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EXPOSITION OF THE DECALOGUE.
Although this System of Precepts may seem to have been in its design rather political than moral; to regard public and external rather than private and interior action; although it seemeth particularly to concern the Jewish nation, a people called and chosen by God out of all nations, to be governed in a more special and immediate manner by Himself, and although some passages herein, according to their primary, strict, and literal meaning, might never have been intended universally and perpetually to oblige;
Yet notwithstanding these exceptions, if we consider,
1. The manner of its delivery; with what extraordinary solemnity it was proclaimed; how it was dictated immediately from God's own mouth, and written with his finger; or,
2. The matter of it, containing the prime dictates of natural reason, the chief rules of piety toward God and equity toward our neighbour: if we also consider,
3. The end and design of these precepts, which was to ground them in true notions of religion, and to dispose them to the practice of righteousness; to render them loyal and acceptable subjects to God; to promote God's glory, and their own good; which being expressed in general concerning their law, doth more especially agree to this system; being as the base and platform, the heart and quintessence of all their other laws; the which seem added as superstructures on it, or fences thereof;
4. If we also consider, that our Saviour did not derogate from this law, but declared his intention only to expound it, or to amplify and extend it, and how the apostles do sometimes allege some passages in it, as retaining authority and force to oblige;
5. Considering also, farther, that there is no commandment herein which may not in a larger or in a spiritual meaning concern us, obliging us, if not by direct authority in punctual manner to the very same thing, yet as a signification of God's pleasure and approbation, to somewhat answerable and like thereto;
6. Lastly, if we consider that all, or the greatest part of, the main duties concerning us are either plainly expressed or closely insinuated in them, or may at least be conveniently reduced to them ; our Saviour himself having gone before, directing us in the matter and manner of doing it ;Deut. x. 12.
? Rom. vii. 7 ; Eph. vi. 2.
Considering, I say, these things, we have no small reason to yield great veneration to this ancient system of precepts; and to acknowledge the great use thereof in order to the guidance of our life and practice; we accordingly shall so descant thereon, as, by considering the main drift, intrinsic reason, and spiritual intention of each particular, to reduce the chief precepts of Christian doctrine, which oblige us thereto.
Premising thus much, I address my discourse to the particulars, omitting all controverted niceties concerning the division thereof, and all circumstantial questions ; touching only such things as shall appear substantial and useful.
GOD SPAKE ALL THESE WORDS, SAYING : This is a title, or superscription, like the Par de le Roy (By the king) at the head of a proclamation declaring from whom and in what manner that which follows doth come; and therefore implying what it is, and how it should be received.
God spake : it comes from God as Author; and that most immediately, as it were from his own mouth; and hath consequently the nature and force of a law, obliging to highest regard and obedience; as that which proceedeth from the most sovereign, unquestionable, and uncontrollable authority; which is promulged in a way most evident and most direct. Every signification of God's purpose or pleasure is usually called God's word; for God (as the apostle says) "in divers kinds and manners did speak unto the fathers;"I and to every such word our ear should be attentive, our heart should be submissive, our hand should be obedient. But especially they should be so, when God himself immediately declares his mind and will; as he did notoriously in this case, by a great voice, distinctly audible and intelligible, miraculously formed by himself: “Behold," say the people, “the Lord our God hath showed us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire; we have seen this day, that God doth talk with man, and he liveth ;" % and if whatever is in God's name (by message of angels, by inspiration of men, or by any other ways) revealed must be entertained with all submissive respect, what regard is due to that word, which God is pleased, not by his ministers and instruments, but himself in person, as it were, to pronounce?
These words : that is, these speeches, or sentences, for so a word in Scripture-style signifieth, or these things and matters, for the Hebrew word debarim, as the Greek remata, signifieth both words and things: they are several times in the Pentateuch called the “ ten words,” or
ten things :" whence the System of them is named the Decalogue.
All these words: all, without distinction or excep
1 Heb. i. 1.
8 Exod. xxxiv. 28;
Deut. iv. 13; X. 2.
tion, did proceed from the same authority and in the same manner, and all therefore do require the like regard and observance to be yielded to them."
I AM THE LORD (OR, I AM JEHOVAH) THY GOD.
These words are by some taken for a precept; enjoining the acknowledgment and acceptance of God, answerable to what is here implied; and consequently all the positive duties of religion deducible hence; but we see the style is declarative and assertive, not directly imperative: and so it may pass rather as a preface, further enforcing obligation to obedience; wherein are expressed or intimated the chief reasons upon which it is grounded, every word containing in it somewhat of remarkable emphasis.
I am Jehovah ; or that very same God who, under this appellation, discovered myself to thy forefathers; who enacted a special covenant with them; who received homage, worship, and engagements to service from them; who promised especial protection and favour to them and to their seed; that JEHOVAH, who indeed AM, what this name importeth, the only true and real God; eternal, independent, and indefectible in essence; true and infallible in word; constant and immutable in purpose; firm and faithful in performance of whatever I promise or threaten: that same Jehovah I. am; to whose words therefore, upon all accounts of reason,
of Jam. ii. 10, 11; Matt. v. 19.