Calvin, Institutes, Vol.2, Part 9
(... continued from part 8) 

Chapter 8 
8 Exposition of the Moral Law. 
    This chapter consists of four parts. I. Some general 
observations necessary for the understanding of the subject are made 
by way of preface, sec. 1-5. II. Three things always to be attended 
to in ascertaining and expounding the meaning of the Moral Law, sec. 
6-12. III. Exposition of the Moral Law, or the Ten Commandments, 
sec. 13-15. IV. The end for which the whole Law is intended, viz., 
to teach not only elementary principles, but perfection, sec. 51, to 
the end of the chapter. 
1. The Law was committed to writing, in order that it might teach 
    more fully and perfectly that knowledge, both of God and of 
    ourselves, which the law of nature teaches meagrely and 
    obscurely. Proof of this, from an enumeration of the principal 
    parts of the Moral Law; and also from the dictate of natural 
    law, written on the hearts of all, and, in a manner, effaced by 
2. Certain general maxims. 1. From the knowledge of God, furnished 
    by the Law, we learn that God is our Father and Ruler. 
    Righteousness is pleasing, iniquity is an abomination in his 
    sight. Hence, how weak soever we may be, our duty is to 
    cultivate the one, and shun the other. 
3. From the knowledge of ourselves, furnished by the Law, we learn 
    to discern our own utter powerlessness, we are ashamed; and 
    seeing it is in vain to seek for righteousness in ourselves, 
    are induced to seek it elsewhere. 
4. Hence, God has annexed promises and threatening to his promises. 
    These not limited to the present life, but embrace things 
    heavenly and eternal. They, moreover, attest the spotless 
    purity of God, his love of righteousness, and also his kindness 
    towards us. 
5. The Law shows, moreover, that there is nothing more acceptable to 
    God than obedience. Hence, all superstitious and hypocritical 
    modes of worship are condemned. A remedy against superstitious 
    worship and human presumption. 
6. The second part of the chapter, containing three observations or 
    rules. First rule, Our life must be formed by the Law, not only 
    to external honesty, but to inward and spiritual righteousness. 
    In this respect, the Law of God differs from civil laws, he 
    being a spiritual Lawgiver, man not. This rule of great extent, 
    and not sufficiently attended to. 
7. This first rule confirmed by the authority of Christ, and 
    vindicated from the false dogma of Sophists, who say that 
    Christ is only another Moses. 
8. Second observation or rule to be carefully attended to, viz., 
    that the end of the command must be inquired into, until it is 
    ascertained what the Lawgiver approves or disapproves. Example. 
    Where the Law approves, its opposite is condemned, and vice 
9. Full explanation of this latter point. Example. 
10. The Law states what is most impious in each transgression, in 
    order to show how heinous the transgression is. Example. 
11. Third observation or rule regards the division of the Law into 
    Two Tables: the former comprehending our duty to God; the 
    latter, our duty to our neighbour. The connection between these 
    necessary and inseparable. Their invariable order. Sum of the 
12. Division of the Law into Ten Commandments. Various distinctions 
    made with regard to them, but the best distinction that which 
    divides them into Two Tables. Four commandments belong to the 
    First, and six to the Second Table. 
13. The third part of the chapter, containing an exposition of the 
    Decalogue. The preface vindicates the authority of the Law. 
    This it does in three ways. First, by a declaration of its 
14. The preface to the Law vindicates its authority. Secondly, by 
    calling to mind God's paternal kindness. 
15. Thirdly, by calling to mind the deliverance out of the land of 
    Egypt. Why God distinguishes himself by certain epithets. Why 
    mention is made of the deliverance from Egypt. In what way, and 
    how far, the remembrance of this deliverance should still 
    affect us. 
16. Exposition of the First Commandment. Its end. What it is to have 
    God, and to have strange gods. Adoration due to God, trust, 
    invocation, thanksgiving, and also true religion, required by 
    the Commandment. Superstition, Polytheism, and Atheism, 
    forbidden. What meant by the words, "before me." 
17. Exposition of the Second Commandment. The end and sum of it. Two 
    parts. Short enumeration of forbidden shapes. 
18. Why a threatening is added. Four titles applied to God, to make 
    a deeper impression. He is called Mighty, Jealous, an Avenger, 
    Merciful. Why said to be jealous. Reason drawn from analogy. 
19. Exposition of the threatening which is added. First, as to 
    visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children. A 
    misinterpretation on this head refuted, and the genuine meaning 
    of the threatening explained. 
20. Whether this visiting of the sins of parents inconsistent with 
    the divine justice. Apparently conflicting passages reconciled. 
21. Exposition of the latter part, viz., the showing mercy to 
    thousands. The use of this promise. Consideration of an 
    exception of frequent occurrence. The extent of this blessing. 
22. Exposition of the Third Commandment. The end and sum of it. 
    Three parts. These considered. What it is to use the name of 
    God in vain. Swearing. Distinction between this commandment and 
    the Ninth. 
23. An oath defined. It is a species of divine worship. This 
24. Many modes in which this commandment is violated. 1. By taking 
    God to witness what we know is false. The insult thus offered. 
25. Modes of violation continued. 2. Taking God to witness in 
    trivial matters. Contempt thus shown. When and how an oath 
    should be used. 3. Substituting the servants of God instead of 
    himself when taking an oath. 
26. The Anabaptists, who condemn all oaths, refuted. 1. By the 
    authority of Christ, who cannot be opposed in anything to the 
    Father. A passage perverted by the Anabaptists explained. The 
    design of our Saviour in the passage. What meant by his there 
    prohibiting oaths. 
27. The lawfulness of oaths confirmed by Christ and the apostles. 
    Some approve of public, but not of private oaths. The 
    lawfulness of the latter proved both by reason and example. 
    Instances from Scripture. 
28. Exposition of the Fourth Commandment. Its end. Three purposes. 
29. Explanation of the first purpose, viz., a shadowing forth of 
    spiritual rest. This the primary object of the precept. God is 
    therein set forth as our sanctifier; and hence we must abstain 
    from work, that the work of God in us may not be hindered. 
30. The number seven denoting perfection in Scripture, this 
    commandment may, in that respect, denote the perpetuity of the 
    Sabbath, and its completion at the last day. 
31. Taking a simpler view of the commandment, the number is of no 
    consequence, provided we maintain the doctrine of a perpetual 
    rest from all our works, and, at the same time, avoid a 
    superstitious observance of days. The ceremonial part of the 
    commandment abolished by the advent of Christ. 
32. The second and third purposes of the Commandment explained. 
    These twofold and perpetual. This confirmed. Of religious 
33. Of the observance of the Lord's day, in answer to those who 
    complain that the Christian people are thus trained to Judaism. 
34. Ground of this institution. There is no kind of superstitious 
    necessity. The sum of the Commandment. 
35. The Fifth Commandment, (the first of the Second Table,) 
    expounded. Its end and substance. How far honour due to 
    parents. To whom the term father applies. 
36. It makes no difference whether those to whom this honour is 
    required are worthy or unworthy. The honour is claimed 
    especially for parents. It consists of three parts. 1. 
37. Honour due to parents continued. 2. Obedience. 3. Gratitude. Why 
    a promise added. In what sense it is to be taken. The present 
    life a testimony of divine blessing. The reservation considered 
    and explained. 
38. Conversely a curse denounced on disobedient children. How far 
    obedience due to parents, and those in the place of parents. 
39. Sixth Commandment expounded. Its end and substance. God, as a 
    spiritual Lawgiver, forbids the murder of the heart, and 
    requires a sincere desire to preserve the life of our 
40. A twofold ground for this Commandment. 1. Man is the image of 
    God. 2. He is our flesh. 
41. Exposition of the Seventh Command. The end and substance of it. 
    Remedy against fornication. 
42. Continence an excellent gift, when under the control of God 
    only. Altogether denied to some; granted only for a time to 
    others. Argument in favour of celibacy refuted. 
43. Each individual may refrain from marriage so long as he is fit 
    to observe celibacy. True celibacy, and the proper use of it. 
    Any man not gifted with continence wars with God and with 
    nature, as constituted by him, in remaining unmarried. Chastity 
44. Precautions to be observed in married life. Everything repugnant 
    to chastity here condemned. 
45. Exposition of the Eighth Commandment. Its end and substance. 
    Four kinds of theft. The bad acts condemned by this 
    Commandment. Other peculiar kinds of theft. 
46. Proper observance of this Commandment. Four heads. Application. 
    1. To the people and the magistrate. 2. To the pastors of the 
    Church and their flocks. 3. To parents and children. 4. To the 
    old and the young. 5. To servants and masters. 6. To 
47. Exposition of the ninth Commandment. Its end and substance. The 
    essence of the Commandment - detestation of falsehood, and the 
    pursuit of truth. Two kinds of falsehood. Public and private 
    testimony. The equity of this Commandment. 
48. How numerous the violations of this Commandment. 1. By 
    detraction. 2. By evil speaking - a thing contrary to the 
    offices of Christian charity. 3. By scurrility or irony. 4. By 
    prying curiosity, and proneness to harsh judgements. 
49. Exposition of the Tenth Commandment. Its end and substance. What 
    meant by the term Covetousness. Distinction between counsel and 
    the covetousness here condemned. 
50. Why God requires so much purity. Objection. Answer. Charity 
    toward our neighbour here principally commended. Why house, 
    wife, man-servant, maid-servant, ox, and ass, &c., are 
    mentioned. Improper division of this Commandment into two. 
51. The last part of the chapter. The end of the Law. Proof. A 
    summary of the Ten Commandments. The Law delivers not merely 
    rudiments and first principles, but a perfect standard of 
    righteousness, modelled on the divine purity. 
52. Why, in the Gospels and Epistles, the latter table only 
    mentioned, and not the first. The same thing occurs in the 
53. An objection to what is said in the former section removed. 
54. A conduct duly regulated by the divine Law, characterised by 
    charity toward our neighbour. This subverted by those who give 
    the first place to self-love. Refutation of their opinion. 
55. Who our neighbour. Double error of the Schoolmen on this point. 
56. This error consists, I. In converting precepts into counsels to 
    be observed by monks. 
57. Refutation of this error from Scripture and the ancient 
    Theologians. Sophistical objection obviated. 
58. Error of the Schoolmen consists, II. In calling hidden impiety 
    and covetousness venial sins. Refutation drawn, 1. From a 
    consideration of the whole Decalogue. 2. The testimony of an 
    Apostle. 3. The authority of Christ. 4. The nature and majesty 
    of God. 5. The sentence pronounced against sin. Conclusion. 
    1. I believe it will not be out of place here to introduce the 
Ten Commandments of the Law, and give a brief exposition of them. In 
this way it will be made more clear, that the worship which God 
originally prescribed is still in force, (a point to which I have 
already adverted;) and then a second point will be confirmed, viz., 
that the Jews not only learned from the law wherein true piety 
consisted, but from feeling their inability to observe it were 
overawed by the fear of judgements and so drawn, even against their 
will, towards the Mediator. In giving a summary of what constitutes 
the true knowledge of God, we showed that we cannot form any just 
conception of the character of God, without feeling overawed by his 
majesty, and bound to do him service. In regard to the knowledge of 
ourselves, we showed that it principally consists in renouncing all 
idea of our own strength, and divesting ourselves of all confidence 
in our own righteousness, while, on the other hand, under a full 
consciousness of our wants, we learn true humility and 
self-abasement. Both of these the Lord accomplishes by his Law, 
first, when, in assertion of the right which he has to our 
obedience, he calls us to reverence his majesty, and prescribes the 
conduct by which this reverence is manifested; and, secondly, when, 
by promulgating the rule of his justice, (a rule, to the rectitude 
of which our nature, from being depraved and perverted, is 
continually opposed, and to the perfection of which our ability, 
from its infirmity and nervelessness for good, is far from being 
able to attain,) he charges us both with impotence and 
unrighteousness. Moreover, the very things contained in the two 
tables are, in a manner, dictated to us by that internal law, which, 
as has been already said, is in a manner written and stamped on 
every heart. For conscience, instead of allowing us to stifle our 
perceptions, and sleep on without interruption, acts as an inward 
witness and monitor, reminds us of what we owe to God, points out 
the distinction between good and evil, and thereby convicts us of 
departure from duty. But man, being immured in the darkness of 
error, is scarcely able, by means of that natural law, to form any 
tolerable idea of the worship which is acceptable to God. At all 
events, he is very far from forming any correct knowledge of it. In 
addition to this, he is so swollen with arrogance and ambition, and 
so blinded with self-love, that he is unable to survey, and, as it 
were, descend into himself, that he may so learn to humble and abase 
himself, and confess his misery. Therefore, as a necessary remedy, 
both for our dullness and our contumacy, the Lord has given us his 
written Law, which, by its sure attestations, removes the obscurity 
of the law of nature, and also, by shaking off our lethargy, makes a 
more lively and permanent impression on our minds. 
    2. It is now easy to understand the doctrine of the law, viz., 
that God, as our Creator, is entitled to be regarded by us as a 
Father and Master, and should, accordingly, receive from us fear, 
love, reverence, and glory; nay, that we are not our own, to follow 
whatever course passion dictates, but are bound to obey him 
implicitly, and to acquiesce entirely in his good pleasure. Again, 
the Law teaches, that justice and rectitude are a delight, injustice 
an abomination to him, and, therefore, as we would not with impious 
ingratitude revolt from our Maker, our whole life must be spent in 
the cultivation of righteousness. For if we manifest becoming 
reverence only when we prefer his will to our own, it follows, that 
the only legitimate service to him is the practice of justice, 
purity, and holiness. Nor can we plead as an excuse, that we want 
the power, and, like debtors, whose means are exhausted, are unable 
to pay. We cannot be permitted to measure the glory of God by our 
ability; whatever we may be, he ever remains like himself, the 
friend of righteousness, the enemy of unrighteousness, and whatever 
his demands from us may be, as he can only require what is right, we 
are necessarily under a natural obligation to obey. Our inability to 
do so is our own fault. If lust, in which sin has its dominion, so 
enthrals us, that we are not free to obey our Father, there is no 
ground for pleading necessity as a defence, since this evil 
necessity is within, and must be imputed to ourselves. 
    3. When, under the guidance of the Law, we have advanced thus 
far, we must, under the same guidance, proceed to descend into 
ourselves. In this way, we at length arrive at two results: First, 
contrasting our conduct with the righteousness of the Law, we see 
how very far it is from being in accordance with the will of God, 
and, therefore, how unworthy we are of holding our place among his 
creatures, far less of being accounted his sons; and, secondly, 
taking a survey of our powers, we see that they are not only unequal 
to fulfil the Law, but are altogether null. The necessary 
consequence must be, to produce distrust of our own ability, and 
also anxiety and trepidation of mind. Conscience cannot feel the 
burden of its guilt, without forthwith turning to the judgement of 
God, while the view of this judgement cannot fail to excite a dread 
of death. In like manner, the proofs of our utter powerlessness must 
instantly beget despair of our own strength. Both feelings are 
productive of humility and abasement, and hence the sinner, 
terrified at the prospect of eternal death, (which he sees justly 
impending over him for his iniquities,) turns to the mercy of God as 
the only haven of safety. Feeling his utter inability to pay what he 
owes to the Law, and thus despairing of himself, he rethinks him of 
applying and looking to some other quarter for help. 
    4. But the Lord does not count it enough to inspire a reverence 
for his justice. To imbue our hearts with love to himself, and, at 
the same time, with hatred to iniquity, he has added promises and 
threatening. The eye of our mind being too dim to be attracted by 
the mere beauty of goodness, our most merciful Father has been 
pleased, in his great indulgence, to allure us to love and long 
after it by the hope of reward. He accordingly declares that rewards 
for virtue are treasured up with him, that none who yield obedience 
to his commands will labour in vain. On the other hand, he proclaims 
not only that iniquity is hateful in his sight, but that it will not 
escape with impunity, because he will be the avenger of his insulted 
majesty. That he may encourage us in every way, he promises present 
blessings, as well as eternal felicity, to the obedience of those 
who shall have kept his commands, while he threatens transgressors 
with present suffering, as well as the punishment of eternal death. 
The promise, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my 
judgements; which if a man do, he shall live in them," (Lev. 18: 5,) 
and corresponding to this the threatening, "The souls that sinneth, 
it shall die," (Ezek. 18: 4, 20;) doubtless point to a future life 
and death, both without end. But though in every passage where the 
favour or anger of God is mentioned, the former comprehends eternity 
of life and the latter eternal destruction, the Law, at the same 
time, enumerates a long catalogue of present blessings and curses, 
(Lev. 26: 4; Deut. 28: 1.) The threatening attest the spotless 
purity of God, which cannot bear iniquity, while the promises attest 
at once his infinite love of righteousness, (which he cannot leave 
unrewarded,) and his wondrous kindness. Being bound to do him homage 
with all that we have, he is perfectly entitled to demand everything 
which he requires of us as a debt; and as a debt, the payment is 
unworthy of reward. He therefore foregoes his right, when he holds 
forth reward for services which are not offered spontaneously, as if 
they were not due. The amount of these services, in themselves, has 
been partly described and will appear more clearly in its own place. 
For the present, it is enough to remember that the promises of the 
Law are no mean commendation of righteousness as they show how much 
God is pleased with the observance of them, while the threatening 
denounced are intended to produce a greater abhorrence of 
unrighteousness, lest the sinner should indulge in the blandishments 
of vice, and forget the judgement which the divine Lawgiver has 
prepared for him. 
    5. The Lord, in delivering a perfect rule of righteousness, has 
reduced it in all its parts to his mere will, and in this way has 
shown that there is nothing more acceptable to him than obedience. 
There is the more necessity for attending to this, because the human 
mind, in its wantonness, is ever and anon inventing different modes 
of worship as a means of gaining his favour. This irreligious 
affectation of religion being innate in the human mind, has betrayed 
itself in every age, and is still doing so, men always longing to 
devise some method of procuring righteousness without any sanction 
from the Word of God. Hence in those observances which are generally 
regarded as good works, the precepts of the Law occupy a narrow 
space, almost the whole being usurped by this endless host of human 
inventions. But was not this the very license which Moses meant to 
curb, when, after the promulgation of the Law, he thus addressed the 
people: "Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that 
it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, 
when thou does that which is good and right in the sight of the Lord 
thy God." "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou 
shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it," (Deut 12: 28-32.) 
Previously, after asking "what nation is there so great, that has 
statutes and judgements so righteous as all this law, which I set 
before you this day?" he had added, "Only take heed to thyself, and 
keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine 
eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of 
thy life," (Deut. 4: 8, 9.) God foreseeing that the Israelites would 
not rest, but after receiving the Law, would, unless sternly 
prohibited give birth to new kinds of righteousness, declares that 
the Law comprehended a perfect righteousness. This ought to have 
been a most powerful restraint, and yet they desisted not from the 
presumptuous course so strongly prohibited. How do we act? We are 
certainly under the same obligation as they were; for there cannot 
be a doubt that the claim of absolute perfection which God made for 
his Law is perpetually in force. Not contented with it, however, we 
labour prodigiously in feigning and coining an endless variety of 
good works, one after another. The best cure for this vice would be 
a constant and deep-seated conviction that the Law was given from 
heaven to teach us a perfect righteousness; that the only 
righteousness so taught is that which the divine will expressly 
enjoins; and that it is, therefore, vain to attempt, by new forms of 
worship, to gain the favour of God, whose true worship consists in 
obedience alone; or rather, that to go a wandering after good works 
which are not prescribed by the Law of God, is an intolerable 
violation of true and divine righteousness. Most truly does 
Augustine say in one place, that the obedience which is rendered to 
God is the parent and guardian; in another, that it is the source of 
all the virtues. 
    6. After we shall have expounded the Divine Law, what has been 
previously said of its office and use will be understood more 
easily, and with greater benefit. But before we proceed to the 
consideration of each separate commandment, it will be proper to 
take a general survey of the whole. At the outset, it was proved 
that in the Law human life is instructed not merely in outward 
decency but in inward spiritual righteousness. Though none can deny 
this, yet very few duly attend to it, because they do not consider 
the Lawgiver, by whose character that of the Law must also be 
determined. Should a king issue an edict prohibiting murder, 
adultery, and theft, the penalty, I admit, will not be incurred by 
the man who has only felt a longing in his mind after these vices, 
but has not actually committed them. The reason is, that a human 
lawgiver does not extend his care beyond outward order, and, 
therefore, his injunctions are not violated without outward acts. 
But God, whose eye nothing escapes, and who regards not the outward 
appearance so much as purity of heart, under the prohibition of 
murder, adultery, and thefts includes wrath, hatred, lust, 
covetousness, and all other things of a similar nature. Being a 
spiritual Lawgiver, he speaks to the soul not less than the body. 
The murder which the soul commits is wrath and hatred; the theft, 
covetousness and avarice; and the adultery, lust. It may be alleged 
that human laws have respect to intentions and wishes, and not 
fortuitous events. I admit this but then these must manifest 
themselves externally. They consider the animus with which the act 
was done, but do not scrutinise the secret thoughts. Accordingly, 
their demand is satisfied when the hand merely refrains from 
transgression. On the contrary, the law of heaven being enacted for 
our minds, the first thing necessary to a due observance of the Law 
is to put them under restraint. But the generality of men, even 
while they are most anxious to conceal their disregard of the Law, 
only frame their hands and feet and other parts of their body to 
some kind of observance, but in the meanwhile keep the heart utterly 
estranged from everything like obedience. They think it enough to 
have carefully concealed from man what they are doing in the sight 
of God. Hearing the commandments, "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt 
not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not steal," they do not unsheathe 
their sword for slaughter, nor defile their bodies with harlots, nor 
put forth their hands to other men's goods. So far well; but with 
their whole soul they breathe out slaughter, boil with lust, cast a 
greedy eye at their neighbour's property, and in wish devour it. 
Here the principal thing which the Law requires is wanting. Whence 
then, this gross stupidity, but just because they lose sight of the 
Lawgiver, and form an idea of righteousness in accordance with their 
own disposition? Against this Paul strenuously protests, when he 
declares that the "law is spiritual", (Rom. 7: 14;) intimating that 
it not only demands the homage of the soul, and mind, and will, but 
requires an angelic purity, which, purified from all filthiness of 
the flesh, savours only of the Spirit. 
    7. In saying that this is the meaning of the Law, we are not 
introducing a new interpretation of our own; we are following 
Christ, the best interpreter of the Law, (Matth. 5: 22, 28, 44.) The 
Pharisees having instilled into the people the erroneous idea that 
the Law was fulfilled by every one who did not in external act do 
anything against the Law, he pronounces this a most dangerous 
delusion, and declares that an immodest look is adultery, and that 
hatred of a brother is murder. "Whosoever is angry with his brother 
without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgement;" whosoever by 
whispering or murmuring gives indication of being offended, "shall 
be in danger of the council;" whosoever by reproaches and 
evil-speaking gives way to open anger, "shall be in danger of 
hell-fire." Those who have not perceived this, have pretended that 
Christ was only a second Moses, the giver of an evangelical, to 
supply the deficiency of the Mosaic Law. Hence the common axiom as 
to the perfection of the Evangelical Law, and its great superiority 
to that of Moses. This idea is in many ways most pernicious. For it 
will appear from Moses himself, when we come to give a summary of 
his precepts, that great indignity is thus done to the Divine Law. 
It certainly insinuates, that the holiness of the fathers under the 
Law was little else than hypocrisy, and leads us away from that one 
unvarying rule of righteousness. It is very easy, however, to 
confute this error, which proceeds on the supposition that Christ 
added to the Law, whereas he only restored it to its integrity by 
maintaining and purifying it when obscured by the falsehood, and 
defiled by the leaven of the Pharisees. 
    8. The next observation we would make is, that there is always 
more in the requirements and prohibitions of the Law than is 
expressed in words. This, however, must be understood so as not to 
convert it into a kind of Lesbian code; and thus, by licentiously 
wresting the Scriptures, make them assume any meaning that we 
please. By taking this excessive liberty with Scripture, its 
authority is lowered with some, and all hope of understanding it 
abandoned by others. We must, therefore, if possible, discover some 
path which may conduct us with direct and firm step to the will of 
God. We must consider, I say, how far interpretation can be 
permitted to go beyond the literal meaning of the words, still 
making it apparent that no appending of human glosses is added to 
the Divine Law, but that the pure and genuine meaning of the 
Lawgiver is faithfully exhibited. It is true that, in almost all the 
commandments, there are elliptical expressions, and that, therefore, 
any man would make himself ridiculous by attempting to restrict the 
spirit of the Law to the strict letter of the words. It is plain 
that a sober interpretation of the Law must go beyond these, but how 
far is doubtful, unless some rule be adopted. The best rule, in my 
opinion, would be, to be guided by the principle of the commandment, 
viz., to consider in the case of each what the purpose is for which 
it was given. For example, every commandment either requires or 
prohibits; and the nature of each is instantly discerned when we 
look to the principle of the commandment as its end. Thus, the end 
of the Fifth Commandment is to render honour to those on whom God 
bestows it. The sum of the commandment, therefore, is, that it is 
right in itself, and pleasing to God, to honour those on whom he has 
conferred some distinction; that to despise and rebel against such 
persons is offensive to Him. The principle of the First Commandment 
is, that God only is to be worshipped. The sum of the commandment, 
therefore is that true piety, in other words, the worship of the 
Deity, is acceptable, and impiety is an abomination, to him. So in 
each of the commandments we must first look to the matter of which 
it treats, and then consider its end, until we discover what it 
properly is that the Lawgiver declares to be pleasing or displeasing 
to him. Only, we must reason from the precept to its contrary in 
this way: If this pleases God, its opposite displeases; if that 
displeases, its opposite pleases: if God commands this, he forbids 
the opposite; if he forbids that, he commands the opposite. 
    9. What is now touched on somewhat obscurely will become 
perfectly clear as we proceed and get accustomed to the exposition 
of the Commandments. It is sufficient thus to have adverted to the 
subject; but perhaps our concluding statement will require to be 
briefly confirmed, as it might otherwise not be understood, or, 
though understood mighty perhaps, at the outset appear unsound. 
There is no need of proving, that when good is ordered the evil 
which is opposed to it is forbidden. This every one admits. It will 
also be admitted, without much difficulty, that when evil is 
forbidden, its opposite is enjoined. Indeed, it is a common saying, 
that censure of vice is commendation of virtue. We, however, demand 
somewhat more than is commonly understood by these expressions. When 
the particular virtue opposed to a particular vice is spoken of, all 
that is usually meant is abstinence from that vice. We maintain that 
it goes farther, and means opposite duties and positive acts. Hence 
the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," the generality of men will 
merely consider as an injunction to abstain from all injury and all 
wish to inflict injury. I hold that it moreover means, that we are 
to aid our neighbour's life by every means in our power. And not to 
assert without giving my reasons I prove it thus: God forbids us to 
injure or hurt a brother, because he would have his life to be dear 
and precious to us; and, therefore, when he so forbids, he, at the 
same time, demands all the offices of charity which can contribute 
to his preservation. 
    10. But why did God thus deliver his commandments, as it were, 
by halves, using elliptical expressions with a larger meaning than 
that actually expressed? Other reasons are given, but the following 
seems to me the best: - As the flesh is always on the alert to 
extenuate the heinousness of sin, (unless it is made, as it were, 
perceptible to the touch,) and to cover it with specious pretexts, 
the Lord sets forth, by way of example, whatever is foulest and most 
iniquitous in each species of transgression, that the delivery of it 
might produce a shudder in the hearer, and impress his mind with a 
deeper abhorrence of sin. In forming an estimate of sins, we are 
often imposed upon by imagining that the more hidden the less 
heinous they are. This delusion the Lord dispels by accustoming us 
to refer the whole multitude of sins to particular heads, which 
admirably show how great a degree of heinousness there is in each. 
For example, wrath and hatred do not seem so very bad when they are 
designated by their own names; but when they are prohibited under 
the name of murder, we understand better how abominable they are in 
the sight of God, who puts them in the same class with that horrid 
crime. Influenced by his judgement, we accustom ourselves to judge 
more accurately of the heinousness of offences which previously 
seemed trivial. 
    11. It will now be proper to consider what is meant by the 
division of the divine Law into Two Tables. It will be judged by all 
men of sense from the formal manner in which these are sometimes 
mentioned, that it has not been done at random, or without reason. 
Indeed, the reason is so obvious as not to allow us to remain in 
doubt with regard to it. God thus divided his Law into two parts, 
containing a complete rule of righteousness, that he might assign 
the first place to the duties of religion which relate especially to 
His worship, and the second to the duties of charity which have 
respect to man. The first foundation of righteousness undoubtedly is 
the worship of God. When it is subverted, all the other parts of 
righteousness, like a building rent asunder, and in ruins, are 
racked and scattered. What kind of righteousness do you call it, not 
to commit theft and rapine, if you, in the meantime, with impious 
sacrilege, rob God of his glory? or not to defile your body with 
fornication, if you profane his holy name with blasphemy? or not to 
take away the life of man, if you strive to cut off and destroy the 
remembrance of God? It is vain, therefore, to talk of righteousness 
apart from religion. Such righteousness has no more beauty than the 
trunk of a body deprived of its head. Nor is religion the principal 
part merely: it is the very soul by which the whole lives and 
breathes. Without the fear of God, men do not even observe justice 
and charity among themselves. We say, then, that the worship of God 
is the beginning and foundation of righteousness; and that wherever 
it is wanting, any degree of equity, or continence, or temperance, 
existing among men themselves, is empty and frivolous in the sight 
of God. We call it the source and soul of righteousness, in as much 
as men learn to live together temperately, and without injury, when 
they revere God as the judge of right and wrong. In the First Table, 
accordingly, he teaches us how to cultivate piety, and the proper 
duties of religion in which his worship consists; in the second, he 
shows how, in the fear of his name, we are to conduct ourselves 
towards our fellow-men. Hence, as related by the Evangelists, 
(Matth. 22: 37; Luke 10: 27,) our Saviour summed up the whole Law in 
two heads, viz., to love the Lord with all our heart, with all our 
soul, and with all our strength, and our neighbour as ourselves. You 
see how, of the two parts under which he comprehends the whole Law, 
he devotes the one to God, and assigns the other to mankind. 
    12. But although the whole Law is contained in two heads, yet, 
in order to remove every pretext for excuse, the Lord has been 
pleased to deliver more fully and explicitly in Ten Commandments, 
every thing relating to his own honour, fear, and love, as well as 
every thing relating to the charity which, for his sake, he enjoins 
us to have towards our fellowmen. Nor is it an unprofitable study to 
consider the division of the commandments, provided we remember that 
it is one of those matters in which every man should have full 
freedom of judgement, and on account of which, difference of opinion 
should not lead to contention. We are, indeed, under the necessity 
of making this observation, lest the division which we are to adopt 
should excite the surprise or derision of the reader, as novel or of 
recent invention. 
    There is no room for controversy as to the fact, that the Law 
is divided into ten heads since this is repeatedly sanctioned by 
divine authority. The question, therefore, is not as to the number 
of the parts, but the method of dividing them. Those who adopt a 
division which gives three commandments to the First Table, and 
throws the remaining seven into the Second Table, expunge the 
commandment concerning images from the list, or at least conceal it 
under the first, though there cannot be a doubt that it was 
distinctly set down by the Lord as a separate commandment; whereas 
the tenth, which prohibits the coveting of what belongs to our 
neighbour, they absurdly break down into two. Moreover, it will soon 
appear, that this method of dividing was unknown in a purer age. 
Others count four commandments in the First Table as we do, but for 
the first set down the introductory promise, without adding the 
precept. But because I must hold, unless I am convinced by clear 
evidence to the contrary, that the "ten words" mentioned by Moses 
are Ten Commandments and because I see that number arranged in most 
admirable order, I must, while I leave them to hold their own 
opinion, follow what appears to me better established, viz., that 
what they make to be the first commandment is of the nature of a 
preface to the whole Law, that thereafter follow four commandments 
in the First Table, and six in the Second, in the order in which 
they will here be reviewed. This division Origin adopts without 
discussion, as if it had been every where received in his day. It is 
also adopted by Augustine, in his book addressed to Boniface, where, 
in enumerating the commandments, he follows this order, Let one God 
be religiously obeyed, let no idol be worshipped, let the name of 
God be not used in vain; while previously he had made separate 
mention of the typical commandment of the Sabbath. Elsewhere, 
indeed, he expresses approbation of the first division, but on too 
slight grounds, because, by the number three, (making the First 
Table consist of three commandments,) the mystery of the Trinity 
would be better manifested. Even here, however, he does not disguise 
his opinion, that in other respects, our division is more to his 
mind. Besides these, we are supported by the author of an unfinished 
work on Matthew. Josephus, no doubt with the general consent of his 
age, assigns five commandments to each table. This, while repugnant 
to reason, inasmuch as it confounds the distinction between piety 
and charity, is also refuted by the authority of our Saviour, who in 
Matthew places the command to honour parents in the list of those 
belonging to the Second Table, (Matth. 19: 19.) Let us now hear God 
speaking in his own words. 
First commandment. 
I am the lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, 
    out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods 
    before me. 
    13. Whether you take the former sentence as a part of the 
commandment, or read it separately is to me a matter of 
indifference, provided you grant that it is a kind of preface to the 
whole Law. In enacting laws, the first thing to be guarded against 
is their being forthwith abrogated by contempt. The Lord, therefore, 
takes care, in the first place, that this shall not happen to the 
Law about to be delivered, by introducing it with a triple sanction. 
He claims to himself power and authority to command, that he may 
impress the chosen people with the necessity of obedience; he holds 
forth a promise of favour, as a means of alluring them to the study 
of holiness; and he reminds them of his kindness, that he may 
convict them of ingratitude, if they fail to make a suitable return. 
By the name, Lord, are denoted power and lawful dominion. If all 
things are from him, and by him consist, they ought in justice to 
bear reference to him, as Paul says, (Rom. 11: 36.) This name, 
therefore, is in itself sufficient to bring us under the authority 
of the divine majesty: for it were monstrous for us to wish to 
withdraw from the dominion of him, out of whom we cannot even exist. 
    14. After showing that he has a right to command, and to be 
obeyed, he next, in order not to seem to drag men by mere necessity, 
but to allure them, graciously declares, that he is the God of the 
Church. For the mode of expression implies, that there is a mutual 
relation included in the promise, "I will be their God, and they 
shall be my people," (Jer. 31: 33.) Hence Christ infers the 
immortality of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the fact that God had 
declared himself to be their God, (Matth. 22: 52.) It is, therefore, 
the same as if he had said, I have chosen you to myself, as a people 
to whom I shall not only do good in the present life, but also 
bestow felicity in the life to come. The end contemplated in this is 
adverted to in the Law, in various passages. For when the Lord 
condescends in mercy to honour us so far as to admit us to 
partnership with his chosen people, he chooses us, as Moses says, 
"to be a holy people," "a peculiar people unto himself," to "keep 
all his commandments," (Deut. 7: 6; 14: 2; 26: 18.) Hence the 
exhortation, "Ye shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy," 
(Lev. 19: 2.) These two considerations form the ground of the 
remonstrance, "A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; 
if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, 
where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts," (Mal. 1: 6.) 
    15. Next follows a commemoration of his kindness, which ought 
to produce upon us an impression strong in proportion to the 
detestation in which ingratitude is held even among men. It is true, 
indeed, he was reminding Israel of a deliverance then recent, but 
one which, on account of its wondrous magnitude, was to be for ever 
memorable to the remotest posterity. Moreover, it is most 
appropriate to the matter in hand. For the Lord intimates that they 
were delivered from miserable bondage, that they might learn to 
yield prompt submission and obedience to him as the author of their 
freedom. In like manners to keep us to his true worship, he often 
describes himself by certain epithets which distinguish his sacred 
Deity from all idols and fictitious gods. For, as I formerly 
observed, such is our proneness to vanity and presumption, that as 
soon as God is named, our minds, unable to guard against error, 
immediately fly off to some empty delusion. In applying a remedy to 
this disease, God distinguishes his divinity by certain titles, and 
thus confines us, as it were, within distinct boundaries, that we 
may not wander hither and thither, and feign some new deity for 
ourselves, abandoning the living God, and setting up an idol. For 
this reason, whenever the Prophets would bring him properly before 
us, they invest, and, as it were, surround him with those characters 
under which he had manifested himself to the people of Israel. When 
he is called the God of Abraham, or the God of Israel, when he is 
stationed in the temple of Jerusalem, between the Cherubim, these, 
and similar modes of expression, do not confine him to one place or 
one people, but are used merely for the purpose of fixing our 
thoughts on that God who so manifested himself in the covenant which 
he made with Israel, as to make it unlawful on any account to 
deviate from the strict view there given of his character. Let it be 
understood, then, that mention is made of deliverance, in order to 
make the Jews submit with greater readiness to that God who justly 
claims them as his own. We again, instead of supposing that the 
matter has no reference to us, should reflect that the bondage of 
Israel in Egypt was a type of that spiritual bondage, in the fetters 
of which we are all bound, until the heavenly avenger delivers us by 
the power of his own arm, and transports us into his free kingdom. 
Therefore, as in old times, when he would gather together the 
scattered Israelites to the worship of his name, he rescued them 
from the intolerable tyranny of Pharaoh, so all who profess him now 
are delivered from the fatal tyranny of the devil, of which that of 
Egypt was only a type. There is no man, therefore, whose mind ought 
not to be aroused to give heed to the Law, which, as he is told, 
proceeded from the supreme King, from him who, as he gave all their 
being, justly destines and directs them to himself as their proper 
end. There is no man, I say, who should not hasten to embrace the 
Lawgiver, whose commands, he knows, he has been specially appointed 
to obey, from whose kindness he anticipates an abundance of all 
good, and even a blessed immortality, and to whose wondrous power 
and mercy he is indebted for deliverance from the jaws of death. 
    16. The authority of the Law being founded and established, God 
delivers his First Commandment-- 
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 
    The purport of this commandment is, that the Lord will have 
himself alone to be exalted in his people, and claims the entire 
possession of them as his own. That it may be so, he orders us to 
abstain from ungodliness and superstition of every kind, by which 
the glory of his divinity is diminished or obscured; and, for the 
same reason, he requires us to worship and adore him with truly 
pious zeal. The simple terms used obviously amount to this. For 
seeing we cannot have God without embracing everything which belongs 
to him, the prohibition against having strange gods means, that 
nothing which belongs to him is to be transferred to any other. The 
duties which we owe to God are innumerable, but they seem to admit 
of being not improperly reduced to four heads: Adoration, with its 
accessory spiritual submission of conscience, Trust, Invocation, 
Thanksgiving. By Adoration, I mean the veneration and worship which 
we render to him when we do homage to his majesty; and hence I make 
part of it to consist in bringing our consciences into subjection to 
his Law. Trust, is secure resting in him under a recognition of his 
perfections, when, ascribing to him all power, wisdom, justice, 
goodness, and truth, we consider ourselves happy in having been 
brought into intercourse with him. Invocation, may be defined the 
retaking of ourselves to his promised aid as the only resource in 
every case of need. Thanksgiving, is the gratitude which ascribes to 
him the praise of all our blessings. As the Lord does not allow 
these to be derived from any other quarter, so he demands that they 
shall be referred entirely to himself. It is not enough to refrain 
from other gods. We must, at the same time, devote ourselves wholly 
to him, not acting like certain impious despisers, who regard it as 
the shortest method, to hold all religious observance in derision. 
But here precedence must be given to true religion, which will 
direct our minds to the living God. When duly imbued with the 
knowledge of him, the whole aim of our lives will be to revere, 
fear, and worship his majesty, to enjoy a share in his blessings, to 
have recourse to him in every difficulty, to acknowledge, laud, and 
celebrate the magnificence of his works, to make him, as it were, 
the sole aim of all our actions. Next, we must beware of 
superstition, by which our minds are turned aside from the true God, 
and carried to and fro after a multiplicity of gods. Therefore, if 
we are contented with one God, let us call to mind what was formerly 
observed, that all fictitious gods are to be driven far away, and 
that the worship which he claims for himself is not to be mutilated. 
Not a particle of his glory is to be withheld: everything belonging 
to him must be reserved to him entire. The words, "before me," go to 
increase the indignity, God being provoked to jealousy whenever we 
substitute our fictions in his stead; just as an unfaithful wife 
stings her husband's heart more deeply when her adultery is 
committed openly before his eyes. Therefore, God having by his 
present power and grace declared that he had respect to the people 
whom he had chosen, now, in order to deter them from the wickedness 
of revolt, warns them that they cannot adopt strange gods without 
his being witness and spectator of the sacrilege. To the audacity of 
so doing is added the very great impiety of supposing that they can 
mock the eye of God with their evasions. Far from this the Lord 
proclaims that everything which we design, plan, or execute, lies 
open to his sight. Our conscience must, therefore, keep aloof from 
the most distant thought of revolt, if we would have our worship 
approved by the Lord. The glory of his Godhead must be maintained 
entire and incorrupt, not merely by external profession, but as 
under his eye, which penetrates the inmost recesses of his heart. 
Second commandment 
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of 
    anything that 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. 
    17. As in the first commandment the Lord declares that he is 
one, and that besides him no gods must be either worshipped or 
imagined, so he here more plainly declares what his nature is, and 
what the kind of worship with which he is to be honoured, in order 
that we may not presume to form any carnal idea of him. The purport 
of the commandment, therefore, is, that he will not have his 
legitimate worship profaned by superstitious rites. Wherefore, in 
general, he calls us entirely away from the carnal frivolous 
observances which our stupid minds are wont to devise after forming 
some gross idea of the divine nature, while, at the same time, he 
instructs us in the worship which is legitimate, namely, spiritual 
worship of his own appointment. The grossest vice here prohibited is 
external idolatry. This commandment consists of two parts. The 
former curbs the licentious daring which would subject the 
incomprehensible God to our senses, or represent him under any 
visible shape. The latter forbids the worship of images on any 
religious ground. There is, moreover, a brief enumeration of all the 
forms by which the Deity was usually represented by heathen and 
superstitious nations. By "any thing which is in heaven above" is 
meant the sun, the moon, and the stars, perhaps also birds, as in 
Deuteronomy, where the meaning is explained, there is mention of 
birds as well as stars, (Deut. 4: 15.) I would not have made this 
observation, had I not seen that some absurdly apply it to the 
angels. The other particulars I pass, as requiring no explanation. 
We have already shown clearly enough (Book 1. chap. 11, 12) that 
every visible shape of Deity which man devises is diametrically 
opposed to the divine nature; and, therefore, that the moment idols 
appear, true religion is corrupted and adulterated. 
    18. The threatening subjoined ought to have no little effect in 
shaking off our lethargy. It is in the following terms: - 
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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them 
    that love me, and keep my commandments. 
    The meaning here is the same as if he had said, that our duty 
is to cleave to him alone. To induce us to this, he proclaims his 
authority which he will not permit to be impaired or despised with 
impunity. It is true, the word used is El, which means God; but as 
it is derived from a word meaning strength, I have had no 
hesitations in order to express the sense more fully, so to render 
it as inserted on the margin. Secondly, he calls himself jealous, 
because he cannot bear a partner. Thirdly, he declares that he will 
vindicate his majesty and glory, if any transfer it either to the 
creatures or to graven images; and that not by a simple punishment 
of brief duration, but one extending to the third and fourth 
generation of such as imitate the impiety of their progenitors. In 
like manner, he declares his constant mercy and kindness to the 
remote posterity of those who love him, and keep his Law. The Lord 
very frequently addresses us in the character of a husband; the 
union by which he connects us with himself, when he receives us into 
the bosom of the Church, having some resemblance to that of holy 
wedlock, because founded on mutual faith. As he performs all the 
offices of a true and faithful husband, so he stipulates for love 
and conjugal chastity from us; that is, that we do not prostitute 
our souls to Satan, to be defiled with foul carnal lusts. Hence, 
when he rebukes the Jews for their apostasy, he complains that they 
have cast off chastity, and polluted themselves with adultery. 
Therefore, as the purer and chaster the husband is, the more 
grievously is he offended when he sees his wife inclining to a 
rival; so the Lord, who has betrothed us to himself in truth, 
declares that he burns with the hottest jealousy whenever, 
neglecting the purity of his holy marriage, we defile ourselves with 
abominable lusts, and especially when the worship of his Deity, 
which ought to have been most carefully kept unimpaired, is 
transferred to another, or adulterated with some superstition; 
since, in this way, we not only violate our plighted troth, but 
defile the nuptial couch, by giving access to adulterers. 
    19. In the threatening we must attend to what is meant when God 
declares that he will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the 
children unto the third and fourth generation. It seems inconsistent 
with the equity of the divine procedure to punish the innocent for 
another's fault; and the Lord himself declares, that "the son shall 
not bear the iniquity of the father," (Ezek. 18: 20.) But still we 
meet more than once with a declaration as to the postponing of the 
punishment of the sins of fathers to future generations. Thus Moses 
repeatedly addresses the Lord as "visiting the iniquity of the 
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation," 
(Num. 14: 18.) In like manner, Jeremiah, "Thou showest 
loving-kindness unto thousands, and recompenses the iniquity of the 
fathers into the bosom of their children after them," (Jer. 32: 18.) 
Some feeling sadly perplexed how to solve this difficulty, think it 
is to be understood of temporal punishments only, which it is said 
sons may properly bear for the sins of their parents, because they 
are often inflicted for their own safety. This is indeed true; for 
Isaiah declared to Hezekiah, that his children should be stript of 
the kingdom, and carried away into captivity, for a sin which he had 
committed, (Isa. 39: 7;) and the households of Pharaoh and Abimelech 
were made to suffer for an injury done to Abraham, (Gen. 12: 17; 20: 
3-18.) But the attempt to solve the question in this way is an 
evasion rather than a true interpretation. For the punishment 
denounced here and in similar passages is too great to be confined 
within the limits of the present life. We must therefore understand 
it to mean, that a curse from the Lord righteously falls not only on 
the head of the guilty individual, but also on all his lineage. When 
it has fallen, what can be anticipated but that the father, being 
deprived of the Spirit of God, will live most flagitiously; that the 
son, being in like manner forsaken of the Lord, because of his 
father's iniquity, will follow the same road to destruction; and be 
followed in his turn by succeeding generations, forming a seed of 
    20. First, let us examine whether such punishment is 
inconsistent with the divine justice. If human nature is universally 
condemned, those on whom the Lord does not bestow the communication 
of his grace must be doomed to destruction; nevertheless, they 
perish by their own iniquity, not by unjust hatred on the part of 
God. There is no room to expostulate, and ask why the grace of God 
does not forward their salvation as it does that of others. 
Therefore, when God punishes the wicked and flagitious for their 
crimes, by depriving their families of his grace for many 
generations, who will dare to bring a charge against him for this 
most righteous vengeance? But it will be said, the Lord, on the 
contrary, declares, that the son shall not suffer for the father's 
sin, (Ezek. 18: 20.) Observe the scope of that passage. The 
Israelites, after being subjected to a long period of uninterrupted 
calamities, had begun to say, as a proverb, that their fathers had 
eaten the sour grape, and thus set the children's teeth on edge; 
meaning that they, though in themselves righteous and innocent, were 
paying the penalty of sins committed by their parents, and this more 
from the implacable anger than the duly tempered severity of God. 
The prophet declares it was not so: that they were punished for 
their own wickedness; that it was not in accordance with the justice 
of God that a righteous son should suffer for the iniquity of a 
wicked father; and that nothing of the kind was exemplified in what 
they suffered. For, if the visitation of which we now speak is 
accomplished when God withdraws from the children of the wicked the 
light of his truth and the other helps to salvation, the only way in 
which they are accursed for their fathers' wickedness is in being 
blinded and abandoned by God, and so left to walk in their parents' 
steps. The misery which they suffer in time, and the destruction to 
which they are finally doomed, are thus punishments inflicted by 
divine justice, not for the sins of others, but for their own 
    21. On the other hand, there is a promise of mercy to thousands 
- a promise which is frequently mentioned in Scripture, and forms an 
article in the solemn covenant made with the Church - I will be "a 
God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee," (Gen. 17: 7.) With 
reference to this, Solomon says, "The just man walketh in his 
integrity: his children are blessed after him," (Prov. 20: 7;) not 
only in consequence of a religious education, (though this certainly 
is by no means unimportant,) but in consequence of the blessing 
promised in the covenant, viz., that the divine favour will dwell 
for ever in the families of the righteous. Herein is excellent 
consolation to believers, and great ground of terror to the wicked; 
for if, after death, the mere remembrance of righteousness and 
iniquity have such an influence on the divine procedure, that his 
blessing rests on the posterity of the righteous, and his curse on 
the posterity of the wicked, much more must it rest on the heads of 
the individuals themselves. Notwithstanding of this, however, the 
offspring of the wicked sometimes amends, while that of believers 
degenerates; because the Almighty has not here laid down an 
inflexible rule which might derogate from his free election. For the 
consolation of the righteous, and the dismay of the sinner, it is 
enough that the threatening itself is not vain or nugatory, although 
it does not always take effect. For, as the temporal punishments 
inflicted on a few of the wicked are proofs of the divine wrath 
against sin, and of the future judgement that will ultimately 
overtake all sinners, though many escape with impunity even to the 
end of their lives, so, when the Lord gives one example of blessing 
a son for his father's sake, by visiting him in mercy and kindness, 
it is a proof of constant and unfailing favour to his worshipers. On 
the other hand, when, in any single instance, he visits the iniquity 
of the father on the son, he gives intimation of the judgement which 
awaits all the reprobate for their own iniquities. The certainty of 
this is the principal thing here taught. Moreover, the Lord, as it 
were by the way, commends the riches of his mercy by extending it to 
thousands, while he limits his vengeance to four generations. 
Third commandment. 
Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain. 
    22. The purport of this Commandment is, that the majesty of the 
name of God is to be held sacred. In sum, therefore, it means, that 
we must not profane it by using it irreverently or contemptuously. 
This prohibition implies a corresponding precept, viz. that it be 
our study and care to treat his name with religious veneration. 
Wherefore it becomes us to regulate our minds and our tongues, so as 
never to think or speak of God and his mysteries without reverence 
and great soberness, and never, in estimating his works, to have any 
feeling towards him but one of deep veneration. We must, I say, 
steadily observe the three following things: - First, Whatever our 
mind conceives of him, whatever our tongue utters, must bespeak his 
excellence, and correspond to the sublimity of his sacred name; in 
short, must be fitted to extol its greatness. secondly, We must not 
rashly and preposterously pervert his sacred word and adorable 
mysteries to purposes of ambition, or avarice, or amusement, but, 
according as they bear the impress of his dignity, must always 
maintain them in due honour and esteem. Lastly, We must not detract 
from or throw obloquy upon his works, as miserable men are wont 
insultingly to do, but must laud every action which we attribute to 
him as wise, and just, and good. This is to sanctify the name of 
God. When we act otherwise, his name is profaned with vain and 
wicked abuse, because it is applied to a purpose foreign to that to 
which it is consecrated. Were there nothing worse, in being deprived 
of its dignity it is gradually brought into contempt. But if there 
is so much evil in the rash and unseasonable employment of the 
divine name, there is still more evil in its being employed for 
nefarious purposes, as is done by those who use it in necromancy, 
cursing, illicit exorcisms, and other impious incantations. But the 
Commandment refers especially to the case of oaths, in which a 
perverse employment of the divine name is particularly detestable; 
and this it does the more effectually to deter us from every species 
of profanation. That the thing here commanded relates to the worship 
of God, and the reverence due to his name, and not to the equity 
which men are to cultivate towards each other, is apparent from 
this, that afterwards, in the Second Table, there is a condemnation 
of the perjury and false testimony by which human society is 
injured, and that the repetition would be superfluous, if, in this 
Commandment, the duty of charity were handled. Moreover, this is 
necessary even for distinction, because, as was observed, God has, 
for good reason, divided his Law into two tables. The inference then 
is, that God here vindicates his own right, and defends his sacred 
name, but does not teach the duties which men owe to men. 
    23. In the first place, we must consider what an oath is. An 
oath, then, is calling God to witness that what we say is true. 
Execrations being manifestly insulting to God, are unworthy of being 
classed among oaths. That an oath, when duly taken, is a species of 
divine worship, appears from many passages of Scripture, as when 
Isaiah prophesies of the admission of the Assyrians and Egyptians to 
a participation in the covenant, he says, "In that day shall five 
cities in the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan, and swear 
to the Lord of hosts," (Isaiah 19: 18.) Swearing by the name of the 
Lord here means, that they will make a profession of religion. In 
like manner, speaking of the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, it 
is said, "He who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself 
in the God of truth: and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear 
by the God of truth," (Isaiah 65: 16.) In Jeremiah it is said, "If 
they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my 
name, The Lord liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; 
then shall they be built in the midst of my people," (Jer. 12: 16.) 
By appealing to the name of the Lord, and calling him to witness, we 
are justly said to declare our own religious veneration of him. For 
we thus acknowledge that he is eternal and unchangeable truth, 
inasmuch as we not only call upon him, in preference to others, as a 
fit witness to the truth, but as its only assertor, able to bring 
hidden things to light, a discerner of the hearts. When human 
testimony fails, we appeal to God as witness, especially when the 
matter to be proved lies hid in the conscience. For which reason, 
the Lord is grievously offended with those who swear by strange 
gods, and construes such swearing as a proof of open revolt, "Thy 
children have forsaken me, and sworn by them that are no gods," 
(Jer. 5: 7.) The heinousness of the offence is declared by the 
punishment denounced against it, "I will cut off them that swear by 
the Lord, and that swear by Malcham," (Zeph. 1: 4, 5.) 
    24. Understanding that the Lord would have our oaths to be a 
species of divine worship, we must be the more careful that they do 
not, instead of worship, contain insult, or contempt, and 
vilification. It is no slight insult to swear by him and do it 
falsely: hence in the Law this is termed profanation, (Lev. 19: 12.) 
For if God is robbed of his truth, what is it that remains? Without 
truth he could not be God. But assuredly he is robbed of his truth, 
when he is made the approver and attester of what is false. Hence, 
when Joshua is endeavouring to make Achan confess the truth, he 
says, "My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel," 
(Joshua 7: 19;) intimating, that grievous dishonour is done to God 
when men swear by him falsely. And no wonder; for, as far as in them 
lies, his sacred name is in a manner branded with falsehood. That 
this mode of expression was common among the Jews whenever any one 
was called upon to take an oath, is evident from a similar 
obtestation used by the Pharisees, as given in John, (John 9: 24;) 
Scripture reminds us of the caution which we ought to use by 
employing such expressions as the following: - "As the Lord liveth;" 
"God do so and more also;" "I call God for a record upon my soul." 
Such expressions intimate, that we cannot call God to witness our 
statement, without imprecating his vengeance for perjury if it is 
    25. The name of God is vulgarised and vilified when used in 
oaths, which, though true, are superfluous. This, too, is to take 
his name in vain. Wherefore, it is not sufficient to abstain from 
perjury, unless we, at the same time, remember that an oath is not 
appointed or allowed for passion or pleasure, but for necessity; and 
that, therefore, a licentious use is made of it by him who uses it 
on any other than necessary occasions. Moreover, no case of 
necessity can be pretended, unless where some purpose of religion or 
charity is to be served. In this matter, great sin is committed in 
the present day - sin the more intolerable in this, that its 
frequency has made it cease to be regarded as a fault, though it 
certainly is not accounted trivial before the judgement-seat of God. 
The name of God is everywhere profaned by introducing it 
indiscriminately in frivolous discourse; and the evil is 
disregarded, because it has been long and audaciously persisted in 
with impunity. The commandment of the Lord, however, stands; the 
penalty also stands, and will one day receive effect. Special 
vengeance will be executed on those who have taken the name of God 
in vain. Another form of violation is exhibited, when, with manifest 
impiety, we, in our oaths, substitute the holy servants of God for 
God himself, thus conferring upon them the glory of his Godhead. It 
is not without cause the Lord has, by a special commandment, 
required us to swear by his name, and, by a special prohibition, 
forbidden us to swear by other gods. The Apostle gives a clear 
attestation to the same effect, when he says, that "men verily swear 
by the greater;" but that "when God made promise to Abraham, because 
he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself;" (Heb. 6: l6, 
    26. The Anabaptists, not content with this moderate use of 
oaths, condemn all, without exception, on the ground of our 
Saviour's general prohibition, "I say unto you, Swear not at all:" 
"Let your speech be Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than 
these cometh of evil," (Matth. 5: 34; James 5: 12.) In this way, 
they inconsiderately make a stumbling-stone of Christ, setting him 
in opposition to the Father, as if he had descended into the world 
to annul his decrees. In the Law, the Almighty not only permits an 
oath as a thing that is lawful, (this were amply sufficient,) but, 
in a case of necessity, actually commands it, (Exod. 22: 11.) Christ 
again declares, that he and his Father are one; that he only 
delivers what was commanded of his Father; that his doctrine is not 
his own, but his that sent him, (John 10: 18, 30; 7: 16.) What then? 
Will they make God contradict himself, by approving and commanding 
at one time, what he afterwards prohibits and condemns? But as there 
is some difficulty in what our Saviour says on the subject of 
swearing, it may be proper to consider it a little. Here, however, 
we shall never arrive at the true meaning, unless we attend to the 
design of Christ, and the subject of which he is treating. His 
purpose was, neither to relax nor to curtail the Law, but to restore 
the true and genuine meaning, which had been greatly corrupted by 
the false glosses of the Scribes and Pharisees. If we attend to this 
we shall not suppose that Christ condemned all oaths but those only 
which transgressed the rule of the Law. It is evident, from the 
oaths themselves, that the people were accustomed to think it enough 
if they avoided perjury, whereas the Law prohibits not perjury 
merely, but also vain and superfluous oaths. Therefore our Lord, who 
is the best interpreter of the Law, reminds them that there is a sin 
not only in perjury, but in swearing. How in swearing? Namely, by 
swearing vainly. Those oaths, however, which are authorised by the 
Law, he leaves safe and free. Those who condemn oaths think their 
argument invincible when they fasten on the expression, "not at 
all". The expression applies not to the word swear, but to the 
subjoined forms of oaths. For part of the error consisted in their 
supposing, that when they swore by the heaven and the earth, they 
did not touch the name of God. The Lord, therefore, after cutting 
off the principal source of prevarication, deprives them of all 
subterfuges, warning them against supposing that they escape guilt 
by suppressing the name of God, and appealing to heaven and earth. 
For it ought here to be observed in passing, that although the name 
of God is not expressed, yet men swear by him in using indirect 
forms, as when they swear by the light of life, by the bread they 
eat, by their baptism, or any other pledges of the divine liberality 
towards them. Some erroneously suppose that our Saviour, in that 
passage, rebukes superstition, by forbidding men to swear by heaven 
and earth, and Jerusalem. He rather refutes the sophistical subtilty 
of those who thought it nothing vainly to utter indirect oaths, 
imagining that they thus spared the holy name of God, whereas that 
name is inscribed on each of his mercies. The case is different, 
when any mortal living or dead, or an angel, is substituted in the 
place of God, as in the vile form devised by flattery in heathen 
nations, "By the life or genius of the king"; for, in this case, the 
false apotheosis obscures and impairs the glory of the one God. But 
when nothing else is intended than to confirm what is said by an 
appeal to the holy name of God, although it is done indirectly, yet 
his majesty is insulted by all frivolous oaths. Christ strips this 
abuse of every vain pretext when he says "Swear not at all". To the 
same effect is the passage in which James uses the words of our 
Saviour above quoted, (James 5: 12.) For this rash swearing has 
always prevailed in the world, notwithstanding that it is a 
profanation of the name of God. If you refer the words, "not at 
all", to the act itself, as if every oath, without exception, were 
unlawful, what will be the use of the explanation which immediately 
follows - Neither by heaven, neither by the earth, &c.? These words 
make it clear, that the object in view was to meet the cavils by 
which the Jews thought they could extenuate their fault. 
    27. Every person of sound judgement must now see that in that 
passage our Lord merely condemned those oaths which were forbidden 
by the Law. For he who in his life exhibited a model of the 
perfection which he taught, did not object to oaths whenever the 
occasion required them; and the disciples, who doubtless in all 
things obeyed their Master, followed the same rule. Who will dare to 
say that Paul would have sworn (Rom. 1: 9; 2 Cor. 1: 23) if an oath 
had been altogether forbidden? But when the occasion calls for it, 
he adjures without any scruple, and sometimes even imprecates. The 
question, however, is not yet disposed of. For some think that the 
only oaths exempted from the prohibition are public oaths, such as 
those which are administered to us by the magistrate, or independent 
states employ in ratifying treaties, or the people take when they 
swear allegiance to their sovereign, or the soldier in the case of 
the military oath, and others of a similar description. To this 
class they refer (and justly) those protestations in the writings of 
Paul, which assert the dignity of the Gospel; since the Apostles, in 
discharging their office, were not private individuals, but the 
public servants of God. I certainly deny not that such oaths are the 
safest because they are most strongly supported by passages of 
Scripture. The magistrate is enjoined, in a doubtful matter, to put 
the witness upon oath; and he in his turn to answer upon oath; and 
an Apostle says, that in this way there is an end of all strife, 
(Heb. 6: 16.) In this commandment, both parties are fully approved. 
Nay, we may observe, that among the ancient heathens a public and 
solemn oath was held in great reverence, while those common oaths 
which were indiscriminately used were in little or no estimation, as 
if they thought that, in regard to them, the Deity did not 
interpose. Private oaths used soberly, sacredly, and reverently, on 
necessary occasions, it were perilous to condemn, supported as they 
are by reason and example. For if private individuals are permitted, 
in a grave and serious matter, to appeal to God as a judge, much 
more may they appeal to him as a witness. Your brother charges you 
with perfidy. You, as bound by the duties of charity, labour to 
clear yourself from the charge. He will on no account be satisfied. 
If, through his obstinate malice, your good name is brought into 
jeopardy, you can appeal, without offence, to the judgement of God, 
that he may in time manifest your innocence. If the terms are 
weighed, it will be found that it is a less matter to call upon him 
to be witness; and I therefore see not how it can be called unlawful 
to do so. And there is no want of examples. If it is pretended that 
the oath which Abraham and Isaac made with Abimelech was of a public 
nature, that by which Jacob and Laban bound themselves in mutual 
league was private. Boaz, though a private man, confirmed his 
promise of marriage to Ruth in the same way. Obadiah, too, a just 
man, and one that feared God, though a private individual, in 
seeking to persuade Elijah, asseverates with an oath. I hold, 
therefore, that there is no better rule than so to regulate our 
oaths that they shall neither be rash, frivolous, promiscuous, nor 
passionate, but be made to serve a just necessity; in other words, 
to vindicate the glory of God, or promote the edification of a 
brother. This is the end of the Commandment. 
Fourth Commandment. 
    Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou 
labour and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of 
the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt not do any work, &c. 
    28. The purport of the commandment is, that being dead to our 
own affections and works, we meditate on the kingdom of God, and in 
order to such meditation, have recourse to the means which he has 
appointed. But as this commandment stands in peculiar circumstances 
apart from the others, the mode of exposition must be somewhat 
different. Early Christian writers are wont to call it typical, as 
containing the external observance of a day which was abolished with 
the other types on the advent of Christ. This is indeed true; but it 
leaves the half of the matter untouched. Wherefore, we must look 
deeper for our exposition, and attend to three cases in which it 
appears to me that the observance of this commandment consists. 
First, under the rest of the seventh days the divine Lawgiver meant 
to furnish the people of Israel with a type of the spiritual rest by 
which believers were to cease from their own works, and allow God to 
work in them. Secondly he meant that there should be a stated day on 
which they should assemble to hear the Law, and perform religious 
rites, or which, at least, they should specially employ in 
meditating on his works, and be thereby trained to piety. Thirdly, 
he meant that servants, and those who lived under the authority of 
others, should be indulged with a day of rest, and thus have some 
intermission from labour. 
    29. We are taught in many passages that this adumbration of 
spiritual rest held a primary place in the Sabbath. Indeed, there is 
no commandment the observance of which the Almighty more strictly 
enforces. When he would intimate by the Prophets that religion was 
entirely subverted, he complains that his sabbaths were polluted, 
violated, not kept, not hallowed; as if, after it was neglected, 
there remained nothing in which he could be honoured. The observance 
of it he eulogises in the highest terms, and hence, among other 
divine privileges, the faithful set an extraordinary value on the 
revelation of the Sabbath. In Nehemiah, the Levites, in the public 
assembly, thus speak: "Thou madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, 
and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of 
Moses thy servant." You see the singular honour which it holds among 
all the precepts of the Law. All this tends to celebrate the dignity 
of the mystery, which is most admirably expressed by Moses and 
Ezekiel. Thus in Exodus: "Verily my sabbaths shall ye keep: for it 
is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye 
may know that I am the Lord that does sanctify you. Ye shall keep my 
sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth 
it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever does any work 
therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days 
may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to 
the Lord: whosoever does any work in the sabbath day, he shall 
surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep 
the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, 
for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children 
of Israel for ever," (Exodus 31: 13-17.) Ezekiel is still more full, 
but the sum of what he says amounts to this: that the sabbath is a 
sign by which Israel might know that God is their sanctifier. If our 
sanctification consists in the mortification of our own will, the 
analogy between the external sign and the thing signified is most 
appropriate. We must rest entirely, in order that God may work in 
us; we must resign our own will, yield up our heart, and abandon all 
the lusts of the flesh. In short, we must desist from all the acts 
of our own mind, that God working in us, we may rest in him, as the 
Apostle also teaches, (Heb. 3: 13; 4: 3, 9.) 
    30. This complete cessation was represented to the Jews by the 
observance of one day in seven, which, that it might be more 
religiously attended to, the Lord recommended by his own example. 
For it is no small incitement to the zeal of man to know that he is 
engaged in imitating his Creator. Should any one expect some secret 
meaning in the number seven, this being in Scripture the number for 
perfection, it may have been selected, not without cause, to denote 
perpetuity. In accordance with this, Moses concludes his description 
of the succession of day and night on the same day on which he 
relates that the Lord rested from his works. Another probable reason 
for the number may be, that the Lord intended that the Sabbath never 
should be completed before the arrival of the last day. We here 
begin our blessed rest in him, and daily make new progress in it; 
but because we must still wage an incessant warfare with the flesh, 
it shall not be consummated until the fulfilment of the prophecy of 
Isaiah: "From one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to 
another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord," 
(Isaiah 66: 23;) in other words, when God shall be "all in all," (I 
Cor. 15: 28.) It may seem, therefore, that by the seventh day the 
Lord delineated to his people the future perfection of his sabbath 
on the last day, that by continual meditation on the sabbath, they 
might throughout their whole lives aspire to this perfection. 
    31. Should these remarks on the number seem to any somewhat 
far-fetched, I have no objection to their taking it more simply: 
that the Lord appointed a certain day on which his people might be 
trained, under the tutelage of the Law, to meditate constantly on 
the spiritual rest, and fixed upon the seventh, either because he 
foresaw it would be sufficient, or in order that his own example 
might operate as a stronger stimulus; or, at least to remind men 
that the Sabbath was appointed for no other purpose than to render 
them conformable to their Creator. It is of little consequence which 
of these be adopted, provided we lose not sight of the principal 
thing delineated, viz., the mystery of perpetual resting from our 
works. To the contemplation of this, the Jews were every now and 
then called by the prophets, lest they should think a carnal 
cessation from labour sufficient. Beside the passages already 
quoted, there is the following: "If thou turn away thy foot from the 
sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the 
sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt 
honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own 
pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight 
thyself in the Lord," (Isaiah 58: 13, 14.) Still there can be no 
doubt, that, on the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, the ceremonial 
part of the commandment was abolished. He is the truth, at whose 
presence all the emblems vanish; the body, at the sight of which the 
shadows disappear. He, I say, is the true completion of the sabbath: 
"We are buried with him by baptism unto death: that like as Christ 
was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we 
should walk in newness of life," (Rom. 6: 4.) Hence, as the Apostle 
elsewhere says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in 
drink, or in respect of an holiday, or of the new moon, or of the 
sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is 
of Christ," (Col. 2: 16, 17;) meaning by body the whole essence of 
the truth, as is well explained in that passage. This is not 
contented with one day, but requires the whole course of our lives, 
until being completely dead to ourselves, we are filled with the 
life of God. Christians, therefore, should have nothing to do with a 
superstitious observance of days. 
    32. The two other cases ought not to be classed with ancient 
shadows, but are adapted to every age. The sabbath being abrogated, 
there is still room among us, first, to assemble on stated days for 
the hearing of the Word, the breaking of the mystical bread, and 
public prayer; and, secondly, to give our servants and labourers 
relaxation from labour. It cannot be doubted that the Lord provided 
for both in the commandment of the Sabbath. The former is abundantly 
evinced by the mere practice of the Jews. The latter Moses has 
expressed in Deuteronomy in the following terms: "The seventh day is 
the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, 
thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy 
maid-servant; - that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest 
as well as thou," (Deut. 5: 14.) Likewise in Exodus, "That thine ox 
and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the 
stranger, may be refreshed," (Exod. 23: 12.) Who can deny that both 
are equally applicable to us as to the Jews? Religious meetings are 
enjoined us by the word of God; their necessity, experience itself 
sufficiently demonstrates. But unless these meetings are stated, and 
have fixed days allotted to them, how can they be held? We must, as 
the apostle expresses it, do all things decently and in orders (1 
Cor. 14 40.) So impossible, however, would it be to preserve decency 
and order without this politic arrangements that the dissolution of 
it would instantly lead to the disturbance and ruin of the Church. 
But if the reason for which the Lord appointed a sabbath to the Jews 
is equally applicable to us, no man can assert that it is a matter 
with which we have nothing to do. Our most provident and indulgent 
Parent has been pleased to provide for our wants not less than for 
the wants of the Jews. Why, it may be asked, do we not hold daily 
meetings, and thus avoid the distinction of days? Would that we were 
privileged to do so! Spiritual wisdom undoubtedly deserves to have 
some portion of every day devoted to it. But if, owing to the 
weakness of many, daily meetings cannot be held, and charity will 
not allow us to exact more of them, why should we not adopt the rule 
which the will of God has obviously imposed upon us? 
    33. I am obliged to dwell a little longer on this because some 
restless spirits are now making an outcry about the observance of 
the Lord's day. They complain that Christian people are trained in 
Judaism, because some observance of days is retained. My reply is, 
That those days are observed by us without Judaism, because in this 
matter we differ widely from the Jews. We do not celebrate it with 
most minute formality, as a ceremony by which we imagine that a 
spiritual mystery is typified, but we adopt it as a necessary remedy 
for preserving order in the Church. Paul informs us that Christians 
are not to be judged in respect of its observance, because it is a 
shadow of something to come, (Col. 2: 16;) and, accordingly, he 
expresses a fear lest his labour among the Galatians should prove in 
vain, because they still observed days (Gal. 4: 10, 11.) And he 
tells the Romans that it is superstitious to make one day differ 
from another (Rom. 14: 5.) But who, except those restless men, does 
not see what the observance is to which the Apostle refers? Those 
persons had no regard to that politic and ecclesiastical 
arrangement, but by retaining the days as types of spiritual things, 
they in so far obscured the glory of Christ, and the light of the 
Gospel. They did not desist from manual labour on the ground of its 
interfering with sacred study and meditation, but as a kind of 
religious observance; because they dreamed that by their cessation 
from labour, they were cultivating the mysteries which had of old 
been committed to them. It was, I say, against this preposterous 
observance of days that the Apostle inveighs, and not against that 
legitimate selection which is subservient to the peace of Christian 
society. For in the churches established by him, this was the use 
for which the Sabbath was retained. He tells the Corinthians to set 
the first day apart for collecting contributions for the relief of 
their brethren at Jerusalem, (1 Cor. 16: 2.) If superstition is 
dreaded, there was more danger in keeping the Jewish sabbath than 
the Lord's day as Christians now do. It being expedient to overthrow 
superstition, the Jewish holy day was abolished; and as a thing 
necessary to retain decency, orders and peace, in the Church, 
another day was appointed for that purpose. 
    34. It was not, however, without a reason that the early 
Christians substituted what we call the Lord's day for the Sabbath. 
The resurrection of our Lord being the end and accomplishment of 
that true rest which the ancient sabbath typified, this day, by 
which types were abolished serves to warn Christians against 
adhering to a shadowy ceremony. I do not cling so to the number 
seven as to bring the Church under bondage to it, nor do I condemn 
churches for holding their meetings on other solemn days, provided 
they guard against superstition. This they will do if they employ 
those days merely for the observance of discipline and regular 
order. The whole may be thus summed up: As the truth was delivered 
typically to the Jews, so it is imparted to us without figure; 
first, that during our whole lives we may aim at a constant rest 
from our own works, in order that the Lord may work in us by his 
Spirit; secondly that every individual, as he has opportunity, may 
diligently exercise himself in private, in pious meditation on the 
works of God, and, at the same time, that all may observe the 
legitimate order appointed by the Church, for the hearing of the 
word, the administration of the sacraments, and public prayer: And, 
thirdly, that we may avoid oppressing those who are subject to us. 
In this way, we get quit of the trifling of the false prophets, who 
in later times instilled Jewish ideas into the people, alleging that 
nothing was abrogated but what was ceremonial in the commandment, 
(this they term in their language the taxation of the seventh day,) 
while the moral part remains, viz., the observance of one day in 
seven. But this is nothing else than to insult the Jews, by changing 
the day, and yet mentally attributing to it the same sanctity; thus 
retaining the same typical distinction of days as had place among 
the Jews. And of a truth, we see what profit they have made by such 
a doctrine. Those who cling to their constitutions go thrice as far 
as the Jews in the gross and carnal superstition of sabbatism; so 
that the rebukes which we read in Isaiah (Isa. 1: l3; 58: 13) apply 
as much to those of the present day, as to those to whom the Prophet 
addressed them. We must be careful, however, to observe the general 
doctrine, viz., in order that religion may neither be lost nor 
languish among us, we must diligently attend on our religious 
assemblies, and duly avail ourselves of those external aids which 
tend to promote the worship of God. 
Fifth Commandment. 
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the 
    land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. 
    35. The end of this commandment is, that since the Lord takes 
pleasure in the preservation of his own ordinance, the degrees of 
dignity appointed by him must be held inviolable. The sum of the 
commandment, therefore, will be, that we are to look up to those 
whom the Lord has set over us, yielding them honour, gratitude, and 
obedience. Hence it follows, that every thing in the way of 
contempt, ingratitude, or disobedience, is forbidden. For the term 
honour has this extent of meaning in Scripture. Thus when the 
Apostle says, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of 
double honour," (1 Tim. 5: 17,) he refers not only to the reverence 
which is due to them, but to the recompense to which their services 
are entitled. But as this command to submit is very repugnant to the 
perversity of the human mind, (which, puffed up with ambitious 
longings will scarcely allow itself to be subject,) that superiority 
which is most attractive and least invidious is set forth as an 
example calculated to soften and bend our minds to habits of 
submission. From that subjection which is most easily endured, the 
Lord gradually accustoms us to every kind of legitimate subjection, 
the same principle regulating all. For to those whom he raises to 
eminences he communicates his authority, in so far as necessary to 
maintain their station. The titles of Father, God, and Lord, all 
meet in him alone and hence whenever any one of them is mentioned, 
our mind should be impressed with the same feeling of reverence. 
Those, therefore, to whom he imparts such titles, he distinguishes 
by some small spark of his refulgence, so as to entitle them to 
honour, each in his own place. In this way, we must consider that 
our earthly father possesses something of a divine nature in him, 
because there is some reason for his bearing a divine title, and 
that he who is our prince and ruler is admitted to some communion of 
honour with God. 
    36. Wherefore, we ought to have no doubt that the Lord here 
lays down this universal rule, viz., that knowing how every 
individual is set over us by his appointment, we should pay him 
reverence, gratitude, obedience, and every duty in our power. And it 
makes no difference whether those on whom the honour is conferred 
are deserving or not. Be they what they may, the Almighty, by 
conferring their station upon them, shows that he would have them 
honoured. The commandment specifies the reverence due to those to 
whom we owe our being. This Nature herself should in some measure 
teach us. For they are monsters, and not men, who petulantly and 
contumeliously violate the paternal authority. Hence, the Lord 
orders all who rebel against their parents to be put to death, they 
being, as it where, unworthy of the light in paying no deference to 
those to whom they are indebted for beholding it. And it is evident, 
from the various appendices to the Law, that we were correct in 
stating, that the honour here referred to consists of three parts, 
reverence, obedience, and gratitude. The first of these the Lord 
enforces, when he commands that whose curseth his father or his 
mother shall be put to death. In this way he avenges insult and 
contempt. The second he enforces, when he denounces the punishment 
of death on disobedient and rebellious children. To the third 
belongs our Saviour's declaration, that God requires us to do good 
to our parents, (Matth. 15.) And whenever Paul mentions this 
commandment, he interprets it as enjoining obedience. 
    37. A promise is added by way of recommendation, the better to 
remind us how pleasing to God is the submission which is here 
required. Paul applies that stimulus to rouse us from our lethargy, 
when he calls this the first commandment with promise; the promise 
contained in the First Table not being specially appropriated to any 
one commandment, but extended to the whole law. Moreover, the sense 
in which the promise is to be taken is as follows: - The Lord spoke 
to the Israelites specially of the land which he had promised them 
for an inheritance. If, then, the possession of the land was an 
earnest of the divine favour, we cannot wonder if the Lord was 
pleased to testify his favour, by bestowing long life, as in this 
way they were able long to enjoy his kindness. The meaning therefore 
is: Honour thy father and thy mother, that thou may be able, during 
the course of a long life, to enjoy the possession of the land which 
is to be given thee in testimony of my favour. But, as the whole 
earth is blessed to believers, we justly class the present life 
among the number of divine blessings. Whence this promise has, in 
like manner, reference to us also, inasmuch as the duration of the 
present life is a proof of the divine benevolence toward us. It is 
not promised to us, nor was it promised to the Jews, as if in itself 
it constituted happiness, but because it is an ordinary symbol of 
the divine favour to the pious. Wherefore, if any one who is 
obedient to parents happens to be cut off before mature age, (a 
thing which not infrequently happens,) the Lord nevertheless adheres 
to his promise as steadily as when he bestows a hundred acres of 
land where he had promised only one. The whole lies in this: We must 
consider that long life is promised only in so far as it is a 
blessing from God, and that it is a blessing only in so far as it is 
a manifestation of divine favour. This, however, he testifies and 
truly manifests to his servants more richly and substantially by 
    38. Moreover, while the Lord promises the blessing of present 
life to children who show proper respect to their parents, he, at 
the same time, intimates that an inevitable curse is impending over 
the rebellious and disobedient; and, that it may not fail of 
execution, he, in his Law, pronounces sentence of death upon theme 
and orders it to be inflicted. If they escape the judgement, he, in 
some way or other, will execute vengeance. For we see how great a 
number of this description of individuals fall either in battle or 
in brawls; others of them are overtaken by unwonted disasters, and 
almost all are a proof that the threatening is not used in vain. But 
if any do escape till extreme old age, yet, because deprived of the 
blessing of God in this life, they only languish on in wickedness, 
and are reserved for severer punishment in the world to come, they 
are far from participating in the blessing promised to obedient 
children. It ought to be observed by the way, that we are ordered to 
obey parents only in the Lord. This is clear from the principle 
already laid down: for the place which they occupy is one to which 
the Lord has exalted them, by communicating to them a portion of his 
own honour. Therefore the submission yielded to them should be a 
step in our ascent to the Supreme Parent, and hence, if they 
instigate us to transgress the law, they deserve not to be regarded 
as parents, but as strangers attempting to seduce us from obedience 
to our true Father. The same holds in the case of rulers, masters, 
and superiors of every description. For it were unbecoming and 
absurd that the honour of God should be impaired by their exaltation 
- an exaltation which, being derived from him, ought to lead us up 
to him. 
Sixth commandment. 
Thou shalt not kill. 
    39. The purport of this commandment is that since the Lord has 
bound the whole human race by a kind of unity, the safety of all 
ought to be considered as entrusted to each. In general, therefore, 
all violence and injustice, and every kind of harm from which our 
neighbour's body suffers, is prohibited. Accordingly, we are 
required faithfully to do what in us lies to defend the life of our 
neighbour; to promote whatever tends to his tranquillity, to be 
vigilant in warding off harm, and, when danger comes, to assist in 
removing it. Remembering that the Divine Lawgiver thus speaks, 
consider, moreover, that he requires you to apply the same rule in 
regulating your mind. It were ridiculous, that he, who sees the 
thoughts of the heart, and has special regard to them, should train 
the body only to rectitude. This commandment, therefore, prohibits 
the murder of the heart, and requires a sincere desire to preserve 
our brother's life. The hand, indeed, commits the murder, but the 
mind, under the influence of wrath and hatred, conceives it. How can 
you be angry with your brother, without passionately longing to do 
him harm? If you must not be angry with him, neither must you hate 
him, hatred being nothing but inveterate anger. However you may 
disguise the fact, or endeavour to escape from it by vain pretexts. 
Where either wrath or hatred is, there is an inclination to do 
mischief. If you still persist in tergiversation, the mouth of the 
Spirit has declared, that "whosoever hateth his brother is a 
murderer," (1 John 3: 15;) and the mouth of our Saviour has 
declared, that "whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause 
shall be in danger of the judgement: 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," (Matth. 5: 
    40. Scripture notes a twofold equity on which this commandment 
is founded. Man is both the image of God and our flesh. Wherefore, 
if we would not violate the image of God, we must hold the person of 
man sacred - if we would not divest ourselves of humanity we must 
cherish our own flesh. The practical inference to be drawn from the 
redemption and gift of Christ will be elsewhere considered. The Lord 
has been pleased to direct our attention to these two natural 
considerations as inducements to watch over our neighbour's 
preservation, viz., to revere the divine image impressed upon him, 
and embrace our own flesh. To be clear of the crime of murder, it is 
not enough to refrain from shedding man's blood. If in act you 
perpetrate, if in endeavour you plot, if in wish and design you 
conceive what is adverse to another's safety, you have the guilt of 
murder. On the other hand, if you do not according to your means and 
opportunity study to defend his safety, by that inhumanity you 
violate the law. But if the safety of the body is so carefully 
provided for, we may hence infer how much care and exertion is due 
to the safety of the soul, which is of immeasurably higher value in 
the sight of God. 
Seventh commandment. 
Thou shalt not commit adultery. 
    41. The purport of this commandment is, that as God loves 
chastity and purity, we ought to guard against all uncleanness. The 
substance of the commandment therefore is, that we must not defile 
ourselves with any impurity or libidinous excess. To this 
corresponds the affirmative, that we must regulate every part of our 
conduct chastely and continently. The thing expressly forbidden is 
adultery, to which lust naturally tends, that its filthiness (being 
of a grosser and more palpable form, in as much as it casts a stain 
even on the body) may dispose us to abominate every form of lust. As 
the law under which man was created was not to lead a life of 
solitude, but enjoy a help meet for him, and ever since he fell 
under the curse the necessity for this mode of life is increased; 
the Lord made the requisite provision for us in this respect by the 
institution of marriage, which, entered into under his authority, he 
has also sanctified with his blessing. Hence, it is evident, that 
any mode of cohabitation different from marriage is cursed in his 
sight, and that the conjugal relation was ordained as a necessary 
means of preventing us from giving way to unbridled lust. Let us 
beware, therefore, of yielding to indulgence, seeing we are assured 
that the curse of God lies on every man and woman cohabiting without 
    42. Now, since natural feeling and the passions unnamed by the 
fall make the marriage tie doubly necessary, save in the case of 
those whom God has by special grace exempted, let every individual 
consider how the case stands with himself. Virginity, I admit, is a 
virtue not to be despised; but since it is denied to some, and to 
others granted only for a season, those who are assailed by 
incontinence, and unable successfully to war against it, should 
retake themselves to the remedy of marriage, and thus cultivate 
chastity in the way of their calling. Those incapable of 
self-restraint, if they apply not to the remedy allowed and provided 
for intemperance, war with God and resist his ordinance. And let no 
man tell me (as many in the present day do) that he can do all 
things, God helping! The help of God is present with those only who 
walk in his ways, (Ps. 91: 14,) that is, in his callings from which 
all withdraw themselves who, omitting the remedies provided by God, 
vainly and presumptuously strive to struggle with and surmount their 
natural feelings. That continence is a special gift from God, and of 
the class of those which are not bestowed indiscriminately on the 
whole body of the Church, but only on a few of its members, our Lord 
affirms, (Matth. 19: 12.) He first describes a certain class of 
individuals who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of 
heavenly sake; that is, in order that they may be able to devote 
themselves with more liberty and less restraint to the things of 
heaven. But lest any one should suppose that such a sacrifice was in 
every man's power, he had shown a little before that all are not 
capable, but those only to whom it is specially given from above. 
Hence he concludes, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive 
it." Paul asserts the same thing still more plainly when he says, 
"Every man has his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and 
another after that," (1 Cor. 7: 7.) 
    43. Since we are reminded by an express declaration, that it is 
not in every man's power to live chaste in celibacy although it may 
be his most strenuous study and aim to do so - that it is a special 
grace which the Lord bestows only on certain individuals, in order 
that they may be less encumbered in his service, do we not oppose 
God, and nature as constituted by him, if we do not accommodate our 
mode of life to the measure of our ability? The Lord prohibits 
fornication, therefore he requires purity and chastity. The only 
method which each has of preserving it is to measure himself by his 
capacity. Let no man rashly despise matrimony as a thing useless or 
superfluous to him; let no man long for celibacy unless he is able 
to dispense with the married state. Nor even here let him consult 
the tranquillity or convenience of the flesh, save only that, freed 
from this tie, he may be the readier and more prepared for all the 
offices of piety. And since there are many on whom this blessing is 
conferred only for a time, let every one, in abstaining from 
marriage, do it so long as he is fit to endure celibacy. If he has 
not the power of subduing his passion, let him understand that the 
Lord has made it obligatory on him to marry. The Apostle shows this 
when he enjoins: "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man 
have his own wife and let every woman have her own husband." "If 
they cannot contain, let them marry." He first intimates that the 
greater part of men are liable to incontinence; and then of those so 
liable, he orders all, without exception, to have recourse to the 
only remedy by which unchastity may be obviated. The incontinent, 
therefore, neglecting to cure their infirmity by this means, sin by 
the very circumstance of disobeying the Apostle's command. And let 
not a man flatter himself, that because he abstains from the outward 
act he cannot be accused of unchastity. His mind may in the meantime 
be inwardly inflamed with lust. For Paul's definition of chastity is 
purity of mind, combined with purity of body. "The unmarried woman 
careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body 
and spirit," (1 Cor. 7: 34.) Therefore when he gives a reason for 
the former precept, he not only says that it is better to marry than 
to live in fornication, but that it is better to marry than to burn. 
    44. Moreover, when spouses are made aware that their union is 
blessed by the Lord, they are thereby reminded that they must not 
give way to intemperate and unrestrained indulgence. For though 
honourable wedlock veils the turpitude of incontinence, it does not 
follow that it ought forthwith to become a stimulus to it. 
Wherefore, let spouses consider that all things are not lawful for 
them. Let there be sobriety in the behaviour of the husband toward 
the wife, and of the wife in her turn toward the husband; each so 
acting as not to do any thing unbecoming the dignity and temperance 
of married life. Marriage contracted in the Lord ought to exhibit 
measure and modesty - not run to the extreme of wantonness. This 
excess Ambrose censured gravely, but not undeservedly, when he 
described the man who shows no modesty or comeliness in conjugal 
intercourse, as committing adultery with his wife. Lastly let us 
consider who the Lawgiver is that thus condemns fornication: even He 
who, as he is entitled to possess us entirely, requires integrity of 
body, soul, and spirit. Therefore, while he forbids fornication, he 
at the same time forbids us to lay snares for our neighbour's 
chastity by lascivious attire, obscene gestures, and impure 
conversation. There was reason in the remark made by Archelaus to a 
youth clothed effeminately and over-luxuriously, that it mattered 
not in what part his wantonness appeared. We must have respect to 
God, who abhors all contaminations whatever be the part of soul or 
body in which it appears. And that there may be no doubt about it, 
let us remember, that what the Lord here commends is chastity. If he 
requires chastity, he condemns every thing which is opposed to it. 
Therefore, if you aspire to obedience, let not your mind burn within 
with evil concupiscence, your eyes wanton after corrupting objects, 
nor your body be decked for allurement; let neither your tongue by 
filthy speeches, nor your appetite by intemperance, entice the mind 
to corresponding thoughts. All vices of this description are a kind 
of stains which despoil chastity of its purity. 
Eighth Commandment. 
Thou shalt not steal. 
    The purport is, that injustice being an abomination to God, we 
must render to every man his due. In substance, then, the 
commandment forbids us to long after other men's goods, and, 
accordingly, requires every man to exert himself honestly in 
preserving his own. For we must consider, that what each individual 
possesses has not fallen to him by chance, but by the distribution 
of the sovereign Lord of all, that no one can pervert his means to 
bad purposes without committing a fraud on a divine dispensation. 
There are very many kinds of theft. One consists in violence, as 
when a man's goods are forcibly plundered and carried off; another 
in malicious imposture, as when they are fraudulently intercepted; a 
third in the more hidden craft which takes possession of them with a 
semblance of justice; and a fourth in sycophancy, which wiles them 
away under the pretence of donation. But not to dwell too long in 
enumerating the different classes, we know that all the arts by 
which we obtain possession of the goods and money of our neighbours, 
for sincere affection substituting an eagerness to deceive or injure 
them in any way, are to be regarded as thefts. Though they may be 
obtained by an action at law, a different decision is given by God. 
He sees the long train of deception by which the man of craft begins 
to lay nets for his more simple neighbour, until he entangles him in 
its meshes - sees the harsh and cruel laws by which the more 
powerful oppresses and crushes the feeble - sees the enticements by 
which the more wily baits the hook for the less wary, though all 
these escape the judgement of man, and no cognisance is taken of 
them. Nor is the violation of this commandment confined to money, or 
merchandise, or lands, but extends to every kind of right; for we 
defraud our neighbours to their hurt if we decline any of the duties 
which we are bound to perform towards them. If an agent or an 
indolent steward wastes the substance of his employer, or does not 
give due heed to the management of his property; if he unjustly 
squanders or luxuriously wastes the means entrusted to him; if a 
servant holds his master in derision, divulges his secrets, or in 
any way is treacherous to his life or his goods; if, on the other 
hand, a master cruelly torments his household, he is guilty of theft 
before God; since every one who, in the exercise of his calling, 
performs not what he owes to others, keeps back, or makes away with 
what does not belong to him. 
    46. This commandment, therefore, we shall duly obey, if, 
contented with our own lot, we study to acquire nothing but honest 
and lawful gain; if we long not to grow rich by injustice, nor to 
plunder our neighbour of his goods, that our own may thereby be 
increased; if we hasten not to heap up wealth cruelly wrung from the 
blood of others; if we do not, by means lawful and unlawful, with 
excessive eagerness scrape together whatever may glut our avarice or 
meet our prodigality. On the other hand, let it be our constant aim 
faithfully to lend our counsel and aid to all so as to assist them 
in retaining their property; or if we have to do with the perfidious 
or crafty, let us rather be prepared to yield somewhat of our right 
than to contend with them. And not only so, but let us contribute to 
the relief of those whom we see under the pressure of difficulties, 
assisting their want out of our abundance. Lastly, let each of us 
consider how far he is bound in duty to others, and in good faith 
pay what we owe. In the same way, let the people pay all due honour 
to their rulers, submit patiently to their authority, obey their 
laws and orders, and decline nothing which they can bear without 
sacrificing the favour of God. Let rulers, again, take due charge of 
their people, preserve the public peace, protect the good, curb the 
bad, and conduct themselves throughout as those who must render an 
account of their office to God, the Judge of all. Let the ministers 
of churches faithfully give heed to the ministry of the word, and 
not corrupt the doctrine of salvation, but deliver it purely and 
sincerely to the people of God. Let them teach not merely by 
doctrine, but by example; in short, let them act the part of good 
shepherds towards their flocks. Let the people, in their turn, 
receive them as the messengers and apostles of God, render them the 
honour which their Supreme Master has bestowed on them, and supply 
them with such things as are necessary for their livelihood. Let 
parents be careful to bring up, guide, and teach their children as a 
trust committed to them by God. Let them not exasperate or alienate 
them by cruelty, but cherish and embrace them with the levity and 
indulgence which becomes their character. The regard due to parents 
from their children has already been adverted to. Let the young 
respect those advanced in years as the Lord has been pleased to make 
that age honourable. Let the aged also, by their prudence and their 
experience, (in which they are far superior,) guide the feebleness 
of youth, not assailing them with harsh and clamorous invectives but 
tempering strictness with ease and affability. Let servants show 
themselves diligent and respectful in obeying their masters, and 
this not with eye-service, but from the heart, as the servants of 
God. Let masters also not be stern and disobliging to their 
servants, nor harass them with excessive asperity, nor treat them 
with insult, but rather let them acknowledge them as brethren and 
fellow-servants of our heavenly Master, whom, therefore, they are 
bound to treat with mutual love and kindness. Let every one, I say, 
thus consider what in his own place and order he owes to his 
neighbours, and pay what he owes. Moreover, we must always have a 
reference to the Lawgiver, and so remember that the law requiring us 
to promote and defend the interest and convenience of our 
fellow-men, applies equally to our minds and our hands. 
Ninth Commandment. 
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. 
    47. The purport of the commandment is, since God, who is truth, 
abhors falsehood, we must cultivate unfeigned truth towards each 
other. The sum, therefore, will be, that we must not by calumnies 
and false accusations injure our neighbour's name, or by falsehood 
impair his fortunes; in fine, that we must not injure any one from 
petulance, or a love of evil-speaking. To this prohibition 
corresponds the command, that we must faithfully assist every one, 
as far as in us lies, in asserting the truth, for the maintenance of 
his good name and his estate. The Lord seems to have intended to 
explain the commandment in these words: "Thou shalt not raise a 
false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an 
unrighteous witness." "Keep thee far from a false matter," (Exod. 
23: 1, 7.) In another passage, he not only prohibits that species of 
falsehood which consists in acting the part of tale-bearers among 
the people, but says, "Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of 
thy neighbour," (Lev. 19: 16.) Both transgressions are distinctly 
prohibited. Indeed, there can be no doubt, that as in the previous 
commandment he prohibited cruelty unchastity, and avarice, so here 
he prohibits falsehood, which consists of the two parts to which we 
have adverted. By malignant or vicious detraction, we sin against 
our neighbour's good name: by lying, sometimes even by casting a 
slur upon him, we injure him in his estate. It makes no difference 
whether you suppose that formal and judicial testimony is here 
intended, or the ordinary testimony which is given in private 
conversation. For we must always recur to the consideration, that 
for each kind of transgression one species is set forth by way of 
example, that to it the others may be referred, and that the species 
chiefly selected, is that in which the turpitude of the 
transgression is most apparent. It seems proper, however, to extend 
it more generally to calumny and sinister insinuations by which our 
neighbours are unjustly aggrieved. For falsehood in a court of 
justice is always accompanied with perjury. But against perjury, in 
so far as it profanes and violates the name of God, there is a 
sufficient provision in the third commandment. Hence the legitimate 
observance of this precept consists in employing the tongue in the 
maintenance of truth, so as to promote both the good name and the 
prosperity of our neighbour. The equity of this is perfectly clear. 
For if a good name is more precious than riches, a man, in being 
robbed of his good name, is no less injured than if he were robbed 
of his goods; while, in the latter case, false testimony is 
sometimes not less injurious than rapine committed by the hand. 
    48. And yet it is strange, with what supine security men 
everywhere sin in this respect. Indeed, very few are found who do 
not notoriously labour under this disease: such is the envenomed 
delight we take both in prying into and exposing our neighbour's 
faults. Let us not imagine it is a sufficient excuse to say that on 
many occasions our statements are not false. He who forbids us to 
defame our neighbour's reputation by falsehood, desires us to keep 
it untarnished in so far as truth will permit. Though the 
commandment is only directed against falsehood, it intimates that 
the preservation of our neighbour's good name is recommended. It 
ought to be a sufficient inducement to us to guard our neighbour's 
good name, that God takes an interest in it. Wherefore, 
evil-speaking in general is undoubtedly condemned. Moreover, by 
evil-speaking, we understand not the rebuke which is administered 
with a view of correcting; not accusation or judicial decision, by 
which evil is sought to be remedied; not public censure, which tends 
to strike terror into other offenders; not the disclosure made to 
those whose safety depends on being forewarned, lest unawares they 
should be brought into danger, but the odious crimination which 
springs from a malicious and petulant love of slander. Nay, the 
commandment extends so far as to include that scurrilous affected 
urbanity, instinct with invective, by which the failings of others, 
under an appearance of sportiveness, are bitterly assailed, as some 
are wont to do, who court the praise of wit, though it should call 
forth a blush, or inflict a bitter pang. By petulance of this 
description, our brethren are sometimes grievously wounded. But if 
we turn our eye to the Lawgiver, whose just authority extends over 
the ears and the mind, as well as the tongue, we cannot fail to 
perceive that eagerness to listen to slander, and an unbecoming 
proneness to censorious judgements are here forbidden. It were 
absurd to suppose that God hates the disease of evil-speaking in the 
tongue, and yet disapproves not of its malignity in the mind. 
Wherefore, if the true fear and love of God dwell in us, we must 
endeavour, as far as is lawful and expedient, and as far as charity 
admits, neither to listen nor give utterance to bitter and 
acrimonious charges, nor rashly entertain sinister suspicions. As 
just interpreters of the words and the actions of other men, let us 
candidly maintain the honour due to them by our judgement, our ear, 
and our tongue. 
Tenth Commandment. 
    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not 
covet thy neighbour's wife nor his man-servant, nor his 
maid-servant, nor his ox nor his ass, nor anything that is thy 
    The purport is: Since the Lord would have the whole soul 
pervaded with love, any feeling of an adverse nature must be 
banished from our minds. The sum, therefore, will be, that no 
thought be permitted to insinuate itself into our minds, and inhale 
them with a noxious concupiscence tending to our neighbour's loss. 
To this corresponds the contrary precept, that every thing which we 
conceive, deliberate, will, or design, be conjoined with the good 
and advantage of our neighbour. But here it seems we are met with a 
great and perplexing difficulty. For if it was correctly said above, 
that under the words adultery and theft, lust and an intention to 
injure and deceive are prohibited, it may seem superfluous 
afterwards to employ a separate commandment to prohibit a covetous 
desire of our neighbour's goods. The difficulty will easily be 
removed by distinguishing between design and covetousness. Design, 
such as we have spoken of in the previous commandments, is a 
deliberate consent of the will, after passion has taken possession 
of the mind. Covetousness may exist without such deliberation and 
assent, when the mind is only stimulated and tickled by vain and 
perverse objects. As, therefore, the Lord previously ordered that 
charity should regulate our wishes, studies, and actions, so he now 
orders us to regulate the thoughts of the mind in the same way, that 
none of them may be depraved and distorted, so as to give the mind a 
contrary bent. Having forbidden us to turn and incline our mind to 
wrath, hatred, adultery, theft, and falsehood, he now forbids us to 
give our thoughts the same direction. 
    50. Nor is such rectitude demanded without reason. For who can 
deny the propriety of occupying all the powers of the mind with 
charity? If it ceases to have charity for its aim, who can question 
that it is diseased? How comes it that so many desires of a nature 
hurtful to your brother enter your mind, but just because, 
disregarding him, you think only of yourself? Were your mind wholly 
imbued with charity, no portion of it would remain for the entrance 
of such thoughts. In so far, therefore, as the mind is devoid of 
charity, it must be under the influence of concupiscence. Some one 
will object that those fancies which casually rise up in the mind, 
and forthwith vanish away, cannot properly be condemned as 
concupiscences, which have their seat in the heart. I answer, That 
the question here relates to a description of fancies which while 
they present themselves to our thoughts, at the same time impress 
and stimulate the mind with cupidity, since the mind never thinks of 
making some choice, but the heart is excited and tends towards it. 
God therefore commands a strong and ardent affection, an affection 
not to be impeded by any portion, however minute, of concupiscence. 
He requires a mind so admirably arranged as not to be prompted in 
the slightest degree contrary to the law of love. Lest you should 
imagine that this view is not supported by any grave authority, I 
may mention that it was first suggested to me by Augustine. But 
although it was the intention of God to prohibit every kind of 
perverse desire, he, by way of example, sets before us those objects 
which are generally regarded as most attractive: thus leaving no 
room for cupidity of any kind, by the interdiction of those things 
in which it especially delights and loves to revel. 
    Such, then, is the Second Table of the Law, in which we are 
sufficiently instructed in the duties which we owe to man for the 
sake of God, on a consideration of whose nature the whole system of 
love is founded. It were vain, therefore, to inculcate the various 
duties taught in this table, without placing your instructions on 
the fear and reverence to God as their proper foundation. I need not 
tell the considerate reader, that those who make two precepts out of 
the prohibition of covetousness, perversely split one thing into 
two. There is nothing in the repetition of the words, "Thou shalt 
not covet." The "house" being first put down, its different parts 
are afterwards enumerated, beginning with the "wife;" and hence it 
is clear, that the whole ought to be read consecutively, as is 
properly done by the Jews. The sum of the whole commandment, 
therefore, is, that whatever each individual possesses remain entire 
and secure, not only from injury, or the wish to injure, but also 
from the slightest feeling of covetousness which can spring up in 
the mind. 
    51. It will not now be difficult to ascertain the general end 
contemplated by the whole Law, viz., the fulfilment of 
righteousness, that man may form his life on the model of the divine 
purity. For therein God has so delineated his own character, that 
any one exhibiting in action what is commanded, would in some 
measure exhibit a living image of God. Wherefore Moses, when he 
wished to fix a summary of the whole in the memory of the 
Israelites, thus addressed them, "And now, Israel, what does the 
Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk 
in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with 
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of 
the Lord and his statutes which I command thee this day for thy 
good?" (Deut. 10: 12, 13.) And he ceased not to reiterate the same 
thing, whenever he had occasion to mention the end of the Law. To 
this the doctrine of the Law pays so much regard, that it connects 
man, by holiness of life, with his God; and, as Moses elsewhere 
expresses it, (Deut. 6: 5; 11: 13,) and makes him cleave to him. 
Moreover, this holiness of life is comprehended under the two heads 
above mentioned. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy 
heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all 
thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself". First, our mind must be 
completely filled with love to God, and then this love must 
forthwith flow out toward our neighbour. This the Apostle shows when 
he says, "The end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, 
and a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned," (1 Tim. 1: 5.) You 
see that conscience and faith unfeigned are placed at the head, in 
other words, true piety; and that from this charity is derived. It 
is a mistake then to suppose, that merely the rudiments and first 
principles of righteousness are delivered in the Law, to form, as it 
were, a kind of introduction to good works, and not to guide to the 
perfect performance of them. For complete perfection, nothing more 
can be required than is expressed in these passages of Moses and 
Paul. How far, pray, would he wish to go, who is not satisfied with 
the instruction which directs man to the fear of God, to spiritual 
worship, practical obedience; in fine, purity of conscience, faith 
unfeigned, and charity? This confirms that interpretation of the Law 
which searches out, and finds in its precepts, all the duties of 
piety and charity. Those who merely search for dry and meagre 
elements, as if it taught the will of God only by halves, by no 
means understand its end, the Apostle being witness. 
    52. As, in giving a summary of the Law, Christ and the Apostles 
sometimes omit the First Table, very many fall into the mistake of 
supposing that their words apply to both tables. In Matthew, Christ 
calls "judgement, mercy, and faith," the "weightier matters of the 
Law." I think it clear, that by faith is here meant veracity towards 
men. But in order to extend the words to the whole Law, some take it 
for piety towards God. This is surely to no purpose. For Christ is 
speaking of those works by which a man ought to approve himself as 
just. If we attend to this, we will cease to wonder why, elsewhere, 
when asked by the young man, "What good thing shall I do, that 1 may 
have eternal life?" he simply answers, that he must keep the 
commandments, "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit 
adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 
Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour 
as thyself," (Matth. 19: 16, 18.) For the obedience of the First 
Table consisted almost entirely either in the internal affection of 
the heart, or in ceremonies. The affection of the heart was not 
visible, and hypocrites were diligent in the observance of 
ceremonies; but the works of charity were of such a nature as to be 
a solid attestation of righteousness. The same thing occurs so 
frequently in the Prophets, that it must be familiar to every one 
who has any tolerable acquaintance with them. For, almost on every 
occasion, when they exhort men to repentance, omitting the First 
Table, they insist on faith, judgement, mercy, and equity. Nor do 
they, in this way, omit the fear of God. They only require a serious 
proof of it from its signs. It is well known, indeed, that when they 
treat of the Law, they generally insist on the Second Table, because 
therein the cultivation of righteousness and integrity is best 
manifested. There is no occasion to quote passages. Every one can 
easily for himself perceive the truth of my observation. 
    53. Is it then true, you will ask, that it is a more complete 
summary of righteousness to live innocently with men, than piously 
towards God? By no means; but because no man, as a matter of course, 
observes charity in all respects, unless he seriously fear God, such 
observance is a proof of piety also. To this we may add, that the 
Lord, well knowing that none of our good deeds can reach him, (as 
the Psalmist declares, Psalm 16: 2,) does not demand from us duties 
towards himself, but exercises us in good works towards our 
neighbour. Hence the Apostle, not without cause, makes the whole 
perfection of the saints to consist in charity, (Eph. 3: 19; Col. 3: 
14.) And in another passage, he not improperly calls it the 
"fulfilling of the law," adding, that "he that loveth another has 
fulfilled the law," (Rom. 13: 8.) And again, "All the law is 
fulfilled in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," (Gal. 
5: 14.) For this is the very thing which Christ himself teaches when 
he says, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, 
do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets," 
(Matth. 7: 12.) It is certain that, in the law and the prophets, 
faith, and whatever pertains to the due worship of God, holds the 
first place, and that to this charity is made subordinate; but our 
Lord means, that in the Law the observance of justice and equity 
towards men is prescribed as the means which we are to employ in 
testifying a pious fear of God, if we truly possess it. 
    54. Let us therefore hold, that our life will be framed in best 
accordance with the will of God, and the requirements of his Law, 
when it is, in every respect, most advantageous to our brethren. But 
in the whole Law, there is not one syllable which lays down a rule 
as to what man is to do or avoid for the advantage of his own carnal 
nature. And, indeed, since men are naturally prone to excessive 
self-love, which they always retain, how great soever their 
departure from the truth may be, there was no need of a law to 
inflame a love already existing in excess. Hence it is perfectly 
plain, that the observance of the Commandments consists not in the 
love of ourselves, but in the love of God and our neighbour; and 
that he leads the best and holiest life who as little as may be 
studies and lives for himself; and that none lives worse and more 
unrighteously than he who studies and lives only for himself, and 
seeks and thinks only of his own. Nay, the better to express how 
strongly we should be inclined to love our neighbour, the Lord has 
made self-love as it were the standard, there being no feeling in 
our nature of greater strength and vehemence. The force of the 
expression ought to be carefully weighed. For he does not (as some 
sophists have stupidly dreamed) assign the first place to self-love, 
and the second to charity. He rather transfers to others the love 
which we naturally feel for ourselves. Hence the Apostle declares, 
that charity "seeketh not her own," (1 Cor. 13: 5.) Nor is the 
argument worth a straw, That the thing regulated must always be 
inferior to the rule. The Lord did not make self-love the rule, as 
if love towards others was subordinate to it; but whereas, through 
natural gravity, the feeling of love usually rests on ourselves, he 
shows that it ought to diffuse itself in another direction - that we 
should be prepared to do good to our neighbour with no less 
alacrity, ardour, and solicitude, than to ourselves. 
    55. Our Saviour having shown, in the parable of the Samaritan, 
(Luke 10: 36,) that the term neighbour comprehends the most remote 
stranger, there is no reason for limiting the precept of love to our 
own connections. I deny not that the closer the relation the more 
frequent our offices of kindness should be. For the condition of 
humanity requires that there be more duties in common between those 
who are more nearly connected by the ties of relationship, or 
friendship, or neighbourhood. And this is done without any offence 
to God, by whose providence we are in a manner impelled to do it. 
But I say that the whole human race, without exception, are to be 
embraced with one feeling of charity: that here there is no 
distinction of Greek or Barbarian, worthy or unworthy, friend or 
foe, since all are to be viewed not in themselves, but in God. If we 
turn aside from this view, there is no wonder that we entangle 
ourselves in error. Wherefore, if we would hold the true course in 
love, our first step must be to turn our eyes not to man, the sight 
of whom might oftener produce hatred than love, but to God, who 
requires that the love which we bear to him be diffused among all 
mankind, so that our fundamental principle must ever be, Let a man 
be what he may, he is still to be loved, because God is loved. 
    56. Wherefore, nothing could be more pestilential than the 
ignorance or wickedness of the Schoolmen in converting the precepts 
respecting revenge and the love of enemies (precepts which had 
formerly been delivered to all the Jews, and were then delivered 
universally to all Christians) into counsels which it was free to 
obey or disobey, confining the necessary observance of them to the 
monks, who were made more righteous than ordinary Christians, by the 
simple circumstance of voluntarily binding themselves to obey 
counsels. The reason they assign for not receiving them as laws is, 
that they seem too heavy and burdensome, especially to Christians, 
who are under the law of grace. Have they, indeed, the hardihood to 
remodel the eternal law of God concerning the love of our neighbour? 
Is there a page of the Law in which any such distinction exists; or 
rather do we not meet in every page with commands which, in the 
strictest terms, require us to love our enemies? What is meant by 
commanding us to feed our enemy if he is hungry, to bring back his 
ox or his ass if we meet it going astray, or help it up if we see it 
lying under its burden? (Prov. 25: 21; Exod. 23: 4.) Shall we show 
kindness to cattle for man's sake, and have no feeling of good will 
to himself? What? Is not the word of the Lord eternally true: 
"Vengeance is mine, I will repay?" (Deut. 32: 35.) This is elsewhere 
more explicitly stated: "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge 
against the children of thy people," (Lev. 19: 18.) Let them either 
erase these passages from the Law, or let them acknowledge the Lord 
as a Lawgiver, not falsely feign him to be merely a counsellor. 
    57. And what, pray, is meant by the following passage, which 
they have dared to insult with this absurd gloss? "Love your 
enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, 
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 
that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven," 
(Matth. 5: 44, 45.) Who does not here concur in the reasoning of 
Chrysostom, (lib. de Compunctione Cordis, et ad Rom. 7,) that the 
nature of the motive makes it plain that these are not exhortations, 
but precepts? For what is left to us if we are excluded from the 
number of the children of God? According to the Schoolmen, monks 
alone will be the children of our Father in heaven - monks alone 
will dare to invoke God as their Father. And in the meantime, how 
will it fare with the Church? By the same rule, she will be confined 
to heathens and publicans. For our Saviour says, "If ye love them 
which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the 
same?" It will truly be well with us if we are left only the name of 
Christians, while we are deprived of the inheritance of the kingdom 
of heaven! Nor is the argument of Augustine less forcible: "When the 
Lord forbids adultery, he forbids it in regard to the wife of a foe 
not less than the wife of a friend; when he forbids theft, he does 
not allow stealing of any description, whether from a friend or an 
enemy," (August. Lib. de Doctr. Christ.) Now, these two 
commandments, "Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not commit 
adultery," Paul brings under the rule of love; nay, he says that 
they are briefly comprehended in this saying, "Thou shalt love thy 
neighbour as thyself," (Rom. 13: 9.) Therefore, Paul must either be 
a false interpreter of the Law, or we must necessarily conclude, 
that under this precept we are bound to love our enemies just as our 
friends. Those, then, show themselves to be in truth the children of 
Satan who thus licentiously shake off a yoke common to the children 
of God. It may be doubted whether, in promulgating this dogma, they 
have displayed greater stupidity or impudence. There is no ancient 
writer who does not hold it as certain that these are pure precepts. 
It was not even doubted in the age of Gregory, as is plain from his 
decided assertion; for he holds it to be incontrovertible that they 
are precepts. And how stupidly they argue! The burden, say they, 
were too difficult for Christians to hear! As if any thing could be 
imagined more difficult than to love the Lord with all the heart, 
and soul, and strength. Compared with this Law, there is none which 
may not seem easy, whether it be to love our enemy, or to banish 
every feeling of revenge from our minds. To our weakness, indeed, 
every thing, even to the minutest tittle of the Law, is arduous and 
difficult. In the Lord we have strength. It is his to give what he 
orders, and to order what he wills. That Christians are under the 
law of grace, means not that they are to wander unrestrained without 
law, but that they are engrafted into Christ, by whose grace they 
are freed from the curse of the Law, and by whose Spirit they have 
the Law written in their hearts. This grace Paul has termed, but not 
in the proper sense of the term, a law, alluding to the Law of God, 
with which he was contrasting it. The Schoolmen, laying hold of the 
term Law, make it the ground-work of their vain speculations. 
    58. The same must be said of their application of the term, 
venial sin, both to the hidden impiety which violates the First 
Table, and the direct transgression of the last commandment of the 
Second Table. They define venial sin to be, desire unaccompanied 
with deliberate assent, and not remaining long in the heart. But I 
maintain that it cannot even enter the heart unless through a want 
of those things which are required in the Law. We are forbidden to 
have strange gods. When the mind, under the influence of distrust, 
looks elsewhere or is seized with some sudden desire to transfer its 
blessedness to some other quarter, whence are these movements, 
however evanescent, but just because there is some empty corner in 
the soul to receive such temptations? And, not to lengthen out the 
discussion, there is a precept to love God with the whole heart, and 
mind, and soul; and, therefore, if all the powers of the soul are 
not directed to the love of God, there is a departure from the 
obedience of the Law; because those internal enemies which rise up 
against the dominion of God, and countermand his edicts prove that 
his throne is not well established in our consciences. It has been 
shown that the last commandment goes to this extent. Has some undue 
longing sprung up in our mind? Then we are chargeable with 
covetousness, and stand convicted as transgressors of the Law. For 
the Law forbids us not only to meditate and plan our neighbour's 
loss, but to be stimulated and inflamed with covetousness. But every 
transgression of the Law lays us under the curse, and therefore even 
the slightest desires cannot be exempted from the fatal sentence. 
"In weighing our sins," says Augustine, "let us not use a deceitful 
balance, weighing at our own discretion what we will, and how we 
will, calling this heavy and that light: but let us use the divine 
balance of the Holy Scriptures, as taken from the treasury of the 
Lord, and by it weigh every offence, nay, not weigh, but rather 
recognise what has been already weighed by the Lord," (August. De 
Bapt. cont. Donatist. Lib. 2 chap. 6.) And what saith the Scripture? 
Certainly when Paul says, that "the wages of sin is death," (Rom. 6: 
23,) he shows that he knew nothing of this vile distinction. As we 
are but too prone to hypocrisy, there was very little occasion for 
this sop to soothe our torpid consciences. 
    59. I wish they would consider what our Saviour meant when he 
said, "Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and 
shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of 
heaven," (Matth. 5: 19.) Are they not of this number when they 
presume to extenuate the transgression of the Law, as if it were 
unworthy of death? The proper course had been to consider not simply 
what is commanded, but who it is that commands, because every least 
transgression of his Law derogates from his authority. Do they count 
it a small matter to insult the majesty of God in any one respect? 
Again, since God has explained his will in the Law, every thing 
contrary to the Law is displeasing to him. Will they feign that the 
wrath of God is so disarmed that the punishment of death will not 
forthwith follow upon it? He has declared plainly, (if they could be 
induced to listen to his voice, instead of darkening his clear truth 
by their insipid subtleties,) "The soul that sinneth it shall die," 
(Ezek. 18: 20.) Again, in the passage lately quoted, "The wages of 
sin is death." What these men acknowledge to be sin, because they 
are unable to deny it, they contend is not mortal. Having already 
indulged this madness too long, let them learn to repent; or, if 
they persist in their infatuation, taking no further notice of them, 
let the children of God remember that all sin is mortal, because it 
is rebellion against the will of God, and necessarily provokes his 
anger; and because it is a violation of the Law, against every 
violation of which, without exception, the judgement of God has been 
pronounced. The faults of the saints are indeed venial, not, 
however, in their own nature, but because, through the mercy of God, 
they obtain pardon. 

Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, Part 9
(continued in part 10...)

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