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tian to be careful to maintain good works, and to seek to be perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect.-AMEN.
PREFACE TO THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
EXODUS XX. 2.
“I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the
land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."
In this chapter we have the ten commandments, containing a summary of the moral law. These commandments
were delivered to the nation of Israel from Mount Sinai, immediately by the voice of God himself. The circumstances attending their delivery were such as showed their great importance, and were peculiarly calculated to impress mankind with awe, and lead them to obedience. The people were apprised that the Lord was about to come down upon Mount Sinai; and were commanded to sanctify themselves for two days before, and to wash their clothes.-Bounds were set round about the mountain; and both man and beast were forbidden to touch it under pain of death. And when the Lord came down upon the mount, “there were thunders, and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled—and Mount Sinai, was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly." Ex. xix. 16, 18. With such solemn circumstances accompanying, and with such terrible majesty, were the ten commandments given, by the voice of God himself. The whole transaction was calculated to awe the Israelites into obeforce; and not only the Israelites, but us also, and all and
in after ages should be made acquainted with these
commandments, and the manner in which they were given.
Our text is the preface or introduction to the ten commandments, and contains reasons to enforce our obedience to them.
We shall in the ensuing discourse endeavour to illustrate the import of this preface.
This subject is contained in our Catechism in the ansa wers to the 43 and 44th questions
“ What is the preface to the ten commandments ?
“ The preface to the ten commandments is in these words, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
What doth the preface to the ten commandments teach us?
The preface to the ten commandments teacheth us, that because God is the Lord, and our God and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.”
Our text contains three reasons why we should keep the moral law, as summarily comprehended in the ten commandments ; viz.
I. Because God is the Lord_“I am the Lord.”
III. Because he is our Redeemer-"Which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
I. The first reason why we should keep God's commandments is, he is the Lord I am the Lord”-or Jehovah. God here asserts his sovereignty, or his absolute right to reign, and give laws to his creatures, and therefore their duty to obey his laws, from the consideration of what he is. Jehovah is the incommunicable name of God, signifying essential existence. It expresses his beingGod here gives his essential being as a reason of his right of authority over his creatures, and of their obligations of obedience to his commandments. The perfections of God are the same with his being. His essential perfections are therefore here brought into view, as constituting a foundation of man's obligation to render obedience to his commandments.
God is self existent. He is Jehovah-the I AM–the self existent being, having his being in and of himself, and giving being to all things else. He is the first cause of all things; for nothing else is self existent; all thinr
else are derived from him, and dependent on him, and therefore are his. He gave them being according to his will, and he made them for himself; and therefore he has an indisputable right to govern his creatures according to his will, and all who are capable of knowing his will, are under indispensable obligations to render obedience.
Again, as Lord or Jehovah, he is infinitely wise ; for as he is the first cause of all things, every perfection which we see in creatures, must in an infinite degree belong to him. Therefore his laws, which must be an expression of his will, as he is independent of every creature, and can be under no bias from others to influence his will, must also be, like himself, infinitely wise.
Infinite goodness is also included in the name Jehovah. This is an essential perfection of God—“God is love," 1 John iv. 8. “ Abundant in goodness and truth,” Ex. xxxiv. 6. This perfection will invariably lead him to frame such laws as will best conduce to the happiness of his creatures, and in promoting the general good, and in keeping of which individual happiness will be best secured.
Strict justice is also another essential attribute of God. “ All his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he,” Deut. xxxii. 4. “ Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne,” Ps. Lxxxix. 14. Hence it follows that God can will nothing but what is right, and therefore that he will always govern according to strict right, and have respect in his laws to all the rights of all his creatures. Creatures therefore, who desire to do right, and to have that which is right done to them, are always safe in the hands of such a Law-giver.
Again, omnipresence and omniscience are perfections essential to the divine being. He is present to all his creatures; “ for in him we live and move and have our being,” Acts xvii. 28. And he perfectly knoweth all his creatures. “ Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight; but all things are naked, and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do,” Heb. iv. 13. 6 The Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the iroaginations of the thoughts,” i Chron. xxviji. 9. “ The righteous God trieth the hearts and reins,” Ps. i. 9. He therefore cannot be deceived, and perfectly ws how to distribute justice to every one.
Again, as Jehovah he is all-sufficient. He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," Eph. iii.
20. He is abundantly able to supply all the necessities of all his creatures. He has an infinite fulness from which to relieve them amidst all their distresses, and to reward them for their obedience.
Further, as Jehovah he is omnipotent. He is the Almighty God. He has all power to enforce his all-wise, benevolent and righteous laws; to protect and reward the obedient, and punish the disobedient; and thus to secure the good of his creatures at large, and the individual happiness of his obedient subjects.
Such a being is God. He is self-existent having his being in and of himself, giving being to all other creatures, and supporting them in existence, and therefore having an absolute right to give them laws and require their obedience; and he also possesses such perfections as ev. ery way qualify him to govern, and to secure the general good, and the rights of individuals, and their happiness too if they be obedient. He has infinite wisdom to know how to frame the best laws; infinite benevolence to lead him to give the best laws; infinite justice to influence him to give laws, which will secure the rights of all his subjects; omnipresence and omniscience, to be always at hand, and always knowing, to all the wants, and all the motives of action, and all the deserts of all his creatures; all-sufficiency to support all their necessities, and reward their obedience; and almighty power to enforce his laws, fulfil his promises to the obedient, and execute his threatnings upon the disobedient. Such a being is certainly every way fitted to reign, and has an absolute right to govern. This argument therefore in the preface to the ten commandments runs thus; “ I am the Lord,” or Jehovah—the self-existent being, the supreme first cause of all things, an all wise, infinitely good and just, an every where present, omniscient, all-sufficient, and almighty being, therefore thou shalt obey my laws—“thou shalt have no other gods before me, &c."
This character of God makes his will a law, whether we can discover any thing in the reason and fitness of things to oblige us to obedience or not. In many of the laws which he has given us, we can discover a suitableness or fitness in them, obligating us to obedience, and
this is the case with the chief of the precepts of the ten commandments, but where this is not the case, considering the character of God, a "thus saith the Lord,” is a sufficient reason why we should render obedience, He has an absolute right to command what he pleases; for he can command nothing but what is right; and when his will is made known, we are under indispensable obligations to render implicit obedience. So that positive precepts, until revoked by the Law-giver are equally binding with natural precepts, except where they clash with each other, and then we are to obey natural precepts rather than positive.
We proceed to the
II. Reason mentioned in our text to enforce obedience to the ten commandments, viz. that the Lord is our God, “ I am the Lord, thy God." This reason is drawn from the covenant of grace; and is an additional reason to the one which we have just considered—“I am the Lord,” why men, to whom God is revealed in this character, should obey his commandments. They ought to obey his commandments, not only because he is the Lord, or is what he is; but also because he offers himself in the covenant of grace, to be the reconciled God of all who will truly believe in his Son; and because he really sustains this relation to all his people. That the covenant of grace is here intended and brought into view, we learn from the general meaning of the phrase, “ thy God” throughout the Scriptures ; for this phrase uniformly refers to the covenant of grace. When man fell and brake the covenant of works, God ceased to be his God. He became his enemy and angry with him every day; and is still angry with him, unreconciled to him, and allows him no part nor lot in his favour, when he beholds him as under the first covenant.
But in the covenant of grace through Christ, God offers himself as a reconciled God and portion, and becomes such to all who truly believe in his Son. It was in reference to this covenant that God addressed the Israelites, at Sinai, who were in visible covenant with him, and called himself their God. And a particular reference was evidently here made to the covenant made with their ancestor Abraham, which clearly was the covenant of grace. In this covenant God had promised to be the God of Abra