

     So, in the commands in which pride is forbidden,

(which are chiefly the first and second, for a proud man

sets up himself for his god, is his own idol, and is his

own idolater,) in the same are forbidden all the signs and

effects of pride; as a lofty look and a mincing gait, an

affected behavior and vain fantastic apparel, against

which the prophet largely declaims, Isa. 3 : 16-26; be-

cause, although pride doth not formally consist in these

things, yet they are signs and effects of pride, and con-

trary to that modesty and decency which God requires.

     10.  The last rule is this:  The connection between the

commands is so close and intimate, and they are so linked

together, that whosoever breaketh one of them is guilty

of all.


THE INTRODUCTION.                          47

 

     Now that bond which runs through them and knits

them thus together, is the authority and sovereignty of

God enjoining their observance: so that whosoever fails

in his due obedience to anyone, doth virtual1y and inter-

pretatively transgress them all.

     Thus we find it expressly affirmed, James, 2: 10,

"Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in

one point, he is guilty of all."  Not as though the vio-

lation of one precept were actually the violation of an-

other; for many may steal, and yet not actually murder;

many again may murder, and yet not actually commit

adultery: but this place of the apostle must be under-

stood of violating that authority which passeth through

them all, and by which all the commandments have their

sanction.  For since the authority of the great God is

one and the same in all these laws, he that shall so far

disrespect this authority as wilfully to break one of them,

evidently declares that he owns it not in any.  And al-

though other considerations may restrain such a one

from those crimes which are forbidden by some com-

mandments, yet his observance of them is no part of

obedience, nor can it be interpreted to be performed out

of conscience and respect towards God; for were it so,

the same authority which withheld him from murder, or

theft, or adultery, would likewise restrain him from lying,

or taking the name of God in vain; and he that is guilty

of these offences, is likewise guilty of all, because the

same authority is stamped upon them all alike, and is

alike violated in the transgression of each.  And this

very reason the apostle subjoins to his assertion, verse 11,

"He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do

not kill.  Now, if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou


48                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law: yea,

of the whole law, as breaking that fence which God had

set about his law, even his sovereign and absolute au-

thority.

 

      These are the rules which may direct your under-

standings to a right knowledge of the latitude and com-

prehensiveness of the law.  The application of them to

particular cases I must leave to the judgment of christian

prudence, except as various illustrative examples may be

given in the ensuing treatise.

     

     VI. Before entering upon the consideration of the com-

mandments in particular, it only remains to speak briefly

--and that chiefly because others have spoken so much--

concerning the ORDER of these commands.

     The number of them is no way questioned; for God

himself hath determined them to be ten, Exod. 34 : 28 ;

but the method and disposition of them is much contro-

verted, and I think with more heat and contention than

the cause deserves; for if all that God hath spoken be

entirely delivered to us, what great concern is it whether

this or that command be reckoned the second, third, or

fourth?  This certainly tends but little to piety; and we

had need rather to employ our care how to keep them,

than how to reckon them.

     Therefore, waiving all other differences, (as that of He-

sychius, making the first command to be this, "I am the

Lord thy God," which we, with good reason, affirm to

be only a part of the preface; --and the leaving out of the

fourth, concerning the sanctification of the Sabbath;--

and the placing of  "Thou shalt not kill" after "Thou,


THE INTRODUCTION.                          49

 

shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal," whereas

we, according to the Hebrew verity, place it before;) all

that I shall remark is, the difference between the Papists

and us in the enumeration of the Ten Commandments,

     They generally hold that there are but three commands

in the first table, and therefore make seven in the second:

and so, to complete this number, they join the first and

second into one, and divide the tenth into two.

      Concerning this division or union we would not be

much contentious with them, were there not a sacrile-

gious and idolatrous design couched under it, as mani-

festly there is: for finding the second commandment to

strike so directly at their image worship, they think it

expedient to deny it to be any distinct precept of itself;

and reckon it but only an appendix or exposition of the

former, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me;"

that so they might with the better color omit it; as ge-

nerally they have done in all their books of devotion and

of instruction for the people.  So that of those few among

them that can rehearse the Decalogue, you shall find none

that will repeat, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any

graven image: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto

them, nor serve them;" they not knowing that any such

thing is forbidden them by God.  And yet, that they may

make up the full number of the commandments, they di-

vide the tenth into two: one, forbidding the coveting of

our neighbor's wife; and the other, the coveting of any

the other of his possessions.

      The only authority they produce from antiquity for

this order of the Decalogue, is that of St. Austin: and it

is true, he doth in many places of his works so conjoin

and divide them; yet not from any design of promoting

Commandments.                       3


50                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

idolatry, or keeping the people in ignorance, that the

worshipping of images was forbidden.  But in this par-

ticular he went contrary to the current of all former an-

tiquity; yea, contrary to the very order of the Scripture:

for whereas they say that the ninth commandment is,

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; and the tenth,

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his servant,

&c.  if we consult Exod. 20:17, we shall find that the

command runs thus:  Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's

house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, &c. from

which it certainly follows that they cannot make two

precepts, but appertain to one. --But enough of this:

which I had not mentioned, had it not been conceived

out of such an impious design.

     We now proceed to the commandments themselves, in

which we have the preface and the precepts.

 

PREFACE TO THE COMMANDMENTS.

 

I AM THE LORD THY GOD, WHICH HAVE BROUGHT

THEE OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, OUT OF THE HOUSE

OF B0NDAGE.

 

     This preface carries an equal respect and reverence to

all the commandments; and contains a strong argument

to enforce obedience to them.  As kings and princes

usually prefix their names and titles to the laws and

edicts they set forth, to gain the more attention and the


PREFACE TO THE COMMANDMENTS.               51

 

greater veneration to what they publish; so here the

great God, the King of kings, being about to proclaim a

law to his people Israel, that he might affect them with

the deeper reverence of his authority, and make them the

more afraid to transgress, displays and blazons his name

and his style before them--I am the Lord thy God, which

have brought thee out Of the land of Egypt, and out of

the house Of bondage--that they might learn to fear his

glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD.  So we

find it, Deut. 28:58.

     And here, as all the arguments which are most pre-

valent and cogent are adapted to work upon one of these

two passions by which we are swayed in all the actions

of our lives, either our fear or our love, so God accommo-

dates himself to our temper and proclaims, first, his au-

thority, to beget fear:  "I am the Lord thy God;" and

then, secondly, his benefits and mercies, to engage love:

"The Lord thy God, that brought thee out of the land

of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."  And both these

he proclaims, that, having so strong an obligation on our

very natures as the motives of love and fear, he might

the more readily work us to obedience.  For what mo-

tives can be urged more enforcing than these, which are

drawn both from power and goodness; the one obliging

r us to subjection, the other to gratitude?

     1.  He is the Lord God, the great creator, the only pro-

prietor, the absolute governor and disposer of all things;

therefore on this account we owe an awful observance to

all his laws and injunctions.  It is but fit and just that we

should be subject to him that created us, and who hath

infinite power, for our contumacies and rebellions, eter-

nally to destroy us.


52                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     He is the Lord God, the great and glorious One, whose

kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting, and whose do-

minion hath no bounds, either of time or place.  "Be-

hold," saith the prophet, "the nations are as a drop of a

bucket, and are counted but as the small dust of the ba-

lance: behold) he taketh up the isles as a very little

thing.  All nations before him are as nothing; and they

are counted to him less than nothing and vanity."  Isa.

40:15, 17.  His voice shakes the heavens, and removes

the earth out of its place.  His way is in the whirlwind.

Storms and tempests are his harbingers; and the clouds

are the dust of his feet.  The mountains quake at his

presence; at his displeasure the hills melt away; the

world and all the inhabitants of it are dissolved.  His

fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown

down by him.  His hand spans the heavens, and he holds

all the waters of the sea in the hollow of it.  Heaven is,

the throne of his glory, and the earth his footstool: his

pavilion round about him, dark waters and thick clouds.

of the sky.  Ten thousand times ten thousand glorious

spirits stand alway ministering before him:  they fly on

his errands, and are ready to execute his sovereign will

and pleasure.  "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, glorious

in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" and,

therefore, who would not fear thee, O King of nations

and tremble and be astonished, when once thou art

angry?

    Wilt thou then, O vile and wretched sinner, despise

the authority and majesty of the great God, before who

all the powers of heaven and earth lie prostrate?  Darest,

thou infringe his laws and, violate his commands, who is

so great and terrible a God that he can destroy thee by


PREFACE TO THE COMMANDMENTS                53

 

the very breath of his nostrils?  "By the breath of his

nostrils are they consumed."  Job, 4:9.  Yea, he can

look thee to death.  "They perish at the rebuke of thy

a countenance."  Psalm 80:16.  Art thou able to contend

with this God?  Art thou a fit match for the Almighty?

Can thy heart endure; or thy hands be strong in the day

when the Lord shall deal with thee, and come to recom-

pense vengeance upon thee for all thy transgressions?

Who among you can dwell with the devouring fire?  who

among you can dwell with everlasting burnings?

     Certainly, did we but frequently thus overawe our

hearts with the serious consideration of the dread majesty

and supreme authority of the great God, we should not

dare so presumptuously to provoke him as we do.  Fear

is a most excellent preservative from sin, and a strong

fence that God hath set about his law to keep us from

breaking those bounds which he hath prescribed us.

Therefore the wise man gives us this advice, Eccl. 12:13,

"Fear God and keep his commandments;" and the

Psalmist, Ps. 4:4, "Stand in awe and sin not."

     2.  As the authority of God is set forth to move us to

obedience by working on our fear, so his benefits and

mercies are, declared to win us to it from a principle of

love and gratitude:  "The Lord thy God, who hath

brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house

of bondage."  And indeed this, though a soft, is yet a

most powerful and effectual argument.

     Hath God surrounded thee with blessings, and loaded

thee every day with his benefits?  Hast thou received thy

life, thy being from him; and so many comforts in which

thou takest delight, and he allows thee so to do?  Hast

thou been delivered by his watchful providence from


54                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

many deaths and dangers; restored from sickness, or

preserved in health?  Doth he feed thee at his table, and

clothe thee out of his wardrobe?  Nay, what is infinitely

more, hath he given thee his only Son, and his Son given

thee his life and most precious blood?  Hath he sent thee

his Gospel; and in it the exceeding great and precious

promises of eternal glory, a glory which hope durst not

be bold enough to expect, nor is imagination large enough

to conceive?  Hath he sent thee his Spirit to seal and ra-

tify all these promises to thee?  Hath he crowned thy

head with many rich blessings here, and will he crown it

with joy and blessedness hereafter?  And canst thou, O

soul, be so unkind and disingenuous as to deny any thing

to that God who hath denied nothing to thee?  Canst thou

refuse him the only thing he requires of thee, the only

testimony which thou canst give that thou hast any sense

of his favor?  and especially considering he requires it

only that he may reward it with farther blessings?

     Canst thou wrong that God who hath been so kind and

gracious unto thee, and is continually doing thee good?

Canst thou despise his precepts, who hath regarded thy

prayers?  Wilt not thou hear him speaking unto thee,

who hath often heard thee when thou hast cried unto,

him, and hath helped and saved thee?  Certainly, the

ingenuousness of human nature forbids it:  the love of

God constraineth otherwise; especially since he hath

required obedience from us as the evidence and ex-

pression of our love to him: John, 14:21, "He that

hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that

loveth me; and in 2 John, 5:6, "This is love, that we

walk after his commandments,"  And that, which is a most

cogent motive, thine own interest and eternal concern-


PREFACE TO THE COMMANDMENTS.               55

 

ments engage thee to it; for, "what doth the Lord thy

God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God--and

to love him--and to keep his commandments--which I

command thee this day for thy good?" Deut. 10:12, 13.

     God might have required from us the very same obedi-

ence which now he doth, without promising us any re-

ward for it; for we owe him all that we can possibly do,

as he is the author of our beings, and every power and

faculty of our souls ought to be employed for him who

gave them unto us.  But when the great God hath been

so far pleased to condescend from his prerogative as to

command us nothing but what hath already brought us

very great advantages, and will for the future bring us

far greater, when his hands shall be as full of blessings as

his mouth is of commands; when he enjoins us a work

that in itself is wages, and yet promiseth us wages for

doing that work; when the mercies he hath already given

us do oblige us, and the mercies he hath promised yet to

give do allure us, certainly we must needs be the most

disingenuous of all creatures, and the greatest enemies to

our own happiness, if these considerations do not win us

to yield him that obedience which redounds not at all to

his profit and advantage, but to our own.

     Thus you see how God hath enforced the observance

of his law upon us, both by his authority and by his

mercy: the one to work upon our fear, the other upon

our love; and both to engage us to obedience.

 

     Here it is observable, that, in the rehearsal of those

mercies which should oblige to duty, mention is made

only of those which seem to concern the Israelites, and

no other people:  I am the Lord thy God, which brought


56                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

From which some would infer that the Decalogue only

respects them; and that the commands then given do not

at all appertain to us any more than the benefits com-

memorated.

     But the answer is easy.  For this mercy here mention-

ed, of deliverance from Egypt and the house of bondage,

is to be understood as well typically as literally.  If we

understand it literally, it indeed refers only to the people

of Israel, whom God brought out of Egypt with a mighty

hand and a stretched-out arm, and by such a series of

miracles that they were almost as ordinary as the common

effects of his providence.  But if we understand it typi-

cally and mystically, it is true that God hath brought

us also out of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage;

and therefore the enforcement of the commandments on

this account belongs to us christians as much as it did

belong to the church of the Jews; for, if we run up the

allegory to the spiritual sense of it, we shall find a won-

derful agreement betwixt them and a near representation

of our state in the state of the Israelites.  Let it suffice to

compare them together only in a few remarkable in-

stances.

     Thus as they were kept in bondage under the rigorous

tyranny of Pharaoh, who sought both by policy and power

to destroy them; so were we kept in bondage under the

tyranny of the devil, of whom Pharaoh was a black type

and shadow.  And as God delivered them from his hand

by a temporal salvation, so hath he delivered us from the

power of the devil by a spiritual salvation; redeeming

us from the slavish bondage of sin through the blood of

his Son, by whom all our spiritual enemies are destroyed;


PREFACE TO THE COMMANDMENTS.               57

 

and conducting us through the wilderness of this world

unto the promised Canaan, that land that floweth with

milk and honey, the seat of rest and eternal joy and

felicity, even heaven itself: and, therefore, if the consi-

deration of a temporal deliverance were so powerful a

motive to engage the Israelites unto obedience, how much

more effectually should we be obliged unto it whose de-

liverance is far greater "than theirs was; for God "hath

delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath trans-

lated us into the kingdom of his dear Son," Col. 1:13;

he hath "delivered us from the wrath to come," 1 Thes.

1:l0; he "hath abolished death, and hath brought life

and immortality to light through the Gospel," 2 Tim.

1:10.  And therefore as our deliverance is spiritual, so

ought our obedience to be; that being delivered from the

justice of God, the condemning power of the law, the

reigning power of sin, the sting of an accusing con-

science, the rage and malice of the devil, and the intoler-

able torments of hell, we might, with all love and thank-

fulness, cheerfully serve that God whose mercy hath been

extended towards us in those things which aloe of highest

and most precious concernment.

     Thus you see the reason of this preface, "I am the

Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of

Egypt;" and how it is both applicable and obligatory to

us Christians as well as to the Jews; containing a decla-

ration of God's authority to enforce and of his mercy to

oblige us to the obedience of those laws which he delivers.

 

     But I come now to the precepts themselves.


THE FIRST COMMANDMENT.

 

Thou, shalt have no other gods before me.

 

     This first and chiefest of the ten commands is nega-

tive; and as all negatives depend upon and must be mea-

sured by the truth of their contrary affirmative, I shall

first consider what duties are here required, and then

what sins are here forbidden.

     This command has respect to worship, and REQUIRES

four things:

     1.  That we must have a God; which, of course, is

against atheism.

     2.  That we must have the Lord Jehovah for our God;

which is against idolatry.

     3.  That we must have the only true God, the Lord Jehovah

alone, for our God; and this is against polytheism, or the

worshipping of many gods.  It is opposed also to Samari-

tanism, or the worshipping of false gods together with the

true, like those Samaritans spoken of, 2 Kings, 17:33,

who feared the Lord and yet served their own gods;

making a strange medley in religion, and blending those

things together that were utterly irreconcilable:  as if

they intended not only to be partakers themselves with

devils, but to make God so too; which is the greatest

gratification that can be given to that proud and wicked

spirit whose ambition it is to emulate and rival God in

worship: for so the apostle tells us, that those "things

which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and

not to God," 1 Cor. 10:20.  Thus to join any other thing

with God as the object of our worship, is infinitely to

debase and disparage him; since it intimates that some.


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           59

 

thing besides God is excellent and perfect as himself.

Therefore, in Zeph. 1:5, God severely threatens to cut

off and to destroy those "that worship and that swear

by the Lord, and that swear by Malcham."

     4.  It requires that all our services and acts of worship

to the true and only God be performed with sincerity and

true devotion.  This is implied in that expression before

me or in my sight.

     And this is opposed both to profaneness on the one

hand and hypocrisy on the other.  For, since the most se-

cret and retired apartments of the heart are all naked and

bare in the sight of God, and our very spirits are as it

were dissected and thus exposed to his view; it follows

that to have no other god before him, denotes that our

serving and worshipping him ought to be sincere and

affectionate.

     It is not enough to have no other god before men; not

to fall down prostrate before any visible idol set up in a

temple; but the law is spiritual, and searcheth the very

thoughts and inward parts of the soul; and if there be

any idol set up in the heart, although it be in the darkest

corner of it; any secret lust or hidden sin, which is the

soul's idol, and keeps it from being chaste and true to

its God; any crooked ends and sinister respects in the

worship of God; this is to have another god in the

sight of Jehovah, and before him.

     Indeed, we are very apt to rest contented if we can

but approve ourselves before men, and carry a fair show

of religion and godliness.  But consider how weak and

foolish this is: for, first, we deceive them with our ap-

pearances; and then we deceive ourselves with their

opinions of us.  It is not only before men, whose sight is


60                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 

terminated in the bark and outside of things, that we

offer up our services; but before that God who is the

searcher of the heart and the trier of the reins, who

looks quite through us, and judgeth not according to

outward appearance, but judgeth righteous judgment.

For us to regard men, and seek to commend ourselves

to them in the service of God, is as great a folly and

irreverence as it would be for one who is to treat with

a mighty prince, to regard and reverence only the images

in the tapestry and hangings.  Alas! men are but as so

many blind images in respect to God; they cannot see

the heart nor the affections; and those outward acts of

worship which they do see and commend without the

heart, are despised by God.  He requireth truth in the

inward parts; and is not delighted with the ostentation

of performance, but with the sincerity of intention; for

every one is delighted with that which doth most of all

declare some singular excellency that is in himself; but

it is God's excellency and prerogative to contemp1ate

the heart, to weigh and consider the spirits of men;

and therefore he is chiefly delighted in the unfeigned

desires and breathings of the heart after him, because

by these we own him to be an all-knowing God.  But

when we perform duties of religion only to be seen and

applauded of men, we make God only our pretence, but

men our idols; and set up as many gods before him as

we have spectators and observers.

     Thus we see what positive duties are required of us in

this precept:  that we should worship a God, and him the

true God, and the true God only, and that in truth and

sincerity, as doing all our services before him.  So this

first command respects worship.


                   FIRST COMMANDMENT.           61

 

     It would be too long, and indeed almost endless, to in-

sist particularly on ALL THE DUTIES included in the true

and sincere worship of the true and only God.  I shall

therefore speak only of the three principal, and these

are, the love of God, the fear of God, and the invocation

and praise of God.  In these three especially doth con-

sist the having the Lord for our God.

     I.  This command requires of us the most supreme and

endeared love of God.

     Yea, indeed, the love of God is not only the sum of

this command, but of all the commands of the first table;

and therefore, as I have already said, when our Savior

would give an abridgment of the law, he comprises all

the ten under two great commands, Matt. 22:37-39,

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,

and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the

first and great commandment.  And the second is like

unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."  From

whence the apostle deduces that great conclusion, Rom.

13:10, that love is the fulfilling of the law.  It is so, if

not formally, yet virtually and effectively; for it will

powerfully and sweetly sway us to yield a ready submis-

sion and obedience to what is required of us; and that

not only as it is the dictate of divine and sovereign au-

thority, but from the free spontaneous tendency of the

soul itself which, when it is once touched with this ce-

estial and serene flame, must rebel against its own in-

clinations as well as against God's commands if it be not

earned out towards that object in which alone it can find

full acquiescence and satisfaction.

      This love of God hath in it three acts or degrees; de-

sire, joy, and zeal.


62                         TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

1.  An earnest and panting desire after God. "As the hart

panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after

thee, O God.  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living

God:" oh, "when shall I come and appear before God?"

Psalm 42: 1, 2.  As the poor imbossed. deer that is

closely pursued faints and melts with the heat of the

chase, and hasteth to the known river where it was wont

to quench its thirst, to find both safety and refreshment

there, so doth the holy, amorous soul reach and breathe

after God.  He thirsteth after the water-brooks, the

streams of his ordinances, wherein God doth pour out his

grace and his Spirit to refresh the longing desires of his

holy impatience; but, not being satisfied with this, he

still makes up to the fountain, and never rests contented

till he hath engulfed and plunged himself into God, and

is swallowed up in beatitude.

     2.  From the fruition of the beloved object springeth joy;

for joy is nothing else but the rest and acquiescence of

desire; therefore, according to the measures of God's

communicating himself to our souls, such proportionably

will be the increase of our joy.  Something we enjoy of

God in this life, whilst we are absent from him in the

body.  He is pleased to give us transient glances of him-

self when he fills his ordinances and our duties with his

Spirit; and yet these reserved communications are so

ravishing that the soul is often forced by the agony

sweetness to cry out with holy Simeon, "Now, Lord, let

thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy

salvation."  How overflowing then will our joy be

we come to heaven, where our fruition of God shall be

entire and eternal!  where we shall see him as he is,

and know him as we are known by him!  where the un-


FIRST COMMANDMENT                      63

 

veiled glories of the Deity shall beat full upon us, and we

for ever sun ourselves in the smiles of God!  Certainly

the joy of such a state would be more than we could en-

dure, but only that God who fills us will then likewise

enlarge and support us.

      3.  If our fruition of God be hindered and obstructed,

our love to him will then express itself in a holy zeal.

     Zeal is the indignation of the soul, and a revenge that

it takes upon whatsoever is an impediment to the obtain-

ing of its desires.  The earnest desire of a true saint is

the enjoyment of God and the glory of God; of both

which, sin is the only hinderance.  Therefore a soul

that is passionate for God, hath not so great an in-

dignation against any thing as against sin.  Can he en-

dure to see that God, whom he loves dearer than his life,

daily provoked and injured?  to hear his name blas-

phemed?  to see his ordinances despised, his worship ne-

glected, his servants abused, and the most sacred truths

of religion denied, and its sacred mysteries derided?  He

is the most meek and patient man on earth in his own

concerns; unwilling to observe the wrongs that are done

him, and much more to revenge them: but when God is

injured, the dear object of his love and joy, he can no

longer refrain: whatsoever may befall him, he rises up

to vindicate his honor, and thrusts himself between, to

receive those strokes that were aimed at God; and what

he cannot prevent or reform, that he bitterly bewails.

     This is the true zeal; and he that saith he loves God, and

yet is not thus zealous for him, is a liar.

     Try, therefore, your love to God by these three things.

Are your desires fervent and affectionate after him?  Do

you find a holy impatience in your spirit till you enjoy


64               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

him?  Will nothing else satisfy you but God?  Can you

say that there is none in heaven nor in earth that you

desire in comparison with him; and if the whole world

were thrown into your bosom for your portion, you would

pluck it thence and cast it at your feet, resolving that you

will not be put off with such trifles?  Do you find a joy

springing and diffusing itself through your hearts when

you are engaged in communion with him? a sweet and

potent delight, to which all the pleasures of sin are but

flat and insipid?  Are you jealous for the Lord of hosts?

Are your anger and grief never so much kindled for any

wrongs that are done unto yourself, as they are for the

provocations that are daily committed against the great

Majesty of heaven?  Canst thou mourn and weep for

these in secret; and if thou hast power and authority to do

it, punish and avenge them openly?  Then thou mayest for

thy comfort conclude that certainly God hath kindled this

heavenly flame of love in thy breast; a flame that aspires

heaven-ward, and will at last carry up thy soul with it,

and lodge it there, where the desire of love shall be satis-

fied, the joy of love perfected, and the zeal of love eter-

nally rewarded.

     So much for the love of God, the first principal duty

required in this first command.

     II.  This command requires also the fear of God.

     For certainly we cannot have the Lord for our God

unless we supremely fear and reverence him.  Yea, as

the love, so the fear of God is made the sum of all the

commandments, and indeed the substance of all religion

for, although it be but one particular branch and member

of that worship and service which we owe to God, yet

it is such a remarkable one, and hath such a mighty in-


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           65

 

influence upon and the rest, that oftentimes in Scripture it

is put for the whole; and generally, the character of a

true worshipper and obedient servant of God is given by

this periphrasis, that he is a man fearing God.

     Now the fear of God is either servile or filial; and

both are a strong bond to duty and obedience.

      Those who are actuated only by a slavish fear, will

beware how they stir up the dread wrath and severe jus-

tice of God against themselves by any wilful neglects or

known transgressions.

     And how much more those who are actuated by a

principle of filial and reverential fear of God; who fear

as much to offend as to suffer for it; and to whom mercy

and goodness prove as powerful motives of fear, as wrath

and fury!  Yea, there is no attribute nor perfection in

God but is very justly the object of our fear, for where

this grace is true and genuine, it works in us rather a se-

date awe and respect of God, a profound reverence of,

the soul, than any turbulent and tempestuous passions of

affright and horror.  And certainly if we acknowledge

that there is a God, it is but reason that we should thus

fear him according to his essential greatness and glory;

for take away the fear of a Deity and a supreme power

which is able to reward and punish the actions of men,

and you open a floodgate for all villany and wickedness

to rush out and overflow the whole world.  And where

this restraint of fear is taken off from the spirits of men,

all laws given to curb their licentiousness are of no more

force than fetters of air to chain up madmen; and there-

fore very fitly doth God enjoin the fear of himself in this

first command, as that which will season and dispose the

heart to obey him in all the rest.


66               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     III.  Another principal part of worship required in this

first command is the invocation of the name of God in our

prayers and praises.

     The two former, love and fear, respect the inward

worship of God in our hearts; but this appertains to

his outward worship, for by it we give express testi-

monies that we both love and fear him.  It has respect

to our prayers and praises, and they are the tribute

and homage of religion.  By the one we acknowledge

our dependence upon him; by the other we own all

our blessing and comforts to be from him; and to one

of these two all external worship may be referred.  Cer-

tainly such as neither pray to God nor praise him, can-

not be said to have a God; for they acknowledge none,

but are gods to themselves.  For wherefore do we affirm

that there is a God, if we make no addresses to him?

If we have recourse only to our own power or policy to

accomplish our designs, and when they succeed ascribe

the success of them only to our own wisdom and con-

duct, we make these our idols and give them the honor

which is due to God only.  Therefore the prophet speaks

of those who "sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense

unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat;

and their meat plenteous."  Hab. 1:16.

     Now as the love and fear of God are often used in

Scripture for his whole worship and service, so likewise

is this invocation and praise of his name.  So we find it,

Gen. 4:26, "then began men to call upon the name of

the Lord:" that is, (as many learned expositors under

stand it, although some take it another way,) then began

men solemnly and publicly to worship God in their as-

semblies; and Jerem. 10:25, "Pour out thy fury upon,


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           67

 

the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families

that call not on thy name:" that is, those who do not

worship nor serve thee.  And the like we may observe

in very many other places.

      One thing more only I shall remark here; namely,

that as this first command requires, in the general, that

the true God should be truly worshipped, so the three

next following commands prescribe the means and

branches of his worship, and the way and manner how

he would have it performed.  The second commandment

requires us to worship God, who is a spirit, without any

visible image or representation of the Deity; for as it

is impossible that there should be any true resemblance

made of a spirit, so it is most impious to give any part

of divine honor and .reverence unto dumb idols: which,

as to their materials, are but the creatures of God: as

they are statues, but the creatures of art; and as they

are images, but the creatures of fancy and superstition.

The third commandment requires that we should never

mention the name of the great God slightly and imper-

tinently, but whensoever we have occasion to utter it

we should do it with all prostrate veneration and serious

affection.  The fourth prescribes the time which God

hath set apart and sanctified for his solemn worship.  So

you see each command of the first table is concerned in

giving rules for divine worship; but the first, which en-

joins it in the general, is the ground and foundation of

the other three.

      Thus much shall suffice concerning the duties required

in this first command, THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS

BEFORE ME.


68               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     Next let us see what is FORBIDDEN in this command.

As it requires, so it forbids four things.  Thus it for-

bids atheism, or the belief and acknowledgment of no

God; ignorance of the true God; profaneness, or the

neglect of the worship and service of God; and idolatry,

or the setting up and worshipping of false gods.

      I.  ATHEISM, or the acknowledging of no god, is for-

bidden and condemned by this command.

     And well may this be reckoned the first sin forbidden;

for certainly religion and worship will be found to be

one of the most foppish vanities ever imposed on the

credulous world: if either there be .no God to whom we

might direct our devotions; or only a god of Epicurus'

and Lucretius' stamp, that sits unconcerned in heaven

and loathes the fatigue of business, taking no thought nor

care of human affairs.  For if there be no god, or only

such a one, what difference is there whether we pray or

blaspheme?  whether we lead holy and pious lives, or

let loose the reins to all manner of lewdness and riot,

and wallow in all the impure delights that vice and sen-

suality can recommend to our corrupted appetites?  for

if there be no God, there can be no future cognizance

taken, of either, no rewards nor punishments propor-

tioned to either.  Therefore it will be necessary here

to show the folly and unreasonableness of atheism, and

to convince men that there is a God, without which all

religion and worship are but folly and madness.

     Some perhaps may judge it altogether needless to in-

sist upon such a subject as this among those who all ac-

knowledge and worship the only true God, and Jesus

Christ whom he hath sent.  I heartily wish it were both

unnecessary and impertinent; but truly, if we consider


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           69

 

that usually the practices of men are guided and influ-

enced by their principles, we shall find reason enough to

suspect that there are some notions of speculative athe-

ism that lie at the bottom of all that practical atheism

which we may observe so generally to prevail in the

world; for any considerate person would think it impos-

sible that men should so daringly rush into all those pro-

digious crimes and villanies that every where rage and

reign, were it not that they entertain loose and wavering

apprehensions of the existence of a Deity, and encou-

rage themselves in their vices by some unformed and

vague thoughts that perchance all those truths which re-

ligion teaches concerning God and a future state are

only politic devices and fictions.

      Nay, indeed, our age has too many who, not only with

the fool say in their hearts, but in desperate impudence

even avow in express words, yea, dispute an argue it,

that "there is no God."

     I shall therefore confirm this great and primary truth,

upon which depend all our religion and all our hopes, by

some convincing and demonstrative arguments which I

intend to make ,as plain and obvious as the matter will

permit.

      1.  The universal consent of all nations strongly proves

the being of a Deity.

      For that which-all agree in, must needs be accounted

a dictate of nature; and what is such must needs be ac-

knowledged to be a maxim of truth.

     Next to the report of our senses we may credit the

reports that nature and all mankind give concerning the

truth and existence of things.  Now if we should impan-

nel all the nations of the world upon this trial, not only


70               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

the more civilized, where custom or the authority of laws

might be suspected to introduce this belief, but those

that are the most rude and savage, they would all with

one consent return this verdict, that there is a God.

     Nay, although one part of mankind hath so strangely

dissented from another about all other things, as concern-

ing their laws, government and customs, yea, and manner

of worship, yet those that differ in all things else, seem

only to agree in these two; human nature and the belief

of a Deity.  Never was there any nation so wild and bar-

barous that acknowledged no God,* but their great fault

and folly was that they acknowledged too many.  And it

is strange to think that the whole race of mankind in so

many generations as have successively followed one an-

other since the beginning of the world, (yea, and if there

were no God, from all eternity,) should not have grown

wise enough to free themselves from so troublesome an

opinion as that of the existence of a God: an opinion

that crosses their worldly interests, contradicts their sen-

sual desires, damps their joys, torments their natural con-

sciences, and .which those who are wicked would give

whatsoever is dearest to them to have utterly rooted out

of their minds:  it is strange, I say, that they should not

all this while be able to deliver themselves from the ty-

ranny and fetters of this fancy, were it only imposed

upon them by false reports and surmises.

       How could the world be so easily drawn into such se-

veral shapes and forms of religion, which among the hea-

then are almost infinite, and among others too various

 

*Nulla gens est, neque tam immansueta nec tam fera, quae, etimsi

ignoret vel eam habere Deum deceat, tamen habendum sciat.  Cicero


                   FIRST CQMMANDMENT.           71

 

and different, were there not a natural inclination in the

souls of men to embrace some religion or other, and an

indelible character of a Deity imprinted on their minds?

Insomuch, that in the times of darkness, when the truth

was not clearly revealed to the world, because they

knew neither the true object nor the right way of wor-

ship, this restless notion of a Deity put them upon invent-

ing divers vile, uncouth and ridiculous superstitions.  But

yet this is so far from invalidating, that it strongly confirms

to us their belief of a Deity; in that they submitted them-

selves to observances, not only unreasonable; but many

times barbarous, and inhuman, if they thought them ac-

ceptable to ,the gods whom they worshipped.  Yea,

rather than they would be without a Deity, they would

dig them gods out of their gardens; or consecrate dogs

and serpents, and any vermin that first met them in the

morning, and had the good luck thereby to creep into honor.

    What then! is it likely that the world received this

notion first by tradition; whereas, before, men generally

believed there was no God? this cannot be; for would

they in reason quit their former persuasion to receive this

new false one, especially when it is the only thing that

fills them with fears and torments, and a thousand affrights

and horrors?  Yea, those who would fain wear off this

notion of a God, and persuade themselves to be atheists

if they could, what violence I have they offered to them-

selves to do it!  And when they thought they had pre-

vailed, yet this impression hath still returned when they

have been startled with thunder, or earthquakes, or sick-

ness, and the dreadful apprehensions of approaching death.

     Possibly, some few may have been found in the world,

who have dissented from the rest of mankind in this belief


72               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

of a Deity; yet their dissent is not sufficient ground for

us to conclude, that therefore it is not a dictate of nature.

For how many are there that violate the laws of nature,

and do those things which the innate light and reason of a

man abhor and abominate!  Yet none will from thence in-

fer that there are no such things as natural laws; so

neither, though some might have utterly razed out of

their minds the notion and belief of a God, will it thence

follow that this belief of a Supreme Being is not an im-

pression of nature.

     But suppose the number of atheists had been never so

great, is it not far more probable that it should rather be

a dictate of nature that there is a God, than that there is

not; since the disbelief of his being would open a wide

gap to all manner of licentiousness, yea, and to the bold

commission even of those sins which are against nature

itself?  Shall men be thought to speak the sense of

nature, whose opinion so directly tends to bring in sins

contrary to the light and laws of nature?  For, take away

the belief of a Deity, and it is as much to be doubted

whether the refined discourses of reason, and the con-

sideration of decency, and the intrinsical rewards of vir-

tue, will be of force sufficient to restrain men from the

most enormous and unnatural vices.  That, therefore,

must needs be a dictate of nature, which is almost the

only thing which gives authority to the law of nature; and

such is the belief of a God.

     2.  Another convincing demonstration of the existence

of a Deity, is taken from the serious consideration and re-

view of the frame and order of the universe; in which there

are as many wonders as there are creatures.

     Certainly he must needs be very blind and stupid that

 

FIRST COMMANDMENT.           73

 

reads not God in every creature.  Cast but your eyes up-

wards and contemplate the vast expanse of the heavens,

which are the canopy of the world, the roof of this great

house, the universe, the lid or cover put over all the works

of nature.  Behold how gloriously this canopy is studded!

How many glittering lights are hung up in this roof to

illuminate our inferior world, and to discover to our

eyes all visible objects, and to our mind the invisible

God!  Who hath gilded the rays of the sun, or silvered

the face of the moon?  Who hath marshalled the huge

host of heaven; and set the stars in such array, that not

one of them hath broken its rank nor strayed out of its

course and order?  Whose hand is it that turns the great

wheels of heaven; and makes them spin out days, and

months, and years, and time, and life to us?  Who hath

ordered the vicissitudes of day and night, summer and

winter, that these run not into one another and blend

themselves and the whole world in confusion; but with

a perpetual variety, observe their just seasons and inter-

changes?  Do not all these wonderful works proclaim aloud,

that certainly there is a great and glorious God who sits

enthroned on high; and who hath thus paved the bottom

of heaven with stars, and adorned the inner parts of it with

glories yet to us unknown?  Upon this very reflection the

psalmist tells us, "The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament showeth his handy-work."  Psalm 19:1.

      But not to carry the atheist up to heaven, let us de-

scend lower, through the vast ocean of liquid air, and there

observe how the grosser vapors are bound together in

clouds, which when the drought and thirst of the earth

call for refreshment, dissolve themselves into small

drops, and are as it were sifted into rain.  How come

Commandments. 4


74               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

it to pass, and whose wisdom and providence hath so

ordered it, that there should not fall whole clouds and

cataracts, but drops and showers?  that they should not

tumble upon us, but distil?  an effect so wonderful that

there is scarce any other work of nature that the Scripture

more frequently ascribes to God, as a demonstration of his

power and government, than that he sendeth rain upon

the earth.  Yea, and these clouds, how often are they

charged with thunder and lightnings; as though it were

so ordered of purpose, that if their contexture cannot con-

vince, yet their terror might affright the atheist!  Who can

give any satisfactory account how that artillery came there

planted?  or how those terrors of mankind are there ge-

nerated?  Let the atheist tell me how it comes to pass

that such contraries meet together in one; and that the

same cloud should be both a fountain of water and yet

a furnace of fire, a wonder the prophet ascribeth parti-

cularly to God's almighty providence, Jer. 10:13, "He

maketh lightnings with rain;" and accounteth it such

a remarkable instance of the divine operation that he

repeateth it again, chap. 51:16.

     If we descend into the lowest story of this great

building, the earth, what a shop of wonders shall we find

there!  That the whole mass and globe of it should hang

pendulous in the air, without any thing to support it; and

whereas small bodies of little weight fall through the air,

yet that this great and ponderous body should be fixed

for ever in its place, having no foundation, no support but

that air which every mote and fly doth easily cut through

that this round ball of earth should be inhabited on every

part; that the feet of other men should be opposite to

ours, and yet they walk as erect and be as much upon the


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           75

 

face of the earth as we are; that the middle point of the

earth should be the lowest part of it and of the universe,

and whatsoever is beyond that be upwards: these and many

others are such unaccountable mysteries to our compre-

hension, and yet are found so infallibly certain by expe-

rience and manifold proofs, that he must be an atheist out

of mere spite, who shall seriously consider them and not

be induced by that consideration to adore the infinite

power and wisdom of their Author.

     It would be too long to instance in the various sorts of

creatures that we behold, how artificially they are framed,

what an excellent configuration there may be observed in

their several parts, what subserviency of one to another,

and how all are suited to the offices of nature; what secret

channels and conveyances for life and spirits, what springs

of various motions are included even in the small body of a

fly or of a mite.  Certainly there is not the least thing that

an atheist can cast his eye upon but it confutes him; but

especially, if he shall seriously consider the wonderful

structure of a human body, the excellent contrivance and

use of all the parts, he cannot but, after he hath admired

the artifice of the work, admire also the infinite wisdom

of the Maker, and cry out with holy David, "I am fear-

fully and wonderfully made-and curiously wrought in

the lowest parts of the earth." Psalm 139:14, 15.  Yea,

not only a David, but Galen, a heathen, one who it is

thought was not over-credulous in matters of religion;

yet when he had minutely inspected the many wonders

and miracles that are contained in the frame of our body,

he could not forbear composing a hymn to the praise of

our all-wise Creator.

     And therefore, as lord Bacon observes, (Essay of Athe-


76               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

ism,) God never wrought a miracle to convince an atheist,

because his ordinary works may convince him; and un-

less men will be wilfully and stubbornly blind, they must

needs subscribe to that of St. Paul, Acts, 14 : 17, God

hath "not left himself without witness, in that he doeth

good, and giveth us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons,

filling our hearts with food and gladness;" and, Rom. 1:

20, "The invisible things of God are clearly seen from the

creation of the world, being understood by the things that

are made, even his eternal power and godhead: so that

they are without excuse."  When we see footsteps evident-

ly imprinted on the earth, shall we not easily collect that

certainly some one hath passed that way?  When we see

a stately fabric built according to all the rules of art, and

adorned with all the riches and beauty that magnificence

can expend upon it, must we not presently conclude that

certainly there was some skilful architect that built it?

Truly every creature is quoddam vestigium Dei, some

sign or evidence of Deity: we may observe his foot-

steps in it; and see how his attributes, his wisdom, his

goodness and: his power have passed along that way.

And the whole world is a stately fabric; a house that

God hath erected for himself: the magnificence and splen-

dor of it are suitable to the state of the great King: it is

his palace, built for the house of his kingdom and the

honor of his majesty: and we may easily conclude that so

excellent a structure must have an excellent architect,

and that the builder and maker of it is God.

     Now that which makes some proud spirits backward.

to acknowledge God in the works of nature is, that they

think they can, by their reason alone, give a plausible ac-

count of those effects and phenomena which we see in


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           77

 

the world, by deducing them from second and natural

causes.  And therefore many of those who are of an inqui-

sitive and searching genius, when they find such effects

depend upon and flow from such and such natural causes,

applaud themselves in the discovery; and look no further

nor higher, but neglect the first and chief cause of all,

even God.

     Hence some have thought that reason and philosophy

are great enemies to religion, and patrons of atheism; but,

in truth, it is far otherwise; and the atheist hath not a

more smart and keen adversary, since he will not submit

his cause to be tried by Scripture, than true reason and

profound philosophy.

     But if any, who seem to be knowing and learned men,

are less inclined to the belief of a Deity, it is not their

learning but their ignorance that makes them so.  The same

lord Bacon has well observed, that a little philosophy in-

clines a man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy

brings it about again to religion.  And I dare challenge

the most learned men in the world to give a satisfac-

tory account of the most common appearances in nature

without resolving them at last into the will and dis-

posal of the God of Nature.  If I should ask them what

makes the grass green, or a stone to fall downwards, or

the fire to aspire upwards, or the sun to enlighten and

warm the world?  What answer can they give, but that it

is the property of their natures; or what is altogether as

insignificant and unintelligible?  But, if I should question

farther, how came their natures to be distinguished with

such properties?  they must either here be silent, or con-

fess a First Cause, which endowed their natures with

such properties and actions; for,  although a man may, for


78               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

some few successions of causes and effects, find one to

depend upon another, yet they must all, at last, be re-

solved into and terminate in God.

     3.  Unless the being of a God be presupposed, no tole-

rable account can be given of the being of any thing.

     We see innumerable beings in the world, different

from each other both in kind and particulars.  Now what

rational account can the atheist give how these things

came to have a being?  There are but two ways imagin-

able: either that the world was formed by chance; or

else, that it had its being from all eternity.  And ac-

cordingly, as if it were still fatal for them to encounter

the same inconsistencies for which they disavow religion,

atheists are divided into two sects.

     (1.)  One is the Epicurean atheist, who affirms that the

world indeed had once a beginning, but it was merely by

chance: for, there having been from all eternity infinite

particles of matter moving to and fro in an infinite space;

these at last, meeting casually, linked one in another, and

so, by mere chance, formed this world which we now see.

A fancy so grossly ridiculous, that, were it not now again

taken up by some who pretend to be great lights in rea-

son and philosophy, I would not condescend so much as

to mention it.

     But, as Cicero saith, both judiciously and ingeniously,

as soon shall they persuade me that an innumerable com-

pany of loose and disordered letters, being often shaken

together and afterwards thrown out upon the ground,

should fall into such exquisite, order as to frame a most

ingenious and heroic poem; as that atoms, straying to and

fro at random, should ever casually meet together to

make a world consisting of heaven, and of air, and sea,


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           79

 

and earth, and so many sorts and species of living crea-

tures, in the frame and structure of which we see such

wonderful and inimitable skill.

     Had Archimedes' or Posidonius' sphere, in which were

imitated all the motions and changes of the sun, moon

and planets, been presented to the most ignorant or illite-

rate nations under heaven, they could not be so grossly

stupid as to think such a piece a work of mere chance,

and not of accurate art and study.  And shall any doubt,

when he sees, in the great machine of the world, the same

and many other phenomena exhibited in a more perfect

manner than they can be represented in any such type,

whether it be a work of uncertain chance, or the product

of a most perfect mind and comprehensive understanding?

For, certainly, if a strong and mastering reason be re-

quired only to imitate the works of nature; much more,

then, to produce them.  Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. ii. 37, 34.

     And why had not those atoms, that could thus fortui-

tously frame a world, why had they not built houses too,

and cities, and woven us garments; that so, by very good

chance, we might have found these necessaries ready pro-

vided to our hands, and been saved the trouble and labor

of making them?  Did ever any atoms fall into such exact

order, and knit so artificially together, as to frame a clock,

or a watch, or any other piece of ingenious mechanism?

And will the atheist then be so silly as to believe that

these little dusts of being should, by mere hazard, meet

and join together to frame the whole world; and bestow

such various forms and motions upon creatures as we

daily see and admire?  Look but upon the most contemp-

tible worm that crawls, we shall find it a far more excel-

lent piece of mechanism, a far more curious engine, than


80               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

any that ever the art or wit of man could frame.  And

shall chance make these, yea, creatures of a more wonder-

ful contexture, which yet could never make a watch, or a

clock, or any of those engines which we have contrived

for the use and service of life?

     And what will they say to the accurate operations of

sense and reason?  Is it possible that one small dust

should see or feel another?  and, if not one, then not ten

thousand put together.  Shall their configuration give them

this faculty, which their being and substance doth not?

Which I shall then believe, when I shall be convinced

that a statue, carved the most exquisitely that art can per-

form, can any more see, or taste, or feel, than it could

whilst it was rude and unformed wood.

      But, suppose that sense could be caused by mere mat-

ter put in motion; yet, what shall we say to the refined

speculations and profound discourses of reason?  Is it

likely, or indeed possible, that little corpuscles should re-

flect and argue?  that atoms should make syllogisms, or

draw up parties between pro and con?  Or will the atheist

grant that there is no other difference between himself

and a mere senseless block but only configuration of

parts?  and that when he disputes most subtilely for his

cause, all his reasons and arguments are but a little dust

that flies up and down in his brains?  That the agitation

of material particles; should produce any sprightly acts .of

wit and discourse, is so monstrously abhorrent to tree rea-

son, that I doubt I shall never be persuaded to believe it, un-

til some cunning man convince me that the highway too is

in a deep speculation, and teeming with some notable dis-

course, whensoever the dust is stirred and flies about in it.

And yet, forsooth, men must now-a-days be atheists


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           81

 

that they may be rational; and think it a high demonstra-

tion of their parts and ingenuity to doubt of a Deity, and

call all religion into question.  Whereas, were there any

thing in the belief of a God and the most mysterious points

of our religion half so absurd and ridiculous as there is in

atheism, I should most readily explode it and count it al-

together unworthy to be entertained by any man that is

ingenuous and rational.

     (2.)  Hence the other sect of atheists alluded to, the

Aristotelian, being pressed with the huge and mon-

strous absurdities of this way of giving an account of

the appearances of nature, hold that the world is from

eternity, and never had any beginning at all.  But,

     It is altogether unreasonable to deny a God, and yet

grant that very thing for which alone they deny him.  The

only reason that tempts atheists to deny a Deity, is be-

cause they cannot conceive a Being infinite and eternal.

But when they yield the world to be so, what do they

else but run into the same inconveniency which they

would avoid; and, that they may not grant one eternal

being, grant innumerable?  So fatal it is for error to be

inconsistent with itself and to confound its own principles.

     If the world be eternal, there must of necessity have

been passed an infinite succession of ages.  Now, our un-

derstanding is as much non-plussed to conceive this, as it

is to conceive an Infinite Being that should create the

world; for, if the world had no beginning, then an infinite

number of days and years, yea, of millions of years and

generations of men are already actually passed and gone.

And if they are passed, then they are come to an end; and

so we shall have both a number that is actually infinite, and

likewise something infinite and eternal that is come to an

4*


82               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

end:  a very proper consequence for one that avoids the

belief of a Deity because he would be rational and cannot

conceive a being that is infinite!

     If there have already been infinite successions of gene-

rations in the world, certainly those which are yet to

come will make them more; and so we shall find a num-

ber greater than that which is allowed to be actually infi-

nite.  Or if, to avoid this contradiction, the atheist should

affirm that the generations to Abraham and the genera-

tions to David were both equal because both infinite, he

will thereby fall into two other gross contradictions: the

one, that a number added to a number should make no

addition; the other, that since the generations to Abraham

were but a part of the generations to David, the part

should be equal to the whole.

     There is no one moment in succession which was not

once present, and consequently, imagine a duration as

long as you please, yet in it of necessity there must be

some one moment which, when it was present, all the rest

were future; and if all the rest were future, this moment

was then the beginning.  So that it is impossible there

should be a successive duration without a beginning, and

therefore impossible it should be from eternity.

     In all the revolutions of generation and corruption that

can be imagined, yet the life of animals must necessarily

be before their death: for none can die till he hath lived;

and none can live but he must pass some time before he

dies.  There was therefore a time before any animal died:

consequently their corruption and death were not from

eternity: neither before their death had they lived an in-

finite time, but only some few days or years; and there-

fore their generation and life were not from eternity.


FIRST COMMANDMENT                      83

 

     These things I do but cursorily mention, to give you a

taste of the folly and unreasonableness of atheism; nor

perhaps, would it be proper to insist on them at large:

but by these few arguments you may see how unreason

able it is for an atheist to boggle at the belief of a Deity;

whereas, let him lay down whatsoever principles he will,

he shall find his reason more puzzled and entangled by

these absurdities that will necessarily follow upon them,

than he shall by any difficulties that are consequent upon

the belief of a God: which belief unless we entertain, we

can give no tolerable account at all of the various beings

that are in the world, for neither are they eternal, neither

have they happened by chance, as I have demonstrated.

      It is therefore absolutely necessary that there be some

First Cause of all things which we behold, which is not

itself caused, nor produced by any other: for if every

thing were caused by some pre-existent being, then there

never was a being before which there was not another;

and so this gross absurdity will follow, That before there

was a being, there was a being: a fit consequence for

atheists, who pretend only to rational speculations, to

swallow!  Therefore we must necessarily rest in some

First Cause, from which all other things have their origin,

and which is itself caused by none: and that is the great

God, whom we adore; the great Creator and Governor

both of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and

invisible.

     And here I would add the argument of Bradwardine,

which perhaps it would shrewdly puzzle the metaphysics

of an atheist to answer, namely:  It is possible that there

should be such a being as should exist necessarily; since

it is no more a contradiction to exist necessarily than to


84               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

exist contingently, and a far higher and more absolute

perfection.  But if it be possible that there might be such

a being, then it is certain that there is; because necessity

of existence is included in the very essential conception

of it, or else this contradiction would follow, that it is

possible for that not to be, which yet is necessary to be.

This being, therefore, must needs be eternal, indepen-

dent, and self-sufficient; and that is the God whom we

adore.  De Causa Dei.

      4.  But, to leave these more abstruse and scholastic no-

tions.  If there be no God, then neither have there been

any miracles performed in the world, nor any prophecies

or predictions of future events.

      (1.)  There can be no miracles performed without a di-

vine and infinite power.

     For, certainly, if there be no being above nature, there

can be no effects either above or contrary to the course of

nature; for nature, when it is left to itself, cannot act

contrary to its own laws.

     Now that there have been miraculous works performed

the atheist cannot deny, unless he will deny the truth of

all records, and think it reasonable to make all faith and

credit among mankind a sacrifice to his opiniativeness.

All heathen authors, as well as the Scriptures, give abun-

dant testimony to this; and although they deny the doc-

trine of the Scripture, yet there is no reason why they

should disbelieve it, when it only re1ates matter of fact.  In

this behalf we desire they would give it as much credit as

they give to the histories of Livy or Tacitus, or any other

author of approved honesty.  And certainly it is but rea-

sonable to credit the consonant depositions of several

plain who all profess themse1ves to have been eye-


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           85

 

witnesses of those things which they write.  Yea, the

Jews and heathens who lived in those very times, and

were most inveterate and cankered enemies against the

name of Christ, would have given whatsoever was dear-

est to them in the world, could they have proved any for-

gery in those miracles, or deceit in the relaters of them:

but the evidence was so clear that they were forced to

confess, even in spite of their own malice, that such

strange works were done and really effected; and yet

their spleen against the truth was such that they imputed

them only to the power of magic and the operation of evil

spirits.  But will our atheist do so too?  If so, he must

needs acknowledge a God; by acknowledging a devil; if

not, he hath as little reason to believe any thing in the

world which he himself hath not seen, as to believe the

truth of those reports which we have received from un-

doubted hands, delivered to us by the unquestionable tes-

timony of those who have known and seen what they

have reported.

     Therefore, if ever there have been any such extraordi-

nary effects as restoring sight to the blind, and feet to the

lame, and life itself to the dead, and that by no other ap-

plication than only a word's speaking, there must certain-

ly be a God.  For these things are not within the power

of second causes, being so contrary to the course of nature,

and therefore must be ascribed to a Supreme Deity, an in-

finite power, who is the author and great controller of

nature.

     (2.)  As there could have been no miracles performed,

so neither could there be any prophecies or predictions

made of contingent events, unless we acknowledge a God

who, in his infinite wisdom and counsel, foresees whatso-


86               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

ever shall come to pass, and "revealeth his secret unto

his servants the prophets."  Amos 3:7.

     We have many prophecies recorded which have alrea-

dy had their undoubted fulfilment.  Not to instance all, I

shall only mention two.  The one is the prophecy of our

Lord Jesus Christ concerning the final destruction of Je-

rusalem, Matt. 24:2, which received its full accomplish-

ment about forty years after they had crucified the Lord

of life and glory.  And the other, the prediction concerning

Cyrus, that he should rebuild Jerusalem, after it had been

destroyed by the Babylonians, Isa. 44:28; and, to make

this prophecy the more remarkable, it is said, chap-

45:4, that, for Israel's sake God had called him by his

name.  This was a famous and very particular prophecy

of a person named near two hundred years before he was

born; and those things distinctly foretold of him which

he should afterwards perform.  The like we have, 1

Kings, 13:2, where the prophet declaims against the

idolatrous altar and worship of Bethel, and foretells that.

Josiah should destroy it-calling him by his very name,

three hundred and forty years before he was born: "O

altar, altar! thus saith the Lord, Behold, a child shall be

born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and up-

on thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that

burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt

upon thee;" which we read was exactly fulfilled by

the same Josiah, 2 Kings, 23:20, for  "he slew all

the priests of the high places which were there upon

the altars, and burnt men's bones upon them."  Now let

any atheist give a rational account how these future con-

tingencies could be thus certainly and circumstantially

foreknown and predicted, were there not "a God in hea-


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           87

 

ven that revealeth secrets."  Dan.2:28. They could not

certainly see such free and contingent events in the stars,

especially so long before they were to be produced; or,

if they might yet certainly they could not read names

there, nor spell the constellations into words and sylla-

bles.  There is, therefore, a God who giveth knowledge,

and declareth things to come, according as it pleaseth

him to illuminate the minds of his servants the prophets,

to whom and by whom he spake.

     5.  The fifth and last demonstration of the being of a

God is this, There is a conscience in man; therefore there

is a God in heaven.

     Conscience could have no power at all unless it were

given it from above.  How comes it to pass that wicked

wretches are still haunted with pale fears and ghastly hor-

rors; that they are sometimes a terror to themselves and

to all that are about them?  They would, if possible,

abandon themselves and run away from their own being,

but only that they have a witness and a judge within

them of all their crimes and impieties, and feel such secret

stings and unseen whips lashing their souls, that the tor-

tures they endure and inflict on themselves make them

sometimes weary of their lives, and put them upon the

desperate course of choking both themselves and their

consciences too with a halter.  Whence, I say, should

this proceed, were there not a God, a just and holy Deity

whom conscience revere?  These torments and regrets

do not always proceed from fear of shame or punishment

from men.  No; but conscience hath a power to put

them upon the rack for their most secret sins, which no

eye ever saw, no heart ever knew but their own.  Yea,

and it forceth them sometimes themselves to confess and


88               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

divulge their own infamy, and voluntarily to deliver up

themselves to human justice.  And whence is this, but

only from that secret influence of a Supreme Being, that

hath an awe and authority over conscience, and makes it

review the sins of a man's life with horror, because it

knows that the just and holy God will at last review them

with vengeance.

     So we find that those who in their prosperity have

lived most regardless of a Deity, yet when their con-

science hath been awakened by dangers, or sickness, or

any surprising event, the apprehensions of a God have

then strongly returned upon them, and filled them with

amazement and confusion.  Thus Suetonius, the historian,

reports of the mad, wicked emperor, Caligula, who made

an open mock and scorn of religion, that when it thun-

dered he would creep under his bed to hide himself from

the vengeance of that Jupiter whom at other times he

would not spare to deride and threaten.  And therefore,

certainly, if there be any such thing as natural conscience

in all men, it will necessarily follow that there must be a

God; for, were there no God there would be no con-

Thus I have given you these several rational demon-

strations that there is such a supreme and infinite being

as a Deity.  Many others might be added; but these I

account sufficient to convince any atheist, who will indeed

be swayed by that reason which he so much deifies and

adores, that there is another God besides and above reason.

Well, then, what remains but that, as we have evinced

the folly and unreasonableness of speculative atheism, so

we condemn the impiety of practical atheism--the pro-

faneness and irreligion of those, that, as the apostle speaks,


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           89

 

live "without God in the world;" that live as though

there were no God, nor devil, nor heaven, nor hell, nor

future state, nor any distribution of rewards in it.

     Indeed, every wicked man is, in this sense, an atheist;

and such the apostle hath condemned, Tit. 1:16.  "They

profess that they know God, but in works they deny him,

being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good

work reprobate."  Did they really and cordially believe

that there is a just and holy God that takes notice of all

their actions; a great and terrible Majesty who will call

them to a strict account for all their cogitations, all their

discourses, and all their works; an almighty God, who

hath prepared wrath and vengeance to inflict on all those

who despise his authority and transgress his law; would

they dare to profane his glorious and reverend name by

impertinently using it in their trivial talk?  would they

dare to rend and tear it by their oaths and blasphemies,

and hellish execrations and curses?  Did they believe that

he hath prepared  "Tophet of old," that "the pile thereof

is fire and much wood," and that all the wicked of the

world shall be cast into it, and there be made an ever-

lasting burnt-sacrifice to, the incensed wrath of the great

God; did men believe the horrors and torments, the

woes and anguish of the damned in hell, which are as far

from being utterable as they are from being tolerable;

did they but as certainly believe these things, as it is cer-

tain that, if they believe them not, they shall eternally

feel them, would they dare still venture on to treasure up

to themselves wrath against the day of wrath?  Would

swearing, and lying, and stealing, and drunkenness, and

uncleanness so generally reign among us as they do?

     Indeed, we persuade ourselves that we do believe


90               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

these things: we profess that there is a God, and that

God infinitely holy and infinitely just; and that he will

recompense tribulation, anguish, and wrath upon every

soul of man that doeth evil.  But, alas, this is only a ver-

bal belief, contradicted and borne down by a practical

atheism!  The little influence that the belief of a holy and

just God hath upon us, to regulate our actions and to

cause us to walk in a holy awe and dread of his Divine

Majesty, clearly evinceth that we may possibly fancy

these things, but do not believe them; for, if thou didst

seriously and heartily believe that there is a great and a

jealous God, who hath said "Vengeance is mine, I will

repay," what is there in the world that could persuade

thee to offend him?

     Possibly, though thou believest that there is a God, yet

thou art not fully persuaded that he is so holy or so just

as his word declares him to be:  not so holy in hating thy

sins, nor so just in punishing them.

      But if thou reliest on this confidence, yet know that

this is only to hope in his mercy in spite of his truth.  He

hath sworn that he will take vengeance on all impenitent

wretches, and "wound the hairy scalp of such a one as

goeth on still in his trespasses."  Ps. 68:21.  And God

will be the to his threatenings as well as to his promises,

although thou, and ten thousand others like thyself, eter-

nally perish.

      Nay, if thou believest there is a God, and yet thinkest

that this God will spare thee, though thou go on in the

presumption of thy heart to add iniquity unto sin, thou

art far worse than an atheist, for it is better to have no

opinion of God at all, than to have such an opinion as is

unworthy of him; for the one is but infidelity, the other


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           91

 

is contumely.  Even Plutarch, a heathen, could say

that it were far less injurious to him if any should deny

that there is such a man in the world as Plutarch, than if

he should grant that such a one indeed there is, but that

he is faithless, inconstant, cruel, or revengeful.  So it is

not so heinous an affront against the Divine Majesty to

deny that there is any such Supreme Being, as to ac-

knowledge that there is indeed a God, but that this God

is not either infinitely holy in hating thy sins, or infinitely

true to his threatenings, or infinitely just in punishing

men's impenitency and disobedience.  This is a degree of

impiety worse than atheism; and yet of this are all un-

godly sinners guilty.

     Know then, O sinner, and tremble, that there is a God

who sees and observes all thy actions; who writes them

down in the book of his remembrance, and will call thee

to a strict account for them.  God will then judge thee

out of thine own most thou wicked servant.  Thou be-

lievest that there is a God; why dost thou not then fear

and serve him?  Thou believest that there is a heaven

and a hell, and an eternity to come; why then dost thou

not live answerably to this belief?  Either blot it out of

your creed, and avow that you do not believe in God the

Father Almighty, or else live as those should do who

own so great and terrible, so pure and holy a God.  For a

speculative atheist to be profane and wicked is but conso-

nant to his principles; for wherefore should not he gra-

tify all his lusts and sensual desires, whose only hope is

in this life, and who doth not look upon himself as ac-

countable for any thing hereafter?  But for thee, who ac-

knowledgest a Deity, to live as without God in the world,

to break his laws, to slight his promises, to despise his


92                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

threatenings, is the greatest and most desperate madness:

thou showest thyself hereby to be worse not only than an

atheist, but worse than a devil; for the very devils be-

lieve and tremble; and yet thou, who professest thyself

to believe, dost not tremble.

      If therefore we would not be inexcusable, since we

know God let us glorify him as God, yielding all holy

obedience to his laws, and humble submission to his will;

conforming ourselves to his purity, depending upon his

power and providencer and trusting in his infinite mercy

and goodness, till we, at last, arrive unto that state of

perfect bliss and felicity where we shall fully know the

ineffable mystery of the Deity, see him that is now invi-

sible, and live there as much by sense and sight as here

we do by faith and expectation.

     Thus much for the first sin forbidden in this first com-

mandment, which is atheism.

 

     II. The second sin forbidden is, IGNORANCE OF THE

TRUE GOD.

      For this precept, which requires us to have the Lord

Jehovah for our God, as well includes the having of him

in our understandings, by knowing him aright, as in our

wills and affections, by loving, fearing, and worshipping

him.  The right worship of God must, of necessity, pre-

suppose the knowledge of the object to which we direct

that worship; or, otherwise, we do but erect an altar to

the Unknown God, and all our adoration is but supersti-

tion; yea, and we ourselves are but idolaters, although

we worship the true Deity; for all that service which is

not directed to the Supreme Essence, whom we conceive

to be the infinitely and eternally holy, just, merciful and


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           93

 

glorious beyond what we can conceive, is not tendered to

the true God, but to an idol of our own making, shaped

out in the ignorance and blindness of our minds.  And

therefore our Savior Christ lays this as a black brand

upon the Samaritan worship, John, 4:22, "Ye wor-

ship ye know not what;" and that because with other

gods they worshipped the true God under a confused

notion of "the God of the land," without any distinct

knowledge of his nature, will, and attributes.  2 Kings,

17:26.

      It hath been a proverbial speech, that ignorance is the

mother of devotion; but certainly such a blind mother

must needs bring forth a blind and deformed daughter, a

devotion more rightly called superstition than devotion,

devotion shaped only by the fancy, and imposed by ir-

rational fear or humor.

      Now because the being and existence of a Deity is a

notion so common and natural to mankind, as I have

already demonstrated--and we are strongly inclined to

the worship of a God--it will be necessary rightly to

know that God, to whom this homage of our souls and

all our affection and veneration is due; for, while we re-

main ignorant of this, it is impossible but that we should

be idolaters, giving that which is due to God alone to

some vain created fiction of our own deluded under-

standings.

      Idolatry, therefore, is a sin more common among us

than we imagine; for as many ignorant persons as there

are, so many idolaters there are, who, though they fall

not down before stocks and stones, yet form in their

minds uncouth ideas and strange images of God, that no

more represent his infinite perfections and excellen-


94               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

cies than those dumb idols that the heathens worship.

     In prosecution of this general view I shall lay down

these following propositions:

     1.  It is very hard and difficult to have right and genuine

conceptions of the Divine Majesty, when we address our-

selves to him to worship him.

     I think I may here appeal to the experience

of christians, whether the most difficult part of their

duties be not rightly to apprehend the object of them.

Our fancy is bold and busy, and still ready to make too

much use of its pencil, and to delineate a God in some

shape or other, before whom we present our services: so

that when we should be wholly intent upon our adoration

we must necessarily be engaged in reformation, to pull

down and break in pieces those false images that we had

set up; and yet as soon as we have done this our imagi-

nation falls to work again, makes new pictures of a God,

and sets them full before our eyes as so many idols for us

to worship.  And though both reason and religion endea-

vor to correct these bold attempts of fancy, yet it is a

mighty distraction in our duty to be then disputing the

object when we should be adoring it.

     I shall instance this in one duty only, and that is prayer.

How few are there that do not fashion God in some

bodily shape when they come to pray to him!  We are

too apt to figure out his limbs, and to conceive him a man

like ourselves.  All the proportions that fancy hath to draw

are corporeal; and whensoever we frame a notion of

angels, or God, or any spiritual substance, we do it by

sensible resemblances.  But this is infinitely derogatory

to God, who is a spirit, and therefore cannot be repre-

sented in any form without a vast incongruity; and he


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           95

 

the Father of Spirits, infinitely more spiritual than spirits

themselves, in comparison with whom angels and the souls

of men are but drossy and feculent beings, and therefore

cannot be worshipped under any form without idolatry;

for that is not God which we can shape and mould in

our imaginations.

     We read how jealous God is lest any resemblance

should be made of him.  "Take ye therefore good heed

unto yourselves (for ye saw no manner of similitude on

the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the

midst of the fire,) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make

you a graven image, the similitude of any figure."  Deut.

4:15, 16.  And certainly if the erecting of a visible image

of God be gross idolatry, it is no less than a mental and

spiritual idolatry to frame an invisible image of God in

our fancy and conceptions.

      Therefore, although the Scripture frequently ascribes

to God the members and lineaments of a man, as eyes,

mouth, ears, hands, feet, &c. yet we must not be so stu-

pidly ignorant as to believe that these are properly apper-

taining to the divine essence, (which was the old exploded

heresy of the Anthropomorphitae;) but these descriptions

are given us only in condescension to our weaknesses and

infirmities, and though they are spoken after the manner

of men, yet they must be understood after such a manner

as becomes the majesty of the divine nature.  And by

such expressions the Scripture only means, that all those

powers and faculties which are in us are likewise to be

found, although in an infinite and transcendent eminency,

in the being of God.  He hears and sees, and is able to

effect whatsoever he pleaseth, and that without any con-

figuration of parts or organs, which are utterly repugnant


96                        THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

to the simplicity and spirituality of his essence.  And

therefore to shape and fashion out such a God in our

thoughts when we pray unto him, is but to make and

worship an idol; and unless faith and religion demolish

such images which we set up in our fancy, the worship

which we direct to them is hardly to be esteemed the

worship of the true God, but rather worshipping the

work of our own making and a creature of our own

imagination.

     And yet, unless we do represent God to ourselves when

we worship him, it is very hard, if not altogether impossi-

ble to keep up the intentness of our spirit and to hinder

our mind from straying.  Therefore,

     2.  The right way to attain to a true notion and a sound

understanding of the Divine Nature, is by a serious consi-

deration of his attributes, for these are his very nature;

and when we know them we know as much of God as

can be known by us in this our weak and imperfect

state.

    These attributes of the Divine Nature are manifold;

and commonly are distinguished into negative, relative,

and positive.  I shall enumerate only the chief of them,

simplicity, eternity, unchangeableness, immensity, domi-

nion, all-sufficiency, holiness, truth, omnipotence, omnis-

cience, justice, and mercy.  Of these the principal, and

those which most respect us, are mercy and justice: all

the others are declared in order to illustrate these.  For

the glory of these hath God created the world and all

things in it, especially those two capital kinds of creatures,

angels and men.  For these hath he permitted sin, which

is so odious and detestable to his infinite purity.  For

these hath he sent his Son Into the world to the of leath


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           97

 

for every man.  For these hath he proclaimed his law and

declared his Gospel; the threatenings of the one and the

promises of the other.  For these hath he appointed a day

and will erect a tribunal of judgment, that he may make

the glory of his mercy and of his justice conspicuous:

his justice, in the eternal damnation of impenitent wretch-

es, who are vessels of wrath fitted by their own sins for

destruction; his mercy, in the salvation of penitent and

believing souls, who are vessels of mercy fitted by his

grace for eternal glory.  All his other attributes, I say,

serve to illustrate these two; and as we conjoin them

either to mercy or justice, so they are most enforcing

motives, either of hope or fear.  It is a mighty support to

our hope, when we reflect upon the mercy of God, ac-

companied with the attributes of eternity, immutability,

truth, and omnipotence; and again it will affect us with

a profound fear and dread of this great and glorious God,

to consider that the same attributes attend on his justice;

so that both are almighty, the one to save, the other to

destroy.

     If then we would conceive aright of God when we

come to worship him, let us not frame any idea of him in

our imaginations, for all such representations are false and

foolish; but let us labor to possess our hearts with all

awful esteem of his attributes; and when we have, with

all possible reverence, collected our thoughts and fixed

them upon the contemplation of Infinite Justice, Infinite

Mercy, Infinite Truth, Infinite Power, and the rest, let

us then fall prostrate and adore, for this is our God.

So the apostle tells us, 1 John, 4:8, God is Love: not

only loving, but love itself in the abstract.  And, 1 John,

1:5, God is Light.

Commandments.


98               THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     3.  All the knowledge we have or can have of God

here, is collected from what he hath been pleased to dis-

cover of himself, either in his works or in his word.  We

have but two books to instruct us; the book of the crea-

tion and the book of the Scriptures.

      From the works of creation and providence we may

come to know much of God; even his eternal being and

godhead: and the lectures which are read out of this

book are so convincing and demonstrative of many of the

glorious attributes of God, that the apostle tells us the

very heathen themselves were left without excuse because

they did not worship him as God, when by the things

which they saw they knew him to be God.  Rom. 1:21.

But to us God hath vouchsafed more clear and lively

discoveries of himself; declaring to us those attributes

by his word, the knowledge of which we could never

have attained by his works alone.  Therefore the Scrip-

tures are called the lively oracles of God, Acts 7:38;

and they are the glass wherein, with open face, we be-

hold the glory of the Lord.  2 Cor. 3:18.

     4. When we have improved and strengthened our un- derstandings in the highest degree, it will still be utterly

impossiblefor us to know God as he is in himself.  He dwell-

eth in that light to which no mortal eye can approach.  He

hides and veils himself with light and glory.  It is his sole

privilege and prerogative, as to love, so to know himself

for nothing better can be loved, nothing greater can be

know.  God is incomprehensible to all his creatures, but

is comprehended by himself; and that ever-blessed Es-

sence, which is infinite to all others, is yet finite to its own

view and measure.

     All the discoveries we receive of God are not so much


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           99

 

to satisfy an inquisitive curiosity as to excite pious affec-

tions and devotion; for reason, which is the eye of the in-

tellectual soul, glimmers and is dazzled when it attempts

to look steadfastly on him who is "the Father of Lights;"

and its weakness is such, that that light which makes it see

doth also strike it blind.  Yea, our faith, which is a strong-

er eye than that of reason, and given us that we might see

him who is invisible," yet here in this life it hath so

much dust and ashes in it that it discerns but imperfectly,

and receives the discoveries of a Deity refracted through

the glass of the Scriptures, so allayed and attempered,

that though they are not most expressive of his glory, yet

they are fittest for our capacity.

     The full manifestation of his brightness is reserved for

heaven.  This beatifical vision is the happiness and per-

fection of saints and angels on whom the Godhead dis-

plays itself in its clearest rays.  There we shall see him

as he is, and know him as we are known by him.  Here

we could not subsist, if God should let down upon us

the full beams of his excessive light and glory.

     Hence we read in Scripture what dreadful apprehen-

sions the best of God's saints have had, after some extra-

ordinary discoveries that God had made of himself to

them.  Thus Isaiah cries out, chap. 6:5, "Wo is me! for

I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips--for

mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."  And

when our Savior Christ put forth his divine power only

in the working of a miracle, the glory of it was so terrible

and insupportable, even to holy Peter, that he cries out,

"Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

Luke 5:8.

     Though God be the very life of our souls, and the ma-


100             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

nifestations of his love and favor better than life itself, yet

such is our limited state here in this world, that we can-

not see God and live.  Frail nature is too weak to con-

tain its own happiness, until heaven and eternal glory

enlarge it; and then it shall see those inconceivable mys-

teries of the Trinity in Unity, the hypostatical union of

the human nature with the divine: then it shall view and

surround the incomprehensible God, and be able to bear

the unchecked rays of the Deity beating full upon it.  In

the mean time we must humbly content ourselves with

those imperfect discoveries that God is pleased to allow

us; still breathing after that state where we shall enjoy

perfect vision; and, in it, an entire satisfaction and hap-

piness.

     Let us then most earnestly covet the knowledge of

God, and endeavor to make ourselves here, as like to

what we hope to be hereafter, as the frailty of human

condition will permit. This is the chief glory of a man;

one of the highest ornaments and perfections of a rational

soul; that which doth, in some sort, repair the decays of

a fallen state, and renew those primitive characters which

ignorance and error have obliterated in our souls.  And,

indeed, without the knowledge of God, we can never be

brought to love him, to trust and confide in him, nor to

serve him as we ought.  And, though there may be a

great deal of zeal in ignorant persons, yet zeal without,

knowledge is but a religious frenzy; it is religion fright-

ed out of its wits.  A man that knows not the bounds of

sin and duty, is a fit subject for the devil to work upon,

who will be sure so to manage him, that he shall do a

great deal of mischief very honestly and with very good

intentions. 

                   FIRST COMMANDMENT.           101

 

III.  A third heinous violation of this first command is

by PROFANENESS.

     Profaneness may be taken either in a more large and

general, or in a more proper and restrained sense.

     If we take it properly, it signifies only the neglect or

despising of spiritual things; for, in a strict acceptation,

he is a profane person who either slights the duties of

God's service, or the privileges of God' s servants.

     But, in the larger and more common sense of the word,

every ungodly sinner who gives up himself to work wick-

edness, and lives in a course of infamous and flagitious

crimes, is a profane person.  Indeed, he is profane in the

highest degree, who not only neglects the more spiritual

duties of religion, but the natural duties of moral honesty,

temperance and sobriety; for, as there are but two

things which practically make an excellent and accom-

plished christian, namely, religion and virtue, the one di-

recting our worship towards God, the other our conver-

sation towards men; so, on the contrary, the despising

of religion and the neglect of virtue make up that con-

summate and accomplished profaneness which we see so

common and prevalent in the world.

     But, concerning the wickednesses which usually meet

together, and are concerned in this sort of profane per-

sons, I shall not now speak, reserving them to be treated

in their proper place, when I come to insist on those

commands which each of their sins transgresseth.

     At present, I shall notice that only which is properly

called profaneness, and speak of it as a distinct sin, dis-

tinctly prohibited in this precept.  And here I shall first

give you some account of the name, and then of the

thing.


102             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     The word profane is supposed to have its etymology

from procul a fano, which signifies "far from the temple."*

     Now because their temples were the usual places

wherein they solemnly worshipped, therefore the word

profane is transferred to denote those who neglect and

put far from them the worship of God. And so, accord-

ing to this sense of the word, many others, besides lewd

and debauched wretches, will be found to be profane.

For, not only those who let loose the reins to all manner

of villanies, but even those whose morality is unblame-

able, and perhaps exemplary; who lead a sober and ra-

tional life, and scorn a vicious action as a baseness below

the nature and unworthy the spirit of a man; yet such

grave, prudent, and honest persons do, too many of

them, especially in these our days, deserve the censure

and black brand of being profane.  And therefore, that

we may the better judge who are the profane, and on

whom that imputation justly lies, let us consider what

the sin of profaneness is, and what are the true and pro-

per characters of a profane person.

     1.  What profaneness is.

     In general, profaneness is the slighting and neglecting

of things holy and sacred, undervaluing and condemning

those things that are spiritual and excellent.  And who-

soever is guilty of this; let his outward demeanor in the

world be as fair and plausible as morality or hypocrisy

can adorn it, yet he is a profane person; and heinously,

violates this first command, which enjoins us to worship,

reverence, and honor the most high God, whom we pro-

fess to own.  Now spiritual an sacred things are,

     (1.) God himself; in his nature and essence, whom we

 

*So Macrob. Saturnal. lib. iii. cap. 3.


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           103

 

profane whensoever we entertain any blasphemous or

unworthy thoughts of him derogatory to his infinite per-

fections.

     (2.)  God, in his name, which we profane when, in

our trivial and impertinent discourses, we rashly bolt out

that great and terrible name at which all the powers of

heaven and hell tremble.  And how much more do we

profane it by oaths and execrations, which are now

grown the familiar dialect of so many, and are looked on

only as a grace and ornament of speaking!  Scarce can

we hear any discourse from them but these flowers are

below sprinkled among it; and the name of God must be

such brought in, either as an expletive or an oath.  And what

doth sadly forebode the growing profaneness of the next

age, how many children are taught, or suffered, to call.

upon God in their play, before they are taught to call

upon him in their prayers!

     (3.)  God, in his attributes, which we profane when

our affections or actions are opposite or unsuitable to

them.  We profane his holiness by our impurity; his

omnipotence by our despondency; his omniscience by

our hypocrisy; his mercy by our despair; his justice by

our presumption; his wisdom by our sinful policy; his

truth, by our security notwithstanding his threatenings,

and our slothfulness notwithstanding his promises.  And

in this sense, every sin that we commit is a kind of pro-

faneness, as it manifests a contempt of the infinite per-

fections and excellencies of the Deity; for there is no

man whose heart is possessed with a reverential and due

esteem of the great God, that can be induced by any

temptations to sin against him and provoke him.  Every

sin is a slighting of God, either a slighting of his justice,


104             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

or mercy, or holiness, or power, or all of them; for

what doest thou else when thou sinnest, but prefer some

base pleasure or some sordid advantage before the great

God of heaven?  The devil represents the delights of

sin or the profits of the world to thee, to entice thee;

but thy conscience represents to thee the everlasting

wrath of the great God if thou contest, his justice

ready to sentence thee to everlasting torments, and his

power armed to inflict them: now if thou yieldest, what

dost thou but vilify and depise the Almighty God; as if

his dread power and severe justice were not so consider-

able as to outweigh either the impure pleasures of a vile

lust, or the sordid gain and advantage of a little transi-

tory pelf?

     Nay, couldst thou by one act of sin make all the trea-

sures and delights of the whole world tributary to thee;

should the devil take thee when he tempts, as he took

Christ, and show thee all the kingdoms of the world, and

the glory of them, and promise to instate it all upon thee

--yet, to prefer the whole world before the authority of

God, who hath strictly forbidden thee to think any thing

in it worth the venturing upon his displeasure and the

hazarding his wrath and vengeance, is a most notorious

slighting and contemning the great God, and argues a

profane spirit:  how much more then, when we sin against

God for nothing, and defy his wrath and justice without

being provoked to it by any temptation!  We find how

heinously God takes it, and speaks of it as a mighty affront

and indignity, that our Lord Christ should be so under-

valued as to be sold for thirty pieces of silver; for it

argued not only treason but contempt.  Zech. 11:13.

"A goodly price that I was prized at of them."  And yet,


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           105

 

truly, Judas was a very thrifty sinner in comparison

with many among us, who not only betray Christ to the

mocks and injuries of others, but crucify him daily, and

put him to an open shame for far less.

     Yea, there are many that would not suffer so much as

a hair of their heads to be twitched off for that for which

they will not stick to lie, and swear, and blaspheme.

What should tempt the impious buffoon to deride reli-

gion, travest the Holy Scriptures, and turn whatsoever

is sacred and venerable into burlesque and drollery, but

only that he may gain a little grinning and sneering ap-

plause to his wit from a company of mad fools like him-

serf?  or what should tempt the cheap swearer to open

his black throat as wide as hell, and to belch out his blas-

phemies against heaven and the God of heaven, but only

that he fancies that a well-mouthed oath will make his

speech the more stately and genteel?  And are these mat-

ters of such consequence as to be called or accounted

temptations?  Certainly there can be nothing else in these

sins besides a mere mad humor of sinning; which de-

clares a most wretched contempt of God when we do

that for nothing which his soul hates and his law forbids,

and a most profane spirit in making that common and

trivial which is infinitely holy and sacred.

     Thus you see how God is, profaned in his nature, in his

name, and in his attributes.  He is profaned also,

     (4.)  In the time he hath set apart and consecrated for

his own worship and service.  This we profane when we

employ any part of it in the unnecessary affairs of this

life, but much more in the service of sin.  This is a sacri-

legious robbing God of what is dedicated entirely to him

and that either by his immediate appointment, as the


106             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

Sabbath, or by the appointment of those whom God hath

set over us, and intrusted not only to preserve our rights

and property, but also his worship inviolate, as special

days of joy or mourning, thanksgiving or humiliation.

     (3.)  In the ordinances of Jesus Christ.  These we pro-

fane when we either neglect them, or are remiss and

careless in our attendance on them.  But of this I shall

speak more anon.

     Thus I have shown you what profaneness is.  It is a

slighting and despising of spiritual and sacred things:

such as are holy originally, as God, his name and attri-

butes; and such as are holy by Institution, as his Sabbaths

and ordinances.  But we were to consider,

     2.  What are the true and proper characteristics (of a

profane person; and this, that we may the better look

into our own hearts and lives, and both observe and cor-

rect that profaneness which resides there.

     (1.)  He then is a profane person who thinks and speaks

slightly of religion.

      Religion is the highest perfection of human nature.  By

it man differs more from brute beasts than he doth by

his reason.  For brute creatures have some notable re-

semblance and hints of reason; but none at all of reli-

gion:  they glorify God as all the works of the creation

do, by showing forth in their frame and production his

infinite attributes, but they cannot adore nor worship

him.  This is a pre-eminence peculiar to the most perfect

pieces of the creation, men and angels.  For as it is a

perfection of the Deity to be the object of worship, to

whom all adoration both in heaven and earth ought to be

directed, so it is the perfection of rational creatures to

ascribe honor, and glory, and praise, and worship to Him


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           107

 

who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever

and ever.  And therefore they who despise religion, de-

spise that which is their own chiefest excellency, and

profane that which is the very crown of their nature

and being.

     But alas, have we not many such profane persons

among us, who deride piety and make a scoff of reli-

gion; who look upon it only as a politic invention to

keep the rude and ignorant vulgar ill awe?

     Yea, and those who take up their religion, not by

choice, but merely by chance; either as a patrimony left

them by their fathers, or as a received custom of the

country wherein they were born: never troubling them-

selves to examine the reasonableness and certainty of it.

These likewise are profane-spirited men, who do not

believe religion to be a matter of such concern as to

require their exactest study and industry in searching

into its grounds and principles, but think that any may

suffice, whatsoever it be.

     Again, those who secretly despise the holiness and

strictness of others, and think they are too precise and

make needless ado to get to heaven.  But indeed they

are not too precise; but these are too profane who thus

contemn religion as unnecessary and superfluous.

     (2.)  He is a profane person who neglects the public

worship and service of God when he hath opportunity and

ability to frequent it.

     And alas, how many such there are who yet think it

foul scorn to have this black name fixed upon them;

yea, and are the readiest in the world to brand others

with it that are not of their way and sentiments!  But

let them be who they will that despise and forsake the


108             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

solemn assemblies, they do thus despise and forsake God.

     Now these are of two sorts: some absent themselves

out of a wretched sloth and contempt of the word and

ordinances of Jesus Christ; others out of a pretended

dissatisfaction and scruple of conscience.  Both are pro-

fane; but the one strangely mingles profaneness and hy-

pocrisy, and the other is profane out of ignorance or

atheism.

     Some are negligently profane.  These absent them-

selves from the ordinances of Jesus Christ and the so-

lemn worship of God through mere sloth and reckless

contempt.  And how many there are of this sort, the

thinness of many congregations doth too evidently de-

clare.  If we should search for them, should we not find

them sleeping in bed, or idly lolling about the house, or

walking or riding abroad for pleasure?  spending their

time in vain chat, eating and drinking, and sacrificing to

their god, their belly, while they should be worshipping

the great God of heaven.  Possibly, a fair day, or want

of other diversion, may sometimes bring them to church,

yet this is so seldom that we may well suspect they

come, not indeed for custom's sake, but rather out of no-

velty than devotion.  But if it prove a wet or lowering

day, these tender people, whom neither rain nor cold can

prejudice at a fair or market, dare not stir out of their

doors, nor step over their own threshold to go into God's.

house, lest they should hazard their health instead of

gaining their salvation.  What shall I say to such brutes

and heathens, who not only deny the power, but the very

form of godliness?  Some of them may perhaps read

what I here present, and may my word, nay, not mine,

but the word of the living God strike them!  God will


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           109

 

pour out his wrath "upon the heathen, and upon the

families that call not on his name."

     But some again are humorsomely profane; and these

are they who withdraw themselves from the public wor-

ship of God merely upon pretended scruple and dissa-

tisfaction as to the mode of worship practiced by those

with whom they might most naturally be expected to

worship.  Concerning such, I think it is no uncharitable-

ness to say, that where scruple at the administration of

ordinances is only pretended to color contempt of the

ordinances, there religion is only made a mask and vizor

for hypocrisy.  And I would beseech them to account of

all who preach the truth in Christ, that they are minis-

ters of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God,

although all do not observe the same form of worship;

and if they cannot deny that they are such with whom

they might be expected to worship, will they deny them

audience when they come as ambassadors from the great

King of heaven, to deliver his message to them in his

name?  Do not all who truly preach Christ, preach the

same truths, and exhort to the practice of the same ho-

liness?  Do they not administer the same ordinances,

wherein are represented to all believing partakers the

benefits of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ?

     (3.)  He is also a profane person who neglects the per-

formance of religious duties in private.

     Every house ought to be a temple dedicated to God,

and every master a priest, who should offer unto God

the daily sacrifices of prayer and praise.  But, alas, how

many profane persons have we, and how many profane

families, who scarce ever make mention of God but in an

oath, nor ever call upon his name but when they impre-


110             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 

cute some curse upon others!  How many who wholly

neglect the duty of player, and think they sufficiently

discharge their trust if they provide for the temporal sub-

sistence of their families, though they utterly neglect the

care of their souls and their spiritual concerns!  Such pro-

fane families as these God ranks with infidels and hea-

thens, and devotes them to the same common destruction.

Jer. 10:25.

     Nor ought our family duties to be more seldom per-

formed by us than morning and evening.  In the morning,

prayer is the key that opens to us the treasury of God's

mercies and blessings; in the evening, it is the key that

shuts us up under his protection and safeguard.  God is

the great Lord of the whole family both in heaven and

earth: other masters are but, under him, intrusted to see

that those who belong to their charge perform their du-

ties both to him and themselves.  One of the greatest ser-

vices we can do for God, is to pray unto him and praise

him.  And how unjust and tyrannical is it for a master of

a family to exact service to himself, when he takes no

care to do service to his great Lord and Master, to whom

it is infinitely more due!

     Neither is there any excuse that can prevail to take off

your obligation from this duty.

     Not that thou art ignorant, and knowest not how to

pray; for many are the helps that God hath afforded

thee.  Do but bring breath and holy affections; others

have already brought to thy hands words and expressions

proper enough for the concerns of most families.  And

besides, use and common practice will facilitate this duty;

and by an incessant conscientious performance of it, thou

wilt, through the promised assistance of the Holy Ghost


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           111

 

be soon able to suit thy affections with pertinent expres-

sions and to present both in a becoming manner unto the

throne of grace.

     Not the multiplicity and encumbrance of thine affairs.

For the more and the weightier they are, the more need

hast thou to ask counsel and direction of God, and to

beg his blessing upon thee in them, without which thou

wilt but labor in the fire and weary thyself for very vanity.

Not thy bashfulness and modesty.  For will it not be a

far greater shame to thee, that those whom thou govern-

est and perhaps overawest even by thy rash and unreason-

able passions, should be able to overawe thee from so ex-

cellent and necessary a duty?  Be ashamed to sin before

them; be ashamed to talk loosely, to profane the name of

God, to be intemperate or unjust before them, to defile

thy mouth and their ears with unclean and scurrilous dis-

course; be ashamed to neglect thy duty; but be not

ashamed to pray, for our Savior hath told us, Mark, 8:

38, that "whosoever shall be ashamed of him in this

adulterous and sinful generation, of him also shall the

Son of Man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of

his Father, with the holy angels."

     And therefore, since there is no just reason why thou

shouldst refrain prayer from the Almighty, whosoever thou

art that doest so, be thy conversation in all other respects

never so blameless (which yet it is not very probable that

it should be when thou beggest not grace from God to di-

lect it,) thou art a profane person; and declarest thyself

to be so, by the neglect of the most holy and spiritual of all

those duties wherein we are to draw nigh unto God.

     (4.)  He is a profane person that performs holy duties

slightly and superficially.


112             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     All our duties ought to be warmed with zeal, winged

with affection, and shot up to heaven from the whole bent

of the soul.  Our whole hearts must go into them, and the

strength and vigor of our spirits must diffuse themselves

into every part of them to animate and quicken them.

Hence the apostle commands us, Rom. 12: 11, to be

"fervent in spirit, serving the Lord."  Sacrifices, which

under the Jewish economy were the greatest part of

God's solemn worship, were commanded to be offered up

with fire; and no other fire could sanctify them but that

miraculously sent down from heaven, or from the pre-

sence of God in the sanctuary, which was ever after kept

burning for that very use. Lev. 9:24; 6:9.  So, truly, all

our christian sacrifices both of praise and of prayer must

be offered up to God with fire; and that fire which alone

can sanctify them, must be darted down from heaven: the

celestial flame of zeal and love which comes down from

heaven and hath a natural tendency to ascend thither

again, and to carry up our hearts and souls upon its wings

with it.

     But indeed too often our duties are--

     Offered up with strange unhallowed fire.  They are fired

by some unruly passion of hatred, or self-love, or pride and

vain-glory.  Like those choleric disciples that presently

would command fire to come down from heaven to con-

sume those who had affronted them by refusing to give

them entertainment, only that God by such a severe mi-

racle might vindicate their reputation and revenge the

contumely that was done them.  But this is a fire kindled

from beneath, and therefore our Savior himself sharply

checks their furious zeal, "Ye know not what manner of

spirit ye are of."  Luke 9:55.  And certainly, whenso-


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           113

 

ever we pray thus in the bitterness of our spirits, devot-

ing our enemies to destruction, and that because they are

ours rather than God's; when we pour out a great deal of

gall mingled with our petitions; such a prayer cannot be

from the dove-like spirit of God, which is meek and gentle,

and makes those so who are led and inspired by him.  Every

party and persuasion of men is very ready boldly to pre-

scribe unto God those ways and methods by which he

ought to be glorified; and if any shall but question their

principles or oppose their rash and unwarrantable pro-

ceedings, their touchy zeal is straight kindled, and nothing

less than solemn prayers must be made to devote such a

one to ruin and destruction, as an enemy to God and to

religion.  Here is fire indeed!  but it is wild-fire kindled

from beneath; the fuel of it is faction, popularity, pride,

contention, and vain-glory; and it sends forth a great

deal of smoke from corrupt and inordinate passions.

      Again, if there be none of the former incentives to heat

them, then our duties are commonly very cold and

heartless.

     Our prayers are dull and yawning, and drop over our

lips without any spirit or life in them: how often do we

beg God to hear us when we scarce hear ourselves! and

to grant us an answer when we scarce know what it is

that we have asked!  We make our requests so coldly and

indifferently, as if we only begged a denial.

     So likewise in our hearing of the word, we bring with

us very slight and profane spirits to those holy and lively

oracles.  What else mean the vagrancy and wanderings of

our thoughts; our lazy and unbeseeming postures, which

would be counted rude and unmannerly to be used in the

presence of some of those that are with us in our wor-


114             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

ship, were they any where else but in the church?  What

means our weariness; our watching every sand that

runs; our despising the simplicity of the Gospel; our

prizing the sound of words more than the weight of

things; but especially our indulged sloth and drowsiness?

a sin that I have observed is too common.  What, cannot

you watch with God one hour?  Do we speak poppy and

opium to you?  Or do you expect that God will now re-

veal himself to you in dreams?  Have ye not houses, have

ye not beds to sleep in; or do you despise the church of

Christ?  Certainly God requires our most wakeful and vi-

gilant attention when he delivers to us the most important

things of his law and of our salvation.  These, and many

other things, which to particularize would perhaps be to

descend below the majesty of this work, do too evidently

declare that the precious truths of the Gospel are grown

vile among us; that we have taken a surfeit of this hea-

venly manna, this bread of life, and now begin to loathe it.

Beware lest this surfeit bring after it a famine.

     It plainly argues much profaneness in our spirits when

we bring only our outward man, our dull and heavy car-

casses to attend upon God, while our hearts and minds are

straying and wandering from him.  This is a sign that we

despise God, and account any thing good enough, the

lame and the blind, to be offered to him.  Against such

God hath thundered out a most dreadful curse, Mal.

1:14, "Cursed be the deceiver, who hath in his flock a

male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt

thing; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts,

and my name is dreadful."  Thou, who sufferest thy

thoughts, or thine eyes which are the index of them, to

rove in prayer, or to be sealed up with sleep in hearing,


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           115

 

thou despisest the great God before whom thou appear-

est, and thinkest it enough if thou affordest him thy bodily

presence, although thy heart be with the eyes of the fool

in the ends of the earth; for such a service is but mock-

ery, and it is less reproachful to tender God no service

than to perform it slightly and ceremoniously: the one is

disobedience, but the other is contempt.

     (5.)  He is a profane person that performs holy duties

for worldly ends and advantage.

     For what greater contempt of God can there be than

to make his service truckle under the base and low de-

signs of this present life?  This is to make religion tribu-

tary to interest, and God himself a homage to mammon.

And this all hypocrites are guilty of: though they mask

their designs with specious pretences, and draw the veil

of religion over their sordid and wicked contrivances;

yet they cry out, with Jehu, "Come, see my zeal for

the Lord," when he drove on so furiously only for the

kingdom.

     Indeed, a hypocrite, though he be not commonly so

esteemed, is the most profane wretch that lives.  The

gross, profligate sinner offers not half so much indignity

to religion as he doth. For,

      The hypocrite calls in God to be an accomplice and par-

taker with him in his crimes; and so makes God to be the

patron of sin, who will be the judge and condemner of

sinners.

     All his injustice, rapine and rebellion are colored over

with the fair pretence of the glory of God, the interest

of the kingdom of Christ, the advancement of the power

of godliness, reformation of idolatry and superstition, &c.

and there is no act of fraud or violence, faction or sedi-


116             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

 

tion but he thinks it justified and hallowed by these glo-

rious names: which is nothing else but to rob men and

I make God the receiver, who is the detester, and will be

the punisher of such crimes.  Now the open and flagi-

tious wretch, although he hates God as much as the hypo-

crite, yet he doth not so much deride him:  his wicked-

nesses are plain and avowed, and every one may see

from whence they proceed and whither they tend; that

they come from hell, and directly tend thither:  religion

is not at all concerned to color but only to condemn

them.  And judge ye which doth most despise God and

godliness; he who professeth it not at all, or he who pro-

fesseth it only that he may abuse and abase it, and make

it subservient to vile and sordid ends infinitely unwor-

thy of it.

     Again, the wound religion receives from hypocrites is far

more dangerous find incurable than that .inflicted on it by

the open and scandalous sinner.

     For religion is never brought into question by the enor-

mous vices of an infamous person; all see and all abhor

his sin.  But when a man shall have his mouth full of

piety and his hands full of wickedness, when he shall

speak scripture and live devilism, profess strictly and

walk loosely, this lays a grievous stumbling-block in the

way of others; and tempts them to think that all religion

is but mockery, and that the professors of it are but hypo-

crites; and so imbitters their hearts against it as a so-

lemn cheat put upon the credulous world.  Certainly such

men are the causes of all that contempt which is cast

upon the ways and ordinances of God; and their secret

profaneness hath given occasion to the gross and open

profaneness that now abounds in the world, and the


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           117

 

hypocrisy of former years hath too fatally introduced the

atheism of these.

      Nay, a hypocrite must needs be an atheist; and in his

heart deny many of God's glorious attributes, but espe-

cially his omniscience; and say within himself, as those,

Psalm 73:11, "How doth God know, and is there

knowledge in the Most High?"  For did they but believe

that God looks through all their disguises; and that his

eye, which is light unto itself, pierceth into their very

souls: did they but seriously consider that all things are

naked and open before him; that he knows our thoughts

afar off, and is privy to our closest designs, they would

not certainly be either so daringly wicked or so childishly

foolish as to plot upon God, and seek to deceive and

delude Omniscience.

    This profaneness of the hypocrite, in seeking temporal

things by spiritual pretences, is much more abominable

than the profaneness of others who seek them by unjust

and unlawful means; for the one only makes impiety, but

the other piety itself an instrument of his vile and sordid

profit, than which there cannot be a greater scorn and

contempt put upon religion.

    (6.)  He is a profane person who makes what God hath

sanctified common and unhallowed.

     And have we not many such profane persons among

us?  Many that abuse the holy and reverend name of

God, which ought to be had in the highest esteem and

veneration, about light and frivolous matters?  who only

make mention of him in their idle chat, but are mute and

dumb when any thing should be spoken to his praise?

Many that profane his Sabbaths; and although God hath

liberally allowed them six days for the affairs of earth,


118             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

yet will not spare the seventh for the affairs of heaven,

but impiously invade what he hath set apart and conse-

crated for himself and his own immediate worship and

service?  Many that never speak scripture but when

they abuse it; making the Bible their jest-book, and

prostituting those phrases and expressions which God

hath sanctified to convey unto us the knowledge of him-

self and eternal life, to the laughter and mirth of their

loose companions?  So that those very words which the

Holy Ghost inspired into the penmen of the Sacred

Scriptures for the edification of the church, the devil

inspires into these wretches for their own damnation and

the damnation of those that have pleasure in such horrid

profaneness.

     (7.)  He is a profane person who despiseth spiritual pri-

vileges and enjoyments.

     Upon this very account the Scripture sets that black

and indelible brand upon Esau:  "Lest there be any

profane person among you, as Esau, who for one morsel

of meat sold his birthright."  Heb. 12:16.  And why is

Esau stigmatized as profane for selling his birthright, but

because in those first ages of the world the first-born or

eldest of the family was a priest, and that sacred function

by right of primogeniture belonged unto him?  and there-

fore we read that the tribe of Levi were taken by God to

be his priests and ministers, in exchange for the first-

born.  Now, to slight and undervalue an office so holy

and sacred, a privilege so eminent, a dignity so sublime

and spiritual--to part with it only for the satisfying of

his hunger--was a sign of a profane spirit; in preferring

the god, his belly, before the God of heaven; and. for

ever renouncing his right of sacrificing to the true God,


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           119

 

on1y that he might sacrifice one pleasant morsel to his

impatient appetite.

      And certainly, if it were so profane in Esau to slight

and contemn the priesthood in himself, they are also pro-

fane who vilify it in others, and make those the objects

of their lowest scorn and contempt whose office it is to

stand and minister before God and Christ.  Certainly, if a

dishonor done to an ambassador reflects upon the prince that

sent him, will not Christ account it as an affront and injury

done to him, when you affront and injure those his messen-

gers and ambassadors whom he hath sent to treat with you

in his name, and about the concerns of his kingdom?

    But, not to speak more of this, lest we should be thought

to plead for ourselves; are not those profane who despise

and contemn the high privileges and dignity of the chil-

dren of God?  who despise those whom God so highly

honors as to adopt them into his own family, to admit

them into near communion and endearment with himself,

to make them his own sons, and give them the privilege

of heirs of eternal g1ory?  Doubtless, he who despiseth

him that is begotten, despiseth him likewise that beget-

teth; and the common disrespect which is shown to the

servants and children of God, argues a secret contempt

of him who is their Master and their Father.

     Now lay these things to your own hearts, and bring

them home to your own consciences, and see whether you

are in none of these particulars guilty of profaneness.  Do

none of you think slightly of religion; accounting it either

a politic design or a needless preciseness?  Are none of

you negligent in the public worship and service of God,

nor yet in private and family duties; or, if you perform

them, is it not very carelessly and formally; or, if you


120             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

seem zealous in them, is not your zeal excited by some

temporal advantages, and low, base, worldly ends and de-

signs?  Do you not make that common and unhallowed

which God hath made holy; either by abusing his name,

polluting his Sabbaths, or vilifying his word in your ordi-

nary raillery?  And lastly, do none of you despise spiritual

privi1eges and enjoyments, and those likewise who are in

vested with them?  If so, how fair and specious soever

your lives and actions may be, although you may think

the rude debauched sinner at a vast distance from your-

selves, and account him the only profane person; yet, cer-

tainly, this black style belongs as properly to you; and

you are profane violators of this first command, which

requires you to take the Lord for your God, and accord-

ingly to honor and reverence him and whatsoever apper-

tains to him.

     IV.  The fourth and last breach of this command is by

IDOLATRY:  Thou shalt have no other gods before me;

which they are guilty of who set up any other god be-

sides the Lord Jehovah.

     Idolatry, according to its etymology and use, signifies a

serving of images or idols. Now, an idol, though it pro-

perly signifies an artificial effigy or resemblance made to

represent any thing or person; yet, in divinity, it signifies

any thing besides the true God, unto which we ascribe

divine honor and worship.

      And, as an idol is twofold; one internal, in the fiction

and imagination of the mind; another, external and visible,

either the work of men's hands, as statues and images, or

else the work of God's hands, as the sun, moon, and stars,

or any other creature:  so there is a twofold idolatry; the


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           121

 

one internal, when in our minds and affections we honor

and venerate that as God which indeed is not so, but is

either a creature of the true God, or a fiction of a deluded

fancy; the other external, which we are then guilty of,

when we express the inward veneration of our souls by

outward acts of adoration.  As, for instance, whosoever

shall believe the consecrated bread in the sacrament to be

transubstantiated and changed into the true and proper

body of Jesus Christ, and, upon this belief, shall in his

mind revere and honor it as his God, as the papists do, he

is guilty of internal idolatry: but if, to this internal vene-

ration he add any external rites of worship, as prostra-

tion, invocation, &c. he is then likewise guilty of exter-

nal idolatry.

     It is the former of these two kinds of idolatry which is

here prohibited in this first commandment, Thou shalt

have no other gods before me: that is, thou shalt not give

to any thing, either in heaven or earth, that inward

heart-worship of affiance, love, fear, veneration, and de-

pendance, which is due only to the true God, the Lord

Jehovah.

     The imperate acts, or outward expressions of this in-

ward worship, are that which we call external idolatry,

which is specially forbidden in the second commandment.

of which I shall treat in its place and order.

     Now concerning this internal idolatry, observe these

following propositions:

     1.  Whosoever acknowledgeth, and in his heart worship-

peth another God, different from that God who hath re-

vealed himself to us in his holy Scriptures, is guilty of

this internal idolatry, and the breach of this first com-

mandment.

Commandments.


122             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     And therefore, not only are those idolaters who wor-

ship the devil; or those that have recourse to diabo-

lical arts and charms; or those who worship men, whose

vices were their apotheosis, and their crimes their con-

secration; as Bacchus, and Venus, and others of the

heathenish gods; or those who worshipped men famous

for their virtues, as the heathens did their heroes, and

the papists do their saints; or those, who worship any

of the creatures of God, as the host of heaven, fire as the

Persians, or water as the Egyptians, or the creatures of

art, as statues and images, as if possessed and animated

by their deities; in which respect Trismegistus called im-

ages the bodies of the gods;* (and with the same madness

are the papists possessed, who are persuaded that God,

and Christ, and the saints dwell in certain images made

to represent them, and by those images give answers to

their votaries, and perform many wonderful and miracu-

lous works; whereas, if there be any spirit that possess-

eth them, as perhaps there may, we have reason to be-

lieve that, since their worship of them is the very same

with the heathens, those spirits are likewise the same,

viz. not God, nor saints, but devils and damned spirits;)

I say, not only these are idolaters and transgressors

of this first command, but those also who compound a

God partly out of the figment of their own erroneous

minds, and partly out of his own infinite attributes: and

thus are all Arians, Socinians and Antitrinitarians guilty

of idolatry; for they acknowledge one infinite and eter-

nal Being, but, denying the persons of the Son and the

Holy Ghost, they worship an idol, and not the true God,

 

*Aug. de Civ. Dei. 1. viii. c. 23.


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           123

 

for the only true God is the Father, the Son, and the

Holy Ghost.

     2.  Whosoever acknowledgeth, and in his heart wor-

shippeth more gods than the only Lord Jehovah, is guilty

of idolatry, and the violation of this first commandment.

     Thus was the idolatry of those nations which the king

of Assyria planted in Israel, after he had carried away

the ten tribes into captivity; for it is said "that they

feared the Lord, and served their own gods."  2 Kings,

17:33.  And upon this account also are all Arians and

Socinians, who deny the natural divinity of Jesus Christ,

justly charged with idolatry; for since they say that

Christ is God, and worship him as God, and yet deny that

he is of the same nature and substance with the Lord

Jehovah, they must of necessity make more gods than

one, and those of a diverse essence and being; and there-

fore they are not only guilty of blasphemy, but idolatry:

of blasphemy, in robbing Christ of his eternal Sonship

and the Divine nature; of idolatry, in attributing divine

honor and worship unto him whom they believe to be

but a creature, and not God by nature.

     3.  Whosoever doth ascribe or render to any creature

that which is proper and due only unto God, is an idolater,

and guilty of the transgression of this first commandment.

Now this attributing of the divine properties to crea-

tures is either explicit or implied; explicit, when we

avow the attributes of the divine nature to be in those

things which are not capable of them, as those who hold

the body of Christ to be omnipresent; implied, when we

render unto any creature that inward worship, esteem

and affection-which is due only to the infinite perfections

of the Deity.


124             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

     And although our reformed religion be very well

purged from the former idolatry, yet certainly the pro-

fessors of it are not well purged from this latter idolatry;

for, even among Protestants themselves, we shall find

very many that are in this sense idolaters.  For,

     (1.)  Whosoever chiefly and supremely loves any crea

ture, is an idolater; because our chiefest love is due only

to God.

      Hence the covetous person is expressly called an idola-

ter; and covetousness, idolatry. Col. 3: 5.  "Mortify your"

earthly" members; uncleanness, evil concupiscence, and

covetousness, which is idolatry."  Likewise the sensual

epicure is an idolater; his belly, saith the apostle, is his

god. Phil. 3 : 19.  The proud person is an idolater; for

he loves himself supremely, sets up himself for his

own idol, and falls prostrate before that image which he

hath portrayed of his own perfections, in his own fancy

and imagination.  And generally all who love and ad-

mire any thing above God, or esteem any thing so dear

that they would not willingly part with it for his sake,

have set up another god before him, to which they give

that service and respect which is due only to the great

God of heaven.

     (2.)  Whosoever puts his trust and confidence in any creature

more than in God, is guilty of this inward heart-idolatry.

     As when we depend on interest, or power, or policy

for our safeguard and success, more than on that God

who is able both with and without created helps and

means to relieve us.  And that we do so, appears when

we are secure and confident in the enjoyment of such

created comforts and supports, but altogether diffident

and dejected when we are deprived of them; for since


FIRST COMMANDMENT.           125

 

God is always the same, we should likewise have the

same courage and spirit, did we place our whole trust

in him.

    (3.)  He is an idolater, and a very gross one, who sets

up any creature in his heart, whether saint or angel, to

pray to it, and to betake himself to it as a refuge in his

straits and necessities.

     For invocation properly belongs to God alone, as an

act of worship which he hath challenged to himself, and

the highest glory that we can give to his Divine Majesty.

And therefore he hath commanded us, Psalm 50:15,

"Call upon me," not upon any saint or angel, "in the

time of trouble, and I will deliver thee."  And therefore

papists are most gross and stupid idolaters, who direct

their petitions, not to God, but to saints and angels:

which is nothing else but to advance them into his throne,

and to ascribe to them his infinite perfections; for prayer

and adoration suppose the object of it to be omnipresent

and omnipotent; omnipresent to hear, and omnipotent to

save, or else they are in vain.


THE SECOND COMMANDMENT.

 

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any grave image, or any

   likeness of any thing which is in heaven, above, or that

   is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the

   earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor

   serve them:  for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God,

   visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children

   unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate

   me: and showing mercy unto thousands of them that

   love me, and keep my commandments."

 

     IDOLATRY is twofold, either spiritual and internal, re-

siding in the affections and disposition of the soul; or

more gross and external, consisting in a visible adoration

of any thing besides God.  The former is forbidden in the

First Commandment, as we have already seen; and the

latter is particularly forbidden in this Second Command-

ment, to which our attention will now be directed.

     In this Commandment we have two parts: the Pre-

cept itself, and the Sanction of the precept, each of which

is twofold.

     The precept runs negatively in two several prohibi-

tions, both tending to the same end and effect; the one

forbidding images to be made, "Thou shalt not make to

thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing;" the

other forbidding them to be worshipped, "Thou shalt not

bow down thyself before them, nor serve them."

     The sanction contains a severe commination or threat-

ening against those that shall presume to violate this

command:  "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, vi-

siting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto


SECOND COMMANDMENT.               127

 

the third and fourth generation;" and also for the encou-

ragement of obedience, a gracious promise, of "showing

mercy unto thousands that love God and keep his com-

mandments."

     I shall begin with the COMMAND, or PROHIBITION.  And

this, as I said, is twofold:  Thou shalt not make images:

Thou shalt not worship them.  Not that the carver's or

printer's art, but only the people's idolatry--not that the

ingenuity in making, but the stupidity in worshipping

those dumb representations--is here forbidden.  The

brazen serpent in the wilderness, the cherubim, and

other resemblances in the temple, are a sufficient proof

and evidence of this.

     This prohibition, therefore, must be interpreted ac-

cording to the subject matter here spoken of, and that

being only divine worship, it is plain that it is not unlaw-

ful to represent to the eye any visible thing by an arti-

ficial image of it, but only when God saith, Thou shalt

not make, and Thou shalt not worship, the meaning is,

Thou shalt not make any thing with an intention of wor-

ship; and, Thou shalt not worship any thing which thou

or others have made.  But, concerning the prohibition of

this command, I shall speak more hereafter.

     For the more full and clear understanding of this pre-

cept, I must desire you to recall to mind one of those sev-

eral general rules mentioned in the Introduction as help-

ful to instruct you in the due extent and latitude of the

Commandments, namely, that the negative commands all

include the injunction of the contrary positive duties: as,

when God forbids the taking of his name in vain, by

consequence he commands the hallowing and sanctifying


128             THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

 

of his name; where he forbids murder, he commands all

lawful care and endeavor to preserve our own and the

life of others; where, in the First Precept, he forbids the

owning and cleaving to any other god besides himself,

he enjoins us to acknowledge him as our God, to love,

fear, and hope in him only.  So, here in this Second

Command, where he forbids the worshipping of images,

by consequence he requires us to worship him according

to the rules he hath prescribed us.  Therefore, as under

the First Command is comprehended whatsoever apper-

tains to the internal worship of God; so, under this

Second is comprehended whatsoever appertains to the

external and visible worship of God.

    Here I shall first speak of the external and visible

worship of God; and then of those sins which are con-

trary to it, and condemned in this Commandment.

    

     I.  Concerning the WORSHIP OF GOD I shall lay down

the six following propositions:

     1. The true and spiritual worship of God IN GENERAL,

is an action of a pious soul, wrought and excited in us by

the Holy Ghost" whereby, with godly love and fear, we

serve God acceptably, according to his will revealed in his

Word; by faith embracing his promises, and in obedience

performing his commands; to his glory, the edification of

others, and our own eternal salvation.