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holy spirit;" and that after each commandment in particular, 'they have put a prayer for mercy on past transgression; and for grace, for the future“ inclining of our hearts to keep it." The relation thus obvious between the code of duty and the prayers attached to it, ought to be especially noticed; because it tends most powerfully to render this part of our Sunday service instructive, to those who habitually use it with holy purpose and with devout desire.
But the most edifying view, in which we can contemplate the solemnities attached to the delivery of the law, is in that condemning property of it, accord. ing to which all mankind stand guilty under it, before a holy God. It is an unanswerable argument brought by the apostle of the Gentiles, against the notion of being justified by the law, that it pronounced with unrelenting severity—"cursed is every one, who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."* It is not to be supposed, however, that the Jewish system and the Christian are at variance, in this particular. On the contrary they are only so far diverse, as that the one is the consummation of the other. The sacrifices under the old economy were prefigurations of an all-sufficient sacrifice, to be made in due time for sin; having the intermediate effect of preventing every transgression from being the occasion of despair; and the covenant under which the nation had bound itself, from being the sealing of their own unavoidable condemnation.
In the Catechism, the person addressed is asked Goncerning "the number of the commandments, and which they are.” He answers, that they are “ Ten," and that they are “the same which God spake in the twentieth chapter of Exodus, saying—"I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” The thus prefacing of the commandments, at the time of the delivery of them, was suited to the solemnity of the whole transaction.
* Degt, sxvii. 26.
The doctrine of the unity of God essentially pervaded every part of the theocracy, now established: and hence the propriety of this pointed reference to the late deliverance from Egyptian bondage; the measures for which began with its great author's announcing of himself to bis people, under the title “ I am, that I am:” or the self existent and one only God; and having nothing in common with the fictitious deitiesy the worship of whom made up the dark cloud of idolatry, at that time spreading its covering over the whole race of apostate mankind. To us, who possess the more ample disclosures of the Christian revelation, this intimation introductory to the commandments, should occasionally bring to mind the more important truth that they are from God, who hath now made known those his eternal counsels; the object of which, is a recovery from a worse slavery than that of Egypt the slavery of sin, and subjection to the dominion of the apostate Being, through whose malice it found an entrance into the world.
First commandment-" Thou shalt have none other Gods, but me.” The folly of atheism seems to have been considered as so conspicuous, that there was not occasion to require any positive precept con. cerning the acknowledging of a God; and that the prohibition of false gods, was the only matter to be. attended to. And indeed, whatever some speculative individuals may have wickedly obtruded on the world, that deserves the name of atheism; there never was, and there never will be a social body held together, without a popular belief in an intelligence, superiour to that possessed by mortals, and vested in one, who is the rewarder of the good, and the punisher of the wicked. But besides; it is necessary to take notice of a principle reasonable in itself, and required by the brevity of the present summary. The principle is, that the negative precept implies the affirmative of the opposite to the matter spoken of: that is, as appli. cable in the present instance, the probibition of having no other Gods than one, implies the having of him as an object of adoration, with all the consequences involved in it. There will be noticed, as we go along, some other rules of construction, similar to this. Lest it should seem too great a liberty of interpretation, we should remark, that it grows out of the circumstance, of there being a further unfolding of the matter of the ten commandments, in the other books of the Pentateuch; and especially in Deuteronomy. The admirable precepts contained in that book are declared to be delivered under divine command: and therefore the laws of the two tables—as they are called-can no otherwise be considered as an entire code; than under the presumption of its containing in substance, what was elsewhere to be more largely opened and more specially applied.
On the subject of the Creed, we considered the existence of a divine Being, as that to which there should be referred whatever concerns his agency in nature, in providence, and in grace. Here, it will be more to the purpose, to consider his will, as the paramount rule of whatever is obligatory on man, in regard to what he is to be, or to what he is to perform. There are too many ways of setting up another standard, as in moral fitness; or in the beauty of virtue; or in social good; or--what is the most common of all and the oftenest prostituted in the law of honour. It is not here meant, that these principles are without their use; on the contrary, they are all excellent, as subsidiaries. What is affirmed is, that man, as a moral being, is the subject of a law; that there can be no law without a sanction; and that the sanction, in the present case, is the approbation on the one hand, and the disapprobation on the other, of the Almighty lawgiver. Concerning every scheme of morals, which rests them on any other ground, we need not hesitate to affirm-not that it is absolutely Atheism, but that it contains whatever of that dark system has a tendency to corrupt. the conscience, and to demoralize the conduct. Under such a scheme, there may remain some motives to the abstaining from injuries, and even to the perform
ance of laudable actions: but the motives will not be such, as are a counterpoise to the passions of the human heart, and adequate to the exigences of human life. These remarks have been dictated by the consideration, that the contrary position is the very soul of many of our modern theories of infidelity; and that it is made to steal on the attention, and to conciliate approbation, not in the undisguised forms of irreligion and of vice; but with the imposing appearance of being friendly to virtue, and especially to beneficence in all its exercises.
Second commandment: “Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likenss of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them nor worship them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God; and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and show mercy unto thousands in them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
It is a strong proof of the corruption of human nature, and of the constant tendency of our frailties to draw us off from the acknowledgment of one only God, the creator and the preserver of all things, visible and invisible; when we find, that in like manner as the Jewish Church became the worshippers of wood and stone, notwithstanding these opposing instructions, so positive and expressed in such varied phraseology, as indicates extraordinary desire to be explicit; the whole Christian Church for many ages, and the greater part of it at the present day, have fallen into the same errour, by making to themselves images of men and women, and by falling down and worshipping them; contrary to the tenour of this commandment. What though a distinction is taken between a higher and an inferiour grade of worship: it is not materially different from what was professed by the ancient heathen; in the adoration of the image of their Jupiter, and in that paid to deities of inferiour note.
What looks like an involuntary confession of unfaithfulness, is the liberty taken with the second of the Commandments. In the form in which they are exhibited by the Roman Church, this commandment is consolidated with the first, and sometimes even omitted. But as the Commandments are expressly declared to amount to ten, in Deut. 4. 13. and else. where; to make up for the omission or consolidation, the tenth is divided into two; although the subject of it is one-the prohibiting of the coveting of what is our neighbours', applied to different articles of his rights. In regard to what we call the second com. mandment, it is affirined on the other side, to be a mere continuation of the first. This lessens the weight of the commandment, as having for its sole object, a corruption to which the Israelites were so manifestly prone: although the prohibition stands in its full force, against the offering of adoration to any object of sense. This
part of the subject ought not to be left, without a solemn caution to every one within hearing, against the least approach towards the species of worship forbidden in the second commandment: not only forbidden, but in terms strongly expressive of the displeasure of almighty God, at the doing so in any form. Fidelity to sacred truth requires to add, that all invocation of departed saints, and all prostration of the body before their images and their pic. tures, or before such artificial representations of any sort, lies under the pressure of the prohibition in the text. But it would be a peryersion of what is now de. livered, if it should excite in any mind the spirit of intolerance towards others, because of any practices which we condemn. [See Dissertation V.]
It may be proper, before we leave this command. ment, to take notice of what it affirms, of God's vi. siting of the sins of the fathers on the children; and of his showing mercy to the offspring of those who love him. In the former kind of visitation, some have found a stumbling block; but with little reason, be. cause they need but to look around them in the world,