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Rules for the Right Understanding of the Ten Commandments


Q. 99. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
A. For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed:
1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth everyone to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.[o] [o]. Ps. 19:7; James 2:10; Matt. 5:21-22

Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' {22} "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.

2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.[p]
The philosophy of the ancient philosophers went chiefly to the government of our passions, so far as respected ourselves, and the procuring our own tranquility. In our duties to others they were short and deficient. They extended their cares scarcely beyond our kindred and friends individually, and our country in the abstract. Jesus embraced with charity and philanthropy our neighbors, our countrymen, and the whole family of mankind. They confined themselves to actions; he pressed his sentiments into the region of our thoughts, and called for purity at the fountainhead. óBergh 10:376. (1803.)
[p]. Rom. 7:14; Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37-39; Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 37-39, 43-44

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Deuteronomy 6:5 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' {38} "This is the first and great commandment. {39} "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' {22} "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.

Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' {28} "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:33-34 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' {34} "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;

Matthew 5:37-39 "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. {38} "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' {39} "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Matthew 5:43-44 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,

3. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.[q] [q]. Col. 3:5; Amos 8:5; Prov. 1:19; 1 Tim. 6:10

Colossians 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Amos 8:5 Saying: "When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit,

Proverbs 1:19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden;[r] [r]. Isa. 58:13; Deut. 6:13; Matt. 4:9-10; Matt. 15:4-6

Isaiah 58:13 "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,

Deuteronomy 6:13 "You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.

Matthew 4:9-10 And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." {10} Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"

Matthew 15:4-6 "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' {5} "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"; {6} 'then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded:[s] [s]. Matt. 5:21-25; Eph. 4:28

Matthew 5:21-25 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' {22} "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. {23} "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, {24} "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. {25} "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

Ephesians 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included;[t] [t]. Exod. 20:12; Prov. 30:17

Exodus 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.

Proverbs 30:17 The eye that mocks his father, And scorns obedience to his mother, The ravens of the valley will pick it out, And the young eagles will eat it.

and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.[v] [v]. Jer. 18:7-8; Exod. 20:7; Ps. 15:1,4-5; Ps. 24:4-5

Jeremiah 18:7-8 "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, {8} "if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.

Exodus 20:7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Psalm 15:1,4-5 LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? {4} In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; {5} He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.

Psalm 24:4-5 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. {5} He shall receive blessing from the LORD, And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done;[w] [w]. Job 13:7-8; Rom. 3:8; Job 36:21; Heb. 11:25

Job 13:7-8 Will you speak wickedly for God, And talk deceitfully for Him? {8} Will you show partiality for Him? Will you contend for God?

Romans 3:8 And why not say, "Let us do evil that good may come"?; as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

Job 36:21 Take heed, do not turn to iniquity, For you have chosen this rather than affliction.

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

what He commands, is always our duty;[x] [x]. Deut. 4:8-9

Deuteronomy 4:8-9 "And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? {9} "Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren,

and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.[y] [y]. Matt. 12:7

Matthew 12:7 "But if you had known what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the guiltless.

6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.[z] [z]. Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28.[See in number [p] before.]; Matt. 15:4-6; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Thess. 5:22; Jude 23; Gal. 5:26; Col. 3:21

Matthew 15:4-6 "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' {5} "But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"; {6} 'then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, {25} not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

1 Thessalonians 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Jude 1:23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

7. That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places to endeavour that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.[a] [a]. Exod. 20:10; Lev. 19:17; Gen. 18:19; Josh. 14:15; Deut. 6:6-7

Exodus 20:10 but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates.

Leviticus 19:17 'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.

Genesis 18:19 "For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."

Joshua 14:15 And the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim). Then the land had rest from war.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. {7} "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them;[b] [b]. 2 Cor. 1:24

2 Corinthians 1:24 Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand.

and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.[c] [c]. 1 Tim. 5:22; Eph. 5:11

1 Timothy 5:22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people's sins; keep yourself pure.

Ephesians 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.


Q. 100. What special things are we to consider in the ten commandments?

A. We are to consider in the ten commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.  


Question 149: Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?

Answer: No man is able, either of himself,[h] or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God;[i] but does daily break them in thought,[k] word, and deed.[l] [h] James 3:2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

[i] Ecclesiastes 7:20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.{10} If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Romans 7:18-19 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. {19} For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

[k] Genesis 6:5 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

[l] Romans 3:9-19 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. {10} As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; {11} There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. {12} They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." {13} "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; {14} "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." {15} "Their feet are swift to shed blood; {16} Destruction and misery are in their ways; {17} And the way of peace they have not known." {18} "There is no fear of God before their eyes." {19} Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

James 3:2-13 For in many things we offend all, etc.


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